The Student News Site of Mercer Island High School

The MIHS Islander

The Student News Site of Mercer Island High School

The MIHS Islander

The Student News Site of Mercer Island High School

The MIHS Islander

2024 NBA Play-In Predictions

2024 NBA Play-In Predictions

The NBA season has come to an end, with many playoff seeds being decided in the final games of the season. With expectations for teams such as the young Oklahoma City Thunder and renewed New York Knicks, the play-in will determine the direction of team’s future and current hopes of winning a championship. 

The So-Fi Play-In Tournament, introduced in 2020, was created to allow more competition to determine the seventh and eighth seed in the conference, also giving teams in the ninth and 10th seed an opportunity to make the playoffs. 

The current matchups were uncertain until the last minute of the season, with the sixth seed Phoenix Suns hovering in the Play-In until beating the third seed Minnesota Timberwolves to snatch the sixth seed from the New Orleans Pelicans, who had a blowout loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in their final game. 

Meanwhile in the Eastern Conference, the tournament matchups were already decided, with the battered Philadelphia 76ers as the seventh seed playing the veteran Miami Heat at eight, as well as the absent Chicago Bulls as the ninth seed playing the disappointing Atlanta Hawks at 10th. 

The main narrative of this tournament is observing to see if the veteran teams like the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers still have a chance to win a championship. The Play-In begins today at 4:30pm PST, with the Lakers playing the Pelicans at home. The eventual game for the eighth seed will be played on Friday, April 19th. Let’s start with the predictions. 


Lakers vs. Pelicans:

House of Highlights


The Lakers have been shrouded in mystery throughout the season, beginning the year with rumors of a possible trade involving superstar Lebron James, further rumors of acquiring star Hawks guard Dejounte Murray and injuries to key players such as Christian Wood, Anthony Davis and Jarred Vanderbilt. They come into the playoffs with championship hope, but face a tough road.

The Pelicans had an embarrassing 124-108 loss at home to the Lakers at the end of the season, kicking them into the Play-In and letting the Suns take the sixth seed in the West. They started off the season off hot, hovering around top of the conference for a few months with the help of superstar Zion Williamson being healthy and role players such as rookie Jordan Hawkins exceeding expectations. Near the end of the season, forward Brandon Ingram suffered a knee injury, causing the Pelicans to spiral into the Play-In, but seemingly healthy for the playoffs. 

This game is expected to be extremely competitive, but I believe Lebron James’ and Anthony Davis’ vast playoff experience can carry the Lakers, despite the injuries, to the seventh seed to face the Denver Nuggets – a rematch of the Western Conference Finals last year. James had a season-high 17 assists in the blowout win, showing that the Pelicans can’t stop his playmaking or scoring, along with Anthony Davis’s presence around the rim.

Warriors vs. Kings:

Yahoo Sports

Credit: Yahoo Sports

The Warriors came into the season with seemingly no future, trading guard Jordan Poole for veteran guard Chris Paul after losing to the Lakers in the 22-23 playoffs. The team underperformed this year, with guards Klay Thompson, Chris Paul and forward Draymond Green regressing drastically. The young players on the team stepped up, mainly rookies Brandin Podziemski replacing Thompson and Trayce Jackson Davis replacing Green in the starting lineup, as well as sophomore forward Jonathan Kuminga taking a leap in scoring, helping the Warriors maintain their high octane offense led by superstar Stephen Curry. Although hovering around the 12th seed and potentially facing  a rebuild, they seem to be ready for the playoffs.

The Kings last year played the Warriors in a tough first round exit, bringing the series to a game seven before Curry dropped 50 points, the most ever in a game seven. Following the heartbreaking loss, they decided to continue with the current roster and compete for a playoff spot, which has not been the case this season. Their defense has looked sloppy, but their offense was still one of the best in the league. However, a season-ending injury to starting shooting guard Kevin Huerter caused them to fall into a slump, with star guard De’Aaron Fox suffering an injury as well as guard Malik Monk being out for the remainder of the season. They come into the tournament with little to no hope and lots of worry.

If both of these teams were healthy, the Kings would have a better chance to win. The Warriors just look too strong for the damaged Kings, despite star center Domantas Sabonis having a great season. The Warriors will get a dominant win, excelling them into the second round of the Play-In and eliminating the Kings from the playoffs.

Hawks vs. Bulls:

Getty Images

The Bulls enter the playoffs with arguably the most confusing future in the league, jumping from competing to rebuilding through rumors and injuries. The Bulls have faced lots of adversity from their fans and the players, as stars DeMar DeRozan and injured Zach Lavine have been in trade talks for over two years, but have not been shipped off yet. The young players have also been underperforming, with guard Lonzo Ball being injured for three years straight and guard Ayo Dosunmu faltering from a surprisingly good rookie campaign. Their defensive players such as guard Alex Caruso and veteran center Andre Drummond have kept them afloat throughout the season, but they are not competitive in the Eastern Conference.

The Hawks face a similar dilemma to the Bulls, but have maintained a healthy roster, yet underperformed throughout the season. They were expected to change the roster at the trade deadline by splitting up star guards Trae Young and Dejounte Murray, but passed on it by staying quiet during the deadline. Their defense has been abysmal with both guards on the starting lineup and the offense hasn’t made up for the lackluster defense.

I predict this matchup to be the most subpar game of this year’s Play-In, but I do see the Hawks winning in Chicago, as Drummond is listed as questionable and Dosunmu is listed as out. The Hawks offense will be run through Trae Young, who will lead them to a blowout win.

Heat vs. 76ers:

USA Today Sports

The 76ers went through the season with the goal of maximizing the team’s potential and championship window with former MVP Joel Embiid and rising star Tyrese Maxey. The team started the season with superstar James Harden, but traded him to the Los Angeles Clippers at the end of November. Since then, the 76ers have gone through a disappointing second half of the season, as Embiid was mostly hurt and Maxey showed his potential but was not very consistent in close games. During the trade deadline, they brought in guard Buddy Hield from Indiana to hopefully revive the offense, but Hield took awhile to adjust into the scheme of former Raptors coach Nick Nurse. New additions such as guard Kelly Oubre Jr. and veteran forward Nicholas Batum played well next to Maxey, but the team couldn’t acquire many wins without Embiid. The 76ers are entering the playoffs confident and mostly healthy, with only backup guard DeAnthony Melton injured.

The Heat are again in the Play-In but are much more experienced and vigorous than other Play-In and playoff teams. Last season, the Heat started the tournament as the eighth seed and made it to the NBA Finals, becoming the second team in NBA history to make it to the finals as an eighth seed. They proceeded to lose to the eventual champion Denver Nuggets, but showed grit and perseverance without starting shooting guard Tyler Herro. Given this, the Heat being in the Play-In is not concerning as the team has proved to be much more intimidating in the playoffs. This year may not be the case however, as guards Terry Rozier and Duncan Robinson are listed as out for the matchup, leaving a gap at point guard. They enter the playoffs as the fifth best team in the 23-24 power rankings.

These teams are both powerful and impressive, so I expect this game to come down to the wire. I have the Heat winning this matchup to get the seventh seed regardless of their point guard situation. Both of these teams have history, with superstar Jimmy Butler being openly furious at the 76ers for choosing forward Tobias Harris over him in 2019, leading to a passionate rivalry between Butler and the organization which could mean an incoming masterclass from Butler. The Heat will most likely start rookie Jaime Jauquez Jr. at point guard and match defensive star Bam Adebayo against the day-to-day Embiid, allowing the Heat to be physical on defense and creating more opportunities for Butler and Herro to attack the perimeter.

View Comments (1)
More to Discover

Comments (1)

All The MIHS Islander Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • B

    Ben MurawskiApr 17, 2024 at 10:34 am

    Great article!