Four underdog teams that could make an appearance in the 2021 NBA Playoffs
By Shaquille Morgan
Some teams have retooled and are posed to make some noise for the rest of the season. History has shown to never underestimate the underdog so in this article we’re going to highlight five teams that could make a late playoff run this season.
"2009 NBA Playoffs" by RMTip21 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
4 – Memphis Grizzlies
This current Memphis Grizzlies’ side are a youthful, exciting team to watch and might be a team that can push a top team in the western conference to their limits. The Grizzlies’ organisation throughout the years have been renowned for their grit and grind style of basketball which is a disruptive defence through high pressure on the ball. This philosophy is still evident as the Grizzlies are currently the 8th best defensive team in the NBA while also holding the 6th best defensive rebounding percentage in the league. The Grizzlies’ youthfulness makes them a deadly team on the fastbreak toting 15.8 points per game which makes them the best team on the fastbreak throughout the league. They also lead the NBA with most points off turnovers and points in the paint. However, their 3-point shooting and defence leaves a lot to be desired which underlines the team’s inexperience.
The Grizzlies’ talisman and main scorer is 2019-2020 season NBA Rookie of the year, Ja Morant. He’s massively improved off that season and is averaging 19 points per game, 3 rebounds, and 7 assists. The youthful Grizzlies’ still have plenty of room to grown but if they can stay in the race, they will make it difficult for any top team in the western conference.
3 – New York Knicks
At number three we have the New York Knicks, yes, the New York knicks. Finally, things seem to be headed in the right direction for the Knicks after a turbulent decade or so of bad ownership decisions on and off the court. The Knicks have surprisingly emerged as a serious contender in the Eastern conference this season on the backs of 1st-time NBA all-star Julius Randle and the gritty and tough philosophy of coach, Tom Thibodeau, has brought the organisation their first chance of the NBA playoffs since 2011.
Julius Randle is averaging 23 points per game, 11 rebounds, and 6 assists while shooting 43% from the 3-point line on 5 attempts per game. The Knicks have played great defence so far and rebound the ball with some of the best teams in the NBA. The Knicks are currently in the top 5 for defensive rating and are sitting in the top 10 in total rebounding percentage. If the Knicks do make the playoffs, it will be an ugly and hard-fought series with whoever they match up with.
2 – Golden State Warriors
Golden State Warriors haven’t been in a position to feel underrated in a very long time, but this season the Warriors may have a very weak and inexperienced squad when the NBA playoffs start. The Warriors are playing team ball with some of the best teams in the league, and that’s when they are truly potent. They currently have the 6th best defence in the league. They were once renowned for elite offensive and defensive skillset however with injury to Klay Thompson their offensive rating has taken a massive hit this season therefore the Warriors have been more reliant on the defence side of the game and togetherness this season. The Dubs are sitting at the 10th seed with a 23-27 record, but if this team can miraculously make it into the new play-in tournament the Warriors may upset a few teams in the league.
Of course, the ever-present Stephen Curry is the leading man in charge. Steph Curry is average 29 points per game, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists this year, and in an unfamiliar role his leadership skills has been exceptional this season, lifting this team from one of the worst to an underrated team this season. Only time will tell us if the Warriors make it to the playoffs, but if they do, whoever they match up with will face a team with pieces that have championship DNA combined with young talent.