Every season, there’s usually at least one team that stands out most from each conference because most pundits didn’t have them in the playoff picture to begin with before the season kicked off. Such is the nature of “Cinderella” – punching a playoff dance ticket or even achieving a much higher seed than forecasted by the sages.
So, without further ado…
East: Toronto Raptors
Normally, one wouldn’t expect to be flabbergasted at the sight of the reigning world champions at 2nd seed in the conference. Then again, normally the superstar and reigning Finals MVP stays put for another go-round. Subtract Kawhi Leonard (and Danny Green!) and add essentially nobody noteworthy, and the Raptors still achieved a 50+ win season, good enough to lock their division and the second seed. You can thank a sublime coaching system that carried over from last year that every player on the team has bought into, the continual development of young talents like OG Anunoby and VanVleet, lead by the all-star level play of Siakam and Lowry!
Yes, You The North, we see you!
West: Oklahoma City Thunder
I don’t even want to hear anyone even begin to utter that they had OKC finishing top 5 in the West! Currently at the 5th seed (though they could slip down a seed or two in the last stretch of games), regardless, the Thunder have a playoff spot locked in. Last season, both Thunder superstars, Paul George and Russell Westbrook, both departed to separate greener pastures to form a duo alliance with another MVP caliber stud. Chris Paul had no other superstar this year yet has the Thunder just a handful of games behind both the Clippers and Rockets. Gilgeous-Alexander, Schroder and Galinari have balled out this year, and not enough can be said about the magnificence of CP3. He’s had his floor general leadership and MVP level game on full display with the young thunder squad, reminding the world that although he may be past his prime, he still has P-L-E-N-T-Y left in the tank.