Five NBA sleeper teams heading into playoffs

It’s about that time of the season when things start getting real.

There are thirteen games left of the regular season, and for some teams, the pressure is kicking in full throttle.

I mean, you saw how intense things got between the Houston Rockets vs. the Minnesota Timberwolves Sunday.

Emotions are running high. It’s now or never for some teams and every game counts.

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That said, the question begs to be asked — who is going to make the final cut?

If you take a look at the standings in the western conference, you’ll see that spots 5-10 have a four game difference. Bizarre, I know.

There’s a similar situation going on in the eastern conference between spots 3-8.

It’s just all too close for comfort. Especially for my LA Clippers who are holding on for dear life to that ninth spot!

If I was a drinker, I would need a tall glass of wine to get me through the next thirteen games.

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Sheesh! C’mon Clips, keep fighting!

But anyway, let’s talk about which five teams I think are going to make a buzz heading into the playoffs.

We are all used to hearing about the Rockets, Golden State Warriors, Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers this season.

And we’ve heard the story lines — Chris Paul and James Harden vs. Kevin Durant and Steph Curry in the West; LeBron James vs. Kyrie Irving in the East.

We’ve all heard those. But who are the sleeper teams no one is talking about?

The teams I’ve listed below are my picks to come into the postseason completely underestimated, yet making a whole lot of noise.

Let’s start with the East.

1) Toronto Raptors

If I’m being 100% honest with you all, I had no idea the Raptors were the No. 1 team in the East until a few days ago.

Sorry Drake, but is anyone really talking about them? That said — we should be talking about them.

Not only are the Raptors the No. 1 team in the East, they are five games ahead of Kyrie and the Celtics!

First half vi👁ws (3/3)

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Demar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry & Co. have solidified their position in the East, and I’m not sure they are going anywhere anytime soon.

The Raptors are one of my top sleeper teams because I’m not hearing as much buzz around them as there should be.

Expect the DeRozan and Lowry duo to come into the playoffs ready to shut down the naysayers.

2) Indiana Pacers

Again, here’s another unexpected team making a quiet push towards the top of the conference.

The Pacers have won seven of their last ten games, and are only half a game away from kicking LeBron & Co. out of the third spot.

But can they manage to do it? I believe they can.

I’ve watched a few of their games recently, and I must admit, they are making a strong case as a top contender in the East.

The Pacers are playing very solid, all around basketball.

Who would have thought that a Paul George-less Pacers team would even be in the playoffs, let alone a top team in their conference.

Bravo, Pacers for proving the entire world wrong.

Side note: Victor Oladipo attended the same University as my dad — shout out to Indiana! So I’m low key wishing him and his Pacers squad the best of luck in the postseason.

It’s a Hoosier thing.

Those are my two Eastern conference sleeper teams.

Now let’s talk about the wild West.

3) Portland Trail Blazers

Due to work and a busy schedule, I haven’t been able to attend many Clippers games this season. Crazy, I know.

However, I did manage to make my way downtown to Staples Center Sunday to catch the Clippers vs. Trail Blazers showdown.

We lost.

But one thing I took away from that game was the Trail Blazers have a very, very solid starting lineup.

I was expecting Damian Lillard to torch us with 40 points, but he didn’t. He played well with 23 points, but a couple other players caught my attention.

Al-Farouq Aminu and Jusuf Nurkic were two guys who went in the game to do their job, and they did their job exceptionally well.

Aminu tallied 16 points and eight rebounds. Nurkic finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds.

These guys are both seriously underrated and skilled big guys who give players on the opposing team fits.

All smiles after 13 straight

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I know most people do not have the Blazers touching the Rockets or the Warriors, even-though they are sitting in third.

However, when it comes to comparing starting lineups, you have to throw this team in the mix with the elites, especially when talking sleepers.

And let’s not forget, they are on a 13-game win streak.

By the time playoffs roll around, D. Lill and company will have something to prove.

Be on the lookout for this team.

4) Utah Jazz

The Jazz kicked us out of the playoffs last year thanks to their silent assassin Joe Johnson.

I knew our matchup with them was going to be tough, but I never thought we would lose.

But anyway, the point is, you never know with this team!

They shock me every season.

After Gordon Hayward‘s departure, nobody believed the Jazz would be an above .500 team.

And here they are sitting at 40-30, ten games above .500.

P R O S P E R 🙏🏾✊🏽

A post shared by Donovan Mitchell (@spidadmitchell) on

Hats off to Ricky Rubio, Donovan Mitchell, Derrick Favors and squad for pulling together despite all odds.

Winning their last nine out of ten games, I think it’s safe to say that the Jazz are picking up steam and getting playoff ready.

And how about a sleeper player? Word on the street is that Mitchell is the next big thing.

Can’t wait to see what he does in the postseason.

5) LA Clippers

Last, but most certainly not least, my Clippers. Yes, this is my unbiased opinion.

If you are a basketball fan, you cannot deny the Clippers have faced the most adversity within this NBA season.

Where do I even begin?

The Clippers lose their star point guard, CP in free agency.

Four games into the season, their new starting point guard, Milos Teodosic, injures his achilles and is out for a couple of months.

Then they add Austin Rivers, Patrick Beverley and Danilo Gallinari to the injured list. And Beverley is out for the entire season.

That is four out of five starters injured!

To add more salt to the open wound, a shocking turn of events occurred when the organization decided to part ways with franchise player, Blake Griffin.

In return for Griffin, the Clippers received Avery Bradley and Tobias Harris. Both solid players, but still a shocking change.

Then Bradley suffers from an injury, and is out for the rest of the season.

The Clippers can not catch a break!

Despite it all, the Clippers are still knocking on that playoff door — two games out from the eighth spot.

You may not be a Clips fan, but the fight this squad has to continue persevering and playing hard is undeniable.

Every couple of weeks, this squad’s starting lineup changes due to injuries and they have to adapt and readjust finding players to fill roster spots.

That’s a lot to deal with and the Clippers have done so with flying colors.

Lets just say, I wouldn’t want to be the team that has to match up with the Clippers in the first round of the playoffs.

Something about playing the underdog who has nothing to lose can be scary.

That’ll do it for my five NBA sleepers heading into the Playoffs!

Think I missed some teams or have some sleeper picks of your own? Let’s hear them in the comments!

— Mariah



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