For the second season in a row, there will be a Play-In Tournament between the end of the regular season and start of the playoffs.
The difference this season is the No. 7 and No. 8 seed in each conference are up for grabs, not just the No. 8 seed.
Which team currently in the mix for the Play-In Tournament is the most dangerous? Our NBA.com Staff weighs in...
Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): It's the Dallas Mavericks for a couple of reasons.
One, they've been much better since the All-Star break, going 12-10 on the strength of the league's ninth-best offence. Two, they have Luka Doncic, who has the ability to single-handedly beat any team in the league. Could he do it four times against a top seed? I don't know, but the Mavericks have enough talent around him in Kristaps Porzingis, Jalen Brunson, Josh Richardson, Maxi Kleber and Tim Hardaway Jr. to do something if they're peaking at the right time.
The Golden State Warriors pose a similar threat with Stephen Curry, who is on a historic run right now, but I don't have nearly as much faith in their supporting cast.
Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21): If I'm in the East, I don't want to see the Miami Heat.
It's been a weird year for Miami, and while part of it has been due to injuries and bad luck, the team has struggled with sticking to its identity, exemplified by Jimmy Butler's most recent claim that the team was "being soft." As discouraging as their uncharacteristic play might be, it's that level of accountability that makes the team scary to me.
One game after being called out, the Heat earned a gutsy win over the talented, yet short-handed, Brooklyn Nets, courtesy of a game-winner from Bam Adebayo. The phrase "Heat Culture" is sometimes overused but it's real, and it's why the team would be a headache for any top seed to deal with for an extended series.
We saw it last year and we could see it again in a month's time.
I don't think the Heat are talented enough to just flip the proverbial switch but I do believe that if they build some momentum during the stretch run, they're talented enough, deep enough and coached well enough to make things extremely difficult for a top seed in the East.