Following a 101-99 loss to the Utah Jazz Thursday evening, the Milwaukee Bucks still remain in the middle of the Eastern Conference standings with a few weeks to go before the All-Star break. This is what the conference currently looks like as of today:
ESPN's John Hollinger has a simulator with playoff odds around the league that is updated daily. Here's an explanation of how the results are generated:
Based on those rankings, each day the computer plays out the remainder of the season 5,000 times to see the potential range of projected outcomes. The results reveal the most likely win-loss record for each team -- and what the odds are for each team to make the NBA playoffs, win the NBA title, win the lottery, and so on.
Thanks in part to an easier, home-heavy schedule the rest of the way, the simulator is extremely bullish on the Bucks making the playoffs, with a 97.2 percentage likelihood as of right now. They also (wait for it) have a 6.0% chance of making it to the NBA Finals. It's an interesting metric, but it should be noted that the percentage doesn't factor in injuries, suspensions or plenty of other factors that could dramatically alter a team's fate. So don't be planning your Finals trip just yet, and even the playoffs are unlikely to be a lock given the topsy turvy East.
Milwaukee's main competition for moving up in the standings is Cleveland (23-20). LeBron James and the Cavaliers haven't lived up to their preseason hype, but they've won four in a row and still hold a solid 16-9 record against the conference. The four teams Milwaukee still has to fear near below them in the standings are Brooklyn, Miami, Charlotte and Detroit. Ninth seeded Charlotte sits just 3.5 games back of the Bucks, so there's still plenty to play for, especially given the Bucks' increasingly thin roster.
Lurking a further game back are the Pistons, who have seven of their last ten after registering a 13-game losing streak during the Josh Smith Days of November and December. The Nets have stumbled of late, and after a 123-84 loss last night to the Los Angeles Clippers, are tied with the Hornets for the eighth seed. Brooklyn holds the tie-breaker in the head-to-head series between the two. Meanwhile. the Heat have lost two in a row and are trying to regroup after a brutal five-game road trip out west.
So, can Milwaukee hold off a reincarnated Detroit team and a surging Charlotte? Not including the game in London, the Bucks are 1-6 in their last seven at home. They face the Pistons for a fourth and final time on Saturday, making that matchup all the more important.
For the draft watchers, if the season ended today the Bucks would select 17th overall in the 2015 NBA Draft. If the Bucks tumble out of the playoffs they'd likely jump to around the 11th spot in the draft lottery, the slot currently held by the Hornets.