Everything you need to know about the NBL Playoff picture

It’s been lauded as the tightest NBL season… ever! Whilst this bonkers of a regular season is drawing to a close, we’re still yet to fully determine the final league standings -- heading into the final round of games, the fate of six teams is still up in the air.

Is the NBL playoff picture super confusing? We’ll try and clear it up for you, but first, some housekeeping:

  • The live ladder ranks teams based on win/loss ratio, followed by point percentage (aggregate for and against).

  • The final seedings for the playoffs is determined by win/loss, followed by the all-important head-to-head tiebreakers. In the event that teams split their season series against each other, the aggregate point differential in that series matters.

  • What if it’s still tied, after all of the above? It then comes down to aggregate point percentage.

Phew!

There are just too many permutations possible to note how each team can make --or fall out of-- the playoffs – thinking about possibilities gives me a headache. Instead, we’ll take a guess on how they’ll fare, and list the relevant tiebreakers for each team.

The order below is based on current ladder position.

Illawarra Hawks

Current record: 14-13

Ladder position: 2nd

Games remaining: 2

Tiebreakers owned:

  • Melbourne (lead 2-1 and +15)

  • New Zealand (series tied but +11)

How they make the playoffs:

The Hawks can guarantee their playoff spot by winning their final game of the season against the Bullets on Saturday night, a favourable home date against the already eliminated Brisbane Bullets.

They also own tiebreakers over both Melbourne and Cairns.

A loss to the Bullets means a nervous wait.

Melbourne United

Current record: 13-13

Ladder position: 3rd

Games remaining: 2

Tiebreakers owned:

  • Sydney (3-1)

  • Cairns (3-1)

How they make the playoffs:

United could theoretically jump to second when it’s all said and done, IF they win all of their games in the final round (against the Breakers, and the Wildcats), and the teams above them lose.

The Hawks own their season series, and ditto for the Breakers and Wildcats, meaning it’s must-in for United against the Breakers in the first game of the final round.

Perth Wildcats

Current record: 13-13

Ladder position: 4th

Games remaining: 2

Tiebreakers owned:

  • *Lead Sydney 2-1 (+8)

  • Cairns (series tied but +6)

  • Illawarra (series tied but +6)

  • Melbourne (3-0 and +8)

How they make the playoffs:

The Wildcats own a glut of tiebreakers that works in their favour.

If the 36ers knock off Cairns on Thursday, and Melbourne beat New Zealand in the early Friday game, the Wildcats come close to assuring themselves a 31st consecutive appearance in the playoffs by defeating the Kings later that night.

Lose handsomely against the Kings and it means travelling to Melbourne and potentially facing United in a do-or-die battle in the final game of the season.

Cairns Taipans

Current record: 13-13

Ladder position: 5th

Games remaining: 2

Tiebreakers owned:

  • Illawarra (3-1)

  • New Zealand (4-0)

How they make the playoffs:

In a scheduling anomaly, Cairns face Adelaide in a mini home-and-away series to end their regular season. Their fate rests entirely in their own hands – win both games and the Taipans are into the playoffs – which is amazing considering they looked likely to miss the postseason only weeks ago.

Something else to note: will the 36ers rest their stars?

Bear in mind that the Snakes hold the fewest tiebreakers meaning that a single loss in the final round effectively eliminates them.

Sydney Kings

Current record: 13-14

Ladder position: 6th

Games remaining: 1

Tiebreakers owned:

  • Illawarra (3-1)

  • New Zealand (3-1)

  • Cairns (series tied but +9)

How they make the playoffs:

Ooph, it’s going to be tough.

The Kings must beat the Wildcats in Perth, a daunting task. They give themselves a better shot if they annihilate the Wildcats -- who lead the series point differential by 8 points – and thus own that tiebreaker.

They’ll also need Cairns to lose one game in their home-and-away stoush with the 36ers, and for Melbourne to lose two games courtesy of their head-to-head record.

As crazy as it sounds, theoretically, the Kings could even leapfrog the Hawks if Illawarra loses all of their remaining games.

New Zealand Breakers

Current record: 13-14

Ladder position: 7th

Games remaining: 2

Tiebreakers owned:

  • Perth (3-1)

  • *Lead Melbourne (2-1, but -13)

How they make the playoffs:

Beat Melbourne and hope teams above them lose. The Breakers lose tiebreakers to the Kings, Taipans and the Hawks.

Like the Kings, the Breakers will need results going their way. But they remain the unlikeliest team outside the top four to make the postseason courtesy of the dearth of tiebreakers that they own.


*This article was updated on February 7, 2017.