Five teams that missed the play-in round of the 2021 postseason managed to sneak into the top 10 in their respective conferences in time for the 2022 postseason. Last season, four teams that missed out on the top 10 managed to make the 2023 play-in or playoffs. Now that the postseason field has been expanded from 16 to 20 teams, this trend is probably going to continue. More teams are going to be able to turn around quickly now that the bar to doing so has been lowered.

Last season, the Pacers, Wizards, Magic, Hornets and Pistons missed the postseason in the East. The Mavericks, Jazz, Blazers, Rockets and Spurs missed out in the West. Recent history tells us that a handful of those teams are going to make it this time around. So let's rank those 10 teams by how likely they are to reach the 2024 postseason.

10. Spurs

The Spurs probably could have pushed for the playoffs if they'd wanted to. They entered the offseason with max cap space, and their deep war chest of draft picks acquired from other teams would have given them significant flexibility on the trade market. They just chose not to pursue a play-in spot.

The Spurs didn't sign a single veteran free agent from another team this offseason. They didn't even throw a cursory offer sheet at Austin Reaves to mess with the Lakers. They took on veteran salary in trades, but as we saw when they bought out Reggie Bullock, they didn't plan to keep most of it. San Antonio is slow-playing their rebuild in a Western Conference that includes 13 teams that genuinely hope to make the playoffs this season. That makes sense. Let some of the older teams age out before striking.

9. Pistons

The Pistons have a pretty interesting collection of young talent, but that talent clashes. Ausar Thompson and Jaden Ivey are both explosive athletes who haven't developed their jumpers yet. Isaiah Stewart, Marvin Bagley, James Wiseman and Jalen Duren are all fighting for the same minutes, and the Pistons seem set on playing two of them together despite their own shooting woes.

There are shooters on this roster. Joe Harris, Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks could go a long way for a young roster, but finding minutes for all of them and those recent draft picks isn't going to be easy, and some of them are likely gone by the deadline. Who is the best defensive player in this rotation? Detroit can build something pretty compelling with many of the pieces they've assembled. They just don't fit together quite yet.

8. Hornets

You're forgiven if you skipped out on March basketball in Charlotte last season, but the Hornets were moderately competitive after the deadline. They went 5-6 in their last 11 games with a league-average defense in that span. Here's the problem: that defense came with LaMelo Ball and Gordon Hayward out and Brandon Miller not yet on the roster.

Those guys are going to help the offense, but not enough to overcome their defensive issues. Mark Williams will one day be a defensive star, but asking a second-year big man to anchor a unit with this many weak spots is just unrealistic.

7. Wizards

Washington's roster, in its current state, isn't exactly designed to tank. Jordan Poole is going to score a ton of points. Tyus Jones and Kyle Kuzma are fine, starting-caliber veterans. There are so many young players here that one or two of them are bound to pop. They're bad in their current state. They're not "completely and utterly out of the play-in race" bad... yet.

The Wizards just dumped Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis for peanuts. The reason you do that is to position yourself for better draft picks. Washington is trying to escape the late-lottery purgatory, not remain there. Jones seems like a lock to be traded on an expiring contract. Don't be surprised if Kuzma's market is explored as well, given how surprising his return felt in July.

6. Blazers

Ladies and gentlemen, we might have this year's iteration of the 2022-23 Utah Jazz on our hands here. The plan here is to rebuild, but the Blazers have a lot more flexibility in how they go about doing so than the Wizards do because they already have the players they expect to anchor their next winner. Scoot Henderson and Shaedon Sharpe are in place. Portland wouldn't mind another high pick, but it doesn't need one in the way Washington does.

The starting lineup is probably going to have three players on $100 million contracts in Jerami Grant, Deandre Ayton and Anfernee Simons. Portland might have the best backup points guard (Malcolm Brogdon) and center (Robert Williams III) in the NBA. Maybe Henderson is immediately great. Maybe he isn't and Portland leans on the veterans in the early going. There is just too much proven NBA talent on this roster to lump them in with the true tankers. Portland might do what Utah did a season ago and dump some of those veterans in February, but for now, this roster isn't half bad.

5. Rockets

There was plenty of addition in Houston this offseason. Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks speak for themselves (quite frequently, in Brooks' case). The real upgrade here is going to be in the addition by subtraction. Dumping Kevin Porter Jr., who contributed little in the ways that actually led to winning, is going to be helpful. The sample size on Ime Udoka is small, but the bigger one on Stephen Silas suggested he was one of the NBA's worst coaches during his Houston tenure. The Rockets have been a disorganized mess for three solid years.

That is probably going to change this year. Remember, Houston no longer has any reason to tank. The Thunder control their next four first-round picks, and ownership is anxious to win. That might not lead to an immediate playoff berth, but the Rockets are going to be a functional basketball team this season. That's an enormous leap for a franchise that has gone 59-177 over the past three seasons.

4. Jazz

Utah probably isn't the team that started last season 10-3, but it's not the team that closed the season at 4-12 either. There's a middle ground here, somewhere between the high-flying offensive juggernaut that shot teams out of the building last November and the tank brigade of March and April. Veterans like Mike Conley, Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt are gone. John Collins is in their place.

Does Collins make sense in a front-court with Lauri Markkanen and Walker Kessler? Will any of their young guards stand out in a crowded rotation? Will opponents take the Jazz more seriously this time around? These are all legitimate questions, and the likeliest answers lead the Jazz outside of the top 10 in the bloated Western Conference. But we've seen these Jazz play competitive basketball for most of a season without even really trying. If their goal is to reach the play-in round this season, that seems somewhat attainable.

3. Magic

The Magic started last season 5-20 and ended it 29-28. That's a play-in pace and Orlando figures to be quite a bit better next season. Six of last season's seven most-used players are back, and the oldest among them is the 25-year-old Markelle Fultz. Joe Ingles isn't exactly a game-changer, but adding another big ball-handler that fills this team's significant shooting hole is going to be helpful.

If you're against the Magic, you'd point out that they have more guards than minutes, and many of them (Fultz, Jalen Suggs and Anthony Black) aren't exactly shooters. They relied on some shooting luck defensively as well, as opponents made a league-low 32.3% of their open 3-pointers against them as well. But the Magic were just a play-in level team for the majority of a season and they figure to see significant internal improvement. Don't overthink this one.

2. Pacers

Orlando was a play-in caliber team for most of the season. Indiana was a playoff caliber team for most of the season. The Pacers held the No. 6 seed halfway through last season at 23-19, and then Tyrese Haliburton got hurt. Indiana went 28-28 with him in the lineup last season and 7-19 without him. Like the Magic, they figure to improve significantly through internal development. Buddy Hield and T.J. McConnell are the only Pacers above the age of 27.

Few coaches are better at milking regular-season wins out of mid-tier rosters than Rick Carlisle. The Pacers are going to be one of the best transition teams in basketball, and they should play acceptable defense by virtue of the presence of an elite rim protector (Myles Turner) and a high-end point-of-attack defender (Bruce Brown). The Pacers still have a ways to go before they can credibly contend, but they're ready to play postseason basketball. That much is certain.

1. Mavericks

You were expecting someone else? Dallas has the best player of any of these teams in Luka Doncic. Kyrie Irving wouldn't be very far down that list. The Mavericks spent the offseason retrofitting their roster around the two of them, targeting shooters and defenders that won't need the ball as the two shot-creators work.

There are definitely flaws here. The Mavericks haven't done nearly enough to address the center position, if we assume that Grant Williams is their primary forward stopper. Jason Kidd's lineups remain perplexing to say the least—he started two rookies in the preseason opener!—and his history in Brooklyn in Milwaukee suggests that he tends to wear out his welcome. But talent wins games and the Mavericks have more of it than any other team on this list. It would be a colossal failure if this team failed to reach the postseason.