This four-team competition acts as a playoff primer for the league, allowing teams finishing seventh through tenth in each conference an opportunity at one of the final two postseason slots.
With the league providing this pathway to playoff hopefuls once again, there are several teams eyeing the postseason.
The NBA’s Eastern Conference sports clear tiers of contenders and playoff hopefuls.
That leaves only a handful of teams in rebuilding mode, but two of those non-contenders could sneak into the Play-In Tournament.
2. Orlando Magic
The Orlando Magic enter the 2021-22 season coming off a disappointing 21-51 campaign.
After a promising 4-1 start to the season, the Magic quickly fell apart, going 4-12 in January.
The remainder of the injury-riddled season was a slog, and ultimately finished with the third-worst record in the league.
But the Magic hit the reset button around an intriguing young core of players.
New head coach Jamahl Mosley comes in after years as an assistant and player development coach elsewhere.
— NBA Draft (@NBADraft) August 15, 2021
But what stands as the biggest hope for a potential playoff push is rookie Jalen Suggs.
After seeing two teams jump them in the 2021 NBA Draft lottery, the Magic seemed destined to miss out on the top-end talent.
But Suggs, who led Gonzaga to the NCAA title game, slipped to the No. 5 overall selection.
He’s a potential perimeter star, and when paired with fellow lottery selection Franz Wagner, Orlando landed two of the top defenders in this draft.
Considering Mosely’s pedigree as a developmental coach and defensive mastermind, this young core could surprise many in the East.
1. Toronto Raptors
The Toronto Raptors were another team that had their season submarined by injuries.
After making it to the Eastern Conference semifinals in 2019-20, the Raptors slipped from the playoff picture completely in 2020-21.
The team finished a disappointing 27-45, missing the playoffs for the first time in seven years.
But two seasons removed from the franchise’s only NBA championship, Toronto looks to return to the postseason, and could do so via the NBA’s Play-In Tournament.
"We’re going to build around Fred, OG, & Pascal." 👀
— NBA Analysis Network (@HoopAnalysisNet) August 7, 2021
The Raptors resigned Gary Trent Jr., who enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2020-21.
Toronto surprised many taking Scottie Barnes with the No. 4 overall pick.
The 6-foot-9 forward’s versatility should allow head coach Nick Nurse to tinker with intriguing lineups.
Pairing Barnes with Achiuwa, OG Anunoby, and Siakam could provide the Raptors with a potent defensive group.