Present (LeBron) vs. future (Zion) could meet in the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs. Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

With about a quarter of the regular season remaining, multiple NBA teams have already clinched spots in the playoffs. Both the Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors have done so in convincing fashion.

However, it’s the lesser-known squads who will likely entertain us early in the postseason. What if Zion Williamson and the Pelicans were to make the postseason? Wouldn’t a first-round matchup against the Lakers be a blast?

Back east, we would absolutely love to see a struggling and injury-plagued Philadelphia 76ers squad go up against the Boston Celtics.

It’s in this that I check in on NBA Playoff matchups we’d love to take place once the regular season comes to a conclusion here soon.

New Orleans Pelicans-Los Angeles Lakers 

We saw it this past weekend. Zion Williamson and LeBron James exchanged big-time plays en route to one of the most entertaining games of the NBA season. The idea of the new kid on the block going up against the old guard has to be appealing to the common NBA fan.

While New Orleans is currently five games out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, it would be a difficult matchup for the Lakers.

Not only is Williamson in the midst of an historical season, former Lakers youngster Brandon Ingram is coming off his first All-Star appearance. We’re also darn sure Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart would love to exact revenge against their old squad.

Philadelphia 76ers-Boston Celtics 


A tantalizing matchup between two longtime rivals could make another appearance this spring. Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The old rivalry reimagined. The backdrop being Philadelphia’s major struggles and the Celtics’ ascension to contending status with rising star Jayson Tatum leading the charge.

Boston currently sits at 42-19 and has an outside shot of earning the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. For his part, Tatum has been just ridiculous recently. The third-year forward is averaging 28.4 points and 7.2 rebounds on 52% shooting from the field over the past 18 games.

As for Philadelphia, both Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid remain sidelined to injury. They’ll be back at some point soon. If the star tandem is rested and 100% come playoff time, Philadelphia would give these Celtics a run for their money. That’s for sure.

Dallas Mavericks-Los Angeles Clippers 


Luka Doncic's emergence could use a marquee playoff matchup, like that against Kawhi Leonard and Paul George's Clippers squad. Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Some might say it has been a disappointing first season for Paul George and Kawhi Leonard in Southern California. Heightened expectations make that the name of the game. However, the Clippers currently sit at 43-19 and as the second seed in the Western Conference and are 37-12 in the 48 games Leonard has played in.

On the other side sits a Mavericks squad that boasts two young stars in that of Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. This duo is averaging 47.7 points, 18.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists on the season. This has Dallas at 38-25 and locked in to a top-seven seed out west.

Imagine Doncic going up against both Leonard and George. How fun would that be? The MVP candidate obviously wants to announce his presence on the broader NBA stage. Make it happen, basketball gods.

Oklahoma City Thunder-Houston Rockets 


CP3 vs. Westbrook and Harden offers a number of juicy storylines. Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

How fun would this be? When Oklahoma City dealt Russell Westbrook to the Rockets this past summer, no one could have envisioned that Billy Donovan’s squad would be in position to take on Houston when the spring came calling. But here we are. OKC is a shocking 38-24 on the season and the sixth seed out west. Meanwhile, the Rockets have an outside shot at a top-three seed.

The backdrop to this matchup would obviously be Westbrook and James Harden going up against their former Thunder squad. On the other side, Chris Paul would want to exact revenge against a Rockets squad that discarded him like he was nothing in the Westbrook trade.

For all intents and purposes, this would be a popcorn-worthy first-round matchup between the two sides. Storyline on top of storyline. Who could ask for more?

This article first appeared on Sportsnaut and was syndicated with permission.


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MORE FROM YARDBARKER:
Can you name the active NBA players with 50 or more playoff victories?
SCORE:
0/25
TIME:
5:00
156 / CLE / SF
LeBron James
89 / MEM / SG
Andre Iguodala
88 / BK / SF
Kevin Durant
87 / MIA / PF
Udonis Haslem
86 / GSW / PF
Draymond Green
86 / GSW / PG
Shaun Livingston
86 / GSW / SG
Klay Thompson
77 / GSW / PG
Steph Curry
76 / LAL / SG
Danny Green
75 / CLE / SG
J.R. Smith
74 / TOR / PF
Serge Ibaka
73 / LAC / SF
Kawhi Leonard
70 / MIL / PF
Pau Gasol
66 / PHX / SG
Kyle Korver
61 / HOU / SG
James Harden
61 / MIL / PG
George Hill
60 / LAL / PG
Rajon Rondo
57 / PHI / PF
Al Horford
55 / SAC / SF
Trevor Ariza
53 / CLE / PF
Tristan Thompson
52 / HOU / SG
Iman Shumpert
51 / OKC / PG
Russell Westbrook
50 / SA / PG
Patty Mills
50 / HOU / PG
Chris Paul
50 / NO / SG
J.J. Redick

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