NBA Playoff Bottom Seed History

NBA Playoff Bottom Seed History: Heat In Tough in First Round

With a record of 46-36 the Miami Heat enter the NBA playoffs as the lowest-seeded team in the tournament.

Diving deeper to try and find value, the sixth-seed 1994-95 Houston Rockets are the lowest-seeded team to ever win the NBA Finals. Keep this fact in mind as you place your first round and NBA Championship futures bets. Let's take a closer look at recent NBA bottom seed playoff history and figure out if there's any value bets to make.

Bottom Seeds Brutal NBA Playoff History

Last 5: Lowest-Ranked Team's Playoff Runs
YearTeamRound of Elimination
2023Minnesota TimberwolvesFirst Round
2022New Orleans PelicansFirst Round
2021Washington WizardsFirst Round
2020Orlando MagicFirst Round
2019Detroit PistonsFirst Round


Last year's first round featured an unprecedented four upsets. Unfortunately, none of those featured the lowest seeded team. As you can see, the teams with the lowest win total in the playoffs over the past five seasons haven't fared well. In fact, the above teams combined to win just five total games.

Keep in mind that prior to Miami's win last season, only four No. 8 seeds had ever advanced past No. 1 seeds in the first round of the playoffs. Dikembe Mutombe led the No.8 Nuggets to a first round upset of the vaunted Seattle Supersonics in 1994. Jeff Van Gundy and the New York Knicks took down Miami in the first round of the 1999 playoffs.

Following those, the "We Believe" Warriors upset Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks in 2007. Then, Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and the Memphis Grizzlies took down Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs in 2011.

How Will the Heat Fare in 2024?

The "Zombie Heat" aren't your typical lowest seed. Having made two of the last four NBA Finals, Miami boasts a battle proven roster, and a number of talented scorers. They also have an elite head coach in Erik Spoelstra who continually manages to extract the most out of his roster.

That being said, Miami faces its toughest first round test yet in the form of the 64-win Boston Celtics. Sportsbooks have installed the Celtics as an insane -8000 favorite (prior to game one) to win the first round series. Without Jimmy Butler in the lineup, Miami simply does not have the horses to compete with this juggernaut Celtics squad.

NBA Playoffs Largest First Round Series Upsets In each of the Last 10 Years
Team Odds To Win Series
Miami Heat Over Milwaukee Bucks  (2023)+750
Dallas Mavericks Over Utah Jazz (2022)+245
Phoenix Suns Over Los Angeles Lakers (2021)+155
No First Round Upsets (2020)N/A
Portland Trail Blazers Over Oklahoma City Thunder (2019)+145
New Orleans Pelicans Over Portland Trail Blazers (2018)+180
Utah Jazz Over Los Angeles Clippers (2017)+205
Portland Trail Blazers Over Los Angeles Clippers (2016)+415
Los Angeles Clippers Over San Antonio Spurs (2015)+160
Portland Trail Blazers Over Houston Rockets (2014)+170


Miami's monumental upset of the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in last year's unfathomable run is the largest first round upset of the last decade. Jimmy Butler went ballistic, looking Like Mike in the five game upset. Another huge factor that many are forgetting is the fact that Giannis Antentokounmpo slammed his back on the court midway through game one and missed most of the rest of the series. Clearly, a lot has to fall (literally) your way to upset the giants in the first round of the NBA playoffs.

Luka Doncic and the Mavs sent the Utah Jazz franchise into a rebuild with a first round demolition in 2022. While the Phoenix Suns took down a beat up, defending champion Lakers team in 2021.

Further back, oddsmakers had little respect for Dame Lillard and his Portland Trail Blazers throughout the mid-2010s. Lillard crushed the books by leading Portland to three first round upsets in five years from 2014-2019. His shot over Paul George to win the Blazers-Thunder series in 2019 is forever etched in both NBA and meme history.


The aforementioned "We Believe" Golden State Warriors pulled off the upset of the century as +1200 underdogs over the Dallas Mavericks. There is no historical precedent for backing the Heat as +1800 opening first-round underdogs over the Celtics. Unfortunately there's very little value in betting on the NBA's bottom seeded playoff teams.

Check out all of our NBA Playoff first-round previews to find the best  bets in each series:

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