NBA standings in West are a mess: Who will get in as playoffs approach?
The NBA’s Western Conference standings are a jumbled mess.
Not much is determined, especially when it comes to seeding. Denver, Memphis, Sacramento and Phoenix should finish 1-2-3-4, but after that, who knows?
Places 5-10 are up for grabs between eight teams (Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State, Los Angeles Lakers, New Orleans, Minnesota, Oklahoma City, Dallas and Utah).
The consistent inconsistency – or is it the inconsistent consistency? – of those teams makes it impossible to forecast what will happen in the final week of the NBA’s regular season. Almost assuredly, tiebreakers will play a role with difficult schedules remaining for several teams in the postseason chase.
The top six teams in each conference make the playoffs, and teams 7-10 play for the final two playoff spots in the play-in game format.
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Let’s take a look at where the West is headed into Tuesday’s games:
1. Denver (52-26)
The Nuggets don’t have the top seed wrapped up, and they don’t have an easy schedule to finish the season. But they should hold off Memphis. Regardless, this is all about Denver’s ability to reach the NBA Finals with two-time MVP Nikola Jokic.
Remaining games: at Houston, at Phoenix, at Utah, vs. Sacramento
2. Memphis (49-29, three games back)
With the Grizzlies’ schedule, it will be difficult to catch Denver for the top seed, and given their schedule, they’ll have to win games to keep Sacramento from stealing the No. 2 seed.
Remaining games: vs. Portland, at New Orleans, at Milwaukee, at Oklahoma City Thunder
3. Sacramento (47-31, five games back)
The Kings are the feel-good story of the NBA, headed for their first playoff appearance since losing in the first round in 2006. Another team with a tough schedule to conclude the regular season, the Kings have a chance at the two seed.
Remaining games: at New Orleans, at Dallas, vs. Golden State, at Denver
4. Phoenix (43-35, nine games back)
With Kevin Durant back in the lineup, the Suns are in good position to maintain the four seed, but they also will play teams looking to strengthen their postseason position in the final three games of the season.
Remaining games: vs. San Antonio, vs. Denver, at Los Angeles Lakers, vs. Los Angeles Clippers
5. Los Angeles Clippers (41-38, 11½ games back)
A month ago, the Clippers were in eighth place. Two weeks ago, they were in fifth. Will it be a guaranteed spot in the playoffs or a play-in game for the Clippers? Two wins in their final three games will help their cause.
Remaining games: vs. Lakers; vs. Portland; at Phoenix
6. Golden State (41-38, 11½ games back)
The Warriors’ up-and-down-season is up right now. They’re still trying to finish in the top six and avoid the play-in game format with three teams within 1½ games.
Remaining games: vs. Oklahoma City, at Sacramento, at Portland
7. Los Angeles Lakers (40-38, 12 games back)
The way Anthony Davis has played late in the season, as long as he’s healthy, the Lakers have a strong chance of getting into the postseason – possibly as high as the fifth seed if they win out – and with LeBron James, that’s a team that is dangerous regardless of their record.
Remaining games: at Utah; at Clippers; vs. Phoenix; vs. Utah
8. New Orleans (40-38, 12 games back)
Brandon Ingram’s return from injury has boosted New Orleans’ postseason hopes. They’ve won seven of their past 10 games, and if they’re in the postseason, they could get injured Zion Williamson back.
Remaining games: vs. Sacramento; vs. Memphis; vs. New York Knicks; at Minnesota
9. Minnesota (39-40, 13½ games back)
The Timberwolves, like so many teams bunched in the West, have been up and down. They recently lost five of six games, won four consecutive and then lost three in a row, including Sunday’s game to Portland. Illness and injuries haven’t helped.
Remaining games: at Brooklyn; at San Antonio; vs. New Orleans
10. Oklahoma City (38-41, 14½ games back)
The Thunder have talent and should be really good as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey and Jalen Williams improve and they take advantage of all their future draft picks. Getting into the postseason isn’t necessary but it can’t hurt their development.
Remaining games: at Golden State; at Utah; vs. Memphis
11. Dallas (37-42, 15½ games back)
The Mavericks are in danger of not making the postseason, which would be a significant step back after reaching the conference finals last season. A top six offense can’t overcome a bottom a third defense, and the Kyrie Irving trade hasn’t produced the wins the Mavs wanted.
Remaining games: vs. Sacramento; vs. Chicago; vs. San Antonio
12. Utah (36-42, 16 games back)
Of all the teams trying to get into the postseason, Utah has the toughest road given its spot in the standings and its schedule. But give the Jazz credit. Everyone expected them to tank, and they competed, giving the franchise a promising future.
Remaining games: vs. Lakers; vs. Oklahoma City; vs. Denver; at Lakers