Hold on to your hats, it’s All-Star time! The annual superstar showcase is upon us once more and who isn’t excited?
The debating on social media has been rife. Who will take home the dunk contest crown? Which dead eye shooter will reap glory in the three point shootout?
While debates go back and forth, it’s also a good time to reflect on the real prize. We look to focus on one point in particular. The wild, wild West.
The Western Conference has, for a while now, been nothing short of stacked. The playoffs are the prize and the competition to make it is as fierce as ever. Some are locks, others likely but by no means guaranteed. Of course, there are also those with no shot whatsoever, bar a miracle. As we approach the unofficial ‘half way point’ in the season, we’re going to take a look at those who will be fighting it out for that coveted eighth seed.
Currently there are five teams who are as good as guaranteed to make it. The seeding? That’s all still very much up in the air. All we know is that when the post season rolls around, they will be there. Those teams are the Los Angeles Lakers, Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Clippers, Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets.
Who would have thought by this point we’d be talking about the Oklahoma City Thunder sitting in the sixth seed? What a fantastic job head coach Billy Donovan has done to lead them to this point. Will they make it? Most likely they will, however nothing is guaranteed. The other team likely but not for certain to make it is of course, the Dallas Mavericks. Luka Doncic and co will be looking to make an impact and prove themselves a formidable team on the rise.
The little to no chancers
The Warriors have no chance of making the playoffs. Still can’t quite believe I’m writing that. Along with Golden State, the remaining teams who’s hopes are as good as faded are the Minnesota Timberwolves, Phoenix Suns and Sacramento Kings. I must caveat that the Suns strong start did not go unnoticed. They will for sure be one to look out for in the seasons to come, it must be said.
That brings us to those battling it out for the chance to play post season basketball.
The eight-seed contenders
Memphis Grizzlies (27-26)
The Grizz currently hold the eighth seed and are the only team in contention with a winning record. Another team that have over achieved this season behind rookie leader Ja Morant, they seem confident under the pressure.
Having said that, they seem to have acquired a suitable asset in Justise Winslow to try and fill that void. If they can get things right defensively and stay true to their grind city roots, I’d say the Memphis Grizzlies have a good shot of achieving the eighth seed.
Portland Trail Blazers (25-30)
Who would bet against Damian Lillard? I sure wouldn’t.
Although they have severely under achieved this season, I struggle to not put my money on the Blazers. Going from Western Conference finalists to the ninth seed seems impossible for a group with as much talent as they have. This begs the question, what is missing? What is going wrong in Portland? They’ll be looking to answer that and more over the All-Star break if they are going to close the gap and force their way in to the playoffs.
San Antonio Spurs (23-31)
Try if you can to imagine an NBA postseason without Gregg Popovich and the Spurs. It doesn’t really compute.
They are, however, facing a steep uphill battle and it’s highly unlikely that they will make it. I’m not one to put anything past Pop, although playoff basketball seems like a very big ask from their current position.
New Orleans Pelicans (23-31)
Just like their division rivals above, the Pelicans have their work cut out if they want to make it past the regular season. Now that Zion Williamson has arrived on the scene, fans in the big easy have so much to look forward to. They have an incredibly talented young core, including first time all star Brandon Ingram. Playoff basketball this season might not be one of those things that they will be looking forward to, however the future looks very bright in New Orleans.