Who Will Be The No. 8 Seed In The NBA West Playoffs?
The NBA season is scheduled to resume on July 31 in Orlando. It’s really exciting news for basketball fans as the NBA will attempt to finish its season, with a possible Game 7 of the NBA Finals no later than October 12.
The season will continue with eight regular season games before the playoffs begin. Which team is the best bets to claim the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference?
The Grizzlies are in eighth place at 32-33. The rules for the amended NBA season format stipulate that if the ninth-place team is four games or fewer behind the No. 8 seed when these next eight provisional games end, the ninth-place team plays the eighth-place team in a two-game series. The No. 9 team has to beat the No. 8 team two out of two times to advance. The No. 8 team just needs to win one of the two games. Memphis therefore clearly has the inside track. The Grizzlies would prefer to avoid Portland, but even if they face the Blazers, they have to win just one of two against the Blazers. Portland would have to sweep the two-game series to advance as the No. 8 seed.
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
The Trail Blazers are in a tie for ninth place at 29-37, three and a half games behind the Grizzlies. Portland has a real chance because if the Blazers qualify for a play-in tournament berth against the Grizzlies in early August, Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum could go off. Portland would have to beat Memphis twice in two games to advance, whereas Memphis – under such a hypothetical – would have to win only once. Yet, the Blazers would take their chances if it came down to just those two teams. They would love that opportunity.
NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
The Pelicans are 28-36, which is 3.5 games behind the Grizzlies. Note that the Pelicans are tied with the Blazers in terms of being 3.5 games behind Memphis, but that the number of games played by New Orleans (64) is not the same as the number of games played by Portland (66). The NBA is going to play eight games before the playoffs, meaning that Portland will finish with 74 games played, New Orleans with 72. If there is a tie in the standings, the winning percentage will break a tie.
Let’s imagine a scenario in which Portland and New Orleans both go 4-4 in their eight pre-playoff games. Portland would finish 33-41, New Orleans 32-40. Portland’s winning percentage would be .445, New Orleans at .444. Portland would finish higher. This is something to keep in mind regarding the unequal numbers of games teams will play. The teams playing fewer games will have to finish half a game better in the standings to get the benefit of any tie, should teams be tied for a play-in tournament. A play-in tournament will apply to teams which finish no more than four games outside of the No. 8 seed.
The Kings are 28-36, tied with the Pelicans and Blazers. The note about winning percentage above also applies to Sacramento, just as it does to New Orleans. The Kings will need to finish ahead of Portland in case there is a play-in tournament and there is uncertainty about teams’ playoff eligibility.
SAN ANTONIO SPURS
The Spurs are 27-36, four games behind Memphis and half a game behind Portland, New Orleans, and Sacramento. Because the Spurs are half a game behind the three teams immediately in front of them, their task is simple: Beat each of those three teams by one game. They would then finish half a game ahead and might have a chance to face Memphis in a play-in tournament.
The Suns are 26-39, six full games behind Memphis. The real problem for the Suns is that they would have to climb over four teams in front of them – Portland, New Orleans, Sacramento, San Antonio – to have any real chance. The West field is far too crowded for them to have a real shot.
The Mavericks are 40-27, seven games ahead of Phoenix. It is not mathematically impossible for them to fall to the No. 8 seed, but it is entirely unrealistic to imagine such a scenario. No one is taking this possibility seriously, and no one should.