The Great NBA Western Conference Play-In Mess

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The top of the NBA Western Conference is looking fantastic. It features three 40 win teams in the Phoenix Suns, Golden State Warriors, and Memphis Grizzlies. All three are looking like legitimate contenders. Right below those three teams includes the Utah Jazz, Dallas Mavericks, and Denver Nuggets. Although Utah, Dallas, and Denver haven’t eclipsed 40 wins, these teams are star-studded with names such as Donovan MitchellRudy GobertLuka Doncic, and Nikola Jokic. It’s safe to say all six of these teams are essential playoff locks.

It gets muddy below that. The play-in tournament will feature four teams, seeded from 7th to 10th. It’s an all-out race for those last spots.

The Great NBA Western Conference Play-In Mess

The Current Top Spots

The seventh seed belongs to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Minnesota can certainly avoid the play-in tournament, as they’re closer in records to the Nuggets than they are to the Los Angeles Clippers in 8th. The Timberwolves have eclipsed 30 wins and are finally looking legitimate again. Karl-Anthony Towns is an All-Star. Anthony Edwards is a rising star and a fantastic complimentary player, along with D’Angelo Russell. Minnesota has plenty of solid role players as well. These aren’t the lowly Timberwolves anymore as any opponent come playoff time will take Minnesota very seriously.

Injuries are affecting the Clippers at the 8th seed. The injuries to Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are well known, but now new addition Norman Powell is sidelined. Reggie JacksonMarcus MorrisLuke Kennard, and others will be tasked with keeping LA afloat. With this being said, a slide could very well be expected.

Los Angeles Lakers – an NBA Western Conference Mystery

The Los Angeles Lakers are reeling. Their fall from glory is happening rapidly. This, of course, is quite surprising considering the talent on the team. LeBron James remains elite, whereas Anthony Davis is still a star. Davis isn’t playing well, but the league knows what he’s capable of.

Then, of course, there’s the Russell Westbrook predicament. The Lakers didn’t deal him, unsurprisingly due to his contract, but his fit is clearly not working. The team’s role players, outside of Malik Monk, are also not living up to expectations.

It’s odd to see any team James is on struggling like this. The team is still in a solid position to make the play-in, but at this rate, is far from assured that the Lakers will be competitive. With that being said, the talent, at least on paper, is still very tantalizing. To put it bluntly, the Lakers are not a good basketball team at the moment. They’re still, however, going to be an interesting match-up due to the players they have.

The Rest of the Pack

The four remaining teams in the pack (although the bottom two aren’t actually out) are the Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, San Antonio Spurs, and Sacramento Kings. They’re tightly jammed together, presenting an opportunity for a wild finish.

Portland gutted their team at the trade deadline to prepare for the offseason. Damian Lillard is also out, although he should return this season. This leaves Portland with Anfernee SimonsJusuf Nurkic, and Josh Hart as those most likely to carry the load.

New Orleans stacked up in their C.J. McCollum tradeHe pairs up with Brandon Ingram and Jonas Valanciunas. New Orleans can end up being very dangerous should Zion Williamson play this season.

Then there’s the Spurs. Dejounte Murray is a rising star and there are plenty of solid role players on this team. Although they traded Derrick White, it’s difficult to count head coach Gregg Popovich out.

Lastly, there are the Kings. Sacramento was quite the busy team this trade deadline. Domantas Sabonis may very well be the piece Sacramento needed to end their long playoff drought.

Expect a crazy finish.

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