Does anyone want the 8th seed in the West?

With all of the teams at or near the halfway point of their season, I thought it was time to look at the Western Conference playoff race. The first seven seeds seemed to be locked up and there shouldn’t be much shifting in order between now and the end of the season. The eighth seed on the other hand is not even remotely locked up and every single team in the West is still in the hunt for it. Just four games separate the current eighth seed Portland and the worst team in the West, Phoenix. That is crazy.

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The favorite here has to be Portland who have struggled this season, but still have the core of a playoff team in place. Last year’s team shocked a lot of people and that caused them to have high expectations this season, but they are still a solid squad. The Evan Turner signing has been disastrous, but Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum are still a really dangerous backcourt. Of course, whether or not that backcourt stays intact is a whole other question. Could McCollum be used to bring some much needed front court help to the team? A trade here seems likely and a strong second half could follow.

Denver has been impressing lately as Nikola Jokic looks like a real NBA star in the making. The thing with the Nuggets is they are loaded with assets, but those assets might not quite fit together. They are a threat to make a trade at any time as they could outbid just about anybody. If a superstar becomes available, look out for Denver who could then put themselves in position to steal the seed.

Sacramento wants this seed badly, but their team is still such a mess. DeMarcus Cousins is super talented, but night to night this team just feels overmatched. There is a huge hole at point guard here as well. Rudy Gay is always an interesting trade option, but what could he really bring back? Would it be enough to jump up the rankings? One thing on the Kings side is their decent Western Conference record. If a tie happens, that record will decide the 8th seed.

W L GB CON PPG OPP DIF L10
Portland 18 25 18 13-16 107.9 110.7 -2.7 5-5
Denver 16 23 18 9-14 109.3 111.2 -2 4-6
Sacramento 16 24 18.5 11-14 102.8 105.5 -2.8 3-7
New Orleans 16 26 19.5 6-18 102.2 105 -2.8 5-5
Minnesota 14 27 21 7-18 102.9 103.9 -1.1 4-6
LA Lakers 15 30 22 8-19 104.3 110.2 -5.8 3-7
Dallas 13 27 21.5 9-18 95.7 100.5 -4.8 4-6
Phoenix 13 28 22 5-23 105.9 111.7 -5.8 4-6

The opposite can be said about New Orleans. They would be my favorite here as Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday are finally back on the court for them and they are starting to look like a real team instead of the Anthony Davis show. Unfortunately that 6-18 conference record will be hard to overcome even if they are able to grab a few extra wins in the second half.

One team I am really watching out for is the Dallas Mavericks. They’ve won two straight and Dirk Nowitzki is finally starting to look like himself as he’s averaged 20 PPG in his last three games. When healthy this team is much better than it’s record and they definitely have the coaching to play hard in the second half. If this is Dirk’s last season, that would be a very fitting end.

Minnesota is also interesting as they have the best point differential of all these teams, but they just can’t close out games. I don’t see that changing before the end of the season as this is simply a young team going through growing pains.

The Lakers and Suns, I just can’t see under any circumstances. Mathematically they are in it, but basketball wise they are extremely far away.

The eighth seed in the Western Conference will most likely be decided by who makes a trade and what they get in return. Whether that is the Nuggets making a big move, the Blazers making a move to improve their defense or something else we haven’t thought of yet. Still, while the basketball itself might not be very exciting this is probably the best race out there right now.

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