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Previewing the Race for the Western Conference’s Last Playoff Spot

Zion Williamson and the Pelicans look to get past Ja Morant and the Grizzlies for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Barring a monumental collapse by the Dallas Mavericks that would need them to lose every game of the NBA restart, the top seven teams in the Western Conference are locked and loaded in what should be a frenetic race into the playoffs from the Orlando Disney bubble.

As the NBA is poised to return at the end of July, the race to get the 8th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference should be a very entertaining one.

Here’s a look at where each of the six teams still mathematically alive for the last playoff spot stand as we head into Orlando.

Memphis Grizzlies (8th place West, 32-33 Overall)

Odds to Make Playoffs: -140
Odds to Miss Playoffs: +120

Prior to the NBA being stopped due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies were in the drivers’ seat to secure the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

And while the Grizz’ do enjoy a 3.5-game lead on a trio of teams, their margin of error feels a lot slimmer with a Pelicans team that now gets to deploy a healthy and much lighter Zion Williamson lurking in the shadows.

Nonetheless, the Grizzlies do have the advantage on the rest of the teams clamoring to get into the postseason, and simply going .500 in Orlando will send the Grizzlies to the play-in round for a shot to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2017.


Portland Trail Blazers (9th place West, 29-37 Overall, 3.5 GB)

Odds to Make Playoffs: +420
Odds to Miss Playoffs: -550

The Blazers were sitting eight games under .500 with a roster that was ravaged by injury prior to the COVID-19 stoppage.  That has since changed in a dramatic way, making the Blazers a potentially very scary opponent to face in Orlando.

Portland will be getting their superstar backcourt tandem of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum back from injury, along with big men Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins.

In the case of Nurkic, it will be his first action since he suffered a compound fracture to his tibia and fibula in a double-overtime victory over Brooklyn back in February 2019.

The Blazers getting their veteran stars healthy again at the right time could present a great deal of challenges to the rest of the much younger rosters vying for the final playoff spot.

Do not sleep on Portland when the NBA returns.


New Orleans Pelicans (T-10th place West, 28-36 Overall, 3.5 GB)

Odds to Make Playoffs: +290
Odds to Miss Playoffs: -385

If there’s a fan favorite lurking in Orlando, it’s likely going to be the New Orleans Pelicans thanks to a roster littered with young talent headlined by that Zion Williamson fellow that you may have heard of.

Zion is not the only thing to love about this Pelicans team however, as they have a roster paced by young stars like Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball, along with the veteran presence of Jrue Holiday and J.J. Redick.

If Zion can continue his dominant play before the COVID-19 stoppage, and by all accounts he will enter Orlando in the best shape of his career, the Pelicans can be a dangerous team the rest of the way.

One thing to keep an eye on with the Pelicans involves their coaching, as 67-year old assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik will sit out the Orlando return due to concerns about the COVID-19 virus.

Pelicans’ head coach Alvin Gentry, 65-years old himself, has yet to decide on his status for the Orlando return.


Sacramento Kings (T-10th place West, 28-36 Overall, 3.5 GB)

Odds to Make Playoffs: +850
Odds to Miss Playoffs: -1900

You may not believe it, but the Sacramento Kings are no longer the laughing stock of the Western Conference that they once were.

With new coach Luke Walton and a dynamic backcourt of De’Aaron Foxx and sharpshooting Buddy Hield, the Kings should not be discounted in Orlando.

Catching the Grizzlies will require a lot of help, but potentially climbing into the 9th spot is a lot more feasible.

If the Kings are able to climb into the playoff round, they can thank the NBA scheduling makers.

The Kings will face teams with losing records, including dates with the Spurs and Pelicans, in four of their first five games after the return.

If Sacramento is able to make it to the postseason, they would end the NBA’s longest active playoff drought of 13 years.


San Antonio Spurs (12th place West, 27-36 Overall, 4 GB)

Odds to Make Playoffs: +1700
Odds to Miss Playoffs: -3500

While the Kings are looking to end the longest playoff drought in the NBA, the Spurs are looking to prolong their record-streak of 22 seasons in the postseason.

For the Spurs to continue the longest playoff streak in professional American sports, they are going to need a whole lot of faceplanting above them.

Just like the Kings, catching the Grizzlies in the standings is going to be next to impossible so chasing the 9th spot and subsequent play-in series would appear to be the Spurs best route to get into the playoffs for a 23rd consecutive season.

The Spurs roster however is littered with aging vets and not a lot of young talent behind it.

Gregg Popovich’s status in Orlando is also still in question, as the 71-year old coach may elect to not coach his team due to the COVID-19 pandemic surging in the state of Florida.


Phoenix Suns (13th place West, 26-39 Overall, 6 GB)

Odds to Make Playoffs: +5500
Odds to Miss Playoffs: -20000

The Suns would essentially need to go undefeated in Orlando and get help above them for them to have a chance at making their first postseason since 2010.

The only reason really to consider placing any bets on the Suns to make the playoffs would be the 55-1 price if all the stars did align in the way you’d need.

We just don’t see the Suns playing a major role in Orlando outside of possibly spoiling some of other Disney guests.  It will be great to see Devin Booker shooting the ball again though.

 

 

All Odds Courtesy FanDuel Sportsbook as of July 7, 2020

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