We know two things. We know that Golden State and Houston are going to finish at the top of the West. We know six other teams are going to join them. After those two facts, everything gets a little bit dicey.
Two losses separate the third through eighth seed. How it all shakes out has more to do with the schedule, injuries and road capabilities than consistency, which has been in short supply.
3rd Seed. Minnesota Timberwolves: Good luck trying to figure them out. Their defense is still miserable. Jimmy Butler turned into Jimmy Butler and rescued their season but it emasculated Andrew Wiggins. As long as they have KAT they’ll keep their top four seed but their bench isn’t scaring anybody. Their best habit is scoring. They put the ball in the hole. Their worst habit is defense. They are lackluster and often bored and just miss assignments. They don’t play as fast as they should and get easy baskets. Home games remaining: 10. Road games remaining: 11. Oh Hell 10-Day Sprint: March 8-18. Celtics, Warriors, Wizards, Spurs, Rockets. End of Season Prediction: 49-33.
4th Seed. Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder look like true championship contenders and then they look bored and asleep. This is clear. Since they didn’t make a move at the deadline they are going to have to eek out wins with their Big Three; their bench is dead man walking. Their best habit is Offensive Rebounding and Steals. Their worst habit is three point shot making. They are feast or famine. Offensive rebounding rescues them but their hopes depend on what they can do behind the arc in key moments. Home games remaining: 11. Road Games Remaining: 11. Hell Week: April 3-9. Warriors, Rockets, Heat. End of Season Prediction: 49-33.
5th Seed. San Antonio Spurs: It’s a dull taste in their collective mouths to be at the near finish line without their best player Kawhi Leonard, particularly since they limped into the All-Star break. But as long as Pop is driving them towards perfection, they should be able to hold on, somewhat. The best habit of the Spurs is their defense which they need considering their offense without Leonard is mediocre. Their worst habit is pace. They are one of the slowest teams in the league. Matched against the Warriors and Rockets they are just too slow. Home games remaining: 13. Road Games remaining: 10. 4 Days of Hell: March 8-12. Golden State, Thunder, Rockets. End of Season Prediction: 47-35.
6th Seed: Denver Nuggets. Quietly, the Nuggets are putting together a nice year behind Nikola Jokic’s heroics. Jokic is underrated because he’s playing in Denver but he can do it all: pass, rebound, score, block shots. Will the compliment of shooters help Denver break their playoff drought? The Nuggets are dominant at home and mediocre on the road. (The Kings have won more road games). Their best habit is assists. They move and share the ball. Their worst habit is defense. They are the worst field goal defense in the league which means even if they make the playoffs- which I think they will- it’s not going to be a long stay. Home games remaining: 11. Road games remaining: 13. Two Weeks of Road Hell: March 17-30th. Memphis, Miami, Chicago, Washington, Philly, Toronto, OKC. End of Season Prediction: 45-37
7th Seed: New Orleans Pelicans. After losing Boogie Cousins, the Pelicans have solidified around Anthony Davis and remain focused on their goal of making the playoffs. Their best habit is offense. They make shots, move the ball and score buckets. Their worst habit is offensive rebounding but with the way they make shots offensive boards don’t really matter. Home games remaining: 14. Road games remaining: 11. 4 Games That Matter: March 24-April 1. Rockets, Blazers, Cavaliers, Thunder. End of Season Prediction: 45-37
8th Seed: Portland Trailblazers. The Trailblazers are like that Einstein defintion of insanity. They do the same thing over and over but we constantly hope for something new so we’re the ones crazy. It’s Lillard and McCollum and a bunch of overpaid parts that do the heavy lifting. Their best habit is three point shooting, courtesy of their dynamic guards. Their worst habit is three point defense. Home games remaining: 13. Remaining games: 11. Seven Days Of Hell: March 20-27. Rockets, Boston, Thunder, Pelicans. End of Season Prediction: 44-38.