Oklahoma City, with Western Conference player of the month Kevin Durant, casts a shadow over the rest of the Pacific Division, with a nine and a half game lead over second-place Denver. The Nuggets, who currently occupy the eighth playoff spot, Blazers, Timberwolves and Jazz are all within two and a half games of each other, so every team in the division has a shot at the postseason. Here what's going on with a couple of those teams:
- Jeff Kramer, the man behind the superb Storytellers Contracts database, made note of a few little-known facts about the Blazers' payroll in this piece on SB Nation. He notes that Portland can't trade this year's first-round draft pick and wonders whether cost-conscious teams may take an extra look at Wesley Matthews, since his contract is cheaper than his cap hit. The lack of an extension for Nicolas Batum may save the Blazers cap space even if they re-sign him, Kramer writes, and he notes that the team is unlikely to make a move to go back over the tax line this year.
- Jason Quick of The Oregonian thinks the Blazers have hit a dead end, and believes major changes are coming. He doesn't see coach Nate McMillan returning next year, and predicts the team will also let go of Marcus Camby, Gerald Wallace, Raymond Felton, and Jamal Crawford. A deadline deal would mean the team is interested in making the playoffs this year, while standing pat is a sign that points to rebuilding.
- DeMarre Carroll, who signed with the Jazz last month, has played only three minutes so far, but the veteran of four different teams in three seasons is not showing any frustration, writes Brian T. Smith of The Salt Lake Tribune.
- Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin is toying with a change to his starting lineup, but won't make the call until Raja Bell returns from injury, tweets Smith. Josh Howard, a free agent at the end of the season, has impressed Corbin as a fill-in starter. (Twitter link)