Entering the New Year, there’s a clear separation between the haves and have-nots in the Western Conference. Six teams have 22 or more wins while eight teams are at least six games under the .500 mark.
Regardless of that disparity, eight teams have to make the playoffs and the last two spots are up for grabs. The surprising Thunder currently hold the No. 7 spot with an 20-15 record. However, this was supposed to be a rebuilding season after they traded stars Russell Westbrook and Paul George. It’s fair to wonder if they can sustain their success with a guard-oriented offense and a prime trade candidate in wing Danilo Gallinari, who has an expiring contract.
Outside of the Warriors, any of the West teams with losing records could make a playoff push. The Spurs, who have the eighth-best record at the moment despite their 14-20 record, can rely on the veteran duo of LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan and the coaching wizardry of Gregg Popovich.
The Trail Blazers’ season has been a head-scratcher but they were only a half-game behind San Antonio entering Monday’s action. They’re due for a hot streak as long as Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum stay healthy.
Suns center Deandre Ayton has finished out his suspension and they have a formidable backcourt duo in Ricky Rubio and Devin Booker. It seemed unrealistic to think the young Grizzlies can finish in the top eight but they have caught fire during their current trip and they do possess the likely Rookie of the Year in Ja Morant.
The Pelicans are starting to heat up after a woeful start and Zion Williamson is expected to debut this month. The Timberwolves need to get Karl-Anthony Towns healthy and focused but he’s capable of leading a turnaround. The Kings have been a huge disappointment but there’s too much talent on their roster to count them out, especially with De’Aaron Fox back in action.
That leads us to our question of the day: Which teams will claim the last two playoff spots in the Western Conference?
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