With a little over a month remaining in the NBA regular season, the race for the final seeds in each conference is heating up. With the newly installed play-in tournament, more teams are vying for a playoff spot than ever, as teams as low as the ten seed can find a way to sneak into the NBA Finals.
This article will cover the four teams in the western conference currently in position to make the NBA play-in tournament and my rankings of the four teams.
Los Angeles Lakers
This is a bad basketball team, no way around it. They are 3-10 in their last thirteen games, and with the constant injuries to Anthony Davis, there is no supporting cast surrounding a 37-year-old Lebron James.
The Russell Westbrook experiment has completely failed, as the NBA 75 member has had his worst season to date. There were rumors of Westbrook being traded at the deadline, and now reports are coming out of the two sides departing in the summer.
Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard have not been impactful enough of pickups, and now the Lakers are closer to the 12th seed than the 8th seed in the conference. While it is tough to count out a team featuring Lebron, this squad is far from being a contender.
Los Angeles Clippers
Coming in at third, the Los Angeles Clippers are deep but lack a superstar. Injuries have decimated the team’s title chances, as superstars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are not expected back this season.
Despite injuries, the Clipper sit at 33-31, and the eighth seed in the west. Reggie Jackson has had a rebirth since joining the team, averaging almost 17 points per game and their go to player in crunch time. Acquiring Robert Covington and Norman Powell at the trade deadline has also benefited tremendously, going 4-0 since the two joined the lineup.
Most impressively, the team is 3-0 against the Lakers this season, and is 6-0 over the past two years against the purple and gold. It is very possible the team gets past the play-in tournament and to the NBA playoffs, but their lack of star players hinder them from being a real threat to any contender.
New Orleans Pelicans
One of the hottest teams since the trade deadline, the New Orleans Pelicans have found their way into the play-in tournament picture since adding guard C.J. McCollum. The former Trailblazer is averaging 26.6 points per game since joining New Orleans.
They are winners of three straight games, with their most notable win coming in a 28 point blowout against Lebron James and the Lakers. Brandon Ingram continues to be a great scorer, and if Zion Williamson returns, the Pelicans will have a legit big three to build around.
It will likely require two straight play-in wins, but I believe New Orleans will find a way to secure the eighth seed in the western conference. This under-the-radar team is filled with talent, and can become a legitimate contender in a year or two.
While Minnesota fans have experienced very little playoff action over the past decade and a half, they will get to watch their Timberwolves in a NBA playoff series this season. Currently sitting at the seventh seed, Minnesota has three core franchise pieces to build around, and an improving supporting cast.
Karl Anthony-Towns continues to be one of the best big men in all of basketball, averaging 24.5 points per game and over 40 percent from three-point range. Alongside Towns, D’angelo Russell and Anthony Edwards have come into their own, and have been constant highlight generators.
There is a real chance the team avoids the play-in tournament all together, as they are only 2.5 games out of the sixth seed. If they do manage to, it is a real possibility the Timberwolves win their first playoff series since the 2004 season.
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