The NBA restart is underway and the road to playoffs for some teams begins with eight “seeding” games prior to the start of the postseason. The top six teams in the west – Lakers, Clippers, Nuggets, Jazz, Thunder, and Rockets – have all clinched playoff berths.
Dallas sits in the seventh spot and will make the postseason. Only Memphis, the current No. 8 seed is not a definite playoff team. Portland, New Orleans, Sacramento, and San Antonio all still have a legitimate shot at obtaining that eighth spot.
Who will earn it?
Zion Is Back
Portland, New Orleans, and Sacramento are all tied for ninth in the West. The Pelicans were making a move just before the coronavirus halted the season for four months. Zion Williamson had returned to the lineup and was performing like the Rookie of the Year candidate he is.
Williamson recently left the NBA bubble in Orlando to take care of some family issues but has returned. The Pelicans young lineup with Williamson, Lonzo Ball, and Brandon Ingram is going to give teams trouble.
Plus, the Pelicans have the easiest remaining schedule of any of the 22 teams that are part of the NBA restart. Look for New Orleans to be in the mix.
Spurs Streak Ends
San Antonio, which has the longest playoff streak of any team in any of the four major North American professional sports leagues, will see it run to end this year. The Spurs are 28-36 and just don’t have the firepower they have had in recent years. LaMarcus Aldridge (18.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg) is done for the season. So are the Spurs.
Memphis does have the inside track to hold onto the eighth spot. The Grizzlies are 32-33 and have a 3.5-game advantage on Portland, New Orleans, and Sacramento. The problem for Memphis is the remaining schedule.
The Grizzlies begin the restart with the Trail Blazers, Spurs, and Pelicans – three teams gunning for their spot. Then, Memphis will face the Jazz and Thunder – both playoff teams – and then finish with the three best teams in the East: Milwaukee, Boston, and Toronto.
Portland also has it rough. They will take on Boston, Houston, Denver, and the L.A. Clippers. There’s also a date with the healthy 76ers. But, the Trail Blazers get big men Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins back from injury.
The Trail Blazers, with Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum in the backcourt, likely will not overtake Memphis for the eighth seed in the remaining eight games. What they will do though is force a play-in tournament and beat the Grizzlies twice to earn the No. 8 seed in the West.