Getting a spot in the playoffs is a big deal for any NBA team, but the members of the Western Conference that are in the running at the moment have more to gain than most if they make it through to the next stage.
So which teams are currently in contention to secure a place in the playoffs and what are the chances of any radical changes taking place as the season ramps up to its climax this year?
The upper echelons of the Western Conference are currently occupied by a number of teams that are effectively guaranteed entry into the playoffs at this point in the season.
The Lakers are holding a steady lead at the moment, having won 46 games so far and lost just 13. The Lakers look unshakable with their winning streak proving as much. If their dominance is not to your liking, you could take your mind off it by playing casino games here.
The rest of the top 8 is also fairly stable, with the Nuggets and the Clippers following closely behind and even the Rockets, Jazz, Thunder and Mavericks all maintaining enough of a performance gap between the rest of the table to look pretty comfortable with their chances of earning a place in the playoffs.
Battle For 8th Seed
The most interesting aspect of the road to the playoffs right now comes as a result of six teams being incredibly evenly matched against one another, at least on paper.
The Grizzlies may hold 8th for the time being, but nipping at their heels is a pack of competitors led by the Pelicans and the Kings, with the Spurs and the Trail Blazers also perilously close to closing the gap.
Even the Suns are in with a shot of catching up with the Pelicans and potentially eclipsing the Grizzlies, although this will require quite a bit more hard work and luck.
The only two teams that are effectively incapable of getting anywhere near the playoffs this year are the Timberwolves and the Warriors, with just 17 and 13 wins respectively.
All eyes are on the Grizzlies at the moment, as the team from Memphis is arguably a little less experienced than any of its counterparts, given that the average player is less than 24 years of age. Even so, this has not stopped them outdoing older, wiser teams so far. They will simply have to hope for good results against the likes of the Celtics in the coming weeks to avoid slipping out of a playoff position, as well as dealing with injury issues.
Physical ailments have been the bane of the Trail Blazer’s season, which could signal that they will have the hardest time catching and overtaking the Grizzlies over the course of the remaining games. Even so, with a host of home games lined up and a less intimidating list of teams to take on, they may still have it in them to flip the script in 2020.
The Pelicans could be one to watch, given that they are faced with the statistically simplest set of remaining schedule and have only dropped 2 games in the 7 most recent played. They will need to stand strong to fend off the advances of the Kings and the Spurs, but this seems like it could be within their reach, even if they failed to triumph over conference leaders the Lakers in a game that generated a lot of trade-related speculation. Whatever happens, it promises to be an exciting final quarter of the season.