The race for the 8th seed in the Western Conference is going to be one of the most exciting storylines of the eight game regular season. The Memphis Grizzlies are in the driver’s seat but the chasing pack will be ready to take advantage of any potential slip ups.
Memphis Needs to Come out Strong
The Memphis Grizzlies have overachieved so far this season and should be very proud of what they’ve accomplished so far this season. The problem for them is because of the season being suspended, the regular season will resume with special circumstances. If the 9th seed is within four games of the 8th seed, they will play in a double-elimination tournament. The team with the higher seed has the advantage in the tournament.
So if the 8th seed wins one game they clinch the final playoff spot while the 9th seed would have to win both games to make the playoffs. That still gives the advantage to Memphis but it definitely leaves the door open for New Orleans, Portland, and Sacramento who are all 3.5 games behind Memphis. The Spurs are also in the mix trailing Memphis by four games. The point is I like the lead Memphis has but they still have a lot of work to do. They are a very young team and will need to come out strong to secure that final playoff spot and avoid the play in tournament scenario.
New Orleans Pelicans Are Right in the Mix
A lot of people seem to think that the NBA wants the Pelicans in the playoffs. The play in tournament sure makes it seem that way. Whatever the case is the Pelicans seem to have a lot of momentum even though they haven’t played in a long time. That stems from the fact that Zion Williamson looks healthy and Brandon Ingram has had time to heal from some nagging injuries. This dynamic duo has a lot of star potential and it would make sense that the NBA would be excited at the prospect of them making the playoffs. I think the most likely scenario is them playing the Grizzlies in the play in tournament scenario where they would have to win both games.
Although Brandon Ingram is the All-Star on the team, the star of the show is Zion. In 19 games, he is averaging 23.6 points, 6.8 rebounds on 59% field goals. Since making his return on January 22nd, he’s only missed one game. Now he has had even more time to get ready and the partnership with Ingram (24ppg, 6.3 rebs, 4.3 asts, 39% 3ptFG) means the Pelicans will be a force to be reckoned with in the race for the 8th seed.
Blazers Have the Experience to Make Noise
I’ve been saying all season that I don’t believe in the Blazers because they have the worst front court in the NBA. Well the Blazers have Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins back so that’s no longer true. Even though I’m not a fan of Hassan Whiteside, he’s still putting up 16.3 points and 14.2 rebs 3.1 blocks. Even if Nurkic starts off coming off the bench, the Blazers could have a big advantage with him playing on the second unit. Carmelo Anthony looks very skinny and in great shape which is good news for the Blazers. Even though he hasn’t been great, he’s much better than some of the guys they had getting minutes before he arrived. His experience will be important in the playoffs and you can tell by his body transformation that he has been working hard during the layoff. The Blazers have a ton of playoff experience on their roster while the Grizzlies and Pelicans have little to none. I can certainly see the Blazers in the mix here.
The Race for the Final Playoff Spot Will Be a Battle
BetOnline has a ton of great props including which team will be the 8th seed in the West. The Grizzlies are the NBA odds favorites at -125 followed by the Pelicans at +190. The Blazers are +325 while the longshots are the Kings at +1000 and San Antonio Spurs at +1600. I actually don’t have a prediction as to who will take the 8th seed. I’ve gone through every scenario and they all seem possible to me. For the Grizzlies to hold on to the 8th spot, they basically have to win 3-4 of their 8 remaining games. The other teams would have to be almost perfect which isn’t likely. The thing is, you could convince me that Portland or New Orleans can beat Memphis two straight times to steal that last spot. For that reason, I think the Blazers at +325 have the most value. The Blazers’ first game of the restart is against Memphis which will be a huge game. If I had to invest my money, I like the Blazers at +350 a lot more than I like the Grizzlies at -125.