There’s less than a month remaining in the NBA’s regular season, and some tight playoff races. These are involving teams making the top six or the ever-popular play-in tournament within the NBA.
With a dozen or so games remaining on the schedule, expect a wild race to the finish line.
Who’s In? Who’s Out? Who’s Asking?
We will begin in the Western Conference, where (through Tuesday, March 14th) nine teams are within four games of one another. Thus, two of those nine are going to miss the playoffs (barring a late run by the Portland Trail Blazers, three games back of the final play-in spot).
NBA Golden St. Warriors (36-33)
It’s not far-fetched to see the Warriors, fifth in the West, either fall into the play-in round or completely miss out. However, we are “buying” their stock because this is an experienced dynasty that features Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.
They have won seven of their last 10, despite Andrew Wiggins (personal) being out since the All-Star break.
NBA Los Angeles Clippers (36-33)
The Clippers are in the same boat, and the two teams play Wednesday night (day of this writing) in LA. The loser may well drop among the play-in contingent.
Paul George and Kawhi Leonard are both healthy, restoring the core of the Clippers, revamped after some shuffling at the trade deadline. That’s why we’re “buying” the Clippers.
Golden St. (+425) and the Clippers (+750) are third- and fourth-choices, respectively, to win the West, according to NBA conference odds by BetUS Sportsbook.
Minnesota Timberwolves (35-34)
They’re still hanging around the play-in participation, even after trading away D’Angelo Russell (they did acquire Mike Conley Jr.)
However, injuries to Karl-Anthony Towns (calf, out until late March) and Rudy Gobert (ankle, availability iffy) lead the list of unknowns, Conversely, a fairly favorable run could have them about .500 down the stretch. So, after consideration, we’re “buying” Minny.
Oklahoma City Thunder (34-35)
Now it gets tough, with five teams within a game in the standings. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has had a great season, and Josh Giddey is fun.
There’s a tough schedule, but also games against Portland, Charlotte, Detroit and Indiana, all of whom are projected out of the playoffs. Difficult to toss, but we’re “selling” the Thunder.
Dallas Mavericks (34-35)
Having lost seven of their last 10, health wouldn’t be a bad thing with the Mavericks, as Luka Doncic is nursing an injured thigh, and new star point guard Kyrie Irving is seemingly always questionable due to personal reasons associated with being Kyrie Irving. Regardless, they should make the play-in, so we are “buying” the Mavs.
Los Angeles Lakers (34-35)
LeBron James remains out with an injured foot, and Mo Bamba may not return until (if) the playoffs. LA has improved offensively with a dominant Anthony Davis and the addition of Russell, while still good at the defensive end of the floor. We will be “buying” their stock.
NBA Utah Jazz (33-36)
The two teams next in this story are currently out of the playoff picture in the West. Utah took the early season by storm, but fell to 11th in the conference with a tough road ahead.
The Jazz have games against Eastern elites, including two against the Celtics and one versus the league-best Bucks. Fun while it lasted, but we are “selling” their chances.
New Orleans Pelicans (33-36)
The Pelicans are without Zion Williamson (hamstring) and Jose Alvarado (shin) until late March, but still have certified scorers CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram to lead the way.
Their next four games are against lightweights, as in the Rockets (twice), Spurs and Hornets. It’s a great opportunity to put themselves firmly into the play-in field before their star forward and defensive guard return. We’re “buying” the Bayou, currently a take-a-flyer 150-1 (+15000) to win the title, as per NBA championship odds.
Toronto Raptors (33-36)
Masai Ujiri decided to run it back at the trade deadline, thus the Raptors could reward him with a favorable schedule at their feet. We are “buying” Toronto, which sits ninth in the East.
NBA Washington Wizards (32-37)
The under-the-radar Wizards have the 10th spot in the East, due to a healthy Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis. Their schedule is favorable, and they could join the party.
The “maybe-next-season” fraternity includes the Bulls (31-36) and Pacers (31-38).