With the Western Conference as competitive as ever, and the final three spots up for grabs, we’ll have a great finish for a playoff seed the rest of the way.
Four teams (PHX, GSW, DAL, MEM) are all separated by just two games for the 6 to 9 seeds. If you throw in the Minnesota Timberwolves then the five teams are separated by 7 games with over 20 to go.
Two of these five teams will be going home early, which will it be?
Here’s a quick look at why each team will either be in or out of the Playoffs.
Phoenix Suns (33-21): Jeff Hornacek has done a fantastic job with this expected to be tanking team. Goran Dragic has had an All-Star caliber year and has held down the guard spot while Eric Bledsoe is sidelined.
- In: Bledsoe is able to return from his injury and strengthen the backcourt with Dragic. Gerald Green and Miles Plumlee continues their campaign for Most Improved. They also continue to play team basketball and out scrap teams.
- Out: The team’s youth and lack of experience shows its ugly face. Bledsoe isn’t able to fully recover from his knee injury and hinders the team.
Golden State Warriors (33-22): With the addition of Andre Iguodala the Warriors were expected to be one of the top teams in the West. Things haven’t gone as planned as injuries and inconsistency have seen this Warriors squad struggle to move up the standings.
- In: Andrew Bogut is able to get healthy and hold down the fort down low. Harrison Barnes and Iguodala are able to find their offense on a consistent basis. Steve Blake is able to fill the role of Jarrett Jack that the team has sorely lacked.
- Out: Bogut isn’t able to get healthy, leaving the middle to be held down by Jermain O’Neal and Maurice Speights. Blake, Barnes, and Iguodala continue to struggle on the offensive side, only to increase the burden on Stephen Curry.
Dallas Mavericks (33-23): Dirk Nowitzki has defied Father-Time and has a great season as the Mavericks are once against in playoff contention after missing out last season.
- In: The Mavericks are able to turn a terrible defense into a somewhat respectable one. Monta Ellis continues to play the role of Robin alongside Dirk. The Mavs’ bench of Vince Carter, Devin Harris, Brandan Wright, and DeJuan Blair continue to give the Mavs a big spark.
- Out: The defense isn’t able to improve. Ellis, Jose Calderon, and Co aren’t able to lessen the burden on the 35-year old Nowitzki.
Memphis Grizzlies (31-23): The team struggled early on under new head coach Dave Joerger. The Grizzlies have been able to turn their season around with the additions of Courtney Lee and James Johnson to include finally getting a healthy Marc Gasol and Mike Conley.
- In: This Grizzlies team continue to pound teams on the inside. Also their defense continues to be one of the best in the league with Gasol anchoring the inside. Lee is able to spread the court when teams collapse the inside.
- Out: The Grizzlies suffer another injury setback. The offense once again struggles due to a lack of outside support.
Minnesota Timberwolves (26-28): Their hopes don’t look too bright right now, but there is still plenty of season left. Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin are currently out. Kevin Love has had another great stat stuffing season.
- In: The team’s defense improves. The Wolves are able to hold ground as they wait for Martin and Pekovic to return healthy. Also they are finally able to close out and win close games.
- Out: Late game woes continue to haunt this team. The defense never gets right. Love isn’t able to get offensive support while Pekovic and Martin are sidelined and leading to a deeper hole till they return.