The Race for Eighth in the West
By Jay Cipoletti
With the number of quality teams in the West, it is inevitable that a deserving team ... or teams ... will stay home for the playoffs.
Entering tonight's slate of games, Memphis and Dallas were both 2.0 games behind the surging sixth-place Golden State Warriors, holding onto the final two playoff spots. Two games back are the Phoenix Suns, who have stumbled to a 6-7 mark since the All Star break.
Lurking 5.5 games back is Minnesota, whose Net Rating of 2.5 for the season ties them with the Mavericks for eighth in the West. The T-Wolves' Net Rating has increased to 4.6 since the All-Star break, good for seventh in the West.
Using Pythagorean Wins and Post All-Star Net Rating, we can project the most likely expected final records.
|Pythagorean Projected Final Standings|
While the focus in Memphis and Dallas is likely on trying to reel in Golden State for the sixth spot, keeping one eye on the rearview mirror might be advised as well.
Just as the Grizzlies have been playing playoff-caliber basketball since the return of Marc Gasol from injury (4.7 Net Rating since he returned Jan. 14th), the Suns are counting on the same impact from Eric Bledsoe's return. Should they return to the level at which they were playing prior to his injury (0.633 win percentage, 3.7 Net Rating), they project to a final record of 47-35.