Pelicans, Spurs, Timberwolves and the Jazz all have 8 games left remaining to the end of the season, it is a tight race in the West. The top 2 spots are being controlled by the Rockets and the Warriors. The Trail Blazers and Thunder take seeds 3 and 4 and no teams should be sleeping on them.
The New Orleans Pelicans may not be considered a Cinderella story because of Anthony Davis who has risen to an MVP candidate (at least consider). Once again we see an incomplete Pelicans team plagued by injuries. For another season we will have to wander what Coach Gentry could do with a healthy roster. Mirotic may have been a failed experiment but E’twaun Moore seems to be taking full of advantage of the extra shots he is getting. Moore, is not a house hold name, but averaging career highs in scoring, also breaking the 100 made 3s mark seem to be a good pair next to Davis.
Popovich chances of taking to his team to 50 wins for another consecutive season are very slim. But the full rise of LaMarcus Aldridge to a reliable and happy number 1 option is one that has kept the Spurs in the race. Aldridge has score over 30 points in 4 of the last 5 games. Bucks, Jazz, Wizards, Warriors and Timberwolves have gotten a taste of what Aldridge is capable off. Unfortunately, dealing with drama and ultimately missing Kawhi Leonard may be fall to this team. At this point in time Greg Popovich skills as a coach will be put to the test in this last 8 game stretch. If the Spurs don’t reach 50 wins this season, it will break their league record of 18 consecutive 50+ win seasons. They also failed to reach .500 this season while playing on the road, which broke their streak of 20 consecutive years of winning more than half of their games on the road.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are barely surviving without Jimmy Butler, they are holding on by a very thin thread. Getting wins vs the Wizards and Warriors shows the team can compete, losses to the Spurs and Rockets opens up question about the gap left by Butler. The Wolves have come a long way from more recent years. Thibbs may rethink some of his player minute management next season but the goal for right now is the playoffs. Earlier in the season the Wolves were a force, without Jimmy they are a better team than last year but still young and at times lack on the floor leadership.
Donovan Mitchell has definitely made a case for Rookie of The Year, it will be stronger if the Jazz make the playoffs. The Jazz may not get as many win total as they did last year, (realistically) but returning to the playoffs would be a win in itself. One more thing on (Spida) Mitchell, he leads his team in scoring as a rookie fully taking on and exceeding at the role that was left void after Hayward departed for the Celtics. Rudy Gobert serves as the leader of the team averaging double digits in scoring and rebounding and being one of the best rim protectors in the game. Gobert also has great size and strength to play great defense in the paint. The Jazz are changing their culture and the way they run the team even if they keep the lower seed they will be a threat in the playoffs.
The Denver Nuggets are young, they are not afraid and giving the window they will let it fly from everywhere. They are also on the outside looking in, but they have a real shot of getting into the playoffs. Only 2 games out and with 6 teams that we have all seen move up and down in the rankings. The problem here is that (maybe) getting Paul Millsap disrupted the momentum that they had, this team has quality wins this season (without him). The Nuggets are on the rise.
Side Note: The Thunder play the biggest part in the race. In their last 7 games, they play San Antonio, Denver and the Pelicans who are all in the run. Also face the Warriors and Rockets.
So who gets in?