WEST: Memphis Grizzlies (32-33, eighth)
Remaining video games: Portland, Utah, San Antonio, Oklahoma Metropolis, Milwaukee, New Orleans (2 video games), Boston
Mixed document: 289-225, .562
Key sport: Recreation 1 in opposition to Portland. With a 3.5-game lead, it’s going to be robust for anybody to go Memphis. If Memphis wins simply three of its final eight video games, two trailing groups must go 7-1 to knock them all the way down to 10th place. So dealing Portland a loss early is large. Dame Lillard will probably be an amazing check for Ja Morant, and the returning Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins will probably be irresistible targets for his wildly bold poster dunk makes an attempt.
What they should do: Go 3-5 – and get Justise Winslow in control. Do the Grizzlies have a beef with the NBA for including the play-in? No, as a result of no crew with a dropping document ought to really feel entitled to a playoff spot. In truth, the quick season guidelines assist them – with terrible groups gone, their rivals’ schedules are comparatively more durable, and the double-elimination component of the play-in is a large benefit for whoever finishes eighth. Memphis can maintain their spot by not completely face-planting in Orlando. Including Winslow to the rotation ought to assure the younger Grizzlies keep upright.
Keane’s playoff odds: 65%. Even when the ninth-place crew had a 60% probability to beat Memphis in any given sport, the percentages are solely 36% to beat them two straight.
Portland Path Blazers (29-37, ninth)
Remaining video games: Memphis, Houston, Dallas, Boston, Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Utah, *Memphis (reportedly this opponent will probably be decided by league algorithm; Memphis would have already performed eight video games)
Mixed document: 297-221, .573
Key sport: Recreation 2 in opposition to Houston. The Blazers will look considerably completely different with Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins again from harm. However that added frontcourt depth may not matter in opposition to the Lilliputian Rockets, who determined they hate enjoying facilities greater than Tilman Fertitta hates paying luxurious tax. A rested Lillard is the scariest participant on this group of groups for a win-or-go-home sport, however to get there he’s going to have to interrupt the hearts of Houston and Russell Westbrook yet one more time.
What they should do: Play protection like they did with a wholesome Nurkic in 2017-18. Who is aware of what they’ll get from Collins and Nurkic, however will probably be an improve – and permit them to restrict the facility ahead minutes of their younger and/or unhealthy gamers. They most likely must go 6-2 until they win each Memphis video games –- may Carmelo Anthony get a COVID-19 exception and play in a hoodie?
Keane’s playoff odds: 12%. As robust as Dame is, the schedule is harder.
New Orleans Pelicans (28-36, 10th)
Remaining video games: Sacramento, Clippers, Utah, San Antonio, Memphis, Sacramento, Memphis, Orlando
Mixed document: 262-252, .510
Key sport: Each Memphis video games. To us, it’s clear why the NBA selected an eight-game season to renew play. It was one of the best ways to ensure two matchups between Zion and Ja. If the Pelicans need to make the playoffs and earn a revenge sequence in opposition to the Laker crew that used to make use of half their roster, they’re going to have to comb Memphis.
What they should do: Management their very own future. The Pelicans not solely have a simple remaining schedule, however they get to play 5 video games in opposition to three of their 4 largest rivals -– solely Portland avoids the wrath of Zion. Particularly, they should hit their open three-pointers, which must be plentiful when Zion will get double-teamed. And go 6-2, or 7-1 if they’ll’t sweep Memphis.
Keane’s playoff odds: 15%. It must be decrease, however Zion defies the legal guidelines of physics and likelihood.
Sacramento Kings (28-36, 11th)
Remaining video games: New Orleans, Brooklyn, Dallas, Houston, Orlando, New Orleans, Indiana, San Antonio
Mixed document: 262-254, .508
Key sport: Recreation 1 in opposition to New Orleans. The Pelicans have been a special crew with out Zion, however De’Aaron Fox was simply as vital to the Kings, who went 16-13 when he performed in 2020. The Kings haven’t been to the playoffs in 14 years, so the primary sport will probably be enormous for this younger crew’s confidence. Plus, it’s one among simply three video games the Kings get to play in opposition to their competitors for the 8/9 slots.
What they should do: Get De’Aaron Fox to observe Marvin Bagley III on Instagram once more. Look, we do not know if or why they’re feuding, however the clearest signal for locker room dissension is the Instagram unfollow, which Fox hit Bagley with lately. If these teammates don’t like one another, or “like” one another, this Kings’ playoff run is doomed. Additionally, they should sweep the Pelicans.
Keane’s playoff odds: 3%, and 0% if Bagley blocks Fox on Twitter in revenge.
San Antonio Spurs (27-36, 12th)
Remaining video games: Denver, Memphis, New Orleans, Utah, Utah, Denver, Sacramento, *New Orleans (reportedly this opponent will probably be decided by league algorithm; New Orleans would have already performed eight video games)
Mixed document: 284-231, .551
Key sport: The Spurs must get revenge on Denver for final yr’s playoff defeat, and they should beat them twice. Certain, Denver is extra gifted than San Antonio, however that was additionally the case final season, and their playoff sequence got here all the way down to the ultimate seconds of Recreation 7.
What they should do: Get Gregg Popovich a private chef and sommelier, as a result of the eating places of Orlando aren’t going to be as much as his requirements. The Spurs do get a hobbled Utah crew twice, and get two pictures at New Orleans, and a well-fed Coach Pop may probably outscheme them. It’s a protracted shot, however consider how hilariously disenchanted ESPN could be in the event that they obtained a first-round Spurs sequence as an alternative of Ja or Zion!
Keane’s playoff odds: 5%, and that’s purely out of veteran expertise, craftiness and spite.
Phoenix Suns (26-39, 13th)
Remaining video games: Dallas, Clippers, Dallas, Indiana, Washington, Philadelphia, Miami, Oklahoma Metropolis
Mixed document: 307-214, .589
Key sport: The second Dallas matchup. The Suns need to leapfrog 4 completely different groups and acquire two video games on Memphis simply to achieve the play-in. Given their brutal schedule, crucial factor is to not get eradicated by Dallas. As a result of in any other case, they’ll need to endure one other spherical of consultants blasting them for passing on Luka Doncic with the No. 1 choose.
What they should do: Pray. In the event that they obtained to play any of the West groups between Eight and 13, their possibilities may go from “unimaginable” to “extraordinarily slim” however they’re enjoying 4 East groups as an alternative. Even going 8-Zero may not be sufficient –- they usually’re not going 8-0. So Devin Booker & Co. must benefit from the closest factor to postseason basketball they’ve had in 10 years. And take Ricky Rubio on Area Mountain! He’ll like it!
Keane’s playoff odds: 0%