The Western Conference playoff picture is coming together as the 2021-22 NBA season wraps up, but there’s some intrigue around the play-in tournament. The No. 6 seed Denver Nuggets are just 1.5 games up on the No. 7 seed Minnesota Timberwolves, so there’s a possibility of a change there.
The No. 10 New Orleans Pelicans are just one game up on the Portland Trail Blazers and two games up on the San Antonio Spurs, which means several teams are still in contention to get into the play-in bracket. The No. 9 Los Angeles Lakers, who have struggled since the break, are 1.5 games up on the Pelicans. There’s a real chance LA misses the playoffs.
West teams eliminated from playoff contention
We’ve finally got one team out in the West. The Houston Rockets were always going to be quick exits with the roster, but Jalen Green has shown some nice signs as the season has gone on. Kevin Porter Jr., Christian Wood and Usman Garuba have been up and down, while Alperen Sengun’s early results have been a mixed bag. We’ll see how Houston does in the upcoming draft before further assessing this rebuild.
The Thunder were never going to compete for the playoffs this season and seem to have a nice foundation in place with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey. Oklahoma City is also swimming in first round picks for years, so this team is set up extremely well to emerge from this rebuilding stage quickly. How Sam Presti navigates the coming years will be interesting, because there is a such thing as having too many draft picks.
Portland Trail Blazers
The Trail Blazers started off at a .500 pace as usual, but eventually decided to blow things up once Damian Lillard got hurt. The star guard will likely be traded in the offseason as Portland goes into a full-scale rebuild. Anfernee Simons and Josh Hart will be the starting point for the rebuilding phase.
The Kings made a late playoff push by acquiring Domantas Sabonis but may have ultimately gave away too much for nothing. Sacramento is going to once again sit at home while the postseason goes on, giving the team’s long-suffering fans even more reason to lose interest in this franchise.