There are exactly 14 days left in the NBA season. Who'll still be around in May?
(Reuters / JIM YOUNG)
All of those terrible people who complain that the NBA doesn't matter until the last two weeks of the regular season? Now's your time to shine. Schedules are winding down, with most teams looking at less than 10 games left in the regular season. As such, we have a pretty good idea of how the playoffs will look, and who's still in the hunt/who doesn't have a prayer. (For more on the teams that are competing for the #1 pick rather than a playoff seed, check out Jack's post on the NBA's tanking teams.) We'll go team-by-team, explaining 1. where they'll likely finish, 2. who they could face in round one, and 3. the biggest issues at hand.
1. Oklahoma City Thunder
Range of seeds: 1-2, though probably #1
Who they'll face: The bottom of the West is wide-open right now — the Thunder could get matched against Dallas, Denver, Houston, Utah, or Phoenix, who are all competing for the 6-8 seeds. (It's also possible that they'd draw Memphis, currently sitting at #5, but it's more likely that the Grizz will move up than down.) Durant and Co. would love to draw an older team like Dallas, who they've owned this season and can generally run into the ground. Plus, there's that revenge factor: the Mavs knocked off OKC last year. They don't want Memphis, because nobody does, and Houston could be tricky — the young, athletic Rockets are too similar to the Thunder.
Issues: If the Thunder play to their potential, they could win it all. Priorities will be making sure KD and Russ Westbrook are firing on all cylinders; trying to keep Derek Fisher from getting exposed on defense; and not overextending themselves before the Western Conference Finals.
(Reuters / BRYAN TERRY)