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PBT Roundtable: Who gets the last couple playoff spots in the West?

Sep 19, 2013, 11:59 AM EDT

Kevin Love, Wayne Ellington, Ricky Rubio AP

Welcome to PBT’s regular roundtable on issues around the NBA, where our writers weigh in on the topic of the day.

Today: The conventional wisdom is in the West the Thunder, Spurs, Clippers, Warriors, Grizzlies and Rockets are playoff locks (barring catastrophe). If true, who gets those final two slots?

Kurt Helin: I think Minnesota, if they can just stay healthy, is maybe the closest thing to a lock for one of those two spots. With Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic in the paint they have a combination that pairs well together, then in the backcourt there is Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin, a shot creator and a shooter. Add in Derrick Williams, Chase Budinger and some other depth and I like that team to get a spot. The final spot could go so many ways… but I’ll take Dallas. Jose Calderon‘s more conservative style and Dirk Nowitzki‘s touches will limit what Monta Ellis has to do in the offense, plus they have some solid rotation guys like Shawn Marion and Samuel Dalembert. But if the Trail Blazers or Nuggets got that slot, it’s not a surprise.

Brett Pollakoff: I’ll go ahead and use this opportunity to remind everybody that the Lakers aren’t going to be as bad as many have projected. While the health of Kobe Bryant is a huge concern, the reality is that there’s still talent on that roster. By all accounts, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol will both be fully healthy by the start of the season, and the team managed to sign some veteran talent at bargain basement prices in Chris Kaman, Nick Young, and Jordan Farmar. Jordan Hill is healthy as well, and if Wes Johnson is ever going to make even a small leap in production given his talent, the time is now in Mike D’Antoni’s system. As long as Kobe plays even 60 regular season games for the Lakers, I like them to make the playoffs. And I agree on Minnesota for the remaining slot in the West — there’s too much talent there if they stay injury-free not to succeed.

If you want to ride with a sleeper, give me New Orleans — Eric Gordon back, along with Jrue Holiday and (begrudgingly) Tyreke Evans make that a backcourt to reckon with.

Darus Soriano: I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the Jazz and the Suns claim the bottom two playoff spo…hahahaha.

Okay, seriously, I’m taking a page from both Brett and Kurt and going with the Lakers and the Timberwolves. While I think both teams will have their issues defensively, they’re the two most talented teams outside that top six and both groups are in line to have a bit more injury luck next season than they did this past one. When you combine that with the fact that both teams are well coached (yes, Lakers’ fans, Mike D’Antoni is actually a good coach) while also having a chip on their shoulders after disappointing seasons last year, both squads have the right ingredients to rack up enough regular season wins to get into the tournament.

If I were to pick a dark horse team not already mentioned, I’d go with the Kings. I really like the addition of Greivis Vasquez as another point guard to share time with Isaiah Thomas and bring some steady playmaking to that spot by creating shots for his teammates. Plus, in terms of young talent, Sacramento has several nice pieces that, if they can finally put it together (I’m looking at you, DeMarcus Cousins) could make some noise by sneaking up on some of the more established western teams and be in the race past the all-star break

Dan Feldman: I too like the Timberwolves to get one of the spots. I think the Trail Blazers have been ignored in this discussion, and I consider them the safest team to be in the mix. With a young roster and a bench upgrade, they’ll almost definitely be better. The biggest question is whether one of the high-variance teams — Pelicans, Mavericks, Nuggets — nears its potential and passes Portland, Between the three, I suspect one will. If I had to guess, it’s the Pelicans, but I have to pause before picking against Dallas. Rick Carlisle had a rag-tag bunch at .500 last season, and adding a healthy Dirk Nowitzki is a major upgrade.

Rhett Anderson: Los Angeles guy here, a born-and-raised Laker fan. I want them to make the playoffs, but realistically it’s difficult for me to see that happening. Kobe is still Kobe, but he’s getting older and coming off a serious injury. Steve Nash and Pau Gasol will be healthy, but Nash’s minutes are restricted by constant back pain even when healthy. I like the offseason additions (Farmar, Kaman) and Jordan Hill is developing well, but in the end it comes down to Kobe’s return. The team revolves around him, and without him at full strength in 60-65 games, a playoff spot would surprise me.

I agree with Minnesota as one of the final two, and if I had to guess from there it’s a tossup between Dallas (Nowitzki for a full season) and Denver (Faried’s development with the spotlight a little brighter now than before).

  1. adamsjohn714 - Sep 19, 2013 at 12:03 PM

    This is some solid evidence that sportswriters really know how to read last year’s standings…

  2. moseskkim - Sep 19, 2013 at 12:15 PM

    more mention of Denver.. theyre going to be tough to beat at home and yeah they lost iguodala but they have a healthy Wilson chandler and added hickson, nate, and foye. not saying theyre going to shock people but they should be able to get one of those spots

    • adamsjohn714 - Sep 19, 2013 at 12:35 PM

      plus they fired the awful George Karl. That’s worth 4-5 games right there.

      • sportsfan18 - Sep 20, 2013 at 4:29 PM

        Everyone is entitled to their OPINIONS.

        Maybe he should have done more with what he’s had. Still he has the 10th best winning percentage all time for NBA coaches with a career .599% winning percentage.

        He currently has the 5th most wins as an NBA coach.

        So for all of his mistakes, he’s still done something right. I mean even the dumb NBA owners let coaches go if they don’t win.

      • adamsjohn714 - Sep 21, 2013 at 12:03 AM

        That’s really poor reasoning. Is the player who scores the most points the best scorer?

        Karl consistently plays less productive small players over more productive taller players because he thinks playing small is “cool” or it’s his “style.” He has minimized his teams’ successes.

  3. innovativethinking87 - Sep 19, 2013 at 12:52 PM

    No Blazers huh? This team was floating between the 8th spot and 9th spot literally a few weeks before the season was ending. Then finally when a key starter got injured they strategically tanked it. Mind you this with the worst bench in probably NBA history. 2 of their regaular rotation bench guys are now overseas, one is retired, another is still waiting for a contract…

    Point is Blazers tremendously improved their bench to easily lock up the remaining spots.

    Lakers making it? lol they barley made it with the best center in basketball and the same players they have now…

    • adamsjohn714 - Sep 19, 2013 at 12:55 PM

      blazers don’t have JJ Hickson. That’s a huge blow.

      • moseskkim - Sep 19, 2013 at 1:07 PM

        id rather have robin lopez though. lamarcus has always wanted a BIG center and hickson is a quality player but cant guard centers. but they added a lot of depth with mo Williams dorrell wright lopez and TRob so they should challenge for sure

      • adamsjohn714 - Sep 19, 2013 at 1:18 PM

        I’d rather have Hickson’s great rebounding. Lopez is a very bad defensive rebounder, and I don’t think LA can make up that deficiency. Mo Williams isn’t any good.

      • shen90 - Sep 19, 2013 at 2:51 PM

        Well over half of Hicksons rebounds actually had been steals. He kept stealing the ball from another Blazer at last moment and getting the credit for the other Blazers work. He was terrible on D. It was nice that never had to call a play for him to score but he made so many ridiculously bad plays that they canceled out the good. He frequently tried to flop and when would not get the call he decided to just walk around pouting and let the Blazers play 4 on 5. I begged all season for him to get traded or cut. Blazer fans over rated him so badly. Is a reason no team would trade for Hickson and he had to wait so long to get a cheap deal. He sucks.

      • adamsjohn714 - Sep 19, 2013 at 2:58 PM

        your assessment is both biased and inaccurate. he was very good last year.

      • eugenesaxe1 - Sep 19, 2013 at 3:54 PM

        Not really, his top-notch rebounding was canceled out by his defensive disappearing act.

      • adamsjohn714 - Sep 19, 2013 at 3:59 PM

        Defensive rebounding is a MAJOR part of defense. It’s how you end the opponents’ possessions when they miss. A great defensive rebounder limits the offensive possessions the other team has. He also doesn’t foul very often, which is another good thing. The argument that he’s not a good defender doesn’t quite hold water. He may miss assignments or rotations, but he doesn’t send people to the line and he gobbles up all the missed shots. Mediocre at worst.

  4. money2long - Sep 19, 2013 at 4:07 PM

    and yall readers weren’t with me days ago when I mentioned the lakers post season chances. thanks sports writers for seeing the light.

  5. jamesinva - Sep 19, 2013 at 6:08 PM

    JJ Hickson is a player that hustles and puts up numbers, but he causes other issues that cancels out the good. Portland was one of the worst defensive teams last year and Hickson had a lot to do with that. Hickson was an undersized C for Portland; dont just look at his stats, if you actually watched the games, he did more harm than good believe it or not.

    Robin Lopez and Thomas Robinson will help Portland more in the front court than what Hickson did. On top of that, the additions of Mo Williams, Dorrell Wright and Rookie CJ McCollum gives Portland a bench which helps them get in to the Playoffs.

  6. 24thesho - Sep 19, 2013 at 8:19 PM

    I’m sorry, but, Kevin Love is just so overrated.

    • adamsjohn714 - Sep 19, 2013 at 9:46 PM

      I’m sorry, but you’re just completely wrong.

      • 24thesho - Sep 20, 2013 at 7:33 AM

        You must have missed those Olympics games, then, huh? Chris Paul (in my opinion) is another overrated player, as well. As for Kevin Love, if you can’t knuckle push ups, then you can’t handle the low post area. They’re both pretty good players but they don’t deserve the praise for which they have been receiving.

      • 24thesho - Sep 20, 2013 at 7:35 AM


        “If he can’t do knuckle push ups”, is what I meant to type.

      • adamsjohn714 - Sep 20, 2013 at 3:23 PM

        knuckle pushups have absolutely nothing to do with anything. When Love got minutes during the Olympics, he was the best rebounder on the floor and dominated the glass.

    • brandoncrockett2314 - Sep 20, 2013 at 9:37 AM

      I’m sorry, but that’s just a totally ignorant statement. He needs a little work on with 1-on-1 defense in the post, but the guy is an absolute machine. His 30-30 game was no joke, and neither is his game. Give me KLove all day.

    • jaehn42 - Sep 20, 2013 at 9:51 AM

      Ok first I don’t think there is any correlation to someone being able to do knuckle push-ups and basketball prowess. I do think that being on the Olympic team selected by people who are highly adept at evaluating talent and averaging 26 points along with 13 rebounds is not being overrated. Also you think Chris Paul is overrated. One of the most efficient point guards ever…. Delete your account now

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