When the 2019-20 NBA season returns at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando later this month, all eyes will be on the battle for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.
Heading into the season restart, the Memphis Grizzlies (32-33) are owners of the eighth-best record in the Western Conference. The Portland Trail Blazers (29-37), New Orleans Pelicans (28-36) and Sacramento Kings (28-36) aren't far behind, followed by the San Antonio Spurs (27-36) and Phoenix Suns (26-39).
Remember, all one of those teams has to do to have a chance of making the playoffs is finish within four games of the Grizzlies or whichever team has the eighth-best record at the end of the regular season. The team with the worse record would then have to win two straight games against the team in eighth place in a play-in tournament for an opportunity to play what will likely be the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the playoffs.
So ... who is it going to be?
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Based on FiveThirtyEight's RAPTOR player ratings, the Pelicans have a 45% chance of being the last team to make the playoffs in the Western Conference, giving them the best odds out of those six teams. The Grizzlies have a 36% chance, leaving the Blazers with a 12% chance and the Kings a 7% chance.
As for the Spurs and Suns, FiveThirtyEight gives them less than a 1% chance each.
Vegas tells a slightly different story.
According to Vegas Insider, the Grizzlies have the best odds of being the No. 8 seed at -143. The Pelicans have the second-best odds (+300) and the Blazers the third-best (+400). The Kings are a distant fourth (+1100), with the Spurs (+1300) and Suns (+6000) once again being considered heavy underdogs.
The fight for the No. 8 seed resumes on July 30, when the Pelicans kick off the season restart with a matchup against the Utah Jazz.
The views expressed here do not represent those of the NBA or its clubs.