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Grizzlies Are -170 Favorites to Claim Western Conference 8 Seed; Can Pelicans or Trail Blazers Catch Them?

Ja Morant stretching
Ja Morant and the Grizzlies are currently holders of eighth spot in the West. Photo from @ComplexSports (Twitter).
  • Memphis Grizzlies are currently the 8-seed in the West as the NBA season is set to resume
  • Portland Trail Blazers and New Orleans Pelicans in pursuit of the Grizzlies
  • Read below to find out who we think will snag the final playoff spot in the Western Conference

Barring any major setbacks, the NBA season is going to return at the end of July, with 22 teams going into the basketball equivalent of a bio dome. The league will take over Disney World in Orlando for a regular season and playoffs that could last until October 12, if the NBA Finals go to a Game 7.

Thirteen teams will be from the West — the top eight seeds, with five other teams within six games of the final playoff spot.

This shortened, eight-game regular season to close out the year has the Memphis Grizzlies in prime position to lock down a playoff berth in the Western Conference odds, but can the young squad hold off the pack? The oddsmakers currently believe so.

8-Seed NBA Western Conference Playoff Odds

Team Current Record Current Seed Odds
Memphis Grizzlies 32-33 8 -170
Portland Trail Blazers 29-37 T-9 +250
New Orleans Pelicans 28-36 T-9 +300
Sacramento Kings 28-36 T-9 +1200
San Antonio Spurs 27-36 T-12 +1800
Phoenix Suns 26-39 T-12 +25000
Dallas Mavericks 40-27 7 +50000

*Odds from June 6

Currently, the Grizz hold a commanding 3.5 game lead over the Trail Blazers, Pelicans and Kings, with the Spurs and Suns sitting four games behind.

If you’re wondering how the final seed in both conferences will be determined, if the eighth-place team finishes the regular season with a lead of four games or higher over the ninth-place team, they automatically claim the berth.

However, if the ninth-seeded team is within that four-game window, they qualify for a double elimination playoff against the 8-seed. That means, they will need to win two straight games to steal that playoff berth. The regular season 8-seed needs to win just one game for the right to (likely) play the mighty Lakers in Round 1.

What Team Should You Trust?

The NBA was the first professional sports league to officially shut down operations in early March, and teams will not tip off until July 31.  That’s as close to an NBA offseason as you can have — in the middle of a season. There’s essentially an eight-game sprint to the playoffs, and no one can predict how this will play out.

For the Grizzlies, they’re led by dynamo guard Ja Morant, who is likely the NBA Rookie of the Year, and a young nucleus of Jaren Jackson Jr, Dillon Brooks and Brandon Clarke. They also have Justice Winslow still waiting to make his Memphis debut as part of the Andre Iguodala trade.

Youth is being served in New Orleans as well, with Zion Williamson just starting to take flight and take the reins of the Pelicans. Flanked by all-star Brandon Ingram, a developing Lonzo Ball and two-way stud Jrue Holliday, they’ve rebounded from a dreadful 6-22 start to get into striking range.

And then there’s Portland, who boast the best player in this group in all-NBA guard Damian Lillard, and the team with the most experience and continuity. Head coach Terry Stotts won’t need to worry about cobbling together bodies, as big men Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins should be healthy and a go in Orlando. Adding a professional scorer like Carmelo Anthony for peanuts mid-season could be mighty valuable for this run.

By the Numbers

If you think offense is the key, then NOLA would be appealing with their 116.2 points per game average, which is tied for fourth-best in the NBA. Portland is no slouch, ranking sixth at 113.6. The Spurs are actually a third team inside the top-10.

Memphis ranks in the middle of the pack at 13th, and don’t do much damage from the arc, ranking 21st. Meanwhile, Portland and New Orleans rank fourth and fifth, respectively, in three point shooting percentage, and could potentially shoot the Grizz out of the playoff picture.

Defensively, though, Memphis ranks 15th in defensive rating. While that doesn’t seem impressive, consider that the Pelicans rank 20th, while the Blazers are lagging back in 27th. The Grizzlies allow teams to 45% from the field, which is a top-10 mark in the league.

I don’t see Memphis blowing a 3.5-game lead in eight games, but I do see Portland climbing out of the bunch and into the showdown with the Grizz for the right to playoffs.

The pick: Portland (+250)

Will the 9-Seed Win Tournament Play-In Game?

9th Seed to Advance After Winning Play-In Odds
Yes -140
No +110

Which brings us to our next prop. Now that we’ve predicted a showdown for the final playoff spot in the West, can the 9-seed play themselves into the picture?

This is why I picked Portland. If Collins and Nurkic return, they’ll bolster a rotation that consists of Lillard, CJ McCollum, ‘Melo, Trevor Ariza, Anfernee Simonds and Hassan Whiteside. All but Simonds has been to the postseason, and finally healthy and riding the prime years of Lillard’s career, they should be able to take out Memphis.

The Grizzlies are nice, and will be a force in the West for years to come. For now? Consider this a good run and learning experience.

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