At the halfway point of the NBA season, it’s become clear that the 8 seed in the Western Conference playoff race will probably be light years behind the other seven teams that reach the playoffs.
Entering play Thursday, the 19-22 Memphis Grizzlies control the 8 seed. They’re four games behind the 7 seed (Oklahoma City) and seven games behind the 6 seed (Dallas).
That’s a huge gap, and it would be even bigger if not for the Grizzlies winning six straight games. Their six-game win streak has put them on pace to finish with 38 wins, which could be enough to qualify for the postseason.
Can the Wolves get to 38 wins, or dare we say, 40? When healthy, the Wolves started the season 10-8 but have since won only five of their last 22 games, largely due to Karl-Anthony Towns missing 15 consecutive games with a left knee sprain and an illness, in addition to Andrew Wiggins missing nine days of action around the New Year because of a flu-related illness.
At 15-25, the Wolves, who are only 3.5 games behind the Grizzlies, will need to win 23 of their remaining 42 games to reach 40 wins.
Forty wins hasn’t qualified a team for the playoffs in the West (excluding lockout-shortened seasons) since the Clippers made it with 36 victories in 1997. Every now and again a team will sneak in with 41 wins, but it typically takes a win total in the mid-to-upper 40s to make it in the West.
Here are the 8 seeds in the West and how many wins they finished with dating back to the 1996-97 season.
- 2019: Clippers (48)
- 2018: Wolves (47)
- 2017: Blazers (41)
- 2016: Rockets (41)
- 2015: Pelicans (45)
- 2014: Mavericks (49)
- 2013: Rockets (45)
- 2012: Jazz (36) *lockout-shortened season
- 2011: Grizzlies (46)
- 2010: Thunder (50)
- 2009: Jazz (48)
- 2008: Nuggets (50)
- 2007: Warriors (42)
- 2006: Kings (44)
- 2005: Grizzlies (45)
- 2004: Nuggets (43) *Wolves won 58 games for the No. 1 seed
- 2003: Suns (44)
- 2002: Jazz (44)
- 2001: Wolves (47)
- 2000: Kings (44)
- 1999: Wolves (25) *lockout-shortened season
- 1998: Rockets (41)
- 1997: Clippers (36)
ESPN’s NBA Basketball Power Index, which simulates the season 10,000 times a day, is projecting the Spurs to get the 8 seed with a projected 39 victories. It has Minnesota finishing 31-51, which would be second-worst in the West.