The depleted Portland Trail Blazers have reached the All-Star break and will get some much-needed rest before they make their final playoff push.
Dame on the stretch run, ending the season strong post ASB.— Chris Burkhardt (@CBurkhardtNBCS) February 13, 2020
“It’s far from over. Believe that.”#RipCity
Let's see how likely that push is.
All projections are courtesy of FiveThirtyEight who uses prior performance, remaining strength of schedule, quality of roster and other indicators to project the playoff field.
8th seed: Memphis Grizzlies (28-26)
Chances of the playoffs: 12%
Projected Record: 37-45
Games against bubble teams: @ POR (3/12), @SA (3/16), vs NO (3/21), @NO (3/24), @POR (4/5)
The current holder of the final playoff berth in the West has a four-game lead on the ninth-seeded Trail Blazers, but only a 12% chance at holding onto that standing. Memphis defeated the Trail Blazers Wednesday night 111-104 in their first of three games this season.
According to tankathon.com, the Grizzlies have the hardest remaining strength of schedule in the NBA, including two more games against the Trail Blazers in Portland.
9th seed: Portland Trail Blazers (25-31)
Chances of the playoffs: 31%
Projected Record: 40-42
Games against bubble teams: vs NO (2/21), vs MEM (3/12), vs MEM (4/5)
The Trail Blazers have a fighter's chance of stretching their playoff streak to seven seasons, but will need to finish strong. They are four games back of Memphis but have two games remaining against them, both in Rip City where they are 15-11. Both games are must-wins for the Blazers because losing either means they will not have the tie-breaker over Memphis having lost this week in their first meeting of the season.
However, franchise point guard Damian Lillard strained his groin in the last game before the All-Star break. While he'll have the week to recover before they play again, that type of injury can keep players out for much longer. Given Lillard's stellar play was keeping the depleted Blazers in the playoff race, any extended absence could end Portland's season.
10th seed: San Antonio Spurs (23-31)
Chances of the playoffs: 3%
Projected Record: 35-47
Games against bubble teams: vs MEM (3/16), @NO (3/18), vs NO (4/5), vs NO (4/15)
The Spurs find themselves in serious trouble of missing the postseason for the first time in 22 years which ties an NBA record. They're eight games out of the final playoff spot and have the 20th most difficult remaining strength of schedule.
11th seed: New Orleans Pelicans (23-31)
Chances of the playoffs: 55%
Projected Record: 41-41
Games against bubble teams: @POR (2/21), vs SA (3/18), @MEM (3/21), vs MEM (3/24), @SA (4/5), @SA (4/15)
Surprisingly, the favorite according to the projections to grab the final playoff spot is the New Orleans Pelicans who are eight games out of the final spot heading into the All-Star break? How can this be?
Three reasons: the easiest remaining strength of schedule in the NBA, a talented roster that's finally getting healthy and the emergence of Zion Williamson. The reigning No. 1 overall pick has dominated grown men as a teenager. In just nine games, he's averaging 21 points and 7.7 rebounds per game while shooting 40% from three and 57.9% from the field. His second jump might be the fastest in the league and results in him rebounding the majority of his misses around the rim.