The NBA has come up with a resolution to finish off the remainder of the regular season as well as entering the playoffs, giving each team within reasonable distance a shot to contend.
Grabbing each team within six games of the 8th-seed (22 of the 30 teams, adding the Washington Wizards, Phoenix Suns, San Antonio Spurs, Sacramento Kings, Portland Trail Blazers and the New Orleans Pelicans) and offering the opportunity for a play-in game if the 9th-seeded team is within four games, the league found a way to please most involved with the league. The Trail Blazers organization was the only team to vote down the league’s decision, as it passed with the NBA board of governors voting 29-1.
But it’s not easy to please everyone, just ask any Memphis Grizzlies fan you know.
Partial list of the odds to win the 2020 NBA Championship. Even with the built-in advantages for Memphis in the 22-team format, @betonline_ag still favors the Pelicans and Trail Blazers over the Grizzlies.— Oleh Kosel (@OlehKosel) June 5, 2020
Tell me again why the pack chasing the Grizz shouldn't be given a chance? pic.twitter.com/AmBSA1xUJr
The Grizz not only more or less have a lock on the 8th-seed in the Western Conference playoffs, the team’s visceral remaining regular season schedule (opponents had a combined win percentage of 57.5 percent) was completely thrown to the way-side.
Meanwhile, the Pelicans incredibly favorable schedule has also been completely eradicated (opponents had a combined win percentage of 46.4 percent).
While Memphis fans are disgruntled at the fact that their team isn’t given the complete rights to the 8th-seed (based on their record as of March 11), the collective fanbase should be thrilled their team and the rest of the league isn’t immersed in what would have been a much more contentious playoff race, had the season been finished in its entirety.
Yes, in the current scenario that’s been passed, the league has given a chance to five other teams that are, at maximum, six games out of the 8th spot. The thing is, there’s only eight games to get within reasonable distance of the 8th and 9th seed.
If the regular season were to be played out fully, the Grizz would have 17 games to give up their spot.
In those 17 games, six are played against teams with losing records. Those teams you might ask? The New York Knicks (virtually the only guaranteed win), the Spurs, the Trail Blazers twice, and the Pelicans twice. Should those three teams not be in the Western Conference (among other things), we’d be telling a different story about their records.
The Pels’ remaining 18 games, on the other hand, feature just three teams with winning records. The Philadelphia 76ers, Utah Jazz and LA Clippers. The Jazz and Clippers contests would have been back-to-back in March, followed by the 76ers late in the season at home.
There are no guarantees in an 82-game season. Especially when the last quarter of it is totally different for two teams competing for the same spot, and one of them went 4-7 in their last 11 games. That ugly stretch for Memphis included a five-game losing streak, with two losses to the Kings, a 27-point loss to the Clippers and a 28-point thrashing at the hands of the Houston Rockets.
To take a theoretical stab at what that last quarter would have looked like, it’s not difficult to imagine the Pels overtaking their current 3.5 game deficit to the Grizzlies.
Not only do the two teams have a clear discrepancy in difficulty of schedule, the Western Conference rivals play each other twice before the end of it all. Fans shouldn’t forget how New Orleans absolutely slaughtered this Grizzlies team twice already this season.
While Memphis does have the better overall record, the Pels scored 126 (without Zion and Derrick Favors) and 139 points in their two matchups, have an average age of 25.4 as opposed to the Grizzlies 23.6, more playoff experience, an up-and-coming young core with plenty to prove and a better overall record in the second half of the season.
Throw in the fact that Memphis no longer has their best defender in Jae Crowder, Lonzo Ball’s play has gotten exponentially better since their last matchup, and Zion’s allotted experience under his belt and it’s difficult to imagine things falling in the Grizzlies’ favor.
Now, not only is the schedule shortened to eight games, the Pels might have to defeat Memphis four times in their 10 possible remaining games in order to claim the 8th-seed — unless New Orleans can overcome the previously mentioned 3.5 game deficit in the eight regular season games.
Grizzlies fans should consider themselves lucky, not irritated.
For more breakdown on the 22-game format and what the Pelicans need to do to earn the eighth seed, check out The Bird Calls Podcast hosted by Preston Ellis, David Grubb and Oleh Kosel.