NBA Playoffs: SportsTips’ Western Conference Predictions for Playoff Seeding

NBA Playoffs: SportsTips’ Western Conference Predictions for Playoff Seeding
Tue 4th May 2021

We have made our Western Conference Predictions to sort through all of the playoff hopefuls and where they will end up in two weeks time when the regular season ends. 

There are seeding battles everywhere you look out West. Phoenix v Utah for the top seed, Nuggets v Clippers for the three seed and then there is a three way tie for fifth. Could the defending champion LA Lakers slip into the play-in tournament? Will Chris Paul be able to lead the Suns to the top of the conference?

Here is the current standings in the Western Conference as of May 2nd, 2021:

Team Record Western Conference Odds
1.   Phoenix Suns (x) 46-18 +700
2.   Utah Jazz (x) 46-18 +260
3.   Denver Nuggets 43-21 +1300
4.   Los Angeles Clippers (x) 43-22 +260
5.   Dallas Mavericks 36-28 +2000
6.   Los Angeles Lakers 36-28 +240
7.   Portland Trail Blazers 36-28 +2700
8.   Memphis Grizzlies 32-31 +12000
9.   Golden State Warriors 32-32 +12000
10. San Antonio Spurs 31-32 +24000
11. New Orleans Pelicans 29-35 +25000
12. Sacramento Kings 27-37 +25000
13. Oklahoma City Thunder (o) 21-44 Off The Board
14. Minnesota Timberwolves (o) 20-45 Off The Board
15. Houston Rockets (o) 16-49 Off The Board

(x = clinched playoff berth, o = eliminated from playoff contention)

Our NBA experts have studied each Western Conference team’s form and their remaining strength of schedule to see what might transpire over the last 14 days of the season. See who we have finishing where in our Western Conference predictions below!

Phoenix Suns (46-18)

Odds to win the NBA Championship: +1600
Odds to win the Western Conference: +700

The Phoenix Suns have been one of the feel good stories of the Western Conference and are locked in to reach the postseason for the first time since 2010. While the addition of Chris Paul has clearly taken this team over the edge, the young core has been steadily growing and developing into something special, highlighted by their 8-0 performance in the bubble last season.

The Suns face more opponents seeded eighth or higher than the Jazz down the stretch but are healthier and playing better basketball right now. They also swept the season series with Utah meaning they have the tiebreaker, should it come to that. Finishing with three of their last four games might be a burden to most teams but Phoenix is the best road team in the league and should go in favorite for each of their last eight.

Remaining Fixtures:
@CLE, @ATL, vNYK, @LAL, @GSW, vPOR, @SAS, @SAS

Utah Jazz (46-18)

Odds to win the NBA Championship: +650
Odds to win the Western Conference: +260

The Utah Jazz were the team to beat all season but now they have proven to be easy to beat, especially away from home. Donovan Mitchell’s injury couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Jazz, with the team going just 4-4 in the games he has missed. Combine that with the fact that Mike Conley hasn’t played more than four games in a row in over six weeks and the Jazz seem to be limping into the postseason.

While Utah has a much easier remaining schedule than Phoenix, playing two less games against opponents seeded eighth or higher in their respective conference, they don’t own the tiebreaker and would need to win one more game than them to take over top spot. Something that seems very unlikely given how they are playing.

Remaining Fixtures:
vSAS, vSAS, vDEN, vHOU, @GSW, vPOR, @OKC, @SAC

Denver Nuggets (43-21)

Odds to win the NBA Championship: +3600
Odds to win the Western Conference: +1300

Nikola Jokic is essentially a lock to win his first MVP and his spectacular play has kept Denver in the hunt amongst the best of the West. Since losing Jamal Murray to his torn ACL, the Nuggets have gone 9-1 with Jokic averaging 26.6ppg, 11.1rpg and 7.1apg over that stretch. Denver now sits up in third in the Western Conference and even owns the tiebreaker over the Clippers who sit half a game behind them.

In saying that, Denver has one of the toughest remaining schedules of any team in the league, playing five opponents with winning records in their last eight games. To make things even harder, six of their last eight games are on the road, including their last four.

Remaining Fixtures:
@LAL, vNYK, @UTA, vBKN, @CHA, @MIN, @DET, @POR

Los Angeles Clippers (43-22)

Odds to win the NBA Championship: +600
Odds to win the Western Conference: +260

After a disappointing exit from the playoffs last season, the Clippers have played with a sense of urgency this year and it has seen them exceed expectations. Given Kawhi Leonard and Paul George have missed 18 and 16 games so far this season respectively, to be 21 games over 0.500 and in the hunt for one of the top seeds in the conference is incredible.

Despite not winning the season series against Denver, who sit half a game above them in the standings, they play three less opponents seeded eighth or higher in their respective conference and have a very nice end to the season. The Clippers will be favored in each of their last seven games and can essentially determine whether they would like to finish third or fourth. 

Remaining Fixtures:
vTOR, vLAL, vNYK, @TOR, @CHA, @HOU, @OKC

Dallas Mavericks (36-28)

Odds to win the NBA Championship: +4200
Odds to win the Western Conference: +2000

Behind Luka Doncic’s wonderful basketball this season, Dallas sees themselves fighting the Lakers and Blazers for the fifth seed in the conference. Doncic is averaging 28.6ppg, 8.9apg and 8rpg and essentially played the whole first half of the season with minimal help, due to injuries and COVID-19.

Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis have played just over 800 minutes together this season, compared to Doncic playing nearly 1200 with Porzingis off the floor, something that may take its toll on the duo in the playoffs. While the chemistry might not quite be there yet, Dallas do have a much easier road home than the Lakers and Blazers and are in the box seat to hold on to the fifth seed. 

Remaining Fixtures:
@MIA, vBKN, vCLE, @CLE, @MEM, vNOP, vTOR, @MIN

Los Angeles Lakers (36-28)

Odds to win the NBA Championship: +460
Odds to win the Western Conference: +240

It is really no surprise to see the Lakers struggling this season. After winning the 2020 NBA Championship, they had the shortest offseason in professional sports history and had multiple new players to try and integrate into their system. Then add in the fact that their two best players, LeBron James and Anthony Davis, both missed six weeks of action due to injury.

Both have returned to action for LA but that hasn’t turned their performances around, losing three straight and six of their last seven. That downward trend is obviously far from ideal for the defending champs and with their next five games being against teams with their record or better, we will really find out if this team is good enough. 

Remaining Fixtures:
vDEN, @LAC, @POR, vPHX, vNYK, vHOU, @IND, @NOP

Portland Trail Blazers (36-28)

Odds to win the NBA Championship: +5500
Odds to win the Western Conference: +2700

It has been an incredibly inconsistent season for the Trail Blazers, but they have had their excuses. Projected starting power forward, Zach Collins, hasn’t even seen the court at all while CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic both missed multiple months of action. Like the Lakers, Mavericks and Clippers, for them to be where they are considering what they have had to deal with is nothing short of incredible. 

While Portland faces five opponents with winning records from their remaining eight games, two more than the Mavericks, their schedule is actually quite a bit easier based on the matchups and who they play. Given they are currently one of the hottest teams in the league, winning four straight and all by 10+, we can see them carrying that on for the last two weeks and into the playoffs.

Remaining Fixtures:
@ATL, @CLE, vLAL, vSAS, vHOU, @UTA, @PHX, vDEN

Memphis Grizzlies (32-31)

Odds to win the NBA Championship: +25000
Odds to win the Western Conference: +12000

One of the most under the radar teams in the league, Memphis doesn’t get spoken about often but are above 0.500 and currently in the eighth seed out West. While the team has the big names of Ja Morant and Jonas Valanciunas, it has been a team-first approach that has gotten them to where they are, with multiple players stepping up when it is their turn.

Memphis’ remaining fixture could either be a blessing or a curse. They have nine games remaining, when most other teams around them have just eight. Of their nine games, only two teams have a record above 0.500 but the most important fixture could be the last game of the season. They face Golden State, on the road, in a game that will determine who wins the season series and could ultimately determine who finishes eighth, and gets a double chance in the play-ins, or ninth, and is in a sudden death situation from the start. 

Remaining Fixtures:
vNYK, @MIN, @DET, @TOR, vNOP, vDAL, vSAC, vSAC, @GSW

Golden State Warriors (32-32)

Odds to win the NBA Championship: +24000
Odds to win the Western Conference: +12000

Could the Warriors be the Wizards of the West? The team that has had a mediocre regular season but one that you would do everything to avoid in the postseason. Steph Curry continues to give everything he has for the franchise and could potentially shoot this team into the playoffs by himself. 

In their last eight games, the Warriors play the Pelicans three times, games that will secure their spot in the postseason, with New Orleans being just three games behind them in the standings. They finish the season by hosting the Grizzlies in a battle that could very well determine who finishes eighth and gets the double chance. Will they do enough to get to that stage though, especially with games against Utah and Phoenix to come.

Remaining Fixtures:
@NOP, @NOP, vOKC, vOKC, vUTA, vPHX, vNOP, @MEM

San Antonio Spurs (31-32)

Odds to win the NBA Championship: +25000
Odds to win the Western Conference: +24000

Many gave the Spurs no chance this season, with DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge as their main contributors. Well with nine games to go, the Spurs are just one game below 0.500 and 2.5 games clear in 10th, the final play-in spot. While Aldridge was released, DeRozan has helped the development of the Spurs’ young, athletic and skilled perimeter players into a defensive minded team that can put the clamps on anyone.

With nine games remaining, when most others have just eight, the Spurs will have to work extra hard to solidify their spot in the postseason whilst also potentially move up the standings, should they want to. Four of San Antonio’s games are against the Jazz and Suns while also playing the Bucks, Nets, Knicks and Blazers. Talk about a nightmare run home.

Remaining Fixtures:
@UTA, @UTA, @SAC, @POR, vMIL, @BKN, @NYK, vPHX, vPHX

New Orleans Pelicans (29-35)

Odds to win the NBA Championship: +25000
Odds to win the Western Conference: +25000

Were the expectations surrounding the Pelicans too high? While Brandon Ingram broke out to win Most Improved Player last season, the team’s best player, Zion Williamson, has played just 83 career games. While he is an unstoppable force inside, there are still a lot of facets of his game that need to be ironed out before leading a team to postseason success. 

With the Pelicans sitting 2.5 games back from San Antonio and not holding the season series tiebreaker, their work is seriously cut out for them. Especially with a remaining fixture that has them playing four games against teams above 0.500 and four games against teams fighting to stay in or make the play-ins. 

Remaining Fixtures:
vGSW, vGSW, @PHI, @CHA, @MEM, @DAL, @GSW, vLAL

Western Conference Predictions

We have the Phoenix Suns going from missing the playoffs entirely to finishing with the best regular season record in the league. Chris Paul and Devin Booker continue to thrive alongside one another and despite having a slightly harder remaining fixture, compared to Utah who are currently tied with them in the standings, they are playing that much better and deserve the top spot.

That leaves Utah in second, who need to focus on getting healthy more than anything right now. Below them are the Nuggets and the Clippers fighting it out for third place and with a much easier remaining schedule LA bumps their new rivals down to fourth. 

In the congested fifth through seventh race between the Mavs, Lakers and Blazers, Portland’s hot form sees them rise to fifth, especially since they own the season series over Dallas, who has a slightly easier fixture. The defending champs have the hardest remaining schedule of the three and that will see them slip to seventh and forced to compete in the play-in. 

Their opponent will be the Golden State Warriors, who use a victory over the Grizzlies on the last day of the regular season to jump ahead of them into eighth place. Memphis slides to nine and will host the Spurs, who just win enough games to hang on to 10th, in the sudden death play-in game.  

Check out our final predicted standings below:

Team Record Western Conference Odds
Phoenix Suns 53-19 +700
Utah Jazz 51-21 +260
Los Angeles Clippers 50-22 +260
Denver Nuggets 49-23 +1300
Portland Trail Blazers 42-30 +2700
Dallas Mavericks 42-30 +2000
Los Angeles Lakers 39-33 +240
Golden State Warriors 38-34 +12000
Memphis Grizzlies 38-24 +12000
San Antonio Spurs 34-38 +24000

Play-In

Round 1:

(8) Golden State Warriors @ (7) Los Angeles Lakers

(10) San Antonio Spurs @ (9) Memphis Grizzlies

Round 2:

(9) Memphis Grizzlies @ (8) Golden State Warriors

First Round

(8) Golden State Warriors @ (1) Phoenix Suns

(7) Los Angeles Lakers @ (2) Utah Jazz

(6) Dallas Mavericks @ (3) Los Angeles Clippers

(5) Portland Trail Blazers @ (4) Denver Nuggets

Second Round

(4) Denver Nuggets @ (1) Phoenix Suns

(7) Los Angeles Lakers @ (3) Los Angeles Clippers

Conference Championships

(3) Los Angeles Clippers @ (1) Phoenix Suns

Western Conference Champions – (3) Los Angeles Clippers (+260)

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*Odds and spreads correct at time of publication, courtesy of FanDuel

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Image by: Vinicius Pires

Tim is a keen follower of all American sports, in particular the NBA and NFL. He has followed both sports for over a decade and would happily sit down and watch every game, regardless of who is playing! No matter the sport, whether it be NFL and NBA or even MLB, NHL and UFC, Tim covers it from every angle, keeping up to date with all the news to bring you the most up-to-date information and the best picks and predictions across all sports.