Will Portland make the playoffs?
There are only 2.5 games separating #2 and #9 in the west. One team is going to be left out. There is a lot of season left. Will Portland be that team or someone else?
I don't see a lot of separation between any of these teams in terms of play. They all are winning about 60% of their games. Except for San Antonio the teams look remarkably similar. Each team has 1-2 players playing at a level somewhere between allstar and superstar, 1 or 2 other players playing at close to an allstar level and the rest of the positions adequately filled with solid starters. All of these teams are mopping up with the lesser teams in the league and haven't shown much dominance against the Tier I and Tier II teams. San Antonio is a little different. They have a proven superstar, but they are older and so far more injury prone.(Nash and Shaq are on the decline so I don't give Phoenix credit for having a superstar player)
The difference between this season and last season is none of these teams look like a borderline playoff team. This year it doesn't look like the last spot will be determined by one or two teams scrapping it out like most years. Or even like last year when the bottom 2 teams fighting for a spot(Denver and Golden State) were 6-8 games out from the rest of the playoff teams. This year there does not seem to be any separation at all between the 2nd seed in the west and the 9th seed in the west. They are all good teams.
People can argue that Team A has x advantage in making the playoffs over Team B, but I can't really argue that any team of the tier 2 teams in the west are clearly better than any other team.
So what is going to be the deciding factor? The only thing I can come up with is: injuries. The team that is hit hardest by injuries to important players will be the team that doesn't make the playoffs. My gut says San Antonio and Houston will make the playoffs. San Antonio because they have a proven superstar who hasn't declined yet, and Houston because they've proven they can win at the same rate with key players injured. But it's still anybody's spot to lose.
The good news is that Portland has a 7 out of 8 chance of making the playoffs. The bad news is that heart, drive, determination and talent won't make as much of a difference as injuries and bad luck.
So who do you think get's left out?