Western Conference play-in tournament check-in: Who will the Nuggets play in round 1?

New Orleans Pelicans v Los Angeles Lakers
New Orleans Pelicans v Los Angeles Lakers / Harry How/GettyImages

The NBA regular season is coming to a close and teams are starting to look at playoff matchups. The Denver Nuggets haven’t locked up their playoff seed just yet, but they are currently tied for first place in the Western Conference and are all but guaranteed a top-three seed.

If they can stay in the top two, they’ll face a team that comes out of the Play-In Tournament in round one. There are still seven teams in the West that are in the mix for the play-in. Two of the teams will escape the play-in altogether and secure the 5 and 6 seeds, four of the teams will find themselves in the play-in tournament, and one team will finish 11th and miss the postseason entirely.

Play-In Tournament Refresher: how it works

The NBA began the play-in tournament during the bubble season and it caught on, albeit with some tweaks down the road. In its current form, teams finishing 1-6 will clinch those seeds for the playoffs and the teams that finish 7-10 in the standings will automatically enter the play-in tournament to compete for the final 7 and 8 seeds.

The regular season ends on Sunday, April 14th and the Play-In Tournament starts two days later on Tuesday, April 16th. The team that finishes in 7th place will host the team that finishes in 8th place. The winner of that single game will earn the 7 seed for the playoffs.

The team that finished 9th in the standings will host the team that finished 10th for one game. The losing team will be eliminated from the postseason. The team that wins that game will then go on the road to face the team that lost the 7 vs. 8 matchup, and the winner will clinch the 8th seed and final spot in the playoffs.

Potential Nuggets round-one opponents

The standings have been a bit of a revolving door, with several teams battling to avoid the play-in, but here’s how it stands on Thursday morning with the teams directly involved:

5. Dallas Maverick (45-30)

6. Phoenix Suns (45-31)

7. New Orleans Pelicans (45-31)

8. Sacramento Kings (44-31)

9. Los Angeles Lakers (43-34)

10. Golden State Warriors (41-34)

11. Houston Rockets (38-37)

These seven teams will be battling for positioning over the final week and a half of the season, with a lot still left to be determined. The stakes are high for all of these teams, as missing the playoffs would be disastrous for a number of these franchises.

What does this mean for the Nuggets?

So if the season ended today, the Pelicans would host the Kings in the 7 vs. 8 matchup. The winner would clinch the 7 seed. Meanwhile, the Lakers would host the Warriors in the 9 vs. 10 game. The loser of that game would be eliminated from the postseason and the winner would travel to play the loser of the Pelicans/Kings game. The winner of that game would assume the 8 seed.

For now, all the Nuggets can do is take care of their own business, keep winning games, and secure the best seed possible. They can sit back, relax, and watch these teams battle it out for the final playoff spots and the right to face the Nuggets in round one of the playoffs.