Western Conference standings check in with NBA playoffs right around the corner

Denver Nuggets v Minnesota Timberwolves
Denver Nuggets v Minnesota Timberwolves / David Berding/GettyImages

Entering play on Friday, the Nuggets are leading the Western Conference by a half-game with a record of 51-22. They have just nine regular season games remaining, as they look to lock up the number one seed and homecourt advantage in the West for the second straight season.

But the conference is absolutely stacked this season, with several teams nipping at Denver’s heels, and even teams battling for the final play-in spots looking dangerous. The Nuggets host the second-place team in the West, the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday, a game that could go a long way in deciding the one seed.

All of these games are huge for seeding, and there will be no easy series’ once the playoffs start, so there’s still lots at stake and plenty to play for over the final couple weeks of the season. Let’s take a look around the conference standings, tiered by what they’re still playing for.

The top 3

1. Denver Nuggets: 51-22

2. Minnesota Timberwolves: 50-22

3. Oklahoma City Thunder: 50-22

These teams are all tied in the loss column and would all love to secure homecourt advantage. It likely means more to the younger, less proven teams, but the Nuggets have an incredible advantage playing at altitude in Ball Arena. They won it all as the one seed last year, and I’m sure they’d like to do it again.

The 4/5 battle

4. Los Angeles Clippers: 45-27

5. New Orleans Pelicans: 45-28

These teams have separated a bit and it seems they are destined to face each other in what should be a fascinating first-round series. But they are still duking it out to see which team will be the higher seed and start (and possibly end) the series on their home floor.

The race to avoid the play-in tournament

6. Dallas Mavericks: 43-29

7. Phoenix Suns: 43-30

8. Sacramento Kings: 42-30

The top six teams are automatically in the playoffs, while the 7-10 seeds must fight through do-or-die games in the play-in tournament to earn the final playoff spots. These teams would love to avoid that potential disaster scenario, as they could find themselves missing out on the playoffs entirely, which would be a nightmare for each franchise.

Final play-in spots race

9. Los Angeles Lakers: 41-32

10. Golden State Warriors: 38-34

11. Houston Rockets: 37-35

It looked like the Lakers and Warriors were destined to play in the 9/10 game for weeks, but the Rockets have come on big time and made this a very sweaty couple of weeks for the two California-based teams with championship dreams. Missing the playoffs would be a complete failure for both the Lakers and Warriors and it’s a serious possibility for both teams. 

Fans are understandably excited for the playoffs and for good reason. But these last two weeks should offer some high-stakes basketball that should be full of twists and turns. Everyone has something to root for.