Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
Who’s your pick for No. 8 in the West? And give us a couple reasons why.
David Aldridge: I think Portland holds onto sixth (pretty easy last week for Blazers other than Lakers, but L.A. doesn’t have anything to play for now and Portland has owned the Lakers up at the Rose Garden). So I’ll take the Hornets for eighth, just on the basis of Sunday’s game with the Grizz being in Memphis, where the Grizzlies have been pretty good (19-6 since New Year’s).
Steve Aschburner: Memphis, and I’m not just picking the Grizzlies because they’re in the catbird’s seat mathematically. Well, OK, I am. But they have a feisty and lengthy front line, with Marc Gasol protecting the paint and Zach Randolph a load at the other end. Then there is Tony Allen, who has been crazy-active lately as a surrogate for injured Rudy Gay. The Celtics never leaned on or trusted him like this, but with Memphis, Allen is a veritable savvy playoff vet.
Fran Blinebury: New Orleans. Monty Williams and Chris Paul have refused to let the Hornets feel sorry for themselves after the loss of David West and Carl Landry has done yeoman work as his replacement. Holding the tiebreaker on Houston virtually assures they’ll get into the playoffs, but a schedule that still has road games at Memphis and Dallas and a home date with the desperate Rockets will drop them into the eighth spot. The Grizzlies will get a leg up with the home game against N.O. and Portland will stay out of the No. 8 seed by virtue of the easiest closing schedule among the three. The Blazers’ only road games are at lowly Utah and Golden State.
Scott Howard-Cooper: The Hornets. And I’ll give one reason: schedule. None of the candidates has a brutal finish, but the Hornets get the Rockets, Suns, Grizzlies (road), Jazz and Mavericks. Utah is the worst of the group, except that New Orleans will be on the second night of a back-to-back. There’s also the one reason the Hornets don’t care about schedules or predictions: They’ve been beating expectations most of the season. This is another chance.
Shaun Powell: It’s been a slow and somewhat painful fall for New Orleans, which at one stage was 31-16. Most likely, the Hornets were overachieving at that point. They’ve now been revealed, and with David West out, there’s no momentum, for the No. 7 spot or the playoffs. Ordinary a team with Chris Paul would be considered dangerous, but with the No. 8 spot and a first-round matchup with the deep Spurs, consider the Hornets done.
John Schuhmann: It’s possible that the Blazers, Hornets and Grizzlies will all finish with 47 wins. And Memphis plays both New Orleans and Portland in its final four games, so there’s still a lot to be worked out. But even if they beat the Hornets at home, I’ve got the Grizz going 3-1 (losing in Portland), finishing with 47 and losing a two-team tiebreaker to the Hornets because of an inferior division record. The Blazers obviously put themselves in the picture with Tuesday’s loss to Golden State, but I think they beat the Grizz at home, get revenge on the Warriors on the last day of the season, and finish with 48 wins to land in sixth and face the Mavs in the first round. (And yes, I completely ignored the team that just lost to the Kings at home. I hope the question wasn’t asked with the idea that the Rockets were still in the picture.)
Sekou Smith: The dream was for my Hang Time Grizzlies to move up as high as six to avoid the Spurs and Lakers in the first round so they could finally win a playoff game. But that doesn’t appear to be in the cards right now. Remaining games against New Orleans, at Portland and at the Clippers could all ruin those ascension plans. But I’ll take No. 8. It didn’t hurt the Oklahoma City Thunder last season. And it worked out pretty well for the Atlanta Hawks four years ago. Lionel Hollins has done a masterful job convincing this bunch that they belong among the playoff field. And here’s hoping they dive into the postseason without any fear of what’s coming their way, because that date with the Spurs in the first round could be a rough ride. That said, the season series was a 2-2 split … (KG voice, “Anything’s possible!”)