The All-Star break is over, the trade deadline has come and gone and now we go about the business of sprinting toward the home stretch.
With each team having between 23 and 28 games remaining, there are some clubs that are facing uphill climbs if they are to make the playoffs a reality. Here’s a look at some of those teams that are currently on the outside looking in:
- Detroit Pistons (23-34, 9th in East, 4½ games out): The grand experiment is officially a bust. Josh Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond have put up some spectacular numbers at times this season, but the Pistons can’t defend, Smith is still in love with the 3-point line and Brandon Jennings is still Brandon Jennings. According to the formula set up by John Hollinger for ESPN.com, the Pistons have just a 12.8 percent chance of reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2009. Of their remaining 25 games, 16 of them are on the road and 14 are against teams that are currently in possession of a playoff spot.
- Minnesota Timberwolves (27-29, 10th in West, 6½ games out): The Timberwolves haven’t been to the postseason since their run to the Western Conference Finals … 10 years ago. Kevin Love is back and better than ever, but the pieces still just haven’t seemed to fit. Throw in injuries to Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin and it’s a huge uphill climb for Minnesota—projected at this point to have a 16.2 percent chance of reaching the playoffs. The Wolves do get 14 of their last 26 at home and 14 of them are against teams that are currently in the top eight in their conference.
- New York Knicks (21-36, 11th in East, 6½ games out): The odds like the Knicks a heckuva a lot more than they do the ninth-place Pistons or 10th-place Cavs. New York is given a 19.1 percent chance of returning to the postseason for the fourth straight year despite the train wreck that this season has been thus far. The Knicks have 25 games left, 15 of them on the road and 13 of them against current playoff teams.
- Memphis Grizzlies (31-24, 9th in West, 2 games out): Somewhere in the Western Conference, it’s looking increasingly likely there will be a team that watches the playoffs on TV with a record that would be good enough for home-court advantage in the first round out East. Such is life when geography trumps common sense. The Grizzlies have been very good of late, going 14-5 since getting Marc Gasol back from a knee injury and have themselves with a 39.5 percent chance of a fourth straight playoff trip. Memphis has 27 games remaining, with 16 of them on road and 15 of them against current playoff clubs.
As always, the players selected for the Best of the Week must play at least 25 minutes a game in more than half of their team’s games (rookies must average 20 minutes a game to be selected).
All statistical information from NBA.com/Stats.