3 West teams most likely to fall out of NBA playoff picture, ranked
The NBA Western Conference playoff picture looks very interesting for 2022. We might see some old playoff contenders rise from the ashes. On the flip side of the coin, this means those who made it last season — especially by the skin of their teeth — might not make it this time around. Three teams which qualified for the 2021 postseason are in danger of not making it in 2022. Let’s name them and discuss the reasons why.
NBA West teams in peril:
3. L.A. Clippers
Seeing the Los Angeles Clippers on this NBA list might be driving some of you wild. The team has been one of the best teams in the West led by Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. Last year, they even made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals. They seem poised to finally take home the championship but ultimately lost to the scorching hot Phoenix Suns in six games. While there are a plethora of reasons why they got booted out, the main reason for their loss is the absence of Kawhi Leonard.
To recall, the two-time NBA champion missed Game 5 and 6 of the West semis and the entire West finals due to knee injury. Paul George and the rest of the squad did a great job filling in the void but it proved to be a colossal task they couldn’t finish.
It was revealed in July that Leonard underwent surgery to repair a partially torn ACL. There’s still no timetable for his return. Rumors reveal that March could be the latest. We must note that both the Clippers and Leonard himself are very cautious in terms of health. The Clippers have been notorious for “load managing” their players. Leonard, for his part, literally cut ties with the San Antonio Spurs because he didn’t trust their medical staff. Sure, the Clippers will win NBA games easily against bottom-feeding teams. But against playoff teams, they might have some trouble. Hopefully, this doesn’t bog down their confidence or else, the losses could pile up quicker than expected.
2. Portland Trail Blazers
The Portland Trail Blazers have made the playoffs eight straight years. Damian Lillard has done a great job enabling the team to become a postseason regular in the NBA West. So some of you might be wondering, then why are they on this list? Aren’t the Trail Blazers the hallmark of consistency? While this is true, we should note that though the Blazers have been a perennial playoff team, they almost always get booted out in the first round.
In fact, in those eight years, they got ousted in the first round five times. They made it to the second round twice. They’ve made it as far as the NBA Western Conference finals but got eliminated in four games by the Warriors in 2019.
Last year, they made it to the playoffs as the sixth seed. But then again, apart from the lackluster performance from the Warriors, the Los Angeles Lakers were also riddled with injuries which pushed them down to the seventh spot. That’s the big what-if. What if both the Warriors and Lakers were healthy? Would the Trail Blazers breeze their way to the NBA postseason once again?
Another important thing to remember is the 2021-22 NBA season will mark the debut of Chauncey Billups as head coach. His colleagues have praised him. And Billups seems to have a clear view of what he wants for his squad. But at the end of the day, we have to see actual wins to gauge his performance.
Will Billups join the ranks of ex-NBA players who have turned out to become legendary coaches? This is a matter of wait-and-see. And this is why the Trail Blazers are trekking an uncertain path.
1. Memphis Grizzlies
The Memphis Grizzlies made the playoffs as the eighth seed last season. This broke their three-year curse and became good proof that the Grizzlies is on the right track in terms of development. They made the right choice in picking Ja Morant from the draft and subsequently pairing him with Dillon Brooks. Making the playoffs as the eighth spot means that while there’s some tangible progress to their development, they’re still at a vulnerable spot. As noted, the Golden State Warriors will likely come back stronger with the return of Klay Thompson. Teams who made the NBA Playoffs last year will likely make it again, putting the Grizzlies in a very precarious spot. It would be foolish to expect the Los Angeles Lakers, given their collection of Hall of Famers, to fall down once again to the seventh seed.
Obviously, this is not the end of the road for the Grizzlies. Not making the NBA Playoffs doesn’t immediately mean they need to push the reset button. The Grizzlies are just in the first stages of rebuilding. In time, they’ll become a perennial playoff team.