THE reason to get excited for NBA seeding games: Western Conference playoff race

Pelicans big Zion Williamson and Grizzlies guard Ja Morant
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Why is the NBA holding seeding games rather than jumping straight to the playoffs? The two reported reasons:

Less mentioned: The games actually being quality products.

The NBA regular season has lost its luster. Load management, tanking and reduced home-court advantage have made regular-season games less meaningful. By the time the season got suspended in March, many were ready for the playoffs, anyway.

As the league resumes with eight seeding games per team, there isn’t much drama. Twelve of 16 playoff spots are clinched. A lack of home-court advantage at neutral-site Disney World and parity after a long layoff reduce seeding suspense. The race between the depleted Nets, depleted Wizards and Magic for the final two postseason spots in the Eastern Conference is uninspiring. Expect teams to mostly focus on staying healthy for the playoffs, even if that deprioritizes winning seeding games. Some teams are even reportedly treating the resumption as a glorified summer league.

But the NBA restart format has created one legitimately anticipated angle for seeding games: The Western Conference playoff race. The Grizzlies, Trail Blazers, Pelicans, Kings, Spurs and Suns are locked in a tight battle that could culminate in an unprecedented play-in.

If up more than four games on the ninth-place team at the conclusion of seeding games, the eighth-place team qualifies for the playoffs. Otherwise, the eighth- and ninth-place teams enter a play-in. The ninth-place team must win two games before the eighth-place team wins one.

The Mavericks (40-27) are technically in this race. But seven games up on Memphis, Dallas will almost certainly get a top-seven seed.

Here are the standings of the six teams truly battling for the final Western Conference playoff spot with records and games back:

8. Grizzlies (32-33) | —

9. Trail Blazers (29-37) | 3.5

10. Pelicans (28-36) | 3.5

10. Kings (28-36) | 3.5

12. Spurs (27-36) | 4.0

13. Suns (26-39) | 6.0

There will probably be a play-in. Memphis will probably be in it, probably as the No. 8 seed.

But that’s far from certain. Everyone has a chance.

A deeper look at the teams involved: