The NBA’s Western Conference playoff and play-in tournament races are more than what commissioner Adam Silver could have ever hoped.

There are still eight teams that could end up in the West play-in tournament. The remaining teams battling for the playoffs are also battling for seeding — and the right to avoid the play-in altogether.

After Sunday’s games, the Nos. 5 and 8 seeds are separated by a half game. The LA Clippers and Golden State Warriors are tied at No. 5 with 41-38 records, while the Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Pelicans are tied at No. 7 at 40-38.

The Minnesota Timberwolves (39-40), who on Sunday lost to the Portland Trail Blazers in a game they were favored by nearly 20 points, and Oklahoma City Thunder (38-41) are not far behind at Nos. 9 and 10. The flailing Dallas Mavericks are one game back of the Thunder, and the Utah Jazz are a half game back of Dallas.

But there is so much still undecided with seven days remaining in the regular season.

With the help of ESPN’s Basketball Power Index (BPI), let’s examine five of the most impactful play-in scenarios in the West — some more chaotic than others.

Scenario 1: AD vs. New Orleans, and two teams looking to take the next step

Pelicans vs. Lakers
Wolves vs. Thunder

BPI odds for these matchups: 8.5%

According to our BPI projections, this is the most likely play-in scenario heading into Tuesday’s games.

It’s currently a toss up between the Pelicans and Lakers to see who would end up hosting the 7-8 game, although New Orleans would prefer to have the Lakers pick swap option mean something, so even swapping one pick in the draft could have an impact.

The Timberwolves facing the Thunder is the most likely 9-10 scenario as well. Oklahoma City would have the chance to get back to the postseason just two years after hitting the rebuild button.

The Timberwolves could put themselves in position to make back-to-back trips to the playoffs for the first time since the franchise made eight consecutive trips between 1997 and 2004. (Minnesota hasn’t won a playoff series since reaching the conference finals in 2004.)

Scenario 2: A Finals-worthy play-in, and the Mavs sneak in

Warriors vs. Lakers
Timberwolves vs. Mavericks

BPI odds for these matchups: 3%

When the Mavericks traded Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, a first-round pick and a pair of second-round picks to the Brooklyn Nets for Kyrie Irving before the deadline, it was supposed to lift the Mavericks to new heights alongside superstar Luka Doncic.



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That partnership has fallen flat after a promising start. Dallas won Irving’s first two games as a Maverick despite Doncic missing both due to injury, and their win against the Sacramento Kings on Feb. 10 put them at 31-26. Since then, Dallas has gone 6-16 and are on the verge of missing the play-in tournament altogether.

Dallas has gone 4-11 in games in which Doncic and Irving play, and since the trade the Mavericks have allowed 118.3 points per 100 possessions, which would rank 28th in the NBA over a full season.

Also, if a Zion vs. LeBron matchup is must-see TV, how about the Warriors vs. LeBron in a playoff appetizer? The loser would still have another chance to get in, but if that chance came against Doncic and Irving in a must-win game? Sign us up.

Scenario 3: The battle in L.A.

Clippers vs. Lakers
Pelicans vs. Thunder

BPI odds for these matchups: 1.5%

The Lakers and Clippers have never faced off in the playoffs. How about a play-in showdown? Less than a week after Wednesday’s Lakers-Clippers tilt (10 p.m. ET, ESPN) this scenario pits the two rivals against each other — this time with the No. 7 seed at stake.

Due to Paul George‘s latest knee injury, this matchup might lose some star power, but a showdown between James, Davis and Kawhi Leonard is a worthy consolation prize.

The Lakers have become a new team since the trade deadline acquisitions of D’Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt and Malik Beasley. Los Angeles has won 10 of its last 14 games and are 3-1 since James returned from a foot injury.

The Pelicans, meanwhile, have taken advantage of a favorable late-season schedule and could find themselves hosting the 9-10 game for the second consecutive year. Last season, they defeated the San Antonio Spurs and Clippers to secure the No. 8 seed, then put a scare into the top-seeded Suns in the first round.

The Thunder — like the Jazz — were thought to be a leader in the Wembanyama sweepstakes after 2022 No. 2 pick Chet Holmgren suffered a season-ending foot injury. Instead, the Thunder have kept themselves playoff relevant.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been a revelation this season,averaging 31.5 points, 5.4 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game. Jalen Williams has vaulted into the Rookie of the Year conversation, and Josh Giddey, at 20 years old, averaged 16.6 points, 7.9 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game in his second season.

If the Thunder get past the Pelicans in a potential 9-10 game, they could end up meeting the Clippers in a battle for the No. 8 seed; LA traded Gilgeous-Alexander and a slew of picks to Oklahoma City in a blockbuster deal for George in the summer of 2019.

Scenario 4: AD vs. New Orleans, Gobert vs. Utah

Pelicans vs. Lakers
Timberwolves vs. Jazz

BPI odds for these matchups: less than 1%

The Jazz have the longest odds of any team remaining to make the play-in tournament, but if they win out to finish 40-42, they have a shot.

One scenario: Utah would end up facing Minnesota in the 9-10 play-in game. That’s right, Rudy Gobert against the team that sent him away for quite the haul in the offseason.

The Jazz, who also traded away Donovan Mitchell, were projected to be firmly in the race for projected No. 1 pick Victor Wembanyama but instead won 10 of their first 13 games as first-time All-Star Lauri Markkanen took his breakout EuroBasket performance and cranked it up a notch once he settled back into the NBA on his new team.

The Jazz have not helped their play-in chances in recent weeks, dropping six of their last seven, but being in a position to take a lottery pick and add to their team may not be a bad thing.

Minnesota and Utah split the four-game season series — and the Jazz went 2-1 in the games that Gobert played.



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As for the Pelicans and Lakers, there’s plenty of incentive for New Orleans to finish ahead of Los Angeles in the standings. New Orleans has the option for a first-round pick swap in June’s NBA draft. (The Lakers do own the tiebreaker over the Pelicans in the standings, so if the teams finished tied in the regular season, the Lakers would be the higher seed in a direct head-to-head tiebreaker and get the lower draft pick of the two, nullifying the swap.)

Any matchup would be filled with drama thanks to LeBron James and Anthony Davis facing off against The Brow’s former team. And with any Pelicans’ scenario, there’s the possibility of Zion Williamson‘s return. New Orleans is expected to provide an update Wednesday on Williamson’s latest re-evaluation from his right hamstring strain.

Scenario 5: The six-way logjam — and tiebreaker madness

BPI odds for this scenario: 0.000009%

It’s the ultimate longshot, but if you want maximum chaos, this scenario is for you. Here, the Clippers, Warriors, Lakers, Pelicans, Timberwolves and Thunder all finish 41-41. Let’s break it down.

The only head-to-head matchups remaining between these six teams are Thunder-Warriors on Tuesday, Clippers-Lakers on Wednesday, and Pelicans-Timberwolves on Sunday, the final day of the regular season.

First, a refresher on the NBA’s tiebreaker rules:

  • Tiebreaker No. 1: Win percentage in games played among the tied teams

  • Tiebreaker No. 2: Division leader wins tie over non-division leaders

  • Tiebreaker No. 3: Division win percentage, if tied teams are in the same division

  • Tiebreaker No. 4: Conference win percentage

  • Tiebreaker No. 5: Win percentage against conference teams eligible for the playoffs

  • Tiebreaker No. 6: Point differential

In this scenario, if Minnesota defeats New Orleans on Sunday to reach .500, they would boast an 11-6 record against the other five teams and secure the No. 5 seed.

The Lakers and Pelicans would each be 10-8 (in this scenario, the Lakers defeat the Clippers on Wednesday). L.A. owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over New Orleans, meaning the Lakers would land No. 6 and the Pelicans would take No. 7.

In this scenario, despite Oklahoma City defeating Golden State on Tuesday, the Warriors (9-11) would still be No. 8 and the Thunder (8-11) would be No. 9. The Clippers (7-11 after the loss to the Lakers) would finish at No. 10.

Got all that? Good. It’s going to be a wild week in the West.

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NBA Western Conference play-in race