Since its first implementation in 2020, the NBA Play-In Tournament has become a subject of contention among NBA fans. Regardless of which side one falls on the subject, however, it is undeniable that this season’s rendition in Western Conference could have box office potential.

If the season ended today, the four teams fighting for the seventh and eighth seeds in the Western Conference would be the Kings, Mavericks, Warriors and Lakers. The star power on display among these four underperforming teams would seem better suited to the championship-deciding series.

The Sacramento Kings, currently seventh with a 35-26 record, have not been quite as sharp as they were last season, when they earned the third seed in the conference. The team’s inexperience eventually played a factor, however, when Sacramento lost to the sixth-seeded Warriors in the first round.

De’Aaron Fox and Damontas Sabonis continue to lead the young upstart Kings, but the team’s offense has taken a step back while the defense has remained lenient. If this regression forces Sacramento into the play-in, it may be difficult to improve on last year’s showing.

Subscribe to our free weekly newsletter!

A week of sports news in your in-box.
We find the sports news you need to know, so you don't have to.

The Dallas Mavericks, currently eighth with a 34-28 record, are spearheaded by one of the best duos in the league. But even with Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving on the floor most nights this season, the team has fallen into the middle of the pack.

Without any key contributors beyond their top pair, the Mavericks will depend on Doncic and Irving to deliver like heroes in the postseason. They’re certainly capable of this, making for an exciting play-in possibility, but the road only gets tougher against deeper teams.

The Golden State Warriors, currently ninth with a 33-28 record, have had a brutal 2023-24 season by their dynastic standards. Beyond Steph Curry, who continues to perform like a generational star, Golden State’s aging supporting cast has regressed across the board.

Klay Thompson was benched earlier this season due to performance issues. Draymond Green was suspended for an on-court altercation. Andrew Wiggins has been underwhelming and stepped away from the team for a second straight season due to personal reasons.

In addition to poor play on the floor, the Warriors’ locker room has also had to grapple with the sudden loss of assistant coach Dejan Milojevic, who suffered a heart attack and died in January. Players on the team were reportedly rocked by his passing, especially big men like Kevon Looney, who worked with the coach directly.

Last season, the Warriors underperformed but still managed to move past the first round by defeating a young Kings team. Any team led by Curry is sure to drive up viewership if it appears in the play-in, but there’s no guarantee of a series beyond that unless other players improve.

The Los Angeles Lakers, currently 10th with a 34-30 record, revolve around 39-year-old LeBron James to an extent that is unsustainable. Players behind James are talented but have not performed at the level many expected them to at the start of the season.

Anthony Davis remains highly unreliable with injuries and D’Angelo Russell has taken a step back since his best days in Brooklyn and Golden State. Young stars Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura are carving out complementary roles without consistently making a difference in big spots.

The Lakers demand attention regardless of where they land in the postseason, but as the last team in at this point, James will have to perform with his back to the wall yet again during his at-times puzzling stint in Los Angeles. Last year, he carried the Lakers as a seventh seed of  the Western Conference Finals, where they were obliterated by the Denver Nuggets in a four-game sweep.

The permutations of matchups between these four underperforming teams could produce countless storylines, some of which would mirror those of yesteryear. Curry and James could end up facing off for one more postseason duel, this time with similarly unreliable supporting casts behind them.

If Curry doesn’t draw the Lakers, then the Mavericks could, allowing Irving to take down his old Cavaliers teammate, this time with a very different partner in Dallas. Meanwhile, the Kings could get a chance at revenge against the Warriors, the team that eliminated them last year after a Cinderella regular season. None of these teams will be at their strongest in April, but based on all these possibilities, it’s highly unlikely that fans will mind.

Read more about:

Leave a comment

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

Listen to the uInterview Podcast!
Get the most-revealing celebrity conversations with the uInterview podcast!