If you came here looking for predictions -- and I honestly don't know why you would think to find them here -- you're going to be disappointed. I weighed the benefits of trying to objectively assess the week of the season which once and for all determines what places the last few months will hold in our collective memory (nothing), vs. my ability to do so (seriously compromised), vs. the consequences of failing to do so (nothing) and decided, you know, let's just talk about it, huh?
The Dallas Mavericks play host to Utah, San Antonio and Phoenix this week, and Memphis next week. That means they play one of the worst teams in the NBA, one of the best, and the two teams that they are fundamentally tied with for the playoffs. I'm not saying the NBA IS rigged, but it's hard to believe that there's a universe where they didn't do this on purpose.
Right now, our Mavericks have half a game on Phoenix and a game and a half on Memphis. Without directly playing these guys, the most they can change that picture is half a game. Since it's pretty impossible to imagine anything other than 1-1 against Utah and SAS, well...you get the picture.
The Mavericks have the tiebreak against Memphis, having gone 3-0 against them this season. If they beat Phoenix, they'd have the tiebreak against them since they're 1-1 head-to-head at the moment. In other words, they are currently 4-1 against their main competition and obviously would deserve their playoff spot if they get it, despite how it has sometimes seemed (they've also won 60% of their games this season, despite how it has sometimes seemed).
But it also probably means that if they beat Memphis but lose to Phoenix, they might miss the playoffs, while if they beat Phoenix and lose to Memphis they probably don't. On the other hand, if Memphis drops a game they're not supposed to, it could be the case that the Mavs make it by winning either of the last two games and if the Mavs enter the last game still a game ahead of Memphis then...
But Phoenix and Memphis play each other, so.....
We also won't know what all is at stake till right there at the end, too. The Raptors and Chicago have both surprisingly gotten pretty close to the Mavericks recordwise. You'll remember that if the Mavs end up 21st or worse, they lose the pick to the Thunder, that the teams out of the playoffs get the first 14 picks, and that draft slots are thereafter determined by record among all of the playoff teams. Because at least four Eastern teams are going to finish with worst records than the Mavs that gets you to pick 18. In other words:
(1-14): teams that missed the playoffs
15-18: Atlanta, Charlotte, Washington, Brooklyn
Therefore the Mavs can only make the playoffs and keep their pick if they finish with a worse record than at least two of Memphis, Phoenix, Toronto, Chicago. If they finish 7th in the West, they need at least one of those Eastern teams to finish with a better record than them but it hardly seems possible they could both win enough to finish ahead of both of their nearest western competitors and lose enough to slip behind an Eastern team.
So, in short:
SAS: World Wide Domination
Phoenix: That Scary Clown from It
Memphis: The guy sitting next to you on the subway even though there's like 10 open seats