3 Teams standing in the way of the Spurs returning to the playoffs this season

Kyrie Irving, Keldon Johnson
Kyrie Irving, Keldon Johnson / Tim Heitman/GettyImages
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1.) Dallas Mavericks

It's still hard to believe that a team including top-5 player Luka Doncic and eight-time all-star Kyrie Irving, missed the play-in tournament, but it happened. Assuming history doesn't repeat itself, Dallas should make the playoffs next season after getting better this summer, but perhaps as a low seed. With at least five teams projected to be better than them, they could finish sixth or worse in the West, putting them in range for a spot in the play-in tournament.

The Spurs are unlikely to finish with a better record than their archrivals. But, given how close the playoff race was in the West last season, Dallas is likely to push one of those top 10 teams down in the standings. That would create even more competition for the last spot in the play-in tournament. Assuming that Damian Lillard is traded, only the Portland Trail Blazers project to tank next season, while teams such as the Spurs, Houston Rockets, and Utah Jazz all got better.

Inevitably, one of those teams could opt to drop out of the play-in race, possibly even the Spurs. But with as many as 14 teams competing and six spots spoken for, San Antonio will have to exceed expectations to make it and could partly have Dallas to thank for that.


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