NBA Western Conference Standings: Who Are The Early 'Bubble' Teams

Four weeks into the NBA season and the Western Conference Playoff race is starting to make some sense. Actually, it makes no sense whatsoever, but we certainly know a LOT more about which eight teams will be in the playoffs and which seven teams will be in the lottery when the season comes to a close.

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The playoff teams currently, according to the standings, are about what you might expect with some exceptions. No one thought the New Orleans Hornets would be this good. Not Chris Paul. Not even Chris Paul's mother. But there they are at the top with the big boys and their 11-2 record.

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Will Paul be able to keep the Hornets playing this well as the season grinds on? We'll see about that, but it certainly looks like they are well on their way to one of the eight seats around the big table and since they were on the outside of the party looking in, that means someone's got to go.

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With a 7-7 record, that's the Phoenix Suns right now, sitting in ninth place just half a game back from the Denver Nuggets.

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The other surprise team is the anti-Hornets. The Houston Rockets were widely picked as a 50-plus win team, but they're 3-10 and yet another foot injury to Yao Ming has us wondering if they aren't destined for another disappointing season.

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Right now, it looks an awful lot like there's six teams that are well on their way to playoff goodness (LAL, SAS, UTH, OKC, DAL, NOH) and five teams destined to try their luck at the lottery (GSW, SAC, MIN, MEM, LAC).

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That gives us a set of four bubble teams (PHX, DEN, HOU, POR) that should provide an entertaining regular season as they erratically and often irrationally alternate between winning and losing games. Of those four, Suns fans should feel fairly confident in being one of the two survivors. 

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The Nuggets right now define unpredictable, but they are very likely to be trading away Carmelo Anthony and perhaps even Chauncey Billups. If they do, they will have thrown in the towel on this season and started the rebuild process. 

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The Rockets can't count on Yao being healthy, but they are still a much better team than their 3-10 record indicates. It wouldn't surprise me if they are the other survivor.

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The Trail Blazers seem doomed to injury hell. Obviously, their season all comes down to the health of Brandon Roy's knees and while recent signs are positive that he'll be able to keep playing, it's hard to imaging him being the same dominant guard that we've seen. Without Roy and with no Oden, they will still be good enough defensively to win some games, but very well could get edged out of the playoffs. 

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