The NBA playoffs may still be a month away, but even with so much time left on the schedule, some of the league's worst teams already know that they won't be invited. On Thursday, the San Antonio Spurs, currently seeded No. 10 in the Western Conference, defeated the Detroit Pistons, 106-91. That victory officially eliminated the Minnesota Timberwolves and Houston Rockets from postseason contention.
The Spurs have now won 29 games. Minnesota has won 16, but has played 60 total games. That means that the Timberwolves have only 12 remaining, and can therefore only get up to 28 wins even if they go undefeated the rest of the way. The Rockets have 13 games remaining, but have won only 15 games, so the same math applies. They are capped at 28 wins, and 10 Western Conference teams have already topped that.
Being eliminated so early isn't particularly disappointing to the Rockets or Timberwolves, though. Both of them need to lose as many games as possible for the sake of their draft pick. If the Timberwolves don't land a top-three pick, their selection goes to the Golden State Warriors thanks to the D'Angelo Russell trade. If the Rockets don't land in the top four, Oklahoma City earns the right to swap Miami's first-round pick, currently slated for the teens, with Houston's, which will be far higher. If Minnesota keeps its pick this year, it gives the Warriors its unprotected pick next year, whereas this particular obligation for Houston evaporates after the season.
Still, it's never easy to know that your season is over with so many games left. Now, their players can only use this time as a chance to improve and audition for roles next season.