Sacramento Kings coach George Karl said the New Orleans Pelicans should be in the NBA playoffs.
That would happen, he said, if the league moved into modern times in how it determines its playoff teams.
With the Eastern Conference going through yet another season in which teams with losing records will make the playoffs, Karl said it’s time for the league to go with the 16 teams with the best records, regardless of conference, in determining playoff berths.
“I think we always did the East-West thing because of travel (with commercial flights),” he said. “Now we have charters, and the way the playoffs are scheduled, I think it is going to be fairly easy to travel, even if you could get an East-West situation or a Texas-Portland situation in the first, second or third round.”
Obviously, the playoff teams remain the top eight squads in each conference. In its final six regular-season games, New Orleans will host Golden State, Phoenix and San Antonio and visit Memphis, Houston and Minnesota. Entering Saturday, those teams had a combined record of 270-185 for a 59.3 winning percentage.
The final six games for the Oklahoma City Thunder, which the Pelicans are battling for the final Western Conference playoff spot, are vs. Houston, San Antonio, Sacramento and Portland and at Indiana and Minnesota, which are a combined 226-228 (49.8).
Pelicans guard/forward Quincy Pondexter said he wouldn’t change how playoff teams are determined.
“Miami won championships when the East had more losing teams,” he said. “And in a few years, the Western Conference may be down and East teams more competitive.
“In the end, the best team will win the championship, and that’s what it’s about.”
Heading into Saturday’s games, Southwest Division teams were 206-103 (.667) against the rest of the NBA, the best winning percentage in the current divisional format since the 2004-05 season, according to statistician Tommy Cooper.
“It’s the best division in all of pro sports,” Memphis coach Dave Joerger said.
And if the Pelicans make the playoffs with a winning record, it will mark the first time in NBA history that all five teams in a division made the postseason above .500. In the 2005-06 season, the Central Division was the first to qualify all five teams for the playoffs.
Coming up short
Last season, Pelicans backup point guard Brian Roberts qualified for the free-throw percentage title with his 124th and 125th made foul shots in the season’s final game.
It appeared reserve forward Luke Babbitt, who leads the league with a 51.3 3-point shooting percentage, may have had a chance for a similar achievement. Heading into the final 12 games, Babbitt needed to make 24 3-pointers to win the percentage title.
But in the five games before Saturday’s matchup in Portland, he made just one — in his only attempt vs. Minnesota.
Coach Monty Williams said Babbitt’s 3-point shooting has been valuable, particularly with Ryan Anderson out injured from Feb. 21 to April 1.
“He spaces the floor, opening shots for his teammates, and he’s shot the ball well,” Williams said. “He’s really worked at it. I wish he would shoot them more.”
Babbitt has made 59 of 115 shots and needs to make 82 to qualify. Atlanta’s Kyle Korver, who led the league for most of the season at more than 50 percent, is second to Babbitt at 49.6 percent (205 of 413).