We are one month and one day away from the end of the 2016-17 NBA regular season, and the championship picture is much muddier than anyone could have imagined.
Instead of the inevitability of a Warriors-Cavaliers rematch, a hefty handful of squads have a shot to make it to the Finals — yet there are still a number of teams whose seasons are all but over.
So from playoff also-rans to lottery hopefuls, here's what each NBA squad is playing for the rest of this season.
Atlanta Hawks: To prove Dwight Howard has anything left in the tank
The artist formerly known as Superman peaked in December when he was playing like his old Orlando self — and it's been all downhill from there. It doesn't help that Atlanta keeps trying to post him up, playing into Howard's own worst habits.
Still, with two years left on his deal, he's not going anywhere soon. The Hawks will need to decide how big a role Howard will play for them moving forward.
Jason GetzJason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Oklahoma City Thunder: Russell Westbrook's shot at history (and the MVP)
Westbrook's MVP case is academic: match Oscar Robertson as the only players in NBA history to average a triple-double for a full season, and he has a shot. Fall short of that milestone, and it's case closed.
So we expect the Thunder to do everything they can to get Westbrook his rightful place in the NBA record books — because his triple-double performances are usually the best way for OKC to get a win.
Memphis Grizzlies: Enjoying the (possible) end of "Grit 'N' Grind"
Zach Randolph's contract is up at the end of the year. So is Tony Allen's. Vince Carter could decide to call it quits now that he's in his 40s.
This might be the last hurrah for the Grizzlies as we know them, and everyone should enjoy the ride.
Indiana Pacers: Not losing Paul George next summer
Every loss, every bit of frustration in Indiana is another little nudge toward George bolting in the summer of 2018. If the Pacers can string together a solid final month, on the other hand, maybe they can convince PG-13 the Eastern Conference is a much better place to be than Los Angeles.
Detroit Pistons: Stan Van Gundy's mental well being
Van Gundy doesn't exactly seem enthralled with his current squad; moreover, he hasn't won a playoff game since 2012 or been out of the first round since 2010.
The latter won't change this year, but the former might. In order to get that postseason victory, however, the Pistons will need to avoid another series against Lebron James' Cavaliers. The King has a vendetta against Tobias Harris, and Detroit pays the price.
Milwaukee Bucks: Getting ready for Jabari Parker's return
Despite their record, the Bucks are one of the most impressive teams of this season. They've stayed afloat in the playoff race despite injuries to several key players, with Parker's knee injury the most recent.
Assuming Milwaukee manages to keep on keeping on through April, it should have a nice system in place when Parker is ready to return next season. After that, the sky is the limit for this young squad.
Dale ZanineDale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Chicago Bulls: A first-round date with LeBron and the Cavs
Dwyane Wade's not delusional enough to think the Bulls can beat Cleveland — or anyone else — in the postseason. So why not have some fun squaring up with an old friend in a one-seed vs. eight-seed matchup? All Chicago needs to do is fend off Miami for the final spot in the East.
Speaking of the Heat ...
Miami Heat: Sabotaging their future, but so what?
Two months ago, the Heat seemed destined for a tank job and a potential top-three draft pick. Now, Miami is on the cusp of a shocking playoff berth, and there's no chance we're going to criticize Erik Spoelstra's squad for the turnaround.
Denver Nuggets: Figuring out how to build around Nikola Jokic
Forget point guards and 3-point shooting wings. Having a franchise center is suddenly back in style in the NBA, and the Nuggets have a great one in Jokic. The more Denver can figure out which players fit best around the 22-year-old, the better off it'll be.
Charlotte Hornets: Preventing Michael Jordan from meddling
His Airness has managed to let his basketball people do their jobs to this point. With the Hornets' recent free fall out of playoff contention and Charlotte's overall lack of growth recently, you have to wonder if Jordan will get the urge to make sweeping changes — unless his team can turn things around to close out the season.
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Portland Trail Blazers: Not wasting another stellar season from Damian Lillard
Lillard's posted a career season in 2016-17, and no one is talking about it because the Blazers are fringe playoff contenders at best. If Portland misses the postseason after Lillard was an All-Star snub yet again, the man might unleash some of the most hellacious bars we've ever heard this summer.
Dallas Mavericks: Dirk Nowitzki's pride
Rationally, the Mavs would be better off with a lottery pick than sneaking into the postseason, but come on. Nowitzki's career has a little more than a full season left. Let the Big German win as many games as possible and earn a playoff berth this season. He deserves it.
The result? We'll let Towns explain: "Me and Wigg were talking the other day about how sometimes we're moving and we don't even realize we're moving to the right spot without thinking," Towns said. "It's just our bodies are doing it for us."
New York Knicks: Luring Chris Paul to the Big Apple
CP3 in a Knicks uniform is an absolute pipe dream — and New York should chase that tiny sliver of hope until he signs his new contract this offseason.
To be clear, Paul can become a free agent after this season, and he'll absolutely exercise that option. He'll probably turn around and sign a massive $200 million extension with the Clippers, too.
But if he's sick of failing with Blake Griffin in Los Angeles, maybe he'll decide to team up with Carmelo Anthony in New York. If so, the Knicks' courtship begins now with their play on the court.
They don't have to become playoff contenders overnight, but a superstar like Paul needs to know there's a chance he could turn the Knicks around.
Sacramento Kings: Turning Buddy Hield into the next Steph Curry
Vivek Ranadive honestly and truly believes Hield is the same type of player as the two-time MVP, so the Kings should embrace that ridiculous notion. The sooner they can disprove the Hield Hypothesis, the sooner they can get back to the drawing board and try to become a respectable organization once again.
New Orleans Pelicans: Seeing if DeMarcus Cousins makes any sense on this roster
One of three things is going to happen in New Orleans:
1.) Things will click for Cousins and Anthony Davis on offense, and next season will be hell for the rest of the NBA.
2.) Things won't click, and the Pelicans will decide coach Alvin Gentry is the problem, likely leading to his termination next season.
3.) Everyone will realize this was a bad idea, and Cousins will sign elsewhere this offseason.
The clock is ticking in the Big Easy.
Orlando Magic: Moving forward after some major mistakes
Orlando made a mistake in trading for Serge Ibaka this past offseason. Ibaka's a great player, but his presence messed with Aaron Gordon's development and surprisingly affected the Magic's attempts to establish a defensive identity. (Bismack Biyombo hasn't helped much, either).
Since sending Ibaka to Toronto at the trade deadline, though, this young team finally seems to have a plan: out-hustle teams, get out in transition, and leverage athleticism to make up for a lack of shooting. Here's hoping Orlando can keep it up for more than a week at a time — say, maybe, a whole month?
Philadelphia 76ers: Showcasing Jahlil Okafor, one way or the other
Whether he's a potential franchise cornerstone or the least appetizing trade bait in recent memory, Okafor is all that's left of The Process this season. Now's the time for Philly to see what it has in the polarizing young big man.
Feed Okafor like he's guilty of the sin of gluttony in the movie Seven, Brett Brown. Feed him!
Eric HartlineEric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Phoenix Suns: Ruining the Lakers' future
As a team with zero championships in its history, Phoenix's biggest moments involve the downfall of Los Angeles, which makes sense. The Suns are the little brother to the older, more successful, more attractive, funnier, smarter Lakers.
Beating Magic Johnson's team for the second-worst record in the NBA (behind the Brooklyn Nets, of course) and helping to cost the Lakers theirs would make this entire season a win for Suns fans.
Los Angeles Lakers: Auditioning for Magic Johnson
Anything is possible in Los Angeles these days — for better and for worse.
Magic (and GM Rob Pelinka) will keep a close eye on D'Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, and the rest of the young Lakers. And if they're not playing up to expectations, more change could be on the horizon in L.A.
Brooklyn Nets: The majesty of Brook Lopez
With Brooklyn's lottery pick headed to the Celtics in a swap of selections, the only thing the Nets have to play for these days is the sweet, sweet glory of Bropez 3-pointers.
No, we're not kidding. That's where this franchise is these days.