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Former NBA star Kevin Martin sees five teams slugging it out for last West playoff spot at homestretch

Kevin Martin wants to see Sacramento back in the NBA playoffs, but the reported DeMarcus Cousins trade could derail it.
By Ivan Saldajeno

PASIG--The race for the last spot in the Western Conference playoffs has never been this tight, at least in recent memory.

Entering the All-Star break, the last-placed team in the conference, Phoenix, is just 7.5 games behind eighth-placed Denver, and with the latter somehow inconsistent so far this season, the West wildcard race can still shake up significantly.

For former NBA star Kevin Martin, however, it may just boil down to the Nuggets and those who are closely behind them.

"I feel like there are five teams that are legit to get that spot," said the recently-retired wingman, who starred for Sacramento and Minnesota, two teams that are actually at a very close distance from Denver in the standings, to some sportswriters during the NBA All-Star Game Viewing Party at the Buffalo Wild Wings Capitol Commons Branch on Monday.

For the six-foot-seven shooter, whose career bloomed as a King, he would love to see the Golden 1 Center open for the postseason.

"It would be nice to see Sacramento back in the playoffs. I remember the memories of playing in the ARCO Arena (the team's former home) when we did play the [San Antonio] Spurs and also the [Seattle] Supersonics (now the Oklahoma City Thunder, where he played for the 2013 season) with Ray Allen. There was amazing atmosphere, so hopefully they could get their franchise back there," Martin recalled his playoff experience with the league's oldest franchise.

However, the Kings, who are in ninth place and 1.5 games behind the Nuggets, may have to complete the playoff chase without their star center DeMarcus Cousins.

Multiple reports later Monday, or barely an hour after the All-Star Game won by the West was finished, surfaced that Cousins is set to be shipped to the New Orleans Pelicans with Omri Casspi for Tyreke Evans, who as originally drafted by the Kings, last year's sixth overall pick Buddy Hield, and Langston Galloway and the Kings' first and second round picks this year.

Once made official, Cousins will team up with eventual All-Star Game MVP Anthony Davis in what could be a deadly big man combo that could be of a huge help in New Orleans' own playoff bid.

The Pels are 2.5 games behind the Nuggets--and a full game behind the Kings--for eighth place.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno
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