Pelicans? Grizz? Nuggets? Suns? Making sense of the historic logjam in the NBA's Western Conference

Could Zion Williamson (left) or Ja Morant lead their team to the Western Conference's No. 1 seed? Right now, the race is wide open. Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

As the NBA prepares to take center stage on Christmas Day, there's something missing in the Western Conference: a team with at least 20 wins.

This time a year ago, both the eventual champion Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns had 26 wins entering their Christmas showdown, and even the Utah Jazz were off to a 22-9 start.

This season, the Denver Nuggets and Memphis Grizzlies share the top spot in the West with 19-11 records. The New Orleans Pelicans -- tied for the conference lead as recently as Dec. 14 -- have dropped back to third after four consecutive losses.

Although Christmas hasn't always fallen at the same point on the NBA schedule, the lack of a dominant team in the West through 30 games is historically notable. The last time either conference had a team without at least 20 wins this deep in the season was 2006-07, and it had only happened once before in the West (1988-89) since the ABA-NBA merger in 1976-77.

What does the atypical parity mean for the West title race? And which team has the best chance of winning a wide-open conference? Let's break it down.

Handicapping a middle-heavy West