The Western Conference is obviously the better conference in the NBA. The West has two teams that have 60 plus wins but the Eastern Conference is the conference with the defending Champions that will loom over the playoffs as the games go on. Here is the western conference team by team playoff preview.
1. Golden State
They are the best team in terms of starting five on paper. With two MVP players(Kevin Durant and Steph Curry) and pieces like Klay Thompson and Draymond Green they will be a tough out. The west has improved in terms of competing with them but they are still the favorites to come out on top after their biggest threat in Durant joined them in the offseason this past year.
2. San Antonio
The Spurs are the biggest threat to the Warriors because are the only ones that has been any threat to the #1 seed. They are the only other 60 win team in the entire league and they have beat the Warriors twice which is something that would give them a ton of confidence. The Spurs operate like a well oiled machine, as they are superiorly coached and well poised at all times. A western conference finals matchup with the Warriors would be ideal but both teams would need to win their their first two series before possibly meeting in the Western Conference Finals.
The Rockets ability to shoot the three will make them able to stay in any game. They have the record for the most threes in a season and they have an MVP candidate in James Harden controlling the point guard spot. Unsurprisingly James Harden has flourished in an D’ Antoni system and he leads the league in assists. Having a superstar can help your team take their chances to the next level because if they get hot then your team will be able make a deep run. Houston will be scary come playoff time if Harden continues to get the most out of his supporting cast.
4. Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers just can’t get right. last year they were poised to make the semi-finals but Chris Paul and Blake Griffin went down with injuries that ended their season prematurely. If there is an early playoff exit again this season, the organization may have to make some changes as both Chris and Blake are approaching free agency. The Clippers have turned their reputation around and they have taken great steps forward but there hasn’t been any rings to come from such success since the team’s core has been together. They will meet the Jazz in a 4/5 match up. With CP3’s losing habits in the playoffs, pressure will be high for him to stay healthy and at least make it to the conference finals, which would be the first time in his career. As always health and execution are the biggest factors for the Clippers.
The Jazz have always been that on the cusp of making noise team in the Western Conference but this year they took a step even further as they shot all the way up in the standings to the 5th seed. They are dead even with the Clippers right now for a 4th spot which would give them home court advantage in the first round if they do get it. With one game remaining in the regular season, the Clippers own the tie breaker over them if they both tie at the end of the season. Gordon Hayward has stepped up his play in recent years, and he made his first all star game this season. He will be a free agent this summer and is due up for quite a handsome pay day. With young pieces and a mix of veterans and a star in Hayward, the Jazz is a team on the rise. A first round victory is definitely possible, but their deep roster has the potential to take them even further. Consider yourself warned NOW.
6. Oklahoma City
After losing their team’s leading scorer and former league MVP in Kevin Durant, who knew that The OKC Thunder would even be talking playoffs? With leading MVP candidate, Russell Westbrook doing everything but fixing the kitchen sink, the Thunder appear to always have a fighting chance. They are 33-9 when their leader goes for a triple double and 13-25 when he does not. The pieces that the Thunder have in Kanter, Adams and Oladipo they could make things very interesting if they show up. They will be meeting Houston in a first round matchup that features two former teammates, now leading MVP candidates. The Rockets won the season series against OKC but with the backyard dog mentality in Russell Westbrook, you can bet your top dollar that Thunder will not go down without a fight.
Memphis is a team that does not get a lot of recognition in the media and nobody ever expects them to get too far in the post season. Their gritty and scrappy play makes them fly under the radar each year, but their play and toughness is what makes them always a threat. Unfortunately their lack of shooting is what usually shoots them in the foot. This is yet another year where they will be entering the post season having not addressed this deficiency. The Grizzlies play hard nose basketball for 48 minutes, and their frontline in Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph is one of the toughest in the league. They pride themselves on the defensive end, as Tony Allen is a player that will routinely help keep the other team’s best wing player in check. With Randolph and Gasol down low and Conley running the point they will compete and try and give the team in front of them headaches.
Thank God for Russell Westbrook, as his last second dagger against Denver solidified Portland’s ticket to the 2017 post season. Portland has Damien Lillard and that makes them a threat to even the Warriors. Lillard can get hot at anytime and he can have a breakout game at anytime. The Blazers are young but their pieces are battle tested and they have been in big games. CJ McCollum is a headache for opposing defenses and though it is not likely that they will grab 4 games from Golden State, it is not unlikely that they can make games interesting.
What are your thoughts? Do you see any “upsets” happening out west?