Western Conference Playoff Preview

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Odds to win the West Conference

There are 7 teams with 50 wins and the 8th seed has 49 wins. Every team is capable of winning one, if not two, series depending on the match ups, but what team has the best chance to get to the Finals?

Spurs – 3-1

The San Antonio Spurs have the NBA best record, which means home court advantage throughout the playoffs and though most people don’t have them as favorites to win a title, I, for one, do. They were a defensive rebound away from winning the NBA title last spring and I have a feeling the best coach of our generation won’t make the same mistake twice and bench the team’s all-time leading rebounder in the last 30 seconds.

The Spurs are a deep, balanced, talented, and veteran-laced team. They can go big or small; they play 9 guys and 6 of them average double figures while 2 others average 9. San Antonio can run their offense sets through 3 different players: Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili. They can spread the floor with shooters like Danny Green, Patty Mills and Marco Belinelli. The Spurs play defense as well – they have defensive stoppers in Boris Diaw and Kawhi Leonard, and Tiago Splitter takes up space in the middle. There is nothing not to like about this team and their chances to advance to the NBA Finals, except that they are in the Western Conference.

Thunder – 5-1
The Oklahoma City Thunder’s time as a young team on the rise is now over; they have made deep runs in the playoffs in previous years and last year they even took a step back and were eliminated in round two. It is put up or shut up time for young guns Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook to win an NBA title. The Thunder have the games’ best offensive player in Kevin Durant, who can get his shot at will and is pretty much un-guardable. But is Westbrook willing to take a back seat in crunch time and differ to KD? I, for one, believe Westbrook is not and the combo will never win a title together.

However, this team is too talented not to be one of the favorites to come out the West. OKC’s defense is anchored by one of the league’s best defensive big men in Serge Ibaka, along with wing stopper Thabo Sefolosha. They added veteran scorer and shooter Caron Butler at the trade deadline to help with the floor spacing and give them a third option on O. They have depth in their back court with Reggie Jackson and proven winner Derek Fischer. The Thunder’s only weakness might be coach Scott Brooks’ inability to reign in Westbrook’s shot selection, but if Mr. Durant becomes more assertive at the end of games and demands the ball, OKC’s chances to come out of the West only go up.

Rockets – 7-1

The Houston Rockets are the new kids on the crowded Western Conference block with the addition of Dwight Howard; they went from perennial lottery/ 8th seed to among the favorites to win the West.

The Rockets might not have a big three like the other favorites to win the NBA title, but they do have scoring punch and with the late season emergence of Terrence Jones, the Rockets have six guys that score in double figures. James Harden is an elite scorer. He might flop more than a Euro footie player, but he is second in the league in FTs made and has the guts to take the big shots. Chandler Parsons is one the best three point shooters in the game and Jeremy Lin adds a scoring punch off the bench. However, Dwight Howard is the key to the Rockets – if he can turn back the clock a few years and dominate on both ends of the floor, the Rockets have what it takes to represent the West in the Finals.

Clippers – 10-1

The Los Angeles Clippers are fun to watch. They get up and down the court. They go by the nickname “Lob City.” They lead the league in scoring averaging 107.9 a game. And can they play defense when it counts.

The Clippers have star power with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan is a force in the middle. Jamal Crawford adds a huge scoring punch off the bench, and JJ Reddick is a deadly three point shooter. Matt Barnes is tough defensively and is as physical as a player you will find in today’s NBA. LA is as deep as any team in the league with midseason acquisition of Danny Granger, and Glen Davis is already joining a strong bench of Darren Collison, Jared Dudley, and playoff vet Hedo Turkoglu. LA as everything you need to win a title but they are the Clippers. Maybe if this LA team was wearing purple and gold I would have a different feeling but I can’t make the Clippers favorites to win the West.

Warriors – 12-1

Golden State won 51 games and has one of the best scorers in the league in Stephen Curry. They also have one of the deepest sets of wing players in the league with Curry, Clay Thompson, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, and Harrison Barnes. The Warriors can spread you out and score but with the injury to Andrew Bogut, the Warriors will have trouble rebounding and defending enough to advance far in the West.

The keys will be veteran center Jermaine O’Neal and Barnes. Barnes was perhaps the break out star of last year’s playoffs averaging 16 and 6, but has fallen into coach Mark Jackson dog house. If Barnes can return to last years’ form, the Warriors have a shot to go far in the West.

Grizzlies – 20-1

Memphis might have hurt their playoff chances by gaining the 7th seed in the West and facing OKC over the Spurs. They seem to match up with the Spurs better than the Thunder, and have one of the best inside games in the league. The high post/low post combination of Marc Gasol and Zac Randolph is the league’s best.

The Grizzlies are also one of the best defensive teams in the league with top wing defenders Tony Allen and Tayshaun Prince to go along with point guard Mike Conley. Memphis’ main weakness is their lack of outside shooting, though Mike Miller seems to be coming on and has hit big shots with the Heat the last two championship runs. If the Grizz can keep the scores in the low 90’s, they have a chance to pull a few series upsets, but I don’t think they have enough shooting to make a deep run in the West.

Trail Blazers – 25-1

Portland won 54 games, and after a late season slump they finished strong winning their last 5 games. The Trail Blazers are led by the league’s most underrated player in LaMarcus Aldridge, and young up and coming PG Damon Lillard. Portland relies on their starters more than most teams, but backup guard Mo Williams will help in the playoffs.

The key for Portland will be emerging star Nicholas Batum; the 24 year old Frenchman averaged 13 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 5 assists a game. If Batum can give Portland a legit third option in the playoffs, I would not be shocked to see the Trail Blazers is the Western Conference Finals.

Mavs – 25-1

Dallas can score and shoot the basketball and they have this fella named Dirk Nowitzki who, at age 35, averaged 22 points a game on 50% shooting. If Dirk can turn back the clock to 2011, Dallas can perhaps advance a few rounds.

The problem with the Mavericks is they don’t defend well, especially when Jose Calderon is in the game. Calderon has become a one dimensional spot up shooter. The Mavs also have a coaching problem. Rick Carlisle is an overrated coach who I rank in the bottom third of the league. Carlisle continues to limit both Devin Harris and Brendan Wright’s minutes when it is obvious to any basketball fan that the Mavs are a better team when those two are on the floor.

Monte Ellis can get hot and carry them to one or two wins,and the Mavs have vets Vince Carter and Shawn Marion. But Dallas is 0 for their last 9 against the Spurs and a sweep looks inevitable.

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