The wild wild West. To be the “Best of the West” in the NBA usually means you’re the best team in the league, even if your record doesn’t show it. I say this because year in and year out the Western Conference has 10 playoff teams at least and only 8 make it. The number 4 seed in the west can be as good as the number 2 seed in the East (record wise.) So with that being said here is my take on how the West will play out this season:
1. Oklahoma City Thunder
Many believed the young guns fell behind this offseason as their number one enemy the Los Angeles Lakers acquired Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. But if anything they did the right thing and got better by sticking together. Drafting F Perry Jones III who was once deemed a Lottery Pick, has all the talent in the world with a 6′ 10″ athletic frame that doesn’t grow on trees, with growth he can to be a strong contributor on already a strong team. Eric Maynor who played the backup PG (important role on this team) is healthy and ready to play again as well. Notice how I didn’t mention Harden, Durant, Ibaka or Westbrook? Their play needs no introduction or explanation.
2. Denver Nuggets
Surprised? The addition of Andre Iguodola shouldn’t shock you that now this team can compete with anyone in the NBA. Center JaVale McGee has all the potential to be one of if not the best in the league that day. That’s a bold statement, but his ability to get a double-double just by putbacks says all that needs to be said. Ty Lawson is the most underrated PG in a league dominated by Rondo, Rose and Westbrook. Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and Kenneth Faried are three young players talented to take this team far. The only thing that may plague this team is no go-to-guy that is necessary it seems these days to be called a NBA Champion. For George Karl and the gang, they’ll take it as a blessing.
3. Los Angeles Lakers
All the hype. All the talent. Too old? Possibly. But seldom will I bet against a team that features Steve Nash, Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant in their starting lineup. Wow. LA’s starting 5 matches up with Miami’s and then some, who will stop the deadly combo of Dwight and Nash? Who will have the man power to worry about Kobe and Pau and Dwight? These team on the outside looks unfair and should be in a league of their own. One minor detail. Pau, Metta, Kobe and Nash are all on the wrong side of father time and cannot play 40 minutes a night. With a bench that wouldn’t get noticed on the courts of Santa Monica much less the courts of the NBA, worries me that this team will have struggles trying to find guys to come off the bench. Jordan Hill, Antwan Jamison and Steve Blake will be the most steady contributors but look for PG Darius Johnson-Odom out of Marquette to be a pleasant surprise for a team lacking support.
4. San Antonio Spurs
Seriously when will these guys just give it up already!!! The most respected franchise in the NBA and for good reason. The leagues best in-game coach Gregg Popovich has done it year in and year out with a roster that has been called old and obsolete before every season for the past 5 years. Timmay, Manu and Tony are now all older than 30. But young guys like Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Tiago Splitter will have to carry this team on an individual basis more often as Pop will likely have to sit the old fellas a little bit more this year. Still don’t bet against these guys.
5. Los Angeles Clippers
Lob City is back. CP3, Blake and Diandre Jordan all have a year together under their belts and now it’s go time. The Clippers are a team to be reckoned with in the West, they have the potential for enough offense to put up the most points in the league. Jamaal Crawford, Grant Hill, Caron Butler, Eric Bledsoe, Chauncey Billups and a reinvented Lamar Odom is more than enough to outscore teams, but when it comes down to a big defensive stop…expect this team to be a revolving door in crunch time.
6. Minnesota Timberwolves
With Ricky Rubio this team is on the rise. This team can be the next OKC. Kevin Love is the best PF in the league, and the most diverse player. They are still young and in the toughest division out West but this team is without a doubt on the rise. 2nd overall pick Derrick Williams is in his second year looking to improve off a solid rookie campaign. But the key here is Rubio. If he can play half the season this team will land as the 6th seed, if he plays less, Timberwolves will once again be fighting for their playoff lives.
7. Utah Jazz
It seems like the Jazz have been rebuilding ever since the departure of Boozer and Williams, or even Stockton and Malone. Still this team largely under the age of thirty and has plenty of young talent to go along with Center Al Jefferson. Paul Millsap has emerged as the leader of this team and their strong front court. Millsap, Jefferson, Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors feature one of the deepest front courts out West, who is going to run the offense is the real question. Sharpshooter Alec Burks, Mo Williams and Randy Foye will look to control the O. This team is young and not as talented as everyone else, but the Jazz are getting back to their old identity, Strong guard and front court play.
8. New Orleans Hornets
Your first reaction: Why? My answer, Why not? Yeah this team hasn’t had any success or fans it seems since Chris Paul left, but all it takes is two quality draft picks including the #1 overall pick to jump-start a team to the playoffs. Anthony Davis has talent this league has never seen before. He can get a double-double with out scoring a point, on a nightly basis. Ok that’s pushing it but still he blocks opponents better than anyone coming out of college…in the past 10 years. He has a young point guard in Austin Rivers who is not afraid to take the big shot or put the team on his back and score their way to victory. They acquired Ryan Anderson who lead the league in 3pt shooting a season ago, not to mention proven scorer Eric Gordon who is an all-star caliber player. The Hornets are young and naive, but sometimes that’s the perfect formula for a young playoff team, plus New Orleans could use a winning team this season (cough cough Saints) Who Dat!
Sleeper: Golden State Warriors
Steph Curry has got the tools to become another great point guard in a league full of them, Harrison Barnes is the most NBA ready player out of this years draft. Andrew Bogut when healthy is a top 5 center in the league. Carl Landry and David Lee supply frontcourt scoring the Warriors have lacked for a decade, wingmen Brandon Rush, Klay Thompson and Richard Jefferson will run wild in the run and gun offense. Watch out for a guy that has been overlooked for his whole life, Draymond Green, works hard, plays hard and is a do-it-all man who builds character throughout the team. I like this team a lot going forward, then again right now, who would bet against a Bay area magic right now?
It’s called the wild wild West for a reason, every team is in it and it seems that the 6,7 and 8 seeds are always decided on the last day of the season. But this year I would be shocked if the Lakers or the Thunder didn’t come out of the West to face (most likely) the Heat. LA is buzzing about their basketball again, and when LA is like this, don’t bet against Kobe.