The NBA’s Western Conference has been the more dominant conference for a long time, but the win-loss columns really show it this year. Here is the NBA Playoff picture for The West (part 2).
Be sure to check our other previews:
Eastern Conference (#4-1)
NBA Playoff Picture: The West (Part Two)
(4) Los Angeles Clippers
While we’re caught up watching the offensive onslaught of alley-oop connections, thunderous jams, crazy handles and sharp shooting, their pace is only middle-of-the-pack. This means the Clippers not only score a ton (6th in the league), but they’re also extremely efficient while doing it (top-5 offensive rating). Their defense is decent, but they do allow 104.5 points per game and if they have a cold shooting night, they could be in trouble.
They have six players averaging 12 or more points, but after that it drops off substantially and one of those six – Austin Rivers – is out indefinitely. Although, besides Rivers and Diamond Stone – who isn’t a contributor – the team is healthy.
Do I think they could make a run? Possibly. They should get past the first round against Utah, maybe get past the semis, but they’re not winning the whole thing.
I’m just not the biggest believer in the Clippers. They have the star-power, experience, a head coach who has won a title before and you have to respect 50 wins. But Golden State has eaten them this year and despite being 3-1 against the Spurs this season, the regular season never matters when it’s San Antonio.
The Clippers, in my opinion, are like the person who shows up to the dance, has a good time, but always leaves before it’s over.
(3) Houston Rockets
If any team is going to disprove the cliche “defense wins championships”, it’ll be this one.
Mike D’Antoni is an offensive-orientated coach, but run-and-gun and small-ball are his specialty and this roster is perfect for his system. The stats show it too, as the Rockets are ranked 2nd in points per game and offensive efficiency and they’re 3rd in pace.
James Harden’s offensive numbers are ridiculous, but he also has six other guys averaging double-digit points and three more averaging nine. However, with the exception of Ryan Anderson, this team doesn’t shoot the three as well as you’d expect, especially Harden who strokes it at 34.5 per cent.
Also, they’re defense isn’t good. They’re defensive rating is 17th in the league and they allow 109.5 points per game – although that’s more an inevitability of the fast pace they play with.
I think this team could actually cause problems like the mid-2000’s Suns teams did. But if they face a solid defensive team, who slows the pace down (*cough* Spurs *cough*) and can force the Rockets into taking jumpers, then Houston’s going to have a problem.
(2) San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs are in the playoffs, won their division and won over 60 games. In other news, water is wet.
The Spurs are always a threat to win, but this year especially.
Kawhi Leonard is a legitimate MVP candidate (while playing on the Spurs!) and deserves a third Defensive Player of the Year award. They have several guys who have also won in Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli, Danny Green and Patty Mills, plus future hall-of-famers in Pau Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge. And Pop.
They have the best defense in the league (1st in defensive rating, 2nd in points allowed) and can score the rock efficiently. The Spurs are also one of the slowest paced teams in the league, which is dangerous because it means they’ll slow teams down, stop them from scoring, but still score themselves. They’ll also be healthy when the playoffs start.
As I’ve said, the regular season means squat when it comes to the Spurs. What matters is they’re healthy, dangerous and the playoffs are when Pop lets the dogs loose. Unless they get a serious injury, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them raising the Larry O’Brien trophy again.
(1) Golden State Warriors
This could be the quietest 67-win season I’ve ever seen, but most of that was probably due to the 73-9 record from last year and the fact Kevin Durant signed with the team in free agency, so people probably saw it coming.
Bottom line: this is a dangerous team on both ends of the floor. They’re first in both points scored and offensive rating, which means they score the most and are the most efficient doing it. And despite allowing 104.3 points per game (11th in the NBA), they’re defense is actually extremely efficient (ranked 4th) – the points allowed comes more from the fast pace they play with.
They have a solid roster too. Stephen Curry – who still hit 324 three-pointers in what seemed like a “down year” – and Kevin Durant – a former MVP – are both averaging more than 25 pts. Klay Thompson is averaging 22.3 pts, Draymond Green averaged 10.2 pts, 7.9 reb and 7 ast and they have bench players like Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, who won a championship and know their roles.
The names I just listed have all been to an NBA Finals too, so the key guys of this team know what it takes to get there. Given how shaky the eastern conference is looking right now, GSW is a legitimate threat to win it all again and avenge blowing the 3-1 lead last year.
Ultimately, I see the Warriors facing the Spurs in the conference finals. I honestly don’t know who would come out on top there. All I know is it’ll be great entertainment and great basketball.
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