Basketball is my favorite sport to watch. I love the fast paced nature of the sport, the way 1 player can make a difference, the intense strategy, both in the playbooks and how coaches play their guys, and the insane displays of athleticism. I also like how there are only 12 guys to keep track of on each team, making it easier to break teams down. Shortened season and trade conspiracies aside, I do love this league and the sport itself. So with the craziest offseason I can remember almost behind us, I decided to make some predictions. I will rank the Top 8 teams from each conference (one for each playoff spot). I focused on the Eastern Conference yesterday and the Western Conference today.
1.) Oklahoma City Thunder– The Thunder will take the top seed in the West due to their great, young team, as well as the compressed schedule. The majority of the contenders in the West are old and slow, and the Thunder should be able to do well against them.
2.) Los Angeles Clippers– “Lob City” will for sure be fun to watch, and I love that the Clippers have out-shined the Lakers in the offseason. The answer for the Clippers is also the biggest question mark, as Chris Paul isn’t known to have great knees, and the Clippers aren’t known to have great luck.
3.) Dallas Mavericks– The Mavs lost a great emotional leader on defense in Tyson Chandler, as well as sparks off the bench with J.J. Barea and Peja. The addition of Lamar Odom is a great, offensive one, but Mark Cuban’s unwillingness to spend money could cost the Mavs back-to-back titles.
4.) San Antonio Spurs– I know, I’m a homer, but I really think the Spurs can make it out of the compressed season, even though they’re old, with a top seed. The core of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili is still intact, and the additions of T.J. Ford and Kawhi Leonard will be great.
5.) Los Angeles Lakers– The Lakers are now a team with a bunch of question marks, not the least of which is Kobe Bryant’s wrist injury. I think they will still do well because Mike Brown is a great coach, and Kobe can still will out wins.
6.) Memphis Grizzlies– This young team was really the story of the postseason last year, beating the Spurs in 7 games as an 8 seed. I expect the youth of the team to have grown a bit, and can see them getting just as far this postseason.
7.) Portland Trail Blazers– The Blazers are another young team that I think will shine in a compressed season. Jamal Crawford doesn’t replace Brandon Roy, but LaMarcus Aldridge and Co. will be an exciting team to watch.
8.) Houston Rockets– The Rockets have a good nucleus, with Kevin Martin leading the charge. They are a very young team, with only one player over 30 (Luis Scola) and in a compressed season that could be an advantage for them.
Who do you think makes the playoffs in the West?