The Western conference has been significantly better than the East in the past five years. I’m not trying to take anything away from Lebron and his seven straight finals appearances but he really hasn’t had to beat anyone to get there. As good as the West is, it comes with some faults. You have high paced offenses with poor defenses, and their bottom level teams are usually really bad. They also include the Utah Jazz.
Anyway, I’m not ready to hand the West to the Warriors just yet, I need to see if they mesh well together or if this is a trainwreck waiting to happen. I would like for KD to get a ring, but it still wouldn’t feel right with this team and without Russ by his side.
Golden State Warriors
The Warriors look like your franchise team on 2k when you turn salary cap and trade restrictions off. Their starting four is unfair, yeah Zaza Pachulia doesn’t count, he’s only there to take up space. Stephen Curry, even though he had a tough finals, is still the greatest shooter of all time and the reigning MVP. He didn’t get worse. Klay Thompson is still the second best 3-point shooter in the league. Kevin Durant is still the best scorer in the league and can score on anyone, yes that means Lebron. Draymond is still the best dick kicker in the league and he will punt anyone’s genitals. Jokes aside, Draymond is the Warriors only physical guy who can hold his own against the top post players in the league. The Warriors lost their two rim protectors in Bogut and Ezeli, and some bench scoring with Barbosa and Mo Speights leaving. It will be interesting to see if the team is as good as everyone thinks they will be, but in the West I see their only real competition being the Spurs and the Clippers. They will likely make the finals to get a rematch with the Cavs. I think the whole world wants to see that finals matchup, only because we haven’t seen a Finals rivalry like this in a long time.
San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs lost their cornerstone in Tim Duncan, but it was time for Timmy to retire. They still have Manu and Tony Parker,but as they get older their impact on the game decreases. However, Manu and TP both have play styles that are skill based and they don’t rely on athleticism as much, so they will still provide some scoring and playmaking ability for the Spurs. I want this year to be Kawhi Leonard’s year. I think this is his breakout season where he could score 25 PPG. He has the capability to do it, I just don’t know if the Spurs offense would allow him to do so. Lamarcus Aldridge will fit in better this year without Tim being their. For the Spurs to succeed they need LA to score efficiently and rebound the basketball. The Spurs signed Pau Gasol in free agency, which I love. Pau’s play style fits the Spurs perfectly. He’s had a slow start to this year, but Pau averaged a double-double last season while providing 4 assists per game. He could be the X-factor for this team. Coach Popovich already has the quote of the year by telling Steve Kerr (Golden State’s coach) to “go urinate in a bucket.” Coach Pop has a good bench this year with Patty Mills, Manu, and Jonathon Simmons. Simmons posted 20 points and a sick block on Steph in their opening blowout win against the Warriors. The Spurs will compete for the top seed in the West, and I see them facing the Warriors in the Western conference finals.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers are one of the most underachieving teams when it comes to playoff time. They have yet to make it to a conference finals and it seems like they have a different excuse every year. Their roster has been loaded with talent since Doc Rivers took over as head coach and not making at least one conference final should be noted as a failure to that organization. Chris Paul is one of the most consistent point guards and he is probably the best distributer in the league. Chris Paul is going to average around 18 points and 10 assists a game. That’s almost a guarantee. When Blake Griffin plays well he is the best power forward in the league. Deandre Jordan is one of the best rim protectors, and can basically fly. He can’t shoot free throws for shit which keeps him out of close games. The Clippers bench is loaded and they have a handful of very good shooters. I would like to see the Clippers make a conference finals but it seems like the Warriors just always blow them out. LA will win 50+ games and get the third or fourth seed in the West.
The Rockets organization could have tried to improve on their teams weakest area, defense. Instead, they hired Mike D’antoni, signed Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon, and basically said “who needs defense when you can score 120 a night.” The Rockets defense is going to be atrocious, but they will be very fun to watch. In the D’antoni offense James Harden will put up monster numbers. He could average a double-double and if the Rockets have a decent year, he could be your MVP. Houston is really confident about their young, big man Clint Capela. The coaches actually preferred him over Dwight last year and that is why they pushed Dwight out of town. Capela plays hard and runs the floor well. A Harden/Capela pick n’ roll will likely end in a Harden euro step, flailing lay up or a Capela slam off an alley-oop. Houston could end up with a decent record or the D’antoni experiment could fail horribly.
The Grizzlies have the highest paid player ever, Mike Conley. Do you think Conley might feel a little pressure to perform at a high level every night because his yearly salary is almost 27 million? Memphis has a similar roster to last year’s team, which got swept by the Spurs in the first round. They still have Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph so their inside presence will be strong. They got Chandler Parsons from Dallas, but he has had injury issues in the past and he is also inconsistent. I’m not crazy about the Grizzlies, they’re pretty boring and should probably be in the Eastern Conference. They’d be lucky to get a 4 or 5 seed.
Dolla Dame Lillard is fun to watch but he can’t play defense at all. If he scores 50, the other teams point guard will probably have at least 40. Lillard and CJ Mccollum make for a deadly scoring duo. Lillard is also a hungry superstar who plays with a chip on his shoulder every night. Those are the kinds of guys I like to watch. The Blazers also signed Evan Turner and got Festus Ezeli. Turner will provide another scoring option on the wing and Ezeli will have a much bigger role than he did in Oakland. Blazers are young, and might be a couple years away from making some real noise in the West, but only if Lillard stays with the organization
Oklahoma City Thunder
My MVP pick for the season is Russell Westbrook. Westbrook is going to play even more pissed off than he usually does this year. Now, he doesn’t have to worry about KD bitching about him taking 25 shots a night. He’s going to go absolutely nuts this year, if he stays healthy. I am also not ready to count the Thunder out. Russ will inspire this group to play hard, Steve Adams is becoming a very good center in the league, and I like the Oladipo signing. Oladipo is not a scrub, he’s very good defensively, and can drive and shoot the mid-range very well. Westbrook has to have an MVP type season for this team to compete in the West. If he gets hurt or struggles this year than it will be hard for OKC to make the playoffs.
LA Lakers – The Lakers are 1-0 and on top of their division, Playoffs here we come!
Dallas Mavs – Dirk is father time and is still going to nail ugly, one-footed, fade-aways in your face.
Utah Jazz – ???
Twolves – The young Timberwolves will be fun to watch and Towns is a budding superstar. I also want them to kick Ricky Rubio out of town and give the keys to Kris Dunn.