If you’re a decent team that just happens to be in the Western Conference, you’re going to have a tough time. The best team in the Western Conference, the San Antonio Spurs, have over five more wins than the best in the Eastern Conference. In fact, the 5th seed in the west, the Warriors, would be good enough to be right up the Heat’s mug. Unfortunately for teams like the Timberwolves, the playoffs are a longshot.
So here we, predicting the first eight seeds in the Western Conference:
1. Oklahoma City Thunder
Although the Thunder were shaken up by a loss to the Warriors, they will bounce back. They’re a couple games behind the Spurs in the loss column, but the Thunder have the firepower to overcome the deficit, especially with Kevin Durant on yet another scoring binge. Tony Parker and Tim Duncan are getting old (how many times have we heard that), and Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are gaining more experience. That’s scary.
2. San Antonio Spurs
As old as Tony Parker and Tim Duncan may be, they still dominate the regular season. Having won more than a championship each, they certainly know a thing or two. Unfortunately, the Spurs will likely falter in the playoffs, maybe even in the first round.
3. Los Angeles Clippers
Blake Griffin is now taking on the responsibility of a whole team with Chris Paul out, and the Clippers continue to win. When he returns, Paul will be on a mission to make it to the Conference Finals this year. Los Angeles will definitely continue their hot year, but are too young to catch up to the wise Spurs.
4. Memphis Grizzlies
Good trade? With the departure of Rudy Gay, the Grizzlies have added a talented young power in Ed Davis, who was running a short-handed Raptors’ team. His style of offense will fit right in, and will replenish a sub-par Grizzlies’ bench As a replacement for Gay, Tayshaun Prince is a good fit, and will add depth to Memphis’s front court. Regardless, he must be thanking God that he is out of Detroit.
5. Denver Nuggets
With the Nuggets right behind Golden State, they are turning on the heat. The Warriors, however, never seem to fall behind them. Unfortunately, the Nuggets are 8-2 in their last ten, and aren’t cooling off anytime soon. The Warriors will clearly finish with a similar record, but the Nuggets have beaten the Warriors three times this season. That’s a problem.
6. Golden State Warriors
With the return of Andrew Bogut, and a hopefully healthy Stephen Curry, the Warriors will be unstoppable. Plus, increased production from Klay Thompson, and the Warriors have high hopes for the playoffs. The talent of Jarrett Jack, who is capable of scoring 26 points and 12 assists off the bench, is also a huge benefit. And with All-Star David Lee leading the way, these guys could make a deep run. Playing the Clippers, whom they’ve beaten 3-of-4 times is almost a blessing.
7. Los Angeles Lakers
Don’t pretend like the Lakers aren’t going to make the playoffs. Right now, they’re experimenting and they might’ve hit gold—Kobe Bryant being a player-maker, and Steve Nash being a spot-up shooter. The Lakers, although disliked, will make the playoffs this year. If not, I will be very shocked.
8. Houston Rockets
Sorry Portland, Sorry Utah! The Rockets are just too good. With this season supposedly rebuilding, the Rockets made one of their smartest moves in trading for James Harden—the Rockets’ primary scorer and an All-Star. Harden is averaging 25 points, and logs a tremendous amount of minutes. Don’t sleep on Jeremy Lin either. The Rockets will barely garner the final seed.