If the NBA playoffs were supposed to go according to plan, the fans would get the same thing over and over again. Fortunately for them, however, this isn’t how things happen. The first seed usually doesn’t meet the second seed in the conference finals, and there’s almost always an upset. This year, the Nets are down 3-1 to the Bulls, and the Nuggets are down 2-1 to the Warriors. These are both potential upsets.
In the Western Conference, however, competition is much more tough, so each team needs a little bit of an extra boost. Their core players are the ones that get them to the playoffs, but the X-factor is the one that keeps them winning and alive, no matter what. With that being said, which players on the Western Conference teams are the X Factors?
1. Oklahoma City Thunder:
It may seem bleak that the Thunder will it all this year, especially because of Russell Westbrook’s injury, but people are underestimating Kevin Durant, who will probably average at least 30 points per game from now on. Westbrook was a scoring PG, and now that he’s injured, Durant has the leniency to run the offense the way that he would like.
Still, he can’t do it all by himself. The Thunder’s X-factor would have to be a guy named Reggie Jackson. Jackson, who is a second year player, is just getting the hang of how to play in the NBA, and is looking better by the day. Now that he’s going to be starting in Westbrook’s place, he knows that he has some pretty big shoes to fill.
2. San Antonio Spurs:
As good as the Spurs are, they’ve had some pretty embarrassing playoff losses to higher seeds in the past couple of years. This year, however is different. The second year player, Kawhi Leonard, who is the X factor, has been helping the Spurs in crunch time, when they’re tired. People have been saying the Spurs have been too old for a while now, but with Westbrook’s injury, it may just be time for one last championship run with the current roster that they have.
3. Denver Nuggets
The Denver Nuggets are a great basketball team who will get anything they want in the next couple of years. Unfortunately for them, they have to play the electrified Golden State Warriors in the playoffs, so it may not be their year.With all the depth that the Nuggets have, they don’t really have a clear X factor, but they’re going to need to get more and more production from Wilson Chandler, who’s going to be one of their most crucial players come crunch time. His ability to make tough shots amazes me.
4. Los Angeles Clippers:
The Clippers are a great basketball team, and there’s no doubt, for me, that they’re going to close out the Grizzlies in maybe 7 games, just like they did last year. Still, they’re struggling to put some points on the board when they’re playing road games, and with the defense that the Grizzlies have, that’s bound to happen at home sometime soon. If they don’t get some offense from Chauncey Billups, they’re not going to have much success, even later in the postseason. Mr. Big Shot will need to step it up. Last night, he missed every attempt from the field.
5. Memphis Grizzlies:
Chris Paul is such an amazing point guard, and the Grizzlies often have a hard time containing him. When they’re able to beat him, however, they’re using Mike Conley Jr. as a mechanism. Conley is definitely the fast-paced type of point guard that you want to be defending one the best in the league. On offense, he has stepped up since Rudy Gay’s departure.
6. Golden State Warriors:
The Warriors are one of the best teams in the league when talking upset. The Denver Nuggets who had been almost perfect at home, were crushed by the Dubs in game two, and barely got by in game one. With that being said, the Warriors do much better with Harrison Barnes on the court. Barnes is the Warriors best finisher at the rim, and he’s playing great perimeter defense. Now that he has his confidence, the three ball is falling for him as well.
7. Los Angeles Lakers:
What can I say about the Lakers except wow. They had one of the best scorers in the league, and lost him to injury. Now, they think that they’re completely doomed, and seem to be playing for nothing. Steve Nash, at one time, was one of the best point guards in the league. When Dwight Howard came into the league, he was considered to be one of the best centers. How are the Lakers not winning with this amazing lineup? All of their players are X factors!
8. Houston Rockets:
Now that Russell Westbrook has also been lost to injury, the Rockets have a chance of evening this series at home. It’s not going to be easy, so in addition to James Harden and Chandler Parsons, a young point guard by the name of Patrick Beverly must step up, especially because of Jeremy Lin’s battle with injury.