NBA Playoff Seeding Predictions: West
By: Jack Connolly – NBA Columnist.
I’m back for the second installment of FSLR’s NBA Playoff Predictions. We all know that the NBA Western Conference is far superior than the East… but how much so? The top 6 teams out west own a winning percentage of at least .600 while the Heat and the Pacers are the only teams with that % in the East. With that in mind, let’s jump right in.
1. Oklahoma City Thunder (Current seed: 2) – Kevin Durant has undoubtedly punched his ticket for the MVP race (31.7 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 5.6 apg) and the Thunder should easily ride him to first place in the West. The only area of concern for the Thunder (aside from a recent losing streak) is Russell Westbrook’s health. The star point guard has had two significant injuries in the past 10 months but that doesn’t seem to slow him down as Russell has averaged 20.9 ppg and 7.4 apg in his last 8 games.
2. San Antonio Spurs (Current seed: 1) – Gregg Popovich should just win Coach of the Year every year – seriously. He has his team in the top 10 for points per game, points allowed per game, and assists per game. That’s pretty amazing considering the Spurs best players are 37, 36, and 31 (Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker respectively). Pop will have his players fully healthy for the playoffs and is just fine with the second overall seeding. A potential game 7 on the road in OKC isn’t daunting for these grisly Spurs veterans.
3. Los Angeles Clippers (Current seed: 4) – The Clippers will secure the third seed mainly thanks to Chris Paul as well as the emergence of Blake Griffin as a bonafide star (and legitimate MVP candidate) in this league. Not only does Los Angeles enjoy maximum star power, but their bench is now fully stocked with the recently acquired Danny Granger and Glen Davis. Expect both role players to shine bright coming off the bench for former COY Doc Rivers.
4. Portland Trail Blazers (Current seed:5) – The Blazers have emerged from a frequent lottery team to a squad that many now think can win a championship. Robin Lopez and LaMarcus Aldridge have gobbled up boards like no other, giving them the first overall ranking in that category (46.7 rpg as a team). Damian Lillard’s and LMA’s scoring ability have opened the court for shooters like Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews, and Dorell Wright. In Terry Stotts’ second year, the Trail Blazers have surpassed the expectations of many and will claim the fourth seed.
5. Houston Rockets (Current seed: 3) – The Rockets looked great on paper heading into season, but they are now turning the fine print into reality. With Dwight Howard holding down the middle, Harden leading the show, and Parsons camping in the corner, Houston’s offense is on point (106.6 ppg, 3rd overall). However, without a superb point guard and subpar defense, the Rockets slide down to the fifth overall seed.
6. Golden State Warriors (Current seed: 6) – First time All Star Stephen Curry has lead his team to a 40-24 record thus far. Golden State has a reputation for being offensive minded, but Mark Jackson has his team playing excellent defense too (98.7 ppg, 8th overall). The only thing the Warriors were missing was a boost to their bench, and they got just that when they traded for Steve Blake days before the deadline. Although Blake’s stats don’t jump off the page, he leads a second unit consisting of Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green that has kept the Warriors alive while giving the starters a rest.
7. Phoenix Suns (Current seed: 9) – In Jeff Hornacek’s first year as a head coach, he quickly turned a team gunning for the lottery into one with playoff aspirations. With Gerald Green and Goran Dragic playing some of the best basketball of their careers, they can outscore anyone on any given night. Despite good offensive numbers, watch out for their lackluster defense that gives up 102.9 points per game.
8. Dallas Mavericks (Current seed: 7) – The former NBA Champions have done it before, but not in this fashion. While Dirk Nowitzki, Monte Ellis, and Jose Calderon can put up good offensive numbers, this team has played uninspired defense (allowing 105.8 points per 100 possessions, 22nd overall). After having missed the playoffs last year, expect to see Dallas’ offense carry them to the 8th seed, taking them to the promise land (or more accurately, taking them out of the running for that coveted lottery pick).
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