The San Antonio Spurs are still the team to beat out in the West. The defending champions return for a shot at a back-to-back crown, something that has eluded Tim Duncan and coach Gregg Popovich in their 18-year journey. With the injury to Kevin Durant, the Oklahoma City Thunder will be hard-pressed to keep up and I see the Los Angeles Clippers as the No.2 team in the conference. Here is a breakdown of the top teams out West:
1) San Antonio Spurs—The Spurs are the franchise that every team in the league wants to emulate. Despite their ageing stars and their inability to lure big ticket stars since they play in a small market, the Spurs are definitely among the most successful teams in professional sports in terms of winning and accomplishments. The Spurs has a culture that promotes team play and selfless sacrifice in the name of winning. There are no egos here. The NBA champions are returning with the same line-up and they will definitely go deep.
2) Los Angeles Clippers—The Clippers made a big off-season move but not on personnel. They traded shamed owner Donald Sterling for new boss Steve Ballmer who can has the cash and enthusiasm to support the Clippers all the way. With the Sterling saga over, the Clips can now focus on winning. The Clippers have all the pieces and boast the most efficient offense in the league. That offense is run by the best point guard in the league (Chris Paul). The Western Conference Finals is within reach.
3) Oklahoma City Thunder—The only reason the Thunder has slid a notch is the injury to Kevin Durant. Durant recently underwent surgery and will be re-evaluated again in 5-6 weeks. This means that he can be back by December at the earliest. In the meantime, teammate Russell Westbrook will have to carry the load. Once Durant is back, the Thunder will be nearly impossible to stop since both stars are beginning to enter the prime of their careers.
4) Golden State Warriors—The Warriors arguably have the best backcourt in the league with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. New coach Steve Kerr will bring in more motion and triangle plays which would make their offense more potent. The problem is defense.
Curry and starting power forward David Lee are not good defenders individually and they have to be covered by Andre Iguodala and center Andrew Bogut. Key here is the health of Bogut who is the backbone of the Warriors’ defense. Bogut missed dozens of games last year.
5) Dallas Mavericks—The Mavs made the biggest splash in the offseason by acquiring Chandler Parsons and re-signing Tyson Chandler. Despite the new additions, they probably won’t even make it to the conference finals which reflect the depth and competition in the West. The Mavs are already an elite scoring team under Rick Carlisle’s offense and they will only get better with their new players. The Mavs also have depth and I can see them going 10 deep each game. They are the darkhorse in the West.