The Western Conference Playoff Picture is more volatile than in the East where the teams are pretty much solidified and some seeding could change. In the Western Conference not only can the seedings change, but with roughly 10 games left, the Nuggets and the Clippers are not yet eliminated from contention. These are our predictions for teams currently occupying those spots.
1 Houston Vs 8 Utah
This is not an easy matchup by any means. Utah has been on two separate winning streaks this season , as has the Rockets and both teams are at full strength heading into the playoffs. Houston is the most dynamic, potent offense in the league and with a top ten defense they will be hard to beat. With James Harden, Chris Paul and Clint Capela playing this team is nearly invincible, and with extra ammunition in Eric Gordon, Gerald Green, Joe Johnson, Ryan Anderson, Luc Mbah a Moute and Pj Tucker this team is not only the most potent offensively, but also shoots more three pointers than any other team and it’s not even close. Houston jacks up 42.3 threes a game, 7 more than the second team on that list which is Brooklyn, and almost 13 more than Utah.
Utah is a team that has great pieces, but the sum of all those parts without Donavan Mitchell is seemingly less interesting. Mitchell taken in last years draft has been electric for Utah, he is averaging 20.3 points per game this year, .7 less than Lebron and Carmelo’s rookie seasons to put that into perspective. They have Ricky Rubio, a great passer and orchestrator, and as of this year a serviceable shooter in the NBA. They also have a great three point shooter in Joe Ingles who is shooting almost 45 percent from 3. These players are complimented nicely with the defensive prowess of Rudy Gobert and Jamieson Crowder, the latter has been an excellent addition aquired during the Cavaliers blockbuster trades earlier this season. His perimeter defense could slow down James Harden or whoever he is guarding.
Results: Rockets in 5
This may not seem like a competitive result, but the Jazz will remain competitive in these games but as long as the Rockets remain drilling that many threes a contest they will be very hard to beat. I think Utah can steal one but any more than that seems like wishful thinking.
2 Golden State Vs 7 Minnesota
This is a strange matchup, both of these teams are dealing with injuries to their best players. Jimmy Butler might be ready for the playoffs, but Steph Curry is a big question mark. Golden State is playing the most short handed they’ve ever been currently with, Draymond, Durant, Klay Thompson and Curry out depleted would be an understatement. Personally I think these injuries are actually beneficial in the long run because it’s giving their reserves a great chance to log minutes and that will help them contribute more in the playoffs. With Curry out of the Lineup this team may struggle in the first round but getting Klay, Durant and Draymond back will be more then enough offense to secure a first round win.
The Timberwolves just haven’t been able to do much of anything since Jimmy Butler went down. Karl Anthony Towns has been fantastic to watch and Jeff Teague has been a great distributor and scorer in the wake of Butlers injury, but Andrew Wiggins has been awful. The seemingly frustrated star is shooting below 45 percent from the field and is just not making the necessary plays to help his team win on either end. Not just that but his frustration has shown on the court in heated exchanges. This team is 4-6 in their last 10 games. The good news is there is a strong possibility Butler returns for the playoffs which would help their chances of upsetting the Warriors.
Results Golden State In 5
This series just comes down to the fact that Golden State has been here before and although they are injured, this team has been together for years playing at a very high level. With Draymond, Klay and KD playing after rested I think there is a rust factor that they will have to work out but the bottom line is this team will be playoff ready. The same can’t be said about the Timberwolves.
3 Portland Vs 6 San Antonio
Portland has been great this year Damian Lillard has been sensational and making a great push for MVP, although it won’t be enough. Cj Mccolum has also been a dynamic scorer for the Trailblazers and the two make for one of the strongest backcourts in the NBA. Jusuf Nurkic has also been a great contributor for Portland, averaging 14.2 points per game and 8.7 rebounds. This team has improved greatly defensively, which is a surprise considering they have pretty much the same roster they have had in years past. The question is will it translate to playoff wins. It’s hard to bet against in a 7 game series but as long as Dame continues to take over late this team has a good shot.
San Antonio has had an off year of sorts. Missing Kawhi Leonard plays a big part of that. It’s hard to gauge how long this cast will stay together after this year, given that they have 4 shining veterans in Pau Gasol, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Rudy Gay. Lamarcus Aldridge is the reason this team is going to make the playoffs, especially with his play of late. He has averaged over 30 four of the last five games, and seems to enjoy the pressure bestowed upon him. Patty Mills and Dejounte Murray have put in quality minutes as well for the Spurs. Will Kawhi return? It’s hard to say, but with Popovich coaching it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if they stole this series.
Results San Antonio In 7
Its just hard to bet against the Spurs, with Pop doing his homework against Portland he will throw out some great ways to slow down Dame and CJ, not only that but Portland really doesn’t seem to have anyone who could slow down Aldridge. The Spurs are finally playing great basketball this time of year and that doesn’t bode well for Portland.
4 Oklahoma City Vs 5 New Orleans
Oklahoma City has been a strange team this year. They have beaten the best teams in the league and lost to pretty much everybody at their low points. Russell Westbrook is just not an efficient player, his fg% And 3fg% have never been great, he has been putting up monster triple double game and wowing everyone with great dunks, but compared to Paul George his efficiency just isn’t there. Paul George has been both great defensively and offensively and if Roberson didn’t go down this team would be one of the best defensive teams in the league. Steven Adams has been great on the offensive boards with 5 a game, insane! Playing with three ball hogs you would think he would have less than 14 points per game but there they are. There Achilles heel has been Carmelo, who is not a great 3 point shooter when moving without the ball and not the best defender anymore in his latter years. He has become a decent rotation player, but if OKC wants to win this series they need to restrict his minutes a bit.
The Pelicans are playing with one arm tied behind their back, and seemingly killing it. Without Cousins this team has been formidable against some of the great teams in the league, and most of the credit has to go to Anthony Davis. He has put up a handful of ridiculous performances to will his team to wins over certain defeat and as great as he has been he is not doing it on his own. Rajon Rondo, a fantastically underrated player his whole career has been putting on a clinic with his facilitating, Jrue Holiday, now healthy is putting up great numbers. The trade for Mirotic has worked out well for the Pelicans and don’t call it a comeback but Emeka Okafor is playing again after a four year hiatus due to his neck injury! This team has hit a big of a slide of late but expect them to be ready for a tough series against one of the best teams in the league.
Results Oklahoma City in 6
I think Anthony Davis is a good enough player to steal two games from the Thunder but that’s probably it. The Thunder won’t lose a series they are favored to win and although the Pelicans have been impressive, they simply don’t possess enough firepower to combat the likes of Russell Westbrook and Paul George.