The NBA Playoffs: Not Every Team is Chasing the Championship
Golden State Warriors [58-23] – The Warriors have struggled as of late with the revolving door of starters and reserves as injuries plagued the defending champions. But, KD is making up for the absence of Stephen Curry. Durant looked great against a playoff team, the Oklahoma City Thunder, and former teammate Russell Westbrook. Keep in mind the Thunder have Paul George and Carmelo Anthony and that Russ dropped 40+ and the Warriors still won. Without Curry. I don’t care whether you like them or not, the Dubs under Coach Steve Kerr are going to be the favorites. Especially when Curry returns.
Houston Rockets [64-16] – The Rockets have been just as dominant as the Warriors, if not even more dominant during the regular season, posting the best record against the Western Conference at 40-10. Led by James Harden and Chris Paul, the Rockets have seemed to find a balance in the high-octane offense style of the two guards. But, if you remember Paul and Harden in the playoffs before they were teammates, you might realize that these two have had a tough time in the playoffs. When Harden was on the Thunder, they entered the 2012 Finals against the Miami Heat. They lost 4-1 at the hands of LeBron James. Harden had one of the worst postseason performances during the Finals. Chris Paul on the Clippers was also extremely underwhelming. But the two are together now. Two wrongs make a right? Who knows. Don’t count them out, but don’t expect a march to the Finals like the Warriors did last year.
Portland Trail Blazers [48-32] – The Trail Blazers are also one of those teams that make the playoffs consistently, but Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum don’t have a title as a dynamic duo. There were times this season the Blazers didn’t look great and there were times they looked good enough to post 2 wins in as series against the Rockets and Warriors. Note: I said 2 wins at most. The Blazers are not winning the title this year. I would love to see them emerge in the Western Conference Finals and prove the critics wrong but running through the Western gauntlet isn’t an easy task.
Utah Jazz [47-33] – Yup. The Jazz, as of today, have the 4-seed in the West. After winning the first round of the playoffs last year against the Clippers, the Jazz then dropped 4 straight against the Warriors. Led by a new star Donovan Mitchell, don’t underestimate the Jazz. They have playoff experience. But, don’t expect too much once again.
San Antonio Spurs [46-34] – I’m not surprised the Spurs are where they are without Kawhi Leonard. They have Gregg Popovich, arguably the greatest coach in NBA history. I honestly have no idea how he took what he had and still stood tall against the West. Led by Aldridge, Gasol, Parker, Gay, Ginobili, along with Mills and Anderson, the Spurs have a lot of mixing and matching if they’re going to contest for a title. Forget the drama with Leonard off the court for now. Right now, the Spurs haven’t secured a playoff spot because only 3 teams have secured a spot in the West. The Spurs are an iconic organization. They’re like the Patriots. They might look wounded and might have lost a step, but it’s a different game in the playoffs. Players actually try.
Oklahoma City Thunder [46-34] – Russell Westbrook hasn’t stopped dominating opponents. He’s close to averaging a triple-double every game, even with George and Anthony. But, critics were right with Carmelo Anthony. He’s had one of the most interesting careers as one of the elite scorers in the game. Only having a ring from 2003 with the Syracuse Orange, Melo hasn’t contested for a title in a long time. Paul George looks ready, but the Thunder need to get it together to even win one postseason series.
Minnesota Timberwolves [45-35] – Jimmy Butler is very close to being back. The Timberwolves are a very exciting team and can put a whole bunch of points against any team in the League, but they haven’t been consistent. Wiggins and Towns have been dominant, and Teague has done his best to regulate this offense. But defensively, they collapse during key possessions. This can’t win you a game in the playoffs and won’t win you a title. The Wolves need a few more pieces to truly make a run.
New Orleans Pelicans [44-34] – Without Cousins, the Pelicans are going to have a very tough time competing against the top teams of their conference. Anthony Davis looks unstoppable, but that is just one man. The Pelicans have had a great season, and it doesn’t even look like they’ll make the playoffs for sure.
Denver Nuggets [45-35] – There’s something special lingering in the Mile High Club. It’s not what you think when you think Colorado. It’s actually basketball! The Nuggets are back…somewhat. Jamal Murray is playing like the guard he was meant to be and Jokic is a phenom. Paul Millsap has provided valuable playing time and leadership on such a young, developing team. The Nuggets are my favorite team, but I don’t have any expectations for them. It would be great to make the playoffs to say that they did, but there’s no way they beat a top-tier team and advance. They play for their season tonight against Portland. Denver is on a 5-game winning streak entering tonight.