Realistically, the west comes down to three teams. Most people think it’s only two, but with the San Antonio Spurs having the best record in the NBA the last two seasons and the same old lame excuse of 'they’re too old' wearing thin, you can’t count them out. The West revolves around San Antonio, the Lakers, and Oklahoma City.
I know some optimistic Clippers fans or delusional Grizzlies fans will chime in that they’ve improved in the off-season, but the reality is they haven’t improved nearly enough. The Clippers may end up four in the West, but anything above that is just unrealistic and the Grizzlies would be lucky to finish fourth again considering they haven’t improved.
The Western Conference Finals will predictably come down to the Lakers and the Thunder. Oklahoma City will have the best record in the West this year and will knock off San Antonio in five games. The Spurs will fight valiantly, but simply don’t have an answer for Kevin Durant. They are one of the few teams that match up fairly well with Russell Westbrook and James Harden, but Kevin Durant is simply an offensive juggernaut; one that Tim Duncan cannot offset with his slowed production.
This will lead us to the matchup of Lakers vs. Thunder for the West. Unfortunately for Kobe loyalists and Los Angeles fans, the Thunder will advance. The Lakers stars will put up monster numbers and Oklahoma will struggle matching up with Dwight Howard underneath. I expect Howard to go for monster numbers against the Thunder who still lack a true five-man. Yet, Serge Ibaka will still provide interior defense and Kendrick Perkins will utilize every foul they give him to make Howard earn his points.
The Lakers will struggle with matchups too. Steve Nash will provide little in terms of being able to slow down Russell Westbrook at point and Kevin Durant will get his normal 30-points. I expect Harden to be largely shutdown by Metta World Peace, but it will not make a difference. The Thunder will not struggle for offensive productivity. Plus, with Nash unable to stay in front of Westbrook, this will lead to the type of offensive flow that will get Harden open looks.
Last year the Thunder were the new kids on the block with wide eyes and fresh legs. This year they will be hungry for blood and better at closing out down the stretch. Look for Durant to be even more aggressive and Westbrook to continue to develop as the most unstoppable scoring point guard in the NBA.
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