With the NBA regular season coming to a close, it’s time to gear up for an exciting playoff battle in the Western Conference. The superiority of the west is obvious, considering that 10 of its teams have at least a .500 record as opposed to the Eastern Conference’s seven. However, being the better conference doesn’t mean that you will get more teams in the NBA Finals. Only one squad will come out of the daunting Western Conference, but which one? With the front-runner for MVP, last year’s conference champs and a couple of flashy teams, deciphering who the best is will be no easy task.
San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs just never seem to get older. With the brilliance of Gregg Popovich, the familiar trio of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan have led the Spurs to the best record in the NBA once again. In classic Spurs form, this year’s team has appeared to hit its stride at the correct time. Although it was just broken, San Antonio’s 19-game winning streak surely makes the Spurs the hottest team in the league. Tim Duncan has found a way to consistently play at a high level, though his Hall of Fame-caliber years are behind him. Young talent, like Kawhi Leonard, and the amazing point guard-play of Tony Parker make the Spurs dangerous. And with a mixture of experience and skill, the Spurs have to be considered slight favorites in the Western Conference playoffs.
Oklahoma City Thunder
If Russell Westbrook didn’t suffer a season-ending injury in last year’s playoffs, we may be talking about the Thunder as the reigning Western Conference champs. Either way, Oklahoma City is a big-time contender. In fact, Oklahoma City is the team that ended the Spurs’ winning streak. Oklahoma City is currently the 2-seed with a record of 55-20. They have the current favorite to win the MVP award in Kevin Durant and another top-ten talent in Westbrook. The Thunder can outscore anyone in the NBA and have the ability to come back from nearly any deficit. Although each round of the playoffs is going to hold a legitimate challenge in the west, the Thunder will be expected to get to the conference finals with the second-best player in the NBA.
As the NBA’s newest powerhouse, the Rockets have plenty of talent. Offensively, James Harden is one of the best scorers in the entire league, scoring an average of 25.3 points per game. On the defensive end, Dwight Howard guards the paint like electronic repellent, with an average of nearly two blocks per game and 12 rebounds per game. Barring a late-season collapse, the 50-25 Rockets will be the 4-seed in the playoffs with a chance to make some noise.
Although there are other teams, such as Portland and Golden State, that can do some damage in the playoffs, the Clippers have earned the right to be called one of the best in the west ahead of them. The Clippers have a rising star in Blake Griffin, who has grown exponentially this year, and Chris Paul, who is widely-considered to be the best point guard in the NBA. With a 54-23 record, the Clippers are another offensive juggernaut with high-flying ability that makes them dangerous when the playoffs come around.