The NBA Playoffs are just around the corner and the Western Conference is everything but boring. With the smoldering hot Phoenix Suns, the emerging young talent in Memphis, there are plenty of options in the West. While the Suns have the West in a vice grip 7.5 game lead, the Warriors and Grizzlies are fighting for the second spot. That being said, let’s take a look at which five teams in the West have a real shot at a title.
The Wild Western Conference
1.) Phoenix Suns (54-14, seven game lead in West)
The Phoenix Suns are by far the best team in the Western Conference and the NBA. Since their magical run in the bubble, Phoenix is playing an elite level of basketball. Led by superstar guard Devin Booker (25 ppg), veteran guard Chris Paul (15 ppg), Phoenix has the pieces to play for a title again. In case you forgot, Phoenix played for the NBA title just last season.
They returned their entire core group and have not slowed down. With guys like Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges, and Cam Johnson contributing heavily, this team is legit. If they can continue to win at this pace, they will walk into the playoffs and be the best team by far. Despite going 6-4 in their last 10 games, Phoenix has dealt with some injuries that are now behind them. Look for Phoenix to be the favorite and it shouldn’t be close.
2.) Memphis Grizzlies (47-22, seven games behind in West)
Memphis was catching eyes when they squeaked into the play-in tournament last year. This year they are taking that next step are a contender in the West. Memphis is a fun team to watch with their high-flying superstar in Ja Morant. From alley-oops to just playing freely and looking good doing so is their game.
The young core of Morant, Dillon Brooks, Desmond Bane, and Jaren Jackson are here to make noise. They can defend well, score quickly and efficiently, and beat anyone. This Grizzlies team is a young team that wants to butt heads and beat you mentally and on the scoreboard. If they can put the pieces together they can make a serious playoff run. Memphis is a legitimate threat despite their inexperience in the playoffs.
3.) Golden State Warriors (46-22, 7.5 games behind in West)
Is anyone surprised that the Warriors are back to winning with Klay and Curry on the court together again? I know I’m not and they are a contender yet again in the West. With Thompson back, the Warriors are an impressive 27-7 at home this season. Curry is playing at an MVP level again and the support of Andrew Wiggins and breakout year for Jordan Poole are good too.
However, this version of the Warriors might not break any records or have Klay Thompson scoring 37 points in a quarter. They are a much slower version of the high-scoring offense of old. This team relies on their role players much more and it is working. Getting Curry, Thompson, and Draymond Green together again will be the final piece of the puzzle. Get the core three on the court and let the role players continue to sprinkle in some help and Golden State is legit again.
4.) Utah Jazz (42-25, 11 games behind in West)
The Jazz are still hanging around as a dangerous team in the West. Donavan Mitchell is playing just as well as expected as well as Rudy Gobert. The Jazz are also getting key contributions from Jordan Clarkson and newly acquired Nickeil Alexander-Walker. After losing Joe Ingles to injury and then trading him away, Utah needed some role players to step up and they’ve done well.
While the Jazz might have fallen a bit on the totem poll of the West, they are still good enough to make a deep playoff run. Their only issue will be finding the right lineup to match up with other West teams with depth. While Utah has good talent in Rudy Gay, Hassan Whiteside and Eric Paschall, they struggle at times to find a good unit that works together. Either the Jazz will lose in another heartbreaking seven game series late in the playoffs or they get bounced early due to their lack of true depth.
5.) Dallas Mavericks (42-26, 11.5 games behind in West) or Denver Nuggets (40-28, 13.5 games behind in West)
In the fifth spot are two teams that are on the brink of being a legitimate threat in the West. Both the Mavericks and Nuggets sit near the “bottom” of teams that would make the playoffs. The Mavericks are led by superstar Luka Doncic and are primed for another shot at the playoffs. The Nikola Jokic led Nuggets have lost some key games and the return of Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr would be helpful.
The Mavericks have the pieces together despite trading away Kristaps Porzingis. The Nuggets need to put together a stretch of wins to make a possible return of key players an easier transition. Despite the Mavericks having a better record, I think the Mavs and Nuggets are at the same level. Close to being a real threat but maybe one or two key wins away.
Who will win the Western Conference this year? Comment below and join the discussion!
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