With most of the country focusing more on the NCAA Tournament (and rightfully so, the wife and I absolutely love it every year), I figured it would be worth to dive into the Western Conference. For the record, my wife picked Gonzaga, and I picked North Carolina to win the entire thing. We do brackets each year and as of right now, we have the same number of correct picks (8 out of 10), so feeling pretty good so far.
Now, let’s take a look at the Western Conference as we are in the final ~10 games of the season.
Pretenders/Contenders: Looking at where these teams are now (Golden State Warriors, Denver Nuggets, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, and Portland Trail Blazers. Since then, the Thunder have slipped to the 8th spot in the West (Warriors vs. Thunder in the 1st round? That would be an amazing matchup in all honesty and one I would salivate over). With the Thunder dropping down, the Jazz have stepped up, and while I love the Jazz, I definitely would put them in the pretender column while the Rockets are now contenders as they’ve really turned it on. This team was basically dead in the water during the first third of the season. Harden has been on a warpath. So, contenders are Warriors, Nuggets, Rockets and pretenders are Trail Blazers and now Utah Jazz.
Cellar-Dwellers: This list has grown to include the Los Angeles Lakers who have simply imploded since the trade deadline and are having one of the worst seasons of LeBron James career. That team is going to need a significant overhaul in the offseason and I don’t think even that will be enough. The reality is outside of partnering with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, James has never been a player that other top flight players want to play with. It’ll be interesting to see if he can really convince anyone to play with him in Los Angeles. Not seeing it right now.
The other team that is now on the bottom are the Minnesota Timberwolves. I don’t get it at this point. How a team with great talent in Karl Anthony Towns and solid talent around him can’t seem to get it together baffles me. A team with Derrick Rose, Jeff Teague, Andrew Wiggins, Robert Covington, Dario Saric, and others can’t figure it out? That’s scary and I don’t know if they will be able to turn it around. Towns will be looking to play for another team in 2-3 years and set this team back another decade in the process.
On the Bubble: This list is pretty tight at this point, with the Thunder/Clippers/Spurs. The Kings, who have had an amazing season considering where they should have been, will be on the outside looking in, but they should be proud of their season. I feel like the Spurs deserve a novel-length post because of their ability to overcome adversity time and time again to put together a team that could beat just about any team in the playoffs this year, save for the Warriors (though Pop would definitely frustrate the hell out of them). The teams that will be in the playoffs are set, all that is left to figure out is who will be in what spot as three games is all that separates the 3-8 seed and that will make the next two-three weeks a ton of fun to watch.