The Thunder’s recent trade makes the Western Conference wide open, but there are some teams more legit than others.
At the end of last season, Oklahoma City was the favorite to represent the West in the NBA Finals again.
The Lakers reloaded with Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, which would make any team a title contender.
Strangely, OKC traded its No. 3 scorer, James Harden, right before the season started. Yes, the Thunder received a quality player in Kevin Martin and draft picks. No, they will not have the same chemistry.
Harden was the Sixth Man of the Year and played for Team USA. Martin played for the awful Sacramento Kings and Houston Rockets. He is the typical big time scorer on bad teams. OKC has two big-time scorers so they don’t need a player like Martin.
The Thunder has plenty left over to make a championship run. The Lakers, Clippers and Spurs should be happy Harden is gone.
A look at each division:
1. Los Angeles Lakers
Kobe & Pau & Nash & Dwight. With Phil Jackson as coach, this team would be a lock to win it all. Now, the Lake Show is just a heavy favorite.
2. Los Angeles Clippers
Can the Clippers take the next step into the Western Conference finals? There’s a chance now that OKC is without Harden. It doesn’t hurt with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin leading the charge.
3. Golden State Warriors
A full season with center Andrew Bogut could propel the Warriors into the playoffs. They’ll need some breaks. And some luck. About six Western Conference teams are better than everyone, which leaves two spots wide open.
4. Phoenix Suns
Let the lean times begin. Nash is gone, Michael Beasley and Luis Scola are in. Phoenix has good players, but without the two-time MVP to direct the offense, the sun will set in the desert.
5. Sacramento Kings
Another team with decent players, but no superstar to lead them into the playoffs. Once again, they’ll be in the lottery.
1. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder can still make it to the NBA Finals. There are serious question marks about Martin. There is no doubt regarding the talent of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
2. Denver Nuggets
George Karl’s star-less bunch is deep enough to scare the opposition. Are they as good as both L.A. teams, OKC and San Antonio? Probably not. Denver is paying JaVale McGee $44 million to come off the bench. Way to go, Nuggets geniuses.
3. Minnesota Timberwolves
Kevin Love is a big enough star to get the T-Wolves to the playoffs. But he’s injured to start the season. So is point guard Ricky Rubio. Sota will be in the playoff chase. It’s a tough go in the Western Conference though.
4. Utah Jazz
The Jazz will also be looking to make the playoffs. There is good, young talent here. Enough to get to the playoffs? They did it last year.
5. Portland Trail Blazers
Blazermania will die down as the season progresses. Yes, Portland will still be a tough place to play with its rabid fans. Once their team sees a losing streak hit double digits, that’ll shut the fans up.
1. San Antonio Spurs
Gregg Popovich has been turning water into wine recently. Tim Duncan is way past his prime, Manu Ginobli and Tony Parker are getting up their in age too. Popovich maximizes his talent better than anybody. If the Spurs win a championship, Popovich will show that he can walk on water too.
2. Memphis Grizzlies
Marc Gasol and Rudy Gay are still here. So is Z-Bo. Losing O.J. Mayo off the bench doesn’t help. As long as the core stays together, they’ll make the playoffs. Memphis won’t sneak up on anybody and it won’t make it to the second round.
3. Dallas Mavericks
Mark Cuban gambled and he lost. No Howard, no Deron Williams (it was too important for Cuban to shoot an episode of “Shark Tank,” missing Williams’ visit to Dallas), no chance for the Mavericks to win a championship. They probably won’t make the playoffs. Jason Terry and Jason Kidd are gone, leaving Dirk Nowitzki to fend for himself.
4. Houston Rockets
Jeremy Lin and Harden are nice additions. It won’t be enough to get Houston into the postseason. The Rockets are paying Omer Asik $25 million. Idiots.
5. New Orleans Hornets
New Orleans will suck for basketball reasons. They have a bunch of outcasts. Pencil them in as a lottery team.