The Western Conference has long been considered the superior half in the NBA, but the Eastern Conference stormed back and put up a fight last season. The Cavaliers pulled off a huge upset in the finals, ending the West’s two-year title run. This season, however, it appears as though the West could be back to being the best.
Fresh off the free agent signing of superstar Kevin Durant, the Golden State Warriors are -250 favorites to win the West in the 2016-17 season. The San Antonio Spurs ( +450 ), Los Angeles Clippers ( +1000 ), Oklahoma City Thunder ( +2500 ), Minnesota Timberwolves ( +3300 ) and Memphis Grizzlies ( +4000 ) are next on the list.
Any team with a roster that includes Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Durant is going to be a powerhouse, but the -250 price is risky to play. Spreading the ball around may be an issue in the Bay Area, and if the Dubs stumble out of the gate, it’s definitely wiser to grab them at better odds.
Even with Durant gone, the Thunder are still getting some respect at +2500. I don’t think OKC is going to make a deep playoff run, but stranger things have happened in the NBA. One team that stands out is Minnesota. The Timberwolves have a ridiculous amount of young talent, and the timing looks right for the franchise to end its 12-year playoff drought – the longest in the Association.
Golden State Warriors -250
San Antonio Spurs +450
Los Angeles Clippers +1000
Oklahoma City Thunder +2500
Minnesota Timberwolves +3300
Memphis Grizzlies +4000
Houston Rockets +5000
New Orleans Pelicans +5000
Portland Trail Blazers +5000
Utah Jazz +5000
Dallas Mavericks +10000
Denver Nuggets +12500
Los Angeles Lakers +12500
Sacramento Kings +15000
Phoenix Suns +25000
1. * Golden State Warriors ( 73-9 )
2. * San Antonio Spurs ( 67-15 )
3. * Oklahoma City Thunder ( 55-27 )
4. * Los Angeles Clippers ( 53-29 )
5. * Portland Trail Blazers ( 44-38 )
6. * Dallas Mavericks ( 42-40 )
7. * Memphis Grizzlies ( 42-40 )
8. * Houston Rockets ( 41-41 )
9. Utah Jazz ( 40-42 )
10. Sacramento Kings ( 33-49 )
11. Denver Nuggets ( 33-49 )
12. New Orleans Pelicans ( 30-52 )
13. Minnesota Timberwolves ( 29-53 )
14. Phoenix Suns ( 23-59 )
15. Los Angeles Lakers ( 17-65 )
Not only are Warriors heavy favorites to win the Western Conference, they are also projected to take the whole enchilada this season. But hold on. To get Durant, the Dubs had to sacrifice plenty of their depth and their Strength in Numbers motto will likely just be a number this year, as in the number five. The starters will have to log more minutes without that depth and that puts a strain on Curry’s knee and ankle, and Durant’s foot. One major injury and the Warriors could be in serious jeopardy.
But for now, the starting five is the best in the game and Dubs have a wonderful opportunity to represent the West in the Finals for a third straight season.
San Antonio missed out on Durant, but what hurt worse was seeing him go to Golden State. Now the hopeful Spurs will need to rely on an aging roster to beat the Warriors. They have LaMarcus Aldridge, and Kawhi Leonard can match up with KD, but the Spurs don’t have the backcourt to match the Warriors.
And let’s not forget that Russell Westbrook and Oklahoma City won 45 games with Durant injured two seasons ago. The Thunder will be a much different team without KD, but his departure will allow talent that was stifled when he was in town to rise up and contribute. They also stole Victor Oladipo from Orlando and could possess one of the strongest backcourts in the NBA. This team certainly has 50-win potential, but it’ll be a stretch to win the West.
Has the window closed on the Clippers? They still have the same four starters that have been the anchors of four consecutive 50-win teams, but they just haven’t been able to get over the hump. Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and J.J. Redick will be back to give it another go. It's not that the Clips can't win with this roster, they just haven’t done it.
Our sleepers out West are the Timberwolves and Utah Jazz. A bold prediction for teams that combined for 69 wins last season, which was four fewer than the Warriors and just two more than the Spurs. Minnesota has perhaps the most exciting young core in the league and will continue to improve. Expect Karl-Anthony Towns to step up and become one of the league's best players in just his second season.
The Jazz made a big splash in the offseason, acquiring point guard George Hill to round out the roster. Utah is primed to finally make it back to the playoffs, and they have an excellent bench to assist Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors. Rudy Gobert will need to become more than an elite defender if the Jazz are going to be able to win once they reach the playoffs.
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