The NBA offseason is winding down, which means that preseason basketball is upon us. How does the Western Conference look right now in terms of the NBA picks & odds?
1. San Antonio Spurs - NBA Odds to Win West: +250
In the big picture, it’s very hard to go against the San Antonio Spurs in the West. The Spurs had a problem with Oklahoma City, going back to the 2012 Western Conference Finals. The Spurs led the series, 2-0, and then lost four straight in convincing fashion. Oklahoma City got on a roll, found the right answers, and was unable to be thrown off balance by the Spurs. San Antonio looked feeble and powerless in the face of that assault from Oklahoma City. When the Spurs won the Western Conference in 2013, a lot of people thought that the Thunder would have beaten the Spurs if Russell Westbrook hadn’t gotten injured early in the playoffs. The Thunder were expected to win the West again that year, and it was only because of a bad break that they missed out on the chance to climb past San Antonio once again. However, the Spurs have now gotten rid of the idea that they can’t beat Oklahoma City in the playoffs. They not only won in Oklahoma City to close that series, they did it without Tony Parker in the second half. The Spurs now know they can beat the Thunder in a difficult situation. That matters.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder - NBA Odds to Win West: +300
The Thunder might not be the favorite in the West, but they’re still the second-best team at the very least, because when Russell Westbrook has been healthy in the playoffs, this team has made the West Finals or better in each of its last two playoff runs, 2013 being a case when Westbrook was not healthy. Oklahoma City knows that with two more years with its core group of players, the pressure to win is very intense, more than in the past. This could be a source of strain for the Thunder, but Oklahoma City could very easily turn it into an advantage and use it as a way to get back at San Antonio, a team that might not be as hungry this season since it has won another championship. Oklahoma City has a good chance to win the West; it’s just that San Antonio has a slightly better chance.
3. Los Angeles Clippers - NBA Odds to Win West: +500
This is the team a lot of people are looking at as an alternative to San Antonio and Oklahoma City in the West. The biggest reason the Los Angeles Clippers could break through is that they’re now free of the ugliness and distractions created by former owner Donald Sterling. The Clippers were asked questions on a non-stop basis about Sterling, and now they don’t have to deal with them. The Clippers also don’t have to wonder if they want to play for the organization now that Donald Sterling is out and Steve Ballmer is the new owner, with the whole Sterling family out of the picture. Head coach Doc Rivers is in a position where his team should be very receptive to the coaching he’s providing, and Chris Paul can now gear up for the most important season of his professional career. For your NBA picks its worth noting the Clippers might not get to the Western Conference Finals, but they should come very close at least.