At the end of the day, someone will win the Western Conference. The NBA odds say it’ll be the Golden State Warriors, but there are at least six other teams who should have something to say about it.
Jason’s record as of Feb. 18: 35-29-4 ATS, 2-4 Totals
It can’t be much fun being an Oklahoma City Thunder fan right now. The Thunder (28-25 SU, 24-27-2 ATS) are on the outside of the Western Conference playoff picture looking in, as we get ready for the unofficial second half of the 2014-15 NBA regular season. And after reading the tealeaves with our Western Conference predictions, we don’t think the Zombie Sonics are going to make it. Even if the basketball odds say they’re 5-1 to win the West.
We doubt the Phoenix Suns (29-25 SU, 27-25-2 ATS) will make it, either. But for now, they hold the eighth seed in the conference, and that means they’d be in the playoffs, if the playoffs began today. Don’t worry, though: It’s a short ride.
No. 1 Golden State Warriors vs. No. 8 Phoenix Suns
The Warriors (42-9 SU, 31-19-1 ATS) are the best team in the league coming out of the All-Star break. It’s not a perfect team – youth and injuries could trip them up. But Golden State is No. 1 in defensive efficiency and No. 2 on offense. The Suns aren’t even as good as they were last year when they barely missed the playoffs.
NBA Picks: Golden State
No. 2 Memphis Grizzlies vs. No. 7 San Antonio Spurs
This ought to be fun. The Spurs (34-19 SU, 23-28-2 ATS) are the defending champions, and the second favorites on the NBA odds board at 19-4 to win the West, behind Golden State at 19-10. But Memphis (39-14 SU, 26-5-2 ATS) is younger, stronger, healthier, and fully capable of beating San Antonio, as we saw in 2011.
NBA Picks: Memphis
No. 3 Portland Trail Blazers vs. No. 6 Los Angeles Clippers
This would be as close to a dream first-round matchup as either of these two flawed teams could hope for. Portland (36-17 SU, 27-25-1 ATS) is still too reliant on its starting rotation. Los Angeles (35-19 SU, 22-32 ATS) has no depth and a questionable mental attitude, plus Blake Griffin (23.1 PER) is out with an elbow injury that needs to heal in time for the playoffs. Tough call.
NBA Picks: Portland
No. 4 Houston Rockets vs. No. 5 Dallas Mavericks
Please give us this series in real life, basketball gods. The Rockets (36-17 SU, 30-23 ATS) have a potential MVP in James Harden (27.3 PER), but Dwight Howard (18.2 PER) is injured again. Dallas (36-19 SU, 26-27-2 ATS) is only getting better with the addition of Amar’e Stoudemire (19.7 PER in New York) for the playoff drive.
NBA Picks: Dallas
No. 1 Golden State Warriors vs. No. 5 Dallas Mavericks
Don Nelson should be proud. This matchup should be an instant classic, with the younger Warriors facing a veteran Mavericks team that won the championship in 2011. The spotlight will be on Stephen Curry (27.4 PER), but we can see Mavs coach Rick Carlisle getting the duke in seven games over his “rookie” counterpart, Steve Kerr.
NBA Picks: Dallas
No. 2 Memphis Grizzlies vs. No. 3 Portland Trail Blazers
This is where the road should end for the Blazers. Memphis is way too tough down low with Marc Gasol (22.2 PER) and Zach Randolph (21.1 PER), and the Grizzlies bench is far superior to Portland’s. But the Blazers do have the proverbial puncher’s chance at 36.2 percent from long range, good for seventh overall in the NBA.
NBA Picks: Memphis
No. 2 Memphis Grizzlies vs. No. 5 Dallas Mavericks
Surely the Mavericks can go all the way if they beat Golden State. Well, maybe. They’ll give Memphis some trouble in the paint with Tyson Chandler (21.4 PER) playing the best basketball of his career. But the Grizzlies do have the better defense. Another tough call, but we’ll go once again with the proven commodity. Now all the Mavs have to do is actually make the playoffs.
NBA Picks: Dallas, currently listed at +750 odds to win the Western Conference from 5Dimes