1. Oklahoma City Thunder
Kevin Durant and Russel Westbrook are the best scoring duo in the NBA and the Thunder have seemingly bounced back from a rocky All-star weekend return with losses on the road to the Denver Nuggets and the Miami Heat, however, OKC has dominated the Western Conference with multiple wins over the second and third best teams in the west, the Spurs and the Clippers. Russel Westbrook has matured despite criticism from the media and Serge Ibaka is playing more aggressive, he’s challenging opponents by being more physical while his scoring numbers are up from last season. The Thunder are playing the best basketball in the West however I don’t trust their bench, despite Kevin Martin playing effective so far, he will not fill the large void left by James Harden.
2. San Antonio Spurs
With Toni Parker out for the next few weeks, the Spurs will more than likely fall from the number one position to having the 3rd best record in the NBA. The Spurs should end up with the number 3 playoff seed and if Parker fails make a quick return, the Spurs will loose all momentum heading into the playoffs. I think the Spurs are a great regular season team but over the past few seasons the team has failed to win a playoff series beyond the second round but this year the Spurs have more speed, size, and depth on the bench which are great indications of making a real run at clinching the Western Conference crown.
3. L.A Clippers
The L.A. Clippers have not played well against some of the better teams in the NBA. Coach Vinny Del Negro currently has a player rotation of about 11 players, which tells me that the Clippers have yet to find the right group of players required to move the team forward. The Miami Heat and the OKC Thunder have discovered physical play and bully ball may be the key to disrupting the rhythm of Blake Griffin’s effectiveness on the court. Chauncey Billups return has proven slow but promising while Jamal Crawford seems to be the only spark for the Clippers coming off the bench. If coach Del Negro can find the right combination of players within the rotation, the Clippers will be the second best threat trailing the Spurs in the battle for the Western Conference crown against OKC.
4. Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies seem to be in a better position than last year, shockingly without Rudy Gay. The acquisition of Tashaun Prince was a great move, Prince will provide much needed depth from the bench with his scoring and ability to defend multiple positions in the court. I don’t think there’s a single team in the Western Conference looking forward to playing against the Memphis Grizzlies in the opening rounds of the playoffs. The Grizzlies have the perfect balance of players and if the big three of Randolph, Gasol, and Conley can play consistently, the Grizzlies will breeze through the first round of the NBA playoffs.
5. Denver Nuggets
The Denver Nuggets arguably have the most complete and efficient balance of players among any team in the league, they have exploited many of the slower front court teams by pushing the ball down the court and finishing with fast break points. JaVale McGee has finally come to form as a complete player, defensively and offensively. McGee is finally starting to show he has the potential to be one of the best big men in the league but Andra Iguodala is the x-factor in regards to how far the Denver Nuggets will succeed in the playoffs. Iguodala has to be more selfish offensively and more aggressive defensively in order to be a greater asset to the team.