The top five out West heading down the stretch
The Western Conference remains by far the strongest and deepest in the NBA. Even though the Eastern Conference Miami Heat has the best overall record in the league, the Western Conference has better quality teams overall.
Out west, there are a number of teams that could win the conference playoffs and move to the NBA finals. However, with over a dozen games still left on the regular season schedule these same teams are jockeying for position to earn home court advantage for the first round, through the second round or throughout the postseason.
1.San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs have experience and a very good Head Coach in Gregg Popovich. With Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili as their base, the Spurs are a tough team to beat. The Spurs have been to the postseason year in and year out and have been a threat to win the title each year for the last four to five seasons.
The only weakness the Spurs have is their age. Both Duncan and Ginobili are older than 35 and Parker, Boris Diaw and Stephen Jackson are over 30. After an 82-game regular season, the players can get tired easier in the playoffs, as defense because the priority and the games become rougher and more physical.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder
Last season the Oklahoma City Thunder reached the NBA Finals but went home disappointed after being eliminated by Miami. This season the Thunder is in second place in the conference and many feel with an extra year of maturity, will once again reach the finals. With Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook on the court, the Thunder knows they have great offensive power, however, they need to improve defensively to move up to championship level.
Durant and Westbrook are averaging a combined 50 points, 14 boards and 14 assists each game and that moves it very difficult for opponents to stop. Nevertheless, that same offensive power can back fire on the Thunder since they at time do not have other players to step up if the top two have off nights.
3. Denver Nuggets
The streaking Denver Nuggets are on a tear winning 13 straight games and cutting the deficit between them and Northwest division leader the Thunder to just 3 ½ games. The Nuggets have one of the highest scoring offenses in the league and get off more shots than any other team. Nevertheless, the Nuggets are still fourth in offensive efficiency in the league.
On defense, the Nuggets are effective and rank 12th in the league in points allowed per possession, not bad for a run and gun team. If the Nuggets have a weakness it might be the lack of a superstar on the squad, but regardless of that the team will be right there come playoff time and could go deep into the conference playoffs.
4. Los Angeles Clippers
The Los Angeles Clippers have played well the entire season and have the best point guard in basketball in Chris Paul. The team has a great deal of depth and the best bench in the NBA. This season the Clippers have succeeded in knocking the Los Angeles Lakers from the top spot in the Pacific division.
5. Memphis Grizzlies
A dark horse heading down the stretch in the West is the Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizzlies own the league’s best defense and can stop even the high-powered offenses of Oklahoma City and Denver. Memphis is very similar to the Detroit Pistons in 2004, grinding away and wearing down its opponents with strong, physical defense. However, as strong as they are on the defensive end they are equally as bad if not worse on offense.