By now, I’m sure we all feel like the dust is starting to settle in the NBA landscape, and all signs are clearing pointing towards the Western Conference being the dominant conference for yet another year in the NBA. How did all of this, in the words of fictional anchorman Ron Burgundy, “escalate so quickly?” For starters, the era of the “super teams” put more pressure on each teams stars to make a huge push for other viable free agents in order to even have a chance against the NBA’s elite (i.e. Cleveland Cavaliers & Golden State Warriors). Each of these major market teams have done what they have felt was most necessary in order to take their teams to the next level.
Out West, the shakeup of rosters is all but final, with the big exception of a team not just rebuilding, but re-loading with huge talent: the Houston Rockets. After acquiring Chris Paul in a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers, the Rockets seem to be ready to dethrone, at the very least, San Antonio, for the designation of the second best team in the Western Conference. James Harden, fresh off his “super max” extension, seems poised to redeem himself from his highly criticized last playoff performance against the Spurs.
Speaking of the San Antonio Spurs, they have shown strong interest in another marquee player, in the disgruntled Cleveland Cavalier point guard, Kyrie Irving. Let’s say San Antonio is able to put together an enticing enough package to get Cleveland to take the “poison pill” with Kyrie, then what? It will all boil down to the assets San Antonio had to give up in order to stay relevant in the wild West. We all know that the Spurs haven’t had to re-build their roster since the 90’s, and they always seem to be right in the mix of the short-list of title contenders.
So, who else could potentially give the newly crowned NBA champions a run for their money? I wouldn’t sleep on the Minnesota Timberwolves this year. They have slowly been acquiring top-level talent such as Jimmy Butler and Andrew Wiggins, have a marquee coach in Tom Thibodeau, and could play loose enough to surprise many teams during the 2017-2018 NBA season. Sure, the Timberwolves haven’t really been world beaters ever since Kevin Garnett left their roster for the Boston Celtics years ago, but these Wolves have grown up fast.
Another potential team that could make a run at the West’s elite is the Oklahoma City Thunder, for obvious reasons. The franchise got the prized “asset” of the off-season in trading for Paul George to go along with their reigning NBA MVP, Russell Westbrook. This team was solid, and at times proved to be special, especially because of the incredibly elevated play of “Mr. Triple Double,” Russell Westbrook. However, do not overlook the job their coach, Billy Donovan, has done in order to shape this young roster into a true contender going into the new season.
Based on all these factors listed above, I have the Western Conference seeding going as follows: 1) Golden State Warriors vs. 8) New Orleans Pelicans; 2) Houston Rockets vs. 7) Los Angeles Lakers; 3) San Antonio Spurs vs. 6) Memphis Grizzlies; 4) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. 5) Minnesota Timberwolves. As boring as the 2017 NBA playoffs were, this type of stacked lineup card would likely compete with ratings records, regardless of the late starts the games typically have.
Image Credit: ABC News
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