What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
As we are at the end of the 2012-13 NBA regular season, it is time to look at the teams who can actually win in the coming play-offs. Sure, the casual fan is going to be planted firmly on the Miami Heat bandwagon, but let’s be honest…they aren’t the only team who can win. But to be more honest, there aren’t very many teams who can win. That’s why it is time to take an honest look at each of the playoff teams, strip off the misperceptions and make a realistic assessment of their chances to stand alone on the top of the NBA mountain come June.
Today, we give you the full two scoops of Dubsism on the Western Conference.
You can see the Dubsism run-down of the Eastern Conference here.
8 ) Houston Rockets
The Perception: The Rockets got better when they added James Harden
The Reality: They weren’t that good to start with
Odds of Winning The NBA Title: Roughly the same as Houston being selected to host the Winter Olympics
I really would like to focus on the positives of this team…give me moment do dig them up…
(Cue Jeopardy theme music here…)
This team can three-point shots. In games they win, they’ll hit 15 of them. They’ve got a roster of shooters; James Harden, Jeremy Lin, Chandler Parson, Carlos Delfino, Patrick Beverley, and James Anderson are all capable of dialing long-distance. The other side of the coin is that when they lose, they still shoot a shitload of 3-balls, they just don’t hit them. That losing streak they had back in January exemplified that.
The Rockets were a sexy pre-season pick to be a new player in the Western Conference standings, but they’ve struggled to be more than a .500 squad. They have enough young talent to be a play-off team, but beyond that, they will need more than a Kevin “McFail”-designed offense that is predicated on holding the dribble for 20 secionds, then flinging up ashot with a lower percentage than Auburn football’s graduation rate.
7) Los Angeles Lakers
The Perception: Despite everything, the Lakers can still contend deep into the playoffs
The Reality: They are old, they are hurt, and they are over
Odds of Winning The NBA Title: The Lakers hoist a title in 2013 right after Jerry Buss executes a 360-degree dunk during Game 7 of the Finals
Contrary to what you might think, the Lakers could advance into the second round, but it isn’t likely. First of all, Steve Nash has to stay healthy and has to play 40 minutes a game at least. The Lakers are desperate for someone who can create scoring opportunities off the dribble, and Nash is the only guy they have who can do it; therefore he is their best chance of staging an upset. Sure, a healthy Dwight Howard (question mark #2, by the way…) can notch 30 points and 15 boards per game, but it will mean as much as a turd on a hot sidewalk if the Lakers can’t find someone to handle the defensive pressure and create plays and scoring chances.
The bottom line: The Lakers don’t have Kobe Bryant and their defense has more holes than a Dunkin’ Donuts. Look for Laker Nation to be crying early in the post-season.
6) Golden State Warriors
The Perception: The Warriors were a “surprise” story this season
The Reality: The Warriors success shouldn’t have surprised anybody
Odds of Winning The NBA Title: Not very good, but this team is one to watch in the future
A lot of people want to call the the Golden State Warriors the surprise team of the 2012-13 season. Those were the people who weren’t paying attention.
Last year, it wasn’t hard to tell that the arrival of Mark Jackson as the head coach changed the vibe around this team. That led to this year, where Golden State fans have been treated to a team which has produced awesome performances from David Lee and Stephen Curry, is developing young players like Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson, and has found a way to get above-expected contributions from veterans like Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry.
Don’t overlook center Andrew Bogut either. He’s not flashy, but he can easily give you 12 points and 10 boards a game, and he also provides a defensive presence in the paint that will cause problems for all but the most elite big men. The downside to this team is they lack “big-game” experience, yet despite that they have won no matter the style or location.
5) Memphis Grizzlies
The Perception: Many people couldn’t understand the Rudy Gay trade
The Reality: They got three good players, and did a bit of addition by subtraction
Odds of Winning The NBA Title: The Conference Finals is a realistic goal for this team
Granted winning the whole damn thing is a long shot for the Grizzlies; roughly those of the captian of the high-school chess club getting a blowjob from the head cheerleader. It doesn’t happen often, but it has happened.
The other night, the Grizzlies showed me what hey are all about. Yeah, they missed out on having home-court advantage in their opening-round playoff series, but they won a brutal battle against the Utah Jazz. Wednesday night the Jazz were like a cornered animal fighting for its life; they scratched, clawed, bit, and gouged in an attempt to save their playoff life. The fact that Memphis withstood that assault and brushed Utah aside like so muck basketball chaff underscored this team can be a tough, defensively superior team when its “do or die” playoff time.
The trouble is that while this team did get better in terms of defense and depth by trading Gay, it still struggles to replace the scoriing options he provided. Don’t get me wrong, the style of defense the Grizzlies play can be enough to win, but they simply don’t look to be able to hold teams like the Thunder and the Heat to under 84 points for four games. Boil it all down to bear grease, and you get two undeniable facts. The Grizzlies’ reasoning for needing to cut some salary is totally understandable, and they got back some good value in return for Gay.
On the other paw, trading away an important player in the middle of a winning season has rarely been a recipe for post-season success in the NBA.
4) Los Angeles Clippers
The Perception: The Clippers are the most exciting team in the West
The Reality: The Clippers are NOT a title contender
Odds of Winning The NBA Title: This version of the Los Angeles Clippers will win an NBA title right after owner Donald Sterling wins an NAACP Lifetime Achievement Award
Yeah, I know they had a a 17-game winning streak. Yeah, I know they’ve become a traveing high-light reel show. Yeah, I know they’ve gotten a shitload of praise, and they have largely lived up to the raised expectations. You know the Clippers have arrived when their clubhouse foibles have become tabloid fodder; there have been reports of disharmony among its stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. At least one of them isn’t fucking a Kardashian.
At the same time you have to credit the Clippers for hanging on to the home-court advantage in a Western Conference which could easily resemble the shower in a Turkish prison, you also have to condemn them for being exceptionally streaky. To counter that 17-game winning streak in December, they posted a barely-better-than-.500 mark in January by going 9-7. They’ve also had two four-game losing streaks this season.
In short, are they they team which ended the season on a seven-game winner, or are they the team which dropped four out of five immediately before that?
This represents the guts of my issue with the Clippers…if they get stuck in a rut (and all it takes to do that is a team that can put the clamps on the Clipper run-and-lob game), this is the time of year where even a three-game losing streak gives you the same life expectancy as a Jehovah’s Witness with a severed artery. For those of you who may not get that reference, I’ll put in basketball terms…The Clippers are the Knicks of the West; another team I don’t buy because all they are is a a result of a potential MVP candidate and a few contributing role players. Having said that, here’s how to fuck up the Clippers’ entire game in three bullet points:
The Clippers can’t get out and run all the time, and they know it. That means once you stop their stop the running game, you can kill their half-court game. The Clipper half-court strategy is all about the “pick-and-roll.” They run it to perfection largely because a) it’s a basic play every properly-coached JV team in America can pull off, b) they have the “Chuck Norris” of the pocket pass, otherwise known as Chris Paul, and c) the Clippers have athletic bigs like DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin who love attacking the basket. If a team can stop the transition game, they can stop the half-court game.
To top that off, don’t forget the Clippers are an average-to-worse defensive team. Press the ball on offense, but don’t get into a track meet. Control the pace of the game, especially when it comes to taking your game to the Clippers’ defense.
3) Denver Nuggets
The Perception: In March, the Nuggets were a sexy pick for the Conference Finals
The Reality: Without Danilo Gallinari, they suddenly become the West’s answer to the Bucks
Odds of Winning The NBA Title: As a black guy who has rejected his Catholic roots, I will become Pope before the Nuggets win an NBA title
Once upon a time, the Denver Nuggets were the definition of a young and up-and-coming team. When they get Danilo Gallinari back from his injury, and he proves to be the scoring machine he once was, that will again be true. Until then, the Nuggets are a gold prospector’s sluice full of dreams. For the future, the Nuggets have only one player who is over 30 years old (Andre Miller). That young lineup let see stretches where t in this season saw Denver enjoying stretches where the Nuggets sat among the top five in the league in scoring, rebounding, and assists. Normally, they would have been a #6 team in this tournament, but now they are a #3, largely because they can score. But without Danilo Gallinari, the scoring has dried up like Hilary Clinton without hormone replacement therapy. Andre Igoudala can carry a lot of that load, but eventually he’s going to get double-teamed into being a non-factor.
2) San Antonio Spurs
The Perception: The Spurs are old and boring
The Reality: The Spurs are old and boring, and are also one of the best teams in the league
Odds of Winning The NBA Title: Don’t be surprised to see Tim Duncan hoisting the trophy from his walker
The Spurs paced the Western Conference for much of the season, and while they coasted across the finish line, that’s because they know that eventually they are going to have to deal with the younger Thunder. Watching the Spurs pace themselves during a season reminds me of an old joke…
There’s an old bull and a young bull standing on a hill.
The young bull turns to the old bull and says, “Hey, let’s run down there and fuck one of those cows.”
The old bull turns to the young bull and says “Let’s walk and fuck all of them.”
The Spurs are that old bull, and there isn’t a cow in this league they can’t still fuck.
1) Oklahoma City Thunder
The Perception: The Thunder ore an outstanding young team
The Reality: They are even better than that
Odds of Winning The NBA Title: The best of any team in this tournament, and that includes the Heat
Back at the All-Star break, the Oklahoma City Thunder were getting 4/1 odds to win the NBA title. They should have gotten better since then. In case you haven’t noticed with all of ESPN’s fellating of LeBron James and the Miami Heat, the Thunder have become the best TEAM in the league, and they are one which has everything going for it.
They have a couple of superstars who can dominate games in Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.
They are healthy.
Scariest of all, they’ve fixed the big deficit they had last season; now they have play-off experience.
Their weakness this year is their defense, which is average and surrenders more points than it should. Having said that, they will still pose some serious challenges for anybody they face from here on out. They are big and deep in the front court; Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka can handle any other bigs in the game. Honestly, I think their biggest challenge will be getting out of the West. If they make the Finals, they have to be a favorite to win, even over the band-wagon pick Miami Heat.
If you don’t want to believe that, consider the following: They were three wins away from winning the title last season, after winning Game 1 of the Finals. They were an inexperienced team which fell to the experienced Heat. Like it or not, the Thunder have been forged in a cauldron that is the West, which is by far the better conference. Just match them up down the line after the top seeds. The Spurs are sure as shit better than the Knicks. The Clippers would blow the Bulls off the floor. Memphis would end a series against Atlanta with chunks of the Hawks in their stool. The only exception is the Pacers are far better than the Nuggets.
Then consider the top seeds. The Thunder are a far better team than the Heat. The heat have the most dominant player in the league in LeBron James. Dwayne Wade is a hall-of-fame caliber player. But what else do the Heat have? Just match up the rosters of the Heat and any other title contender and tell me how times the Heat don’t have the best player in any given pairing.