The two times defending NBA Champion Golden State Warriors are unsurprisingly at the top of the Western Conference. Because of this, the Warriors are the clear favorites to once again represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals. Despite this, we have to ask: who will be the 2nd best team in the West come playoff time? Let’s take a look at the other playoff teams in the Western Conference and why or why not they are the 2nd best.
Case for: The Denver Nuggets are currently 2nd in the Western Conference and have been right behind the Golden State Warriors in the standings for most of the season. To make matters more impressive, the Nuggets have done this despite two starters, Gary Harris and Will Barton, missing extended periods of time. The Nuggets absolutely have the firepower to make a deep playoff run.
Case against: Sure the Nuggets have been great this regular season, but can they do it in the playoffs? The Nuggets haven’t made the playoffs since 2013 and do not possess much experience.
Case for: The Portland Trailblazers are currently 3rd in the loaded Western Conference. Unlike the Nuggets, the Trailblazers have playoff experience, as they have been in the postseason five consecutive seasons.
Case against: Sure the Portland Trailblazers have playoff experience, but is it good experience? Like where they are placed currently, they were 3rd in the Western Conference last season only to get swept in the playoffs. Since 2015, the only playoff series win Portland has was against the Clippers, who were without Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.
Case for: Last season, the Rockets did something no team has done: Push the Warriors with Kevin Durant past five games in the postseason. Not only did they do that, but they took the series to seven games and could have won it if Chris Paul didn’t get hurt! The Rockets have been playing great basketball lately and are ready to make a playoff run.
Case against: Sure the Rockets took the Warriors to seven games last season, but this Rockets team isn’t the same. Additionally, we’ve seen James Harden underperform in the playoffs before. Are we sure we can trust him?
Case for: Since the Tobias Harris trade, the Clippers have the best record in the NBA. They will enter the playoffs with lots of momentum.
Case against: Sure the Clippers have been playing great lately, but how sustainable is their success? The NBA is a star-driven league. It is hard to win when you don’t have one on your team. The Clippers lack a star player or even an all-star on their roster.
Case for: Despite previously lacking playoff experience, the Utah Jazz were able to win a playoff series last season. Now with experience under their belt, the Jazz and their stifling defense should be feared even more.
Case against: Other than Donovan Mitchell, who can we trust on the Jazz to create their own shot on offense? The NBA is an offensive league, it’s hard to win in the postseason when you’re asking one player to carry a big offensive load.
Case for: The Thunder are one of the few teams that possess more than one all-star. The NBA is a star-driven league. The fact the Thunder have both Paul George and Russell Westbrook should not be ignored.
Case against: Sure the Thunder have George and Westbrook, but how did that previously work out for them? Additionally, George and the Thunder have both regressed as this season has progressed.
Case for: Come playoff time, it is hard to bet against Gregg Popovich, arguably the greatest coach in NBA history.
Case against: Do the current day Spurs have enough firepower to advance in the postseason?
DENVER, CO – NOVEMBER 13: Chris Paul (3) of the Houston Rockets backs down Monte Morris (11) of the Denver Nuggets during the first half on Monday, November 13, 2018. The Denver Nuggets hosted the Houston Rockets at the Pepsi Center. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images)