Earlier this week, I started thinking about which team— if any — had the best chance of knocking the Warriors out of the playoffs. Maybe it was the recent loss to the hated Rockets, maybe it was realizing that very, very few teams have ever been to four straight Finals, maybe it was an overarching feeling of mortality that permeates my world, but either way I figured it was time to step back and take a look at all the other teams in the league. Sometimes our blinders are on and we just tend to gravitate towards stories like, “Oh snap, the Warriors are the first team in league history to have four All-Stars in two straight years,” or other such celebratory things, and we don’t take the competition seriously enough.
That being said, here’s Pt. 2 of my “What to expect when you’re expecting” series, wherein we’ll look at the remaining Western Conference teams that could compete with the Warriors and potentially knock them off come playoff time. This is based off of the standings (as of today). In Pt. 1, we looked at the Houston Rockets and Minnesota Timberwolves. At the time, the Wolves owned the third spot in the West. After two straight losses (one of them last night to the Warriors), they are now in fourth place. No matter, we’ll keep chugging on down the list.
San Antonio Spurs, currently 32-18
It’s the age old adage to beat all adages: “DON’T COUNT OUT THE SPURS.” Sure, they are a year older. Sure, Kawhi Leonard’s injury and subsequent recovery has been — to put it mildly — incredibly un-Spurs like. He came back, he went away. There were rumblings that he’d lost trust in the organization. All this from the player we blindly assumed would spend his entire career in San Antonio and carry on their proud traditions.
Kawhi Leonard being the Pop problem child is a Red Wedding-level plot twist— ☕netw3rk (@netw3rk) January 23, 2018
No matter. The Spurs have plugged away, even as life around and within them has changed. Tony Parker is no longer the starting point guard. That title belongs to Dejounte Murray, the second year player out of University of Washington.
In typical, selfless Spurs fashion, Parker seems totally okay with Popovich’s decision.
“I was like, ‘Oh, no problem,’” Parker told reporters after the game. “Just like Manu [Ginobili], just like Pau [Gasol], that day’s going to come. And if Pop sees something that is good for the team, I’ll try to do my best. I support Pop’s decision, and I’ll try to help [Dejounte Murray] out as best I can, and try to be the best I can in that second unit with Manu and Patty [Mills].”
This season, the Spurs have been less than spectacular offensively, yet they own the second-best defensive rating in the league, per basketball-reference.com. If and when Kawhi Leonard returns to being KAWHI, WORLD ENDER AND BRINGER OF DOOM AND DESPAIR, this team could really take off. We were cheated last season when Leonard was injured in the very first game of what we’d hoped would be an epic Western Conference Finals. Could we see a rematch where both teams have their health? I sure hope so. It’d be a lot more fun than watching the dumb Rockets mope around, flailing their dumb, head-jerking limbs for an entire series.
Oklahoma City Thunder, currently 28-20
LOOOOOOL, you know how badly I just want to write, “The Thunder have no chance to beat the Warriors this season. They are a crap team that plays a crap brand of basketball,” and just move on? But, ugh, whatever. Let’s talk about them.
Russell Westbrook thought he’d been picked last in the All-Star game, which is hilarious because he didn’t realize the list was in alphabetical order. How do you not look at the list and immediately realize it’s in alphabetical order?!
Russell Westbrook asked his thoughts about being picked on LeBron’s team, thought he was the last pick. Informed it was just an alphabetical list, he made sure to correct Melo who was heckling nearby. pic.twitter.com/gPMgPr91Kz— Royce Young (@royceyoung) January 26, 2018
Of course, Westbrook thought John Wall had been picked ahead of him ... so he went out and dropped 46 points on the Wizards because he is the most vindictive, petty player in the league and the Thunder mirror him in every way.
Oh, wait, right, I was supposed to talk about them as contenders, not just continue to make fun of them.
So, uh, they have Carmelo Anthony and ... that will ... help them, I guess?
AHAHAHAHAHAHA what a joke. Anyways, let’s move on.
New Orleans Pelicans, currently 26-21
Unlike Oklahoma City, New Orleans actually has a really fun team that is worth rooting for. DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis have exceeded all expectations, and have been playing some really fun basketball next to one another. Boogie Cousins has taken his game to another level, and now that Davis has some help on the court, he’s blossomed as well.
I mean, tell me this isn’t entertaining!
They’re both starting in this year’s All-Star game (totally deserved for both). Combined, they’re averaging a jaw-dropping 51.9 points, 3.6 blocks, 2.8 steals, 7.6 assists, and 23.3 rebounds! That’s basically a Wilt Chamberlain stat line from the 1961-62 season!
I shit you not, actually.
That season, Wilt Chamberlain averaged 50.4 points, 3.2 assists, and 25.7 rebounds. Blocks and steals weren’t counted, but I’ve got a feeling he would have been right there with them as well, which is ... just straight crazy.
But, back to Boogie and the Brow, they’re having a hell of a year. Will that translate into a deep playoff run? Can the Pelicans figure out their backcourt situation? Sorry, but I just don’t see Jrue Holiday, E’twaun Moore, and Rajon Rondo getting it done against Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and whichever other wings are on the court.
Other teams in the playoff hunt
We might as well list these teams, because why not? None of them have a chance in hell of dethroning the Warriors, but ... whatever.
Trail Blazers, currently 26-22
Eh, rematch anyone?
Nuggets, currently 25-23
Watching Nikola Jokic over an entire series would be fun, but this Nuggets team as currently constructed has a 0% chance of beating the Warriors.
Clippers, currently under .500 at 23-24
We’ll jump back in sometime soon with a quick look at how the Eastern Conference teams are faring so far. For now, cheers, and be safe out there.