Western Conference Outlook
Playoff Teams: Warriors, Rockets, Spurs, Thunder, Grizzlies, Clippers, Jazz, Pelicans
Duo(s) I’m watching: I can’t wait to see Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant get back on the court together. Without Durant, Westbrook went on to win the scoring title but the Thunder missed the playoffs. I’m sure people will try to create a problem between the two because of Durant’s pending free agency. They will be fine and will lead the Thunder back to the playoffs.
I’m also excited to see how Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge play together. I know people want to see how Duncan and Aldridge play off each other but the Leonard-Aldridge dynamic is more important going forward. These two guys are the future of the Spurs. We already know Parker, Ginobili and Duncan will get plenty of rest during the regular season. I expect Leonard and Aldridge to be All-Stars for this Spurs team.
Bounce back player(s): Well this is has to be Kevin Durant. He had three surgeries last season after winning the MVP award. The man might still be the 2nd best player in the world. He will be a free agent next season so all eyes will be on him. He will be back to his normal self this year. Basketball is better when he is playing. He won’t lead the league in scoring because he will look to get his teammates involved more. This team will need the role players to step up in the playoffs.
Best pickup(s): Most people would go with LaMarcus Aldridge but I think Paul Pierce and Lance Stephenson were great pickups for the Clippers. Last season the Clippers didn’t have any depth and everyone not named Chris Paul played like a dear in the headlights during crunch time in the playoffs. Pierce won’t play much in the regular season but his presences will be felt in the locker room and on the bench. Lance Stephenson is a guy that can grab the rebound and push it up the court. He’s another playmaker off the bench who can get guys like Jamal Crawford open shots. Stephenson won’t be a knuckle head in L.A. because of the Clippers locker room. He will be looking to prove that last year was just a fluke
Player that needs to deliver: Anthony Davis is an amazing player who is getting better. Last season he managed to get his team in the playoffs but that was because the Thunder had so many injuries. This season Anthony Davis has to dominate and really lead the Pelicans to the playoffs. He has added muscle and a three point shot. AD hit one three pointer last year and that got the Pelicans into the playoffs. He’s already hit five this preseason. He could win the MVP award if he gets the Pelicans a convincing playoff spot. He has all the talent in the world but now his team must follow his lead. He has to continue to make the playoffs even in a tough Western Conference.
Questions: Will the Jazz make the playoffs? Will the Clippers make it to the conference finals? Can the Warriors repeat? Are the Spurs still great? Can Kevin Durant stay healthy?