By Chelsea Torres, Project Spurs.com
The San Antonio Spurs are not looking for just another ‘good season’. They are hungry. Hungry for the title, and hungry to prove to themselves that they deserve a trophy. The Spurs’ record of 55-16 shows that they clearly are the top team in the league. But, they are also in a very tough conference, against teams like the Trailblazers, Clippers, Rockets, Grizzlies and the Thunder.
The Western Conference playoffs will be a brutal competition all on its own. Even the lower seeds will be a hard matchup. At this point, with the Spurs as the number one seed, their first round matchup looks like it could be between the Phoenix Suns or the Dallas Mavericks. The young and talented Suns could be a force to reckon with in a couple of years. While the Mavs have explosive scoring by Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis, both could make for a hard first round matchup.
There is always a chance of misreading the first round matchup, especially with the insane amount of talent in the west. But, real question is, what teams should the Spurs fear? Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and the rest of the offensive-minded Clippers? The well-rounded Rockets who have the league’s second-best winning percentage in their last 25 games? Or, the hard-working duo of Durant and Westbrook along with the Thunder? It’s difficult to say and that’s what will be a lot harder trying to figure out.
The Clippers (50-22), along with the vast improving Blake Griffin, and Chris Paul as the floor general are going to be a tough team to beat during the playoffs. They have one of the deepest rosters in the league and one of the best coaches in the NBA, not to mention they lead the league in points per game (107.4). It is no wonder they are on top of a lot of peoples lists as title contenders for the West. Especially when you have players like, Chris Paul who leads the league in assists (11) and steals (2.53) per game; or, Deandre Jordan who leads the league in rebounds per game (13.7) and field goal percentage (.666). Not only do the Clippers have the stats to strike a little intimidation but, they are also completely healthy…which will be their advantage going into playoffs.
The Rockets (48-22) are another team in the west that cause a big threat to the Spurs. They have been on a hot streak winning 19 of their last 25 games. They rank 3rd overall in the NBA for points per game, they have a strong inside/outside game with Dwight Howard and James Harden. Howard has been one of the best big men in the league for the last 9 years and Harden has been dominant since his days at Arizona State. Chandler Parsons is a young, lanky small forward who can do it all, at 6’9” he can drive, shoot and defend with some of the best in the league. Terrence Jones has developed his game in many ways, but will have his hands full against a veteran player like Tim Duncan. Overall, the Rockets are going to be an interesting team come playoff time.
The always dangerous Thunder are one of the favorites to win the title. Kevin Durant, the front-runner to win the 2014 MVP, is averaging 32.2 ppg, 7.6 rebounds, 5.6 assists, while only missing one game this season. Russell Westbrook is getting healthy at the right time as playoffs are nearing. The Thunder still have a challenging schedule remaining but are still looking like the sure pick to be the number 2 seed. They are one of the better defensive teams in the league and they are 5th in the league in scoring. They will always be more than a threat to the Spurs because of the dramatic series in the 2012 Western Conference Finals.
All-in-all, the western conference playoffs will be a dogfight, with all teams being contenders to make it to the championship. The Spurs will need to continue to stay healthy to compete with the powerhouses in the west. Being overlooked ,once again, can be an advantage that they are willing to use in their favor. Getting to the finals will be a handful for the Spurs as every round is going to be a test in its own.