LeBron James sits on the NBA’s throne once again. Will anyone usurp King James and the defending-champion Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference? Or will the Denver Nuggets grind their way to their first conference title?
For this preview, we’re taking a Malcolm Gladwell perspective inspired by his best-selling Blink, on the Western Conference. We previously shared a quickie preview on the Eastern Conference, and here’s our gut instinct about each team’s chances to win the wild, yet hyper-competitive west.
Once LeBron James locks up a spot in the NBA Finals, no one is going anywhere. He did it with the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavs. He’s about to do it again with the LA Lakers. If Anthony Davis stays healthy, the upgraded Lakers have an inside track to another Western Conference title.
|NBA 2021 WESTERN CONFERENCE ODDS|
- LA Lakers +140
- LA Clippers +275
- Denver Nuggets +1000
- Dallas Mavericks +1100
- Golden State Warriors +1400
- Portland Trail Blazers +1600
- Utah Jazz +1600
- Houston Rockets +3000
- Phoenix Suns +3000
- New Orleans Pelicans +3500
- Memphis Grizzlies +8000
- San Antonio Spurs +8000
- Minnesota Timberwolves +10000
- Sacramento Kings +8000
- Oklahoma City Thunder +20000
The LA Clippers are a popular pick to edge out the Lakers, even though they lost their head coach and reigning Sixth Man of the Year. Ty Lue won an NBA title with the Cleveland Cavs, and the switch up will be good for the Clippers, who got stagnant under Doc Rivers.
The NBA coaching carousel continued with four new head coaches, including Lue (Clippers), Stan Van Gundy (Pelicans), Stephen Silas (Rockets), and Mark Daigneault (Thunder).
Contenders: LA/Denver Repeat Again?
The Lakers and Nuggets should meet again in the Western Conference finals, despite all the hype for the Dallas Mavericks. The Lakers are +125 odds to win the west and return to the NBA Finals. The Nuggets are +1000 odds to win the Western Conference and advance to the NBA Finals.
LA Lakers… The Lakers bolstered the team with Dennis Schroder and Sixth Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell. The Lakers weren’t the best team in the league last year, but they still won a title. They actually have a better squad than last year, which is … scary. To quote Ric Flair, “To be the man, you gotta beat the man. Wooooo!”
Denver Nuggets… We loved the Nugs last year, and we love them once again. Maybe they’ll be able to play the postseason in Denver and take advantage of Colorado’s thin air that feels even more punishing the deeper you play into a series. We know the Nugs love to play the full seven games. Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray were one of the most exciting duos inside the NBA Bubble. If Michael Porter. Jr finally blossoms into a consistent scoring threat, then Denver could give the Lakers a tough time.
Pretenders: Clips, Mavs, GSW, Blazers, and Jazz
These teams will advance to the postseason, but fall short of the NBA Finals. The overrated Clippers are +275 odds to win the Western Conference, but the team is hexed. The Clippers have never gone to the NBA Finals, let alone secured themselves a spot in the Western Conference Finals.
LA Clippers… The Kawhi Leonard Hollywood act really rubbed his teammates the wrong way. If they can’t nip that sitch in the bud right away, it’s going to be a long and disappointing season for new head coach Ty Lue. Hey, even if there’s disharmony in the locker room, the combo of Kawhi and Paul George is still one of the best duos in the league. Can Kawhi break the Western Conference Finals jinx?
Dallas Mavericks… Luka Doncic is a triple-double magnet, but the Unicorn is a medical liability. Kristaps Porzingis missed the postseason with an injured knee, while Doncic gutted it out and played on two sprained ankles. Doncic is the leading candidate for MVP.
Golden State Warriors… Without Klay Thompson, the Warriors aren’t going anywhere. When the Splash Brothers are finally reunited, then great things will happen with the Warriors once again. In the meantime, they have a chance to develop first-round pick James Wiseman.
Portland Trail Blazers… Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are the best backcourt in the NBA. Rip City welcomes back Jusuf Nurkic from injury, and Carmelo Anthony, who proved he still has gas in the tank.
Utah Jazz… We caught a glimpse of ‘Playoff Spida’ and Donovan Mitchell ball it up with an extra side of hot sauce.
Middle of the Road: Griz, Pel, Suns, Rockets
The pikers could sneak into the playoffs, but they won’t last long. But the #7 or #8 seed is also an opportunity for teams that missed the postseason last year, such as the New Orleans Pelicans and Phoenix Suns.
Houston Rockets… Can you name the other starters aside from James Harden and John Wall? It’s okay, I had to look them up too. Houston added Boogie Cousins and Christian Wood, but how long before they trade Harden? New head coach Stephen Silas inherited an impending sh-tstorm.
Phoenix Suns… Devin Booker is the best scorer in the NBA you never got to see because the Suns rarely played on TNT/ESPN. With Chris Paul as his wingman, the Suns are on an upswing. Blue horseshoe loves the Phoenix Suns.
New Orleans Pelicans… New Orleans loves jazz-funk, which is the best way to describe the Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram Show. Stan Van Gundy will expedite the rebuilding process, but there’s nothing but upside, sunrise, and rainbows coming to the Big Easy. But, maybe not for a couple of more seasons.
Memphis Grizzlies… 2020 Rookie of the Year Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr turned the Grizzlies into a low-fi, playoff-caliber team. But can they take the next step and actually win a playoff series?
Wait Until Next Year, Fellas
As Kenny Rogers once said, “You gotta know when to hold ’em, and you gotta know when to fold ’em.” If the Gambler were betting on the Western Conference, he’d avoid the Thunder, Spurs, T-Wolves, and Kings.
San Antonio Spurs… Poor Pops deserves better. The Spurs missed the playoffs for the first time in 23 years. DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge don’t have much of a supporting cast.
Minnesota Timberwolves… Karl Antony-Towns gets to play with Anthony Edwards, Not the dude who played Goose in “Top Gun,” but the #1 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.
Sacramento Kings… The Kings are the Jabronis of the Pacific division. Luke Walton has a nifty cast of young stars like De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Marvin Bagley II, and Harrison Barnes. Maybe rookie Tyrese Haliburton can come to the rescue and help the Kings win games?
Oklahoma City Thunder… CTRL+ATL+DELETE. Mark Daigneault is the new head coach of a team that has Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Luguentz Dort, plus a whole lot of role players.
For more NBA action, check out OG’s 2021 Eastern Conference preview.