Anything could happen in the stockpiled, stockpiled West.
Sorry, Dallas and whoever emerges from the Oklahoma City-New Orleans tussle for the conference's final playoff spot. The
That leaves six legitimate contenders for a conference title that should serve as a prelude to playing the presumed Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals.
The case for Golden State
The notion that the Warriors won't go far because they are too reliant on jump shooting is as quaint as an early 20th Century bed and breakfast perched on a Napa Valley mountaintop.
This team has so much more to offer than the three-pointers of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Small forward
Golden State is so deep it can bring a pair of former All-Stars off the bench in
The stat that should scare the rest of the West: The Warriors are 53-7 this season in games Bogut has played.
The case for Houston
Their presence alone will make the Rockets a tough out in any series. Houston has won all four games Howard has played since returning from knee swelling that sidelined him for two months, but the loss of point guard Patrick Beverley to a season-ending wrist injury is a big ouchie.
Fortunately for the Rockets, Harden loves operating with the ball in his hands and was already averaging more than twice as many assists as Beverley. Houston's X-factors could be
The case for Memphis
There's a bit more giddyap to the
The Grizzlies still know how to distress teams and television ratings with their defense, giving up an average of only 95.4 points. A recent puzzling slide in which Memphis went 11-10 can largely be dismissed as late-season boredom after
Now that newcomer
The case for the Clippers
It might seem insincere to tout a team that has never made it past the second round when history tells us that playoff success is usually incremental.
But these aren't your father's or even your older-by-30-seconds twin brother's Clippers. They have largely shelved the inconsistency that plagued them earlier in the season and should get back star sixth man Jamal Crawford just in time for the playoffs.
What makes the Clippers even more dangerous is that they and the Warriors are the only teams to rank in the top six in offensive and defensive efficiency since the All-Star break, meaning they can beat teams on both sides of the ball.
Rivers can minimize the impact of his underwhelming second unit by giving spot minutes to a handful of players and benching the rest. And perhaps no NBA player will be more determined to make a deep playoff push than Chris Paul, the eight-time All-Star who has never made it past the second round.
The case for Portland
Olshey's acquisition of shooting guard
All-Star power forward
The case for San Antonio
Been there, won that. No one else in the West has the recent history of the
San Antonio understandably slogged through the season's first four months after making back-to-back Finals appearances, but perhaps no one in the league has been as good over the last six weeks. The Spurs have won 16 of 19 games — with two of the defeats coming in overtime — to demonstrate they realize it's go time.
Not even the prolonged struggles of