Congratulations everyone. We made it to the final two teams! If my predictions are correct, these two teams will make it through the gauntlet that is the Western Conference with the best records. Both of these teams have superstars. Both have tremendous depth. And both have a few questions going into the season that could make or break it for them.
Come back tomorrow for my prediction on how I think the Playoffs will turn out and who we will the NBA Champion. If you missed any of our other previews check them out on www.benchpointsblog.com. Get excited because the season starts in just a few days!
- Oklahoma City Thunder
Last Year’s Finish: 9th Seed
Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Russell Westbrook
SG: Andre Roberson
SF: Kevin Durant
PF: Serge Ibaka
C: Steven Adams
The Thunder were destroyed by injuries last season. That is why I don’t think it will be a stretch to say that a team that didn’t even make the playoffs last year will finish with the second best record this year. The only major change Oklahoma City made during the offseason was a change at head coach. Billy Donovan comes in Gainesville to inherit one of the most talented teams in the league.
When you have Durant, Westbrook, and Ibaka it almost doesn’t matter who else you have. But OKC has 4 more quality big men in Steven Adams, Enes Kanter, Mitch McGary and Nick Collison. D.J. Augustin and Cameron Payne give the Thunder 2 talented back up point guards who may be better suited to run Donovan’s offense and let Westbrook slide over to SG. That spot will hopefully be filled by Dion Waiters, if he can stop playing so selfishly and buy into the team concept. Waiters is extremely talented but just doesn’t know the correct way to play.
All this being said, I don’t see any weaknesses on this team. They have superstars but also have depth. They have playoff experience yet are still young. They have everything you need.
X-Factor? Billy Donovan. Can he come in from the college ranks and demand respect right away? Or will this be like a Cleveland situation where the players run the team. The players seemed to like Scott Brooks and that could cause friction. Can Donovan keep the focus on the court and not let Kevin Durant’s impending free agency be a black cloud hanging over the season? Check out the playoff preview tomorrow to see just how far I think this team can go.
- Houston Rockets
Last Year’s Finish: 2nd seed
Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Patrick Beverley
SG: James Harden
SF: Trevor Ariza
PF: Terrence Jones
C: Dwight Howard
I put the Rockets at the top not only because of what their team is now but also because of what I think their team can be. By that I mean that Houston has many young interchangeable parts that could be packaged together in a trade to add a piece for their playoff run. And no GM has shown more aggressiveness in the trade market than Daryl Morey.
Because of those interchangeable parts the Rockets have the flexibility to change their lineup and matchup with any of the Western Conference big dogs. They have a wonderful balance between offense and defense. They have the depth to be able to rest their superstars and still win games, and I think they will be motivated to get the top seed.
X Factor? Ty Lawson. The Rockets received a talented PG for almost nothing because Lawson has received two DUI’s in the past 6 months. If Lawson can control himself off the court, this should be the perfect situation for him on the court. He can run Houston’s up-tempo system and have the option to lob it up to Dwight or kick it out to Harden. And best of all, he doesn’t have to be a leader on this team. He didn’t handle that responsibility well in Denver. I think Lawson will behave and be a key contributor to this team.
Check us out tomorrow to see who Caleb and I think will make it to the finals and who will become the new NBA Champions.