NBA: Best in the West?


While the matchups in the Eastern Conference are set in stone, the Western Conference won’t be finalized until the regular season wraps up tomorrow (Wednesday) night.

Home court advantage is a big deal in the NBA playoffs and bigger to none than the Los Angeles Lakers.  The Lakers are looking to three-peat, but are a year older and Thunder can be heard louder and louder in the distance. A year ago, on their way a second consecutive NBA title, Showtime was put to a test against Oklahoma City.

Here is what we do know, San Antonio is the top dog, and holds home court through the Western Conference playoffs. It’s not yet clear whom the Spurs will open up with, but it will be either Portland, Memphis or New Orleans. We also know that Denver will enter the post season as the fifth seed, with Dallas, Oklahoma City or even the Lakers their opening round opponent.

Despite being best in the west (record wise) the Spurs aren’t getting much post season respect. San Antonio is a three-headed monster, with Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker all a year grayer. A Spurs win tonight in Los Angeles might even bump the Lakers down to fourth. Why is that significant? It would mean a potential 2nd round rematch should both win their opening round series. Probably not what San Antonio is wishing for, but certainly a possibility should they win tonight.

Oklahoma City is the opposite of San Antonio when it comes to hype. The Thunder are the sexy pick with young stars, led by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Oklahoma City strengthened its only weakness, acquiring bruiser Kendrick Perkins from Boston in a trade deadline deal. Nobody wants to play the Thunder, at least not early on in the post season.

Denver has been the surprise of the west. Since the blockbuster Carmelo trade, the Nuggets have been one of the hottest teams in the NBA. Head Coach George Karl has gone as far to say its his best and most favorite team in his years in the Mile High City. While the Nuggets lost the star power in Anthony, they acquired incredible depth and substantial talent as well in the deal.

Dallas has high hopes and their is not a deeper team in the Association. Dirk Nowitzki is having a huge season and the Mavericks go ten deep on the bench. The loss of Caron Butler hurt, but the addition of Corey Brewer has helped off set that. Make no mistake, the difference in the Mavs this season, is the rebounding and physical defensive presence of Tyson Chandler.

Portland is the only other team in the west that may make some noise. The Blazers improved their lot with the trading deadline acquisition of mercurial forward Gerald Wallace. LeMarcus Aldridge and Wes Matthews should both receive consideration for most improved honors, while injuries have become synonymous with Brandon Roy and Greg Oden.

How important are these end of regular season games? I’ll give you my favorite answer, it depends. It didn’t matter for Boston as they were locked in to their slot in the East and rested the old boys in the loss to Washington on Monday night. Other teams have indicated that they will rest players, in hopes of a quick rest of bumps and bruises. Playoff matchups do matter and they will be impacted by these last few games, meaning they matter as well.

NBA: Best of the West

With the exception of Oklahoma City, the NBA Western Conference was weakened with the continued exodous of mega talent to the East. Even so, the two time defending champs reside in the Pacific and the sexiest team on the rise, Oklahoma City rule the Northwest, both from the Western Conference.

Gone are Deron Williams, Carmelo Anthony, Jeff Green and Chauncey Billups. The short term winners are the Lakers as they strive to three-peat. The long term winners are the Thunder as the future power of the West have distanced themselves from the rest. Finishing first in the West assures home court advantage to the finals, but also probably lands a 2nd round match up with Oklahoma City, as the Thunder are looking more and more like a 4th seed. FantasySP takes a look at projected first round playoff match ups.

Memphis vs San Antonio– The Grizzlies picked up forward Shane Battier at the deadline to help carry them through the injury to Rudy Gay. Memphis tried to trade O.J.Mayo, but missed the deadline, creating an awkward situation. Zach Randolph was also on the block,  but will remain the Grizzlies main option in the post and on the  boards. The Spurs will be without  Tony Parker for 2-4 weeks, giving George Hill an opportunity to run the show. San Antonio may have one last run, with the inside-outside game of Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili aging.

Portland vs Oklahoma City– Portland with a huge pickup at the deadline, getting explosive forward Gerald Wallace from Charlotte.  Wallace is a freak athletically and provides another option as Brandon Roy works his crippled knees back into shape.  LeMarcus Aldridge has taken a step toward power elite and Wes Matthews provides necessary minutes in relief of Roy. And yes, Greg Oden is still injured. The Thunder always a popular pick may have become the favorite.  Oklahoma City getting the big man they long desired, acquiring center Kendrick Perkins from Boston. The Thunder had to give up athletic flexibility in Jeff Green, but now have the big banger to face Dirk, Duncan, Bynum and beyond.  Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden get it done on the perimeter, but now Serge Ibaka has a playmate in the paint.

Denver vs Los Angeles Lakers– Looking at the big picture, Denver is in much better shape for the long run than they were just a few short weeks ago. Melo’s loss will be felt come playoff time, but the Nuggets certainly received value. Ray Felton, Danilo Galinari and Wilson Chandler are now in Denver, courtesy of  the Knicks and will see big minutes in the post season. Ty Lawson will share the point with Felton, while Kenyon Martin and J.R.Smith will be expected to fill the scoring void. Nene was rumored to be on the block, but Denver kept him, proving to fans that  winning remains an important part of the equation. Even with the Thunder roaring in Oklahoma City, the Lakers remain the favorite to three-peat. LA toyed with the idea of moving Andrew Bynum for Melo, but wisely did not, maintaining the size up  front that distinguishes them from the rest. The Lakers back court is stronger, Steve Blake allowing Derek Fisher to excel in critical minutes and Shannon Brown has been a nice surprise off the bench. Most of all, Kobe is Kobe.

New Orleans vs Dallas– The Hornets seem  the misfit of the West. Whomever gets New Orleans in the first round sure will be getting a break. No wonder Chris Paul wants out off NOLA.  The Hornets have nice bigs in David West and Emeka Okafor, but that’s about it. You think Trevor Ariza wishes he was back in Los Angeles about now? The Mavericks are the deepest club in the Association and appear close to adding another body. Free agent Corey Brewer is being courted by half a dozen teams, but only the Mavs have a mid-level exception contract to offer. Good money, chance to  go deep in playoffs, sure sounds alot better than Minnesota. Losing Caron Butler for the year hurt, but the exceptional play by center Tyson Chandler has more than made up for it.

NBA: Deadline Impact

The decks have been re-shuffled and its a race to the finish in the Association!

For months we heard rumors of the final destination of Carmelo Anthony.  New York,  New Jersey, back and forth, who would it be.  As the world knows, the Knicks won the prize, but across the river, it was the Nets setting the bar with a shocking trade for mega point guard Deon Williams.  The Williams deal surprised everyone, no rumors, mock salary cap experts making it balance. Simply done deal.

How did the projected playoff teams fare? We start atop the Atlantic Division with Boston.  Not unlike The Deron Deal, The Celtics surpised the NBA world by shipping their big body in the middle, Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City. It was certainly no secret the C’s wanted a reliable swing man to back up Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, but not by parting with the blue collar glue that bonded the four All-Stars together.  From a fantasy perspective don’t expect the numbers to change much. Perkins will continue to rebound and man the middle, while Jeff Green’s shots will be limited for many of the same reasons he had to share in Oklahoma. Atlanta was the other big mover in the East. The Hawks finally getting a point guard that can do it all. Kirk Hinrich brings leadership, a strong on ball perimeter defense and the ability to both distribute and score.  Hinrich’s assist numbers should explode and Atlanta’s big three of Joe Johnson, Al Horford and Josh Smith should see increased scoring numbers across the board. Out West, watch out Lakers, yes that Thunder you hear in the distance is coming from Oklahoma.  Not only did OK City acquire Perkins but another big body in Nazr Mohammed.  Nazr won’t bring you any fantasy numbers, but does bring the body to help Perk bang the Duncan’s, Dirk’s and Gasol’s of the West. Portland pulls in best supporting actor out West, adding the mercurial Gerald Wallace. Wallace will continue to stash multiple fantasy categories and provides some insurance for the hobbled Brandon Roy. Like New Jersey in the East, Denver did what it had to do to salvage value for Deron getting a future fantasy stud in Derrick Favors. For now, Devin Harris assumes Williams’ assists while Favors continues to develop. The focus now shifts from the trade chat rooms to the court for what promises to be one of the more anticipated post-seasons in years.