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.