The Fate of Western Civilization or That's How You Preview!

WESSSSSSTTTTTT SIIIIDDDDEEEEE! Hoo bangin' on them transformers!

The NBA Playoffs start this weekend, and all eyes are on the Western Conference, which might end up being the most entertaining playoffs in years. The Mavs and the Suns have been the talk all season, but the rest of the pack is right up there. The talent pool is deep. The teams are hungry. It's 40 Games in 40 Nights on TNT!

Sorry. Anyway, I'm writing this on Tuesday afternoon, which means the 8th spot in the West has yet to be clinched, but here's a preview which includes the two teams left vying for that last spot that are playing later on tonight. Just for the record: You should be rooting for the Warriors.

1. Dallas Mavericks

They've been the best team in the league all season long. They haven't just been very good, they've been historically good. They're one of the best regular season teams ever assembled. But will that transfer over to match last year's playoff run? They're still bitter about how the NBA Finals ended last year, with an all-out collapse by the Mavs and a little help from the refs for the Heat.

Last post-season Dirk proved he could actually get it done in the playoffs. He stepped his game up. This year should be no different for the man who should be the 2006-2007 NBA Most Valuable Player. And to top it all off, they've got The Whale Killer. How can you root against him?

2. Phoenix Suns

What else can you say about the Suns? They seem to get better every year. And like a fine wine, (Hey!) Steve Nash gets better with age. He's got career highs in shooting percentage, assists per, and points per. Pretty impressive. Their offense has been nothing short of spectacular, but it's their defense that could potentially be their downfall.

Raja Bell is a lock down guy and The Matrix can get the job done, but the rest of the squad is suspect. Two-time MVP Steve Nash is a defensive liability. And they give up 103 points a game, which is 7th most in the league.

This Suns team looks and feels a lot like the Dallas Mavericks of a few years ago, who led the league in PPG for several seasons, but could never get over the hump in the playoffs. They ran a lot. They scored a lot. They had Nash. But they didn't play D. And it wasn't until Avery Johnson took over that the team jumped to the next level. It's just hard to see this Sun team going to the Finals.

3. San Antonio Spurs

After the All-Star break, this team turned it on. They put their heads down and started rolling over teams after a first half of uncertainty. Their run, of course, went largely unnoticed. While The Mavs and the Suns battled for Western Conference dominance - and the Dirk vs. Nash MVP race was in full swing - the Spurs put together arguably the best second half in either conference. And Tim Duncan put himself right into MVP talks. He won't get it, but he should be heavily considered. Maybe even more-so than Nash.

So are the Spurs as fun to watch as the Suns? Not really. Have they been as dominant as the Mavs? Nope. Are they The Team to Beat? Most likely. They've got the Stone Buddha. They know what it takes to win in the playoffs. They play D. And they've also won a championship, three in fact. Something that neither the Mavs nor the Suns can claim. They might not have been the best in the West all season, but I wouldn't be surprised to see them in the NBA Finals this year.

4. Utah Jazz

Not much to say here. They've been good this season, but not great. They've got good players, but no one that can carry the team in a must win game. They've been so-so on the road, but they've been better at home. Deron Williams has had a stand out season and looks to have a bright future. Jazz F. Boozer finally had a healthy season (which is a first for him in Utah considering he's been jinxed ever since he stabbed a well-intentioned blind man in the back) and put together a solid 21/11/3 average.

Andre Kirilenko, on the other hand, has had a fairly disappointing season. Once upon a time he was The Next Big thing, but when you're "franchise guy" has a career average of 12 points and 6 boards a game, you don't have much of a chance in the playoffs. Their record is deceiving. They've been consistent, and the ups and downs of teams in the bottom half of the Conference have helped them look a lot better than they are. The bottom line is that they're 3-7 over their last 10 and don't look like they're going to do any damage in the post-season.

5. Houston Rockets

On the flip side, we've got the Rockets. Saddled with injury problems all season long (Yao missed a big part of the season) they've been lying in the weeds for most of 2006-2007. But now it looks like they're healthy and ready to go. Monday night's 120-117 victory over the Suns looked like quite a statement game, as the Rockets hope to close out their regular season with a bang. T-Mac was electrifying, showing just how good he can be if he only feels like it.

In the first round they go up against the unimpressive Jazz, and even though they're the five seed, they are most definitely the favorite in the series. If McGrady can put together a performance like he did in the first round two years ago they'll easily take the Jazz in 5. Yao's injury might have been a blessing for the Rockets. They're over looked, they're well rested and they could very well sneak up on a team in the second round.

6. Denver Nuggets

It took a while - due to injuries and suspensions that prevented the team from "gelling" - but the Nuggets finally look like the team everyone thought they would be when they traded for The Answer on that fateful mid-December day. They've got the hot hand, going 9-1 over their last 10. But they also go up against the Spurs in round one, which could potentially spell doom.

To get past San Antonio, AI is going to have to take the reigns. He's going to have to put in a performance akin to the Sixers 2001 playoff run. The difference being that he's actually got some help this time. 'Melo needs to prove that he's more than just a scorer and the role players (Nene, Camby, Najera) need to do all the dirty work. To win the series they'll have to play perfect or else the experienced Spurs will roll right over them.

Most likely scenario: Spurs take the series, but Denver comes back next year as a serious contender in the West.

7. Los Angeles Lakers

Are they a legitimate threat to take the West? Probably not. Do I like answering my own questions just like Donald Rumsfeld? Of course I do. Are the Lakers still a gripping team to watch? No doubt.

They might not be The Team to Beat in the 2007 NBA Playoffs, but they might very well be The Team to Watch. Kobe Bryant is the most interesting athlete on the face of the planet. It's a personal struggle every single time he steps on the court: does he try to do the "right thing" and get his teammates involved or does he go with his instinct and try to tear out his opponents' heart all by himself. He's the best basketball player in the world. He's one of the best pure scorers that's ever lived at the peak of his career. But can he get it done with the rag-tag crew that surrounds him?

It's compelling theatre. When he puts up a ton of shots they tell him to spread the wealth. When he tries to get the team involved they tell him to take over. It's almost a lose-lose for him. When he's on the court its Kobe against The World.

Against any other top team in the West the Lakers wouldn't stand a chance in the first round, but against Phoenix there's an outside shot. It really all depends on Raja Bell, the only Sun that can even come close to guarding Kobe. The Lakers probably won’t avenge last year's playoff loss to the Suns (considering how streaky they've been down the stretch), but if Kobe heats up there's no doubt he can steal a game or two by himself.

8a. Golden State Warriors

Even though they're struggling for that 8th spot, the Warriors are red hot. Yeah, you read that right. Their offense over the last eight games has been absolutely out of control. Don Nelson has realized there's no way their defense is going to win them any games, so why not just say 'fuck it' and concentrate entirely on offense. They're making the Suns look like a defensive powerhouse. Over the last eight games, the Warriors have an offensive efficiency rating of 115.8. Compare that to the Suns offensive efficiency of 111.3 and you sort of get the picture.

Oh, and by the way, they own the Mavs this season. They're 2-0 against Dallas with a final game against them tonight. Although that will be without the aid of the Mavs best players. This should lead to a very interesting round one and is yet another plot-line to go along with the (soon to be over-hyped) Teacher vs. Student angle.

Trust me, you want this to happen.

8b. Los Angeles Clippers

After a promising 2005-2006 campaign, the Clippers fell off the map this year. Brand started off strong, but - much like the rest of the team - faltered along the way. There's really no reason to want to see this team in the playoffs. There's really nothing more to say. They're bad. The end.

Prediction: They miss the playoffs saving them the embarrassment of getting absolutely pummeled at the hands of the Mavs.

Which brings us to the end of our preview for the 2007 Western Conference Playoffs. Seriously, if you read this far, I'm impressed. And by impressed I mean seriously worried about your mental health.

3 Responses to “The Fate of Western Civilization or That's How You Preview!”

  1. # Blogger J Cramer

    I wish this was the year AI gets his ring but its not happening. Mavs are the team of history this year. Great team with all the balance needed to win an NBA title.

    I'm going to miss being in Oakland in the summer to get blasted at the bar watching the 70 week long NBA playoffs. I'll be here in spirit and in body a minority of the time.

    Great Westside Connection quote Brendan. One of the more underrated hip hop albums in history is Bow Down. Can't say enough good things about the way Ice Cube rapped in the 1996-1997. Golden era of the man who single-handily wrote Dr. Dre and Eazy E's raps for NWA.  

  2. # Blogger B. Marcks

    Of course you would be the only person on the planet that would get that reference. YEA YEAAAAHH!  

  3. # Blogger J Cramer

    I even bought the newer very disappointing Westside Connection album. No joke I think Westside Connection is a better rap group than Run DMC. Not just because of the fact that I think Run is a shitty rapper. Westside Connection was probably the pinnacle of the G-Funk sound. For the past two days i have been listening to nothing Ice Cube and Westside Connection.

    Damn I miss being in 6th grade listening to Westside Connection watching the Wayans Brothers. I'm fucking old.  

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