- Ryan Kirk (@rlk716)
- Chris St. Jean (@CSaint3)
- Martin Soaries (@marley_mcfly)
- Cee Armel (@Cee_armel)
- Aram Cannuscio (@ACannus)
1. What’s the biggest challenge for the Warriors to finish this season with a championship?
Kirk: Biggest challenge Is living by the 3-point line and dying by the 3-point line. The Warriors will need to utilize bigs more to raise the trophy in June.
St. Jean: Their biggest challenge is without a doubt the San Antonio Spurs. To me, the Warriors are clear favorites. The Pelicans won’t pose much of a problem. Both Portland and Memphis have injury concerns. It’s a shame really, because either team at their peak this season would have put up a serious fight against the Warriors. While my head says Memphis’ front line would be an advantage over Golden State, my heart wonders if Portland’s outside shooting would provide a fun, high-pace, low mistake, purely entertaining series. In either case, Warriors advance. That leaves the Spurs, assuming they get there.
Soaries: The biggest challenge is maintaining their regular season pace and keeping themselves hot and in rhythm from three. This team thrives on their tempo, flow, spacing, and three-point shooting. They’re potent enough to score at will in the half court, but their biggest challenge is still going to be sustaining their pace and energy.
Armel: Biggest challenge to the Warriors championship quest is health. It always seems they get hit with an injury bug at this time of year, particularly with Andrew Bogut and David Lee who are important pieces of their front court. Compounded with health issues, the Warriors must remain multi-dimensional in the playoffs. Their shooting has no comparison, but can they sustain if Steph or Klay have off nights in the playoffs?
Cannuscio: Themselves. If the Warriors play the way they are capable of playing and carry their current success into the post-season, there should be no reason why they can’t win a championship. If they falter and the inexperience catches up with them, then they might slip up to a team like the Grizzlies or Spurs, one of the more experienced teams.
2. Which team is the most credible “sleeper” in the West?
Kirk: Dallas Mavericks definitely have the talent to compete with any team In the west,after acquiring Rondo chemistry has been off.Hopefully that will change.
St. Jean: I think the easy answer here is the Clippers, even with the tough first round match up. But I’m going to go with Memphis. If they can somehow get Allen and Conley healthy as they move past Portland (not sure that’ll be so easy either) but I could see their size and, maybe more importantly, their experience getting to Golden State in the second round. I think we’re forgetting how good this team was for the majority of the season.
Soaries: In my opinion the answer is the Houston Rockets. Yes, even as a 2-seed. I don’t consider the Rockets a favorite. I think anyone besides the Warriors or the Spurs is considered a sleeper pick, thus I think James Harden and his Rockets have that potential. They’re scrappy, they’re versatile, and they can score. I think they could surprise people that don’t think they have what it takes.
Armel: The San Antonio Spurs could be considered a sleeper given they’re a 6-seed, but I won’t go there. My sleeper out West happens to be the team I predicted would win the West prior to the start of the season — the Dallas Mavericks. The new acquisitions haven’t necessarily acclimated themselves all the way, but none of that matters now. With Rondo healthy and somewhat comfortable in the system, the Mavs have added championship pedigree to their DNA. Playoff-time we know anything can happen, if they can get past Houston, anything is possible for Rick Carlisle’s group. Just think back to that run in 2011.
Cannuscio: Dallas Mavericks. Let’s be honest, there pretty much are no sleepers in the West. The Grizzlies and Spurs many consider to be the favorites even though they are the lower seed so that really only leaves the Mavs and the Pelicans as two possible sleepers. The Mavs took the Spurs to 7 games last year in the first round and almost pulled the upset. They will have a tough time this year with Houston, but don’t be shocked to see Parsons, Ellis, and Nowitzki steal a series or two in this playoffs.
3. Which first round match up scares you the most in the West?
Kirk: Spurs vs. Clippers scares because I love both teams and this shouldn’t be a first round matchup, but someone has to go.
St. Jean: Scares me the most? I guess San Antonio against the Clippers mostly because I think they are probably the second and third best team in the West and it’s a shame that one of them will be eliminated in the first round. This is especially concerning to me for the Clippers. Losing to the Spurs shouldn’t shame everyone, but all anyone will be talking about is that they couldn’t advance to the second round. I’ll be watching that series closely.
Soaries: Rockets-Mavericks. I’m not as much afraid of Clippers-Spurs as I am excited for it. I just think Houston and Dallas is so up in the air with implications. There’s no way it doesn’t go back and forth with the way these teams play and the way they’re coached.
Armel: Los Angeles and San Antonio in round one is unfair on so many levels. CP3 and company are pressed for a championship and the basketball gods have set them up for another early exit with the defending champions coming to town. On the flip side, the Spurs would have wanted to avoid going on the road for seemingly every series, but if any team can do it you’d bet your last buck on the Spurs, especially after witnessing what they’ve done when fully healthy this year.
Cannuscio: Clippers vs. Spurs. This is the match-up that scares everyone. This is going to be one of the most watched first round match-ups from either conference in some time. It’s going to be a great one and don’t be at all shocked if it goes seven games. I still can’t decide who will come out victorious.
4. Who is the scariest bottom half team?
Kirk: San Antonio Spurs. Champs until proven otherwise.
St. Jean: This is weird in the West because the Spurs and the Grizzlies are worse seeds but probably favorites in their respective series. So by that definition I guess it’s the Spurs. But I’m intrigued by Dallas. I think Houston is a huge wild card. I can see a scenario where they lose to Dallas and another where they play Golden State in the Western Conference Finals. I’m at a loss to tell you which is more likely.
Soaries: The Spurs. They’re the defending champs at the 6-seed and still the standard of basketball right now.
Armel: The Spurs.
Cannuscio: Memphis Grizzlies. Tony Allen and Mike Conley’s health are the key to the Grizzlies. This is a fantastic defensive unit when they are in and can shut down any lineup that any Western Conference team would shove out there. Marc Gasol has been lighting it up lately shooting 55% from the field in April.
5. By your gut, who’s going to win the West?
Kirk: San Antonio Spurs will win the Western Conference, Spurs can matchup with anybody and win on the road anywhere.
St. Jean: Golden State. I really believe it’s their championship to win despite the lack of experience. A series between them and San Antonio and them and Cleveland would be on my wish list right now just to see how they handle that. To me it’s so clear that the best team in the league is inexperienced. I can’t remember another time when that has been the case in the NBA. It makes for a fascinating NBA Playoffs.
Soaries: My gut tells me the Warriors are too talented, assured, deep, and lethal for any team in the West, maybe even the Spurs. I think the defending champs are the only team equipped to take them out
Armel: I think this will be the year CP3 gets it done. The Warriors are everyone’s pick and justifiably so, but CP3 senses that pressure to produce and I think the best point guard in the league will rise to the occasion and deliver for his team en route to theirs and his first Finals appearance.
Cannuscio: Memphis Grizzlies. This is not a team to be reckoned with. As I mentioned, Gasol is on fire as of late and everyone is slowly getting back to full health. Jeff Green will be a nice piece this postseason along with the clutch shooting from Vince Carter (we all know what he did in Dallas last year). Facing off against the most feared front-court and one of the best defensive back-courts is what lies ahead for all of the other Western Conference foes. The Grizzlies are my pick to win the West, but every team has a chance this playoffs.