/ Opinions / Countdown to tip-off: The Western Conference
The NBA is returning soon and I cannot wait. Elite players and exciting plays will fill Walt Disney World in Orlando with joy. I predicted the Eastern Conference on Friday. Here is how I see the Western Conference playing out.
The Los Angeles Lakers will be the number one seed. They have a big enough lead over the Clippers. I see the Memphis Grizzlies hanging on to the eight seed. If that’s the matchup, I have the Lakers in a sweep. The Grizzlies are just too young and LeBron is well rested.
I think the LA Clippers will be the two seed. I’ll predict the Dallas Mavericks as the number seven seed. I love Luka Doncic and I can’t wait to see him play in the postseason. But Kawhi Leonard just won the championship with the Raptors and will make the Clippers elite with Paul George.
I see the Clippers winning 4-2. The Clippers will be a bit rusty and Doncic will rally the troops for two wins.
I’m going to go with the Denver Nuggets getting the three seed and I believe the Utah Jazz will be the sixth seed. If that is the case, it would be a good, close series.
I haven’t seen Donovan Mitchell come up big in the playoffs yet. The Nuggets did win a series in the playoffs last year and with that experience and talent, I think they sneak by in seven games.
That leaves what would be one of my favorite series — the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets. Either team could get the four seed and since there is no home court advantage, it doesn’t really matter who gets the four or five seed.
Chris Paul has been sensational with the Thunder and has been a wonderful leader for the organization. The fact that both teams have the same record after 64 games is incredible.
This is another series I can see going seven games. Paul will be even more motivated and put on a great performance. But there is simply too much firepower with the Rockets and they’ll win in seven games. James Harden plus Russell Westbrook are the difference here.
Once again, I didn’t pick any upsets. The top teams are too good this season and I don’t see much upsets going on, even in a neutral location.
That would mean a round two matchup between the Lakers and Rockets. This would be a highly entertaining series withs superstar power and offensive scoring. LeBron. AD. The Beard. Russell. There are lots of great players.
I’m going to go with the Lakers in seven. The Rockets and their 3-point shooting will give the Lakers some trouble as LeBron starts to re-gain his form and his chemistry with the guys. James is the difference and his play with Anthony Davis trumps Harden and Russ.
The Nuggets and Clippers is the other series. The Nuggets have a lot of talent and will make the Clippers earn it. Leonard and George start to get that championship form and win in six games, a high scoring six games.
That leaves it to the LA series between the Lakers and Clippers, the series everyone wants to see. Kawhi is dangerous and we saw that last year with the Raptors. For the Lakers, Davis is going to be important because he is the best big on the floor.
LeBron has made it to the Finals every year over the past decade when he makes the playoffs. Key word is when, because last year he didn’t. I don’t see that changing. I think he’s been a man on a mission and LeBron finishes the job and gets back to the Finals in seven games.
The Lakers aren’t particularly deep, but LeBron James has Anthony Davis by his side and that is huge. Until he proves me otherwise, I’m riding with LBJ. He’ll use the neutral court to his advantage and drown out everything else.
I’ll admit the Clippers look tempting with Kawhi and PG. They’re going to give everything they have. This same Clippers team gave the Warriors a decent series last year and now they add the Finals MVP. If Kawhi can do it with the Raptors, why not the Clippers.
The Western Conference should be entertaining with superstars and teams that are raring to go.
To see my Finals prediction and preview, check out the July 24 edition of The Times.