Western Conference Playoff Picture

The Eastern Conference will come down to the last game of the season before it is all set in stone, but right now the playoff picture in the Western Conference is all locked up except for who finishes four/five. Let’s take a quick look at what we’ll be seeing in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.

(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (8) Portland Trailblazers

This won’t be like last season’s second round match-up, that’s for sure. Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson should all be healthy going into this one and this could be a first round sweep.

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I’m slightly interested in seeing how Jusuf Nurkic matches up with Draymond and if that can cause problems for them. I don’t think that will swing the series or anything, it’s going to be a sweep, but that could provide a blueprint for later rounds. I guess Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum might be able to steal one game. I doubt it though.

(2) San Antonio Spurs vs. (7) Memphis Grizzlies

Death. Taxes. Spurs and Grizzlies in the playoffs.

This should stylistically be the complete opposite of Warriors vs. Blazers. There will be grit and animosity throughout this series. This series is a weird one because the Spurs are clearly the better team, but the Grizzlies have probably the second and third best players in the series. Kawhi Leonard is the best, but after him I would take Marc Gasol and Mike Conley over any other player on San Antonio. Which reminds me, how awesome will be it be Marc Gasol and Pau Gasol face off? That should be great.

That said, the Spurs are the Spurs for a reason. They get the most out of everybody and are well coached. I could see Memphis maybe stealing a game or two, but this should be a roll for the Spurs. The old guys Tony Parker, Gasol and Manu Ginobili shouldn’t look that old with the pace being slower and that benefits San Antonio in a major way.

(3) Houston Rockets vs. (6) Oklahoma City Thunder

This one is going to be fun with each game on national television. Russell Westbrook has been the star of the 2017 season and he’ll need to unleash all of his powers for his team to possibly have a chance in this series. It would be nice if we got a Steven Adams that resembled the guy we saw in last year’s playoffs. That could really make this interesting, but it seems more likely that he, Victor Oladipo, Doug McDermott and Enes Kanter will take a supporting role. This series will be all about Westrbook….

And James Harden. The difference in this series should be Harden’s willingness to share the ball and his trust in his teammates. That’s something that Westrbook doesn’t always have (for good and bad), but Harden has shown the ability to feed Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson for open threes all season and hopefully that continues in the playoffs. This could be a big series for Clint Capela as he’ll have his hands full down low. I see this series going five or six games, but the Rockets should move on.

(4/5) Utah Jazz vs. (4/5) Los Angeles Clippers

This could be the best series in the West. These two teams have the exact same record at the moment with the Clippers holding the tiebreaker. Their last game of the season is against the Sacramento Kings so it feels like they’ll get the four seed.

This should be a great series as it is two teams on complete opposite ends of the spectrum. This could be the last ride of the DeAndre Jordan, Chris Paul, JJ Reddick and Blake Griffin led Clippers team while this is the first of hopefully many Utah Jazz playoff runs led by Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert. (Of course, free agency may have something to say about that.)

Home court make a big difference in this one as I can easily see this series going seven games. The Gobert-Jordan match-up should be great as both will need to be block machines for their teams. I wouldn’t underrate the George Hill on Paul match-up either. Hill may be one of the most underrated point guards out there and he’ll be key to this series.

To me, this series comes down to Gordon Hayward versus Blake Griffin. This will be the first playoff appearance for Hayward and he’ll need to up his game for the Jazz to have a chance. Blake Griffin, of course, could take over this series but he hasn’t looked like himself for much of the season. If he gets his game back, I like the Clippers. Either way, this should be a close one.

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2017 NBA MVP Betting Odds (Updated)

As we near the All-Star break, the race for the MVP is heating up and 5Dimes has released some updated NBA MVP odds in their NBA props section. The odds are quite different from the preseason for a lot of players with some of the differences being really glaring.

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Back in October we stumped for James Harden at +1000 and now he is the presumptive favorite at -145. Of course, at that number he is no guarantee. Harden has been having a great all around season and has been the key part of the Rockets being one of the top teams in the West. He is probably the most valuable player to his team in the truest sense of the word valuable as without him it’s hard to imagine what the Rockets might look like. Certainly not the third seed in the West.

The pre-season favorite was Russell Westbrook at +200 and he is down to +120 now. Basically, this is considered a coinflip between him and Harden which has been the narrative for most of the season. James Harden is the better and more efficient player, but Russell Westbrook is putting up numbers we haven’t seen in 60 years. He’s currently averaging a triple double on the year and if that holds it will be hard to deny him this award. That said, he’s doing it on the 7th seed in the West and it’s been a long, long time since someone from a non-elite team has won this award. A very interesting case here.

LeBron James at +950 is a long shot, but he’s having a pretty dang good year. He’s playing a lot of minutes right now and the Cavs should be the best team in the East once again and cruise to the Finals, but his numbers just don’t jump off the page like those of Westbrook or Harden and it’s hard to imagine him winning this. He may be the best player on the planet, but during the regular season he’s just another really good player among a league full of them.

The only bet that I would consider a good value play is probably Kawhi Leonard at +1050. He is the best defensive player in the game, the Spurs will finish with the second best record in the league and he is second in Player Efficiency Rating to Russell Westbrook. Still, he’s likely to run into the same problem as Lebron and every other player in the NBA which is: Everyone knows your awesome, you’re one of the best players in the NBA, but look at the numbers that Harden and Westbrook are putting up! They are crazy and have never been done before!

Durant at +1180 takes the place of Stephen Curry for token Warrior, but there is no one in hell that one is happening. Anthony Davis has the numbers to compete with any of these guys, but his team is terrible.

This is still a two man race. Pick your favorite and hope for the best.

NBA Most Valuable Player

James Harden wins regular season MVP-145
Field wins NBA regular season MVP+105
R.Westbrook wins regular season MVP+120
Field wins NBA regular season MVP-160
LeBron James wins regular season MVP+950
Field wins NBA regular season MVP-1950
Kawhi Leonard wins regular season MVP+1050
Field wins NBA regular season MVP-2150
Kevin Durant wins regular season MVP+1180
Field wins NBA regular season MVP-2540
Anthony Davis wins regular season MVP+10000
Field wins NBA regular season MVP-50000

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Chris Paul’s injury makes West 4-7 seeds wide open

The news of Chris Paul‘s hand injury that will keep him out six to eight weeks is seriously bad news for the Clippers. They’ve been without Blake Griffin for a few weeks now and doing okay, but without Chris Paul things could get very bad very fast. Austin Rivers will take over as a starter and while he is much better than he once was, he is still nowhere near the level of Chris Paul. This is the biggest loss any team has suffered this season and the Clippers are in trouble.

How big of a loss is this? HUGE. The on/off numbers at Basketball References say that Chris Paul is a +19.6 point difference from on the court versus off. That’s 20 points per game that will be very difficult to replace. We had thought that they were in trouble earlier this season by dropping to the fourth seed, but that doesn’t look like the floor for them and they could drop even further.

Hot on their tail has been the Utah Jazz who are two games behind them in the standings, but have really been coming on lately. The defense of Rudy Gobert and unique offensive talents of Gordon Hayward has been guiding them and this team should only get better. I think they are a strong bet to move into the fourth seed and hold on to it.

Then just two games behind them, four games behind LAC, are the Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies who are both sitting at a 25-18 record.

For the Grizzlies, it’s a matter of health. They have a solid core, but they haven’t seen Chandler Parsons at 100% much this year and Mike Conley had his own injuries. They are an interesting team that should cause trouble for whoever they are matched up with in the playoffs, but it is hard to see them making a big leap here. That said, they are one of the most consistent teams in the league so if they are able to move ahead of the Clips in the standings it’s hard to see them letting it up.

As for Russell Westbrook and the Thunder, it’s hard to see how this team can improve much on where it is now. There is simply so much pressure on Westbrook night in and night out that them playing much better than they have without outside help seems very unlikely. I could see them settling into this seventh seed.

So, in theory, that leaves the Clippers as the sixth seed in the West. While having Paul and Griffin back makes them a dangerous team, playing either the Spurs or the Rockets in a road series is not exactly an ideal situation for any team.

The best series to be in here would be the four vs. five seed as that is the series that gives you the best chance of moving onto the second round. Nobody is touching the Warriors up top, but the Spurs and Rockets are pretty scary teams in their own right and the six or seven seed doesn’t offer much hope.

It’s hard to see the Clippers, who have dropped off a lot with Paul, to maintain a four/five seed without him. It’s probably time to blow up the Clippers. Except they have nothing to trade and nobody wants what they have. What a terrible situation to be in.

Does anyone want the 8th seed in the West?

With all of the teams at or near the halfway point of their season, I thought it was time to look at the Western Conference playoff race. The first seven seeds seemed to be locked up and there shouldn’t be much shifting in order between now and the end of the season. The eighth seed on the other hand is not even remotely locked up and every single team in the West is still in the hunt for it. Just four games separate the current eighth seed Portland and the worst team in the West, Phoenix. That is crazy.

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The favorite here has to be Portland who have struggled this season, but still have the core of a playoff team in place. Last year’s team shocked a lot of people and that caused them to have high expectations this season, but they are still a solid squad. The Evan Turner signing has been disastrous, but Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum are still a really dangerous backcourt. Of course, whether or not that backcourt stays intact is a whole other question. Could McCollum be used to bring some much needed front court help to the team? A trade here seems likely and a strong second half could follow.

Denver has been impressing lately as Nikola Jokic looks like a real NBA star in the making. The thing with the Nuggets is they are loaded with assets, but those assets might not quite fit together. They are a threat to make a trade at any time as they could outbid just about anybody. If a superstar becomes available, look out for Denver who could then put themselves in position to steal the seed.

Sacramento wants this seed badly, but their team is still such a mess. DeMarcus Cousins is super talented, but night to night this team just feels overmatched. There is a huge hole at point guard here as well. Rudy Gay is always an interesting trade option, but what could he really bring back? Would it be enough to jump up the rankings? One thing on the Kings side is their decent Western Conference record. If a tie happens, that record will decide the 8th seed.

WLGBCONPPGOPPDIFL10
Portland18251813-16107.9110.7-2.75-5
Denver1623189-14109.3111.2-24-6
Sacramento162418.511-14102.8105.5-2.83-7
New Orleans162619.56-18102.2105-2.85-5
Minnesota1427217-18102.9103.9-1.14-6
LA Lakers1530228-19104.3110.2-5.83-7
Dallas132721.59-1895.7100.5-4.84-6
Phoenix1328225-23105.9111.7-5.84-6

The opposite can be said about New Orleans. They would be my favorite here as Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday are finally back on the court for them and they are starting to look like a real team instead of the Anthony Davis show. Unfortunately that 6-18 conference record will be hard to overcome even if they are able to grab a few extra wins in the second half.

One team I am really watching out for is the Dallas Mavericks. They’ve won two straight and Dirk Nowitzki is finally starting to look like himself as he’s averaged 20 PPG in his last three games. When healthy this team is much better than it’s record and they definitely have the coaching to play hard in the second half. If this is Dirk’s last season, that would be a very fitting end.

Minnesota is also interesting as they have the best point differential of all these teams, but they just can’t close out games. I don’t see that changing before the end of the season as this is simply a young team going through growing pains.

The Lakers and Suns, I just can’t see under any circumstances. Mathematically they are in it, but basketball wise they are extremely far away.

The eighth seed in the Western Conference will most likely be decided by who makes a trade and what they get in return. Whether that is the Nuggets making a big move, the Blazers making a move to improve their defense or something else we haven’t thought of yet. Still, while the basketball itself might not be very exciting this is probably the best race out there right now.

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