The Fastest Guns are in the Wild Western Conference

The battles in the Western Conference to close out the regular seen are some of the most captivating I’ve ever seen. While in the Eastern Conference, the Miami Heat sit at the top and then everyone else trails some distance behind. In the West you have nine very good teams that legitimately have a feasible chance of winning a series against any other team. There is obviously a drop between the top echelon and the lower-tier playoff teams, but the idea that a low seed could upset any of the high seeds is by no means out of the question.

The San Antonio Spurs steamrolled through 18 consecutive victories and, at this point, they are the prohibitive favorite in the West with the Oklahoma City Thunder right behind. The Los Angeles Clippers have been playing elite level basketball this season and Blake Griffin is the best power forward in the league. In Houston, the Rockets are a certain contender for the conference crown, especially if point guard Patrick Beverley returns. The Portland Trailblazers, after an insane start that had them vying for the conference’s top seat, let injuries to their star forward Lamarcus Aldridge and other players slow them down and drop them a whopping 10.5 games behind the Spurs. Now with Aldridge back, the Blazers look strong and primed for a playoff run.

Things really get interesting when you run into the last four teams fighting for the final three spots. Any of these squads have a chance to fall into ninth place and be knocked out of the playoffs. The Golden State Warriors hold the sixth seed, just a game and a half before the tied-up Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies and Phoenix Suns. The Warriors were considered as potential contenders this year, but injuries, surprising offense issues, and recent coaching drama have dragged them down. Mark Jackson recently had well-liked Brian Scalabrine removed as assistant coach and speculation abounds that Jackson may not coach the squad next season.Memphis has recovered from a midseason lull after an injury to center Marc Gasol, and the surprising Suns have held their own despite All-Star quality guard Eric Bledsoe missing about half the season. Similarly, the Mavericks have been a nice surprise, buoyed by shooting guard Monta Ellis’s resurgence and re-creation as an efficient shooter, masterminded by perennially underrated head coach Rick Carlisle.

The Suns are definitely the squad that most would predict to drop out of the playoff race, as the other teams are proven playoff squads. They also face a scheduling gauntlet that includes the Clippers, Blazers, Spurs, Mavs and Grizzlies as the season ends. That said, I personally would love to see the Suns sneak in so America can see what exactly point guard Goran Dragic and Bledsoe can do. I’m not sure which team I’d want to drop out; the entire Western Conference is filled with teams I love to watch. If only we could drop the Hawks or Knicks out of the East and replace them with a team from the West.