Western Conference Playoffs: Who Sneaks In?

The Western Conference is brutally tough as usual this year. There are a lot of potentially good teams, but obviously only eight spots. The top is pretty apparent, but who squeaks in to the last few spots?

I think most anyone would agree that the Thunder, Lakers, Spurs, and Clippers are basically locks. Denver looks to have a playoff reservation as well, Memphis has too much talent to miss the playoffs right now, though they are less certain and a mid-season trade could change things (of course a major injury could change things for any of these teams).

But after that you could make a credible argument for every team except for maybe the Hornets and Kings (and even they have some intriguing arguments). So who gets the last two spots?

Dallas Mavericks:

They have Dirk, plenty of veteran depth, and the Mavericks always make the playoffs. But on paper, especially with injury concerns for Dirk, they look less talented then other teams.

Golden State Warriors:

"If healthy." That's going to be what constantly follows the Bay Area squad this season.

But seriously, they do look good on paper pending those two words. Bogut, Lee, Barnes, Thompson, and Curry is a very solid starting five (if Barnes can adjust). And they are rolling deep off the bench after their off-season. Jack, Landry, Rush, Jefferson, Ezeli, Biedrins, Green, et al. is one of the more solid benches in the L.

Houston Rockets:

The Rockets may be the new sexy pick after the surprise acquisition of James Harden and his great performance at the start of the season. They have some intriguing pieces and have started out well, but Harden will have to keep up the blistering performance if they want to have a chance.

Minnesota Timberwolves:

The original sexy pick for a breakout playoff year. I doubted it even before Kevin Love's injury because they have so many wild cards (Roy's play and health, Rubio's health, Williams' play, Kirilenko's adjustment back to the NBA). And now Love's injury hurts their early season chances. Still, Adelman gets the most and they added plenty of depth in the off-season.

Phoenix Suns:

The Suns added some nice pieces and some depth despite losing Steve Nash. But they don't have anyone that is likely to be any better than third-best on another team. Some have them as a sleeper pick, but a lot of things would have to click for that to happen.

Portland Trail Blazers:

I was actually somewhat surprised to see them picked as a playoff team by some national guys. We do have some good things going for us and a nice looking top-five.

But I think Portland will have some difficulty in the stacked West due to inconsistency and inexperience, lack of a starting-caliber center, and bench depth. These are all things that can be improved with time, and if things break right we could be in the hunt. I don't expect that until next year though.

Utah Jazz:

They squeaked in the playoffs last year and look to improve this year, as they have plenty of young talent in Burks, Hayward, Kanter, and Favors. Throw in the additions of Mo Williams and the underrated Marvin Williams and it is hard to see them regressing with this lineup.

A widely anticipated mid-season trade of Paul Millsap or Al Jefferson could shake things up.

Some might argue even for the Hornets and Kings, who each have some intriguing pieces, but their time is not yet come methinks.

Call it. Which teams are most likely to get in to the playoffs this year? Leave a comment, and because everyone likes polls vote in it as well!

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