Sports are always more exciting when anyone has a shot to win. And in this regard, the 2014-2015 NBA season is shaping up to be one of the more exciting seasons in recent memory. The main reason behind this revelation: parity in the Western Conference.
With the 2014-2015 NBA All-Star game a little over a month away, it’s safe to say that the teams in the Western Conference are considerably better than their counterparts in the East. Out West, a mere 7.5 games separate the first-place Golden State Warriors and the eighth-place Phoenix Suns. Suffice to say, this doesn’t happen often. As a result, when it comes to this conference, supremacy is up for grabs.
And therein lies the true beauty of this season: It’s anybody’s ballgame — even if one ends up the lowly 8-seed. With that being said, here are the three best teams that can win a championship this season as an 8-seed. All statistics are via Basketball-Reference.com and ESPN.go.com.
1. Oklahoma City Thunder
Record: 15-17; 10th place in the Western Conference
Key Players: Kevin Durant (22.4 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.6 APG); Russell Westbrook (28.0 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 7.3 APG)
When healthy, there is no scarier team in the NBA than the Oklahoma City Thunder. They’ve got everything it takes to win a title: experience, dynamic superstars, and a bright coach. They’re currently sitting in the 10th spot, at 15-17, but their record doesn’t tell the whole story. Injuries stunted the beginning of their season when they had to do without Kevin Durant for the first 17 games this season. Not to mention, Russell Westbrook missed 14 games of his own. The Thunder are dangerous. All they have to do is get into the playoffs and anything can happen. The NBA better take notice if they do.
2. San Antonio Spurs
Record: 19-13; 7th place in the Western Conference
Key Players: Tim Duncan (16.1 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 3.1 APG); Tony Parker (16.2 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 5.2 APG)
The defending champions are sitting in the 7th spot at 19-13. But their resume speaks for itself. They’ve been there before, and they know how to win. With Gregg Popovich at the helm, a fluid system, and the lethal trio of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili, when it comes to the Spurs, seeding is irrelevant. They are the ultimate team (just ask last year’s Miami Heat), and a repeat is certainly not out of the question.
3. Los Angeles Clippers
Record: 21-11; 6th place in the Western Conference
Key Players: Chris Paul (18.1 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 9.4 APG); Blake Griffin (22.9 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 4.8 APG)
They’re 20-11 and currently sit 6th in the Western Conference. However, they have Chris Paul, arguably the game’s best point-guard. Throw in a fierce power forward like Blake Griffin, and you have one of the most lethal one-two punches in the league. Coached by Doc Rivers, the Clippers also boast a deep bench and proven chemistry; variables that certainly make the Clippers a formidable squad. Over the last few years, there’s been a shift in the basketball balance of power in Los Angeles. A title would certainly solidify the Clippers place as the city’s top dog.
The truth is it’s not easy to win the NBA title as an 8-seed. In fact, it’s never happened before. Ever. The last, and only, time an 8-seed made a real run at the NBA championship happened all the way back in 1999 when the New York Knicks managed to sneak out of the Eastern Conference and take on the San Antonio Spurs for a shot at the title. They ended up losing in five games, and an 8th seed hasn’t been back since.
Perhaps, this is the year one gets over the hump.