The “King of the North” Kawhi Leonard has caused a seismic shift in the NBA landscape. By orchestrating the Clippers offseason acquisition of Paul George, Kawhi Leonard has made the Los Angeles Clippers one of the favorites in the Western Conference.
Can the Clippers win it all? Today we will go over FiveThirtyEight’s Western Conference predictions and determine who we think should be at the top spot.
5. Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets didn’t make waves during free agency, but they did re-sign Paul Millsap and Jamal Murray. They gave Murray a five-year $195 million deal and has made him their point guard of the future.
Murray is an attack point that can also distribute the rock, and he put up 18-5-4 last season. The tandem of Murray and Nikola Jokic make the Nuggets a sneaky pick in the West, and last year’s No. 2 seed won’t go down without a fight.
4. Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers are only fourth in the FiveThirtyEight rankings, and that’s a major surprise to us. The trade for Paul George only saw them lose out on Danilo Gallinari and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and this was a 48-win team last season.
The Clippers have the potential to be the best defensive team in the Western Conference, with a lineup of Leonard, George, and Patrick Beverley almost impossible to score against on the perimeter. We expect them to finish with a top-3 seed in the West.
3. Golden State Warriors
The Warriors offense will look a little different next season, with the departure of Kevin Durant to the Brooklyn Nets. Klay Thompson went down with a torn ACL during the NBA Finals, and the Warriors needed to make a move to help Steph Curry until Thompson returns for a deep playoff run. Russell brings a new dynamic to the offense as a slasher, and Curry should have an MVP caliber season.
2. Los Angeles Lakers
This was the most surprising pick on the list. The Lakers landed Anthony Davis by trading most of their young core, but the roster has been improved by GM Rob Pelinka.
Re-signing Rajon Rondo was a key piece to their offseason moves, and a starting lineup of Rondo, Kyle Kuzma, LeBron, Anthony Davis, and DeMarcus Cousins looks like one of the best in the conference on paper.
1. Houston Rockets
This was incredibly surprising to see the Rockets at the top of the list for a few reasons. The first reason is their history of failures in the playoffs. The Rockets haven’t been able to make any major noise in the Western Conference because they have fallen short against the Spurs, and the Warriors the last few seasons.
Chris Paul and James Harden’s relationship deteriorated over this season and a scathing report earlier this month led to the colossal trade for Russell Westbrook. Re-uniting Westbrook and Harden should make Houston one of the top teams in the conference, but with both former MVPs’ playoff failures why are they considered the favorite?
Our pick to win the West
After looking at the FiveThirtyEight rankings, we think the Los Angeles Clippers have the best chance at winning the NBA Finals. They have their core roster intact from a 48-win team last season and one of the best coaches in the NBA in Doc Rivers.
We expect a Western Conference Final matchup of the Clippers and Warriors with the Clippers winning in seven games.
Who do you have winning it all?
Do you think the Rockets have the best chance at winning the NBA Finals? For more news from around the league, be sure to check out our NBA section.