When canvassing the Western Conference standings, an overall
ideology is beginning to crystalize on potential deep postseason
runs. At the moment, it looks like a one-team race with a few
others having an outside shot. (For our Eastern Conference outlook,
From a betting perspective, sportsbooks are in consensus that
the Phoenix Suns are far and away the best team in the West. And
when you see the odds discrepancies, it’s really not even close.
Thanks to the odds, we’re able to break down the West into four
realistic tiers for who will come out on top and represent the
conference in the NBA Finals.
Tier 1: Phoenix Suns
If all goes to plan for the Suns, this should be a relatively
easy repeat run back to the NBA Finals. Somehow, some way, national
pundits actually believed Phoenix couldn’t build off last year’s
jaw-dropping postseason performance. On the way, the Suns’
chemistry has blossomed alongside adding much-needed depth pieces
to fortify the second unit.
When looking through the Suns’ roster, it’s honestly hard to
find any holes. Devin Booker and Chris Paul have proven to be a
historically lethal backcourt, especially when the game is on the
line. Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson have taken leaps to form a
seamless wing duo and complement each other well. Deandre Ayton is
proving yet again that he’s an anchor to Phoenix’s system providing
plus-two-way efficiency on both ends of the court.
Injuries (knock on wood) are the only roadblock standing in
front of Phoenix. Loaded to the gills with championship-level
contributors, betting on the Suns is a wise investment in the
Tier 2: Golden State
Warriors +440, Memphis Grizzlies +600
At this point, it’s surprising that Tier 2 hasn’t seen the odds
flip between both teams represented. After a red-hot start to the
season, the Warriors have fallen off a cliff thanks to injuries and
overall inconsistencies. No surprise, but Golden State looks lost
without Stephen Curry on the court. Thanks to Curry, Vegas still
believes the Dubs have the second-best odds to make the 2022 NBA
Finals, but do they really hold multiple advantages against a
resurgent Grizzlies group?
Even without Ja Morant, the Grizzlies continue to prove they are
a legit force to be reckoned with. Armed with a young superstar and
ideal complementary pieces across the board, Memphis looks the part
of a finally awakened sleeping giant. Morant should be able to go
toe-to-toe against Curry if Memphis and Golden State square off in
the playoffs. Also, I favor the Grizzlies’ depth compared to the
Curry is the ultimate trump card, which shows in the odds, but
the Grizzlies feel like the perfect flier at +600 odds to be this
year’s version of the 2021 Suns. All of a sudden, Memphis feels
like a strong championship contender.
Now we’re entering into the portion of the conference where odds
really begin to dwindle. Phoenix, Golden State and Memphis all have
the goods to make a Finals push. Outside of those three teams, many
questions loom around the West.
Doesn’t it feel like the title window has already closed on the
Jazz? A regular-season juggernaut over the last few years, Utah’s
inconsistencies are beginning to raise serious long-term roster
questions. Will Donovan Mitchell or Rudy Gobert be traded if the
Jazz have an early postseason exit? That idea feels more plausible
than skeptical, which says a lot about where Utah’s mindset
Luka Doncic is single-handedly carrying the Mavericks to the
postseason, this time without a secondary star alongside him. After
Dallas traded Kristaps Porzingis, Doncic has taken on a James
Harden-esque usage level and thrived. Fatigue will surely play a
factor down the road with Doncic, but, in the meantime, it’s an
uneasy feeling to wager against Dallas. If Doncic catches fire in
the playoffs, who’s to say the Mavericks can’t make a shocking run
to the West Finals?
Denver is in the exact same position as Dallas, but instead it’s
Nikola Jokic once again proving why he should be the back-to-back
MVP. Without Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., Jokic is putting
up historic numbers keeping the Nuggets afloat. It’s unlikely
either of Denver’s co-stars return to help Jokic, but what happens
if they draw a favorable postseason matchup? Denver feels like a
team who could make some early noise, but fizzle out once they run
into the West’s top tier.
Amongst this group, throwing a dart on Denver at +1100 odds
because of Jokic’s brilliance seems like the wisest strategy.
Tier 4: Minnesota
Timberwolves +2200, Los Angeles Clippers +2500
Rounding out the West’s most realistic postseason contenders,
the Timberwolves and Clippers feel the same. No wonder why they’re
odds are nearly identical, especially in the bottom tier of the
West’s true title hopefuls.
It’s been awesome to watch Minnesota this season, especially
when the team gets cooking on both ends of the court. Karl-Anthony
Towns, Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell is a fun trio, plus
complementary pieces like Jarred Vanderbilt and Jaden McDaniels
have shined at different portions of the 2021-22 campaign. Poised
for the Play-In Tournament, how will Minnesota function being on
the doorstep of the postseason for the first time since the Tom
Thibodeau/Jimmy Butler era?
Paul George is back for the Clippers, which should honestly
change the whole calculus here. As we saw last season, Los Angeles
can more than hold its own in the postseason — even without Kawhi
Leonard. If George gets hot again, the Clippers could truly shock
the world in the first round with an upset; it’s probably not wise
to bet on that though. Still, with more postseason experience where
live bullets are flying, the Clippers feel like the safer choice
As you can see, the Western Conference feels like it’s settling
in, and we're getting a better vision of how the postseason could
play out. Phoenix as the heavy favorite, almost at even odds to
make the Finals, honestly feels right on the money. Golden State
and Memphis are the two sleepers, but this is truly the Suns’
conference once again.
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