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Spurs, Thunder top Western Conference power rankings

By Eddie Leonard III
On April 3, 2013

1. San Antonio Spurs (55-19)
The San Antonio Spurs currently have the best overall record in the Western Conference, which is not surprise to anyone. The Spurs' balanced roster of experienced veterans, athletic young bloods and a deep bench makes them a dangerous opponent. However, Manu Ginobli will miss the next three to four weeks due to a strained hamstring. This is good news for a team like Oklahoma City, who are only one game behind the Spurs, also trying to grab home court through the playoffs.
2. OKC Thunder (54-20)
Oklahoma City Thunders' Bonnie and Clyde (Durant and Westbrook), are averaging 52 points a game and are carrying the Thunder to the top of the West. The Thunder are an explosive team that can blow you away in a matter of minutes, and they are never out of a game. They still rank behind the Spurs, however, due to not having the complete team, the veteran experience or the ball movement and defense that the Spurs have. Their most dangerous opponent will be themselves in the postseason. Watch and see if Westbrook and Durant self-destruct again.
3. Denver Nuggets (50-24)
Denver is hot-blooded. Check the stats: they are averaging about 103 points a game. The Nuggets are currently one game ahead of the Clippers for the third seed. They need to finish the season out strong to hold on to the spot. They have a pretty easy schedule to finish the year. Their only threat is a home game against the Spurs, which probably means Pop will play his towel boys to stick it to Stern. So count on a Nuggets win.
4. Los Angeles Clippers (49-26)
The Clippers are free-falling right now with Tom Petty, with a pitiful (7-7) record in their last 14 games in March. They look like they are lying down, due to controversy in the locker-room between the players and Coach Del Negro. If the Clippers do not shape up and win at least two playoff rounds, count on Vinny being out of a job.
5. Memphis Grizzlies (50-24)
The Memphis Grizzlies have been a constant thorn in the side of NBA teams this year. They are not the flashiest team in the league, but they sneak up on you with their gritty play. They are second in the league in points allowed, with 90, but they rank 26th overall in points per game. This is due to the Grizzlies losing their best creator and playmaker, Rudy Gay, in a trade to Toronto, which may come back to haunt them. They will have to score more buckets down the stretch of games, because they certainly cannot hold a team like the Thunder to 90 points a game for a seven-game series.
6. Golden State Warriors (42-32)
Golden State is a team that could be at the bottom of the Western Conference and no one would know the difference. They have a better record than most people think, but the players do not mesh well. They have a lot of individual stars, including Curry and Lee, that need more chemistry in order to make more noise in the playoffs. They also need some sort of defensive leader to turn the team around.
7. Houston Rockets (41-33)
The Houston Rockets have one of the best backcourts in the game with Jeremy Lin and James Harden. These two players have helped the Rockets score the second-most points per game this year. The Rockets can score, but unlike the Grizzlies, they cannot play defense, ranking 26th in the league. The Rockets are on a collision course to play the Thunder in the first round of the playoffs, a series which may be based on James Harden's pure adrenaline. I believe the Rockets can take them to six games, before OKC eventually takes the series.
8. Utah Jazz (39-36)
The Utah Jazz should, first of all, change their name, because they are the farthest thing from jazzy in the league. They are no longer in New Orleans. They are a moderate team on the road, although much better at home. But the Manu-less Spurs will most likely sweep the Jazz if they make the playoffs.
9. Los Angeles Lakers (39-36)
No other sports team in history has got as much publicity for being terrible as the Lakers have gotten. Just imagine if SportsCenter covered the Jacksonville Jaguars everyday for six months. You would lose your mind. Anyway, the Lake Show will most likely beat out the Jazz for the final spot of the playoffs, but their prize is getting to play the Spurs. Unlike the Jazz, though, the Lakers are a veteran squad with champions on their team. They may be able to give the Spurs a series if Howard and Gasol can play with the Fundamental, Tim Duncan, who has found the fountain of youth this year, averaging 17 ppg and 10 rpg.
10. Dallas Mavericks (36-38)
The Dallas Mavericks are more concerned with making jokes about drafting Brittney Griner than they are about winning. If you are considering drafting Griner, then you are absolutely not a playoff team. Dirk can grow his beard until he looks like Santa, but the Mavs' season will end in about two weeks.  

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