Sleepers and Free-Fallers in the West

So look, we all know the Lakers are stacked...again, ugh.  San Antonio has reloaded for one last run, and Dallas now has the Matrix, I think its safe to say that those three teams, along with our Nuggies, are headed back to the post season.  

I would also consider it safe to assume Portland will be there and maybe Utah, depending on what they get back for not  if but when they trade Carlos Boozer to the Miami Heat.  Thats six of the 8 right there, but for the moment lets not consider a healthy Utah team a lock, because I mean when are they ever healthy.  So we have five teams who, barring catastrophic failure, should make the playoffs.  

In my eyes that leaves 6 teams to battle for three spots in the West: NOR, Utah, PHX, and here comes the ones i'll get crucified for GS, LAC, and OKC.  I consider Houston to be a complete bottom feeder no that Yao is out and they've replaced Ron ron with Trevor "I used one Playoffs to become the most overrated player of all time" Ariza.  

Here's my thinking.  NOR is probably the most likely to make the post season.  The Hornets have kept essentially the same roster that got them bounced in the first round of last year with the exception of Tyson Chandler being shipped off for double double machine Emeka Okafor.  This most certainly is an improvement and with Okafor getting the ball from CP3, he could very easily avg 20-10.  Also keep in mind that CP3 was hobbled to say the least at the end of the season last year.  

Utah, if healthy, is just as talented as ever, and I wonder if they try and swing Michael Beasley in a deal for Boozer, which would make them even more ridiculous.  PHX I put on the list for the simple fact they have Nash, but in all honesty we have no idea what condition Stoudemire is in, or if he'll even be on the roster come seasons end.  Also, I mean come on, if Amare's not right who is going to score for this team?  Grant Hill, Jason Richardson...please.  

Now for the sleepers, I'll start with my favorite and a team I think legitimately has a shot to make the playoffs, though I seem to be one of few who believes it.  OKC has one of, if not the most, promising young rosters in the league.  Kevin Durant is a superstar, there's no denying it. Jeff Green is a quality player and Russel Westbrook is a star in the making and now will be paired with James Harden, the only thing that scares me is the lack of depth the team has, but hey the nuggets made the playoffs the first three years of Melo;s career with equally poor bench play (think Dermarr Johnson, Jon Barry, Reggie Evans and ugh Voshon Lenard...wait he started, this is me shaking my head right now)  

LAC is someone I'm sure I'll catch flak for but weren't we all picking them as sleepers last year as well?  I just point to that starting five : Baron Davis, Eric Gordon, Al Thornton, Blake Griffin and Chris Kaman/Marcus Camby, I don't care who you are that lineup is solid.  Again not much depth (Unless you call Ricky Davis, Sebastian Telfair and Mark Madsen depth, but i sure don't)  but they do have some intriguing young players, such as Deandre Jordan and Mike Taylor, who could develop into meaningful role players.  

Finally GS, I swear I still don't know what GS was doing when they took Monta Ellis' long lost younger brother, Stephen Curry, in the draft, but I don't care.  Curry is the player not named Blake who I believe is the most NBA ready and will be a star for years to come.  If i were a GM he would have been second off the board.  Pair him with Monta Ellis and put them in Don Nelsons offense and it will be fun to watch.  Especially when they have Stephen Jackson and Corey Maggette along the perimeter as well and Biedrins pulling down boards.  I can't help but think that if GS had a bigger more powerful center and ran a style of offense similar to Orlando's then they'd be absolutely unstoppable.  

Also GS has two huge up and comers in the Anthony's (Randolph and Morrow) plus the team is overall very young with a few veterans sprinkled in (though Im still not sure how much of a calming veteran presence Stephen Jackson can be) a la Devean George and good ol Speedy Claxton.  So there you have it.  IMO GS, LAC and OKC are on the rise, meanwhile PHX and HOU are in a free-fall, while MIN, MEM,  and SAC are still the bottom feeders of the league....but also dont sleep on SAC, I have a funny feeling they will be better then expected. 

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