A Look At Some Reasons To Be Optimistic For Every Western Conference Playoff Team

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Last week we took a look at any sort of reason to be optimistic if you were a fan of an Eastern Conference playoff team. Today we switch things to the West where things couldn't be more wide open. You could make the legit argument for like 4 or 5 teams when it comes to winning the title this year. We have 3 teams alone that qualified for the ever important 40/20 rule and none of them include a team with a healthy LeBron & AD. As a reminder, we'll go in order of how the seeding shakes out right this moment, with the play in results still TBD.

Utah Jazz

Has there ever been a #1 seed that people, maybe even their own fans, feel more nervous about than the Jazz? For a team that was pretty much the best team in the NBA from wire to wire, led the league in wins, had a top 4 offense/defense, and led the league in net rating, I wouldn't exactly call the Jazz the overwhelming favorites. So why should you feel optimistic about the Jazz? Well, everything I just listed would be a good start, but we can go a little deeper.

If you look around the West, you'll see the Jazz had success with pretty much everyone not named the Phoenix Suns, but there's a strong chance they won't have to worry about them. They went 2-1 vs DEN, 2-1 vs DAL, 2-0 vs POR, 2-1 vs LAC and 2-1 vs LAL. Their record is not a case where they didn't really beat anyone good and just feasted on lower competition like some of the win profiles of other contenders. They were 24-15 vs .500 or better teams, which was the 2nd most wins in the entire NBA. For a team that now has homecourt throughout the playoffs (even in a Finals should they make it), the Jazz were an NBA best 31-5 at home. I get the reluctance to believe in them given how their postseasons have gone recently, but it's hard to be better than the Jazz were this season. They check almost every box. Legit coaching, elite high end talent, elite defense, depth, shooting, the list goes on and on.  

If your approach is to maybe try and beat them from three and not even challenge Gobert, well that's cool because the Jazz led the league in 3PM (16.7) and were 4th in 3P% so that's not going to work either. They have shooters coming out of their asshole. 

Phoenix Suns

I get it, the Suns were awesome all season only to be rewarded with the potential reality of facing a healthy LeBron/AD in RD1 or a red hot MVP level Steph Curry. That's some shit. I could understand why maybe you'd be down a little bit as a Suns fan, but there are a few reasons why I'd be optimistic.

For starters, you can try and act like this isn't a real thing, but there's a little bit of a "team of destiny" vibe around the Suns. Ever since their 8-0 run in the bubble. The entire Chris Paul narrative. Sometimes that shit is actually true. Much like the Jazz, the Suns were actually the best team in the league against good competition with a 27-11 record. That should have you feeling great right off the bat. The Suns have proven they can hang with anyone.

Then you start to think of what the playoffs usually consist of, which is close games that go down to the wire. Clutch moments if you will. Well what if I told you the Suns were 2nd in the NBA in clutch wins at 25-12? Their advanced metrics aren't even that great in the clutch, yet they win. Why? Because they have Chris Paul. So if I'm a Suns fan, the mere fact that this team has a healthy Chris Paul right now is all I would need to feel great heading into the postseason. You have that guy, you always have a chance. What makes the Suns tough in these situations though is they're getting great clutch production from guys not named Paul as well. And it's not Booker (32/17%). How about Ayton shooting 61.5% in the clutch. Or someone like Mikal Bridges and his 45/40% or Cam Johnson and his 45/45%. So while you may think as long as you shut down Paul/Booker in these situations you'll be fine, then the Suns punch you in the face with their role players. That's what makes them so tough this season.

Denver Nuggets

Things are rough for the Nuggets heading into these playoffs. Jamal Murray is out for the year, Will Barton is hurt, Aaron Gordon came crashing down to earth a little bit after his insanely hot start. But here's the deal. They have Jokic. Maybe you heard, but he's about to win the MVP. He's still a nightmare to guard for any team in the West and you're going to get a whole lot of him during the course of this run.

I also think there is something to be said about their mindset. The Nuggets don't really quit, they embrace the nobody believes in us mantra to the fullest. Just look at what they did in the bubble last year and then how they've played since Murray went down. This is not going to be a team that just rolls over, and you add in an unstoppable MVP to the mix and you really have something. Despite their injuries they still have a top 6 offense/net rating. Remember, they play at a slow as shit pace, the 27th fastest pace in the league. They want this to be a halfcourt game where you realize you have nothing to stop Jokic. In the playoffs, things do tend to slow down, which will help maybe the Nuggets more than anyone else given what their roster situation is right now. 


Los Angeles Clippers

Due to some rather impressive tanking and seeding manipulation, there's one main reason I would be excited as a Clippers fan. It's not that Kawhi/George are entering the playoffs healthy. It's not that this team is deep as hell, can be a bitch to play on defense or any of that.

The main reason I would be hyped going into the season is they succesfully dodged the Lakers. You know it, I know it, they know it, everybody knows it. Now it's still up to them to show the world that they can actually not choke away a playoff series, but the fact that they don't have to worry about a first round against the Lakers is all I would need. Sure they're technically 4th, but that was strategic. This is a team that has the 3rd best offense in basketball and that was with Kawhi/George being on a management plan. They have the 2nd best net rating in the league. Don't let their seed fool you, they are every bit a contender as any other team in the West.

Remember, they also were one of the 40/20 teams, which NBA history shows usually wins the NBA title. Just something to keep in mind.

Dallas Mavericks

The Mavs cried about the play in tournament and then responded exactly how you would hope as a Mavs fan. They started winning. In fact, at 8-2 over their last 10 they enter the playoffs as one of the hottest teams in the West. They still have defensive issues (21st) which we talked about in their concerns blog, but this is about why you should feel optimistic. The answer is one guy

Who else is ready for some Luka Magic? I cannot wait. You know it's coming no matter how hard you want to try and avoid it. The more you watch Luka the more you realize he's just one of these guys that appear to be a blessed player. He got his playoff licks last year, so would it surprise anyone if he put the team on his back and went nuts this season? That's why I am so excited for this 4/5 matchup. We get a rematch of last year's first round and I'll remind you that Luka put up 28.8/9.4/8.8 on 46/31% with 2.8 3PM in that series. Whenever you can have the best overall player in a series you will always have a shot, and I believe that could happen in a series that also includes Kawhi Leonard.

But let's say you're looking for other reasons outside of Luka. Totally understandable because we all know he's a monster. How about the sudden emergence of Tim Hardaway Jr? Maybe if you're not someone who watches a ton of Mavs games you may not have seen what he's beeing doing since the last week of April (12 games). How about 21.8/3.0/2.5 on 50/43% splits with 3.8 3PM a night. That is big time production from a guy who is supposed to be their #3. He actually wasn't that bad in last year's playoff run (17.8 points on 43/35%) so there's no reason to think he couldn't keep this up. That's going to be really important especially if Porzingis is iffy. 

Portland Trail Blazers

For starters, they've won 10 of their last 12. That's pretty good. It's basically a make or break postseason for the Blazers, an early exit can pretty much seal the fate of their coach and maybe even their star backcourt duo. So why should you feel optimistic as a Blazers fan. There's obviously the Dame factor, but we know about that all ready, so I want to go in a different direction.


A big part of the Blazers postseason story last year was their health issues. Entering this playoffs as healthy as I feel like they've ever been, there is a big reason to be excited. If you look at their lineup production since they traded for Norm Powell (21 games, 370 minutes), this is how it looks


Ortg: 118.1

Drtg: 104.8

Net rating: +13.4

Surprisingly, this group's 370 minutes were the most of any combination all year. We know that group could score, but look at that defensive rating and net rating. As we know, everything will always come down to how the Blazers defend. If you're telling me their most used lineup can have that sort of production on the defensive end, you have to take this team seriously. In the chance they find themselves in a close clutch game due to this improved defense, well that's only where Dame shines brightest. They in theory have the size to provide at least a little resistance to Jokic with Nurkic/Kanter, and Covington isn't a bad option when it comes to limiting MPJ. It feels weird to be talking positive about the Blazers and mentioning their defense, but this new starting 5 has been more than adequate.

Los Angeles Lakers

A healthy LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Ever heard of them? How do we think they look right now? Well…..


Until someone proves that they can actually knock off a healthy LeBron/AD in the playoffs, they deserve the benefit of the doubt. Who cares that they are a 7 seed. They didn't have their best players for like 2+ months. Everyone knows Playoff LeBron is a different animal, not just in his play but also the Playoff LeBron playoff whistle factor. Literally nothing else with the Lakers matters as long as those two are 100% healthy, which they appear to be (regardless of what LeBron says).

Golden State Warriors

Find me someone who has come even close to slowing down Steph Curry right now. You can't. So the fact that your favorite team employs Steph Curry has you feeling great as a Warriors fan. But that's not what I'm going with here. In fact, I'm going in the same direction as I did with the Blazers.

Did you know that since the trade deadline the Warriors have the 8th best defense in the NBA and a top 10 net rating? Their 17-11 record is right on pace with a team like PHI/MIA/BKN/LAC/MIL. We consider those teams contenders right? I'm not gonna go that far, but the point is this Warriors team at this moment with this level of Curry has been as good as anyone in the league. That's just the facts. 

You add in the emergence of someone like Andrew Wiggins and how good he's been for them since the All Star break, and there's a reason to think they could be a best for one of the higher seeds over the course of a series.

Memphis Grizzlies

Sometimes I watch the Grizzlies play and I feel like they are right on the cusp of making a legit leap into always being in the top 6. Who knows if they actually get the chance to compete for the 8th spot, but my money is on them taking care of the Spurs in the 9/10 game and then who knows, anything can happen. If they can find a way to prevent Steph from going nuclear they have a shot, and who knows maybe they take their momentum from the 9/10 and somehow upset the Lakers. They didn't beat them at any point during the year, but you never know.

The purpose of this blog is to focus on the positive, so here's why you should be optimistic about the Grizzlies outside of Ja Morant, who is a certified beast. Did you know they have the 6th highest scoring bench in the league at 39.1 points a night? As a second unit they shoot pretty well also at 46/38% splits. This is important because their bench plays basically the 3rd most minutes of any team in the NBA (19.6). They have some legit shooters like Desmond Bane, and you throw in the grit and grind style and that's why they are always a bitch to play I feel like. It's going to take the full roster to overachieve if they want to not only make the top 8 but then have any chance against a top seed, and at least the Grizzlies have shown there's some legit depth on this roster outside of Ja Morant.

San Antonio Spurs

I dunno, they're the Spurs. Gregg Popovich exists. We've been thinking this team is done for years now and here they are, still alive and still in the "playoff hunt" They may not have the most talent, but they have playoff veterans who have been there before and arguably the best coach on the planet. The Spurs simply feel like the kind of team that will spoil the fun for everyone and actually win all these games and we get robbed of some matchups we really want to see. They aren't flashy, they don't shoot threes, they just out execute you death by playing their own style. 

The sheer fact that they won't die and go into a full rebuild mode like almost every other team that is actually rebuilding is enough to make any Spurs fan confident that maybe some upsets could be on the horizon.

Alright, so do you feel better about your favorite team? I hope so, because we are one more sleep away from the chaos and I for one cannot wait.