If you had to pick five title contenders, who would you pick? The Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers are obvious choices to potentially represent the Eastern Conference. How about in the West? We all know how deep the Western Conference has been. A 31-24 Grizzles team is sitting two games out of the playoff picture. That record would have them as the No. 3 seed in the East! Is all this depth good for the Western Conference? Who should be the favorite?
If you asked me two weeks ago I would have said the Oklahoma City Thunder, but after their debacle on Thursday night I am not too confident about them. Yes, the Thunder are a better team with Russell Westbrook, but Kevin Durant is not a better player. For some reason he is less assertive when Westbrook is on the court. In a superstar-driven league, a less assertive Kevin Durant could ultimately doom OKC.
If I had to pick a favorite, it’d be the San Antonio Spurs. Experience is important, but the last two years San Antonio has ran into dead legs down the playoff stretch. Will it happen again? I’d say yes only because of the deep Western Conference. I don’t see the Spurs steamrolling through the first two rounds of the playoffs like years past. Could a longer first half of the playoffs cause for another late-season collapse?
After a franchise-best season in 2013, the Grizzles have been flying under the radar in 2014. A new coach and a case of the injury bug caused for a bumpy start, but the Grizzlies were able to get back on track when they got healthy. Remember when the Grizzles embarrassed OKC in the playoffs last year? That was no fluke. In 2011 they took the Thunder to seven games after upsetting the No. 1-seeded Spurs in the first round.
So don’t look now, but the Grizzles have gone 18-7 in their last 25 games, including a 7-3 mark against Western Conference playoff teams. Memphis can be the most dangerous team in the playoffs. If the twin towers of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph stay healthy, the sky is the limit. Keep an eye on Mike Conley as well. After breaking out in the playoffs last year, the seventh-year point guard out of Ohio State has been setting career highs in points and assist-to-turnover ratio. Even though their record does not show it, the Grizzles are better than ever. Let’s just see if they can stay on the court.