Why the West playoffs will be the most exciting one in years

Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns Nick Nurse (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)
Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns Nick Nurse (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images) /
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Minnesota Timberwolves

Many fans are rightfully calling the Rudy Gobert trade a disaster for Minnesota. Not only did they trade away their future for the 30-year-old Gobert and his massive $170 million contract, but Gobert has significantly regressed this season and hasn’t meshed well with Karl-Anthony Towns in the limited time they’ve spent on the court together.

Given their 35-34 record, expectations have been lowered from a potential Conference Finals threat to a second-round exit at best. However, the organization will still have pressure on them to at least progress from their first-round defeat last season. If Minnesota falls in the first round again, some big changes are likely to come in the offseason, which could include Towns’ departure.

Dallas Mavericks

In need of shot-creation around Luka Doncic, Dallas acquired one of the best shot-creators the game has seen at the trade deadline in Kyrie Irving. That duo alone raised expectations for the Mavs, having formed one of the most formidable backcourts in the league. However, the results haven’t been so promising in the short time that Doncic and Irving have played together.

In the nine games they’ve spent as teammates, Doncic and Irving have gone 3-6, which is obviously underwhelming. It’s not that either of them has performed poorly; they’re playing up to their normal levels of greatness. However, their supporting cast is not what you would expect from a title contender, especially after trading Dorian Finney-Smith in the Irving deal. Finney-Smith was arguably the team’s best defender prior to the trade.

Regardless, this season remains finals-or-bust for Dallas whether you believe in them or not. That’s especially true considering Irving’s expiring contract, and the high likelihood that he would leave in free agency if the Mavs failed to make a deep playoff run.

Phoenix Suns

Kevin Durant was acquired by the Phoenix Suns at the trade deadline and in his three games with Phoenix, he performed how you would expect one of the greatest scorers in basketball history to perform. He scored 20+ points in each of his outings and put up 37 in a game against his former teammate, Irving.

However, when warming up for what would have been his home debut for the team, he sprained his left ankle and will miss at least three weeks, likely keeping him out until the end of the regular season.

Durant is the type of player that will come back from an injury like it never happened. Still, it’s concerning that this is his second significant injury of the season after a knee problem that kept him out for over 20 games earlier this year. Between Durant’s injury history and Chris Paul’s age, it seems time is running out for the Suns to make a finals run. This may not be their last chance at a championship, but it’s probably their best.