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The Dickinsonian

The student news site of Dickinson College.

The Dickinsonian

The student news site of Dickinson College.

The Dickinsonian

Talent Galore! Western Conference Playoff Preview

The West is absolutely stacked. It’s a conference teeming with talent. Every team has a household name. This year’s West was one of the most talented and competitive conferences in my lifetime.


The one seeded Thunder are headlined by the talented, confident Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The Thunder won 17 more games than in the prior year after winning 16 more games than they did the year before that! This season they claimed the one seed in the West. Coach Mark Daigneault has done an excellent job with the progression of all the young talent on the team. This year he brought home all the Coach of the Year honors. GM Sam Presti invested in his team’s future, making a lot of moves that had people scratching their heads. Now the Thunder stand alone in the West as Presti provided the blueprint for a successful rebuild. Shai is a perennial MVP candidate, Jalen Williams is a budding superstar and Chet Holmgren had a very impressive rookie season. The Thunder are very close and very talented. However, there could be a learning curve in their first playoff run. 


The reigning champion Denver Nuggets head into the playoffs with the utmost confidence. Denver basically brought back the same team that won it all last year. Michael Malone’s players all know and execute their role so well. The Nuggets seem like a perfectly constructed team. Nikola Jokic is a shoe-in for his third MVP award in four years. Jokic always rises to the occasion. He personifies what it means to be unguardable. You can play lockdown defense on him for 23 seconds just for him to chuck up a 30 foot three pointer and bank it in. Jamal Murray is made for the big moment. He always comes ready to play in the playoffs. The rest of the veteran roster is headlined by Michael Porter Jr. and Aaron Gordon. The Nuggets are the favorites for good reason. 


The Minnesota Timberwolves brought excitement back to Minnesota basketball fans this year. Anthony Edwards has lived up to the hype and pressure of being drafted first overall. The uber-talented and confident “Ant” came into his own the last two seasons,  propelling the T Wolves to relevancy once again. Edwards plays alongside another first overall pick,  Karl-Anthony Towns. KAT, now in year 9, has been one of the best big-men in basketball throughout his career. Towns is an elite scoring option. He has a very good three point shot for someone of his stature. Towns can struggle on the defensive side of the ball, one of the reasons why they made the blockbuster trade for Rudy Gobert. Gobert is now in his second season with the Timberwolves. He is the heavy favorite to win the Defensive Player of the Year award. It would be his fourth win, tying the all-time record. Mike Conley, Jaden McDaniels and Naz Reid are all solid complimentary options who fill out key roles on the team. Minnesota plays hard, and incredibly physically. With their mix of youth and veterans and of a heavy scoring threat with solid defense, the Wolves could do damage in the postseason. 


The Clippers are the slight favorites going into my most anticipated series. The Clippers have the oldest average age in the league. Most of their players are very familiar faces. A few years ago, having James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard on a team together would have seemed impossible. Now, the four, with a combined twelve first team all NBA awards, have an average age around 34. Of the four of them, only Kawhi Leonard has won a ring. Although they are all past their incredible primes, they are still very talented and they all have the ability to take over games. Paul George is still elite on both sides of the ball and still has the confidence to guard anyone on the floor. Against the Mavericks, this will mean guarding the seemingly unguardable Luka Doncic. Kawhi Leonard, who has become the face of load management, will start the playoffs out due to injury. But he will be back soon and he is a great postseason performer. In what could be a last hurrah for these four, it’s hard not to pull for them. Coach Tyronn Lue won the finals as an underdog before and he hopes to reclaim the magic he found with the Cavaliers. With veteran star power and solid bench options, the Clippers will be raring to make a strong playoff push this year. 


The Mavericks are about as top heavy as a team can be. Luka Doncic won the Rookie of the Year in his first season. In every year since, he has made the first team all NBA team. Luka is the most dominant guard in the league. He’s impossible to stop. The best case scenario is you slow him down and try to make him have a bad shooting night. Luka’s 33.9 points per game is the third most for anyone in the league this decade. Kyrie Irving plays the part of Luka’s partner in crime. Irving, now 32, is still talented and tough to guard. Although Luka gets most of the attention, Kyrie has a huge part to play in the Mavericks’ success but he has yet to reach the same playoff success he had all the way back in 2016. Past that incredible duo, however, there really is not much else to like about this Dallas team. The two will have to play their best basketball if the Mavs are to have a chance. 


 The Phoenix Suns did not have the year many expected. The duo of Devin Booker and Kevin Durant looks great on paper. However, I dislike a lot about the team that was built around them. The Suns’ scoring ability is excellent but, defensively, there is not much to write home about. The Suns got Bradley Beal in a trade of which I was never a fan. Beal’s scoring talent is undeniable, but that wasn’t what the Suns needed. They already had one of the best scorers ever in KD. The Suns lacked depth and quality defenders. Beal solved none of those problems. Grayson Allen and Jusuf Nurkic are quality pieces that make up the rest of the starting lineup. The Suns’ star power led them to a 49 win season and they hope it will be enough in the playoffs. 


The Lebron-led Lakers had their best regular season finish since the year they won the championship. In year 21 for LeGOAT, he still finds ways to get it done. Legloriousking shot his highest rate ever from three point range. For the 20th year in a row, Leconsistent averaged at least 25 points per game. The dialogue on Anthony Davis has gone too far in a negative direction. He gets a lot of hate for his injuries and for his defensive work. AD played 76 games this year, putting up almost 25 points a game while playing elite defense. AD is still among the top 15 players in basketball. The Lakers have a solid supporting cast, with Austin Reaves, D’angelo Russell and Rui Hachimura, but, in the playoffs, the lights shine the brightest. Those three need to come to play for the Lakeshow to have a shot. Head coach Darwin Ham has been scrutinized for his decision making and choices all year. I do worry about his managerial ability, especially against elite coaching. It’s a revenge series for LA against Denver and the matchup they claimed to hope for. Now it’s all about if the Lakers can execute in all facets of the game and play complete basketball. 


The Pelicans suffered a huge blow, losing Zion Williamson in their initial play-in game. However, they bounced back and beat the Kings to secure the eight seed. New Orleans are not the stereotypical eight seed. They have a lot of talent on their roster and are a well built team. They have a great mix of scorers, good shooters, and quality defenders. Getting Zion back healthy is paramount, but this is a team that can compete with the best.

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