To Endure or not Endure the 2016-17 NBA Season (Western Conference Edition)

Part 2: Western Conference Preview - Maybe I'll just go to the bay, play in the hay, with Steph, Dray and Klay, what do you say, I just may?

Cue the Wild West themes with Will Smith headlining the cinematic adventure of bringing the modern age to the Old West. Only in this endeavor, it is the new age Super Team to the old NBA you used to think you knew.

Over the years we’ve had duos like Jordan and Pippen, Magic and Kareem, Bird and McHale; then we had Big 3’s like KG, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. LeBron, D-Wade and Bosh…now we have a 4-star lineup of your new age Golden State Warriors that has NBA commissioner Adam Silver looking back at the CBA rules armed with his pencil, eraser and pack of lawyers.

Either way, the Warriors seem indestructible now having two recent MVP’s on the SAME TEAM in Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant. Not fair you say?  They don’t care.  They’re still “light years” ahead of your primitive mind.

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Beyond the clear “Warrior” advantage we still have teams on the rise that don’t appreciate the formality of crowning them before playing out the year (i.e. Denny Green rant, RIP).  Let me sprinkle you with some storylines that may or may not sour your opinion on the Bay Area boys.

EVERYTHING IS REAL IN THE FIELD

Let’s move past Golden State and examine the field, shall we.  We have Tier 1 of the before mentioned Warriors.  Tier 2 is as follows:

  • San Antonio Spurs:  Old Man River Walk aka the Big Fundamental has indeed walked off into the sunset but just like the Spurs always do, they replace Tim Duncan with a familiar foe in Pau Gasol, of course!  You don’t win 50 plus games in seventeen consecutive seasons for nothing and having one of the best coaches in basketball in Greg Popovich without knowing how to overcome a little adversity of potentially the best power forward in league history retiring.  Yet here we are.  Again.  Saying the Spurs are too old and questioning them as title contenders…again.  A roster of LaMarcus Aldridge, Kawhi Leonard, Pau Gasol and grumpy old men Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili will have to prove to the league once again they’re not Lethal Weapon detective Roger Murtaugh’s famous line, “Too old for this sh*t.”
(Photo by Chris Covatta/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Covatta/Getty Images)
  • L.A. Clippers:  The last hurrah perhaps?  Lob City is in a similar position of the Oklahoma City Thunder last year with an enormous amount of pressure to win now with this group before impending free agents CP3 and Blake Griffin are forced to rethink their futures like Kevin Durant did.  They still have a dynamic trio with CP3, Griffin and DeAndre Jordan so the question is can they stay healthy, get help from supporting cast and perform in the post-season?  Anything less than a Western Conference Finals appearance could spell doom in Lala Land.
Getty Images
(Getty Images)

The plot thickens now.  Seeds 4-10 can go anywhere and everywhere based on health, new player cohesion and star power.  Without further ado, I give you Tier 3 (in no particular order).

  • Oklahoma City Thunder:  Just another dull off-season in Boomer Sooner country.  Except for that one explosion on the 4th of July.  That wasn’t fireworks but a bombshell right to the heart of every Oklahoman in hearing Kevin Durant was joining the very team that eliminated them.  Besides that little ditty there was another deal prior that changed the team dramatically as well, trading long-time shot blocker Serge Ibaka to Orlando for a King’s ransom on draft day.  The Thunder received Victor Oladipo, Ersan Illyasova and 11th pick of the 2016 Draft which turned into Damontas Sabonis (not your Vydas but Arvydas Sabonis’ son…I had to do it).  Besides the drama of a real life NBA divorce all season long of the “He said, She said” business between Durant and Westbrook there is another storyline, the recently contract extended Russell Westbrook’s “Revenge Tour” is soon to be underway.  If you haven’t marked February 11th on your calendar to watch Kevin Durant’s first return to OKC, I suggest you set your DVR and get your popcorn ready because it’s going to be A-MAZING!
Revenge best served cold
  • Memphis Grizzlies:  Those poor Grizzlies had injury after injury last year to the point they barely had an eight man roster with Marc Gasol missing the majority of the year as well as the 153 million dollar man Mike Conley missing significant time.  Now they have a first time head coach in David Fizdale from the Miami Heat who wants to alter their style of play from grinding to gunning, sounds like Growing Pains i.e. Kirk Cameron.  Memphis did add sharp-shooter Chandler Parsons but like their other stars also struggles to stay healthy.  Uncertainty clouds over the city of Memphis like the ghost of Elvis Presley.
Grinding away
Grinding away
  • Utah Jazz:  These are not you parent’s Utah Jazz anymore of the Stockton/Malone days, they are a blend of Ron Burgundy’s Jazz flute meets George St. Pierre aka GSP.  Revamped and ready to make a splash after missing the playoffs by one game, the Utah Jazz traded for veteran leadership in George Hill and Boris Diaw and signed free agent Joe Johnson.  A good mix with their talented youth in Rudy Gobert and Gordon Hayward, who unfortunately will miss the first six weeks of the season with a broken finger.  Regardless, the Jazz are determined to get back to their winning ways of old.
Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
  • Houston Rockets:  Ready to really flip the script like B-Rabbit in 8 Mile?  Out is Kevin McHale, in Mike “No D” ‘Antoni.  Out Dwight Howard, in are free agents Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon.  Just for kicks let’s make James Harden the point guard since he practically sleeps with the basketball he has it so much.  What do you have?  Your 2017 Houston Rockets ladies and germs!  This team is built for offense like many Mike D’Antoni teams of the past and like many previous teams, no defense.  Should be fun to watch the beard throw up crazy numbers only this time if he fails he can’t blame Dwight Howard.
(Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
(Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
  • Portland Trail Blazers:  The team that snuck up on you last year like Craig did on Debo in Friday with that first punch.  One of the best backcourts in the league in Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum will not be able to sneak around anymore as they knocked out a banged up Clippers squad and pushed on the Warriors in the semi-finals of the playoffs.  They’ve resigned their free agents to keep the band together and added Evan Turner to the mix but the main question is their frontcourt.  Are you willing to rely on Mason Plumlee and Festus Ezeli?  In a word, no.  Next question.
Dame & CJ
Dame & CJ
  • Dallas Mavericks:  “All by myself, don’t want to be all by myself.”  Dirk Nowitzki is riding it out in Dallas with a Mark Cuban rebuilt motor in the jet.  Sure, they took old parts from the Warriors in Andrew Bogut and Harrison Barnes but will that be enough?  They’ll be trotting out injury prone Deron Williams and Wesley Matthews to boot, saucy.  Rick Carlisle is a great coach and will make it work but they’ll be on the cusp of the eight seed unfortunately for the big German Dirk.
(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
  • Minnesota Timberwolves:  Not since KG have the Timberwolves been more than a doormat for the league.  Having selected Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony-Towns with two number one picks, Minnesota has a solid future.  They hired hard-nosed Tom Thibodeau as coach and President of Basketball Operations to bring in a tough defensive attitude to the team as well as drafting point guard of the future Kris Dunn.  The Wolves are the sleeper pick of the preseason but will they take to Thibs’ style?  Expecting to see a lot of improvement to this up and coming team but like any major change, it will take time.  Watch out league, their time is coming.
(Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports)
(Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports)

THE REMATCH

I’ve avoided the inevitable topic long enough.  At the end of the day or season in this case we will have our third consecutive Finals rubber match between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers.  Winner take all, best of three.

Good vs Evil, Land vs Bay, King vs Curry & Co
Good vs Evil, Land vs Bay, King vs Curry & Co

The Challenger – Golden State Warriors.  Normally when you set a regular season record of 73-9 you don’t change a thing but in this case you go out and get a former MVP in Kevin Durant.  Of course they did give up a 3-1 series lead so you can argue their need to get better as they clearly became frustrated with the inconsistency of Harrison Barnes and the constant injuries of Andrew Bogut.  So they went all out “recruitment mode” on the KD sweepstakes and won.  Now anything less than a championship will be a massive disappointment and the blame lie heavily on Kevin Durant.  The only question marks of this Super Team will be how long will it take to gel and figure out roles and will they have the post defense required in the playoffs?

KD to the Bay
KD to the Bay

The Champion – Cleveland Cavaliers.  The Land has finally been saved after a 52 year drought of a championship in a major sport.  Now they are the current NBA champions and their Cleveland Indians are in the World Series, life is good.  What could possibly motivate LeBron James now…Enter Kevin Durant in a Warriors uniform.  Perhaps being overlooked even as the champs, the Cavs can stay on cruise control relatively all year and reduce LBJ’s minutes to keep him fresh for the big dance.  They resigned J.R. Smith and brought in a nice back-up small forward in Mike Dunleavy Jr. to help out and have another shooter on hand just in case.  King James has already ascended to greatness last year but taking them past the mighty Super Team Warriors would be an achievement even beyond last year.

Who wants a piece of Debo!
Who wants a piece of Debo!

The NBA season is finally upon us.  No more preseason, no more hype…just action.  One thing is for sure, if you need more motivation to watch and get excited then maybe you don’t deserve the NBA, instead I give you the Cleveland Browns…cheer up Charlie.

If you missed the Eastern Conference Preview, check it out here, Douche.