We are two weeks away from the Playoffs, and in the next couple days I will highlight the weaknesses of each team, starting with the West. Obviously a few of these teams could change in the last stretch of the regular season, but as of today these are the top 8 teams in the West.
8. Portland Trail Blazers
Biggest weakness: Defense.
The Trailblazers defense ranks 26th in the league, and 27th in steals. In other words, they let their opponents score a lot and they don’t generate very many turnovers. This is bad news when playing a team like the Warriors who will absolutely burn you any chance you give them.
7. Memphis Grizzlies
Biggest Weakness: Offense
The Grizzlies rank 27th in PPG, and 24th in assists. Most of the offense revolves around Mike Conley and Marc Gasol who score nearly half of their points every game. Their already struggling offense will struggle even more facing the Spurs who rank as the 2nd best defense in the league. Don’t be surprised if the Spurs sweep them.
6. Oklahoma City Thunder
Biggest Weakness: 3 point shooting & Turnovers
I had to list two weaknesses for the Thunder because both hurt them too much to put one over the other. The Thunder rank 28th in 3 point percentage, and 23rd in turnovers per game. This is a team that lives and dies on the fast break, and they have the ability to score with nearly anyone, but their turnovers kill them. Their turnovers, and poor shooting will hurt even more facing the Rockets in the first round, who rank 8th in steals per game, and lead the league in 3 point shooting.
5. Los Angeles Clippers
Biggest Weakness: Offensive Rebounding
The Clippers have struggled to get extra possessions all season long. Despite having Andre Jordan who is the leagues second best rebounder, they rank 21st in offensive rebounding. Jordan grabs over a 3rd of their offensive boards, with Blake Griffin grabbing less than 2 per game. Extra possessions are crucial, especially because they’ll be facing the Jazz who have the best defense in the league.
4. Utah Jazz
Biggest Weakness: Scoring
The Jazz are in a great spot as the 4th seed in the playoffs, but it isn’t because of their offense. They rank 29th in PPG, and 28th in assists per game. Most of their losses have come because of stagnant offense, and despite their dominant defense you need to score points to win games. They will face the Clippers who have the 5th best offense in the league. The Jazz have struggled against the Clippers all season long going 1-3 against them in the regular season, losing by an average margin of 14 points. The Jazz will have to step up their offense big time if they want to advance in the playoffs let alone past the first round.
3. Houston Rockets
Biggest Weakness: Rim Protection
The Rockets rank 21st in the league in Blocks per game, and they give up more points in the paint than any other team in the NBA. Guess who leads the league in points in the paint? Yup, the Oklahoma City Thunder who the Rockets will most likely face in the first round. The Thunder are constantly attacking the rim, and Houston’s horrible rim protection could create some big problems for them facing Russell Westbrook and Company.
2. San Antonio Spurs
Biggest Weakness: Athleticism
Last year the Spurs lack of athleticism was exposed by the Thunder in the second round of the playoffs. The Spurs lost the series 2-4, with no solution to OKC’s athletic bigs and guards. They didn’t make any real moves to correct this in the off-season; they signed Gasol who is slightly younger than Tim Duncan, but no more athletic than he was. Their lack of athleticism could keep them from reaching the Western Conference Finals for a second straight year.
1. Golden State Warriors
Biggest Weakness: Draymond Green
The Warriors really don’t have any blaring weaknesses like the other teams do. I’ve been very surprised at their rim protection and their bench which I thought would both be terrible. They lead the league in blocks and their bench hasn’t been nearly as bad as everyone thought it would be. If there is anything that could hurt them though, it’s Draymond Green. His antics cost them more than a few games last year, and it could be argued that they cost them the Finals when he was suspended for game 5. He has a habit of making teams and players angry, and sometimes its the wrong player (LeBron James).
Draymond will have to calm his antics down this year, as he plays a crucial role to their success.