For those that crave symmetry and balance, there’s a reassuring look to the list of the most recent NBA champions. Flick through the history books of the past decade and you will note that five NBA titles have been won by Western Conference teams (Golden State Warriors x3, Los Angeles Lakers, and San Antonio Spurs) and five by franchises from the East (Miami Heat x2, Cleveland Cavaliers, Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks).
It shows, for the most part, that the postseason system works and that when the dust has settled, the best team in the NBA is the one that gets their hands on the Larry O’Brien Championship trophy.
At the time of writing, the Bucks are there or thereabouts in their quest to become the first franchise since the Warriors to successfully defend their title, although the sportsbooks currently believe that there are four teams more likely to win the NBA Championship. Fans of symmetry rejoice once more, as two of those are from the West and two from the East.
The Brooklyn Nets and the Philadelphia 76ers are the picks from the Eastern Conference, while in the West the Phoenix Suns and the Warriors have asserted their authority given their fine performances. So, let’s run the microscope over those latter two teams to see if the NBA Championship will go west in June.
It’s almost impossible to separate the Suns and the Warriors in the race for the Western Conference title, even though (at the time of writing at least) the Phoenix outfit was six wins ahead of their rivals. The Western Conference odds from the sportsbooks make for fascinating reading, with both the Suns and the Warriors’ best price of +210 to prevail. As we said, it’s also impossible to choose between them.
The Suns’ hopes of defending their honor in the West have been hampered by Chris Paul’s injury. Nobody in the NBA has served up more assists per game this term than the 36-year-old veteran. Early reports suggest that Paul could miss the rest of the regular season, and that is a hammer blow to their hopes.
Point Book without Chris Paul:— StatMuse (@statmuse) February 25, 2022
He is the first Suns player with a 25p/10a/5s game since Jason Kidd in 2001. pic.twitter.com/41YdZClyXs
You wonder how much more Devin Booker has in the locker too. Can he up his points per game tally to MVP levels from now until the end of the campaign? Take out Paul, and the next most prolific points scorer at the Suns is Mikal Bridges, and he ranks a lowly 90th in the NBA for that metric.
In short, the Suns have their work cut out for them.
While the Suns have their injury concerns, the Warriors are also far from immune to such worries and Draymond Green’s ongoing back problem is a source of much frustration.
It’s no surprise that the Warriors have been struggling since the injury to Draymond. He might now be the BEST Player on that team but he damn sho the most IMPORTANT Player on Golden State! He’s the Heart and Soul of that team! Carry the hell on…— Kendrick Perkins (@KendrickPerkins) March 2, 2022
Steph Curry, while not back to his absolute best, is serving up some big numbers again and so Green’s absence is mitigated somewhat. In addition, other Warriors are stepping up to the plate: Andrew Wiggins, Jordan Poole, Kevon Looney, and Gary Payton II have all enhanced the Golden State game, while Klay Thompson’s imminent full return to action could not be better timed.
With all that in mind, are the Warriors the more likely Western Conference contender for the NBA Championship this season?