In my opinion the Western Conference has the best of the best when it comes to great teams.
Only two Eastern Conference teams are in the top 10 — the Miami Heat (the top dog right now) and the Boston Celtics — while the rest of the league’s main eventers represent the west side. This includes the Los Angeles Clippers and the Denver Nuggets.
I’ve went as far as to say, I’d take last season’s sixth place team in the west, the Nuggets, over any team in the east besides the Heat and the Celtics in a seven-game series.
This leads up to theory of matches between west teams being extremely fun to watch and should showcase some of the league’s best basketball. The Clips and the Nuggets should be a great display because they both have a mix of youth-experience, an exciting style of play and have masters of all components of the game of basketball.
Both teams have revamped their rosters from last season’s middle of the pack finishes. Denver finished in sixth at the end of the regular season and lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round, while the Clippers finished fifth and lost to the San Antonio Spurs in the semifinals after a dog fight victory over the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round.
I believe a seven-game series between the Clippers, Grizzlies or Nuggets could have been won by any of them because they all have strong suits which could win games and weaknesses the opponent could play off of.
The Nuggets added 2012 NBA All-Star and Olympic gold medal winner Andre Iguodala — who was a piece in the Dwight Howard trade–, a journeymen who has been on four teams in five seasons in Anthony Randolph and signed Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari to long-term extensions. Of course Ty Lawson, Andre Miller, JaVale McGee and Kenneth Faried are returning.
The above mentioned players, minus Randolph, are the nucleus which will be held responsible for the team’s success and disappointments.
Denver’s loses are Arron Affalo (traded to Orlando in the Dwight Howard trade), Al Harrington (also part of the Howard deal), Nene (was dealt to the Wizards for McGee), Chris Anderson (waived) and Rudy Fernandez (no longer in the NBA, playing for Real Madrid).
If this blog has been looked at before, you’ve noticed the Clippers’ pickups of Lamar Odom, Jamal Crawford, Grant Hill and Matt Barnes have been well documented. I will believe the Clippers have the deepest team until I see proof to prove otherwise.
With all the pieces put together coming into the 2012-13 season, the Clippers will beat the Nuggets. Sure, Denver could snag a game in the regular season but when it really mattered in the playoffs, LA would over power them.
The big difference maker for the Nuggets is going to be Iguodala. Iggy is a supreme tier two player who can do everything on the court. I say tier two because he is not going to impact games like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant or Chris Paul — all tier one players — but he is a high production player who was the best player on the Philadelphia 76ers and in my eyes, the Nuggets as well.
Iguodala is going to cause a major match up problem for the Clippers. Iguodala is listed at the two and Gallinari at the three. This means Chauncey Billups is going to be on Iguodala — who is over sized and out raced. I love Billups physical play and his ability to guard just about anyone, but Iguodala has the skills to take it to them.
If Billups can’t handle Iguodala, the Clippers are going to have to mix and match defensive coverages. LA should put Hill or Barnes on him and leave one of the other small forwards on Gallinari. Odom on Gallinari wouldn’t be a bad idea either.
The main key for the Clippers is to contain Iguodala’s offensive production and watch where he is defensively.
Another important cog in the Nuggets’ game plan is their dual point guard threat of Miller and Lawson. I would pick Paul and Billups over them anytime of the day, but Denver’s guys are dangerous. If there is a moment when the four guards are on the court at the same time, the Clippers need to slow down the game and run offensive sets like only Billups and Paul can.
Lawson wants to run and Miller does whatever he can to get a win. If the Clippers’ guard slow it down, it’s almost destined to take the Nuggets out of the game just enough for the win.
I’ve never been a huge fan of Nene but he did fill an awful big hole in the Nuggets’ front line. McGee and Faried are solid players and could become possible stars, but can they bring the level of consistency Nene did?
McGee simply has to have his head in the game at all times to reach a higher level. I’ve seen countless clips of McGee making a boneheaded play. How about when he started running to the other side of the court to play defense when his team still had the ball? Priceless entertainment I’ll remember for ever.
On the other hand, he is super athletic and has the physical attributes to do just about anything except make a good pass. He can dunk (really, he can), rebound and block shots with the best of them.
Faried is the big body who isn’t afraid to knock people around and put a body on someone for a rebound. However, he has very little offensive ability. If he could learn some offensive moves, he will be like an undersized Nene. i don’t expect that to happen in one year since he is a two-year player.
Denver is going to be a very solid team because of the additions and youth movement on the front line. Too bad for Denver that the Clippers big men of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan are just as athletic and young as the Nuggets. Whoever wins the rebounding battle will win the front line competition.
Again, what really matters is the perimeter game.
If Paul, Billups and Butler can win their matchups or contain Iguodla, Lawson and Gallinari — not an easy but stopping one or two would be nice — the Clippers have a victory.