Western Conference in Decline, Conference Outlook

The San Antonio Spurs dined out following their Game six finals loss. I have a feeling they won’t have the stomach to hold anything down tonight. The Miami Heat prevailed in Game seven winning a second consecutive title 95-88. LeBron James recorded 37 points and 12 rebounds. Dwayne Wade scored the crucial jumper with the Heat up 88-85 that gave Miami some breathing room and the Heat cruised to victory from there.

Tim Duncan who had 24 points tonight put it plainly, "The obvious word is disappointing. Tough end to the game. Made some bad decisions." Those bad decisions could be the 14 turnovers in the loss tonight, or it could be the Spurs 65 percent free-throw shooting. But really this game came down to the bench play and the Spurs just didn’t have that. Shane Battier managed to outscore the Spurs bench by himself with 18 points and consistently made the Spurs pay on the perimeter.

The loss by the Spurs now guarantees the Larry O’Brien will reside in Miami for another year. And it’s a tough loss for the Western Conference’s black sheep. Mention the word Spurs and playoffs together in the same sentence and you’re likely to hear audible groans. That’s not a good sign. After coming oh so close in the late stages of Game 6 it’s an shame to see this team fall to the Heat. But is this a sign of things to come, a shift in the Power of the West? Or lack of?

My theory is very simple, the catalysts that drove those great Western Conference teams in the 2000s are retired or they moved on to the East. The ones that stayed with their teams in the free agent frenzy of the last few years were rewarded [cursed?] with subpar teams that fizzled out. I’m talking Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks and Kobe Bryant and the Lakers. These two future hall-of-famers can’t play forever. That’s not sports rhetoric, that’s life. Laker fans must prepare for the day Kobe retires, Mark Cuban needs to decide whether to pry open the wallet to surround Dirk with stars or blow the team up and start over. Either way the sun is setting over these two. It’s just a matter of time. Throw in the Spurs and Ginobili murmuring about retiring and it’s clear those old championship teams are done.

The Clippers meanwhile have played peek-a-boo with a trio of coaches and players only to have their potential blockbuster trade nixed in the 11th hour by the league, the league said that they would not sign off on any deal involving Doc Rivers and his contract as a contingency, as the rule violates the league’s trade bylaws. The Clippers have interviewed Brian Shaw [again] and may still pull off a deal in the days leading up to next week’s draft. Whatever they decide, that team as constructed is not a championship team, going down the line it’s fair to say with the exception of the Thunder and the Spurs [who just lost] the Heat just might get not three, not four, maybe five?




















What we’re seeing in the West is a shift in power. There are premiere teams in the west don’t get me wrong. But how many can get past the Heat? The Thunder will be right back where they were and should challenge next year with Westbrook and Durant healthy. The Warriors certainly aren’t going anywhere and they’re not getting younger, which is scary because if they did they would be ineligible. The Warriors have one of the youngest teams in the West at 25.7 years. Their rivals Sacramento rank tenth. The Kings managed to top the offensive categories but flunked on defense. However, the team is staying in Sacramento and I feel like it’ll be much harder for Laker fans to get a Kings ticket next year.

There’s Houston who looks primed right now, throw in the trade rumors with Dwight and you have the makings of a power rising overnight. It’s like Game of Thrones but nobody dies. The Blazers fronted by Damien Lillard look to be strong next year as well. Denver and Memphis are two teams that went deep into the playoffs but came up short. The teams also both lost their head coaches. What happens to the Nuggets and Grizzlies post Karl and Hollins respectively is anyone’s guess. But I can tell you it won’t be much better than this year which equals no championship for the Grizzlies or the Nuggets.

Minnesota still has Rubio and Kevin Love so with those two healthy they’ll be a tough out every night. Utah just installed a multi-million dollar scoreboard and new stat scoreboard inside Energy Solutions Arena. It’s a major upgrade in a building known for its loud hostile atmosphere. Unfortunately that’s where the rebuilding seems to have stopped. The Jazz join the Suns and Pelicans as the three teams that are sure to repeat last year’s final rank. They will upgrade in the draft and possibly via free agency but these teams conceivably don’t stand a chance.

The Western Conference has turned into the ABA with small market teams and the deep pocketed owners alike all scared off by the league’s luxury tax and penalties. Teams aren’t spending like they used to. This means GM’s have to get crafty and creative which evens the playing field. Of course, my predictions mean nothing; I could be wrong and of there are lots of mind games being played the scenes as GM’s scramble to finalize draft plans and field calls on free agents. But know this; the West as we came to know it is done.

(This is a FanPost from a member of the Sactown Royalty community. The views expressed come from the member, and not Sactown Royalty staff.)

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