The NBA's New Look Western Conference

The NBA's New Look Western Conference

Pulse Sports Team 10:53 - 14.02.2024

The Western Conference of the NBA has long been a playground for the most competitive and star-studded teams in basketball. With each season, it seemed like the same teams were competing for glory throughout the upper echelons of the standings.

Steph Curry helped turn the Golden State Warriors into a dynasty, reaching five straight championship series throughout the 2010s and winning three of them, before adding a fourth crown in 2020. As well as them, fellow Cali outfit Los Angeles Lakers were helped by LeBron James to become the joint most successful team in the history of the league as well.

However, over the course of the last 18 months, the landscape has dramatically shifted, proving that nothing is ever set in stone. So, who are the current top five? And why is their current position in the standings such a gob-smacker?

Oklahoma City Thunder: From Playoff Misery to Rejuvenation

The OKC faithful know the pain of 'what could have been' all too well. Post-Kevin Durant, the Paycom Center side saw a steady decline from its once Boomin' Big Three glory. But recently, the tide has turned. After years of patience and strategic draft picks, the Thunder have emerged as formidable contenders in the Western Conference. They currently find themselves sitting at the top of the pile, and a recent 135-127 victory against the 2020 champion Toronto Raptors brought up their 35th win of the campaign.

Their resurgence can be attributed to a combination of shrewd leadership and a promising young core. Players like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander - who leads the entire league in steals per game and is fourth overall in terms of PPG - and the acquisition of draft prospects with untapped potential have breathed new life into the team. Their impressive performances this term have prompted NBA live odds to install them as +1800 seventh favorites for the Larry O'Brien this season however, the thunderous return does not promise an immediate thunderstorm in the NBA playoffs.

But surely, they will at least qualify this year after four years away. Whether they can secure their first postseason victory since reaching the conference finals back in 2016 however remains to be seen.

Minnesota Timberwolves: A Tale of the Tortoised Titans

Minnesota has been a heartbreak city for fans, having seen two decades pass without a single playoff series victory. However, a series of astute moves in both the draft and the trade market has transformed the Timberwolves from perennial underdogs to a rising force.

The addition of Anthony Edwards and the blossoming of Karl-Anthony Towns into an MVP-caliber player has been monumental. As well as that, the signing of three-time All-Star Rudy Gobert further solidified the Timberwolves' status as strong competitors, and he has been a monster off the backboard this term, racking up an average of 12.5 rebounds. While the Minneapolis-based outfit's journey is still in its early stages, fans are optimistic that the playoff dry spell will soon be a distant memory.

Los Angeles Clippers: Reclaiming The City of Angels

The Clippers, historically the 'other' team in Los Angeles, have fought their way to be taken seriously. They have seen significant competitive success, standing as the Conference’s third-best team at present compared to their long-standing rivals, the Lakers. who are currently way down in ninth.

Star players, such as 2020 champion Kawhi Leonard and all-time great James Harden, alongside famed coach Tyronn Lue, have been the architects of this resurgence. With a revamped roster and a fresh game plan, the Clippers have finally started to shrug off the 'underdog' tag to become true title contenders.

Sacramento Kings: The Kings Who Would Be Kings

One of the most endearing litanies of sports has been the Sacramento Kings. Despite their prolonged futility, the NorCal side has found ways to win hearts. Recently, they surprised many by topping the Pacific Division during the 2022-23 season, signaling to the league that they are not a team to be taken lightly.

Their underdog run was a result of an unsung team, filled with players who each had something to prove. The Governors Governance, as fans call it, was a joy to behold. This season, the Kings may be in for a repeat performance, and if Lithuanian star Domantas Sabonis continues in a similar vein of form, further success could be just around the corner. The power forward currently tops the league in rebounds while he is second in both passes and assists.

Denver Nuggets: The Rising Altitude of Basketball Prowess

The Denver Nuggets have ascended to the upper echelons of the league, proving that consistency and patience are key virtues in the tumultuous world of the NBA. With the sheer power of Nikola Jokić and the childhood friend dynamic duo of Jamal Murray, they have steadily climbed the conference rankings.

The Colorado side's progress has been methodical and is finally reaping rewards, with a trip to the playoffs almost a surety annually. They've successfully left behind the playoff disappointments to finally win the championship for the first time in franchise history. They headed into the current campaign as the reigning champions and they currently stand as one of the favorites to win it all once more.