The trade deadlines are officially over, and rosters are set. One of two results occurred for each team: They either grew their chances of making it to the playoffs, or their light on the finals became dimmer. Which teams? You may be asking. Today we take a look at the top 4 teams in the West that will have a true shot for the 2023 NBA title.
#4: Sacramento Kings
The Sacramento Kings are a very dangerous team this year, especially considering they have the best offensive rating setting at 118.8. The Sacramento Kings have a strong offense built around NBA All-star Domantas Sabonis, who is averaging a Double Double in both Rebounds (12.4) and Points (18.9). The Sacramento Kings play with great chemistry which is allowing them to lead the league in Points per game at 121 points per game. They also have a relatively young team, and with Coach Mike Brown there has been a lot of adjustments. The passion around the Kings is at an all-time high, keeping their young team motivated. DE’Aaron Fox, Kevin Heuter, Domantas Sabonis, Harrison Barnes, Malik Monk and Kevin Murray all average in the double digits making this team a highly favorable team to succeed in the finals.
The only issues the Kings will have once playoffs come around is establishing their defense and their experience. Offense wins games, but defense builds championships, and at this moment the Kings still are working on it. They currently have the 26th ranked defense with a rating of 116.8, which when playoffs come about and teams are playing at their best, it will be hard to allow a team to score that much and still get the win. The 2nd issue that arises is experience. The most experienced player on the Kings roster is Harrison Barnes, who has spent ten years in the league. Harrison Barnes does have some playoff experience with the Warriors, but that was a team with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. Mike Brown is also in his first year with the Kings, and coaching experience goes a long way when you get to the finals. Take a look at Phil Jackson for example. He spent years building up the Bulls and once he found the missing piece, “Micheal Jordan,” he was able to turn his team around. The Kings have a young squad that has a first year coach, so while they will make the playoffs, it’s hard to say that they will win the finals.
#3: Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors are currently sitting at 34-31 right now. This puts them at number 5 in the Western Conference. The reason their ranking doesn’t match where they actually lie in conference is because of the element that the Kings lack in.
The experience that this team has puts them ahead of the Sacramento Kings, because it is one of the keys to success. Not only do the players on this team have a lot of experience in the playoffs, but they also have a coach with both perspectives. Steve Kerr played in the playoffs when he was with Michael Jordan, and they had a legendary run in the playoffs. He had great coaching by Phil Jackson, so he understands the pressures that players may be under. It’s also notable to mention that he has seen the type of coaching that is needed to succeed in the playoffs, so he can mirror that this year. With an offense surrounding Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry this team is one of the hardest teams to stop. They are 3rd in points per game, and they have Jordan Poole coming off the bench. Poole has been an exciting player to watch especially considering his first appearance in the playoffs. The experience of the big 3 on the team (Curry, Thompson, Green), plus a young athlete like Jordan Poole who had great performances in last year’s run is the recipe for success. This makes them another dangerous team that may make a run for the Larry O’Brien trophy.
#2: Phoenix Suns
The Suns have been a team on the rise and the addition of Kevin Durant on their roster should increase their chances. The Suns have won 3 straight games in a row with him, and he is one of the most dangerous Power forwards in the league. He is averaging 29.5 points per game, and is one of the most effective field goal shooters in the League at 56.6%. The Suns have Devin Booker and Chris Paul as well, who have chemistry that lead them to the playoffs last year. They lost in a 7 games series, but with Durant and Ayton as their “bigs” they will be a difficult team to stop.
One emphasis on this team is their chemistry. Ayton and the team had some struggles with their chemistry, however they are 4th in assist with 27.1. Knowing the way your team plays is essential when it comes to the time where every play matters and if the Subs capitalize on that, they should be able to make a deep run. They are also top 10 in rebounding, and rebounding leads them to 2nd chance points, and boosts in their offense. The Suns will struggle when they go against teams in the east like the Bucks and the Celtics, however they aren’t one to go out without a fight. Booker is one of the most competitive players and with their new core offense they look promising.
#1: Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets are currently sitting at 46-19 putting them 1st in the West. They belong in this number one position as their record looks untouchable by any of the other teams that are in the West right now. They are lead by Nikola Jokic, who has a chance to be a three-peat MVP this season. Not to mention he has changed the way that Centers play. He is currently averaging a triple double, and the biggest proponent of his game is his ability to move the ball around. He is averaging 10 assists per game, which is something you don’t normally see from a big man. He is one of the most effective shooters from the field and in over 50 games he only has 10 with a negative plus minus. His chemistry with the team will take them a long way.
The Nuggets have a strong track record in the playoffs, having reached the Western Conference Finals in 2020, however since then they have dealt with injuries which is why I think they got stopped so early in the playoffs last season. This year seems to be like a “revenge tour” and Jokic is consistently leading him and the guys to looking like the 2023 champions. Their experience and playoff success could give them an advantage in the postseason.Ultimately, whether or not the Nuggets make it to the finals will depend on a variety of factors, including their performance in the regular season, the health of their key players, and their ability to compete with the other top teams in the Western Conference.
Credit Photo – Sports Illustrated