The cat is out of the bag.
After the Golden State Warriors’ humiliating loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on March 5, the true Western Conference contenders have been identified.
The Lakers, the prohibitive favorite to make it out of the West before the season, have fallen apart, barely ahead of the red-hot New Orleans Pelicans in the standings. The reason for their fall from preseason favorites to a play-in team is simple: Russell Westbrook. Westbrook, who is being paid $44 million this year, has been an absolute disaster on the court. He is shooting below 40% from the field and 27% from three as well as averaging 3.3 turnovers per game. His massive contract has also prevented the Lakers from filling out their roster with decent role players.
The Lakers’ roster is filled with washed-up veterans and G Leaguers who can’t shoot or defend. LeBron James is still a top player in the League, but he is 37 and can no longer carry terrible teams like he used to in Cleveland. Anthony Davis would help the team, but he is never healthy. The Lakers will be lucky to escape the play-in tournament at this rate. Unless James drops 50 points every game, this team will be a first-round exit at best.
Golden State is 2-8 in their last 10 games despite Klay Thompson’s abysmal shooting. Golden State needs to bench Thompson and allow him to either ramp up or retire. With him making a negative impact on the court, Golden State could very well end up in the play-in tournament as they continue to lose key games with one of the toughest schedules to finish the season. And after all, maybe they should just play for a play-in spot and rest Steph Curry so he has the capacity to carry the entire organization in the postseason.
However, Thompson is not the only reason that the Warriors are losing. Their head coach Steve Kerr’s constant excuse of “I didn’t have them ready today” during every loss shows that he lacks creativity, which is extremely important in a powerful West dominated by the Phoenix Suns.
At the end of the day, all this doesn’t matter as these teams will be no challenge to the Suns. The rest of the West will fall to Phoenix who will be crowned the 2022 NBA Champions. The only barriers to the Suns this year will be if there is a case of questionable officiating or Devin Booker getting COVID-19 again. Phoenix’s roster goes 12 men deep; they can bring out multiple lineups filled with lengthy defenders and shooters. With Frank “the Tank” Kaminsky returning in the postseason, this team should sleepwalk to the finals.