The West of Hell is back, who will survive?

The Western Conference was evaluated as weak compared to the past, to the extent that the saying, “Even West, East, and West, is an old saying.” However, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving’s move west at the trade deadline re-energized the loose conference. Which team will survive on the Western Conference battlefield that has turned into hell?

*This article was published in the April issue of Rookie.

Compared to the previous two men who landed in the West,

the Western Conference had a view that it was somewhat less exciting. However, starting from the trade deadline, the battle for supremacy in the Western Conference was rekindled. The teams with the most issues in the eye of the typhoon were Phoenix and Dallas. 

Phoenix, who occupied the first seed in the Western 온라인카지노Conference last season. However, this season, a series of injuries to key players came out and did not live up to expectations. Between the end of December and mid-January, he suffered from sluggishness with 2 wins and 12 losses in 14 games, and he suffered a serious slump. 

Fortunately, the rebound was successful, but not many people picked Phoenix as a candidate for the championship. This is because there were no positive factors compared to last season, and Chris Paul showed signs of aging. The performance of Deandre Ayton, who agreed to renew the contract after twists and turns, was also not satisfactory.

It is Matt Ishbia, the new owner, who changed Phoenix’s energy in an ambiguous situation. Ishbia showed a different course from the salty owner Robert Saber, and after showing hot momentum, he made a large-scale trade that would surprise the NBA. Scoring machine Kevin Durant wore a Phoenix uniform. 

Phoenix’s decision was astonishing. To get Durant, they gave up four unprotected first-round picks, one pick swap, and team-praved swingman Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson. That’s how desperate he was to win, and Durant’s value was high. Durant, who is showing off his peak skills even in his mid-30s, is the league’s representative solver.

Durant and Devin Booker are the most devastating one-two punchers in the league. Besides, Durant already plays with many superstars and knows how to coexist. When Durant, who had a taste of winning, joined, the evaluation of Phoenix changed 180 degrees. 

As of March 23rd, Phoenix is ​​running 4th in the Western Conference, but it needs to solve the thinning depth problem to succeed in the season. In addition to Durant, the performance of other veteran transfer students such as Terrence Ross and TJ Warren is not satisfactory, and Phoenix lacks the weight of Ayton’s backup. 

It was the transfer of Kyrie Irving that made the link for Durant’s transfer to take place. After contract extension negotiations broke down, Irving requested a trade from Brooklyn, and negotiations progressed quickly, and he was put on a Dallas uniform. When Irving, who was active as a one-two punch, left, even Durant changed his uniform.

The meeting between Luca Doncic and Irving, who drew a lot of attention saying that the best backcourt duo in the league was born. However, the coexistence of the two players is not good so far. Dallas went 6-11 in the first 17 games since joining Irving.

Just as 1+1=2 does not exist unconditionally in sports, the synergy effect between Irving and Doncic has yet to be maximized. Irving, who is a clutch powerhouse, and Donchichi, but in the games where the two played together, there were a series of games where they lost after a close battle. As the losses piled up, Dallas was in a position to worry about advancing to the playoffs, let alone winning.

To make matters worse, as Doncic and Irving were alternately injured, there was not much time to reconcile. Irving will be eligible for free agency at the end of this season. At this rate, I could send Irving away without getting anything. 

Axis of the Wild Wild West

Denver, despite having back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic the previous two seasons, has not been able to achieve satisfactory results in the playoffs. The cause can be attributed to the terrible injury that plagued the team. 

This season is different. Jokic is still in MVP contention, and Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. have been with the team since the start of the season. Also, Aaron Gordon is having a career-high season, and the additions of Kentavius ​​Caldwell-Pope and Bruce Brown add a bit more structure. 

As a result, Denver is running for first place in the Western Conference with a fairly comfortable gap from the second place group. This season is the right time to challenge for the championship. However, unlike Denver’s overwhelming regular season, there are not a few eyes that have doubts about their playoff competitiveness.

Denver will have a tough fight on the big stage if it doesn’t solve its holding back defensive problems. Coach Mike Malone also needs to appeal for a different look in the playoffs this time. Even though he is having a successful regular season, he is manager Malone, who is rumored to be leaving if he does not perform well in the short term.

The teams forming the second-place group behind Denver are Memphis and Sacramento. Both teams stand out with their team colors centered on young players. 

Memphis, who occupied the second seed last season, is building a strong image in the conference by running at the top this season as well. Despite Ja Morant’s departure from discipline and injuries to key players, he is maintaining a high ranking.

Sacramento suffered from the terrible nightmare of missing the playoffs for 16 consecutive years. However, with the appointment of manager Mike Brown this season, the team got a chance to shed the stigma of being the most depressing team in the NBA. The driving force is Domantas Sabonis-D’Aaron Pax, the hot firepower basketball led by two one-two punches.

However, both Memphis and Sacramento are not getting as many points as their current record for playoff competitiveness. 

Memphis is likely to miss the playoffs normally due to injuries to Stephen Adams and Brandon Clarke, while defensive nucleus Jaren Jackson Jr.’s foul trouble is always a stumbling block. Clarke is already out of season, and Adams also ended the regular season early.

Sacramento’s defense is too meager compared to its hot offense. Offensive rating ranks first in the league, but defensive rating remains at the bottom. The players’ lack of experience in the playoffs is also a weakness for Sacramento.

Defending champion Golden State is having a more disappointing time than expected, but given the tremendous amount of experience they have accumulated, it is not easy to ignore. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green are still the main actors of the golden age.

The growth of Jordan Poole, who has an extended contract, is not meeting expectations, but Thompson has completely raised the pace since the middle of the season, and Curry is also playing the role of an ace. It is also a great asset for Golden State that it beat both Denver and Memphis, which are likely to obtain the top seeds, in the playoffs last year. 

The question is whether he can overcome his extreme phobia of expeditions, which diminishes as soon as he leaves home. Golden State, with 29 wins and 7 losses at home and 9 wins and 29 losses away, is a completely different team from home and away. If there are no big surprises, there is a high probability of starting the playoffs as a lower seed, and if you do not improve your performance on the road, you may leave shabby. 

Los Angeles Rivals and Dark Horses, Los 

Angeles The Lakers, who had the worst start to the season and frustrated many fans. The Lakers, whose prospects were not so bright, found a ray of hope at the trade deadline. They let go of Russell Westbrook and recruited Jared Vanderbilt, D’Angelo Russell, and Malik Beasley to become the most powerful team.

The Lakers, who drew an upward curve in their performance based on strength, have moved from 13th in the Western Conference to a rank where they can now advance to the play-in tournament. Lebron James is missing a lot of games due to injury, but other players are struggling, centered on Anthony Davis, and recently, sixth man Austin Reeves has successfully stepped up.

The side that draws the attention of many people is, of course, Lebron’s physical condition. LeBron, who has not completely defied the years, has been out for a long time due to a foot injury since the end of February, and the timing of his return is unknown. It is the Lakers who have to endure as much as possible until LeBron returns and grow their dream of making the playoffs.

The Clippers, which are based in Los Angeles like the Lakers, are also active in the trade market. There were no major signings, but they were evaluated as hidden winners by signing Eric Gordon, Mason Plumlee, and Bones Highland. 

After veterans Reggie Jackson and John Wall, who were not very helpful to the team, were replaced by former MVP guard Russell Westbrook. Westbrook, who faced the biggest crisis of his career at the Lakers, is aiming for the first trophy of his life with a rebound at the Clippers. A player with many flaws, but a player with clear strengths is Westbrook. 

The Clippers’ biggest enemy is, of course, injuries. The Clippers are suffering from endless injuries to key players. Even at the end of the season, the bad news of injury struck them, and a variable occurred in which Paul George left at an important time. For now, he may have to work through a playoff schedule without George. 

The season has not been satisfactory, but Minnesota is a team that deserves to be a dark horse given the sum of their players’ talents. With the return of Karl-Anthony Towns, who had not heard of his comeback, he gained a thousand horses. It’s a risky combination, but if the Towns-Gobert Twin Towers can have a positive effect, there’s still a chance Minnesota will write an antiwar drama. 

The injury of Anthony Edwards, which made the fans’ hearts flutter, is also not as serious as expected. It is also encouraging that young players got a taste of the big stage through the playoffs last season. The primary task is to overcome the tight ranking competition and secure a ticket to the playoffs. 

The Western Conference heated up again with the reinforcement of deadlines by several teams. However, as I introduced before, each team has distinct weaknesses, and it is a structure in which there is no absolute strong player. Even a relatively low ranked team has plenty of room to make a playoff surprise, and a top seed can never guarantee victory in a series against a lower seed. 

Who will be the ultimate winner of the Western Conference map back in the Wild Wild West? Fans are waiting for the hot competition of superstars to advance to the finals.