I’m a better analyst than Charles Barkley: An NBA Column by Danny Kossow:

Weirdly enough, this is probably the most fun NBA season I’ve ever watched. With no obvious hegemon in either conference, there are eleven teams that should be considered legitimate contenders. Eleven! That’s one third of the league. Unsurprisingly, eight of those eleven teams are in the Western Conference, making late night NBA games the best show on TV night in and night out. Golden State, Memphis, San Antonio, Portland, Los Angeles (sorry, Kobe), Houston, Oklahoma City, and Dallas (sort of) can all reasonably hope to survive the perilous Western gauntlet. In the East, we’re dealing with slightly less talent. By my admittedly amateurish eye-test, Atlanta, Chicago, and Cleveland have legitimate shots at reaching the finals. Toronto and my beloved Wizards just have too many holes.

For those that watch the NBA simply for the love of basketball, this is heaven. In a league driven by its star players, it isn’t often that the talent pool is spread this evenly. Those that don’t think regular season games matter aren’t watching the Western conference. It’s a battle every night, especially for the three teams battling over the eighth and final playoff spot. If the season ended today the Phoenix Suns would find themselves in that coveted seat, as they hold a tenuous half game lead over the star-studded Thunder, and a game and a half lead over Anthony Davis’ Pelicans. It is absolutely insane to think that Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Anthony Davis, three of the league’s seven best players by any calculation, would all be sitting at home during the post-season. Injuries to the Thunder’s stars aside, this is the deepest NBA talent pool I’ve seen in my lifetime, and it’s not really that close.

At the beginning of the season I made a few outlandish predictions that I thought had a realistic chance of coming true (I didn’t actually think Kobe would get traded…though it would have been hilarious). The Sixers surpassed my expectations and might even get to fifteen wins this season. Stephen Curry has established himself as the league’s best point guard and most dangerous heat-check guy, and is deserving of the MVP consideration he’s gotten. At this point, I don’t really care about those predictions. That’s what the beginning of the NBA season is for; making ill-advised statements and pretending you never meant them anyway once things actually start to heat up. The playoffs are two months away; it’s time to get serious. This is how the rest of the season is going to go. Book it.

1. The Thunder will sneak into the eight seed. There’s just no way Durant and Westbrook don’t make the playoffs.

2. Golden State will win the West and Stephen Curry will win MVP (even though Anthony Davis should… I don’t care if they miss the playoffs). Despite their pristine record, they Warriors will lose to the Thunder in the first round. I would pick the Warriors to beat just about any team in the league at this point, but I don’t see how they matchup for seven games against Oklahoma City’s athleticism.

3. The Cavaliers represent the Eastern conference in the finals. Lebron is healthy and back to doing Lebron James stuff. There’s not a team in the East that’s talented enough to stop him for four games if he’s playing this way in April.

4. The Knicks will finish with the league’s worst record, which is hilarious.

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