There are two sides to every NBA Power Ranking: the Fanalytical and the Fanatical. The Miami Heat Index and Mrs. NBA played "bad and evil" to predict the top eight teams in the Western Conference for the 2012 season.
As a Denver Nuggets fan living west of the Mississippi, the evil fanalyst for these rankings was Mrs. NBA. As a Miami Heat blogger living on the east coast, the bad fan for the Western Conference was the Miami Heat Index.
1. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Evil Fanalyst (Mrs. NBA): They are young, athletic, and with the shift of the Lakers, they are the team to beat in the west. Their top four players, Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka, and Harden, are all 22 or 23 years young. Midseason, Kendrick was added to their roster and it seems as though he is serious about bring that toughness once again. While many of the prolific teams are aging and dealing with free agency problems, the Thunder will be thriving and will continue dominating the west.
The Bad Fan (MHI): The age of OKC's top four players is irrelevant if Kevin Durant doesn't learn to impact the game with more than shooting, Russell Westbrook doesn't shoot better, Serge Ibaka doesn't stop getting eaten alive by elite power forwards in the playoffs (see Pau Gasol, Z-Bo and Dirk Nowitzki vs. OKC the last 2 playoffs) and James Harden doesn't improve enough to convince Scotty Brooks to stop splitting his minutes with Thabo Sefolosha. Kendrick Perkins is the fakest tough guy in the league. He didn't do shit when Dwight Howard's elbows were handing out concussions to the Celtics frontcourt in the 2010 playoffs or when Marc Gasol and Tyson Chandler were stomping a mudhole in his ass in the 2011 playoffs. Only the Hornets, Hawks and Pacers allowed more production at the center position in the playoffs than the Thunder. The Thunder will have to improve if they want to go from 4th last season to the top seed in the West. A shortened season doesn't promise it to them by default. They're 3rd in the West.
2. Dallas Mavericks
The Evil Fanalyst (Mrs. NBA): The defending World Champions were unwilling to spend and lost DeShawn Stevenson, Jose Barea, Caron Butler and Tyson Chandler. They gained Delonte West, Lamar Odom and Vince Carter. They will still have that offensive fire in Dirk and JET, but lack the defensive beastness that we witnessed in the NBA Finals last season.
The Bad Fan (MHI): Mark Cuban replaced a rapist, midget, Tuff Juice and top five center with a gun-toting schizo, candy-addicted foot freak and yellow-toothed bastard of a tin man. Oh yeah, and somehow they managed to get OLDER. The Mavs will follow-up their second trip to the Finals with the same encore as the first... a strong regular season but an early exit from the playoffs.
3. L.A. Clippers
The Evil Fanalyst (Mrs. NBA): ARE YOU FUCKING SHOCKED??? Chris Paul lobbing to Blake Griffin and the veteran stature of Chauncey Billups is bringing another level of FIRE to the “other” L.A. NBA team. Add in DeAndre Jordan and another newbie in Caron Butler and you have some exciting hoops. Despite the eagerness to root for such an exhilarating team, don’t expect them winning a ‘chip anytime soon.
The Bad Fan (MHI): No doubt, it looks like the Clippers have assembled a squad good enough to go deep in the playoffs and deliver monster TV ratings... but if they make it through the season without one of the three bad knees in their starting five breaking down, then it means either the Basketball Gods are racists or Clipper Darrell is a prophet sent to save us all. Clips will finish 4th in the West.
4. L.A. Lakers
The Evil Fanalyst (Mrs. NBA): They “missed” their opportunity landing CP3 and still haven’t landed D12, and in the process “gave away” Lamar Odom to Dallas, this team will be on the decline. Kobe having torn a ligament In his wrist will just prove this as his shooting percentages will drop this season. While they do have Coach Mike Brown, he isn’t Jesus. He can’t perform a miracle with this team.
The Bad Fan (MHI): If the Lakers don't get Dwight Howard to make them a legit title contender, then Kobe's going to score more than 80 points this season or die trying. When he goes rogue, will John Kuester (Mike Brown's assistant coach in charge of the offense) handle it better than he handled his relationship with Rip Hamilton in Detroit? Things could get really ugly for those nationally-televised games of the Forum Blue & Gold after the trade deadline. It will all be worth it if Kobe chokes David Stern out Sprewell-style at the All-Star Game, gets suspended for the rest of the season, the Lakers end up in the lottery and Shaq asks Kobe to tell him how his ass tastes live on TNT. They'll finish 6th in the West if they get Dwight Howard.
5. San Antonio Spurs
The Evil Fanalyst (Mrs. NBA): SURPRISE!! While Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are commiserating with Father Time, the rest of team isn’t. However, they aren’t lottery bound any time soon, or at least this season. They have the heart of a champion, but the body of a cripple, but only “time” will tell on this team.
The Bad Fan (MHI): Surprise indeed! How does the #1 seed from last season drop five spots when they only lost a backup point guard and the only other team in the conference that made significant improvements was the freakin' Clippers? As long as they're healthy, the Spurs will finish first in the West.
6. Memphis Grizzlies
The Evil Fanalyst (Mrs. NBA): The Grizzlies have back tenacious Zach Randolph, the NON-pussy Gasol, Marc, and Tony Allen amongst the teammates. After knocking out the 1st seed San Antonio Spurs in the playoffs, things can only go up. The question remains: can they stay motivated to do so??
The Bad Fan (MHI): Is Marc Gasol overrated? Yes. Show me the list of great, flabby, white centers in basketball history and you'll be showing me a list of college all-americans or black & white photos from the early 1950s. How do the Grizzlies improve with the exact same roster that only managed an 8th seed last season? Lionel Hollins is a good coach but with just one borderline all-star to work with, the truth is the Grizz don't have enough talent on the roster to be interesting unless Ginobili breaks his arm again. Memphis will be the 8th seed again.
7. Denver Nuggets
The Evil Fanalyst (Mrs. NBA): With re-signing of Nene and Arron Afflalo, Denver is in a nice position to surprise people that are sleeping on them, but not me of course. They have added some young guys including perimeter shooter Rudy Fernandez. Andre Miller brings the veteraness to the team and this should be a breakout year for Gallinari. This young team will play the high energy, quick-paced game play on the court which wears out opponents.
The Bad Fan (MHI): If a team plays an exciting brand of basketball without star players, then does anybody notice? GM Masai Ujiri did a good job treading water by replacing most of the production lost to China with Kenneth Faried and Rudy Fernandez, but look at the teams standing between the Nuggets and the NBA Finals. Spurs, Lakers and Thunder have multiple all-stars and the Mavs have multiple hall-of-famers, current/former all-stars and the 6th man of the year. The Children of a Lesser God in the Mile High City need better stars to worship if they want to pay homage to the Larry O'Brien trophy. For now, the 5th seed will have to do.
8. Portland Trailblazers
The Evil Fanalyst (Mrs. NBA): Another team that some are sleeping on given that Brandon Roy retired, but they received the high-scoring Jamal Crawford, lost Miller but gained Raymond Felton and have athleticism in Gerald Wallace and Nic Batum. Unlike others, I’m significantly optimistic about this team.
The Bad Fan (MHI): The roster is good enough for 40+ wins this season, if healthy. Of course, that's always the problem in Portland. Expect Marcus Camby, Gerald Wallace and Nicolas Batum to break down this season and take the Blazers' hopes of advancing in the playoffs with them. 7th in the West sounds about right.