In the NBA’s Western Conference, where the competition is famously tough, the foot injury ruling Kevin Durant out of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first eight weeks has shaken things up.
Here’s how the five leading contenders in the betting for the conference title sit in the wind down to the season:
Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and coach Gregg Popovich return to try and claim their fifth title together (Duncan and Popovich are hunting their sixth as a tandem).
If, around their wise heads, 2013 Finals MVP Kahwi Leonard enjoys a breakout year, then the Spurs will be tough to tame.
Last season Durant carried the Thunder in the absence of injured running-mate Russell Westbrook. This year it will be roles reversed.
Considering Westbrook’s talent is among the most disputed in the league, the Thunder’s chances are under a cloud and are best avoided.
With the Thunder vacating the Western Conference bar the Clippers, who’ve been patiently lurking on their shoulder, are ready to slip in and get served.
Blake Griffin came third in the MVP vote last term and has improved in the offseason and, with Chris Paul by his side, could make a first trip to the NBA Finals.
In Dwight Howard and James Harden, the Rockets have two of the top-three players in their respective positions.
Yet with that fearsome pair they were dumped out of the playoffs in the first round last season. They come into this one having seen their reliable third option, Chandler Parsons, move to Dallas. Are the two H’s enough?
For a piece of value siding with the Warriors is the way to go. Their starting five rivals any, especially with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson so potent from beyond the arc.
But the key lies in the fitness of big-men David Lee and Andrew Bogut, both of whom own a chequered injury history. If all five stay healthy they’ll be dangerous.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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