It is now March: Spring is around the corner, and so is playoff season. In the NBA’s Western Conference, this year’s playoffs project to be full of intrigue and upsets.

The difference between the #10 seeded Warriors, and the new #1 seed Timberwolves is just 10 games. In the East, Boston has a 22 game lead over #10 seed Atlanta. In other words, there is a MUCH bigger gap between playoff teams in the east than in the west.

A case can be made for each current top-ten team in the West to win the conference. While only eight will make the playoffs, for fun, here is a ranking of how likely the ten teams are to survive the Western Conference gauntlet.

10. New Orleans Pelicans

The Pelicans have stellar role-players in Herb Jones, Trey Murphy, and Jonas Valanciunas, to compliment their bigger names in CJ McCollum, Brandon Ingram, and Zion Williamson.

The overall lack of playoff experience hurts their chances against several teams. The injury history of Williamson and Ingram should not be overlooked as well. That being said, they are not totally incapable of a deep playoff run. It is just unlikely.

9. Sacramento Kings

After a successful season in 2022/2023, the 2024 Kings look to be playoff bound again, currently fluttering above play-In territory. They haven’t had much success bettering their team defence since last season, which hurts their chances of winning multiple series.

There were big names available at the deadline, and the Kings more or less stay put. Not to slight De’Aaron Fox or Domantas Sabonis, but in virtually every potential playoff match up, the other team will have the best player in the series. Playoff series tend to come down to the best guy on the floor.

8. Golden State Warriors

While they have lots of work to do just to make the playoffs, if the Warriors can get in, they can threaten anyone. Stephen Curry is a certified game-wrecker, and his gravity puts so much pressure on opponents, even this late in his career.

If the others, (Jonathan Kuminga, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, etc.) can play their roles proficiently, Steph Curry can take them places. If only Curry shows up, things can get ugly.

In Golden State’s 2022 championship run, Andrew Wiggins was considered the second most important player in the playoffs – that is to say, I know better than to count out Stephen Curry even when the odds seem stacked against them. Right now, the odds are against them, and the standings tell you why.

7. Los Angeles Lakers

Like the Warriors, the Lakers are not in a desirable place when it comes to the standings. They have underperformed compared to expectations, and will likely have to go through the Play-In barring a legendary run. Why are they ranked so high? LeBron and Anthony Davis.

Last year’s Lakers similarly underperformed in the regular season, just to make it to the Western Conference Final. On paper, the fringe pieces around LeBron and AD are the same, if not better. The Lakers have been trending positively since the All-Star break. For LA, this trend cannot end, and if it doesn’t, look out.

6. Oklahoma City Thunder

Currently #2 in the western conference, Oklahoma City’s rebuild is finally transforming into tangible success. Canadian killer Shai Gilgeous Alexander has played MVP calibre basketball, and will be called upon to take the team as far as they can go. Considering their youthfulness, it’s hard to imagine the Thunder winning four, let alone three playoff series this year. Experience matters when it comes to the NBA Playoffs, and there is not much to go around in Oklahoma yet. Fun team though!

5. Dallas Mavericks

Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks are inconsistent, but so dangerous. Luka is hungry for hardware, whether that comes in the form of an MVP trophy, or better yet, Finals MVP. This roster is the best surrounding cast Luka has had so far.

Just like the mid-2010s Cavaliers, the 2024 Mavericks are led by an all-world point forward, and the second-option is Kyrie Irving. Irving will have to make big shots in the playoffs, which he has done historically. New additions PJ Washington and Daniel Gafford have played complimentary so far, and the Mavs have several other talented role-players. If the stars align, it is possible that this is their year.

4. Phoenix Suns

Ever so slightly above the Mavericks rests their nemesis, in the Suns. Phoenix has so much star-power, which, put to good use, could be championship worthy.

Without many “Signature wins” in recent memory, the hype around the Suns comes from the combination of Kevin Durant, Bradley Beal, and Devin Booker. If those guys can stay healthy, and Jusuf Nurkic can step his game up a bit in the defensive post, the Suns might blaze their way past opponents.

3. Minnesota Timberwolves

It is hard to find a more well-balanced team than this Minnesota Timberwolves squad. The defence is stout, both in the paint, and on the perimeter. There is veteran leadership, and young star-power. They can play big, and they can play small. What puts the Timberwolves so high on this list is how tough of an out they will be for every team they play.

There is a ton of hardware to go around on this team; Karl-Anthony Towns won Rookie of the Year, Rudy Gobert is a 3x Defensive Player of the Year, and Mike Conley has four NBA Sportsmanship Award wins! Not to mention, young Ant Edwards will likely win an MVP award in the next five years, based on the current trajectory.

An award that no current Timberwolf has is a championship ring. Based on their play so far, being the winningest team in the west, the hungry wolves will make noise in the spring.

2. Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers are a popular pick to make the Finals this year, and it is easy to understand why. A healthy Kawhi Leonard makes a finals appearance seem inevitable, and he plays next to stars Paul George and James Harden. The Clippers stars are old, but gold.

This Clippers team is the deepest in all of basketball. Players like Bones Hyland and PJ Tucker, who would be impactful role-players on many other teams, struggle to crack coach Ty Lue’s rotation. Even if the injury bug bites a Clipper, the next man up will be a solid NBA player, and the man after him too.

For the first time in this era of Clippers basketball, injuries are not the concern heading into the postseason. The only thing that may ultimately prevent this team from jewellery is themselves.

1. Denver Nuggets

Out of respect to championship experience and winning DNA, no team is more likely to make it to the Finals than the team who did last year.

Nikola Jokic is still his dominant self. Jamal Murray, Aaron Gordon, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope compliment Jokic perfectly, and the coaching staff has done a phenomenal job getting the prospects to play high-level basketball. No matter where Denver finishes in the standings, if a team other than Boston can beat the Nuggets in a seven game series, it will be an upset.

Which western team do you think would have the best chance against the mighty Celtics? Check out Area 51 Sports Network for more awesome sports coverage!