With the NBA playoffs days away, it is time to analyze which teams have a shot at making a deep run and what they have to do to pull it off.
In this article, I will name one X-factor for each NBA playoff team in the western conference, starting with seeds 1-5. An X-Factor is not always the team’s best player but someone whose unpredictable performance can make or break their team’s season
Phoenix Suns: DeAndre Ayton
The Suns appear to be in prime position to repeat as Western Conference champions. With over 60 wins on the season, Phoenix already clinched the number one seed, being led by Chris Paul and Devin Booker.
In order to win a championship, however, it will require DeAndre Ayton to step up as a legitimate third star, especially on the defensive end. Giannis Antetokounmpo dominated in the paint the entire NBA Finals, including a 50 point outing to close out the series.
If Ayton can be a larger presence down low this time around, a potential rematch could turn out very differently.
Memphis Grizzlies: Dillon Brooks
Arguably the most entertaining team in basketball, this young Grizzlies team features one of the deepest rosters in all of basketball. While Ja Morant is the face of the team, his supporting cast is more than just role players but a crew of rising stars.
One of the team’s young phenoms is Dillon Brooks, who performed spectacularly in the play-in and first round in 2021. If he scores anywhere close to the 25.8 points per game he averaged last playoffs, Memphis can make a run at the Western Conference title.
Golden State Warriors: Klay Thompson
After more than two years, the Golden State Warriors’ big three is back together on the court. Despite the reunion, Golden State is not having much success since All-Star weekend, going 8-12 since the break.
Some of the recent struggles can be attributed to a recent injury by Steph Curry, but Klay Thompon’s inability to return to 100% is not helping. Thompson is shooting roughly 42 percent from the court and is having his first season, scoring less than 20 points per game since 2013.
If Thompson is able to return to the Hall-of-Fame level of play, there is no reason why the Warrior dynasty cannot return to glory.
Dallas Mavericks: Spencer Dinwiddie
Dallas moved on from the Kristaps Porzingis experiment this season, as the seven-footer never developed into a legitimate second option aside Luka Doncic. In the Mavericks’ deal with the Wizards, Dallas acquired Spencer Dinwiddie, a reliable veteran point guard who might just be the key to getting past the first round.
In Dallas’ previous two first-round series, the offense relied too much on Luka Doncic. While this was enough to keep the series competitive, Doncic would often tire out in the 4th quarter due to handling the ball all game, dropping in production at that point.
With Dinwiddie, Dallas now has a second ball handler that can create his own shot in playoff time, taking pressure off their 23-year old franchise player.
Utah Jazz: Rudy Gobert
After failing to capitalize with the number one seed a year ago, the Utah Jazz need to make a playoff run this time around, or they are in major jeopardy of losing Donovan Mitchell. One player that can impact Mitchell’s level of happiness is Rudy Gobert, but it seems like the two all-stars’ relationship could use some work as well.
Gobert often got exposed on the perimeter against the Clippers in last year’s playoffs, as Los Angeles would suck the seven-footer out of the paint. Despite having three defensive player of the year awards, the French star was a defensive liability.
I expect that not to be the case again. If Gobert can get on the same page with Mitchell and actually play like an all-star, Utah can beat anybody in seven games.
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