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NBA Playoffs 2017: Top 3 Dark Horses in the Western Conference

NBA Playoffs 2017: Top 3 Dark Horses in the Western Conference

Playoffs are just around the corner, and even if there are some clear favorites to take each series and even make an appearance in the conference finals, we’ve seen some amazing stories over the years of underdogs shocking the world and making it to the promised land.

The Western Conference is definitely the fiercest of both, as you can see in the team’s records, with the 5th seed in the West having the same wins as the 2nd and 3rd seed in the East and with more complete and competitive teams overall.

So, making predictions in the West is both risky and bold, as more than half of the best players in the Association are constantly fighting each other to be the kings of the West, while the East is pretty much LeBron’s land.

Having said that, let’s take a look at the 3 underdogs that might as well shock everybody and make an upset in the West in this year’s playoffs.

3. Portland Trail Blazers (10%)

Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Blazers got off to a rough start to the season but managed to turn things around with a very strong finish, knocking out Denver and establishing quite a dominance on their home court with both Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum taking the reins while Allen Crabbe and Al-Farouq Aminu contributed as well.

As the eighth seed, they’re going to have to try and contain Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors, with the tough loss of the recently acquired Jusuf Nurkic the missing piece of Stotts' squad.

Nonetheless, considering how often Steve Kerr prefers to play small ball, the Blazers have quite a good set of personnel to try and upset the Warriors, with Aminu sticking to a rusty Durant and pretty much everybody else trying to keep Curry in line.

We’ve all witnessed that clutch “Lillard time” shot and you know the point guard rises up to the occasion, so even if it seems like a very, very, very long shot, the inspired Blazers actually have a chance to transcend here, and the Blazers are keen to get payback for that 4-1 loss last season.

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2. Oklahoma City Thunder (40%)

russell-westbrook3

Russell Westbrook actually pulled it off. He actually did it and we still can’t believe it, as the veteran point guard managed to lead the Thunder back to the playoffs while averaging a triple-double through an entire season with not much of a supporting cast.

Of course, Steven Adams’ presence, Oladipo’s help, and Roberson’s outstanding defense can make a difference, but most of those players tend to come and go and they need to find consistency if they want to upset the Houston Rockets, who led them 3-1 over the year.

Westbrook is mad and keen to prove that he’s part of basketball’s elite, and he’s showed that he’s completely unstoppable and that his detractors need to finally shut the hell up and just roll along with Brodie.

On top of that, even if D’Antoni’s offense has really suited the Rockets and their roster, you need to actually defend to become NBA champions, so if the threes don’t fall for Harden and company, they’re going to be in HUGE trouble against OKC.

1. Utah Jazz (70%)

Nov 29, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) and Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward (20) celebrate after Gobert blocks Houston Rockets shot during the fourth quarter at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Utah Jazz win 120-101. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

We just don’t get why nobody’s talking enough about Quin Snyder and the Utah Jazz, as the franchise has finally turned things around and even got their first 50 win season in a very long while.

They’ve put together a very interesting team with a great defensive instinct while also adding some much needed sharp shooting, and they’ve even managed to find consistency without the presence of Derrick Favors for most of the season.

Gobert’s presence would actually be a huge advantage against Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, and if the Clippers are forced to go small, they could roll with Trey Lyles at the 5 and Hayward at the four, showing great versatility if George Hill’s healthy.

The Jazz is actually suited to beat pretty much everybody in the West - even Golden State - and reach the NBA Finals, where they would also have the upper hand against every single team in the East.

Of course, it’s a long shot, but this team’s set to achieve great things if they manage to keep Hayward and Derrick Favors to bring more help for Gobert and keep developing Dante Exum and Rodney Hood, and if they keep defending their home as they used to do during the regular season, they could actually become NBA Champions this year or the next.