May 31, 2014; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) and Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) and Thunder forward Serge Ibaka (9) go after a loose ball during the fourth quarter in game six of the Western Conference Finals of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena. San Antonio won 112-107. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports
ESPN has done an early forecast for who will win the NBA Western Conference championship. Who walked home with the prize according to voters?
Predicted Winner: San Antonio Spurs
Final record: 57-25
They’ve played in the previous two NBA Finals and have basically owned the West during that span. The San Antonio Spurs are the team by which every other team is measured against, and it seems the voters are finally agreeing that no amount of age will stop them from finding ways to win. Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich are back. Kawhi Leonard is getting better and the entire roster that won the title last season is intact. Barring injuries only their own mental toughness should keep the Spurs from emerging out of that tough West again.
Primary Challenger: Oklahoma City Thunder
Final record: 58-24
Another somewhat non-surprise is who the Spurs will likely have to go through to reach the mountaintop again. For sheer talent, the Oklahoma City Thunder are the match of any team in the NBA, led by superstar Kevin Durant and wingman Russell Westbrook. They might be the favorites in the eyes of experts, but with 159 votes, couldn’t outdistance the Spurs with fans. Part of the reasoning may be their loss in the Conference Finals to them back in May. Until the Thunder prove they can stay healthy and handle the mental challenges of deep playoff runs, they won’t ever get out of the shadow of San Antonio.
Note: The Los Angeles Clippers were voted into 3rd place with 89 votes.