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Posted at 01:39 PM ET, 12/26/2011

NBA preview: Playoff predictions

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Listed in predicted order of finish


Can the young legs of Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and James Harden take Oklahoma City to the top? (Sue Ogrocki - AP)

1. Thunder

Coach: Scott Brooks

Prediction: 52-14

With a core of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka, Thunder has the young legs and talent to withstand rigors of a 66-game season. Kendrick Perkins adds championship savvy.

2. Mavericks

Coach: Rick Carlisle

Prediction: 50-16

The Mavericks will have a difficult time repeating without the defensive presence of Tyson Chandler, but they will always be in contention if Dirk Nowitzki continues to play at the level he did at the end of last season.

3. Spurs

Coach: Gregg Popovich

Prediction: 49-27

Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker don’t have many long playoff runs left and likely squandered one with last year’s first-round exit. Spurs didn’t add much, but they are motivated.

4. Lakers

Coach: Mike Brown

Prediction: 48-18

Kobe Bryant’s nagging injuries could affect a team that has very little depth beyond its top three players. With trade rumors surrounding Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, Mike Brown has a challenging first year ahead.

5. Clippers

Coach: Vinny Del Negro

Prediction: 46-20

Chris Paul will make sure Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan are highlight show staples, but he will also make the Clippers more respectable than they’ve been since moving to California.

6. Grizzlies

Coach: Lionel Hollins

Prediction: 45-21

The Grizzlies made a surprising playoff run, riding the front-court duo of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph and the defense of Tony Allen; the return of a healthy Rudy Gay raises expectations.

7. Trail Blazers

Coach: Nate McMillan

Prediction: 43-23

Losing Brandon Roy to retirement and Greg Oden (again) to a knee injury hurts, but the Blazers have stockpiled talent with LaMarcus Aldridge, Gerald Wallace, Raymond Felton and Jamal Crawford.

8. Nuggets

Coach: George Karl

Prediction: 40-26

Nuggets are easy to overlook since dealing Carmelo Anthony, but they retained Nene and Arron Afflalo, Ty Lawson is improving and Andre Miller is a proven winner. Denver has plenty of depth and plays unselfishly.

By  |  01:39 PM ET, 12/26/2011

 
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