Damian Lillard highlights Big Advantage for NBA’s West

damian-lillard-portland-trailblazersIf you’re looking ahead to NBA Finals betting, chances are that you’re (at least) slightly favoring a Western Conference squad. After all, the 2014-15 season is yet another case where the West playoff teams feature better overall records than their Eastern Conference counterparts.

To illustrate this point, consider that Phoenix (29-25) is the West’s lowest-qualifying playoff team at the All-Star break, while the seventh-seeded San Antonio Spurs (34-19) are doing VERY well. In the East, both the seventh-seeded Charlotte Bobcats (22-30) and eighth-seeded Miami Heat (22-30) would qualify for the postseason if the playoffs began today – despite being eight games below .500!

So just what is it that separates the West from the East in terms of overall disparity? According to Portland Trailblazers point guard Damian Lillard, it all has to do with the competition that each squad faces on a nightly basis.

“It’s really competitive in the West. Everybody knows that. I think it makes it fun, it’s really fun to be a part of that type of competition where every night matters,” Lillard said. “You have to show up, you gotta put your best foot forward. I think that brings the best out of us.”

Okay, so at face value, Lillard’s answer isn’t that ground breaking since it’s common logic that better competition will bring out improved efforts from teams. But if you take a deeper look at his statement, NBA bettors can definitely expect the West to have an edge in the Finals because they largely play against tougher teams on a night-in, night-out basis.

damian-lillard-portland-trailblazers-1The perfect example of this is how 10 teams are above .500 in the West, while only six Eastern Conference teams have better than a .500 record. Now, does that mean the East has absolutely no shot to win? Certainly not, especially when you consider that they’re still winners of two out of the last three years (thanks to LeBron and the Heat). But what it does mean is that Western Conference teams are more prepared to bring their best on any given night.

Last year, this really showed when the Spurs easily triumphed over Miami. Most, including us at GTBets.eu, expected this to be a fairly close series. However, with revenge in their hearts and a better season of preparation, San Antonio easily captured the NBA title.

The Spurs definitely aren’t favored this year, but there are certainly a number of other top-flight West contenders eyeing the title. Golden State (42-9), Memphis (39-14), Portland (36-17) and Houston (36-17) are among the frontrunners right now.

Of course, the East has a few really strong squads too, including Atlanta (43-11), Toronto (36-17) and Chicago (34-20). And we certainly can’t forget LeBron and the surging Cavaliers either. But will any of these teams be battle-tested enough to topple whatever team emerges from the West in June?

2014 NBA All-Star Rosters set – 7 First-Time Players make Cut

lamarcus-aldridge-all-star-gameThe 2014 NBA All-Star reserves were recently announced, which means that we now have complete teams to discuss. In all, seven players received their first ever All-Star selection, with Stephen Curry both getting his first nod and a starting role thanks to the fan vote.

Other first-time players who’ll be joining Curry on the Western Conference team include LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard and Anthony Davis. The latter will be taking Kobe Bryant’s place on the team since he’s injured and can’t play. Lillard is not only playing in his first All-Star game, but also competing in four other contests over the weekend. As for Aldridge, he’s not only a first-time All-Star, but also a legitimate MVP candidate this year.

Moving to the Eastern Conference, first-time selections include DeMar DeRozan, Paul Millsap and John Wall. Now in his fifth year, DeRozan really seems to have stepped his game up while averaging 22 PPG and leading Toronto to the top of the Atlantic Division. Millsap, who’s spent most of his career in the West, seems to be enjoying his change of scenery in Atlanta. And Wall has now reached the potential that everybody predicted for him coming out of Kentucky.

Now that we’ve covered the first-timers in the 2014 NBA All-Star game, let’s take a quick look at the complete rosters, with stats included.

* = Starter
+ = Injured player

Eastern Conference All-Stars

* F Carmelo Anthony, New York – 27.3 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 3.0 APG
* F Paul George, Indiana – 22.7 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 3.4 APG
* F LeBron James, Miami – 26.3 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 6.6 APG
* G Kyrie Irving, Cleveland – 21.4 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 6.4 APG
* G Dwayne Wade, Miami – 18.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 4.7 APG
F/C Chris Bosh, Miami – 16.6 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.1 APG
G DeMar DeRozan, Toronto – 22.0 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 3.8 APG
C Roy Hibbert, Indiana – 12.2 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 1.1 APG
G Joe Johnson, Nets – 15.4 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 2.7 APG
F Paul Millsap, Atlanta – 17.7 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 2.9 APG
C Joakim Noah, Chicago – 11.5 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 4.2 APG
G John Wall, Washington – 20.0 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 8.5 APG

Western Conference

* F Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City – 31.0 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 5.3 APG
* F Blake Griffin, LA Clippers – 23.7 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 3.5 APG
* F Kevin Love, Minnesota – 25.6 PPG, 13.3 RPG, 4.0 APG
*+ G Kobe Bryant, LA Lakers – 13.8 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 6.3 APG
* Stephen Curry, Golden State – 24.5 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 9.1 APG
F/C LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland – 24.1 PPG, 11.6 RPG, 2.8 APG
F/C Anthony Davis, New Orleans – 20.7 PPG, 10.4 RPG, 1.4 APG
G James Harden, Houston – 23.8 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 5.4 APG
C Dwight Howard, Houston – 18.6 PPG, 12.4 RPG, 1.7 APG
G Damian Lillard, Portland – 20.9 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 5.8 APG
F Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas – 21.9 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 2.8 APG
G Tony Parker, San Antonio – 18.1 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 6.3 APG
G Chris Paul, LA Clippers – 19.6 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 11.2 APG

Damian Lillard to make History with Appearances in 5 NBA All-Star Events

damian-lillard-portland-trailblazersMost NBA players like to take it easy during All-Star Weekend, especially when they’re in the actual All-Star game. But Damian Lillard apparently has a different take on what this weekend should be all about. The Portland Trail Blazers point guard is set to make NBA history by appearing in five different All-Star events.

First off, the second-year player from Weber State was added to the Western Conference All-Star Reserves. In addition to this, he’ll also be in the Slam Dunk Contest, Rising Stars Challenge, Three-Point Contest and Skills Challenge. In the latter, Lillard will try to defend his 2013 Skills Challenge title. And he’ll hope to become the first Trail Blazer to win the Slam Dunk or Three-Point Contest.

So why would a guy wear himself out during the All-Star Weekend? As Lillard told USA Today, he believes that doing five different contests is too good of an opportunity to pass up, plus the contests aren’t as physically taxing as one might think. Here’s an excerpt from the USA Today column:

“A lot of people don’t get the opportunity,” Lillard told USA TODAY Sports by phone. “So I just felt like it was something that had never been done, and I’m capable of doing all the things that need to be done in all the competitions, so I figured why not go out and be the first one to do everything and get that experience?” […]

damian-lillard-portland-trailblazers-1As Lillard knows, though, there will be some who question his decision to take on so many tasks during this time that serves as a much-needed breather for most of his colleagues. And as is typically the case when it comes to Lillard, he’s not concerned with the critics.

“The skills competition takes two minutes on the court, the dunk contest maybe will be three or four minutes on the court, and three-point shooting is about two minutes,” said Lillard, whose Blazers (35-14) are the surprise team in the NBA this season. “And it’s not like the rookie-sophomore game is a real regular season game, so I mean I’m look at maybe an hour total of actual activity with all five things. People think there’s more energy being exerted than there actually is. It’s really not that much when you think about the time that you actually spend doing it.”

As for his chances of winning each contest, he’s already won the Skills Competition before, the Western Conference All-Stat team is loaded, he shoots 40.5% from the three-point line, his sophomore team will be facing a weak draft class in the Rising Stars game, and he boasts a 39.5-inch vertical leap for the Slam Dunk.

Of course, we don’t exactly expect him to come out a winner in all five of the All-Star contests. But Lillard definitely has the skills, and the teams, to come out on top in 2-4 of these competitions.