Poll: Western Conference Favorites

Through one-quarter of the 2021/22 NBA season, no teams have been more impressive than the Warriors and Suns.

Golden State, currently riding a seven-game winning streak, has a league-best 18-2 record. Neither of the team’s losses have been by more than four points, and one came in overtime. It’s perhaps no surprise that the Warriors have the NBA’s second-best offense, but their 99.4 defensive rating – which leads the league by more than four points – wasn’t something we saw coming.

Phoenix, meanwhile, got off to a 1-3 start, but hasn’t lost since, reeling off 16 wins in a row to improve to 17-3, just a single game behind Golden State. Like the Warriors, the Suns have been buoyed to the top of the NBA standings by an unexpectedly dominant defense, which currently ranks third in the league. Mikal Bridges is already generating Defensive Player of the Year buzz, though Draymond Green may be the current favorite.

While we didn’t necessarily expect Golden State or Phoenix to look this good entering the season, there’s no compelling reason to expect major regression from either team.

The Warriors aren’t even at full strength yet, and could become even more dangerous when Klay Thompson and James Wiseman return to action. The Suns didn’t lose any key players from the roster that made it to the NBA Finals in the spring, and youngsters like Deandre Ayton and especially Bridges are still improving.

The two Pacific teams are set to face one another twice this week — in Phoenix on Tuesday and in Golden State on Friday. The matchups, featuring the NBA’s two hottest teams, should be great ones, but we’re not focused in today’s poll on the winners of those games. We’re taking a longer-term view and considering how the season’s results have affected our perception of the favorites to come out of the Western Conference in 2021/22.

As John Hollinger of The Athletic writes, the Suns and Warriors are head and shoulders above the rest of the NBA at the moment, but there’s still plenty of time for other teams to fight their way into that top tier. The Jazz are one candidate — their +9.8 net rating actually ranks second in the NBA, behind only Golden State. The Lakers have gotten off to a slow start, but they were considered the preseason favorites to win the West, and any team with LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook on its roster can’t be written off.

We want to know what you think. Would you take the Warriors or Suns over the field at this point? If so, do you view Golden State or Phoenix as the best bet to come out of the West? If you’re taking the field, which team do you like best from that group?

Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section to share your two cents!

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