Thunder still best in the West

Kevin Durant has outplayed Kobe Bryant this season. Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

With April around the corner and less than 20 games left in the regular season, the contenders from each conference are becoming clear. The Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat have dominated the East all season, while the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs are distancing themselves from the rest of the pack in the West.

A few days ago Kobe Bryant appeared on the Mason and Ireland Show on ESPN 710 Los Angeles and expressed a different opinion. "We are a championship-caliber team," he claimed. "I've never understood the talk about us not being a contender. I've never understood it from the start of the season until now."

For a five-time champion with his two best teammates still around, that's a reasonable assertion. Unfortunately for Bryant and friends, there's also a reasonable answer. Here are five reasons why the Thunder will win the West this season, not the Lakers.

1. Kevin Durant is better than Kobe Bryant
Three years ago that sentence wasn't true. At the respective peaks of their careers, it's probably not true. This season, however, Durant would be the best player in a Lakers-Thunder matchup.