Now that were done with the eastern Conference, let’s take a look at the tough western conference. Last season, we seen 8 tough teams enter the playoffs with 50 wins. We have some young teams looking to move up, some older teams looking to hold on and unhealthy teams looking to remain healthy and play well into May. Like the title says, this is part 1 with the complete predictions and then part 2 will give you the details to all west team, underrated players, breakout players and more.
1. Los Angeles Lakers (Projected W-L: 60-22)
You add Steve Blake, Theo Ratliff and Matt Barnes. You steal two rookies in the draft in Devin Ebanks and Derrick Character and you lose….Jordan Farmar? Josh Powell? Even with some potential “Kobe slowing down” this season, NO way the Lakers aren’t the #1 seed in the west.
2. Dallas Mavericks (Projected W-L: 52-30)
Dallas is what I would say: Stagnant. They finished 2nd last season and yet, I don’t see much improvement. Since I love looking at those expiring contract players, both Caron Butler and Tyson Chandler are in there final years. Both could step up ( So far, Tyson isn’t doing so hot at the FIBA games). Dirk should be Dirk again (24-8 with several clutch moments this season). Jason Kidd should be Jason Kidd ( 10-5-9-2) and continue to run the offense. The only thing for me is: This is the team who need to make a move. Call me crazy, Dallas needs a Vince Carter. They need another guard from what I see.
3. Portland Trail Blazers (Projected W-L: 50-32)
I almost put Portland as my #2. The idea of Greg Oden, Marcus Camby, Joel Pryzbilla ( mid season) and LaMarcus Aldridge is a huge reason why there at 3. Brandon Roy is clutch and if he remains healthy, should be able to keep Portland up right. Nicolas Batum is reaching that “elite defender” status and the bench is LOADED. Rudy Fernandez will most likely be traded. With the loss of Rudy, they have Oden, Pryzbilla, Jerryd Bayless, Wes Matthews, Jeff Pendergraph and Dante Cunningham off the bench. If they can get some scoring from rookie Luke Babbitt, that would be a huge boost.
I have Portland as my projected #3 seed but if they remain healthy: They could push and (dare I say) beat the Lakers.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder (Projected W-L: 49-33)
I’ll be the first one to say: Oklahoma City is getting a little overrated. Someone on ESPN gave them a vote to win the west AND win the title this upcoming season. Let’s get another thing out the way, I’ll write it in Italics to show how serious I am:
Kevin Durant is not a top 5 player in the NBA. He has not played in any big game in my eyes. Unless you count game 6 last season vs Los Angeles, Durant needs to earn some of those stripes all the all time greats did. Durant has shown me nothing to believe: Next season could be “The Season” for him and lead OKC to a title. With that being said, this man has endless potential. I don’t know who to compare him to but he’s going to be winning MVP’s and racking up All-NBA’s when it’s all said and done.
There, now it’s get to the team. The Thunder have a couple players I would love to shadow. We know Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook but are we familiar with Serge Ibaka and James Harden. Ibaka posted 6ppg, 5rpg and 1.3bpg….in 18 minutes of play. If that’s not something to look at, I don’t know what is. Harden, a rookie last season, impressed me with his slashing ability. He really didn’t do tons of it at Arizona State. With a great jumpshooter like Durant getting even more pressure from defenses, slashers like Westbrook and Harden should be able to get tons of basket attacks next season. Overall, don’t be surprised they’re the 2nd best team in the West.
5. San Antonio Spurs (Projected W-L: 49-33)
Everyone is discounting the Spurs which confuses me. I still think Tim Duncan is a top 10 player in the NBA. Manu Ginobili is back as the sixth man, Richard Jefferson is back to prove he could suck less and San Antonio made some nice moves in the offseason. Adding Tiago Splitter for 3 years/10 million could be the steal of the summer. Let’s say this: Go watch some highlights of Splitter’s game for Brazil and ask if he’s a steal. Yet, there is a undertone here: Tony Parker is a potential free agent next season. If Parker and San Antonio cannot agree to terms on a contract: Who says they don’t look to move him?
6. Utah Jazz (Projected W-L: 48-34)
Jazz fans will look and go “What?!?!” “Just 48 wins??!?!?!” Hear me out: You lost Carlos Boozer and replaced him with Al Jefferson. That’s going to change up the offensive a little bit ( when I mean a little, I mean alot). Plus, Memhet Okur is out until December recovering from surgery. Looking at Utah’s first 30 games- They might go 10-20. It remains to be seen but, I expect Utah to struggle a bit before pushing in the second half. Might it blow up in my face? We will see.
7. Denver Nuggets (Projected W-L: 46-36)
Denver is a risk at this point. I might be right about them ( making the playoffs, staying relevant) or they could trade Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups, decide it’s best to start that rebuilding process and have a 15-50 record. Who knows. If the season started today? They have a very nice team. The only thing that scares me: Nene has something wrong with his legs, he’s had injuries in the past but that’s something to look out for.
8. Houston Rockets (Projected W-L: 44-38)
This could go either way. Best case: Yao plays 82 games, completely healthy. Kevin Martin shows he can score as a #3 AND rebound. Aaron Brooks shows more improvement and the young role players make strides. Worst case: Yao has to shut it down for a couple games mid season, Kevin Martin just shoots and Aaron Brooks has a step back season. The variable in all this? They have the best pieces to get Carmelo Anthony.
9. Los Angeles Clippers (Projected W-L: 43-39)
It was tough. The Clippers just miss the playoffs. Oddly enough, the Clippers added some nice reserves in Randy Foye and Brian Cook. Ryan Gomes was brought in to start and rookies Al-Farouq Aminu and Eric Bledsoe will be coming off the bench as well. Blake Griffin SHOULD will be a impact player from day one. Baron Davis had a good season last year, Chris Kaman made my top 50 and Eric Gordon was one of my first 5 out. Maybe if the Clippers go after a Andre Iguodala or even Carmelo Anthony: We might have to move them up.
10. Memphis Grizzlies (Projected W-L: 41-41)
Put up or Shut up time for Memphis. The Grizzlies have all there players back, 4 top 50 players (at least to me) in Marc Gasol, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph and O.J. Mayo. The Xavier Henry contract dispute still an issue so they decided to give Tony Allen his job. Memphis could leap into the playoffs if Mike Conley can show that he’s making another leap going into his 4th season.
11. Phoenix Suns (Projected W-L: 40-42)
The Amar’e Stoudemire loss is huge for the Suns. Phoenix did make a couple moves adding Hedo Turkoglu, Hakim Warrick and Josh Childress. Resigning Charlie Frye was solid and should at least be first in line for the starting PF position. The Suns have tons of wings ( Hill, Richardson, Dudley, Childress, Dragic, Clark) and will need another big man to make a playoff push.
12. Golden State Warriors (Projected W-L: 35-47)
Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry. Both are the main reason the Warriors move over the Hornets here. The Warriors also added David Lee who is a pick and roll machine. Those 3 plus Andrens Biedrens have me believing GSW is going in the right direction. Brandan Wright in his 4th season will have to put up or shut up. He has been hurt but hasn’t contributed when healthy. If only they could get a wing player above 6-6…
13. New Orleans Hornets (Projected W-L: 33-49)
Yes, Chris Paul should be healthy but other then that? New Orleans took a huge step back to me in exchanging Darren Collison for Trevor Ariza. The Hornets have a new coach and still are looking to run. I question if this team could be even worse. If Chris Paul and David West can create the magic, they should live up to this ranking.
14. Sacramento Kings (Projected W-L: 25-57)
The Kings have the current rookie of the year in Tyreke Evans and possibly, the next rookie of the year in DeMarcus Cousins, who could be a force right away. The Kings are looking to develop the team and only made one real move this offseason sending Andrea Nocioni and Spencer Hawes to Philadelphia for Samuel Dalembert. Unless the young talent really steps up, expect more of last season Kings fans.
15. Minnesota Timberwolves (Projected W-L: 22-60)
How bad is it in Minnesota? Expect another losing season. Even though you add another top 5 pick in Wes Johnson and you stole Micheal Beasley (who could have a breakout season), Minnesota still have tons of holes. The T-Wolves have some young players to look out for next season ( Kevin Love, Jonny Flynn, Corey Brewer) but there’s too many holes and not enough experience to believe Minnesota is nothing more then a rebuilding team.