NBA Western Conference Preview and Predictions
Yesterday I told you all about the Eastern Conference and how I feel their divisions will pan out. Now I am going to talk about the Western Conference and all of its glory. I am so stoked that the season starts tonight with three NBA games for opening night; Wizards vs Cavs (Are you serious, opening night?), Boston vs Miami (More like it!), Mavericks vs Lakers (I wish Dirk was healthy). With a crazy offseason, like the Eastern Conference, the Western Conference made a lot of moves and looks very different than a year ago. The obvious choice for the best team in the West is the newly formed Los Angeles Lakers, but after I have analyzed and gone over all of the teams, it do not think this Conference is so cut and dry…although I am picking the Lakers to have the best record in the West lol.
1st – Los Angeles Lakers (58-24)
As if having Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol wasn’t enough to make this a quality team, they went out and added one of the best point guards of all time, Steve Nash, and arguably the best big man in the game, Dwight Howard. Like the Yankees in Baseball, if this Lakers team does not at least make the NBA Finals, the season will be considered a bust. Lakers owner Jerry Buss had the best offseason out of any owner and he is clearly looking to get that elusive sixth ring on Kobe’s finger. Dwight has a lot to prove after royally screwing over the entire Orlando Magic franchise and there has already been talks of the Lakers becoming Dwight’s team when Kobe decides to hang up his shoes. While a Lakers/Heat Finals is not set in stone, I think it could go down as the best Finals ever.
2nd – Los Angeles Clippers (53-29)
It was great to see the Clippers take themselves out of the bottom of the division and not only make the playoffs last year, but show everyone they have a team that will continue to build for years to come. This season the Clippers have the return of a healthy Chauncey Billups, and with the acquisitions of veterans Jamal Crawford, Grant Hill and Lamar Odom, LA is in great shape to make some noise during the playoffs this year. They have the unfortunate pleasure of having their neighbors in the same division because if they didn’t, I feel they could have won the division easily. Blake Griffin has a lot to prove this year and I think he will. I think this year we could see the first ever LA vs LA Western Conference Finals, which could be almost as exciting as the Subway Series.
3rd – Phoenix Suns (41-41)
What will the Phoenix Suns do without Steve Nash? They will remain an average team with some nice young talent to build around. New starting Point Guard, Goran Dragic, is not a terrible player and he has some very nice supporting cast around him. Luis Scola, Marcin Gortat, and Michael Beasley make up one of the better scoring front courts in the West and the acquisition of Wesley Johnson from the Timberwolves will give Dragic a nice option on the wing. Sebastian Telfair and UNC Rookie Kendall Marshall will both share time backing up Dragic and I truly think that if Marshall can develop a respectable jump shot, then he can be a formidable PG in the NBA as he has some of the best court vision his former college coach, Roy Williams, has ever seen.
4th – Golden State Warriors (33-49)
After Mark Jackson’s rookie coaching campaign came to an end, his organization did everything they could to make life a little easier for him during his sophomore year. They got rid of hothead-ball hog Monte Ellis and brought in veterans Richard Jefferson and former #1 pick of the draft, Andrew Bogut. They also drafted Harrison Barnes out of UNC who has the potential to be a very productive part of this teams future. The main thing that the Warriors need to stay a competitive team this season is the their starting PG, Stephen Curry, to stay healthy all year long. Curry is not your prototypical NBA PG, so I think he will be sharing a lot of time playing with his back up, Jarrett Jack. The Warriors won’t win too much this year, but things look positive for the future.
5th – Sacramento Kings (27-55)
This team sucks! There is no easier way for me to say it. They have one of most talented Small Forwards in the West in Tyreke Evans, but outside of him they literally do not have one respectable starter on their roster. You would think that with Isiah Thomas playing the Point Guard that the Kings would be great. The only problem with that is their Isiah Thomas is the second year man out of Washington and not the Detroit Piston’s former Hall of Famer. Thomas Robinson out of Kansas has a lot of upside, but he has years before he will be a formidable asset for the Kings. This team has a lot of fixing up to do and I think it will start during the regular season with big trades coming from Sacramento involving DeMarcus Cousins and even possibly Tyreke Evans.
1st – Memphis Grizzles (50-32)
The Memphis Grizzlies did a fantastic job of keeping the core of their team together after a very successful regular season where they finished with the third best record in the Western Conference. They lost OJ Mayo, but with what Tony Allen was able to prove last season, they should be more than comfortable with him at the shooting guard position. Rudy Gay looks healthy and ready to roll come the beginning of the season and I think that if he and fellow forward Zack Randolph remain healthy, then the Grizzlies will be able to compete with anyone in the league. Memphis’ starting Center, Marc Gasol, had a great season last year and after a hard fought Olympics, he looks ready to prove that he is the best Center in the West…behind Dwight of course.
2nd – San Antonio Spurs (48-34)
The San Antonio Spurs took everyone by surprise last season as they finished the season tied with the Chicago Bulls for the best record in the NBA. Most impressively, the Spurs went an astonishing 31-11 against teams with a record above .500. Like the Grizzlies, the Spurs were able to keep majority of their team together which means to me that this will be coach Popovich’s final push to win another Championship with the great Tim Duncan. One issue that this team might run into throughout the season is the same problem that the Knicks might face…injuries. This team is really old and they are already starting the season with Manu Ginobili on the bench with a hamstring problem. If the Spurs struggle early, look for their French rookie, Nando de Colo, to come in and get some minutes.
3rd – Dallas Mavericks (44-38)
If the Mavericks weren’t a perennially winning franchise over the past decade, then I would have ranked them with a much worse record. Their best player, Dirk Nowitzki, is out for at least the first 5 weeks of the season and they lost their former sixth man of the year, Jason Terry, to the Boston Celtics. Their starting Point Guard, Jason Kidd, went to the Knicks and their starting Center, Chris Kaman, has been plagued with injuries during the offseason. The biggest positive for Dallas is that they put together a new and talented back court consisting of former Hornets and Pacers PG, Darren Collison, and former Grizzlies SG, OJ Mayo. The Mavericks also brought in veteran Power Forward, Elton Brand, who will fill in while Dirk is out.
4th – Houston Rockets (34-48)
With Jeremy Lin as the new starting Point Guard of the Houston Rockets, they should have no trouble winning it all, right? But seriously…Lin is proving early on in the preseason that he might not be the star we all thought he could be. On top of Lin’s struggles, Houston’s front office has made some very dramatic noise less than a week before the regular season. They acquired the reigning sixth man of the year, James Harden, from the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for the injury prone Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb. There were some other players involved in the trade, but no one of any real significance. If Lin can fix his early season struggles and Harden can find a way to fit in right away, the Rockets can have a team to recon within upcoming years…just not now.
5th – New Orleans Hornets (30-52)
Within three years I feel that this team can easily be on the top of this division because their offseason was a great start to the rebuilding phase for the franchise The #1 pick of the draft has so much upside that I honestly think he can be a triple-double threat on a nightly basis with his ability to pull in boards and block anything that comes his way. I will call it now; Anthony Davis will average the most Blocks per game this season. On top of getting Davis, The Hornets also drafted Doc Rivers son Austin Rivers, who can be a solid NBA player if he adds some meat to himself. He is a sharp shooter that demands a defender around the arc which should open up the paint area for Davis to dominate. The addition of Ryan Anderson from Orlando should be some nice help for the young rookies.
1st – Oklahoma City Thunder (55-27)
The defending Western Conference Champions are entering this season with a motivation to prove that last year was not a fluke. Kevin Durant is determined to win his first NBA MVP after already racking up 3 scoring championships. Just a week ago, the Thunder’s future had a huge alteration with the trade of James Harden to the Houston Rockets. While Jeremy Lamb has the potential to be very good and Kevin Martin is great but rarely healthy, the loss of Harden will be a tough one to get over. Having said that, Durant and his PIC, Russel Westbrook, are the second best duo in the NBA, Wade and James being the best. I am going out on a limb here by predicting that Serge Ibaka will be on the all-NBA first team defense this season.
2nd – Denver Nuggets (50-32)
The Denver Nuggets can be one of the surprise teams of the 2012-13 NBA season. Last year, the Nuggets rookie, Kenneth Faried, had a very impressive rookie season and is poised to follow it up by making himself a household name this year. With high flying Center, JaVale McGee, having a full offseason and preseason with the Nuggets he should be able to fit into George Carl’s system like a glove. Denver also acquired Andre Iguodala from the 76ers, which should add some much needed defense to a team that focuses mainly on offense. With Ty Lawson and Andre Miller splitting time at the point and Danilo Gallinari looking to finally get through a season without an injury, I think the Nuggets can compete with the best in the West. Wilson Chandler is back from China, so that should help some as well.
3rd – Minnesota Timberwolves (41-41)
If the Timberwolves are ever going to have a playoff team again, this is it. Kevin Love is one of the best players in the NBA and will average 20+ PPG and 15+ RPG. Minnesota went out and brought in Brandon Roy from the Blazers and with Roy’s veteran leadership I think they have enough pieces to make it in as the eighth seed in the West. They also acquired Andrei Kirilenko and if he and sophomore Ricky Rubio can both stay healthy, then the Wolves have formidable players in 4 out of the 5 starting positions. Their Center, Nikola Pekovic, was a huge surprise for the Wolves last year as he averaged 14 PPG and 8 RPG. If he can keep those same numbers up this year and Russian Rookie, Alexey Shved, can develop a consistent shooting game, then the Wolves will stop being laughed at.
4th – Utah Jazz (33-49)
The days of John Stockton and Karl Malone are far gone and the Utah Jazz are on the steady decline towards NBA obscurity. Their head coach, Tyrone Corbin, has a lot of fixing to do in his first full season leading the Jazz. Paul Millsap is coming off of back-to-back amazing seasons and with the Jazz picking up Small Forward, Marvin Williams, from the Atlanta Hawks, Millsap will be able to find some more openings down low. The Jazz picked up Mo Williams from the Los Angeles Clippers and he should be able to cause some problems for defenses but he is definitely not a traditional PG. The Jazzes biggest weakness is their SG position, where Gordon Heyward takes the starting spot and shouldn’t be anywhere near an NBA court.
5th – Portland Trailblazers (29-53)
While I think that Anthony Davis of the Hornets will take home the NBA’s ROY trophy, I feel that the Trailblazers Damian Lillard, will give him a run for his money. Not many people know about Lillard, as he went to Weber State, but he will be the starting PG for Portland this year and through the preseason he has shown signs of brilliance. Pair Lillard with Lamarcus Aldridge and you have a couple of key pieces to a team with a good future. Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews are very talented shooters and can help Portland run up the score board. Their biggest problems come on the defensive end where they will not stop anyone. The Trailblazers did acquire Jared Jeffries so maybe they will at least draw an offensive foul or two a game.
That is how I feel the NBA’s Western Conference will pan out and I would love it if you told us how you think the season will go and whether or not you agree with us.