Tuesday, August 10, 2010

NBA Western Conference Preview

ESPN has rolled out their season previews so I will do the same, starting with my Western Conference analysis. Obviously this is not an exact science, but I feel like I have a slight edge over some of their experts due to the fact that I followed European basketball very closely this past season. I expect big under the radar contributions that will help keep the Spurs and Suns above the hot young teams that are poised to breakout:

Predicted standings for Western Conference: 2010-11



Los Angeles Lakers
20 .775 57 25 .695

The Lakers will have a lot to prove this season with LeBron James going down to Miami to join his friends. Expect them to be more focused than ever in pursuit of a 3-peat. The addition of Steve Blake and Matt Barnes have solidified their thin perimeter rotation.


San Antonio Spurs
54 28
.658 50 32 .610

The Spurs were supposed to contend with the Lakers last season, but they feel quite short of those expectations. They were missing a lot of the role players that were fazed out due to age and Richard Jefferson did not play like a fourth star. Jefferson has been brought back on a long term deal and I expect his play to improve a little. In addition to that we have George Hill's emergence and the addition of 7 foot Brazilian Tiago Splitter. He led his team to a Spanish league title over the heavily favored and European champion FC Barcelona - no small feat. This year, he will relieve a lot of the frontcourt burden from TD, which will result in a boost in the standings for the Spurs and a realistic shot at challenging for an NBA Finals berth.


Dallas Mavericks 52 30 .634 55 27 .671

The Mavericks have added Tyson Chandler, which was a solid move and Roddy Beaubois should break out this season, but I see the Mavericks as a team caught in the mud. After ten consecutive 50 win seasons, you almost start rooting for them, almost.


Phoenix Suns
49 33 .598 54 28 .648

The Suns are going to surprise folks that expect the team to fall out of the playoffs entirely. Steve Nash is the NBA equivalent to the little engine that could. While he has lost Amar'e to the New York Knicks, the team was able to secure the rights to Hedo Turkoglu and Josh Childress thanks to the sign and trade. I expect Hedo to return to his Orlando Magic level and Josh Childress to be the comeback player of the year after a two year sabbatical in Europe. Stat's contributions will not be replaced by any one player, but expect Robin Lopez, Channing Frye and Louis Amundson (assuming he returns) to do an admirable job. Hakim Warrick could provide some scoring off the bench as well, anything is possible with Nash running the show. There is also the emergence of Goran Dragic to account for, these guys are not dead yet.


Denver Nuggets
47 35 .573 53 29

The Nuggets will be facing turmoil the entire season and as a result will dip a little bit from last year's level. To make matters worse, their two brightest stars, Carmelo Anthony and Nene, may decide to head to greener pastures next season. This will force Denver to strongly consider making some trade deadline maneuvers, but they remain one of the most talented teams in the league so do not expect the off-court problems to sink them too far down the standings.


Oklahoma City Thunder 46
36 .561 50 32 .610

The most exciting young team in the NBA is expected to make a leap into the elite this season thanks to last year's 50 wins and the scare that they put into the NBA champion Lakers in their first round series. I, however, am reluctant to buy in completely. A four game drop in the standings will still left them up two spots in the standings and help them have a realistic shot at the second round.


Utah Jazz 46 36 .561 53 29 .646

Utah lost Carlos Boozer, but was able to replace him with Al Jefferson. The Jazz also allowed some good role players to walk, but they are armed with Kirilenko's expiring contract to keep them in trade discussions should they require a few upgrades. Also, they could really use a motivated AK-47 to remain a top team in this league. Jerry Sloan does such a great job with his guys that there is almost no chance they miss the cut. Also, Derron Williams is going to make sure his team stays hungry.


Houston Rockets 45 37 .549 42 40 .512

It is hard to grant the Rockets access into the postseason with the question marks surrounding Yao, but Adelman was able to keep these guys within striking distance last season, so I expect they will gel and get that little push over the top that they desperately need. They have a really underrated supporting cast, so they can go as far as Yao can lead them... the first round of the playoffs?


Portland Trailblazers
44 38 .537 50 32

Portland could easily take a playoff spot this season. They certainly have the squad to do it. My concern is that this season it will not be as easy to get to 50 wins and they will need a contribution from Greg Oden just to tread water.


New Orleans Hornets 42
40 .512 37 45 .451

Chris Paul is going to get his head back on straight and bring New Orleans back to respectability. They will fight for a playoff spot, but will need some sort of trade to get them over the top in a really tough conference. Perhaps they should suggest a move to the Eastern Conference during the labor talks.


Memphis Grizzlies 41
41 .500 40 42 .488
OA really underrated side who also seems a move or two away from legitimate playoff contention. Keep an eye on their center position. If Thabeet proves he has a pulse, they may have the best young rotation in the league as the Iranian Haddadi could be primed for a breakout of sorts if he puts together another solid tournament at the World Championships.


Los Angeles Clippers 35 47 .427 29 53 .354

The most frustrating team in the league. A healthy Griffin offers them a glimpse of hope, but I am still of the opinion that they should have rolled the dice on Ricky Rubio. For one, he would already be in this league if he would have been picked in the top 2, and secondly this is a team that needs a new identity, something his flashy passing ability would have provided. Even if Griffin makes Clipper fans forget about Elton Brand you get the feeling the team will never completely turn the corner.


Sacramento Kings 30 52 .366 25 57 .305

The Kings will have a legitimate shot to win back-to-back rookie of the year awards. Demarcus Cousins could be the piece that puts them on track towards being a perennial playoff team, but not quite this year.


Golden State Warriors 29 53 .354 26 56 .317

The Warriors seem content in inflating their offensive numbers in order to dilute themselves into believing they have a future. However, their failure to challenge for a playoff spot will catch up to them and they will have to fire Nellie this season.


Minn. Timberwolves 20 62 .244 15 67 .183

The T-Wolves did a nice job in cutting salary by finding a taker for Al Jefferson and using that cash on Darko Milicic and Michael Beasley. The duplication between Jefferson and Love was not working out and they had to change the dynamic. Beasley will be used at both forward spots while Milicic is much more comfortable at the center spot. The move could pay off in the long run, but the transition will not lead to too many victories in the short run. A modest improvement is all that can be expected until something shakes out in the Ricky Rubio saga. Coach Rambis has installed the triangle, which would be a horrible fit for Ricky, so expect Rubio not to play in this league until a trade can be worked out.

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