After a wild season last year, the NBA is going back to normal with a regular 82-game schedule. The Western Conference is stacked and there’s no telling how the standings will end up.
Now that the NBA has released their schedule for the season, it’s time to dive in for some fun.
The Dallas Mavericks are always going to be in the playoff picture, as they have a 22-year old superstar in Luka Doncic. Despite having Doncic, Dallas doesn’t have much else in order to take their team to the next level. Kristaps Porzingis is the number two option perhaps? The main question is whether or not he can stay healthy. For the most part, the Mavericks are returning with a similar roster. Overall, it’s good enough to keep them in the top five of the conference.
I know I’m going to get a lot of criticism for this one. How could the reigning Western Conference champs be sixth this year? To answer that question quickly, the rest of the conference got healthier and better. I’ll give them credit for making the NBA Finals, however, they had the third-fewest missed games last season in a season that the injury bug was absolutely dominant in. They could prove me wrong for all I know but I need to see it before I believe it.
Despite Kawhi Leonard being out for most of the season, I expect Paul George to have an MVP-like season. Along with George, they have a relatively strong supporting cast, as they have players like Eric Bledsoe, Serge Ibaka, Terance Mann, Reggie Jackson, and. Justise Winslow. Without Leonard in the postseason last year, George averaged 29.6 points per game. Solid roster, coaching staff, and chemistry. Expect the Los Angeles Clippers in the NBA playoffs, even without Leonard.
It seems like the Portland Trail Blazers have the same team every year. They still have Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, and Jusuf Nurkic. Despite that, this is still a team that doesn’t play much defense. This is still a team that relies mostly on Lillard. Lillard came out and expressed his interest and loyalty to the Blazers. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t get much help this offseason. I expect this team to barely make the playoffs. They’re better off breaking this roster apart to get some value while they’re worth something.
After making it to the NBA playoffs with a 38-34 record, it’s safe to assume that the Memphis Grizzlies will at least be back in the play-in tournament. They didn’t go all-out in the offseason but did they add a nice piece in Steven Adams. On top of that, you can expect a player like Ja Morant or Jaren Jackson. to take a step forward next season. If the Grizzlies can stay healthy throughout the year, I expect them to make a pretty solid jump from last season. The ninth seed for them is a safe bet.
Like the Grizzlies, the New Orleans Pelicans have plenty of young talent. On top of that, they added players like Devonte Graham and Jonas Valanciunas. That being said, they did lose a key piece in Lonzo Ball. Statistically speaking, the Pelicans with Zion Williamson played better when Ball was on the court as opposed to without him. The conference is stacked and the Pelicans didn’t do much to significantly improve their overall team. I think the 10th seed is fair for them.
The Sacramento Kings haven’t done much that has suggested to me that they should be higher than the 11th seed. No disrespect whatsoever to the Kings but seriously, what have they been doing? Every year when I make these predictions, I feel that I’m always ranking the Kings at the same place every single year. They have some nice young pieces like De’Aaron Fox, Marvin Bagley, and Tyrese Haliburton to start off with. But other than that, they don’t have much. Another year, another season with about 34-38 wins.
It’s crazy to think that team coached by Gregg Popovich would end up 12th in the conference. The being said, they do have some young players like Dejounte Murray, Jakob Poeltl, and Keldon Johnson to work with. On top of that, they have a few solid veteran players like Thaddeus Young and Derrick White. The San Antonio Spurs could exceed expectations if any of their young players take a massive leap. For now, I think the 12th seed is just about right given how competitive the conference is.
When healthy, the Minnesota Timberwolves are not a terrible team. When their big three is out there (Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell, and Anthony Edwards), they actually outscore their opponents by a margin of +6.5. The potential has always been there but a huge issue for this time has been defense. Minnesota ranked 27th in defensive efficiency last season and if they don’t make any strides on that end of the court, expect this team to once again be in the bottom of the pack.
The Oklahoma City Thunder have obviously sacrificed their short-term success with the amount of first-round picks they have going for them. Oklahoma City does have a rising young player like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to work with. Despite that, this season is going to the absolutely rough for them but that’s okay! The Thunder and their fans don’t have many expectations for this team because this team is trying to build for the future. This is going to be a very young team who is going to play their hardest out there every night. I appreciate that much.
Like Oklahoma City, the Houston Rockets have a few young players to build on. Players like Jalen Green and Kevin Porter are going to be exciting to watch. The last-place team in this Western Conference is honestly a toss-up. Despite that, Houston is going to be fun to watch regardless of how bad their record is going to be. Who knows, perhaps Houston exceeds my expectation, as it’s definitely possible that they could end up winning 30 games? I don’t think there’s an argument here.
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