Monday, October 25, 2010

Pre- Season Predictions: Western Conference

The season is set to tip tomorrow, so in anticipation, let’s run down the ranks and see how the squads stack up. The first set of parenthesis represents projected Conference Rank, while the second suggests League-wide projectiwestons.

Western Conference:

(1)(1): Los Angeles Lakers – Offseason acquisitions only further solidified the League’s most solid squad.  Despite the massive amount of miles on Kobe’s NBA odometer, the Lakers are still the team to beat come Title time.

(2)(4): Dallas Mavericks – Age aside, the Mavericks retain a strong core, and have enough talent to beat any team on a given night, which should shoot them to the top of a seemingly shallow West.  Plus, you can’t put it past Mark Cuban, who may see his window to win a championship with super-stud Nowitzki slowly closing, to pull the trigger on a deadline deal if things aren’t going as planned.

(3)(6) Oklahoma City Thunder – The League’s youngest squad made a splash last year, securing a playoff spot and a scoring title for the dynamic Kevin Durant.  While lack of experience and depth may hamper the team’s hopes of hanging a banner this season, the pairing of Durant with other young talents like Green, Harden, and the ultra-athletic Russell Westbrook should keep the Thunder atop the Conference standings for seasons to come. 

(4)(7) San Antonio Spurs – As usual, the success of this squad depends on the h ealth of their title-tested trio (Duncan, Manu, and Tony Parker).  If those three can stay off the IR, the pieces are in place for the Spurts to contend for another title.  Look for Coach Popovich to rely on increased production from second year stud Dejuan Blair, and action from rookie Tiago Splitter to help propel the team to the postseason, where their leadership and championship experience should help them contend for the franchise’s fifth.

(5)(9) Portland Trail Blazers – The peripheral parts continue to rotate around centerpiece Brandon Roy.  While the addition of Wesley Matthews and the prospect of a healthy Oden provide reason for excitement, the rest of the supporting cast  isn’t particularly strong.  There are no sings suggesting that this year’s version should be able to surpass the success of recent Blazer squads

(6)(11) Utah Jazz – An offseason shakeup leaves perennial all-star Deron Williams with a considerably different cast than the one that contended last year.  His talent, combined with the direction of Coach Jerry Sloan will continue to keep the Jazz competitive, but Williams needs stronger support if he hopes to vie for a title in Utah.

(7)(13) Denver Nuggets – After being a bona fide championship contender over the past several seasons, the Nuggets find themselves in an interesting situation.  Carmelo Anthony’s seemingly inevitable departure looms large over the team, and has caused most to write the Nuggets off this season.  While the issue is of major concern to the future of the franchise, until a deal goes down Melo will still be playing in powder blue and gold, providing possibility for the franchise.  If Melo does get moved mid-season, assuming the Nuggets don’t move him for pennies on the dollar, the parts they get in return should be enough to keep the team in contention for a playoff spot. 

(8)(14) Memphis Grizzlies – This year’s version of the Thunder, the Grizz have the talent to surprise many and scoop up a playoff spot in the always competitive West.  Lack of experience and a solid locker room presence will limit this team, but with a young core comprised of O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay, Mike Conley, and an ever-improving Marc Gasol, the Grizzlies are prepared to be a staple in the top-half of the Western Conference standings for years to come.

(9)(15) Phoenix Suns – Even seemingly ageless Steve Nash won’t be able to salvage the setting Suns this season.  A massive makeover leaves the two-time MVP with an aging roster, riddled with some some unfamiliar running mates.  Nash’s ability will keep the team afloat, but the lack of surrounding talent will leave the Suns short of securing a playoff spot after advancing to the Conference Finals last season. 

(10)(17) New Orleans Hornets – With all the trade talk swirling around him, it is difficult to tell if Chris Paul’s heart is with the Hornets.  Despite the addition of the athletic Trevor Ariza, the supporting cast is still skeptical.  It will take some breakout performances, mainly from Ariza and young gun Marcus Thorton, along with a dedicated Paul, to push this team into the playoffs.

(11)(19) Golden State Warriors – Steph Curry and Monta Ellis have proven to be one of the best young backcourts in basketball, averaging better than 43 points and 11 assists a game combined last season.  The team also added a post option with the offseason acquisition of David Lee, a double-double machine who should sure up an otherwise suspect frontcourt.  Unfortunately for Warriors fans, until the team buckles down defensively, all this offensive firepower won’t be able to take them too far.

(12)(20) Los Angeles Clippers --  On paper the team has enough talent to compete, and they could prove to be a surprise story of the season.  The Clips finally get to play with their new toy, the first overall pick in the 2009 draft, Blake Griffin.  Blake has a monster upside and should be in the Rookie of the Year running.  This is however, the Clippers, an organization that has been allergic to the postseason.  The troubles with the team goes much deeper than the on-court talent, so despite a solid roster, expect this time to once again slide down the Western Conference standings.

(13)(22) Houston Rockets – Limited minutes for Yao spells trouble for a strangely soft starting five.  Although it will be a boost to have the big guy back on the blocks, his chopped minutes may prove to be difficult to manage.  Aaron Brooks must continue to develop if this team wants any shot at success, and they also must rely on heavy production from their bench.  In the end, a strong regular season record would not be shocking,, but don’t expect this team to be mentioned in the upper echelon of the League.

(14)(28) Minnesota Timberwolves – A collection of unproven players and displaced talent characterizes this year’s Timberwolves.  Aside from Kevin Love, who continues his development into one of the League’s best young big men, Minnesota is a young team lacking leadership and direction.  Johnny Flynn, Wesley Johnson, and Michael Beasley are all promising young prospects, but the team lacks the overall skill to significantly compete this season. 

(15)(29) Sacramento Kings – The continuing development of young star Tyreke Evans is the only thing Kings fans have to look forward to this season.  A young, inexperienced roster will reduce this once proud playoff power to the bottom of the Western Conference.


Post a Comment