2014-2015 NBA Western Conference Preview

Western Conference

15. Los Angeles Lakers: 20-62 Under 31.5

They couldn’t lure any good free-agents, lost Pau Gasol(and Nick Young for the start of the season due to injury) and get Kobe Bryant back after he essentially missed all of last year as their best player and they are supposed to be good? Yeah right. Tell me if this starting 5 appeals to you: PG Jeremy Lin    SG Kobe Bryant    SF Wesley Johnson    PF Carlos Boozer    C Jordan Hill. Their depth includes prized rookie Julius Randle(I like Randle and think he is the lone bright spot on this squad), Robert Sacre, Wayne Ellington, 84 year old injured Steve Nash, Swaggy P and Ed Davis. Inspiring, jaw dropping, just plain terrible. Wake me up when Kobe’s cap killing contract expires on the Lakers who are now clearly the lesser team in LA.

14. Utah Jazz: 24-58 Under 25.5

Congratulation to the Utah Jazz! For being another team that will be terrible in real life but solid in 2K because they have a bunch of 3 point shooters and a few shot blockers! They also are the most uninspiring team on paper this year. They only have one starter who averaged more than 15 ppg last year(Gordon Hayward) and Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter have been mostly average, showing flashes every once and a while but never really putting it together. The Burks back-court(Trey and Alec) is solid but nothing special. The Jazz simply have a talent deficiency and it’s going to be another long season for them.

13. Minnesota Timberwolves: 27-55 Over 25.5

They Timberwolves are rebuilding(again) after shipping off Kevin Love for the last two #1 overall picks in the draft in Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett. They also acquired Thaddeus Young and Mo Williams during the off-season. They have a hodgepodge of pieces that don’t really make sense, and too many perimeter players. Corey Brewer, Chase Budinger, Zach LaVine, Shabazz Muhammad all with vie with Wiggins and Young for playing time? That sounds like a mess. Gorgui Dieng was a beast down the stretch and threw down an 11-10 with 2 blocks in 30 minutes a game during April and is an interesting piece. Lot of young players and another rebuilding process will mean another long winter in Minnesota.

12. Sacramento Kings: 32-50 Over 30.5

They let Isiah Thomas walk and tried to replace him with Darren Collison and Ramon Sessions? That’s so Kings. Trading for Rudy Gay, and watching the team that gave him to you surge to their best record since the 2006-07 season? That’s so Kings. Strongly considering acquiring Josh Smith when you have DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay, Jason Thompson, Derrick Williams and 4 other front-court players? That’s so Kings. Drafting Nic Stauskas when Elfrid Peyton and Zach LaVine were on the board? That’s so Kings. Knowing your season is over by December? That’s so Kings

11. Denver Nuggets: 34-48 Under 40.5

Another good 2K team, bad real life team. Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried are good players, but in a loaded west you’ll need a better best player to make the playoffs. The re-acquisition of was weird, why didn’t they just keep him the last two years instead of letting Orlando have him during that time? This seems like a team that has no identity, and in the west that means you are going to miss the playoffs and possibly get your coach fired(here’s looking at you Brian Shaw!).

10. Phoenix Suns: 42-40 Under 42.5

I can’t wait to see the Suns try and play Isiah Thomas, Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe at the same time! It’s going to be awesome! That being said when you think things like that about a team they aren’t usually a playoff team. I think the Suns will be really exciting and fun this year but I think they are still lacking key components to being more than a fringe team. They don’t have a particularly great front-court(Miles Plumlee, the immortal Alex Len at center and the Morris twins). They probably have too many guards( I count 7 on their roster) and they have more pieces than answers(having Dragic, Thomas and Bledsoe is nice but would’t it be nice to have someone better than P.J Tucker starting for you at small forward?). I think the Suns will be good but not good enough and miss the playoffs.

9. Memphis Grizzlies: 46-36 Under 48.5

They are running the same team back as last year, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just a boring thing. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph are going to dominate the post together. Gasol is going to make a few amazing passed a game. Mike Conley is going to give you 14-20 points every night with 5-9 assists and strong defense. Tony Allen is going to play strong defense and struggle offensively. Vince Carter, Tayshaun Prince and Quincy Pondexter will platoon the small forward position and be the only players other than Conley capable of making a 3 pointer. They will be well coached play tough defense and take care of the ball. I love the Grizzlies in the playoffs, they are made for playoff basketball, but I can’t stand them in the regular season. They will be good, if my next team misses the playoffs because they aren’t ready Memphis will take their playoff spot.

8. New Orleans Pelicans: 48-34 Over 41.5

This all boils down to Anthony Davis. He is a monster. He averaged 20 points 10 rebounds with 2.8 blocks and shot over 50% from the field. He should take another leap this year and propel the Pelicans into the playoffs. The supporting cast(if healthy) looks to be solid, but they don’t have a lot of depth. Their starting 5 of Omer Asik, Davis, Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordan and Jrue Holiday is strong. However their depth of only Ryan Anderson as anyone higher than replacement value is concerning. Austin Rivers is bad at his best and he is the second best bench player among washed up John Salmons, Alexis Ajinca and rookie Russ Smith. Their best 6 will have to play at a very high level, and they can’t take an injury, but I think if the “Brow” takes another leap into a legit MVP candidate New Orleans will make the playoffs.

7. Houston Rockets: 50-32  Over 49.5

They are like a watered down version of the Thunder. Outside of the starting 5 they have no one worth mentioning on the roster(washed up Jason Terry anyone?)! They bungled free agency this year. Paying Trevor Ariza in a contract year instead of keeping Chandler Parsons? I’ll be customer #458723 to call out Daryl Morey for that dumb move. Letting Asik and Lin walk and not replacing either of them hurts this team too. I think the Rockets are a first round exit playoff team as currently constructed. Dwight Howard and James Harden might have become the players no one wants to play with after their comments regarding the departure of Parsons. Something is wrong with this team but I doubt they miss the playoffs so I penciled them in here.

6. Golden State Warriors: 52-30 Over 50.5

They’ve peaked, plain and simple. With no cap room to make any major moves(without trading a significant asset aka Klay Thompson) the Warriors will be stuck winning around 50 games a season and being a 4-7 seed in the playoffs. They’re bringing back the same team from last year and I expect roughly the same results from last year.

5. Portland Trailblazers: 53-29 Over 48.5

They are like a better version of New Orleans, really strong starters but crappy bench. Their starting 5 of Robin Lopez, LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews and Damian Lillard. They have two all-stars on their roster(Aldridge and Lillard), two guys who are great on both sides of the ball(Batum and Matthews) and Lopez providing rim protection and solid offense for a center. The depth though… Led by Steve Blake, Thomas Robinson, washed up Chris Kaman, Dorell Wright and C.J. McCollum. I think the Blazers are going to be good again this year and should make the playoffs but I don’t know how far they will go unless they get more help for Aldridge and Lillard.

4. Oklahoma City Thunder: 54-28 Under 57.5

I think they will obviously lose some ground because of the injury to Kevin Durant to start the season. I think they should still make the playoffs, and that’s where all the questions about this team start. Will they ever make it over the hump with the current way they continue to choose to build their roster? When do you have to roll the dice and make a serious move if you want to achieve greatness? The Thunder haven’t taken a serious risk in years and that’s why they have been the team that everyone wants to make it to the top and has all the tools necessary to get there, but won’t ever do it. At what point do we say that Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook with a bunch of replacement level players(outside of Serge Ibaka) won’t ever deliver you a title? At what point does one of those guys get fed up with their super cheap owner who won’t spend to win and want out of the purgatory of 50+ wins every year while missing the finals? What will it take for the Thunder to make that move instead of watching their title window slowly close year after year?

3. Dallas Mavericks: 54-28 Over 49.5

The Mavericks made some good moves this off-season that lead me to believe they will be significantly better than they were last year. Bringing in Chandler Parsons, Jameer Nelson and Tyson Chandler greatly strengthens their starting line-up. Dirk is still going to be Dirk and they still have Monta Ellis to go along with everyone else. Getting back Tyson Chandler is huge for the Mavericks. The last time he as on the roster they won the title(I know they have a totally different roster since then but it needs to be said), he fits in very well to coach Rick Carlisle’s zone defense. I think given their defensive prowess with the newly added Tyson Chandler and their veteran savvy the Mavericks should be at least a top 4 team in the west and could threaten to make a deep playoff run.

2. Los Angeles Clippers: 58-24 Over 55.5

The Clipper should be great and entertaining in the regular season again, and cruise to a high seed. The problem for them, as it has been in the Chris Paul era, is depth. I count 7 players currently on roster who are fit to play in a playoff game. Paul, Blake Griffin, Matt Barnes, DeAndre Jordan, J.J Redick, Jamal Crawford and Spencer Hawes. Time after time they come up short in crunch time offense in key moments. DeAndre Jordan becomes a liability late in games because of his extremely limited offense(dunking) and poor free throw shooting. I think Hawes could potentially be an answer for crunch time because of his ability to spread the floor, but there is a reason Hawes is on his 4th team in his career and has never turned into a starter in the NBA. The Clippers are one move away from making a serious run at the title, however they look like a team that has no moves to make.

1. San Antonio Spurs: 59-23 Over 56.5

They run a basketball clinic all the time, their offensive execution and teamwork en route to their championship last year was some of the best, if not the best I have seen in a long time. They are running it back with the same roster as last year and I have them as the favorite going into the season. As long as they have Gregg Popovich I am going to pencil them in for 55+ wins.

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