Great news: The NBA regular season AKA the real deal starts this week. With that comes predictions. They don’t mean much at all, but hopefully, my expert analysis will sooth the minds of some…or may kill this season’s aspirations for some Western Conference fans.
Everyone knows how top-heavy the NBA is. This is the era of having a “Big 3” and overloading teams with talent. Obviously, teams like that have a clear advantage, but there are a few in the Western Conference that have an old school layout and flow. Those teams can be sleepers, really surprising the league.
- Golden State Warriors
- Los Angeles Clippers
- San Antonio Spurs
- Portland Trailblazers
- Oklahoma City Thunder (47-35)
- Dallas Mavericks
- Houston Rockets
- Utah Jazz
On the bubble
Minnesota Timberwolves, Sacramento Kings, and New Orleans Pelicans
Justifying Oklahoma City at No. 5
There’s a lot of uncertainty entering this year around the Thunder organization. I honestly think Russell Westbrook himself wonders about this team’s success and just how good (or bad) they can be.
They should finish around fifth in the conference. Their ceiling is fourth, which is very achievable, it just depends on what quality of basketball Portland brings this season. Either way, Oklahoma City and Portland will battle for that fourth spot all season.
There will be games that OKC loses simply because of team chemistry. I only say team chemistry because it’s a brand new batch of players basically. It takes a lot to adjust to any new group of people, and it definitely takes a lot to adjust to a guy like Russell on or off the court.
At the same time, there will be plenty of games this team wins purely off their tenacity. I’ve noticed a new identity with this team. Everyone is hard-working and gives 100 percent while on the floor. If Kyle Singler keeps shooting at a high level, and Alex Abrines turns out to be the shooter we all think he can be, along with Anthony Morrow, this team may overachieve. There’s a lot of power inside, obviously, there’s a megastar at point guard, and there’s a tough defensive-minded shooting guard and small forward in the starting lineup, something Oklahoma City hasn’t seen much of here recently.
The Clippers over the Spurs? How?
Got that right. With all the trade speculations surrounding San Antonio’s star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge at the cusp of the season starting, I’m not positive everyone’s head is in the right place to start off strong. Maybe I’m wrong, but the loss of Tim Duncan is significant. Although he wasn’t overly effective on the court his last year, you can bet he was the leader of that team.
The Clippers have been ‘almost there’ seemingly for years now, but this season is the perfect for them to do so. With OKC presumably dropping out of the top three, that opens up a spot for them. The team’s nucleus has been the same for awhile now: Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and J.J. Reddick with his shooting ability. Everyone is healthy for now, so a quick start is essential for this team to succeed.
Minnesota, Sacramento, and NOLA just can’t get in…
Well, they can. This is the hardest part of the rankings for me after seeing the young talent the Timberwolves have on their roster. We’ve seen them improve immensely over the past couple of years, and are aware that they could be a dangerous team in the conference even this season but this isn’t a playoff year for them quite yet. Things need to improve. The talent is there, but out-scoring these Western Conference teams seem unlikely. They were ninth last season in the conference in scoring (102.4) and 15th in the league which would label their offense as mediocre.
Sacramento and New Orleans present a ton of skepticism. We simply don’t know quite what to expect from these two teams. DeMarcus Cousins will always come out to play, but will his team? If they do, they have an honest shot of sneaking into the playoffs.
As for New Orleans, I hate to put their success on the shoulders of a rookie, but honestly, if Buddy Hield shoots like he did at Oklahoma consistently, this team will do great. They have a decent roster and a superstar in Anthony Davis, they just need a shooter. That would be Buddy.
Here’s to another year of NBA basketball.