NBA Western Conference Preview
Tuesday, 26 October 2010 14:59 | Written by Andrew Schroeder
15- Minnesota Timberwolves
Prediction- 5th in Northwest division
Key Additions- Michael Beasley, Lazar Hayward, Wesley Johnson, Kosta Koufos, Luke Ridnour, Anthony Tolliver, Martell Webster
Key Losses- Ramon Sessions, Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Ryan Hollins, Sasha Pavlovic
Coach- Kurt Rambis
Last Season W/L- 15-67 (5th in Northwest)
Best Case Scenario- Jonny Flynn comes back quickly from injury and forms one of the best PG combos in the league with Luke Ridnour. Michael Beasley takes advantage of a fresh start and fulfills the promise of his selection as the number 2 overall pick. Timberwolves still finish in last in the Northwest but leapfrog a few teams in conference standings, though it would hinder their chances for the top pick next year.
Worst Case Scenario- Kevin Love regresses with Darko next to him instead of Al Jefferson. Flynn takes too long to come back from injury and has a wasted sophomore season. Beasley continues to be immature and his attitude derails what should be a promising career. Wolves fans spend the 2nd half of the season dreaming of Ricky Rubio, but Kahn finally concedes Ricky will never come to Minnesota and makes a trade. Wolves finish last in the West.
14- New Orleans Hornets
Prediction- 5th in Southwest division
Key Additions- Trevor Ariza, Marco Belinelli, Willie Green, Jason Smith, Quincy Pondexter, Curtis Jerrells, Jerryd Bayless
Key Losses- Darren Collison, Morris Peterson, James Posey, Julian Wright
Coach- Monty Williams
Last Season W/L- 37-45 ( 5th in Southwest)
Best Case Scenario- Chris Paul comes back healthy, returning to MVP form. Hornets new additions pack a scoring punch that was missing last season. Second year shooting guard Marcus Thornton validates his surprising rookie season with a season that surpasses his first. Paul guides New Orleans one of the final playoff spots, then is ousted in the first round.
Worst Case Scenario- Chris Paul isn’t 100% when he returns and struggles while wearing a knee brace all season. Supporting cast of Thornton, Belinelli, Ariza, Pondexter are less than impressive, making defenses key on Paul and only Paul. Emeka Okafor deals with injuries and continues to regress. New Orleans battles Minnesota for the worst Western record all season, and the talk of them leaving New Orleans heats up.
13- Sacramento Kings
Prediction- 5th in Pacific division
Key Additions- DeMarcus Cousins, Samuel Dalembert, Darnell Jackson, Hassan Whiteside, Antoine Wright
Key Losses- Spencer Hawes, Andres Nocioni, Ime Udoka, Sean May, Jon Brockman, Desmond Mason, Kenny Thomas
Coach- Paul Westphal
Last Season W/L- 25-57 (5th in Pacific)
Best Case Scenario- The young nucleus of the Kings takes a leap forwards, challenging for a playoff spot. Evans becomes an MVP candidate, and the group of bigs (Dalembert, Cousins, Whiteside, Landry, and Thompson) proves itself to become one of the best in the league.
Worst Case Scenario- The whispers of Cousins’ immaturity are true, and Evans regresses thanks to the lack of a playmaking threat on the wing. The Kings trade away assets such as Beno Udrih and Thompson and plan to make a run next season.
12- Denver Nuggets
Prediction- 4th in Northwest
Key Additions- Al Harrington, Shelden Williams
Key Losses- Joey Graham, Malik Allen, Johan Petro
Coach- George Karl
Last Season W/L- 53-29 (1st in Northwest)
Best Case Scenario- Carmelo has an MVP type season, and in the process signs an extension to stay in Colorado. Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen return from injury quickly and play effectively. Melo carries the Nuggets to a playoff berth and even a round one series victory.
Worst Case Scenario- Carmelo becomes a distraction, and is either traded during the season or plays out the rest of the season halfheartedly. George Karl is slow to return to the bench following his recovery from cancer. Chauncey Billups follows Carmelo out of town as Denver enters complete rebuilding mode. Any spare parts are stripped and traded, and the Nuggets return to the form of the pre-Carmelo days.
11- Memphis Grizzlies
Prediction- 4th in Southwest division
Key Additions- Tony Allen, Xavier Henry, Greivis Vasquez
Key Losses- Ronnie Brewer, Jamaal Tinsley, Marcus Williams
Coach- Lionel Hollins
Last Season W/L- 40-42 (4th in Southwest)
Best Case Scenario- Mike Conley continues his yearly progression and becomes an all star quality point guard. Rudy Gay becomes a creator on the offensive end, making the Memphis offensive one of the best in the league. Hasheem Thabeet shows any signs of progress. Memphis challenges for a playoff spot and gets to square off with the Lakers or Thunder in round one.
Worst Case Scenario- Conley hits his production wall, and Memphis realizes they need to look for a new point guard. The Memphis offense becomes a jump shot – a- thon with Gay and Mayo, leading Zach Randolph to throw one of his trademark tantrums. Thabeet shows he is a complete bust, and Memphis challenges for a top 3 pick.
10- Golden State Warriors
Prediction- 4th in Pacific division
Key Additions- Charlie Bell, Dan Gadzuric, David Lee, Jeremy Lin, Ekpe Udoh, Dorell Wright, Louis Amundson, Rodney Carney
Key Losses- Ronny Turiaf, Mikki Moore, Devean George, Chris Hunter, C.J. Watson, Anthony Randolph, Anthony Tolliver, Raja Bell, Anthony Morrow, Kelenna Azubuike, Corey Maggette
Coach- Keith Smart
Last Season W/L- 26-56 (4th in Pacific)
Best Case Scenario- Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis continue to jell and create possibly the best backcourt in the NBA. David Lee proves he is worth the money, and Ekpe Udoh bounces back from his wrist injury and is everything the Warriors thought Brandan Wright would be. The new ownership group, new coach, new uniforms, and new culture of Warriors basketball sparks them to a playoff spot and they become the little team that could, making a run in the playoffs.
Worst Case Scenario- The Warriors can’t adjust to Keith Smart’s style of offense, still wanting to run the court and shoot long jumpers constantly. The losses of Ronny Turiaf and Anthony Randolph inside hamper their defense, and they miss the outside shooting of Morrow and Maggette more than they would think. Golden State makes their almost yearly trip to the lottery yet again.
9- Los Angeles Clippers
Prediction- 3rd in Pacific division
Key Additions- Al-Farouq Aminu, Eric Bledsoe, Brian Cook, Randy Foye, Ryan Gomes, Willie Warren
Key Losses- Brian Skinner, Steve Novak, Mardy Collins, Ricky Davis, Bobby Brown, Steve Blake, Travis Outlaw, Drew Gooden
Coach- Vinny Del Negro
Last Season W/L- 29-53 (3rd in Pacific)
Best Case Scenario- Blake Griffin comes back and plays like a number one pick, finally giving the Clippers a quality PF to play along Chris Kaman. Vinny Del Negro shows that Chicago let go their 2nd quality coach in a row( the first being Scott Skiles), leading the Clippers to the playoffs. Baron Davis turns back the clock to his Golden State days and is an all star again. The Clippers become one of the most exciting teams to watch in the NBA.
Worst Case Scenario- Blake Griffin shows significant rust in his return. Baron Davis still doesn’t live up to the contract he signed for LA. The Clippers are lambasted for using their money on players such as Gomes and Foye instead of making a bigger run at someone such as Rudy Gay. The Clippers are again an LA afterthought.
8- Phoenix Suns
Prediction- 2nd in Pacific division
Key Additions- Josh Childress, Gani Lawal, Hedo Turkoglu, Hakim Warrick
Key Losses- Amar’e Stoudemire, Leandro Barbosa, Louis Amundson, Jarron Collins
Coach- Alvin Gentry
Last Season W/L- 54-28 (2nd in Pacific)
Best Case Scenario- Old veterans Steve Nash and Grant Hill maintain their level of play. Josh Childress shows a vastly improved game thanks to his years spent overseas. Hedo Turkoglu’s play and attitude improve now that he isn’t stuck in Toronto. The Suns are able to balance out the loss of Amar’e with improved outside shooting and athleticism.
Worst Case Scenario- The loss of Amar’e proves too great to overcome, as Hakim Warrick, Channing Frye, and Robin Lopez all fail to be the pick and roll partner that Steve Nash thrives upon. The Suns resort to trying to outshoot the opposition from 3, and while it may sneak them into the playoffs, they don’t get farther than that.
7- Houston Rockets
Prediction- 3rd in Southwest division
Key Additions- Courtney Lee, Brad Miller, Patrick Patterson
Key Losses- Trevor Ariza, Brian Cook
Coach- Rick Adelman
Last Season W/L- 42-40 (3rd in Southwest)
Best Case Scenario- Yao Ming returns and has no problems from his foot injury, giving the Rockets a solid 25-30 minutes a night. That coupled with a full season of Kevin Martin proves to be just what Houston needs to be a title contender. A solid bench consisting of Chuck Hayes, Brad Miller, Chase Budinger, and Courtney Lee makes the Rockets deep as any contender.
Worst Case Scenario- Yao is unable to stay healthy and the Rockets have to rely on a combo of Brad Miller and Chuck Hayes at center for a majority of the season. Shane Battier proves to be simply a defensive specialist as his shooting continues to regress, and Luis Scola has a down year making Rockets fans wonder if he was worth the large extension he signed in the offseason, and if they would have been better served waiting until this offseason to make a run at Carmelo Anthony.
6- San Antonio Spurs
Prediction- 2nd in Southwest division
Key Additions- James Anderson, Alonzo Gee, Gary Neal, Ryan Richards, Tiago Splitter, Bobby Simmons
Key Losses- Roger Mason Jr., Keith Bogans, Ian Mahinmi
Coach- Gregg Popovich
Last Season W/L- 50-32 (2nd in Southwest)
Best Case Scenario- Tiago Splitter proves to be the perfect fit next to Tim Duncan, increasing and speeding up the impact of Tiago both on the Spurs, and on Duncan, who improves compared to last season. Richard Jefferson plays looser as he is no longer saddled with the expectation of a large contract. The core 3 make one more run at a title in San Antonio.
Worst Case Scenario- Tim Duncan continues his decline, looking like merely an average power forward. Tony Parker also plays worse than expected, and gives way to a young George Hill a year too early. Manu Ginobili is the lone bright spot on a team caught between raw youth and over the hill vets, and the Spurs miss the playoffs for the first time since the Truman administration (or would it just feel that way?)
5- Utah Jazz
Prediction- 3rd in Northwest division
Key Additions- Raja Bell, Gordon Hayward, Al Jefferson
Key Losses- Carlos Boozer, Wesley Matthews, Kyle Korver, Kosta Koufos
Coach- Jerry Sloan
Last Season W/L- 53-29
Best Case Scenario- Al Jefferson proves to be a better fit than Carlos Boozer, and steps up his play thanks to finally being on a contender. Deron Williams firmly plants himself in the MVP discussion. Mehmet Okur comes back strong from his Achilles injury. The Jazz challenge for a top 4 seed and make a run at the western crown.
Worst Case Scenario- Boozer is missed more than expected, especially by Williams. The team is also weak on the wings thanks to the losses of Matthews and Korver, and down low as Okur struggles to return to form. Williams realizes that Utah may have reached its ceiling and explores the possibility of leaving the Jazz.
4- Portland Trail Blazers
Prediction- 2nd in Northwest division
Key Additions- Luke Babbitt, Armon Johnson, Wesley Matthews, Elliot Williams
Key Losses- Jerryd Bayless, Martell Webster, Juwan Howard
Coach- Nate McMillan
Last Season W/L- 50-32 (3rd in Northwest)
Best Case Scenario- Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla return to good health and form a 3 headed monster at center with Marcus Camby. LaMarcus Aldridge stops being so tentative and becomes a force. Nicholas Batum flourishes with the extra playing time he receives thanks to the trade of Martell Webster. Portland finally makes the jump from young promising budding contender to full-fledged western conference force.
Worst Case Scenario- The Blazers just can’t seem to shake the injury bug and bow out early in the playoffs again. Jeff Pendergraph has already been lost for the season, and neither Greg Oden nor Joel Przybilla can return to full strength, leaving Portland light in the middle. Brandon Roy again tries to put the team on his shoulders but it isn’t enough.
3- Dallas Mavericks
Prediction- 1st in Southwest division
Key Additions- Alexis Ajinca, Tyson Chandler, Dominique Jones, Ian Mahinmi
Key Losses- Matt Carroll, Eduardo Najera, Erick Dampier, Tim Thomas
Coach- Rick Carlisle
Last Season W/L- 55-27(1st in Southwest)
Best Case Scenario- The Mavericks simply overpower teams night in night out. They have the ability to throw Brendan Haywood, Chandler, Ajinca, and Mahinmi at teams night in and night out. The Mavs also boast incredible depth all season with Jose Barea, Rodrigue Beaubois, and Shawn Marion coming off the bench. The Mavericks finally solve the puzzle and take the Western crown.
Worst Case Scenario- The Mavericks kick themselves for not finding more than Tyson Chandler for Erick Dampier as Chandler sits on the bench injured for most of the season. Beaubois is slow to heal from his broken foot, which is costly as Jason Kidd finally regresses this season. The Mavs get past the first round, but then are dumped in the second and wonder what could have been.
2- Oklahoma City Thunder
Prediction- 1st in Northwest division
Key Additions- Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook, Royal Ivey, Morris Peterson, Ryan Reid
Key Losses- Kevin Ollie, Etan Thomas
Coach- Scott Brooks
Last Season W/L- 50-32 (4th in Northwest)
Best Case Scenario- This young tight knit group takes a big step forward and ushers in their period of being yearly title contenders. Kevin Durant wins the MVP, Russell Westbrook becomes a complete point guard, and the fine tuning in the offseason of adding Aldrich and 2 shooters in Peterson and Cook prove just what the Thunder needed. They use their remaining cap space to re-sign Westbrook and Jeff Green. And oh yeah…..knock off the Lakers and become top dog in the West.
Worst Case Scenario: The expectations for this young team prove too much, and they regress under the pressure. Durant tries to do too much at times, and then do too less by passing in crunch time. The Thunder can’t hang with those teams with dominant post threats, as Nick Collison, Serge Ibaka, Green, Nenad Krstic, and Aldrich play incredibly average. The Thunder re-sign Westbrook but lose Jeff Green to free agency after a disappointing season in which they get blasted in the second round of the playoffs.
1- Los Angeles Lakers
Prediction- 1st in Pacific division
Key Additions- Matt Barnes, Steve Blake, Derrick Caracter, Devin Ebanks, Theo Ratliff
Key Losses- D.J. Mbenga, Adam Morrison, Josh Powell, Jordan Farmar
Coach- Phil Jackson
Last Season W/L- 57-25 (1st in Pacific)
Best Case Scenario- The Lakers successfully defend their title, and it’s their easiest trip to the finals in memory. The key players step up as they did last year, just with an improved supporting cast. Theo Ratliff, Matt Barnes, and Steve Blake add veteran toughness and quality defense, while in Blake’s case he takes many minutes from Derek Fisher. Kobe Bryant’s knee holds up fine during the season, and Andrew Bynum returns at 100% and has the dominating season Lakers brass has dreamed of since the drafted him. Phil Jackson gets his 4th 3-peat and rides off into the sunset with his status as greatest coach in American sports history cemented. And Kobe now gets a ring for the hand, something Shaq will never have.
Worst Case Scenario- The western conference improves as the Lakers stay the same, and they are overtaken in the conference finals, losing their title as western conference champions they had become so accustom to. Kobe Bryant takes almost half the season to get right with his knee, and constantly injured Andrew Bynum never gets right with his own injury. Jackson questions why he came back at all, and personalities clash in the locker room. The Lakers face an offseason of uncertainty due to the search for a new coach and a roster turnover promise by Jerry Buss, who views the failure at reaching the NBA Finals as an embarrassing disappointment.
Conference Finals- Lakers over Thunder
NBA Finals- Lakers over Heat