FanPost

Scouting the Western Conference

The NBA season kicks off  the end of next month. After a hyped free agency period and a number of trades, the teams in the West have taken a significantly different look. Here's a team by team look at the competition in the West. No attempt is made to rank the teams. Note, the predicted win total has a margin of error +/- 3 games, unless otherwise noted.

NORTHWEST DIVISION

Utah Jazz

No review is needed of the roster moves made this summer. The questions for this team going into the season are a) How will Al Jefferson fit into the Jazz system? and b) Can Kirilenko stay healthy, and c) how will Okur bounce back from his injury? If any  of those have a negative answer I see the Jazz at about 47 wins. If all three questions turn out well, I see a ceiling of 55 wins.

Playoffs? Very likely

Wins?      51

Denver Nuggets

Will this be the same team after the recent Carmelo Anthony troubles? Will the head coach be on the bench all season? The team went south during the playoffs, and I this this is indicative of what is to come. Expect them to be competitive, but not to be in the race for the Western Championship.

Playoffs? Likely

Wins?    48

How would the Jazz do against them in a playoff series? Win in 5-6 games.

Oklahoma City Thunder

The team ended last year playing on fire, nearly beating the Lakers.Was their success last season a fluke? Did they catch the NBA by surprise? Or is this a legitimate threat?  The truth lies somewhere in the middle. I predict the 2nd or 3rd seed, and with Durant they will always be in contention; their frontcourt concerns me.

Wins? 52

Playoffs? Very Likely

How would the Jazz do against them in a playoff series?  This boils down to whether the Jazz have a tougher time stopping Durant, or the Thunder's frontcourt has a tougher time with Jefferson. Game 7 could go either way.

Portland Trailblazers

I don't buy that this team  is a real threat yet. Injuries plague them, and I doubt their ability to beat the Jazz, Mavs, Thunder or Spurs in a playoff series, much less the Lakers. They look good on paper, but my gut says they aren't there yet--take that with a grain of salt.

Wins? 49

Playoffs? Very likely

How would the Jazz do in a playoffs series?  Jazz in 6

Minnesota Timberwolves

This team is still in rebuilding mode. They gave away Al Jefferson for practically nothing. They have undue confidence in Darko Milicic.  But, Kevin Love looks promising. 

Wins? 27

Playoffs? Not likely

PACIFIC DIVISION

Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers are the defending champs, and likely to repeat. They made minor improvements over the  offseason, but injuries could nag them. Certainly  still the team to beat in the West.

Wins? 56

Playoffs? Almost certainly

How would the Jazz do in a playoffs series? Lakers in 6. I think Jefferson helps with the frontcourt, and a healthy AK helps, but this isn't the year we'll beat the Lakers.

Phoenix Suns

Their season hinges on how the adjust to losing Stoudemire. HIs scoring and rebouding will be missed, but they did make some nice additions that could help. I see them making the playoffs as the 7th or 8th seed, but no making it back to the Western Conference Finals

Wins?  47

Playoffs? Likely

How would the Jazz do in a playoffs series?  Jazz in 6. I don't think the Suns can handle Jefferson and Millsap without Stoudemire. 

Sacramento Kings

Their frontcourt is shaping up to be among the league's best in coming years with Cousins, Whiteside, Dalembert and Landry. They are young, have free cap space to spend in coming offseasons (and re-sign current talent), but they are still a good 2 seasons from being playoff contenders.

Wins? 33

Playoffs? Not Likely

Golden State Warriors

David Lee and Ekpe Udoh are solid additions, but not enough to turn a 26 win team into an instant playoff contender. Monta Ellis could end up being a headache. Bright future. Emphasis on future.

Wins? 33

Playoffs? Not Likely

Los Angeles Clippers

They've built solid talent, and have a strong starting 5. Blake Griffin could make a run for rookie of the year, as he maintained his eligibility as a rookie. Like the Kings and Warriors, their future holds better things, but lack of good management and coaching could sink this team.

Wins? 35

Playoffs? Not likely

SOUTHWEST DIVISION

San Antonio Spurs

Tim Duncan is aging and Tiago Splitter is only a rookie. But the team is well run and well coached. Expect similar things as last season. Solid season with a second round exit.

Wins? 48

Playoffs? Very Likely

How would the Jazz do in a playoffs series? Last season they finally burst the bad streak against the Spurs. Jazz win after a tough fought 6th game.

Dallas Mavericks

Jason Kidd's age could finally catch up to him, and their playoffs dropoff exposed some serious flaws. The Mavs are always a dangerous team, but repeating as the second seed will be tough to do.

Wins? 49

Playoffs? Very Likely

How would the Jazz do in a playoff series? The Jazz play well against the Mavs and D Will will be especially tough for them to deal with.

Houston Rockets

I don't know if it is Scola's impressive play at the FIBA tournament, or if I've been impressed by some well written pieces on their upcoming season, but I see the Rocket's as a Dark horse for a top 5 seed in the west. They have solid depth and a healthy Yao Ming could make all the difference. But will Yao be the same after his injury, and will he be healthy all season? Will Scola, Martin and Yao be able to co-exist and defer to each other? And was it really a good idea to give a 5 year $47 million dollar contract to 30 year old Luis Scola? Not many players are worth that money at age 35. Winning the division is a far possibility, but winning the West is very unlikely.

Wins? 47

Playoffs? Very likely

How would the Jazz do in a playoff series? The health of Yao Ming and AK will play a big part in this, but the Jazz could win in 6 games.

New Orleans Hornets

They have some good talent on their team, but will CP3 stay content all season? Can he stay healthy all season? The Hornets will be good, and possibly in contention for the 8th seed, but they can't contend with the upper crust of the West. 

Wins? 42

Playoffs? Possible, not likely

How would the Jazz do in the playoff series? D Will always outperforms CP3 head to head, and the Jazz have played very well against the Hornets in recent season. Jazz in 5.

Memphis Grizzlies

They overpaid for Rudy Gay. Mayo, Randolph and Gasol are valuable players, but the team lacks the depth and cohesiveness to really compete. Like the Hornets, they will contend for the 8th seed, but don't expect them to make it, or get out of the first round if they do.

Wins? 41

Playoffs? Possible, not likely

 

Overall, the teams of the West should all show improvement, and none will be automatic rollovers for any team. This Conference still belongs to the Lakers. The Thunder are a likely second, with the Jazz threatening, while the Texas teams battle for the 4-6 spots. Those 6 teams will be the ones contending for the West.

Your comments and suggestions for improvement are welcome.

All comments are the opinion of the commenter and not necessarily that of SLC Dunk or SB Nation.

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