Yesterday Jeff Sherman, a prominent Las Vegas oddsmaker, released his preliminary NBA standings predictions. Here they are:
Some of these totals make sense: You’d have to be an idiot to not pick Golden State to win the Western Conference, after all. And Boston, Cleveland, Washington, and Toronto taking homecourt advantage in the East makes sense, though the Bucks could be a dark horse there.
Realistically, this dude has the top four spots in the West right. However, get a load of spots 5-10.
Yeah, yeah, I know. The Timberwolves won the offseason. They’ve got a pair of promising young stars in Karl Anthony Towns and Jimmy Butler, and they think they’ve solved their point guard problem by gifting us Ricky Rubio (thanks, guys!) and acquiring an injury-prone Jeff Teague. It’s not impossible that they’ll end up fifth, but it’s unlikely for two reasons: First, teams don’t learn to win overnight. They need time to gel together. They’ll be better, but I’m not convinced that they’re 17 games better.
Everyone is on the Nikola Jokic hype train, and it’s hard to blame them. They picked up Paul Millsap, gifted us Donovan Mitchell, and have a few other intriguing players in Emmanuel Mudiay, Juan Hernangomez, and Kenneth Faried (I guess). Are they 5 games better than last year? I think they are. This is a reasonable position for the Nuggs, but I’m unconvinced that they’re this much better than the Jazz, if they’re better at all.
The Clips have some good basketball players on their roster. No, really, they do. Blake Griffin, Deandre Jordan, Danilo Galinari, and Patrick Beverley are good at their jobs. Here’s the thing, though: those guys are all injury-prone, their bench is abysmal, (with the possible exception of Teodosic) and I think the wheels fall off without Chris Paul. Here’s a hot take: the Clippers are not making the playoffs this year.
I underestimate the Blazers every season, even though they’ve had Utah’s number the past few years. They’re always dangerous with CJ McCollum and Weber State University’s very own Damian Lillard in the backcourt, but they are not deep, and Jusuf Nurkic is still an experiment. Could the Blazers make the playoffs? Yeah, I guess. Are they better than the Jazz? Hot take #2: No.
The Jazz took their lumps this offseason, but Dennis Lindsey and the front office managed to work some decent magic. They stole Ricky Rubio from the Timberpups. They stole Donovan Mitchell from the Nuggets. They signed Thabo Sefolosha and Ekpe Udoh, two defensive-minded vets who, even if they don’t score, will make the Jazz that much more difficult to score on. Will they eclipse the 50-win mark again? I’m skeptical, but I refuse to accept that they’ll fall 11 wins short of their 2016-2017 total.
Here’s my final hot take: The Jazz win somewhere between 44 and 47 games and make the playoffs as the 6-7 seed. They’re not going to win it all, but they’ll be fun to watch.