Predicting the Western Conference 2018/19

*Updated 7/27*

This is still a little premature since free agency isn't finished but most of the big free agents are signed.

I tried to list roster changes for each team including 1st round draft picks (but not second). I'll try to update the list as players sign with new teams.

I also tried guessing about each team's 2018/19 outlook and record. Since I don't follow each of these teams closely I don't know how their roster changes will affect them.

Each team in order of last years standings:

1. Houston (65 wins)

Roster Changes: Lost Ariza, Mbah a Moute. Added Ennis III, Melton, Edwards, Carter-Williams. Waiting J Johnson, B Wright.

2018/19 Outlook: They were historically great last year so it's unlikely they'll be as good this year. The lost a couple key role players and Paul is getting older. Harden will still be an MVP-candidate and Capela should improve some.

My guess at record: 53-58 wins

2. Golden State (58 wins)

Roster Changes: Lost Pachulia, McGee. Added Cousins, Jacob Evans, Jerebko. Waiting on David West, Nick Young.

2018/19 Outlook: They're losing some depth at C but those players didn't get many minutes anyways. And anything they lose should be more than made up by Cousins. Cousins may not play to start the season so integrating him mid-year may have growing pains. Complacency is probably the only thing keeping them from breaking more records.

My guess at record: 58-63 wins

3. Portland (49 wins)

Roster Changes: Lost Ed Davis, Napier. Added Seth Curry, Simons, Gary Trent, Stauskas.

2018/19 Outlook: No major roster changes (Davis and Napier were role players) and no key players returning from injury so I expect they'll be about the same as last year, if not down a little if the rest of the west is healthy (it seems like every other team had lots of injuries).

My guess at record: 45-50 wins

4. Oklahoma (48 wins)

Roster Changes: Lost Carmelo. Added Noel, Schroder, Devon Hall, Diallo, Hervey, Luwawu-Caborrt.

2018/19 Outlook: Losing Melo probably won't hurt much and may even help. Melo did contribute some to their regular season but the playoffs showed he wasn't going to work going forward. Andre Robinson missed a lot of games last year and was an important part of their defense. Noel and Schroder could be interesting additions but Westbrook, George, and Adams will still carry this team.

My guess at record: 47-52 wins

5. Utah (48 wins)

Roster Changes: Lost Jerebko. Added Allen.

2018/19 Outlook: No meaningful roster changes. Gobert, Exum, and Sefolosha missed a chunk of games due to injury. Mitchell should improve (but important to keep reasonable expectations) and roster continuity counts for something (though other teams also have continuity in key players). Impossible to predict future injuries but if the team stays healthy they should improve.

My guess at record: 52-57 wins

6. New Orleans (48 wins)

Roster Changes: Lost Cousins, Rondo. Added Randle, Elfrid Payton, Carr

2018/19 Outlook: Losing Cousins hurts but Davis seems plenty capable of picking up the slack (he was arguably the league's best player after Cousins' injury). Randle and Payton are nice additions but probably not enough to make up for losing Cousins. Holiday should still be good.

My guess at record: 43-48 wins

7. San Antonio (47 wins)

Roster Changes: Lost Parker, Kyle Anderson, Kawhi, Green. Added DeRozan, Poetl, Belinelli, Walker, Metu, Cunningham. Waiting on …

2018/19 Outlook: Losing Parker and Anderson isn't ideal but neither were essential. Similarly, Green was an important role player but peaked 4-5 years ago. Losing Kawhi doesn't make them worse than they were last year. DeRozan isn't as good as Leonard, but he's better than 9 games of Leonard. I'm not sure what Poetl is really capable of. I have no idea how Popovich managed 47 wins with last year's roster so I see them improving with DeRozan but could also regress to their likely true mean. But when in doubt, don't bet against Pop.

My guess at record: 47-52 wins

8. Minnesota (47 wins)

Roster Changes: Lost Bjelica. Added Okogie, Tolliver, Bates-Diop. Waiting on Crawford.

2018/19 Outlook: Butler missed a chunk of games but should be healthy to start the season. Other key players are returning and still improving so I expect the team's record to also improve but coach Thibs may wear his players down too quickly.

My guess at record: 47-52 wins

9. Denver (46 wins)

Roster Changes: Lost Wilson Chandler, Faried, Arthur. Added Michael Porter, Isaiah Thomas, Vanderbilt, Welsh, Monte Morris.

2018/19 Outlook: Losing Chandler should be offset by having a healthy Milsap. Jokic, Barton, and Harris should all improve. Porter may not play this season with back problems but could be a strong player if healthy. Largest unknown is whether they get Celtics Thomas (all-star) or Cavs/Lakers Thomas (role player).

My guess at record: 45-50 wins

10. LA Clippers (42 wins)

Roster Changes: Lost DeAndre Jordan, Rivers. Added Gortat, Mbah a Moute, Gilgeous-Alexander, Jerome Robinson.

2018/19 Outlook: One of the few teams I suspect will actually get worse this year. I don't think losing Jordan matters as much as others but I also don't see how they're keeping up with the rest of the conference. They lost Griffin midway through last season but their record was about the same after the trade. Harris should be better but he and Lou Wiliams can't carry the team.

My guess at record: 30-35 wins

11. LA Lakers (35 wins)

Roster Changes: Lost Randle, Lopez, Frye, I Thomas, T. Bryant. Added LeBron, Rondo, Stephenson, Beasley, McGee Wagner.

2018/19 Outlook: They're almost guaranteed to get better but I can't predict how much. The roster had a lot of changes but LeBron is worth more than continuity. This is a very different roster for LeBron and there's no certainty it will work. But they still added LeBron to a team that won 35 games. Ingram, Ball, and Kuzma will be better. The veteran free agents may not fit with LeBron's game but it may not matter.

My guess at record: 48-53.

12. Sacramento (27 wins)

Roster Changes: Lost Carter, Temple. Added Bagley, McLemore, Davis, Bjelica, Ferrell.

2018/19 Outlook: My apologies to Sacramento, but who cares about this team; Bagley is the only thing worth following. They don't even have an incentive to tank since they traded away their pick with no protection (life lesson: always use protection).

My guess at record: 15-20 wins

13. Dallas (24 wins)

Roster Changes: Lost Noel, Seth Curry, McDermott, Ferrell. Added DeAndre Jordan, Doncic, Brunson, Spalding, K. Antetokounmpo, Broekhoff.

2018/19 Outlook: Dallas is in a little limbo until Dirk retires. Doncic could be the best player from the draft, Jordan is an upgrade, and they lost a lot of games to injury last year but I still don't see their roster offering much more than last year. They have incentive to do poorly but I don't think the team will embrace tanking as long as Dirk plays.

My guess at record: 25-30 wins

14. Memphis (22 wins)

Roster Changes: Lost Evans, James Ennis, McLemore, Deyonta Davis. Added Kyle Anderson, J Jackson Jr., Temple, Carter, Casspi, Shelvin Mack.

2018/19 Outlook: They lost a lot of games to injury last year, so health alone should make a big difference. A healthy Conley should make up for losing Evans. Gasol is getting older but his game was never about athleticism so he should still be productive.

My guess at record: 25-30 wins

15. Phoenix (21 wins)

Roster Changes: Added Ayton, Ariza, Mikal Bridges, Okobo, Holmes. Lost Elfrid Payton, Dudley, Alex Len.

2018/19 Outlook: Youth and injuries ensured Phoenix a terrible record last year. They may be healthy this season but they're still young. I expect some improvement but not much.

My guess at record: 25-30 wins

Based on the above I have the west standings to be:

  1. Golden State (58-63 wins)
  2. Houston (53-58 wins)
  3. Utah (52-57 wins)
  4. LA Lakers (48-53 wins)
  5. San Antonio (47-52 wins)
  6. Oklahoma (47-52 wins)
  7. Minnesota (47-52 wins)
  8. Portland (45-50 wins)
  9. Denver (45-50 wins)
  10. New Orleans (43-48 wins)
  11. LA Clippers (30-35 wins)
  12. Phoenix (25-30 wins)
  13. Memphis (25-30 wins)
  14. Dallas (25-30 wins)
  15. Sacramento (15-20 wins)

My Jazz homerism is coming through and I may have pegged them too high.

My guesses would put the average western conference team between 43-47 wins; last year the average west team won 41.8 games. Based on this offseason I suspect the average west team will win about 43-44 games next year (near a historical high), which is on the low end of my guess based on team records, so I may have over estimated a few teams' records.

Remaining (and semi-notable) free agents:

Wade, Rodney Hood, Monroe, West, Booker, Jamal Crawford, Joe Johnson, Brandon Wright, Corey Brewer, Davis Bertans, Nick Young.

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