Predicting the Western Conference Standings for 2012-13

Today I am predicting how I believe things will shakedown in the West. There are a lot of very good teams in the West and there are easily 10 to 11 teams that have a shot at the postseason. Here are my predictions starting at #15 seed and going up to the #1 seed.

#15- Houston Rockets

Someone needs to tell me what the heck the Rockets are doing. They currently have 19 players on their active roster a log jam at 3 positions, especially small forward. They gave 25 million dollars to both Jeremy Lin and Omar Asik, who are both unproven and may be busts. They also gave away Kyle Lowry, Samuel Dalembert, Marcus Camby, and let Luis Scola walk for nothing. Their front office seems to think they are rebuilding, but they confuse me by signing Carlos Delfino and not trading Kevin Martin, who is getting paid 12 million and taking away minutes from Jeremy Lamb. This team needs to find a clear direction and sort through the obscene amount of players on their roster before they can move forward. They will struggle this year for sure.

#14- New Orleans Hornets

New Orleans will be good in 2 or 3 years, but Anthony Davis, Austin Rivers, and their young core players need to develop and grow together. I love what they did this offseason because they solidified most of the starting lineup through the draft and brought in solid complementary players like Darius Miller, Brook Lopez, and Ryan Anderson. They will have great cap space for the next 4 years and will be able to afford better players in the next few free agent periods. The core lineup of A.Rivers/E.Gordon/A.Aminu/R.Anderson/A.Davis with B.Lopez/D.Miller/X.Henry/J.Smith coming off the bench, this team will improve quickly and may be a consistent playoff team sooner than many think. But not this year.

#13- Portland Trailblazers

Head coach Terry Stotts said that he thinks Portland is a playoff team…. ha. I love Damian Lillard, but he is going to take a couple years to develop as a legit PG. Portland is starting 2 rookies and don’t have much maturity on their roster outside of Aldridge and Batum. This could be a great team in 2 or 3 seasons, but they are going to struggle this year while they give Damian Lillard and Meyers Leonard time to develop in the NBA.

#12- Phoenix Suns

I think that the Phoenix Suns should have gone into a rebuilding faze after Steve Nash’s departure, but they want to try to stay competitive. They figured the way to do that would be by signing a career long backup point guard Goran Dragic, a ball hog Michael Beasley, and trade for a lottery bust Wes Johnson. They did however bring in Luis Scola for cheap after he was amnestied by Houston which was a great move. But they will be starting Dragic/Johnson/Beasley/Scola/Gortat and backing them up with K.Marshall/S.Brown/J.Dudley/M.Morris/C.Frye. None of those players play very solid defense and that will be a huge issue for this team. They may score 102 to 107 points per game, but they will likely give up 105 to 110. As a Warriors fan, I know that just trying to score as many points as you can isn’t a good formula for winning if you can’t stop your opponents from scoring all the points they can get too.

#11- Sacramento Kings

The Kings are going to surprise people this season and emerge as a legit playoff contender. They definitely will not sniff the playoffs this year, but may contend for the 8th spot for a good chunk of the year. I like their lineup apart from Tyreke Evans, who needs to be traded, but they have great big men and can outscore most teams in the league. Their big problem is similar to Phoenix because they will not play a lot of defense. They do have Jason Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins to hold the paint down, which makes them better than the Suns, but they will still need to improve defensively and upgrade at the small forward position before they will be a playoff team.

#10- Utah Jazz

I love the great depth that Utah has in the Center and Power Forward positions, but everything else worries me about this team. I think that Utah has great chance at a 7th or 8th playoff spot, but my knock on them is their talent and depth and the 1, 2, and 3 spots. I don’t have much confidence in Mo Williams at the 1, Randy Foye at the 2, or Marvin Williams at the 3. Utah is going to be a magnificent defensive team in the post as usual, but they will struggle to guards elite guards and star small forwards. They will be a .500 team or may be a couple games over that.

#9- Minnesota Timberwolves

I am really on the fence about leaving Minnesota out of the playoffs because they do look very good, but I think that Ricky Rubio being out is going to hurt this team just enough in the beginning of the season to keep them out of a 8th spot. Ricky Rubio was the key to their sucess last year and without him they are left with Luke Ridnour and JJ Barea, who are both just solid NBA backups. Their additions of Brandon Roy, Alexey Shved, Andrei Kirilenko, and Greg Stiesma were very smart, but are high-risk/ high-reward signings. Roy’s knees have to be heatlhy, Shved’s game needs to translate to the league, Kirilenko needs to prove that he is as good as he was in the Olympics, and Stiesma needs to show that last season wasn’t a fluke. Too many things need to go right for Minnesota to be a lock in my eyes, so I am giving them the spot of last team out.

#8- Dallas Mavericks

Dallas is an iffy team to me this season. They are going to rely heavily on a group of new players in the Mavericks franchise. Darren Collison, OJ Mayo, Shawn Marion, Dirk, and Chris Kaman is a solid starting unit, but this season hinges on the bench for the Mavs. There is no more Jason Terry to be the 6th man, so who will step up for them? I think the Mavs are about 9 men deep with Elton Brand, Dahanty Jones, Roddy Beaubois, and Delonte West being the main players off the bench and Jae Crowder, the rookie forward from Marquette, could be a big contributor as well. I think the Mavs will continue their consistent trend of making the playoffs.

#7- Golden State Warriors

Finally, my beloved Warriors. They obviously have big injury concerns, but so do the T’Wolves, Lakers, and Clippers. I think that this Warriors team can with stand some injuries because of their ridiculous depth. The Warriors have a top 5 bench with Jarrett Jack, Brandon Rush, Richard Jefferson, Carl Landry, Draymond Green, Charles Jenkins, and Festus Ezeli coming in for the starters. The Warriors are a better defensive and rebounding team and they increased their toughness as well as added players that are hungry to win. This will a dangerous team all season and look for them to possibly come up with another jaw dropping upset in the playoffs like they had in 2007.

#6- Memphis Grizzles

The Grizzles are a title contender, you heard it here first. They are a dangerous playoff team and they will put any team they face in the playoffs to the test. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph form one of the best big man duos in the league and the Grizzles also have a great small forward in Rudy Gay. The only question for the Grizz come playoff time will be the inexperience of their bench, but I don’t see it being much of a problem for them. This will be a sleeper team for sure.

#5- Los Angeles Clippers

Clippers fans must be very happy to hear that Blake Griffin is ready to go for the season and will not be hampered by the knee he injured playing with team USA prior to the Olympics. Chris Paul’s finger is the only other large red flag for this team right now. They brought great bench depth this offseason by adding Jamal Crawford, Grant Hill, Lamar Odom, and Ronny Turiaf. This is a great regular season team, but am just not sold on them performing in the playoffs. They most likely face Memphis, San Antonio, or Denver and I don’t like their chances in a 7 game series against any of those teams.

#4- Denver Nuggets

Andre Igoudala has come to town and now Denver should get ready to see their Nuggets contend for a spot in the Western Conference Finals. I love this roster because they are tough, play defense, score, and have the best depth in the league. Many can make an argument for San Antonio, but just like the talent up and down Denver’s roster a little bit better. I am interested to see how JaVale McGee will grow this season, but even if he falters, there is Timofey Mozgov and Kosta Koufos to back him up. Kenneith Faried is going to continue his rise to becoming a household name this year by continuing to dominate and play at a high level.

#3- San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs are old and crusty, but they still manage to contend every year. I have learned my lesson about betting against the Spurs, so I have them in the mix in the West again this season. I think the Spurs keep sticking around because of Greg Poppavich, who in my opinion is the 2nd best coaching NBA history behind Phil Jackson. Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker will continue to lead this team to wins for a couple more years before the flame dies out in San Antonio.

#2- Los Angeles Lakers

LA is stacked, but we will see how all the pieces will fit together. Kobe needs to take a step back to allow Nash and Howard to play at their full potential. I think Kobe Bryant may be the biggest obstacle in the way of the Lakers pursuit for a title.

#1- Oklahoma City Thunder

Oklahoma City is in the last year of being Western Conference top dogs. With contract issues beginning to arise for the organization, they have to make a decision about whether to start spending the big buck or not. Hopefully they can keep Harden on and continue their run for a title, but money may force them to find a new core of bench players to help Durant, Westbrook, and Ibaka get a ring.

I will be predicting the Eastern Conference on Saturday!


My Power Rankings Post-Free Agency

Even though the free agency period is still ongoing, there are very few decent free agents available it is very clear where most of the NBA teams stand. So here is my take on the current Power Rankings starting from 30 and going to 1.

#30-Charlotte Bobcats

The Charlotte Bobcats are coming off of the worst season in NBA history and although they had a productive off-season, it is hard to rank a team that went 7-59 last season anything but dead last.

#29-Orlando Magic

Sorry to the Magic fans out there, but your team is going into the dreaded “rebuilding mode.” The new GM Rob Hennigan has made it very clear that he plans to build like the Magic using the OKC method of building through the draft, and even though OKC is one of the NBA’s best teams now, it took them a long time to make that team a consistent winner. So it seems like the Magic plan on being in the cellar of the NBA for the next 3 to 4 years at least. Their lack of depth and quality at Point Guard, Power Forward, and Center all but guarantees this Magic team to be one of the NBA’s worst after losing Dwight Howard.

#28-Houston Rockets

Jeremy Lin and Omar Asik are risky signings for Houston considering what they paid those two unproven players. Asik has never been a starter and Jeremy Lin is the 1st player to be paid $25 million by a team after just 3 weeks of work. Outside those two guys, the rest of the roster is in complete disarray. No one in the league knows what the hell Houston is doing. They currently have 20 players on their roster, they are a mess.

#27-Detroit Pistons

Many people are optimistic about the Pistons this year, but I am not. I don’t think that their roster really gels together, and any team with Corey Maggette is completely screwed. I love Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight, but not much else on that roster.

#26-Portland Trailblazers

I read the other day the new Blazers coach Terry Stotts thinks that they can compete for a playoff spot… Come on man, be real. I think that they have great young talent in Lillard and Leonard, but I think there is no shot that Nic Batum and LaMarcus Aldridge can carry that team anywhere close to a playoff spot. They are 2 or 3 years away from being competitive in a really stacked Western Conference.

#25-Cleveland Cavaliers

I think that Kyrie Irving is going to be a star point guard for a long time, but he has really young and weak roster backing him up. I think that the Cavs are in the same spot as the Blazers, and are a few years away from being a playoff team.

#24-New Orleans Hornets

Many Power Rankings out right now have the Hornets ranked far above where they should be. Anthony Davis is not the savior for this franchise. However, he is a great players to build around and Eric Gordon is a great sidekick to have by his side, but this roster is not talented enough to do much more than produce a developmental team this season.

#23-Sacramento Kings

I think that this Sacramento team has some really great young players such as DeMarcus Cousins, Jason Thompson, Thomas Robinson, Marcus Thornton, and Issiah Thomas, but this team is going nowhere if they don’t get rid of Tyreke Evans. They now have him playing small forward, and at 6’6″ 215lbs, he is too undersized to play that spot and will get abused nightly by the stellar 3’s in the NBA. They need to trade him for a 1st rounder or small forward who can help them now.

#22-Washington Wizards

Don’t let the nice looking starting lineup of Wall/Beal/Ariza/Nene/Okeafor fool you because this team is all those 5 guys. There is no depth at any position on that roster, and I think that they won’t make the playoffs with just a starting lineup.

#21-Pheonix Suns

This team definitely signed some decent players, but I am not sold on Michael Beasley all of sudden becoming a good starting 3 in this league or Goran Dragic being able to fill the shoes of Steve Nash, who gave that team an elite floor general for years and years. I think that had they cashed in on Eric Gordon, they would be competing for a playoff spot, but they got unlucky and are stuck with a team that just won’t be able to keep up with the rest of the West.

#20-Toronto Raptors

I truly hope that the Raptors make me regret this ranking because I actually love their roster, as well as their ability to compete in a weaker Eastern conference. Signing Landry Fields and bringing in Kyle Lowry makes their back court completely stacked. The only thing about this roster that makes me uneasy is the uncertainty of how Jonas Valanciunas will play as well as the other Toronto big men. I think that their are a bit weak at the 4 and 5, and that could hurt them over the course of the season.

#19-Chicago Bulls
Without Derrick Rose for a good chunk of the season, this roster is going to struggle and I think that they won’t be able to recover in the standings for the time that DRose misses. The group that Chicago is going to put on the floor is weaker than last year’s team and they will most likely miss the playoffs or barely get in with an 8 seed.

#18-Minnesota Timberwolves

I think that the Timberwolves  and the Warriors are just about equal talent wise on paper, they both have similar injury concerns and I believe that healthy this T’Wolves team is a threat to make the playoff hopes of the Warriors difficult to achieve. KLove is my boy.

#17-Golden State Warriors

I am only placing the Warriors here because they haven’t proved anything yet. I think that on paper this is a 6-8 seeded playoff team, but actually need to get out on the court and perform before I can rank them as such. I love every move that they have made this off-season, by bringing in Carl Landry, Jarrett Jack, and the 3 draft picks as well as re-signing Brandon Rush. This is a deep team, that is poised for a playoff spot IF they can stay healthy.

#16-Utah Jazz

I also love the roster of the Utah Jazz and it is my belief that they could be one of the teams making life difficult for the Warriors all season. They have size, toughness, and rebounding which are all qualities that most recent Warriors teams have lacked. Plus they always are a tough win for us.

#15-Milwaukee Bucks

Monta. Ekpe. Brandon Jennings. Plus Rebounding and defense. Enough said…

#14-Brooklyn Nets

I don’t like ranking the Nets here, but they had a great free agency period and that starting 5 is one the top 3 or 4 in the NBA. They have absolutely no depth, which is why they will probably be a low end playoff team with 1st round upset written all over them.

#13-Dallas Mavericks

I am not that excited about this Mavs team, but they still have Dirk and a ridiculously consistent record of consecutive playoff appearances, so I will not be a hater. Darren Collison and OJ Mayo will be interesting to watch on this team. Maybe the Mavs have found gold in those two guys.

#12-Atlanta Hawks

This another consistent playoff team that I will not bet against, so that is why I have them ranked here. Can’t count out All-Stars Al Horford and Josh Smith. Lou Williams also has a chance to prove himself as a legitimate starter in the NBA. Will be a great defensive squad, and great defensive teams win games.

#11-Philadelphia 76ers

This is a really exciting team now that they acquired Andrew Bynum. This is another starting 5 that is amongst the best in the entire league, and what I love about this team is their ability to play elite defense and their ridiculous depth. They could be a Eastern Conference Finals dark-horse.

#10-Memphis Grizzles

This is a great team, but the bench worries me a little bit. Darrel Arthur coming off of major knee surgery is a big red flag for them. I was really surprised that they traded away Dante Cunningham, but we will see how their bench looks. Definitely not one the best benches out there, and may force them to fight with teams like Minnesota, Dallas, Utah, and Golden State for a low end playoff seed.

#9-New York Knicks

This is a very deep team, but I think that I am not sold at how these guys will all fit together. Carmelo and Amare gelling will be the biggest issue, but developing a rotation of guys to come off of the bench will also be a big thing for the Knicks to deal with. They could compete for a championship if those things get hammered out over the course of the regular season.

#8-Denver Nuggets

This is a scary team, could be a 3-6 seed in my opinion, but Igoudala, Lawson, McGee, Faried, and Galinari is a great starting 5. Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mozgov, and Andre Miller coming off the bench is what makes this team very good and very annoying for the Lakers, Spurs, and Thunder come playoff time.

#7-Los Angeles Clippers

Blake Griffin’s knees are a big concern for this team as well as the fact that DeAndre Jordan is showing that they paid him way too much money. But they have a much better bench this season and are a big threat in the West. CP3 and Blake rocking “Lob City” in the playoffs is going to be a fun watch.

#6-Indiana Pacers

A ton of people have been hating on Danny Granger this off-season and it has to stop. I love his heart, his swagger, and his game. This is a team that took a small step back in the free agency period so far, but re-signing Leandro Barbosa should be a top priority and will get them back on the straight and narrow.

#5-Boston Celtics

The Celtics won free agency in my mind because they turned a whole bunch of nothing into what looks to be another title threat by bringing in JET, CLee, and Jeff Green. KG, Rondo, and Paul Pierce and the big 3 now and they want another ring, so watch out NBA.

#4-San Antonio Spurs

It’s so easy to explain the Spurs ranking, THEY ARE COACHED BY GREG POPAVICH AND ARE STARRED BY THE BIG FUNDAMENTAL. Enough said.

#3-Los Angeles Lakers

Nash, Kobe, MWP, Pau, DH12… ummmm I just shit my pants. This is just an unreal starting 5. Might be the best ever assembled, but their bench is thin. And I am a big believer in the bench playing a large role on a successful team, so I look at Jodie Meeks, Antwan Jamison, and Jordan Hill and think that there has to be more there to make this team a lock to win a title.

#2-OKC Thunder

Repeating Western Conference Champs that are lead by KD, Westbrook, Ibaka, and James Harden. This team is the top of the West in my mind until someone dethrones them. The Lakers are going to be hunting them all year and it makes me hope for a Lakers-Thunder western finals this year.

#1-Miami Heat

Three Words are all that is needed here: Champs, DWade, LeBron…..