In 1988, Rapper Kool Moe Dee had a hit single called, “The Wild, Wild, West.” The Lyrics are as follows…
“We don’t start trouble, but boy do we end it, our time, we like to spend it.
Snapping, boy do we heat up, but we’ll take time out to beat up
A sucker, if he wants static. Beatdown, yeah we got it”
I can’t think of a more fitting way to describe the Western Conference in the NBA this year. It is going to be “The Wild, Wild, West” Every night is going to be a war on the court. There will be very limited opportunity for players to rest or take nights off. This will be a fun conference to watch from start to finish.
The Sports Whisperer Presents… 2017-18 Western Conference Preview and Prediction.
#1) Golden State Warriors (Projected record, 64-18).
Over the past three season the Warriors have had a record of 67-15, 73-9 and 67-15. That is the best three seasons run in the history of the NBA. Golden States 207 wins surpassed the 1995-98 Bulls win total of 203. The strength of this team is their starting 4.
Stephen Curry, 25.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 6 assists per game.
Kevin Durant, 25.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists per game.
Klay Thompson, 22.3 points per game.
Draymond Green 10.2 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7 assists per game.
This team has gone to three straight finals and they will win 60 games this year without a problem. The key to head coach Steve Kerr season this year will be to develop his bench and make sure his “core four” is healthy for the playoffs. I don’t think this team in unbeatable, but as long as Curry and Durant are healthy they are dangerous every night.
#2) Oklahoma City Thunder (Projected record, 61-21).
Russell Westbrook became the first player since Oscar Robertson to average a triple double in 2017. The former UCLA Bruin averaged 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists per game. Westbrook put up these numbers without a legitimate second option. Their second leading scorer was Victor Oladipo who averaged 15.9 points per game. Russell now was Carmelo Anthony and Paul George to carry the load. He no longer has to be “Mr.Everything.” on the court from start to finish. George, Melo and Westbrook should average 80 points per game between the three of them. You can no longer double or triple team Westbrook. Look for Steven Adams to be a double, double machine. He should thrive on the offensive glass. If the Thunder can find a “lights out” three-point shooter, they can dethrone the three-time Western Conference Champions. Sam Presti, should put a call into Cleveland and ask about J.R. Smith and Kyle Korver. Billy Donovan is a very good coach and he will get this team to gel early.
#3) San Antonio Spurs (Projected record, 57-25).
The Spurs are coming into this season as a major underdog and that is just the way Gregg Popovich likes it, being under the radar. Under Pops watch the Spurs have won 50 or more games for 18 straight years. This record, like Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 points in one game record, will never be broken. No coach will stay with one team for 18 years or win 50 games per year during that time. We are witnessing history every time the Spurs take the court. Before he got hurt last season in the playoffs, Kawhi Leonard was the playoffs MVP. There is nothing he can’t do. He is a lock down defender, a good three-point shooter and very good scorer. Last season the former San Diego State star averaged 25.5 points per game. He rarely takes a forced shot and does all the little things to help his team win. The key to this team’s success will be their young point guard, Dejounte Murray maturation process. The west is stacked with great point guards like, Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, Damian Lillard and Russell Westbrook. The Spurs need Murray to provide consistent play on both sides of the ball. If he can do that the Spurs can make another run in the playoffs. Pop will get this team to win 50 games and if free agent acquisition Rudy Gay can be productive, this team can have success. Gay has a career average of 18.4 points per game. If healthy, he could win 6th man of the year.
#4) Houston Rockets (Projected finish, 55-27.)
This team has enough talent to win over 50 games. But, the problem here is simple… Head coach Mike D’Antoni only knows how to win one way, by outscoring teams. Come playoff time you have to be able to get stops and his teams have never been able to do that. Another question mark coming into the season is James Harden and Chris Paul’s woes in elimination games in the post-season. The Clippers never made it to the Western Conference Finals under Paul’s leadership and the Rockets haven’t under Harden. You have two-star players who never had long term success in the post-season.
#5) Minnesota Timberwolves (Projected finish, 52-30).
If I had to pick a team over the next 5 years in the Eastern Conference it would be the Milwaukee Bucks, If I had to pick a team over the next 5 years in the Western Conference it would be the Minnesota Timberwolves. If head coach Tom Thibodeau doesn’t win 50 games with this team he should be fired. The man they call “Tibs” has got to evolve as a coach and get this team to play a more offensive style. Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson played under “Tibs” and should be leaders on and off the court. Jamaal Crawford should provide instant offense of the bench. Karl-Anthony Townes averaged 25 points and 12.3 rebounds per game last season. Andrew Wiggins could lead the league in scoring this season. Jeff Teague is a huge upgrade from Ricky Rubio. Teague can score 20 points per game and dish out 10 assists from the point guard position.This team should be a legitimate threat and should get better as the season goes on.
#6) LA Clippers (Projected finish, 50-32).
The Clippers lost Chris Paul and Jamaal Crawford, two players who head coach Doc Rivers relied on heavily. Despite those loses, their starting lineup is very good.
PG Patrick Beverly
SG Austin Rivers
SF Danilo Gallinari
PF Blake Griffin
C DeAndre Jordan
Their front court could be one of the best front courts in the NBA. Griffin is a proven passer, scorer and rebounder and Gallinari can go for 30 points on any given night.
Lou Williams should provide more offense off the bench than Crawford did last season.
I like this team as my “Sleeper” out West. They won’t make the finals, but they should win 50 games.
#7) Portland Trailblazers (Projected finish, 49-33).
Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum average 50 points per game combined in 2017. They are one of the best backcourts in the NBA. Center Jusuf Nurkic was acquired last season in a trade and Portland went 13-3 in their final 16 games and made the playoffs. Nurkic suffered a season ending leg injury but is healthy how. With him in the lineup, he is a triple double waiting to happen. Look for him to score 17 points grab about 12 rebounds and dish out 5-6 assists per game. Portland will have to do better defensively if they want to make a run in the post-season. They finished 28th last year, giving up 108.5 points per game. They are going to need bench scoring but their “Big 3” will compete every night.
#8) New Orleans Pelicans (Projected finish, 44-38).
I am tired of hearing how good Anthony Davis is (28 points, 11.8 rebounds, 2.1 blocks per game in 2016-17). If you are that good take your team to the damn playoffs! Allen Iverson carried a bunch of “stiffs” to the NBA finals in 2001-02. LeBron James took a bunch of role players to the Finals in 2007. Neither “AI” or “The King” had anyone close to DeMarcus Cousins on their rosters. Cousins is a double/double every night. He averaged 24 points and 12 rebounds last season. With the addition of Rajon Rondo at the point, this team should get open shots every time down the court. There are no excuses anymore. Make the playoffs!
#9) Memphis Grizzlies (Projected finish, 42-20).
The Grizzlies are like the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL. They always play well during the regular season but are never a threat in the playoffs. I wouldn’t be surprised if they make the playoffs as a 7th or 8th seed but they are not a contender.
#10) Los Angeles Lakers (Projected finish,39-43).
The best thing for the Lakers would be to miss the playoffs and get another top draft pick. They have a bunch of talented young kids on their roster and Luke Walton should get them playing better this season. Their core three of Lonso Ball, Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle should get plenty of playing time. Magic Johnson is running this team and he is going to want to win quickly, but he must be patient. The Lakers aren’t ready to make the playoffs just yet. Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. should provide some scoring off the bench.
I don’t think Ball will win Rookie of the Year. I will give that to Ben Simmons of the 76ers.
The Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets and Sacramento Kings will not make the playoffs, But, out of this group, the Kings should be the best of the bad teams.
Western Conference Finals… Thunder vs. The Warriors.
If Oklahoma City can land a legitimate three-point shooter by the trading deadline they will be almost impossible to stop. In an upset, I like the Thunder to beat the Warriors in 6 games.
NBA Finals Prediction.
Cavs beat the Thunder in 6 games.
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