By: Rob Botts
The Western Conference of the National Basketball Association will be strong once again. Feels like a broken record that has been playing over and over again for years now right? A platinum record that is, however. The Cleveland Cavaliers may be the champs but they are in the “Leastern” conference. All the contenders to the throne are out west. Since the MLB playoffs are upon us, let’s go around the horn, shall we?
Golden State Warriors: These dudes had a record-breaking regular season to the tune of 73 wins. BUT, all that happiness came to an abrupt halt as we all know in the Finals last June. To react or overreact. Which would it be for the Bay area’s professional hoop team’s front office? Neither. The overreaction came to them from one Kevin Durant. This team thrives on ball movement, ball movement and when all that fails, ball movement. Will there be enough ball to be moved around by Steve Kerr and his staff? I think there will be. I think this team will stumble a bit out of the blocks but will eventually find themselves to the depression of all other squads. Curry, Thompson, and Durant may end up giving up some shots, but they won’t be giving too many wins.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Speaking of not giving up too many wins…I get it. A change had to be made. How far were they going to get with Durant and Westbrook together? They made the finals years ago but couldn’t win and they just seem to be going in circles. Never really taking that next step. Russell Westbrook is gong to take one gigantic, angry step towards the scoring title and possible MVP though. He will attempt to carry this team as much as he can but will need help. I just don’t think there is much help there.
San Antonio Spurs: It sounds strange doesn’t it. Have you tried saying it out loud just for the pure awkward pleasure of it? Tim Duncan is retired. Weird right? He has been the backbone of one of the most successful and quiet dynasties the NBA has ever seen. LaMarcus Aldridge and recently added Pau Gasol will provide leadership and a nice twin tower formation upfront while Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili just keep on keeping on. All the way to maybe the conference finals?
Memphis Grizzlies: You remember that great old expression: “Are you hurt or are you injured? Because if you are hurt, you can play. If you’re injured, you can’t.” Well, folks, as we all know and as Memphis can tell, man were they INJURED last year. Team stars Marc Gasol and Mike Conley were both sidelined for long stretches. And they still made the dance last year. Those two are back(Conley with a huge deal) and they snagged Chandler Parson who will get out on the break for some pull-up threes or some nice slices down the lane. What does all this mean? Middle to upper end of the western pack this year.
Los Angeles Clippers: Is this just what the Doctor ordered? Well, it might not be exactly what Doc Rivers had scribbled down on the official Los Angeles Clippers prescription pad but it will have to do. “Swish two and call me in the morning.” The window is starting to close on this particular incarnation of the “other team” in LA LA Land. They lost out on The Durantula but hung on to Doc’s son Austin Rivers and the super sixth man who loves to dance at the top of the key before draining that oh so sweet, high-arcing jumper, Mr. Jamal Crawford. If they stay healthy, the main core of DeAndre Jordan, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin should be able to take the Clippers to near the top of the conference before Mr. Free Agency shows u to break up the party next June.
Minnesota Timberwolves: The big wolf has moved on to quieter and warmer Malibu CA cave for a nice long retirement. Even though Kevin Garnett had plenty of bark left in him, his bite had left him seasons ago. Are they any teeth left in Minnesota cave? You bet there is. This squad has some of the best young pups in Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, and Zach Lavine.(You have seen this dude dunk right?) With new Alpha wolf Tom Thibodeau as their head coach, this team WILL play defense and this team WILL make the playoffs for the first time in a very long time.
Portland Trailblazers: Ok, so this team went out on a little bit of shopping spree this summer. Somebody up there in Portland’s front office found the nest egg and cracked it wide open. Stars Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum will try and carry the squad but it won;t be enough THIS year. This is a longer rebuild and the money they have spent will begin to build that foundation. This won’t be a flip.
Dallas Mavericks: Head coach Rick Carlisle has done a tremendous job at the helm of the organization. They won a title and are competitive every year. But this is going to be the year where the eventual rebuild begins to show it’s ugly face. With Dirk Nowitzki’s brilliant career starting to some to a close and with Dallas adding 2 defensive ballers to the squad, this team won’t; be challenging any single game scoring records anytime soon. Marc Cuban’s guys just won;t be able to keep their head;s above water in this year’s NBA’s version of the shark tank.
Houston Rockets: To quote the late, great NFL coach Dennis Green: “They(James Harden, Dwight Howard and Mike D’Antoni) are who we thought they were.” Dribble, dribble, dribble, step back shot.(Harden) Rebound, try and dribble, hook shot that falls short, foul trouble.(Howard) Have everybody run to the three point line, complain to the refs and not have a clue what to do on defense.(D’Antoni) Houston, we here have inspected your NBA vehicle this season, and there is a problem with your “Clutch.”
Utah Jazz: These dudes were pretty scrappy last year and really embodied their lively and intense ex-Duke assistant and current Jazz head coach Quin Snyder. Would have been nice to still have Trey Burke but George Hill (Indiana), Joe Johnson (Miami) were nice additions. This team however lives and dies with the following 3 hoopers: Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, and Rudy Gobert. These guys are young, tough and will only get better. The problem with Utah is they really struggle to get out on the break and get easy hoops. It’s like a collegiate wrestling match to just get a bucket in the half court set. Watch out for a sneaky good pick up Boris Diaw. he will really help smooth things out with his smart passing. Prediction? Shocker: Middle of the lack. Again. They are getting better, though.
New Orleans Pelicans: This team will be missing the shooting of Ryan Anderson and the really creative and strong playmaking abilities of Jrue Holiday who is going being with his wife as she battles a brain tumor. His wife is courageous and it is fantastic that he is there with her. The team itself just won’t be that good this year. They lack depth and they lack talent. The only box office talent they have is obviously Mr. Anthony Davis who is looking to bounce back from an injury-plagued season last year. He will do his best and will dominate at certain points this season but the one man band he is currently playing on won’t be enough. This will be another lost season for the birds.
Sacramento Kings: Headman Dave Joerger will be the key t this tea,’s success this year in the league. He is smart and really got the best out of some rough characters in Memphis. DeMarcus Cousins will love playing for this guy. That is if it possible for him to love playing for anybody. The guy is box office with 25 points and 12 rebounds on a very consistent basis. Scoring,(Rudy Gay)defense(Arron Afflalo) and three-point shooting(Omri Casspi) won’t be a problem for the team this year but making any major headway towards the top of the conference will be. This isn’t a rebuild as much as it is a reconfiguring. Get your cowbells ready.
Phoenix Suns: The organization has had some really memorable players over their years out there in the desert. From Kevin and Eddie Johnson and Tom Chambers to Charles Barkley and “Thunder Dan” Majerle, they have alway been exciting. Unfortunately, that excitement has been quieted over the last two seasons with players leaving after expectations were not met. Well, get ready fans out there in the valley of the sun to meet expectations. I am sorry to deliver the news that the expectations are that you won’t win many games this year. If only sun block could prevent what is about to happen to their team.
Los Angeles Lakers: Laker fans, Kobe Bryant isn’t walking / limping / slithering through that door anymore. You guys are on your own. You know who is walking through that door? One Mr. Luke Walton. The former Laker and former Golden State Warrior assistant coach who now has his dream cash grab..errr…I mean dream job. Get ready for an absolute nightmare of a regular season this year Laker fans. Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng are two understudies being asked to take center stage under the bright Hollywood lights. Good thing nobody will be watching. From the stands anyway. This just could end up being none of the worst seasons a Laker team will endure. Draft pick Brandon Ingram will have to learn on the fly this season and could be a very small bright spot in what looks to be a very dark season for the kids in Purple and Gold.
Denver Nuggets: The days of the running and gunning Nuggets have been long gone. These dudes will be grinding games out and will be competitive. The team plays hard for their head coach Mike Malone who is looking to improve on what he is slowly building. If Danilo Gallinari stays healthy, it could be his breakout year, Low post and fast break nightmare Kenneth Faried along with Nikola Jokic‘s and Wilson Chandler‘s will give teams fits at times. But only at times and when they go to the bench, that is where the problems begin. No depth in the western conference means no consistency. That won’t get it done.