Your Definitive Guide To The 2016-17 NBA Season: Part 2

Check out Part 1 of my massive season preview. It covers the entire Eastern Conference. It’s time to look west.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

western

Is there even anything to say about the Western Conference this year? In recent years the West had built up a reputation of being THE conference. Teams with winning records in the West were missing the playoffs while the 5th placed team in the East had a losing record. The East has gradually become more competitive and things have begun to level out, but for at least this year there is a clear, undisputed favorite in the West. Much like the Heat and Cavaliers teams with LeBron it was just an accepted fact that he would reach the Finals in June. The Warriors now have that distinction. Coming into last season everybody knew that Steph Curry and the Warriors would run the table in the West, and that fact is more evident than ever this year thanks to Golden State’s acquisition of Kevin Durant during the free agency period. While it is merely a pipe dream for other teams to topple the Warriors there are some contenders that’ll at least give them a good fight:

southwest-v2

The Southwest Division has been thoroughly dominated by the San Antonio Spurs since it was formed prior to the 2004-05 season. The Spurs have accumulated eight out of a possible twelve division titles. There is little fight in this division for the Spurs, much less the Warriors.

spurs

Predicted Starting 5:

PG: Tony Parker

SG: Danny Green

SF: Kawhi Leonard

PF: LaMarcus Aldridge

C: Pau Gasol

Tim Duncan is gone, but Gregg Popovich is returning for his 21st (!!!) season at the helm. The Spurs certainly won’t be the same without “The Big Fundamental”, but Pau Gasol is a fairly capable replacement. Duncan leaves behind a tremendous legacy, but his stats from the previous season are nothing special. Gasol will fit in in this offense nicely because his style of play matches what Pop is looking for in a center, and he should more than make up for Duncan’s absence. The real challenge here is replacing Boban Marjanovic’s size. Dewayne Dedmon is not good at basketball. Would it surprise me if he plays well because of Pop’s coaching ability? No, but I don’t expect big things from him. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are still around as well, and both will still have big roles in the team despite the emergence of Kawhi Leonard and talent of LaMarcus Aldridge. Ginobili has adapted to the sixth man role well and Tony Parker has developed an improved outside shot. Pop’s innovation and ability to help his players adapt to new roles is proof that age is merely a number. Recent rumors have arisen linking Aldridge with a move to another contender, but he has since squashed them. The depth that San Antonio possesses is not formidable, and the longevity of the starters may very well decide how far this team goes. Regardless a Popovich-coached team always figures to find the top of the Western Conference standings by the end of the season.

Projected record: 53-29

rockets

Predicted Starting 5:

PG: James Harden

SG: K.J. McDaniels

SF: Trevor Ariza

PF: Ryan Anderson

C: Nene

Yep. James Harden at point guard. This should be fun. The Oklahoma City Thunder, albeit with the right idea in mind at the time, will forever rue the day they prioritized Serge Ibaka over James Harden and shipped him off to Houston. Harden is often criticized for being selfish on offense, not trying on defense, and signing an endorsement deal with Adidas. The criticism he faces is unfairly heaped upon him. If you look at his supporting cast throughout the years in Houston his only semi-reliable compliment on the offensive side of the ball has been Chandler Parsons. Dwight Howard is good for the occasional alley-oop, but struggles to create his own shot. It is also worth noting that throughout his tenure in Houston James Harden has averaged 1.8 steals per game. Not too shabby for a guy putting in minimal effort on defense. In 2015-16 Harden led the Rockets to the eight seed in the playoffs where they were brushed aside by the Golden State Warriors. Harden was snubbed for MVP two years ago when he averaged 27.4 ppg, 7.0 apg, 5.7 rpg and 1.9 spg in 81 games, and he will need to have an even better season if the Rockets are going to reach the playoffs this year because when he will surely be counted on to be the sole provider for this team throughout the season. A couple questions arose when I looked at the depth chart. Right now K.J. McDaniels is listed as the team’s starting shooting guard, and I can assume that is only because Eric Gordon is not yet fully acclimated to being a Houston Rocket just yet. You’re not paying Gordon $53 million to ride the bench. Ariza has been a consistent contributor for the Rockets for the past two seasons. He defends well and shoots the three well, averaging 36.5% from beyond the arc over the last two seasons. The depth at both guard positions and the small forward position is not a concern for the Rockets. When Patrick Beverley returns from injury he will provide immediate help on the defensive side of the ball and a reliable 3-point shot. He registered a 40% shooting percentage from three point range last season. Beverley also registered an above average 53.9% eFG in 2015-16. Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG) is a statistic that adjusts for the fact that a three point shot is worth one more point than a standard mid-range jumper, layup, or dunk. The purpose of measuring eFG is to put into perspective how valuable a player’s contributions are on offense, and Beverley is one of those players who makes sure his shots count. Corey Brewer provides similar service to that of Ariza, but at a less reliable rate. The question mark, and a big one at that, is the power forward and center positions. The departures of Terrence Jones, Josh Smith, and Dwight Howard leave a ton of production to be made up. Enter Ryan Anderson and Nene. Since the beginning of the 2013-14 season Anderson has missed 97 games. Despite this fact the Rockets committed $80 million to him. When actually on the court Ryan Anderson has the ability to change a game by himself. His size enables him to rebound well and he can work his own shot in a 1-on-1 scenario. He’s a terrific shooter from downtown and capable of knocking down free throws better than most in the league. Off the bench the only other big on the roster with legitimate playing time in the past is Clint Capela. Incoming rookies Kyle Wiltjer and Chinanu Onuaku sit below Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell in the pecking order, respectively. If the Rockets can figure out the big man scenario and remain healthy then I like their odds with James Harden manning the point. Could the front office manufacture a move for LaMarcus Aldridge or Greg Monroe?

Projected record: 49-33

grizzlies

Predicted Starting 5:

PG: Mike Conley

SG: Andrew Harrison

SF: James Ennis

PF: JaMychal Green

C: Marc Gasol

Mike. Conley. Got. PAID. On July 14, 2016 the Memphis Grizzlies made Conley the highest paid player in NBA history. $153 million over five years. Look Conley is a great ball player, but he’s not even a top ten point guard. If you have a problem with me saying that then you need to look at the stats and who else plays the position in the league today. He is routinely outplayed by other point guards in his conference, never mind the league, and has never been named an All-Star. The only accolade he owns came in the 2012-13 season when he made the NBA’s All-Defensive 2nd team. He has finished top ten in the league in assists just once in his career (2011-12). In no particular order I rank Russell Westbrook, Isaiah Thomas, Kyle Lowry, Steph Curry, John Wall, Damian Lillard, James Harden, Kemba Walker, Kyrie Irving and Chris Paul ahead of him. Enough talking about how undeserving Mike Conley is of a $153 million contract. Let’s talk about Chandler Parsons’ ridiculous contract! Four years. $94 MILLION. Are you kidding me??? Did we not learn from the mistake made by Mark Cuban? I would do some unspeakable things for $94 million and all Chandler Parsons has to do is suck at basketball. Life’s not fair, and these signings wreak of desperation to remain competitive. The Grizzlies are certainly on the decline this year as the prime of Marc Gasol has passed and Zach Randolph is on his last legs. Tony Allen is still the best defender on the planet, but is starting to face injury problems of his own. Assuming he is healthy he will serve as the starting shooting guard. Same goes for Chandler Parsons, but at the small forward position. Marc Gasol also enters the season with a minor injury, but it seems he’ll play through it. At full strength with Harrison and Ennis relegated to the bench this Grizzlies squad is still a formidable opponent, but under first-year head coach David Fizdale they won’t amount to much even if they manage to make the playoffs.

Projected record: 35-47

pelicans

Predicted Starting 5:

PG: Tim Frazier

SG: E’Twaun Moore

SF: Solomon Hill

PF: Anthony Davis

C: Omer Asik

Welcome to the year 2016 in the NBA people. Where an actual starting backcourt of Tim Frazier and E’Twaun freaking Moore exists. I’m not sure why I gave E’Twaun Moore a middle name, but that’s the reaction that seeing this depth chart produced for me. I got legitimately angry that this scenario exists for an NBA team until I gathered myself and realized that Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans both sport injuries to start the season. Even so, the backups listed at the shooting guard position are Lance Stephenson and 2016 sixth overall pick Buddy Hield. Neither option is that much better due to Lance’s on-court antics and inconsistency and Buddy’s inexperience, but there is just no way you can start E’Twaun Moore when you have other options, period. Tim Frazier gets the nod ahead of Langston Galloway at point guard which is understandable because Frazier is at least familiar with head coach Alvin Gentry’s system having played 16 games for the Pelicans in the second half of last season. This team is bad, and there is no sugarcoating it. The injuries began before the season started and will continue to hit throughout the season because every starter on this team has a history with injuries, but Anthony Davis – averaging a double-double for three years running in the regular season – truly is that good, and he will carry New Orleans to at least 30 wins while securing a mediocre pick in the 2017 NBA Draft in the process.

Projected record: 35-47

mavericks

Predicted Starting 5:

PG: Deron Williams

SG: Wesley Matthews

SF: Harrison Barnes

PF: Dirk Nowitzki

C: Andrew Bogut

For reasons unbeknownst to me people are high on the Dallas Mavericks this year. Harrison Barnes joined the ranks of “People Who Don’t Deserve The Amount Of Money They Make” this offseason. The former Tar Heel put pen to paper on a four-year $94 million deal over the summer. He honestly isn’t even worth half that. So far in his four-year career Barnes has managed to do one thing better than most, and that’s stay on the court. He has missed only 21 of a possible 328 regular season games in his NBA career. Other than that he has not done much. Granted he was playing in the shadow of the rest of the Warriors’ starting five, and even coming off the bench a lot with Andre Iguodala favored by Steve Kerr in certain stretches of games. Barnes is a career 44.6% shooter from the field, 73.9% from the charity stripe, and averages 10.1 ppg to go along with 4.6 rpg in 28.1 minutes per contest. His assist numbers aren’t even good enough to mention… 1.5 per game… Those just aren’t the numbers that you typically commit nearly nine digits to. As for the rest of the squad an aging backcourt compliments an aging frontcourt. The best players on this team and the ones who figure to see the most action are all above the age of 30. The longevity of these guys concerns me. Dirk can’t play a full season as is, and Bogut is a safe bet to miss some time as well. He hasn’t played a full 82-game season since his rookie year with Milwaukee. The former number one overall pick from Australia stands tall at an even seven feet. He is an elite rim protector and prolific rebounder, two things Dirk is not, but as soon as the injuries start to hit, and they will, this team will begin to collapse.

Projected record: 32-50

**************************************************************************************************

northwest

The Northwest Division should be competitive this year. With Kevin Durant gone and both the Timberwolves and Jazz looking to make massive strides this season it wouldn’t at all shock me to see four of these teams make the playoffs. Russell Westbrook will be playing this season with not only a chip on his shoulder, but also a whole lot more freedom to do whatever the hell he wants, and that’s what separates the Thunder from the rest of the pack.

westbrook

Predicted Starting 5:

PG: Russell Westbrook

SG: Victor Oladipo

SF: Andre Roberson

PF: Domantas Sabonis

C: Enes Kanter

I wouldn’t exactly say the Thunder are a team anymore. It’s basically just Russell Westbrook playing with four other guys whose only job is to get him the ball, and I for one will be tuning in to as many Oklahoma City games as I can this season to witness Westbrook play. He electrifies the crowd with every touch of the ball and possesses a unique ability to dominate every facet of the game. While there have been plenty of players before him that revolutionized the game with their style of play – Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson, LeBron James – there is nobody quite like Russell Westbrook. His only flaw is his outside shooting, and that’s it. That’s really it. This guy is just that good at everything else. His one-of-a-kind build and athleticism make him a serious candidate for MVP this year. Add in the fact that KD ditched him and you’ve got the one thing that all other 29 teams are afraid of, an angry Russell Westbrook. The deal that sent Serge Ibaka to Orlando resulted in a great haul for the Thunder. Acquired in that deal were starting shooting guard Victor Oladipo, rookie Domantas Sabonis, and eight-year vet Ersan Ilyasova. In my opinion this trade is completely lopsided, so either I’m not smart – which is entirely possible – or the guys in the front office just see it differently. Serge Ibaka is certainly talented. He is a terrific defender in the post and an above average rebounder who also developed a dependable outside shot since he came to the league; however, Victor Oladipo is a rising star, and his game will only benefit from playing with the likes of Russell Westbrook. Domantas Sabonis was the Magic’s first round selection in the 2016 NBA Draft with the eleventh pick. Ilysavoa is just a worse version of Ibaka, albeit much worse. While he doesn’t defend particularly well he can rebound efficiently and has an extremely dependable shot from beyond the arc. Last season Ilyasova registered almost 41% from 3-point land in 22 games with Orlando. Now back to Oladipo. As I said before he is capable of becoming one of the next great shooting guards in the league. The 24-year old out of Indiana is not only effective on both ends of the court, but durable. In his three-year career he has missed only 22 games so far. His career averages amount to 15.9 ppg, 4.0 apg, 4.4 rpg and 1.6 spg. He is an efficient shot taker and averages 43.1% from the field and 80.8% from the line. I wonder how long Sabonis will remain a starter though. Obviously he has little to no experience having only the Summer League to prepare him for life in the NBA, but it’s more about the fact that Steven Adams is on the roster. In the playoffs last year the Thunder were rolling with Kanter at the power forward and Adams at the center to combat the Warriors small ball lineup, and for the most part it worked. The Thunder ended up succumbing to Steph and co. in seven games, and if there’s a rematch this postseason it surely won’t go that far with Kevin Durant on the other side of things nowadays. You simply can’t replace a guy like Durant with Andre Roberson. Roberson does nothing particularly well. He’s a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none. The Thunder bench is nothing special, but I genuinely believe Russell Westbrook will lead this team to a top four finish in the West.

Projected record: 50-32

trail-blazers

Predicted Starting 5:

PG: Damian Lillard

SG: C.J. McCollum

SF: Maurice Harkless

PF: Al-Farouq Aminu

C: Mason Plumlee

Before we talk about anything else related to the Trail Blazers we need to discuss their offseason moves real quick. I was so proud of the Trail Blazers front office. With ridiculous amounts of money being handed out to so many undeserving players like Tyler Johnson, Ryan Anderson, Chandler Parsons, Harrison Barnes, Bismack Biyombo – the list goes on – I was ecstatic when I learned that Portland had quietly signed Festus Ezeli for $11 million over three years. Compared to the other contracts handed out this offseason that should be considered a great bit of business. C.J. McCollum earned himself a four year contract extension worth $106 million. A steep price to pay but worth it for a guy who got snubbed for the Sixth Man of the Year award last season, especially with the league salary cap skyrocketing from $70 million to $94 million this season. Then came the news that within a four day span the Blazers signed Evan Turner to a four-year $70 million contract and matched the Brooklyn Nets offer of $75 million over four years to retain the services of Allen Crabbe. I DO NOT CARE HOW HIGH THE SALARY CAP IS YOU DO NOT PAY EVAN TURNER $17.5 MILLION PER YEAR. He wasn’t great with the 76ers which I understand isn’t easy to do when the entire team sucks, but he has never been relied on to carry the load offensively. He wasn’t good with Indiana either. He is a subpar shooter of the ball, owning a 30.5% 3-point percentage for his career. This also happened, which I feel is a good enough reason on its own to not pay him as much money as the Blazers currently are. He found his niche in Brad Stevens’ system and it’s a shame he followed the money, but it’s understandable. Allen Crabbe is only a tiny bit more understandable. Last season Crabbe took a humongous step forward in his progression. The minutes he played doubled up from the previous year and he more than tripled his ppg total to 10.3. He was red hot shooting the ball, posting a near 46% rate from the field including almost 40% from downtown. Crabbe clearly has the tools to be successful, and to let him slip away might’ve proven to be a mistake, but to commit this much money to him and Turner in the same offseason could potentially handicap Portland in future. With McCollum’s extension and Lillard’s massive contract the Trail Blazers don’t have much financial flexibility in the coming years. Let’s talk about Damian Lillard for a second though. He is the most overlooked player in the league. I would normally add a “in my opinion” to a statement like that but at this point it’s a straight up fact. He was an All-Star from 2013-15, but failed to make it last year despite posting some of his best numbers yet. In the two seasons he was an All-Star he posted ppg totals of 20.7 and 21.0. Last year he wasn’t selected and that number increased to 25.1 even with the sudden emergence of C.J. McCollum who shot the ball 18 times per game. He is such a dependable and impressive playmaker who can rise to any occasion. He is so important to the success of this Blazers team that it wouldn’t shock me if he took home MVP honors at the end of the season.

Projected record: 48-34

jazz

Predicted Starting 5:

PG: George Hill

SG: Rodney Hood

SF: Joe Johnson

PF: Boris Diaw

C: Rudy Gobert

Many people think the Jazz will shock the league this season, but those same people just haven’t been paying enough attention to them. Utah finished ninth last season and just missed out on the playoffs with a 40-42 record. This team isn’t exactly coming out of nowhere to take the league by storm. At full strength 4/5 of this starting lineup was around last season, and so was nearly the entire bench. Adding the veteran talents and experience of Joe Johnson and Boris Diaw will only help this team come playoff time. Derrick Favors will miss the start of the season with a bone bruise in his left knee and Gordon Hayward enters the season with broken finger on his left hand. Hayward will miss an extended period of time as a result. George Hill arriving from the Pacers in a 3-team deal that also included the Hawks should prove vital to this team’s success as the Jazz have severely lacked talent at the point guard position for the better part of a decade now. Rudy Gobert is an absolute monster defensively and on the boards. He averaged 11 rpg and 2 bpg in 61 games last season. The injuries sustained by the big men on this team last year killed the momentum they had. Favors missed a chunk of time last season as he featured in only 62 games. Off the bench the Jazz contain experience, but not a lot of talent. Because of how big an impact injuries had on the squad last season guys like Shelvin Mack, Alec Burks, Trey Lyles, and Jeff Withey all got a decent amount of playing time. Burks started at shooting guard in 2014-15 for 27 games before suffering a season-ending injury, and in 2015-16 he played in only 31 games. If he didn’t face so many injuries he would surely play a part in taking the Jazz to the next level. When he plays Burks can be counted on for around 14 points per game. Former first round pick Dante Exum missed all of 2015-16 with a torn ACL. He wasn’t too impactful in 2014-15 either although he played in all 82 games and started half of them. The Jazz aren’t planning on moving on from the former fifth overall pick just yet as he was touted one of the top talents from that 2014 draft class. If they can stay moderately healthy this year the Jazz can rewrite the script from last year.

Projected record: 46-36

twolves

Predicted Starting 5:

PG: Ricky Rubio

SG: Zach LaVine

SF: Andrew Wiggins

PF: Gorgui Dieng

C: Karl-Anthony Towns

If you aren’t excited about this team this season then screw you. This is the most athletic team in the league by far, and it’ll provide you and me with some awesome highlights over the course of the season. The crowded backcourt in Minnesota has two clear frontrunners, but the Timberwolves front office is currently exploring a trade that would send Ricky Rubio elsewhere to open up the opportunity for fifth overall pick Kris Dunn to start alongside Zach LaVine, and that is scary. Dunn is the most NBA-ready of all the rookies heading into the new season, and Zach LaVine is turning into a star quickly. It seems ever since that legendary showdown between him and Aaron Gordon in the final round of the dunk contest last February that both have started to play a lot bettering more often. LaVine is the most talented player in this backcourt and could very soon assume a leadership role there. The starting five contains not one, but two former #1 overall picks (and just imagine if Anthony Bennett had worked out), and both are crazy good. Andrew Wiggins was acquired in the trade that sent Kevin Love to Cleveland. At the time everybody knew how hefty that price tag was for the Cavs, but they ended up getting LeBron back and bringing a title back to The Land. In exchange the T-Wolves turned back the clock and transitioned their focus to their youth. In his two-year career Wiggins has turned into an effective scorer to compliment his excellent defensive capabilities. He shot 46% from the field last season and a respectable 76% from the line, and won Rookie of the Year for the 2014-15 season, yet Wiggins isn’t even the best young talent on his own team because Karl-Anthony Towns exists. KAT was as close as you can be to perfect in his first NBA season. He shot 54.2% from the field and 81.1% from the line. He averaged a staggering 18.3 ppg to go along with 10.4 rpg. He dominated the paint on defense as well with 1.7 bpg. Those numbers are frightening. He was putting up monstrous double-doubles every single night and even showing up some of the league’s current best players at the position, establishing himself among their ranks. He was the runaway Rookie of the Year – sadly overshadowing Kristaps – and will surely dominate the league for years to come. His stock is only trending upwards, and so is Minnesota’s.

Projected record: 45-37

nuggets

Predicted Starting 5:

PG: Emmanuel Mudiay

SG: Will Barton

SF: Danilo Gallinari

PF: Nikola Jokic

C: Jusuf Nurkic

Nikola Jokic is set to take the league by storm this season. As a rookie he averaged 10 ppg and 7 rpg in just 21.7 minutes per contest. Stepping into a starting role should only improve his numbers. Danilo Gallinari was playing the best basketball of his life last season prior to missing the final 29 games with an ankle injury. Perhaps his production levels were aided by the fact that Wilson Chandler missed the entire season with a hip injury, but Gallinari produced career highs in every category except shooting percentages. Will Barton is another guy who performed better last season than he ever has before. He was in serious contention for the Sixth Man of the Year award until he cooled off considerably following the All-Star break. He had a scorching hot month of December when he registered 20.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg, and 3.1 apg. He will have to share time this year with Gary Harris once he returns from injury, and rookie Jamal Murray will surely receive playing time as well although that might be more at point guard than shooting guard. Interestingly not listed as a starter right now is “The Manimal” Kenneth Faried. It is entirely possible that he replaces Nurkic in the starting lineup at some point during the season, but newly appointed head coach Michael Malone has decided to go with Nurkic’s size to begin the season, and for what it’s worth Nurkic is the better defender of the two. Off the bench Wilson Chandler is set to make his return from the aforementioned hip injury that he suffered last preseason. Chandler provides energy and some points off the bench, and he’s a solid alternative to Gallinari whenever called upon. He’s capable of scoring 10+ every game and playing some good defense. The Nuggets won’t light up the league by any means, but they won’t finish with a worse record than they did last year (33-49).

Projected record: 36-46

**************************************************************************************************

pacific

The Pacific Division is a joke. One big, pathetic, obnoxious joke. The Warriors are going to run the table not only with the division but with the conference and the title. A 70-win season may be unrealistic, but 60 wins is a lock. The only team with even the slightest chance at challenging them is the Clippers, and they won’t put up much of a fight.

warriors

Predicted Starting 5:

PG: Stephen Curry

SG: Klay Thompson

SF: Kevin Durant

PF: Draymond Green

C: Zaza Pachulia

The Warriors went from being everybody’s favorite team to everybody’s favorite villain in an instant. They were already the best team in the league despite blowing a 3-1 lead to Cleveland in the Finals last season. Then they went out and signed Kevin Durant. The signing of Kevin Durant this offseason shook the league like an earthquake in Cali. He has been criticized for being weak, and there really is no argument against it. By signing with the Warriors KD has practically accepted the fact that he can’t beat them, so instead he’s going to join them. For the first time in my life I find myself agreeing with something Stephen A. Smith has said. Stephen A. said that Kevin Durant’s move was the “weakest (he’s) ever seen from a superstar” and he’s dead on. LeBron’s move to Miami was totally different. The team in Oklahoma City is certainly good enough to win a title with Kevin Durant. The Cavs teams prior LeBron’s initial departure from Cleveland weren’t. Just like Stephen A. said Durant had the chance. The Thunder were up 3-1, and just like the Warriors eventually did in the Finals OKC, and more specifically Durant, choked. There really isn’t much else to this that hasn’t already been said. Now for Steph. I’ve always hated Steph. I consider myself the original Steph Curry hater. I saw through his bs from the beginning and I don’t think he’s a good basketball player. He’s a great ball handler and the best shooter this league has ever seen and will ever see. That much is true. Past that he isn’t all that good at basketball. He is such an overrated defender even though he’s led the league in steals the past two years. He rarely bothers to guard the opposite team’s best player, with the size differential permitting, and it bugs me so much. If you are supposed to be the best player at your position then you better prove it on both sides of the ball and guard your opposite number. Too many times last season I saw Steph guarding Andre Roberson when the Warriors played the Thunder, and C.J. McCollum when they played the Trail Blazers. I understand that it is probably part of head coach Steve Kerr’s gameplan to make sure that the opposing team’s best asset is neutralized effectively, but don’t tell me Steph is the best player in the league when he isn’t playing half of the game of basketball. Steph’s numbers are astounding, especially when he doesn’t play in the 4th quarter 90% of the time. He posted an outrageous .630 eFG and ran away with MVP honors last season after improving on an historic 2014-15 season. It’ll be interesting to see how his production is affected by the arrival of Kevin Durant. The starting lineup is filthy enough that the bench doesn’t matter, and neither does Zaza Pachulia starting at center. I have no idea who was available this offseason via trade or free agency and how much cap space the Warriors had to work with, but how in the world do you go from Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli to Zaza Pachulia and JaVale McGee. Ezeli landed in Portland for $11 million over 3 years. Unless Golden State couldn’t afford it I don’t fundamentally understand how you let him go in favor of Pachulia. For what it’s worth Pachulia should be able to handle the tasks asked of him, and so should McGee, David West and Anderson Varejao to the point where it doesn’t matter who’s playing center. The catalyst in this team however is Draymond Green. He’s the real engine that drives the Warriors. You can shoot the ball as well and often as you want with the Splash Brothers but there are so many things Draymond does well that often get overlooked. Last season he averaged 14 ppg, 9.5 rpg, and 7.4 apg. He shot 49% from the field and almost 39% from three. He connected with approximately 80% of kicks toward the groin region too, so he’s really got it all. The Golden State bench should factor in less this season than ever before, but Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala are still around, and both have played such important roles in the past. When they see time on the floor I expect much of the same that we’ve seen over the past two years. The only concern with this team is: Are there enough shots to go around? The predicted starters, withholding Pachulia, averaged a total of 56.8 shots taken per game last year. Golden State averaged 87.3 shot attempts per game last year. Even though the math works with those two figures it doesn’t take into account the fact that these guys need to rest at some point, and when they’re playing they will likely be playing together, so it is a legitimate concern. If I’m the coach I say that, out of Steph, Klay and Durant, Klay’s numbers take the biggest hit because I want the ball in the hands of either Steph or Durant on most, if not all, possessions. Unless he’s on board 100% with the whole “team game” aspect of basketball Klay Thompson may get frustrated playing with Kevin Durant and Steph Curry at times because although Golden State plays at a very quick pace which earns them a lot of shots I just don’t know if everybody will get a turn, and it could end up becoming a problem. The Warriors are odds on favorites to take home the title this season, and barring any injuries to key players or serious chemistry issues I don’t see anybody stopping them.

Projected record: 68-14

clippers

Predicted Starting 5:

PG: Chris Paul

SG: J.J. Redick

SF: Luc Richard Mbah a Moute

PF: Blake Griffin

C: DeAndre Jordan

I wouldn’t necessarily say that anybody is writing off the Clippers this season, but everybody seems to be talking up other teams in the West as “dark horses” and then lumps the Clippers into that same category. L.A. boasts the talents of the best big man combo in the league. Yes, neither Griffin nor Jordan is a good free throw shooter, and that’s something that seems to be improving around the league in recent years, but both are extremely dominant in the paint, and Griffin is exceptional at creating his own shot. DeAndre Jordan has averaged a double-double for three consecutive seasons now to go along with just about 2.5 bpg. His shot selection is outstanding, and that is evidenced by his career 67% field goal percentage. He has never finished a season shooting below 60%. He is the most dominant paint presence in the league and has been for a couple years now. Blake Griffin is capable of being league MVP. It is not likely, but he has the skill set to achieve it. The 5-time All-Star missed out on his sixth appearance in six years only because of a thigh tendon injury that cut his season short in December. It didn’t help that Griffin extended his own absence after breaking his hand in a fight with the team’s equipment manager. He eventually returned for the last five games of the season in April and played in a total of 35 games last season. The reason I view the former Oklahoma Sooner as a candidate for MVP is because despite the plethora of talent around him he always seems to stand out. Playing with Chris Paul has obviously had a positive impact on his statistics and overall game. Playing with a phenomenal pass-first point guard will never cease to provide benefits for teammates, but as I mentioned before part of what makes Blake Griffin such a great player is that he can utilize his athleticism to create his own shot. He has achieved a remarkable start to his career and just about averages a double-double with 21.5 ppg and 9.6 rpg with a shooting percentage of 52.1%. If he can somehow revert back to 2010-2011 Blake Griffin when he won ROY honors averaging 22.5 ppg and 12.1 rpg then the Clippers might make a deep run in the playoffs. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute doesn’t do much bet defend, but he does it well. J.J. Redick is practically useless aside from his 3-point shooting, but he is a damn good shooter. The former Duke standout shot the lights out last season and led the league with a 47.5% shooting percentage from beyond the arc, and he’s just as good from the line with a career 88.8% mark. 3-time Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford provides points off the bench and is pretty much J.J. Redick 2.0 for all intents and purposes. Points, above average 3-point shooting, and lights out from the charity stripe. Paul Pierce provides a veteran presence and is renowned for his clutch ability in the postseason. Marreese Speights has put in some decent work for the Warriors in the last three seasons and developed a reliable mid-range shot. He is rock solid from the free throw line with a 83.1% conversion percentage in that same three-year timeframe. He figures to be a much better backup to DeAndre Jordan than Cole Aldrich was. 2016 first-round pick Brice Johnson is out indefinitely with a herniated disk in his lower back. He played well in the Summer League averaging 15.4 ppg and 6.8 rpg. While he won’t see the court for some time he should make an immediate impact upon his return. He will need to bulk up if he’s going to be as dominant as he’s capable of being. Standing at 6’10” weighing only 230 pounds won’t cut it in the NBA. The league may be getting softer as a whole, but the physical element still exists. The Clippers are capable of making it as far as the conference finals, but they will need to remain healthy.

Projected record: 50-32

kings

Predicted Starting 5:

PG: Darren Collison

SG: Arron Afflalo

SF: Rudy Gay

PF: DeMarcus Cousins

C: Kosta Koufos

The Kings are still searching for their point guard. They aren’t sold on Darren Collison despite signing him to be their man at the position two years ago. Currently the front office is holding talks with multiple teams about acquiring an established playmaker. A potential move for Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio or even Miami’s Goran Dragic could be on the cards, and would certainly help the team. In the Miami scenario a specific swap has already been discussed: Rudy Gay for Goran Dragic. Letting go of Rudy Gay would not be the worst thing in the world for Sacramento. Off the bench Ben McLemore and Matt Barnes are both capable of picking up the slack. Sharpshooter Omri Casspi doesn’t offer much besides 3-point shooting and rookie Malachi Richardson is not nearly polished enough to be thrown into the mix just yet. Rudy Gay was victimized by the obsession with advanced metrics back in 2013. Just as the article states, Rudy Gay is a terrific free throw shooter. His free throw percentage dropped off within the last two seasons, but it’s very possible that is just an anomaly. It isn’t easy for him to dominate the ball and create his own shot as he loves to do because DeMarcus Cousins exists, and not everybody can get to the foul line with as much success as James Harden. He’s stuck between a rock and a hard place at the moment, and if he gets traded to Miami it might do wonders for him. Undoubtedly the Kings most influential and talented player is DeMarcus Cousins. He has an unmatched skill set for his size and physical ability. He is the best center in the league and I don’t believe there is much debate. He expanded his game last year, adding an okay 3-point shot to his arsenal. He shoots a modest 72% from the line, but when those are the worst aspects of your game then you’re doing something right. Watching him play is a pleasure because when he’s on he demands the ball even more than usual, and he tends to deliver in those scenarios. New head coach Dave Joerger has his work cut out for him, but ultimately Sacramento lives and dies with Boogie, so it’ll be on his shoulders to carry this team into the playoffs.

Projected record: 35-47

suns

Predicted Starting 5:

PG: Eric Bledsoe

SG: Devin Booker

SF: T.J. Warren

PF: Jared Dudley

C: Alex Len

The Suns are such a frustrating team. When Jeff Hornacek took over in 2013 they were expected to finish somewhere near the bottom of the league standings, but Hornacek flipped the script and strung together back-to-back impressive seasons considering what he had to work with. They added Brandon Knight to the mix during the ladder half of that stretch and looked promising coming into last season, but then they fell flat on their faces. Knight and Bledsoe both suffered season-ending injuries along the way and this culminated in Hornacek losing his job mid-season. He could hardly be faulted, but the Suns’ front office decided it was best to move in another direction. Enter Earl Watson. Under the interim tag he went 9-24. The tag was lifted this offseason and with a healthy backcourt the expectations are surely much higher this season. Devin Booker progressed nicely in the absence of the starting guard duo, and as a result he has been rewarded with a starting job. Plenty of occasions will arise in which Watson decides to go with Knight and Bledsoe over Booker this season, but for the time being the second-year man out of Kentucky has the chance to impress. P.J. Tucker is almost ready to return from back surgery, and as it stands he may even be ready for the season opener, so it’s possible that T.J. Warren doesn’t start at small forward, but given the current circumstances I’m listing Warren as the starter. Rookies Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender aren’t ready to make the leap into the starting lineup just yet, so Jared Dudley assumes the role at power forward. Alex Len performed exceptionally well under Watson towards the end of last season, and he’s also been rewarded with a starting job. Watson’s vision is clear. He wants to promote youth. The only problem with that is it will take a while to see a positive end product. Suns fans are in for another ugly year.

Projected record: 29-53

lakers

Predicted Starting 5:

PG: D’Angelo Russell

SG: Jordan Clarkson

SF: Luol Deng

PF: Julius Randle

C: Timofey Mozgov

Clap it up for the worst team in the league everybody. The Lakers will narrowly edge the Nets for the league’s worst record this season. No this is not some hot take or sweeping declaration. It’s just my humble opinion. I wasn’t going to bother to include any statistics here because I’m finally at the end of this blog and I’m at the stage where I just want it to be over already, but also because they don’t even matter. This team is bad, but I need something to back up my claim. The Lakers registered the worst offense and 27th ranked defense in the league last year, scoring 97.3 ppg and allowing 106.9 ppg. The Lakers also had the worst SRS of any team in the NBA last season. SRS (Simple Rating System) takes into account average point differential and strength of schedule. Average is 0, and the Lakers recorded a score of -8.92. Abysmal. Now many people will be quick to point out that Kobe Bryant is to blame for this, and that’s true. His defensive stats in his final season were among the worst of his career, and his shooting percentage was at an all-time low, but he isn’t the only one at fault. There just wasn’t a whole lot of talent on the Lakers roster last year. With the cap room freed up by Kobe’s retirement and the $24 million bump in the league salary cap the Lakers invested it primarily in Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov. Deng and Mozgov each signed four-year deals worth $72 million and $64 million, respectively. I’m not sure what to make of these signings because it’s a lot of money for not a lot of talent. Deng and Mozgov are undoubtedly two of the best players on the team, but that’s the problem. Half of Staples Center is a mess, and it’s gonna take a whole lot more than two mediocre signings during the free agency period to clean it up. After all, guys like Marcelo Huertas are on the active roster. Marcelo Huertas got eviscerated by Brandon Knight, and Brandon Knight knows a thing or two about getting emasculated (part 2 here).

Projected record: 23-59

*Just for shigs*

**************************************************************************************************

Now for some postseason predictions. These will be short and sweet, and you probably already know where I’m going with some of them by now:

MVP: Russell Westbrook (Damian Lillard runner-up)

Sixth Man of the Year: Brandon Knight

Most Improved: Harrison Barnes

Rookie of the Year: Brandon Ingram

Defensive Player of the Year: Rudy Gobert

Coach of the Year: Tom Thibodeau

Finals: Golden State sweeps Cleveland

Finals MVP: Steph Curry

**************************************************************************************************

So that’s it. I don’t want to be all cocky and say I nailed it, but I think I nailed it. If you want to continue the conversation then let’s take it to Twitter. Have a good week and be thankful the NBA is back because the NFL sucks this year and nobody cares about the NHL. So hyped to lose all of my nonexistent money on Fanduel!

Statistics courtesy of basketball-reference.com

One Comment

  1. This website is really interesting, but why it is on 18th place in google’s search results.
    It deserves to be in top 5. Many bloggers think that seo is dead in 2016, but it’s not true.
    There is sneaky method to reach google’s top 5 that not many people
    know. Just search for: pandatsor’s tools

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *