With the Preseason just underway, let’s quickly make some last minute over/under predictions for the Western Conference for this upcoming NBA season:
Dallas Mavericks, 34.5 - OVER
Don’t sleep on the Mavs this year. Don’t expect them to make the playoffs, but keep an eye out. Definitely, a fun league pass team to watch this year. Doncic is perhaps the most intriguing rookie this season; I for one would’ve taken him first overall had I had the chance. Instead, Dallas traded up to draft the Slovenian, making him the heir to the throne once Dirk Nowitzki calls it quits.
The Mavs are vastly better than last year. They won 24 games last year. Are they 11 games better? Maybe. I think it’s possible. The Dennis Smith Jr./DeAndre Jordan combo is stupid athletic, throw in Doncic, Harrison Barnes and Dwight Powell, and you have a big, long lineup that can push the tempo. I’m calling Luka for ROY unless Ben Simmons repeats.
Denver Nuggets, 47.5 - UNDER
This was a tough one for me, but I ultimately decided to go with under. But barely. With the increased competition in the West, realistically every team besides the Suns and Kings could give Denver a tough game. They won 46 last year, coming one wild card loss shy of an 8th seed. My guess would be somewhere between 46-48 wins.
The Nuggets will hopefully have Paul Millsap for more than 38 games, which should help their lacking defense tremendously. I do think Denver will have a good season, and hopefully can squeeze into the bottom of the playoff standings.
Golden State Warriors, 62.5 - OVER
They have an All-Star team. What more do I need to say?
Houston Rockets, 54.5 - OVER
This number seems shockingly low to me. The Rockets won 65 games last year! You’re telling me that they’ll be 10 games worse this year? While the loss of Trevor Ariza is a big one, perhaps more than people realize, the core of the team is the same. James Harden, Chris Paul, and Clint Capela will generate more than 54 wins. I promise.
The Carmelo Anthony factor is a bit of an unknown, as head coach Mike D’Antoni said that he quit as Knicks coach when Anthony told management they would have to pick between the two; just one among many discrepancies held between Melo and D’Antoni. If Carmelo buys in and can reprise his role from the Olympics, as an efficient catch and shoot wing, then the Rockets will yet again challenge the Warriors.
Los Angeles Clippers, 35.5 - OVER
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the Clippers will make the playoffs, but 35 wins? This to me looks like a team that will hover just under .500. They started off the summer by trading Austin Rivers for Marcin Gortat, a great trade considering they lost DeAndre Jordan, and Doc Rivers was sick of Austin living at home. Gortat is a steady, durable big, who has played in 80+ games four out of the last five seasons (and the other being 75).
Rookies Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome Robinson might struggle to see playing time in a logjam of a backcourt but bode well for the future. I see them winning 37-40 games.
Los Angeles Lakers, 48.5 - OVER
I believe in the Lakers. While all their free agent signings after LeBron are a little random, you have to remember that they are all one-year deals. On paper, and perhaps on the court, the group of Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee, Lance Stephenson, and Michael Beasley doesn’t make sense. And even more confusing, is the fact that they paid Kentavious Caldwell-Pope $12 million, but let Julius Randle walk for $9mil. Huh? All that is quite peculiar, but here’s my point; I love the core of this team. Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and Kyle Kuzma are all terrific players. Moe Wagner could soon be added to that list as well. LeBron said that he wants to play with more intelligent players, and at 20 years old, Ball is already one of the smartest players in the league.
You can only imagine that with LeBron, and Professor Rondo mentoring him, that his Basketball IQ will become that much higher. Pair those four youngsters with the greatest player in the world, and good things will happen. James’ Cavs won 50 last year, and I’d rather surround him with the Lakers young guns than both versions of the ‘17/‘18 Cavs.
Memphis Grizzlies, 34.5 - OVER
The Grizzlies were riddled by injuries last year, and especially missed the likes of Mike Conley. A healthy Conley and Marc Gasol team has never won fewer than 40 games since their first year of playing together, back in ‘09.
Jaren Jackson Jr. and Gasol should form a nice defensive tandem, and with newcomers like Garrett Temple, Kyle Anderson, Jevon Carter, and Mr. Lead-The-Magic-In-Assists-With-3.9-Per-Game himself Shelvin Mack, the Grizzlies are bound to bounce back from last season.
Minnesota Timberwolves, 44.5 - UNDER
The Wolves have so many unknowns this year; can Andrew Wiggins become the max player he is paid to be? Will Karl Towns finally became a good defender? And by far the biggest and most important, will Jimmy Butler be a Wolf (a wolf? Wolve? Who knows) by the end of the season? If the answer is no, then the Timberwolves will not succeed.
Even if Butler stays, I don’t think they’ll make the playoffs. They just barely made it last year, and even though Butler missed significant time down the stretch, with an improved West, someone has to get left out. And unfortunately, the Wolves may be on the outside looking in.
New Orleans Pelicans, 45.5 - UNDER
Anthony Davis is a top 5 player in the league. By far the best big man. But the current roster around him is lackluster. The age-old (well, since they became the ‘Pelicans’) joke about this team was ‘how can a Pelican have no wings’? And it still holds up today. In terms of accuracy that is, not humor. But alas, New Orleans’ wings consist of Solomon Hill, Darius Miller, and Troy Williams. Not great.
While the AD/Jrue Holiday pairing is lethal (just ask Portland), once those two go to the bench, or get hurt, who’s next? Ask yourself this; if you’re picking a team from the Pelicans roster, and AD and Jrue go first and second, who are you taking third?
Oklahoma City Thunder, 50.5 - UNDER
The Thunder will be a very good team this year. But they’re not quite in the upper echelon of the West. Both Golden State and Houston are significantly better, the Thunder are right there with Utah for the third-best team. I personally think the Jazz are better, but the Thunder are certainly in contention.
The Thunder dodged an enormous tax bill when they got rid of Carmelo Anthony (although they still have a large payroll), getting Dennis Schröder in return. Schröder has been an inefficient scorer in the past, plus off-court issues have put a question mark around him. I think the Thunder will come close to the ‘over’, but will ultimately finish around 48-50 wins. So for those reasons, I’ll take the (th)under.
Phoenix Suns, 28.5 - UNDER
The Suns should’ve had a good summer. First, they win the draft lottery and used the number one pick on DeAndre Ayton out of their backyard campus of Arizona. They then re-signed Devin Booker to a max 5yr/$158 million contract, simultaneously locking up the two best players for the foreseeable future. But everything else makes you scratch your head. Starting with draft day, the Suns traded the 16th pick Zhaire Smith, plus an unprotected 2021 first rounder (courtesy of Miami) for the 10th Mikal Bridges. While Bridges is the better player, why are the Suns trading away assets? It’s an unprotected first round pick! And it’s not inconceivable that the Heat will be a lottery team then. Plus, the Suns’ forward spots are so crammed; Josh Jackson, T.J. Warren, Trevor Ariza, and Troy Daniels will all be fighting for minutes.
Speaking of Ariza, why did Phoenix pay him $15 million? Ariza is a fantastic three-and-d wing, but the Suns aren’t making the playoffs, so what’s the point? And to cap it all off, the Suns (rightfully) gave up on Marquese Chriss (who they acquired by trading two first rounders, a second rounder, and Bogdan Bogdanovic to the Kings. Yes, they got fleeced by the Kings. The Kings screwed it up, but hey, it still happened.) and traded him for Ryan Anderson who is owed $41.7 million over the next two years. Chriss is owed $7.2 million over the same time. Ugh. My head hurts. Granted to say, this team isn’t winning 29 games.
Portland Trail Blazers, 41.5 - OVER
While I don’t think the Blazers will have a great season, surely they are better than .500. Yes, this team has no wings, and besides Lillard and McCollum they have nobody who would receive meaningful minutes on a playoff team, but people forget that this team was the three seed last year! Actually on second thought, maybe they forgot because they got swept by the Pelicans. Still, they have one of the best offensive backcourts in the league. Lillard and C.J. can play. That alone should get them to at least 42 wins.
Sacramento Kings, 25.5 - UNDER
This team gives me anxiety, and I’m a Raptors fan who lives 2500 miles (4100 km for fellow Canadians) away. After passing on Luka Doncic (why), the Kings took Marvin Bagley III second overall. While Doncic seems like the better player, Bagley is still a respectable choice. A freakishly long big, Bagley is a crafty offensive player who can and should develop good chemistry with De’Aaron Fox. I like Fox, he reminds me of a rookie Westbrook. He’s sneaky athletic; I bet you just thought ‘he’s nowhere near the athlete Westbrook is’. True, but he’s still a very good athlete, with incredible speed and quickness.
Harry Giles, who was a number one prospect once upon a time, looked healthy in summer league and is finally healthy. So far so good right? Could it be possible the Kings stay… sane? Nope. They decided Ben McLemore performed so admirably in his first stint, that they got rid of Garrett Temple for not only McLemore, but they just couldn’t pass on Deyonta Davis, who owns career numbers of 4-3-0.4.
Kudos to the six Kings fans that have stuck with them since ‘07.
San Antonio Spurs, 43.5 - OVER
This team won 47 games last year without Kawhi Leonard; now you’re telling me the same team will win four games less, with DeMar DeRozan? As always, the Spurs are one of the best-coached teams in the league, and I have all the confidence in the world that DeMar will shine in San Antonio. While getting back to 50 wins may be a stretch, the new look Spurs should finish five/six games over .500.
Utah Jazz, 48.5 - OVER
The Jazz have everything they need to become the third best team in the West. With a tremendous defense, anchored by reigning Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert, and the always electric Donovan Mitchell, Utah has some serious threats on both sides of the floor.
The roster looks almost identical; they added former Blue Devil Grayson Allen via the draft, and that’s about it. Allen is a great fit for Utah. A scrappy 3-and-d guard who can backup Mitchell, or play with him, and will provide hustle and energy for a head coach, and fellow Dukie Quin Snyder. Look for Utah to hover around 50 wins this year.