The Pacific Division has a bet that I love and lots of other question marks. The Warriors come with lots of question marks on their roster, but there is still the chance Steph Curry and Draymond Green can lead them to the playoffs. The LA teams are both high ceiling teams. However, the Clippers have a relatively high floor as well, they have star power, elite depth, and quality coaching. The Lakers are more of a mystery. They have star power as well, but basically all their role players come with question marks; if none of them work out and LeBron James and Anthony Davis face some health issues, they might not crack 45 wins. The Suns have a team that consists of 9ish real NBA players!!!!!! That’s a huge accomplishment for them, but they are still the Suns. Can we really expect them to win more than 29 games in a loaded Western Conference? Probably not. And finally, the Sacramento Kings. They have a great young core and they added a lot of good players who fit nicely. They might be the deepest team in the league.
Favorite: Sacramento Kings hitting their over at -125. The Kings will likely see their young players take a leap and they have the veterans to plug all gaps. This team has shooting, scoring, defense, and lots of versatility. Expect this team to play huge lineups at times and also play small lineups at times.
Least Favorite: Phoenix Suns. The Suns have a very accurate line, they have the talent of a 30ish win team. But odds are they’ll be near the bottom of the West, that might be a lot of wins to expect from a 14ish-seed. Also, they are the Suns.
Check out my individual previews below:
Golden State Warriors: 48.5
There are a couple of things to consider when evaluating the Warriors upcoming season. We don’t know if/when Klay Thompson is coming back, they are hard-capped and have very little roster flexibility, and we don’t know how much management wants them to win. There are scenarios where the team overperforms and Klay has the motivation to return in March, but it is just as likely the team is underperforming and they don’t even give Klay a chance to return. My guess is they’ll be hovering in a very close battle for the 5-11 seeds and Klay will come back as about a 60% version of himself in April. Looking at the roster now there are glaring holes. They might have the worst small forward position in the league. In their starting lineup Steph Curry will likely be their second-best defender, which is a problem. We also don’t know what kind of shape Draymond Green will be in. In the past few years he has worked his way into shape throughout the season; they do not have that luxury this year. The team will still be pretty good on offense considering that Steph and Dray’s offensive numbers when they’re on the court together are absolutely elite ever year, and D’Angelo Russel will be running their second-unit. As mentioned earlier, while the offense is going to be pretty good, the defense will struggle. This team lacks quality perimeter defenders, wing defenders, and rim protection. To take the over on this team is to bet that Steph can stay healthy, the D Lo trade works better than expected, Draymond is motivated for the entire season, and some of their young players and new additions can play some defense (which means betting on rookies and other players with horrible defensive reputations). It is very hard for me to think all of that happens.
Prediction: 46 wins
Los Angeles Clippers: 53.5
The Clippers brought in Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and some quality role players in exchange for SGA and Danilo Gallinari. They are looking like an early title favorite. Their regular season will most likely not quite live up to their potential due to PG starting the year hurt and Kawhi being load-managed. They will still be a very good regular season team. At a minimum, every night they will be able to throw out quality role players in Patrick Beverly, Mo Harkless, Rodney McGruder, JaMychal Green, and others to surround the deadly duo of Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell. Kawhi and PG will be added to that group for around 65 games each. Also, it is a scary thought to know that Kawhi and PG will likely not even have their minutes staggered as I’m sure Doc will still let Lou Will and Trez run the second unit while being surrounded by sharp-shooter Landry Shamet and some combination of the previous mentioned role players. Interior defense will be a weakness, considering their center options will consist of Ivica Zubac, Trez, and Green; however, that weakness will be negated by the fact that the roster is flooded with elite perimeter defenders like Kawhi, PG, Bev, McGruder, and Mo Harkless. Their other main weakness will be shot creation for their non-superstars. Kawhi, PG, and Lou Will will be fine creating their own shots out of iso and pick and roll, but the team does lack an elite playmaker for others. They will probably have a few games here and there where the lack of a playmaker hurts more than usual because their shots out of their isos are not falling. There also might be one for more move for the Clippers to make. They have the contracts/assets to pull off a trade to bring in another quality player. They will also be a buy-out destination. This team has elite star power, elite depth, and they have the assets to make another move; they will be very good despite their stars missing some time.
Prediction: 55 wins
Los Angeles Lakers: 50.5
This offseason, the Lakers added superstar Anthony Davis to run alongside LeBron James. They proceeded to fill out the roster with role players like Danny Green, Avery Bradley, Dwight Howard, and Quinn Cook. They also resigned a lot of their vets from last year. LeBron and AD will form one of the best pick and roll combinations we’ve seen in a while. Green, Kyle Kuzma, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will see a lot of open opportunities from downtown, as they are the only high volume three-point shooters on the roster. The way this team out-performs their regular season expectations is by having relatively good health and some of their fliers hitting. If they get 70 games each from LeBron and AD that should be considered a success. If fliers like Howard, Rondo, KCP, and Bradly work out as well, this team could win close to 60 games. The best case scenario is that Howard is able to give 24 minutes a night of similar production to what he did in Charlotte two years ago, KCP/Bradley are able to have good shooting years, be quality defenders and be able to help run some pick and roll, and Rondo acting as an above-average backup point guard. If they get all of that plus Green, JaVale McGee, Jared Dudley, and other role players having good years, the Lakers will be a very good team. But, how likely is all of that? I would say some of it will definitely happen; they might get a quality season from one of KCP and Bradley; or maybe only one of Howard and McGee works out. Maybe Kuzma has a great year, but none of the role players work out. There are so many possible variations that we will have to wait and see about. In the end, I’m betting on the greatness of LeBron and AD, and some combination of role players working out. Lastly, like the Clippers, They will also be a top buyout destination, possibly increasing the ceiling of the team right before the playoffs.
Prediction: 51 wins
Phoenix Suns: 29.5
The good news is the Phoenix Suns will begin the year with the most competent roster they’ve had in a while. They have around 9 or 10 of NBA players, as opposed to last year when they had G-League level players starting for large portions of the season. The bad news is that they are still near the bottom of the West. There are a couple of new contenders in the West, a few teams that were already better than them that got better in the offseason, and a few similar-level talent teams that have a better organizational infrastructure. Phoenix will look better on offense now with a true point guard in Ricky Rubio, role players like Dario Saric, and full seasons of Tyler Johnson and Kelly Oubre Jr. They should be a little better on defense because of those vets previously mentioned and because of Aron Baynes and the development of young wing Mikal Bridges. Finally being surrounded with other actual NBA players should help Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton to become better versions of themselves. In the end, this team will likely take minor leaps on both ends of the court which will result in a few more wins, but there are still so many teams better than them in the West. You cannot expect them to make that significant of a leap, but I am betting that they just barely hit their win total.
Prediction: 30 wins
Sacramento Kings: 37.5
The Sacramento Kings are returning most of their core. De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, and Marvin Bagley are their core pieces and will be headlining their starting lineup. The addition of Dewayne Dedmon was huge for them. He is a far superior defensive big compared to Willie Caulie-Stein and is a better offensive fit for this team as well. Dedmon will allow Bagley extra space to battle down low with Dedmon’s ability to knock down the long-ball. He will also allow Bagley to use his athleticism to take more chances on defense because Dedmon is a quality rim-protector. Trevor Ariza and Cory Joseph are quality veteran players who are both defensive minded and can fit in versatile lineups. Between Richaun Holmes and Harry Giles, one will be a solid backup center and the other will be a very good third center. Bogdan Bogdanovic is a very good all-around player and he will be in the running for Sixth-Man of the Year. This team can go small by playing Bagley at the five lineups and they can also go big by doing similar lineups to their starting lineup where Harrison Barnes will be playing the three. They can throw out defense-first units with Joseph, Ariza, and Dedmon mixed in. It also needs to be noted that Coach Luke Walton typically gets his defenses to outperform their expected talent level and this is probably the best defensive roster he’s ever had. Coach Walton also knows how to use shooters and playmakers from his Golden State days. After considering all of the depth this team has and the coaching, one other factor that must be included is the improvement of their young guys. Fox and Bagley might just become All-Star level players on their own, before any of these fit and coaching improvements play a role. This is going to be one of my favorite teams to watch this year.
Prediction: 45 wins