NBA Thoughts – 12-13 Western Conference Preview

Following his Eastern Conference preview, Dustin James takes a look at the Western Conference and makes his NBA Finals prediction.

Western Conference:

Northwest Division:

1. Oklahoma City Thunder

Say Hello To: Perry Jones III, Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, Hollis Thompson, Hasheem Thabeet,

Wave Goodbye To: Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook, Lazar Hayward, James Harden, Nazr Mohammed, Derek Fisher

Projected Starting Line-up: Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Martin, Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins

Projected Finish: 56 – 26

2. Denver Nuggets

Say Hello To: Andre Iguodala, Evan Fournier, Quincy Miller, Izzet Turkyilmaz, Anthony Randolph

Wave Goodbye To: Chris Andersen, Rudy Fernandez, Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington

Projected Starting Line-up: Andre Iguodala, Ty Lawson, Kenneth Faried, Javale McGee, Danilo Gallinari

Projected Finish: 53 – 27

3. Minnesota Timberwolves

Say Hello To: Brandon Roy, Robbie Hummel, Dante Cunningham, Chase Budinger, Greg Stiemsma, Alexey Shved, Andrei Kirilenko, Jerome Dyson, Lou Amundson

Wave Goodbye To: Wes Johnson, Michael Beasley, Brad Miller, Darko Milicic, Anthony Tolliver, Martell Webster

Projected Starting Line-up: Kevin Love, Brandon Roy, Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic, Andrei Kirilenko

Projected Finish: 42 – 40

4. Utah Jazz

Say Hello To: Marvin Williams, Mo Williams, Shan Foster, Randy Foye, Kevin Murphy

Wave Goodbye To: Devin Harris, Josh Howard

Projected Starting Line-up: Mo Williams, Al Jefferson, Gordon Hayward, Paul Millsap, Marvin Williams

Projected Finish: 41 – 41

5. Portland Trailblazers

Say Hello To: Damian Lillard, Jared Jeffries, Kostas Papanikolaou, Will Barton, Meyers Leonard, Sasha Pavlovic, Joel Freeland, Victor Claver, Ronnie Price

Wave Goodbye To: Jamal Crawford, Joel Pryzbilla, Craig Smith, Raymond Felton, Kurt Thomas

Projected Starting Line-up: LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard, Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews, JJ Hickson

Projected Finish: 30 – 52

Northwest Division Breakdown: I was much higher on the Oklahoma City Thunder before they went ahead and traded James Harden. Even though I don’t think the loss of Harden will hurt them much in the standings, I just feel that the team will miss him more than people think. He was a huge piece of Oklahoma City’s chemistry and it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Thunder look a little average coming out of the gate. However, I expect the team will be back in full force by the end of the season and will be contending for the Western Conference title yet again…….The Denver Nuggets are a very interesting team. I’m seeing some people projecting them as the best team in the West (ESPN Magazine), and while I really wouldn’t go THAT far, I would definitely call them one of the biggest question marks heading into the season. The reason I say that is, I’m just not entirely sure what we are going to see from these guys and can they really be that good without having the benefit of having a legitimate NBA superstar on their roster? We shall see………The Minnesota Timberwolves will likely start out slow thanks to the injury to Kevin Love, but if Brandon Roy can come back and be the player he was for the Trailblazers a few years back, the T’Wolves could end up being the second best team in the division. Minnesota has had a losing culture for some time now and it’s going to be fun seeing if these guys can change their luck around this season. Easily one of the teams I’m most excited to watch……The Utah Jazz are just a “meh” team to me. While I wouldn’t exactly call them bad, I don’t think they are exactly packed with talent either. I’m probably overrating them by picking them to go 41-41, but I guess we’ll see come playoff time…….It’s going to be another down year for my beloved Portland Trailblazers. While we had high hopes for a LaMarcus Aldridge/Brandon Roy/Greg Oden trio to bring the city multiple championships, two of the three pillars broke down and the team is left rebuilding around Aldridge. I honestly think Damian Lillard is going to end up being a stud in the NBA, I just think the kid is going to suffer some growing pains this year like most NBA rookies do. The Blazers are just a few pieces away from contending for a playoff spot again, they just need a better bench and more experience for guys like Lillard.

Pacific Division:

1. Los Angeles Lakers

Say Hello To: Dwight Howard, Earl Clark, Chris Duhon, Steve Nash, Antawn Jamison, Jodie Meeks, Darius Johnson-Odom, Robert Sacre

Wave Goodbye To: Matt Barnes, Troy Murphy, Ramon Sessions, Andrew Bynum, Josh McRoberts, Christian Eyenga

Projected Starting Line-up: Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash, Metta World Peace

Projected Finish: 55 – 27

2. Los Angeles Clippers

Say Hello To: Lamar Odom, Matt Barnes, Jamal Crawford, Ryan Hollins, Grant Hill, Willie Green, Ronny Turiaf

Wave Goodbye To: Mo Williams, Nick Young, Randy Foye, Reggie Evans, Kenyon Martin, Ryan Gomes

Projected Starting Line-up: Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Chauncey Billups, DeAndre Jordan, Caron Butler

Projected Finish: 48 – 34

3. Golden State Warriors

Say Hello To: Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli, Draymond Green, Ognjen Kuzmic, Jarrett Jack, Carl Landry

Wave Goodbye To: Nate Robinson, Dominic McGuire, Dorell Wright

Projected Starting Line-up: Stephen Curry, David Lee, Andrew Bogut, Harrison Barnes, Klay Thompson

Projected Finish: 39 – 43

4. Sacramento Kings

Say Hello To: Thomas Robinson, Aaron Brooks, James Johnson

Wave Goodbye To: Orlando Johnson

Projected Starting Line-up: DeMarcus Cousins, Tyreke Evans, Isaiah Thomas, Jason Thompson, Marcus Thornton

Projected Finish: 30 – 52

5. Phoenix Suns

Say Hello To: Goran Dragic, Michael Beasley, Brad Miller, Wes Johnson, Jerome Dyson, Luis Scola, Kendall Marshall, Jermaine O’Neal, PJ Tucker

Wave Goodbye To: Steve Nash, Grant Hill, Robin Lopez, Hakim Warrick, Michael Redd

Projected Starting Line-up: Goran Dragic, Luis Scola, Wes Johnson, Michael Beasley, Marcin Gortat

Projected Finish: 26 – 56

Pacific Division Breakdown: Well, what can you say about the Los Angeles Lakers? I absolutely hate everything about this franchise, but you have to respect their ability to continously reload by adding superstar after superstar. Adding Steve Nash, Dwight Howard, and Antwawn Jamison to an already solid roster is just scary. The potential is here to do some serious damage in the Western Conference. Then again, there is also questions about chemistry and how well all these guys will be able to play together. Something tells me they are going to be OK and could potentially be better than I think they are (which sucks for us Laker haters)…….The Clippers are a team right there on the cusp and one that is expected to be a contender in the West for some time. The additions of veterans Lamar Odom, Jamal Crawford (who was horrible last year in Portland), and Grant Hill could end up paying off big time, especially come playoff time……It wouldn’t shock me to see the Golden State Warriors slip into the playoffs, but there’s no way I’m putting money down on it. I think Harrison Barnes could end up being a star in the NBA and is definitely a guy this club will want to build around in the years to come……The Kings and the Suns both suck and it would surprise me to see either of them win more than 30 games. The Kings should be a better team once they finally move to Seattle and become the Sonics.

Southwest Division:

1. San Antonio Spurs

Say Hello To: Marcus Denmon, Derrick Brown

Wave Goodbye To: James Anderson

Projected Starting Line-up: Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Boris Diaw, Kawhi Leonard

Projected Finish: 54 – 28

2. Memphis Grizzlies

Say Hello To: Wayne Ellington, DJ Kennedy, Jerryd Bayless, Tony Wroten,

Wave Goodbye To: Dante Cunningham, Jeremy Pargo, OJ Mayo

Projected Starting Line-up: Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, Rudy Gay, Tony Allen, Mike Conley

Projected Finish: 49 – 33

3. Dallas Mavericks

Say Hello To: Tadija Dragicevic, Chris Kaman, Jared Cunningham, Bernard James, Jae Crowder, OJ Mayo, Elton Brand, Darren Collison, Dahntay Jones

Wave Goodbye To: Jason Kidd, Ian Mahinmi, Jason Terry, Brendan Haywood, Lamar Odom

Projected Starting Line-up: Dirk Nowitzki, OJ Mayo, Chris Kaman, Darren Collison, Shawn Marion

Projected Finish: 44 – 38

4. Houston Rockets

Say Hello To: Gary Forbes, Jeremy Lin, Omer Asik, James Harden, Terrence Jones, Royce White, Furkan Aldemir, Donatas Motiejunas, JaJuan Johnson, Jon Diebler, Toney Douglas, Carlos Delfino, Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook, Lazar Hayward

Wave Goodbye To: Kyle Lowry, Goran Dragic, Samuel Dalembert, Chase Budinger, Marcus Camby, Courtney Lee, Kevin Martin

Projected Starting Line-up: Jeremy Lin, James Harden, Patrick Patterson, Omer Asik, Chandler Parsons

Projected Finish: 29 – 53

5. New Orleans Hornets

Say Hello To: Anthony Davis, Ryan Anderson, Austin Rivers, Darius Miller, Edin Bavcic, Robin Lopez, Hakim Warrick, Roger Mason

Wave Goodbye To: Emeka Okafor, Trevor Ariza, Gustavo Ayon, Marco Belinelli, Chris Kaman, Carl Landry, Jarrett Jack, Jerome Dyson

Projected Starting Line-up: Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon, Greivis Vasquez, Ryan Anderson, Al-Farouq Aminu

Projected Finish: 29 – 53

Southwest Division Breakdown: The San Antonio Spurs are a lot like your crappy rusty car in high school. Old, but dependable. It’s only a matter of time before the Spurs fans have to sit through some 20-win seasons, but as long as Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili are playing together on the same team, these guys will win some NBA basketball games. Every year people expect the Spurs to have aged in the offseason and come out limping, yet every year they come out and keep kicking ass. I expect more of the same this year…….I’m not really a big fan of the Memphis Grizzlies (that may or may not have anything to do with Zach Randolph), but you have to give these guys credit for what they managed to accomplish these last few seasons. It’ll be interesting to see how the loss of O.J. Mayo affects this team as the season progresses…….It wasn’t that long ago that the Dallas Mavericks won the NBA championship, but this team is nowhere near championship material anymore. They have a solid starting lineup, but the loss of Dirk Nowitzki for the first couple weeks of the season is going to hurt a lot. The Mavs will still probably make the playoffs, but a first-round exit is pretty much a guarantee…….There’s just no telling what we’ll see from the Houston Rockets. They are sporting pretty much an entirely new team and while they have the potential to be good down the road, expectations should be somewhat curbed this year……..The Hornets will be good, in 2015.

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINAL STANDINGS:

1. Oklahoma City Thunder: 56 – 26

2. Los Angeles Lakers: 55 – 27

3. San Antonio Spurs: 54 – 28

4. Denver Nuggets: 53 – 27

5. Memphis Grizzlies: 49 – 33

6. Los Angeles Clippers: 48 – 34

7. Dallas Mavericks: 44 – 38

8. Minnesota Timberwolves: 42 – 40

9. Utah Jazz: 41 – 41

10. Golden State Warriors: 39 – 43

11. Sacramento Kings: 30 – 52

11. Portland Trailblazers: 30 – 52

13. Houston Rockets: 29 – 53

13. New Orleans Hornets: 29 – 53

15. Phoenix Suns: 26 – 56

WESTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFFS:

First Round:

#1) Oklahoma City Thunder over #8) Minnesota Timberwolves

#4) Denver Nuggets over #5) Memphis Grizzlies

#6) Los Angeles Clippers over #3) San Antonio Spurs

#2) Los Angeles Lakers over #7) Dallas Mavericks
Second Round:

#1) Oklahoma City Thunder over #4) Denver Nuggets

#2) Los Angeles Lakers over #6) Los Angeles Clippers
Western Conference Championship:

#2) Los Angeles Lakers over #1) Oklahoma City Thunder

NBA FINALS
Miami Heat over the Los Angeles Lakers in 6 games.

And BOOM GOES THE DYNAMITE. Thank you for joining me for this NBA preview. Go lay all your money down in Vegas on these predictions being 100% wrong by the time the finals roll around. With my luck, the Lakers will end up winning the championship and I will once again be forced to listen to Laker fans bragging. Hopefully LeBron and company will stop that from happening……..

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