Continuing our three part series, K and I will be predicting the final standings for the Western Conference and whether we would take the over or under for each team’s win total. Make sure you check out K’s projections as well.
- 1. Warriors O/U 67.5
How do they not hit the over? This team won 67 games last year and Durant missed 20 games and they began the season 16-2 despite the fact they had to learn how to play with Durant. A year later they no longer have to figure out how to adjust to Durant’s presence. This team won 67 games last year and the NBA didn’t have rest rules. This team won 67 games last year and then went out and added Omri Casspi, Nick Young and Jordan Bell. This team is going to not even try to chase the wins record (I’m sure a lot of their guys will miss games with “sore” knees and “sprained” elbows) and will accidentally come close to doing so. Over.
- 2. Rockets O/U 55.5
I really struggled ranking 2-4. If you guarantee me everyone’s health I would have gone with the Spurs 2, Rockets 3, Thunder 4. The Spurs are a regular season machine but Kawhi has a thigh injury and no timetable for return as of this writing. If he plays 70 games they can still get the 2 seed but any more than that and the Rockets (and Thunder) have the talent to over take the Spurs in the standings. I have no doubt CP3 and Harden will work together just fine. This team is loaded and built for the modern NBA. The problem is Chris Paul’s health. In 12 seasons Paul has played 70 games or less 6 times. How will the Rockets fare without him on the court for 10-20 games? Will he miss 10-20 games? Right now Paul is healthy, so I have to project this assuming he stays that way which will lead me to take the over on the win total.
- 3. Spurs O/U 54.5
As of right now Kawhi has no timetable for return. If he can play 70+ games this is the easiest over in the league. Since Tim Duncan’s rookie year twenty seasons ago, the Spurs have gone under 54.5 wins four times. Two of those times were in the lockout shortened seasons of ’98-’99 and ’11-’12. Their winning percentages in those seasons were .740 and .758, respectively, which gives them 60.68 wins and 62.15 wins, respectively over 82 games. There isn’t a lockout this year. Over, until Kawhi still hasn’t played come December and I freak out.
- 4. Thunder O/U 51.5
Adding in two new faces can be tricky and take time to gel together. At least all three of these guys were on the 2015 USA team together? The Heat had all played on the 2008 Olympic team two years before joining forces and started that season 9-9. Considering they had LeBron they win for more collective talent but LeBron and Wade figuring out how to balance the fact each of them did the same thing on the court was, admittedly by them, the most challenging aspect of integrating together. Russ, PG13 and Melo all do different things on the court so perhaps it won’t take as long to gel? Regardless I’m taking the over, but to be fair to the Rockets and Spurs above both Westbrook and Melo have not been reliably available for 75+ games in their careers, so who knows how many games they will play. But, as of right now they’re all healthy.
- 5. Nuggets O/U 45.5
The Nuggets won 40 games last year while accomplishing a 42 win expectation. I’m not going to sit here and try to accurately forecast just how much better Murray, Harris, and Jokic will all be this season, but I believe they each will be better. Add in the Millsap signing and the fact that if you are going to be the 5 seed in the West you absolutely need to win more than 45 games and I’m pretty confident in the over here.
- 6. Wolves O/U 48.5
The Wolves’ point differential from last season had them at a win expectancy of 38 wins and they would need to make an 11 win jump to hit this over. You can call for improvements from Wiggins and Towns, but Wiggins has been a terrible defender and inefficient scorer and we should really wait until Towns shows any signs of giving a shit that defense is part of the game before anointing him a top 10 player. I love Towns and he is probably the most unstoppable low post force in the league, so obviously it was a totally super idea to bring in Taj Gibson to provide no floor spacing whatsoever, but Towns needs to try on defense. Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague aren’t enough on their own to make up 11 extra victories. This team is still light on shooting and now has two wing players, Wiggins and Butler, that are ball-stopping bulldozers that attack. I do believe that Butler’s defensive impact will be greater than just his play as there is now a proven elite defensive veteran on this team that will have no problem screaming at the young guys to bust their ass. 49+ wins though? Under.
- 7. Jazz O/U 40.5
By putting the Jazz in the playoffs I’m basically forced to take the over. I think this is risky as the Jazz have experienced health issues in prior seasons. How many minutes will the Gobert-Favors front court get? This team is going to play fantastic defense and grind out wins while executing extremely intricate offensive schemes. However, where will the offense ultimately come from if Hood doesn’t make a leap forward in the absence of Hayward? I think this team is built to win enough regular season games to get into the playoffs, health permitting, but it was a real struggle ranking the 7-10 spots. Over.
- 8. Blazers O/U 42.5
Choosing between the Blazers and Clippers was impossible. If you guarantee me Clipper health I’d go with the Clippers, but more on that later. I think Dame and McCollum will be out for blood this season. I realize that is more narrative street than factual logic, but it is what it is I guess. I do believe that the real Nurkic stood up last season once he got to Portland. I don’t feel good about this but one Blake Griffin injury tanks the Clippers. I’m also taking the over since 42 wins won’t get you into the playoffs in the West.
- 9. Clippers O/U 43.5
I feel wrong leaving the Clippers out of the playoffs based on the talent on their roster. Since Doc Rivers took over in 2013 the Clippers have a 24-25 record without Chris Paul. When Blake was on the court without Chris Paul, in any scenario, the Clippers had a -3 net rating meaning they were an average team. In 4/7 seasons Griffin has played 67 or less games. He did play 80 games or more in the other three seasons. Gallinari has played 63 games or less in six of the last seven seasons. The Clippers are deeper now, which matters for a team that was so star heavy, and I hope Milos breaks YouTube with his passing this season. However in order to get deeper they lost a star. Give me 70 games of Blake and Danilo and I truly believe this team can challenge for 50 wins. I just have no faith they both hit that threshold. I’m not being entirely consistent since earlier in this capsule I said of Chris Paul, Westbrook and Melo that they were all currently healthy so I have to just roll with the current state of affairs but I trust them more, apparently. I would still bet the over here even though a severe Blake injury essential sinks that.
- 10. Grizzlies O/U 37.5
Talk about feeling wrong for leaving a team out of the playoffs. Every year we write off the Grizzlies as too old and every year we are wrong. I just think they lost too much this summer to keep up in the West. Gasol and Conley are awesome, but losing culture cornerstones like Randolph, Allen and Carter is a big blow, even if they did get younger and perhaps more athletic. I personally think McLemore is nothing to be excited about. I do think Evans is a competent rotation player and am a JaMychal Green optimist. However, I’ve spent a good amount of time talking about bracing for potential injuries in this conference so how can we trust Chandler Parsons? In two of the past four seasons Gasol has played 59 games or less. In each of the past two seasons Conley has played 69 games or less. If this team is missing one of these guys on any given night in the West, unless they are going against the very bottom, I don’t think they stand a chance. If both miss the game, well, you get the picture. All that said I’m taking the over because it just feels too low for a team that has Gasol and Conley and a documented history of proving us wrong.
- 11. Pelicans O/U 39.5
I really wanted to put the Pelicans on my list of most interesting stories for this upcoming season but elected to go with the All-Star game gym class draft instead. Last season the Pelicans went 7-10 in games that Cousins played but that includes an 0-4 start before a 7-6 finish. After an offseason of getting to know everyone I’m sure they will be better. The twin tower duo of Boogie and Davis is tantalizing, especially in the modern game where everyone wants floor spacers and guards that can shoot. However, if we are going to talk about injuries, we must mention we can’t rely on Davis or Holiday playing a full slate. This team is so dire on the wing they are starting Dante Cunningham. No one in the world is a bigger Jordan Crawford fan than I am. Jordan Crawford is the greatest player to have ever lived in Jordan Crawford’s mind. He makes Dion Waiters look self-conscious. He is also the kid that dunked on LeBron at Lebron’s camp, subsequently resulting in LeBron demanding that the tape be destroyed. Yet, what happens when its mid-to-late January, the Pelicans are 10th or 11th in the West, Boogie is pissing off everyone in the building and half the league is checking in on his availability? If the Pelicans make the playoffs I won’t be surprised. I think the most difficult part of projection this NBA season is putting West teams 5-11 in order. Brutal. I just think too much has to go right for the Pelicans to get there in a stacked conference. I’ll take the under and have absolutely no confidence in it.
- 12. Lakers O/U 33.5
If you make the accusation that my Laker fandom is preventing me from rationally analyzing the Lakers 2017-18 outcome I suppose I can’t argue with you. Does it make it better that I believe what I’m saying? The Lakers won 26 games last year which included accidentally starting the season 10-10 and putting together a 5-game win streak at the end of the season while they should have been tanking. Their point differential gave them the win expectancy of a 24-win team. They would have to make a 10-game jump to hit this over. Their defense is a revolving door. How much shooting is on this team? I’m not as high on Ingram as the typical fan and especially the typical Laker fan. Everything points to the under. I just really love the KCP and Lopez additions. I expect Julius Randle to become an average NBA starter which would be a drastic improvement. Kyle Kuzma has extended his Summer League awesomeness into the preseason. To get to this over the Lakers have to get from the 30th defense to about the 23rd defense, and I don’t know how realistic that is considering how terrible Ball, Ingram and Kuzma figure to be on that end. I can’t possibly argue against you accusing me of wearing rose colored goggles here. Call it a gut feeling? (Some analyst, am I right?) Over.
- 13. Mavs O/U 35.5
I really just want to know how many minutes we are going to get to see Noel, Dirk, and Barnes on the floor at the same time. I also really want to know if Dennis Smith Jr. is going to simultaneously break Instagram/Twitter and the hearts of Knicks fans everywhere. I mean, I’ve never seen someone miss a dunk and have it become a viral “highlight.” Betting against Rick Carlisle to win at least 36 games seems really dumb. Over.
- 14. Kings O/U 28.5
I don’t like that the Kings brought in all these old guys at the expense of their young players getting minutes, but on the other hand it gives them enough solid rotation players that I think the Kings are going to be reasonably competitive on most nights. I am curious to watch how this team progresses with Fox, Skal, Cauley-Stein, Buddy and Justin Jackson. I am really excited to watch Giles but my educated guess is by the time he actually gets onto the court he is just going to look really lost. I think Hill, Randolph, Carter and Dave Joerger can grit and grind their way to 30 wins with these young guys. Over.
- 15. Suns O/U 28.5
I have very little hope for Dragan Bender at this point and absolutely no hope for Marquese Chriss. The suns have every reason in the world to tank and while they may not be able to shut down Bledsoe and Chandler in February like last season, I’m sure they will sit everyone come late March. More so, I will be shocked if Bledsoe isn’t traded. The Suns have been holding out hope for a better package before moving Bledsoe, but I think they should just accept his market and pull the trigger. Hey, it’ll help you tank. Under.