2010-2011 Bold Statements: Western Conference Standings
I doubt anyone will agree with these standings.
The Oklahoma City Thunder will be amazing this year. All of their main players will be back: Durant, Westbrook, Harden, Ibaka, Perkins, Sefolosha, Maynor, Collison, and Cook. A full year and training camp with Perkins will also be really beneficial to their success. There won’t be a problem with Westbrook taking too many shots this season and Durant will be a top consideration for MVP. This team has it.
I almost didn’t put the Dallas Mavericks this high because they are getting older and Jason Kidd will not be playing all 66 games this season. They also lost great pieces in JJ Barea, DeShawn Stevenson, and defensive cornerstone Tyson Chandler. The main reason why I have them this high is because they replaced those players with a lot of talent. Delonte West, Vince Carter, and Lamar Odom are all great talents that will contribute a lot to this team. Beaubois should also be back for a full season. I have high hopes for this team.
The Los Angeles Lakers at the 3nd seed is a stretch to me. They lost a lot of chemistry with the losses of Lamar Odom and Phil Jackson. How Mike Brown’s system will work with this team is a total coin-flip. With that said, this team still has too much talent that you cannot ignore. Kobe is still Kobe and will score a lot of points. Bynum will be really good this season (once he’s back from his suspension). Josh McRoberts isn’t Lamar, but he will be a great player off the bench. Devin Ebanks looks like he will break out this season. The Lakers will still be really good.
This is probably my most ridiculous prediction. Yes, I think the Memphis Grizzlies will be good enough to take the #4 spot in the Western Conference. Their young core of Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, Tony Allen, Mike Conley, and OJ Mayo is still in tact. I actually had this team up at #2 (huge stretch, but I believe), but once Darrell Arthur went down with an Achilles injury, my hopes dropped a bit.
I’m surprised I don’t have this Los Angeles Clippers team higher. I’ve given in to “Lob City” but you also have to remember that it’s only their first year together; they haven’t even had a full training camp together. Their starting line-up is deadly, though, with CP3, Billups, Butler, Blake, and DeAndre, with a solid bench of Mo Williams, Foye, Gomes, and Reggie Evans. If I’m so high on them, then why are they only the 5th seed? Vinny Del Negro.
Like the Pacers, I’m probably a lot higher on this Portland Trailblazers team than many others. Brandon Roy and Greg Oden being out will be a big blow, but you also have to take into account how neither of them were around a lot last season, and they still got the 6th seed. They still need another big man to make up for Camby’s absence in the beginning of the season, but LaMarcus Aldridge’s due for a huge All-Star season. Plus, with the addition of Jamal Crawford, they have a nice back court with Wesley Matthews and Raymond Felton.
The San Antonio Spurs are in the same situation as the Boston Celtics: win enough games to make the playoffs. Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili definitely won’t be playing 66 games each. Antonio McDyess just retired and George Hill is now a Pacer. That means players like Tiago Splitter, Matt Bonner, Gary Neal and Kawhi Leonard are going to have to step up more, but only to a low playoff seed. The Spurs’ championship window is closing and sadly, this doesn’t look like their year.
There is no team more confusing than the Denver Nuggets this year. They lost JR Smith, Wilson Chandler, and Kenyon Martin to the Chinese Basketball Association until March; two out of those three more than likely would have returned to Denver. Nonetheless, they still have enough on their team to make the playoffs. Both Nene and Arron Afflalo will be back and will have more touches. Gallinari is due to step up his game, and Andre Miller and Ty Lawson will be a great point guard tandem. Rudy Fernandez is also a really good pick-up from the Mavericks, and Kenneth Faried will be a really good rookie. Now it’s just about George Karl putting this all together cohesively.
The Unfortunate Ones
I feel bad for the Houston Rockets. They are always stuck fighting for that 8th seed in the playoffs, but eventually falling just short. Kevin McHale will be a good coach for this team (even Jordan Hill looked good during the preseason), but with a roster like this, one can only do so much.
10th seed seems a little high for the Phoenix Suns, but Steve Nash and Grant Hill have had a taste from the fountain of youth. Nash is the kind of point guard that makes everyone around him better, and they’ll keep fighting to make that last playoff spot.
The Golden State Warriors’ success all depends on how the team responds to Mark Jackson’s devotion to team defense. Also: Stephen Curry’s ankle. With this roster, though, realistically I only see them around the 9th-12th seed. That means that they don’t make the playoffs and they lose their top-7 protected 2012 draft pick that the Utah Jazz have. Luck of the Warriors.
I am buying into the Minnesota Timberwolves this year. They are no longer the worst team in the Western Conference with Kevin Love getting even better and the additions of Ricky Rubio, Derrick Williams, and JJ Barea. Granted, they still won’t be good enough, mostly because Rubio and Williams have still yet to prove their worth.
I’m not nearly as high on the Utah Jazz as anyone else. They lost too much talent with Deron Williams and Jerry Sloan. Though they have a great front line with Favors, Jefferson, Millsap, and Kanter, I just don’t see enough talent to push them back to relevance. They can easily go up to 10th, though, but I doubt it.
What can I say about the New Orleans Hornets… I think Aminu’s, Gordon’s, and Kaman’s faces say it all. At least Gordon can let loose and have an All-Star worthy year!
And that leaves the Sacramento Kings. At first I didn’t want to put this team so low, but I couldn’t put myself to write them any higher. They have a lot of solid players in Tyreke, Jimmer, Thornton, Salmons, Garcia, Honeycutt, Hickson, Cousins, Thompson, and Hayes… but honestly, how is Paul Westphal going to implement these players cohesively?