Western Conference Predictions 2010-11

OKLAHOMA CITY - APRIL 30: Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder drives to the basket against Ron Artest #37 of the Los Angeles Lakers during Game Six of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2010 NBA Playoffs on April 30, 2010 at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The Lakers beat the Thunder 95-94. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

On to the Western Conference. The Lakers remain the cream of the crop out west. Who could knock them off? Don't know that anyone can. But the Thunder have the best shot, in my opinion. Portland, and Dallas should give a good account of themselves. Like the Celtics, San Antonio spends to keep its core together and add Splitter and James Anderson.

So check them out. Right or wrong, let me know. I promise I won't tweet whatever you say about my picks.

Southwest Division

Dallas Mavericks – 52-30


The biggest change is having a solid defensive tandem in the middle for a full year now with Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood. Caron Butler (30 yrs old) should have been an impact player. He will have to brush up on his driving game and clutch shooting for all this to work better. Kidd (37), Terry (33), Marion (32), Nowitzki (32) are all one year older. (Amazing how I knew that.) Beaubois, their most intriguing player, is out indefinitely after foot surgery. Three first round playoff exits in 4 years. Does this change this year? Doubtful. 

San Antonio Spurs – 49-33

Age remains an increasing factor for this team also. Tiago Splitter finally comes to the NBA, and will help. Parker just re-signed and that means he, Ginobili, and Jefferson will be around for a while. With Duncan, a tight and dangerous team that will still bite. Health an issue for Parker and Ginobili. They won’t go far unless George Hill, James Anderson, Dejuan Blair and/or Tiago Splitter provide something unusual in the playoffs.

New Orleans Hornets 44-38

Chris Paul makes players on any team better. Trying to go more uptempo, they brought in Ariza. New coach Williams is stressing defense more, even with Bellinelli starting. Marcus Thornton is interesting and a solid scoring threat. Collison can’t be replaced, but even losing Posey, may be a bit deeper this season with Bayless and Smith.

Memphis Grizzlies 42-40


Everyone underestimated this team last year except one pundit (not me). Still they were just 40-42 with a decent amount of talent. Gay and Mayo are learning to share the ball and Zach Randolph had a bigger impact than I expected. Give Lionel Hollins credit for helping stabilize this team and play better ball. Mike Conley was Hollins biggest project and he just signed a questionable big new pact. So far he is playing solid ball. I say they continue to improve.

Houston Rockets – 37-45

What makes this team not be terrible? I underestimated this team by 5 wins last season. I couldn’t see a team with no true go-to guy being a .500 team in the NBA. Rick Adelman proved the team concept still works and me wrong. The biggest question this year is ‘What do they get from Yao Ming?’ I see another overachieving team this time with Kevin Martin as the main option now. I think I underestimate Aaron Brooks. With a fairly healthy Ming, add 8 more wins.

The rest after the jump....


Northwest Division

Oklahoma City Thunder 54-28


I expected this team to break out this year. I was a year too late. Young tremendous group of top talent and well coached. I’m sold on their rise to the top of the league. Were shot block leaders and top 4 defensive rebounding (differential) with having anyone as a league leader last season. Team effort. They showed how confident they were against the seasoned Lakers in the playoffs. Durant, Westbrook and solid support make this fun team to watch and a tough team to beat. Carry on KD and company.


Portland Tralblazers – 50-32

Brandon Roy wants the ball more this season. Will he and Miller co-exist and flourish together? At this point, I don’t even count Oden anymore and whose contract isn’t being extended. Very good team, well coached in a deliberate offense and a solid defense. Camby helps, but what puts this team up a level? Fernandez and Batum, perhaps even Roy would be better in an uptempo game. Unleash the dogs a bit Nate.

Utah Jazz – 44-38

So the big question is…Can Al Jefferson really replace Carlos Boozer? The answer is he doesn’t have to, Paul Millsap will help do that. Jefferson also plays center and I guess will be used at both positions when Okur gets back. With Raja Bell, a solid starting five. The least three point shooting team in the league last season. They pick’n roll you to death. Another solid Sloan team that won’t have enough to win it all.
They finally broke .500 on the road. Maybe the question is "Will Sloan get Jefferson to play better defense?" Sloan’s teams can really play basketball but not enough killer instinct here.


Denver Nuggets – 37-45

Why so low? I’m going to assume that Carmelo finally gets traded. Whatever the Nuggets get for him will be about assimilating at best. And about rebuilding at worst. They have talent, older talent, but they talk a better game than they have played in the playoffs. Anthony wants to get traded somewhere to compete for a title? He had the talent in Denver to do that. He is part of the problem, IMO. He is a great offensive player, but not the floor leader he needs to be to get this team to the title games. Shelden Williams reborn, Afflalo makes good on his chance, and George Karl was proven to be the surprising heart of the Nuggets.

Minnesota Timberwolves – 20-62

With Jefferson gone, it is largely Love’s team. Still not sold on Rambis, but they should make headway this season. Darko a strange signing and a unique part of who David Kahn is. Like a Bizarro Danny Ainge, he looks for cast offs and out of favor players, but ends up with Maurice Agar, Milicic…and Beasley, though he could still pay off. Getting only 2 1st round draft picks (at least one is lottery protected) for Big Al was low, though we know Jefferson’s not a complete ball player. If the team doesn’t move forward should they get rid of Rambis… or Kahn?

Pacific Division

L.A. Lakers – 60-22


A great team got deeper with Steve Blake and Matt Barnes. Have to be the favorites to repeat. Bryant and Bynum injuries might be a concern. Long, balanced, now mentally tough and very solid defensively. Jackson (and Bryant) kept Artest in line and it paid off. Few in the west have what it takes to push them out of the title series. But the East… is a different story.

L.A. Clippers – 39-43

Blake Griffin = stud. Baron Davis = dud. The team = stuck in the mud. Ok, I’m done with rhymes. The record predicted is what they should achieve. But I’m not sure they will. After 4 games, offense rated dead last by Basketball Reference. Pre-Vinny, last year just as bad at 28th. Jeez, VDN and Baron, that’s not how it is supposed to be. Another year of head shaking underachieving?

Phoenix Suns – 35-47

We’ve been waiting for it to happen. With Amar’e gone, Steve Nash is left with a lightweight line-up. Warrick and Childress? Not sure what Sarver and company were thinking. Where’s the beef? Run they will. Lose they will, too. Suns offense off almost 8 points a game so far. That is huge. Gentry seems like a solid coach, but he needs a better mix. Grant Hill, you could have been on the Celtics this season.

Sacramento Kings – 33-49

With Cousins, Evans, Thompson, Casspi, Landry, Dalembert, they have a lot of pieces. After starting fast (9-9) then falling off (16-48) last season, they should be poised to move forward this season. Cousins is a difference maker, Evans should be better and Landry is solid. Kings’ offense clicking early. Defense is not. Have to see how this team defines itself this year.


Golden State Warriors – 31-49

Chris Cohan sells team and Nelson is gone. Those are plusses, right? From the worst rebounding team to something better with a little more defense this season. David Lee helps and Curry and Ellis make a potent but odd couple back court. Honestly, I really don’t know what to expect from this team so I’ll play it safe and say an 8 game improvement for the reasons above. Or is that optimistic?


Northwest Division

Oklahoma City Thunder 54-30


I expected this team to break out this year. I was a year too late. Young tremendous group of top talent and well coached. I’m sold on their rise to the top of the league. Were shot block leaders and top 4 defensive rebounding (differential) with having anyone as a league leader last season. Team effort. They showed how confident they were against the seasoned Lakers in the playoffs. Durant, Westbrook and solid support make this fun team to watch and a tough team to beat. Carry on KD and company.


Portland Tralblazers – 50-32

Brandon Roy wants the ball more this season. Will he and Miller co-exist and flourish together? At this point, I don’t even count Oden anymore and whose contract isn’t being extended. Very good team, well coached in a deliberate offense and a solid defense. Camby helps, but what puts this team up a level? Fernandez and Batum, perhaps even Roy would be better in an uptempo game. Unleash the dogs a bit Nate.

Utah Jazz – 44-38

So the big question is…Can Al Jefferson really replace Carlos Boozer? The answer is he doesn’t have to, Paul Millsap will help do that. Jefferson also plays center and I guess will be used at both positions when Okur gets back. With Raja Bell, a solid starting five. The least three point shooting team in the league last season. They pick’n roll you to death. Another solid Sloan team that won’t have enough to win it all.
They finally broke .500 on the road. Maybe the question is "Will Sloan get Jefferson to play better defense?" Sloan’s teams can really play basketball but not enough killer instinct here.


Denver Nuggets – 37-45


Why so low? I’m going to assume that Carmelo finally gets traded. Whatever the Nuggets get for him will be about assimilating at best. And about rebuilding at worst. They have talent, older talent, but they talk a better game than they have played in the playoffs. Anthony wants to get traded somewhere to compete for a title? He had the talent in Denver to do that. He is part of the problem, IMO. He is a great offensive player, but not the floor leader he needs to be to get this team to the title games. Shelden Williams reborn, Afflalo makes good on his chance, and George Karl was proven to be the surprising heart of the Nuggets.

Minnesota Timberwolves – 20-62

With Jefferson gone, it is largely Love’s team. Still not sold on Rambis, but they should make headway this season. Darko a strange signing and a unique part of who David Kahn is. Like a Bizarro Danny Ainge, he looks for cast offs and out of favor players, but ends up with Maurice Agar, Milicic…and Beasley, though he could still pay off. Getting only 2 1st round draft picks (at least one is lottery protected) for Big Al was low, though we know Jefferson’s not a complete ball player. If the team doesn’t move forward should they get rid of Rambis… or Kahn?

Pacific Division

L.A. Lakers – 60-22


A great team got deeper with Steve Blake and Matt Barnes. Have to be the favorites to repeat. Bryant and Bynum injuries might be a concern. Long, balanced, now mentally tough and very solid defensively. Jackson (and Bryant) kept Artest in line and it paid off. Few in the west have what it takes to push them out of the title series. But the East… is a different story.

L.A. Clippers – 39-43


Blake Griffin = stud. Baron Davis = dud. The team = stuck in the mud. Ok, I’m done with rhymes. The record predicted is what they should achieve. But I’m not sure they will. After 4 games, offense rated dead last by Basketball Reference. Pre-Vinny, last year just as bad at 28th. Jeez, VDN and Baron, that’s not how it is supposed to be. Another year of head shaking underachieving?

Phoenix Suns – 35-47

We’ve been waiting for it to happen. With Amar’e gone, Steve Nash is left with a lightweight line-up. Warrick and Childress? Not sure what Sarver and company were thinking. Where’s the beef? Run they will. Lose they will, too. Suns offense off almost 8 points a game so far. That is huge. Gentry seems like a solid coach, but he needs a better mix. Grant Hill, you could have been on the Celtics this season.

Sacramento Kings – 33-49


With Cousins, Evans, Thompson, Casspi, Landry, Dalembert, they have a lot of pieces. After starting fast (9-9) then falling off (16-48) last season, they should be poised to move forward this season. Cousins is a difference maker, Evans should be better and Landry is solid. Kings’ offense clicking early. Defense is not. Have to see how this team defines itself this year.


Golden State Warriors – 31-49


Chris Cohan sells team and Nelson is gone. Those are plusses. From the worst rebounding team to something better with a little more defense this season. David Lee helps and Curry and Ellis make a potent but odd couple back court. Honestly, I really don’t know what to expect from this team so I’ll play it safe and say an 5 game improvement for the reasons above. Will Curry and Ellis, two great offensive players take this team further,....or not?

It is possible that Sacramento jumps further ahead than I have them. They have great potential. So that is it. I'll check the progress from time to time and see where I was right ....and wrong. A Carmelo trade will make at least one team's prediction moot. Have at it.

My playoff teams are as follows:

Lakers,Thunder, Mavericks, Blazers, Spurs, Jazz, Hornets, Grizzlies

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