2016-2017 NBA Western Conference Preview
The Quest for redemption by the Bay.. the post-Duncan era begins in San Antonio.. a re-do season for the Clippers.. D'Antoni with Harden.. and the Russell Westbrook one-man supershow.. it's going to be a fun year in the West but will it be suspenseful?
Northwest Division 1. Oklahoma City Thunder - Any one of four teams can win the division, as I expect the top 4 to all have between 42 and 50 wins. But, I have always been Team Russ, and put me on board for an MVP season and an outside shot at averaging a triple-double for the year. The acquisitions of Oladipo and Ilyasova will turn out better than expected and Steven Adams continues his ascent toward being the best center in the league. 2. Portland Trail Blazers - I think the backcourt of Lillard and McCollum is the second best in the league and the fan base is the most underrated in the sport. But, I just don't think they improved quite enough in the offseason with the additions of Evan Turner and Festus Ezeli, and they will not be sneaking up on anybody this year.
3. Minnesota Timberwolves - If you had to pick a team besides the Cavaliers and Warriors for the next five years, the T-Wolves might just be it. Out goes the future Hall of Famer KG and in comes Thibs as coach and rookie Kris Dunn to go with the tandem of Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, whom a recent GM poll gave the most votes as to which player they would start a team with right now. Consider this season the next step towards the top.
4. Utah Jazz - A very popular pick going in to the season, I see why everyone is very excited about this team which has solid depth and a great blend of vets, young players, athleticism, shooting, and playmaking. A team with top-4 seed capability, call it a gut feeling that they finish 4th here, which could still mean a playoff berth with the relative weaknesses of the other two divisions.
5. Denver Nuggets - The Nuggets will surely be a fun team to watch and will definitely show flashes throughout the year, pulling a few unexpected upsets. If they can get out of the basement of this division, they could consider this season a successful one.
1. San Antonio Spurs - There is no reason to think the Spurs will not be where they always are: Winners of the division, a top 3 seed and in title contention. Tim Duncan barely contributed towards the end of last year so his loss isn't as big as one may think. Pau Gasol is a great replacement but I do think this talk about Lamarcus Aldridge being unhappy is a bit concerning.
2. Memphis Grizzlies - I have no idea how this team made the playoffs last year with all of their injuries, including ones to Mike Conley and Marc Gasol down the stretch. With those guys back for a full campaign, I will take them to play second fiddle to San Antonio in the division
3. Dallas Mavericks - The Mavericks go psuedo-Warriors, picking up Andrew Bogut, Harrison Barnes and Curry...Seth Curry that is...I do think Barnes will thrive in Dallas but I don't think these arrivals will be able to put Dallas in that upper tier of the conference. Here's to watching another season of Dirk Nowitzki, which could be his last.
4. Houston Rockets - Mike D'Antoni and James Harden: a match made in offensive heaven and defensive hell..call me skeptical but I do not think this goes well..it could result in an MVP season for Harden but team-wise, I have them missing the playoffs. If history is any indication, there may not be a team that gives up more points this year than Houston.
5. New Orleans Pelicans - Man, I feel sorry for Anthony Davis..their big pick up in the offseason was Lance Stephenson..not good. Plus, his historic contract extension a couple years back is a fraction of what he would get if he became a free agent this summer. One future pairing I would absolutely love to see to try and compete with the Warriors... Davis with Lillard in Portland
1. Golden State Warriors - There isn't much left to say about this team..I don't think they win 74 but their current over/under is 66.5 and I do think they go beyond that because they will still need to go for home court advantage plus they will still win games even if one or two of their big guns is sitting out on any given night.
2. Los Angeles Clippers - This could be the final shot for the group of Doc, CP3, Blake, and Jordan. I think they live up to the expectations and take it forward into the playoffs as well. The inability to find that versatile small forward will continue to be the fatal flaw.
3. Sacramento Kings - The Kings have the most talent of the remaining three times but could easily revert to dumpster fire status if Boogie Cousins decides he wants to blow things up again. I do think Dave Joerger was a sneaky good hire and I think he brings the pieces together to get this team close to the playoffs.
4. Phoenix Suns - Devin Booker is a future All-Star and just like the Nuggets, I think the Suns will be a great team to watch on television. The team might just be the youngest in the league; so while they won't be able to compete too well, we will certainly see a foundation of what could be a playoff team next year.
5. Los Angeles Lakers - The road back after the Kobe era should start off with baby steps taken forward this year. Luke Walton coming on board as head coach should instill a much more stable and disciplined style that should get the most out of the young talent on the roster.
1. Golden State
2. San Antonio
3. Los Angeles Clippers
4. Oklahoma City
Golden State over Los Angeles Clippers in the Western Conference Finals
NBA CHAMPION - Cleveland Cavaliers over Golden State Warriors
League MVP - Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
Coach of the Year - Brad Stevens, Boston Celtics
Rookie of the Year - Kris Dunn, Minnesota Timberwolves
All-NBA First Team
G Russell Westbrook
G Damian Lillard
F LeBron James
F Paul George
C Demarcus Cousins
All-NBA Second Team
G Stephen Curry
G Chris Paul
F Kevin Durant
F Anthony Davis
C Deandre Jordan
All-NBA Third Team
G Kyrie Irving
G James Harden
F Kawhi Leonard
F Karl-Anthony Towns
C Steven Adams