2013-14 NBA Preview and Predictions: The Western Conference

NBA 2013-14 Preview and Predictions: Western Conference

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Pacific Division

Los_Angeles_Clippers_logoLos Angeles Clippers Predicted: 58-24 (2012-13 Record: 56-26)

Key Losses: Chauncey Billups, Eric Bledsoe Key Additions: Darren Collison, Antawn Jamison, JJ Reddick My 5: Chris Paul, Jamal Crawford, Jared Dudley, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan

The Clips lost some veteran presence and youthful energy, but gained it all right back, in the off-season. While not tremendously deep, the additions they made should add to the locker room as well as a deep playoff run. Any team that has Chris Paul as the ringleader is in playoff contention. However, if anything should happen to him this team is doomed, as the entire roster is made up of complimentary pieces.

warriorsGolden State Warriors Predicted: 48-34 (2012-13 Record: 47-35)

Key Losses: Jarrett Jack Key Additions: Andre Iguodala, Marreese Speights My 5: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, David Lee, Andrew Bogut

The addition of Iguodala will provide balance at the Small Forward position that Richard Jefferson never could, and Harrison Barnes isn’t yet ready for. Festus Ezeli will improve and emerge as a rebounding and shot blocking force in the middle. The loss of Jarrett Jack will prove to be huge, and is what keeps this team’s improvement at a minimal level.

LakersLos Angeles Lakers Predicted: 36-46 (2012-13 Record: 45-37)

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Key Losses: Dwight Howard, Antawn Jamison, Metta World-Peace Key Additions: Chris Kaman, Nick Young My 5: Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Nick Young, Pau Gasol, Chris Kaman

With Kobe Bryant sidelined to begin the season, the Lakers will have to find some new go-to guys. Fortunately they have them in Nash and Gasol, who have the veteran savvy required. The passing ability that both possess will make those around them that much better. Kaman is a much better fit at Center than Howard was, and this team is far better than they are given credit for. Bryant will return to a team that is in the playoff hunt, but will fall just short.

kingsSacramento Kings Predicted: 34-48 (2012-13 Record: 28-54)

Key Losses: Tyreke Evans Key Additions: Greivis Vasquez, Carl Landry, Ben McLemore My 5: Greivis Vasquez, Ben McLemore, John Salmons, Patrick Patterson, DeMarcus Cousins

The Kings were able to add one of the top Pro Prospects in the draft (McLemore), and one of the most underrated players in the entire league (Vasquez) this off-season. If Cousins maturity can continue to catch up with his skill’s, and Patterson can have the impact he has shown glimpses of, this team can surprise a few people this season. Isaiah Thomas gives a nice scoring punch and change of direction off of the bench, and Ray McCallum is sneaky good.

sunsPhoenix Suns Predicted: 14-68 (2012-13 Record: 25-57)

Key Losses: Wesley Johnson, Luis Scola, Michael Beasley Key Additions: Eric Bledsoe, Alex Len, Archie Goodwin, Malcolm Lee My 5: Eric Bledsoe, Archie Goodwin, Markieff Morris, Channing Frye, Alex Len

The home of the NBA’s worst team this year resides in the South West desert. Phoenix is making no excuses that they are building for the future, assembling multiple first round picks, and dispersing of any NBA level talent they have over the age of 25. Goran Dragic is likely next to be dealt by management, and they projection of 14 Wins may even be a bit generous. Alex Len is a player to watch, as he may progress by seasons end into a future stud, and solid building block.

Southwest Division

spursSan Antonio Spurs Predicted: 56-26 (2012-13 Record: 58-24)

Key Losses: Dujaun Blair Key Additions: Marco Belinelli My 5: Tony Parker, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Tiago Splitter, Tim Duncan

Not much changed over the off-season for the defending Western Conference Champions. While their core 3 (Duncan, Parker, Manu Ginobili) continue to be worn down by Father Time, their younger players continue to gain confidence and emerge as more than just role-players. Leonard is quickly becoming a star at small forward, and the addition of Belinelli gives this team another clutch outside shooter who can knock down three’s in bunches.

Logos-Memphis-GrizzliesMemphis Grizzlies Predicted: 54-28 (2012-13 Record: 56-26)

Key Losses: None Key Additions: Mike Miller, Kosta Koufos, Jamaal Franklin My 5: Mike Conley, Jamaal Franklin, Tayshaun Prince, Zach Randolph, Mark Gasol

Last season Memphis led the league in Scoring Defense, holding opponents to a paltry 89.3 points per game. They rode this style of play all the way to the Conference Finals, but did not have enough ammunition to advance beyond that. The defense could actually improve from last year, as Jamaal Franklin is a Rookie that will stand out and open many eyes. Mike Miller appears to be healthy again, and can provide a nice scoring punch in limited minutes off of the bench. An additional scorer could still be used in the backcourt, and this team will make an early exit from this years playoffs.

HOU RocketsHouston Rockets Predicted: 52-30 (2012-13 Record: 45-37)

Key Losses: Thomas Robinson, Royce White, Carlos Delfino Key Additions: Dwight Howard, Isaiah Canaan My 5: Jeremy Lin, James Harden, Chandler Parsons, Dwight Howard, Omar Asik

Many people question whether or not Dwight Howard can fit in with the Rockets, after the debacle that took place in Los Angeles last season. It is widely known that he wants to be the main attraction, and James Harden has already asserted himself as that in Houston. What is not being understood is that as great of a scorer as Harden is, he is equally as great as a passer. Harden should improve on his stellar numbers from last season, and get into the “LeBron range” averaging close to a Triple-Double. Houston has one of the most well balanced and un-selfish teams. This may not be their season to take it all, but they will challenge. The projected 52 Wins may be very conservative, but it should take a few games at full speed to get the chemistry right.

Pelicans_Secondary3New Orleans Pelicans Predicted: 46-36 (2012-13 Record: 27-55)

Key Losses: Robin Lopez, Grevis Vasquez Key Additions: Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans My 5: Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, A-Farouq Aminu, Anthony Davis, Jeff Withey

The Pelicans have changed their name, and most notably have changed their game. Over the off-season they added experience, without sacrificing youth. Holiday is one of the premier young point guards in the league, and now has some athletic complimentary pieces, most notably Davis. Some muscle and post presence in the front court would be welcome, but this team does have a bunch of weapons it can call on to score. Tyreke Evans as a 6th man is a prime example of this. They will be one of the most improved, and exciting, teams in the league this season.

DAL MavericksDallas Mavericks Predicted: 46-36 (2012-13 Record: 41-41)

Key Losses: Elton Brand, Darren Collison, Chris Kaman, OJ Mayo Key Additions: Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon, Shane Larkin My 5: Jose Calderon, Monta Ellis, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki, Brandan Wright

Exit veteran talent, bring in the same and reload. The Mavs still center around Dirk, and the additions of Calderon and Ellis to the backcourt, should prove to be a better fit than the pieces from last season. Unfortunately, it still is not enough to get out of the middle lane in the Western Conference. They will be on the fringe of a playoff berth all season, which will prevent them from dealing some veterans for youth and/or draft picks. They will finish on the outside looking in, and hopefully owner Mark Cuban will realize it is time to dismantle and rebuild.

Northwest Division

nuggetsDenver Nuggets Predicted: 55-27 (2012-13 Record: 57-25)

Key Losses: Andre Iguodala, Kosta Koufos Key Additions: JJ Hickson, Nate Robinson, Randy Foye, Darrel Arthur My 5: Ty Lawson, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Farried, Javale McGee

Is it possible that the most explosive and up-tempo team in the league last season just got even faster? The Nuggets use the Rocky Mountain altitude, as well as a 10+ man rotation, to outlast opponents in what essentially becomes a track meet. Nate Robinson will love playing in the loose system, and will be a finalist for 6th Man of the Year honors. JJ Hickson is out of the Farried mold, and will pair with the “Manimal” and McGee to form the most athletic front-court in the NBA. A Division Crown is within their reach.

thunderOklahoma City Thunder Predicted: 55-27 (2012-13 Record: 60-22)

Key Losses: Kevin Martin Key Additions: Steven Adams My 5: Russell Westbrook, Jeremy Lamb, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, Steven Adams

When Russell Westbrook went down with an injury in the Playoffs last spring, Kevin Durant proved what everyone already knew: He can carry the team, almost single-handedly. Hopefully, Westbrook also learned from this, and will work to become a more complete Point Guard, as opposed to being the focal point of the team’s offense. Jeremy Lamb is a popular name amongst reserves this year, but he is capable of manning starter’s minutes. An underrated defender, especially off the ball, he could provide the spark Kevin Martin was never able to. Ibaka continues to improve, and this team will once again be in the top of the Conference standings.

MIN T'WolvesMinnesota Timberwolves Predicted: 46-36 (2012-13 Record: 31-51)

Key Losses: Andrei Kirilenko, Malcolm Lee Key Additions: Shabazz Muhammad, Gorgui Dieng, Kevin Martin My 5: Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Shabazz Muhammad, Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic

The T’Wolves will be the second most improved team in the West this year, and it is all because of a healthy Love and Rubio. The tandem will emerge as one of the best combinations in the game, and Love will challenge for MVP honors. This is the year they get back into the Playoffs, as they will sneak into the 8th seed. Muhammad has more game than what he showed in college, and will surprise many as a legitimate NBA talent.

POR TrailblazersPortland Trailblazers Predicted: 41-41 (2012-13 Record: 33-49)

Key Losses: JJ Hickson Key Additions: CJ McCollum, Thomas Robinson, Brook Lopez My 5: Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Nicolas Batum, Thomas Robinson, LaMarcus Aldrige

The Blazers have length, athleticism, and three point shooters. All of that will lead to a ton of excitement for fans, but they will be in the middle of the pack and left out of the Playoffs. They do have the makings of nice young core, but are still lacking in experience. Another season for Lillard to mature, and McCollum and Robinson to learn the offense, will make this a team with a solid and promising future.

UTA JazzUtah Jazz Predicted: 28-54 (2012-13 Record: 43-39)

Key Losses: Al Jefferson, Paul Milsap Key Additions: Trey Burke, Richard Jefferson, Andris Biedrins My 5: Trey Burke, Gordon Hayward, Marvin Williams, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter

Last year the Jazz surprised many, as they challenged right down to the last day of the season for the 8th and final Playoff spot. Not only did they lose out on that, but they also lost one third of their scoring in the off-season. Rookie Trey Burke has a lot of fans convinced he can be the real deal, but his career will probably be better served as a backup or a 6th man providing offense off of the bench. Favors has a real chance to emerge, and make up the scoring difference left behind by Jefferson and Milsap. Look for this team to take a big step back from last year’s success, and target a pass-first Point Guard and/or Small Forward for their future.

Projected Western Conference Playoff Picture

First Round
1. Los Angeles Clippers
8. Minnesota Timberwolves
Clippers Wins in 6 Games

2. San Antonio Spurs
7. Golden State Warriors
Golden State Wins in 6 Games

3. Denver Nuggets
6. Houston Rockets
Rockets Win in 7 Games

4. Oklahoma City Thunder
5. Memphis Grizzlies
Thunder Win in 5 Games

Conference Semi-Finals
1. Los Angeles Clippers
4. Oklahoma City Thunder
Clippers Win in 7 Games

6. Houston Rockets
7. Golden State Warriors
Rockets Win in 5 Games

Western Conference Finals
1. Los Angeles Clippers
6. Houston Rockets
Rockets Win in 6 Games

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