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We’ve already covered the Eastern Conference, and the NBA is almost here! I’m excited to present the NBA Western Conference in the same way – contenders, playoff hopefuls, and others.
Lakers, Jazz, Nuggets
I’m not sure that I should even include the Jazz and Nuggets in this. I don’t think either of them are good enough to make it to the championship, but the truth is, injuries happen. Look at last year, the Jazz were the best team in the West and doing great defensively before they suffered some injuries. But, that’s what happens, and teams need to respond. The Nuggets lost Jamaal Murray for basically the entire year last year. I’m not as high on him as others are, but he’s a good player and does make a difference. There is a lot to like about the Nuggets and if Michael Porter Jr. can step up the Nuggets might be the best team in the West. Remember, Porter Jr. was likely the number 1 overall pick before the injury. I’m going to take the Lakers at +400 to win the championship. After a couple of weeks, the price could increase as they likely will start out slowly as they figure out how to play together. But, overall, they have probably the deepest team and easily the biggest names and talent on their roster.
Suns, Clippers, Mavericks, Trailblazers
I know the Suns were in the Finals and had a 2-0 lead last year. Now, I only have them as a playoff team. The Suns had an easy path through the playoffs. They faced a reeling and hurt Lakers team, another injured Nets team, and then a Kawhi-less Clippers team. Even Giannis was hurt against them, he just mustered through it all and they had no answer. I don’t think they even make it to the Western Conference Finals this year. The Clippers still will be without Kawhi, so they will make the playoffs, but doubtful they go very far. The Mavericks need at least one other piece to help them. The biggest addition could be a Kristaps Porzingas that plays like the player he was on the Knicks. Finally, the Trailblazers… I love Damian Lillard, and so do the people of Portland. But, it might be best for both that a trade happens. Dame deserves a winning team, and Portland won’t win as currently constructed. As long as they don’t trade him away (they probably won’t) they should win 45 or more games. Take over 44.5 at -128.
Play-in Game Teams
Warriors, Grizzlies, Kings
I think that Steph Curry might have had the most impressive season he’s ever had last year. His team was worse than ever and he nearly took them to the playoffs. The Warriors are getting Klay Thompson back at some point, but who knows how effective he will be. He hasn’t played in over two years at this point. The Grizzlies are talented. I love Ja Morant and love Jaren Jackson Jr. there is a lot of talent in the West, but they should compete for the play-in tournament. I’m playing they will be in it at -110. This might be the last shot this Kings team has at going in the playoffs. They have some talented individuals, but nothing has resulted in complete success, yet. At +175, I really do like them to make it to the tournament.
Pelicans, Spurs, Thunder, Timberwolves, Rockets
I’m not impressed by any of these teams. Of all of them, the Timberwolves and the Pelicans might be able to pull off a play-in game. The Pelicans have another new coach and the talented Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram. Scoring wont be the problem, it will be the defensive stops that are. The Timberwolves improved late in the year, and Anthony Edwards had flashes of why he could be a star in the league. I just don’t think they will keep it up for an entire season. The Spurs still have coach Pop, and that makes a difference, but I don’t see them making a big impact. I like them to be under 29.5 wins at +108. The Rockets and Thunder should be competing for the #1 overall pick next year. One hopeful situation is that the Rockets trade away Eric Gordon and get their rookie, Jalen Green, and 2019 first-round pick Kevin Porter Jr. to improve enough to contend again shortly.