Splash’s Western Conference Prediction: Seeds 1-8
The NBA season is right around the corner. With that in mind, it is time to unveil my questionably bad predictions for the 2019-2020 season. Many of these predictions will be wrong, but if they are wrong, you can feel free to laugh in my face or send me mean tweets on Twitter. Thank you.
#1 | Utah Jazz
I am all in on the Jazz being the best team in the West this season. With the acquisition of Mike Conley, the Jazz should have a better offense accompanied by an elite defense. I anticipate Donovan Mitchell taking a step to superstardom and securing his first trip to the All-Star game and All-NBA teams. I anticipate that Rudy Gobert will play the majority of the season and continue to be the best defensive player in the NBA. Other players such as Joe Ingles at the newly acquired Bojan Bogdanovic will be critical in keeping the Jazz afloat if Mitchell or Gobert miss time due to injury or struggle to be the best player on the roster.
#2 | Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets were the second-best team in the West last season, narrowly missing out on the Western Conference Finals. Entering 2020, the Nuggets bring back the majority of their core from last season. The line will be led by Nikola Jokic, a sure-fire MVP candidate this season. Besides Jokic, the Nuggets feature Gary Harris, Jamal Murray, Paul Millsap, and the enigma that is Michael Porter. If Jokic has a second star next to him, the Nuggets should be in competition for the No. 1 seed in the west. If Denver can secure the No. 1 seed in the West, they will be very difficult to be at home in a seven-game playoff series.
Side note: part of my belief in that the Jazz and Nuggets will be the best two teams in the West stems from the idea that they are dominant teams at home and would much prefer to be at home for four games in a seven-game series as a post to travel to the Staples Center. Utah and Denver might not be as talented as either of the Los Angeles teams, but they have more incentive to win as many games as possible in the regular season.
#3 | Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers had a very strong season last year, finishing as the eighth-best team in the West. In the off-season, they acquired the services of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George through free agency and a blockbuster trade. The Clippers will be one of the best teams in the NBA this season as they have both star power and solid bench depth. Leonard and George are joined by solid players such as Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell who should provide good secondary scoring. Defensively, the Clippers could be impenetrable with Leonard, George, and noted ball thief Patrick Beverley. Leonard and George have been mentioned as MVP favorites for the season, but I think that their presence on the same team will cancel out some votes which could lead to a different player winning the MVP award, despite Leonard and George playing exceptionally well.
#4 | Los Angeles Lakers
After a disappointing end to the 2019 season, the Lakers traded for Anthony Davis. LeBron James and Anthony Davis should be the best duo in the NBA as both players are perennial first-team All-NBA players and MVP candidates. Even as LeBron James enters into his mid-30s, he should still play at a high enough level to lead the Lakers to 50 wins as long as Anthony Davis is healthy alongside him. Depth-wise, the Lakers have brought in a variety of names including Avery Bradley, the now-injured DeMarcus Cousins, and Dwight Howard. The Lakers should be a solid team in the regular season, but their real potential should be unveiled during the playoffs as James and Davis are two of the NBA’s best playoff performers.
#5 | Golden State Warriors
The Warriors lost Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala over the off-season. In addition to those losses, Klay Thompson will not be available until around the All-Star break. With that said, the Warriors still have Stephen Curry and Draymond Green. Curry will likely go supersonic this season, and he should be a decent bet to win his third MVP. Green might slip slightly due to a deterioration of perimeter defense with the lack of Klay Thompson, but he should be an All-Star again. The Warriors were able to add D’Angelo Russell in a sign and trade with the Nets, and Russell might offer 20 or more points per night.
#6 | San Antonio Spurs
I am not willing to bet against a Greg Popovich-coached team quite yet. The Spurs still have the services of two All-Stars in DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge. The Spurs will also have Dejounte Murray this season after he missed the 2019 season with an injury. Popovich will have to do a masterful coaching job if he wants to push the Spurs beyond the sixth seed, but the Spurs should make the playoffs. DeRozan continues to improve as a three-point shooter and defender like he has so far, so the Spurs could be a dangerous out early in the playoffs.
#7 | Portland Trailblazers
The Western Conference Finalist Portland Trailblazers are stuck in a rut of playoff mediocrity. Despite making their first trip to the Western Conference finals in almost 20 years, the Blazers are tasked with improving without much flexibility. Led by Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, the Blazers have high upside in a series format, but they might not be able to stream together more than 50 wins which might be required to be one of the top five or six teams in the Western Conference. The Blazers should be good, but they likely lack the depth to win enough games to be a top four seed in the west.
#8 New Orleans Pelicans
I am standing by this prediction. I think that the Pelicans will beat out the likes of the Kings, Mavericks, and Houston Rockets to get the eighth seed in the west. The Pelicans are loaded with upside players such as Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball in addition to number one overall pick Zion Williamson. While Williamson might not be as good as LeBron James or Kevin Durant as a rookie, he should be good enough to win Rookie of the Year and be the best player on this team. Williamson will have the help of Jrue Holiday, one of the NBA’s best defenders, and J.J. Redick, one of the NBA’s best shooters. The Pelicans are a young bunch of high upside players, and they should be very competitive in the Western Conference. While I don’t anticipate Williamson being an All-Star this season, he should make enough of an impact to push the Pelicans into the playoffs.