NBA Western Conference Predictions, 2017-18

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Things will be closer and more bunched up this year. No one or two teams will run away with the conference, and there won’t be a team with a record-setting numbers of wins.


Years ago, a professional colleague of mine joked about my predictions. “If Lynn’s reading is not accurate, save it for next year.” I’m often very accurate with my predictions, but sometimes (for whatever reason) I’m a year early.

With that in mind, let me repost an article from last year. I’ll give it a new face while I’m at it. Then, we’ll wait to see what happens.

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Decades ago, the NFL did a heavy propaganda campaign selling the idea of parity. The thinking was that it would give smaller market teams a better chance to compete, make games closer, and (in so doing) draw bigger audiences and make more profit.

As I look at this year’s Western Conference in the NBA, I think about those years and the idea of parity. My personal feeling is that things will be closer and more bunched up this year. No one or two teams will run away with the conference, and there won’t be a team with a record-setting numbers of wins.

I think teams that were at the top will move down the list, while some teams that were at the bottom of the list will move up. Those that were in the middle will stay middle-ish.

Here’s how I think things will shape up this year. The teams are evaluated, one by one, based on the order of finish at the end of the 2015-16 season.

Golden State Warriors: Historically, loading up on aging superstars is not the way to bolster a team’s roster (Payton Manning was the exception). Kevin Durant is not that old, but the Warriors won’t reach the elevated space they did last year. Baffling early season losses will pop their overinflated balloon, adding to the mystery of this team’s struggles.

San Antonio Spurs: The Spurs lost Tim Duncan, but still have a bevy of bucket-list candidates on the roster. Always competitive, they will hold their own. But rising franchises with younger players (and new ideas) will be at their heels. Even with that ‘old fox’ at the helm, the Spurs will not reach the same level they did last season.

Oklahoma City Thunder: The Thunder may have suffered most from previous developments, but the acquisition of Carmelo Anthony improves chances for success. The Oklahoma franchise has proven resourceful and will remain competitive despite the fact that the regrouping period following Durant’s loss will take two or three years. That means OKC could take a noticeable dive in the standings this season.

Los Angeles Clippers: This team always seems to be on the edge of dysfunction. Yet this emotionally unpredictable group should remain competitive despite the loss of Chris Paul. Having said that, I don’t think the Clippers will be a serious contender for a top spot in the conference.

Portland Trail Blazers: I’m anxious when pondering the season’s outcome. My guess is that Portland will win a few more games this year, but that the team may not improve much in the standings. They will be better, though.

This year will tell a lot about Terry Stotts’ future with the Blazers

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Dallas Mavericks: Even with Mark Cuban’s known generous spending, it’s difficult to buy a championship. I think the Mavs will struggle and could move down in the standings by year’s end. If nothing else, this team’s ho-hum postseason record doesn’t inspire optimism.

Memphis Grizzlies: Always a bit of a mystery, Memphis seems delegated to perform about the same … with possibly a slight improvement in the number of wins. The acquisition of Chandler Parsons will not bear as much fruit as anticipated. With a new coach and new system, the adjustment period will take longer than management wants. Even so, the Grizzlies three-pronged talent base should make this team competitive.

Houston Rockets–This is always an entertaining, albeit dysfunctional club, and that image won’t change this year. The new coach doesn’t have a good record regarding with player issues and dealing with outside distractions, but the acquisition of Chris Paul gives fragile Harden a boost. Expect the usual wild, wacky, and weird out of the oil city.

Utah Jazz: Some industry pundits have talked about the Jazz moving up in the West and that prediction could come true this year. The Jazz could be in the mix, replacing teams that were near the top last season. Acquisitions seem to fit and Utah’s young players gained valuable playing time last season.

Sacramento Kings: This team could teach a class in Dysfunction 101. At least the Kings are #1 at something. (Oops, we’re supposed to be talking about basketball, not therapy). Perhaps a new coach could coax something out of the Kings, but I don’t see much change in the cards. There is talent, though, and this team could surprise.

Denver Nuggets: A young and younger Denver squad says another transitional year of development and getting acquainted is in store. As with any youth movement, there will be moments when Denver plays with verve and fury. Then there will be moments of chaos and confusion.

The Nuggets could end up being like Portland of last year — grabbing more wins than most pundit’s project.

New Orleans Pelicans: New Orleans’ pro teams seem to have a mama voodoo curse, a curse that deters any sustained winning seasons or championships. So it looks like another transition year for the Pelicans. But there is a slight note of optimism. NO acquired some talent and will catch some better teams off-guard. It just won’t lead to many more wins than last year.

Minnesota Timberwolves: The Wolves have started out with a lot of optimism over the past several years … only to see those dreams fade to naught. This year the optimism may well be justified. Odds say that Tom Defense gets more out them than previous coaches. ]I look for the Wolves to make a noticeable improvement in the win column.

Phoenix Suns: There is room for optimism here. Coaching changes can lead to getting more out of young players and the addition of veterans adds glue to the unit. This writer says they will improve from last year’s record. It’s just that the Suns aren’t a threat to conference front-runners.

Los Angeles Lakers: Young Luke “Sideline Walker” has a way of getting more out of this group than many league prognosticators expect. A proud city and franchise simply won’t tolerate another season like the Lakers had last year.  This source says LAL will climb out of the basement and into respectability.

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