Aug 10

My Completely Objective (yeah right) NBA Western Conference 2013 Playoff Seeding Projections

Now that the NBA free agency period has mostly wrapped up and major trades are likely over, it is time to look at how the Golden State Warriors stack up in the West.

The big news of yesterday was… Howard to the Lakers for Bynum and a protected first rounder and Igoudala to the Nuggets for Afflalo, Harrington and another protected first to Orlando.  This changes the NBA landscape.  On sports radio, I have heard comments regarding the sad state of our Warriors franchise and how this does nothing but hurt our chances this year.  Across the board it is the same whether it is 95.7 the Game, KNBR 680, or Fox sports radio.  Seriously, this is stretching it a bit.  The Lakers and Nuggets were already better than our Warriors before this trade went down, as evidenced by the fact that both teams made the playoffs last year.  On the other hand, what happens a few years from now with the Lakers as the core enters “father-time”  could be fun for Warriors fans to watch.  The Lakers basically have traded away all first round picks in the next 4 years.  Interesting.

Ok… moving on.  I see the Western Conference the way many do for this upcoming season.  The top 6 teams in the Conference are all considered to be locks for the playoffs, barring some unforeseen injuries.  These teams are the Thunder, Spurs, Lakers, Clippers, Grizzlies, and Nuggets.  These teams have stayed either the same for the most part or in the case of the Lakers and Nuggets, have improved. This leaves 6 teams who have the opportunity to fill the last two spots in the playoffs for the West.  I would say that the teams that are out for sure are the Rockets, although I will be rooting for them with Jeremy Lin, the Kings, and the Hornets.  I know the Hornets are reloading, but it is too early to expect them to leapfrog half the conference into the playoffs.

1.  Top seed goes to the Thunder.  The team is unchanged as far as I can tell, but with this nucleus of players growing after the experience of making it to the finals, we can only expect greatness.  I have been expecting Durant to show himself to be the best player in the NBA for the last couple of years, and he didn’t quite beat out Lebron or Kobe yet.  The scoring title for Durant was a nice accolade for him, but he has a bit more to do on the defensive end as well as the pure want and desire to win that Lebron showed in the Finals.  This team is possibly the most balanced team in the NBA with a great scoring point in Westbrook, a superstar in his own right, Durant, Harden, the sixth man of the year, Ibaka, a beast in the paint who is still learning the offensive game, and Sefolosha as the lockdown wing defender/three point specialist.  The Thunder added a very interesting player that could be a homeless man’s Durant in Perry Jones.  Coach Scotty Brooks out-coached Popovich of the Spurs in my opinion and came close to figuring out how to down the Heat.  The sky is the limit for this team.

2.  The next seed is hard to predict, but I will give it to the Lakers.  Now that Dwight Howard is in and Bynum is out, without having to give up Gasol, the Lakers are going to be scary this year.  There are questions galore with this team, and Hollywood will have a great time dreaming up fairy tale endings.  They have the talent to win Kobe a 6th ring and tie the Celtics for the most NBA Championships all time.  The problems all start with chemistry.  Kobe and Nash have always been rivals.  Howard is just as much a head case as Bynum.  Any team with MWP has potential to have issues.  The Lakers reloaded in a big way that put them around 100M salary for this coming year, when the Luxury Tax cuts in at 73M.  This just wasn’t supposed to happen any more.  A couple of weeks ago I was laughing at this bench, but after adding Jamison and resigning Hill, the bench doesn’t look so bad anymore.  Rookies from this draft, Johnson-Odom and Sacre certainly don’t hurt.  I think this team has the best chance of taking the crown away from King James.  I don’t put them in the top seed, and even considered slotting them lower due to the fact it may take a whole season to jell before the Lakers reach their full potential see Heat of 10-11.

3.  Spurs.  This is one of the most amazing teams in the NBA.  Poppovich is the best coach in the NBA if you ask me.  He has the ability to get everything out of his players and change strategies on the fly.  Last season, this team went from one of the lower scoring teams in the NBA to one of the highest scoring teams, while finishing with a .750 record.  Even though the Thunder and Brooks outplayed them for the right to play in the Finals, this was an amazing team down the stretch last year.  Duncan, who is now a Spur for life still has game and the team is morphing around him to remain highly effective.  Even without Ginobli for the majority of the year, the Spurs just rolled.  Parker was a huge part of this excellence as he had one of his most productive years yet.  The Spurs are continuing to reload as well as Leonard, last years first rounder acq’d via trade from the Pacers, fits the team perfectly as a defender at multiple positions who also fits in perfectly with the offense Pop ran last year.  The Spurs did not have a first round pick this year.  This is not a Championship contender this year in my mind, but they will be one of the best in the West.

4.  Grizzlies.  This is just an old school type of team.  They can pound the ball in the paint with Marc Gasol and Randolph.  Both are tough rebounders as well.  They have one of the best small forwards in the game in Gay.  Gay can do a bit of everything, as he gets to the rim for monster dunks, can drain the three, and plays D on the perimeter.  Gay was one of my favorite fantasy players last year.  What is amazing about this team is the ability to absorb an injury to a major contributor, as Gay and Randolph have sustained injuries that cost them a large part of the season in the last two years.  The Grizz largely seemed unaffected.  What can this team do with a healthy season and healthy playoff run?  This offseason, they let Mayo get away who was a decent 6th man at times, but this is not a huge loss as he has under-performed as much as he helped.  Bayless comes in from Toronto this year and is a player that can do things to really help this team at the 1 or the 2.  They have starters those positions who are outstanding 2 way players in Allen and Conley.  Adding Wroten in the draft gives them another multi-talented guard who specializes in getting to the rim.  This team if healthy could finally have a long playoff run.

5.  Nuggets.  The addition of Igoudala makes this team very interesting.  I remember this team as the team that nearly knocked off the Lakers in the playoffs last year.  Subtract only Afflalo and Harrington and add Igoudala… so you lose some scoring, but you add a playmaker and a defender.  As far as I am concerned, Igoudala can guard darn near anyone in the NBA.  If Chandler can play the 3 with Igoudala at the 2, then you have a team that can really defend the perimeter.  Special PGs in Miller, resigned for a great deal at 3mil per for 3 years, and Lawson, who tore up the Lakers D in the playoffs, add to the interesting mix of this team.  Gallinari is a player I was not high on before last season, but I found I was impressed last year.  The question is… can he be an effective starter as a stretch 4 instead of the 3?  With Igoudala or Chandler at the 3, it could work… on the other hand, start Igoudala at the 2, Chandler comes off the bench, Gallinari starts at the 3, and let second year stud Faried start at the 4.  When you have the potentially improving McGee starting at the 5, this rounds out to be a very solid team.  If this couldn’t be any better, the top European prospect, Fournier was drafted by the Nuggets this year.  He is playing with them this year, and is a multi-talented large guard.  Coach Karl may finally have a roster that can rival his great Sonics teams of years past.

Here is where it gets interesting…

6.  Clippers.  This is a team that is going to have injury problems this year.  Their once hopeful Olympic 4, Griffin recently reinjured the same knee that kept him out of his rookie year.  Word is he will be ready for the start of the season, but don’t count on it.  Paul, considered the best point in the game by many, is showing his age as he has knee issues as well and other ailments that pop up from time to time.  Paul really isn’t that old, but he plays slow and gimpy at times.  It seems he does his best Kobe to play through things, but how much better is he and the team when he is healthy?  Billups comes back at a great price and can still play… if healthy.  He tore up his knee last year in a season ending injury.  Jordan is a nice 5 who is an athletic shot-blocker.  Caron Butler might start at the 3, while newly acquired Grant Hill could push to be the starter.  Clips did reload nicely with the addition of 6th man Crawford who played with the Blazers last year, as well as taking a chance on Odom.  Clips had no first rounder this year.  The upside of this team could be very high with health, but I just don’t see this team improving this year.

7.  Warriors.  Another team with injury issues galore.  On the other hand, this team is loaded and deep. There are no true stars here, but when healthy, they have one of the better starting lineups in the West.  The big difference this year is Bogut acquired in trade at the deadline last year from the Bucks for fan fave Ellis.  Additionally, the new ownership has stocked this team with more big bodies than they have had in my memory.  Starting with 7 footer Bogut, a 3rd team all NBA player in 09, they have the rebounding and interior defense that has been sorely lacking for this team in recent years.  Bogut has had 3 devastating injuries in his career.  A broken elbow sustained during a fast break dunk a few years ago still seems to bother his shooting, although it is his off-hand.  He had a major back issue that he missed games for, then last year, he broke his ankle and was injured at the time of the trade.  He is expected to play for the first time for the Warriors when the season starts, day 1.  Curry, the franchise face, is a sweet shooting point who has had a nasty recurring ankle sprain issue.  Curry is widely considered one of the best shooters in the NBA.  At the 2 is another of the best young shooters in the game in Thompson.  He started for the Warriors after the Ellis trade and quickly made a name for himself.  Rush,  a valuable long range shooting 6th man for the team last year has the ability to play the 2 or 3 and could start, most likely at the 3 until the team deems Rookie Barnes ready.  Barnes was a steal is some people’s mind to drop to the Warriors in the draft, but in Summer League play he has looked shaky at times.  Lee is a pick and roll or pick and pop scoring machine who can work very well with Curry.  Lee’s issue is defense which the addition of Bogut should really help.  Landry and Jack are other off-season acquisitions who help with depth at the 4 and 1 respectively.  They played together last year with the Hornets, and also for asst. coach Milone while he was with the Hornets the year before.  In addition to Barnes, the Warriors drafted big man Ezeli with the pick they got from the Spurs.  Ezeli is very raw, but is a major presence on the defensive end.  I can’t say how healthy this team will be, but with some luck, this depth and some chemistry should propel this team into the playoffs for the first time since 07.

8.  Timberwolves.  It is hard for me to figure whether they are better than the Warriors, but this is likely to be a playoff team.  With Kevin Love, who is on the Olympic team and is a baller, there is a chance for this to be a very impressive team…  Last year PG Rubio, a former European star, blew out his knee after having a stellar start to the season.  The chemistry of Rubio and Love was special.  Now with Rubio healthy again, this has to be one of the most interesting teams in the NBA.  Add to that signings of Roy, who sat out a year due to knee injuries, and Kirelinko who played in the Euroleague last year and is tearing up the Olympics for Russia right now, and this is going to be fun to watch.  A countryman of Kirelinko’s, Shved, has also been signed.  Shved is a large combo guard who can really play and is also torching it with Russia’s Olympic squad.  Add in an emerging quality 5 in Pekovic and the Wolves have a multinational team with great promise… if healthy.  They did not have a first round draft pick, but brought in some quality players here on the fly.  The only reason I put them here is that the Wolves have so many new pieces and young players that need to jell.  Oh yeah, and the Warriors are my team of course.  So there we go.

Mavericks…  Nowitzki is the premier stretch 4 in the game, but Love of the Wolves is very close on his heels.  Nowitzki is aging and was less effective last year.  The pieces around him are now subpar as the team is hoping for the big time free agent fish, but haven’t been able to reel it in.  Mavs lost out on Deron Williams and Howard this year, and they signed mediocre players to short deals to be ready with cap space again this next year.  Kaman, Mayo, and Collison are all likely to be new starters for the team while the returning starters are Nowitzki and Marion.  Marion as well as Nowitzki are both aging but outstanding players.  Kaman is aging as well and injury prone.  In recent years, Kaman has been injured every bit as much as the Warrior’s Bogut.  Kaman is a nice defensive player and decent rebounder, but is an inefficient offensive player who turns the ball over at a nasty pace. Mayo was an underperfoming 6th man for the Grizz in the past years, who became expendable.  Collison is a point who really is just not very good at much at all.  The teams depth consists of many rookies and subpar players.

Trailblazers…  I could be wrong about this team.  Playoffs are possible, but they are rebuilding.  They have an All-Star in Aldridge who is a tough 4 who can score and defend.  The problems I have with this team is the youth and Batum, a young athletic average 3, who they resigned for way too much money.  Other than that, I think they got the best pick in the draft in Lillard.  A point guard who can score from anywhere, Lillard played at tiny Weber St.  People question whether his game can translate to the NBA, but I expect him to be an All-Star year in, year out once he develops.  I also love Leonard, a raw 5 they drafted with their other first round pick.  I see the Blazers as one of the Warriors true rivals and don’t want them to do well.  Give them a year or two, and they will be back in the playoffs again every year.

Suns…  Losing Nash really hurt them.  It was inevitable.  They are taking the right track with young players at this time and have some guys I like.  Markieff Morris was drafted last year as a tough rebounding stretch 4.  Luis Scola came in after being amnestied by Houston.  Goran Dragic is a reasonable replacement for Nash, considering the rebuild mindset.  Kendall Marshall, a PG was their draft pick.  He is regarded as a pass first point with great court vision.  This could be a fun team to watch, but there is just not enough talent.

Rockets…  Lin could score 30… in fact I expect him to do so at least a couple of times this year.  There is not much else on this team.  Rookies and more rookies as they, like the Mavs, swung and missed on Howard this year.

Jazz…  Many expect the Jazz to compete for a playoff spot.  Mo Williams is not the answer at the point.  Hayward is a developing 2, but is just not that good.  The other Williams, Marvin, acq’d from the Hawks is a big 3 who I really don’t like that much.  The frontcourt is nice, but Al Jefferson is only a scorer at the 5.  He doesn’t defend.  I love Millsap, but he is getting older… Favors can look up to him as a perfect mentor.  Favors is special.  This team is not as good as it was last year.

Kings… Nice players.  Bad team.  Freddette did not pan out last year as their early draft selection, but the last pick in the draft… one Isiah Thomas is a little spark plug of a point that made the all rookie team.  This team is fun to watch, but has much growing to do.  Cousins, the 5, is another Bynum.  All the talent, but a head-case.  Their first rounder this year, Robinson, is a beast.  As an undersized 4, he is a baller.  He just out muscles and out works his opponent.  Hopefully, he can do that in the pros as well.  The biggest question for this team may be… can they figure out how to properly use former ROY Tyreke Evans?  He is a great talent who has been used at the 1, 2 and 3.  Nothing has worked right for him and the team yet.

Hornets… I did not like their draft.  Haha I know… Unibrow.  I am not a supporter.  He is just too thin for me.  He could end up being a nice player, but he would be an undersized Tyson Chandler at best.  Rivers… he wants to be Kobe, but is more like Jamal Crawford at the best.  I do really like Gordon.  For his sake, I wish he signed with Pheonix.  It’s going to take time for this team to get anywhere… In the mean time, more lottery picks!

Thanks for reading, this was fun.

The Fraz

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