Another edition of DBB on 3 means we are one week closer to the start of another NBA season. In this week's edition we asked the same three questions we asked our staff in last week's edition, but instead of predicting the Eastern Conference this time we moved west. We have a lot of great stuff here so grab a coffee, beer, whatever your beverage of choice and dig in.
1. Please predict the storyline that will dominate headlines in the West this season.
Ben Quagliata: The obvious answer is the Warriors and how KD fits in there and how he takes them from 73 to 78 wins. I’m trying to think of an alternate storyline but the media won’t allow it.
Glenn Metzger (GM26): Kevin Durant+Steph Curry+Klay Thompson+Draymond Green=all the ESPN. Maybe Draymond Green goes way too far and does something supremely stupid this year, getting himself and his team lots of negative attention which will, of course, be all over the ESPN. I just can't decide if that something stupid will be on the court or off the court.
Michael Snyder (Mophatt1): KD’s transition to the Bay. An 8-3 November could lead to "Who should the Warriors trade to right the ship?" The over analyzation will be suffocating BUT I’m watching as many 10:30pm Eastern games as I can stay awake for.
Ken Wallace (revken): The addition of Kevin Durant to the Warriors will be like a giant vacuum that sucks up all the attention from the press everywhere they play, with constant analysis of whether they are better or worse than expected.
Steve Hinson: DeMarcus Cousins trade roomers. Sacramento starts off the season with a lot of games on the road - the losses pile up, Cousins finally makes a public trade demand.
Justin Lambregtse: I think the storyline that will dominate the West is a pretty obvious one to me. It is going to be whether Golden State will beat or match last year's win total. I do not think that they will, but people are going to be watching to see if history will be made again.
Ben Gulker: The Warriors. I don't expect them to threaten 74 wins, and I expect the narrative to question whether or not their failure to do so is an indication of Kevin Durant making them a better team or not.
Ryan Pravato (Prava88): The Warriors, but the special focus will be on the defensive let-down they will experience by not having Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli in the middle anymore. Warriors will win tons of games (I predicted 64 in a previous 'DBB on 3') but people will be saying, 'how about that D though?'
Kevin Sawyer: The Warriors' "disappointing" season and whether Kevin Durant is truly a superstar, and whether the pressure of playing for a championship might be beyond his ken and whether he has that "killer instinct" that drives champions to perform at the highest level and what this will say about his lasting legacy.
Lazarus Jackson (lazchance): Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and JJ Redick can become UFA's after this season. If the Clippers start slow or stumble or just don't look like they have enough to combat Voltron, what happens to that team will be the talk of the league.
2. Given the current predictions for how the Western Conference will shake out which team will outperform expectations this season?
Ben Quagliata: The Dallas Mavericks. Kevin Pelton’s RPM metric has them pegged for 34.3 wins which seems criminally low. While they struggled a bit last season to stay around .500, I think they’ve retooled really well. Andrew Bogut is a perfect centre for Dirk to play the inside out game, and Harrison Barnes, for all his criticism, is still a very young player with championship experience.
Glenn Metzger (GM26): Based on DBB Boredcast Part 1 I'm going to say Memphis. They have some good, savvy veteran guys, picked up a major piece in Chandler Parsons, and landed some intriguing rookies with Wade Baldwin and Deytona Davis. I don't know anything about new coach David Fizdale, but I'll boldly say they push for home court.
Michael Snyder (Mophatt1): Phoenix. Devin Booker is a star in the making and with Eric Bledsoe’s ability to attack the rim, it’s quite the 1-2 combo. Marquese Chriss and Dragon Bender are super interesting; you don’t have to squint hard to see something forming in the desert .
Ken Wallace (revken): I think Utah will take a significant step forward and may well become a top 4 team due to the addition of George Hill at the point and the maturing of their young talent.
Steve Hinson: Pelicans. Remember that Anthony Davis guy? He's really good. They had some lousy luck with health last season, no way they repeat their 30-win performance - I expect them to be back in the playoffs this season.
Justin Lambregtse: I want to say Utah, but many people are expecting good things out of them, so I don't really see them as being much of a surprise. I will go with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Expectations have been lowered significantly because of the departure of Kevin Durant, but I have this feeling that Russell Westbrook is going to have an incredible season and keep Oklahoma City near the top of the West.
Ben Gulker: Obviously, it depends on whose projections you're looking at, so I'll just go off what I think is the general consensus. The Phoenix Suns intrigue me. I'm not willing to put a win total to that roster at this point, but with health and a little luck, they could surprise some people. They have a lot of versatility, several ball handlers, and several shooters. And their defense might be really good if that health thing works out.
Ryan Pravato (Prava88): The Denver Nuggets don't look half bad to me. Young and talented bigs, some intriguing guards. Danilo Gallinari playing for a new deal.
Kevin Sawyer: I think the Thunder are going to be far closer to contention than many believe. Yes, they lost Kevin Durant, but they also "lost" Serge Ibaka, who was ineffective last year, and Dion Waiters, who is simply terrible. In their stead, they have Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis and Alex Abrines, and will presumably be seeing a larger role for Enes Kanter, Steven Adams, and Andre Roberson, three of their most productive players. If Westbrook can keep himself in check, 50-52 wins is a real possibility.
Lazarus Jackson (lazchance): If all of Houston's pieces stay healthy for the majority of the regular season, they have the talent and the coaching style to win a boatload of 123-115 games. No one would trust them in the playoffs, but that's a small price to pay for making it there.
3 Given the current predictions for how the Western Conference will shake out which team will under perform expectations this season?
Ben Quagliata: The Utah Jazz. I love what the Jazz have done this offseason and think they’ll make the playoffs quite handily. That being said, they haven’t really cracked .500 for a few years now and Pelton has them at 47.6 wins in a competitive Western Conference. Hayward is a star and Gobert/Favors is a formidable front court, but there’s a lot of question marks with the guards. How has Dante Exum recovered? Will Shelvin Mack be as successful last season? Can Rodney Hood take the next step? Where does Alec Burks fit in and can he stay healthy? Do Joe Johnson and Boris Diaw push them into elite status?
Glenn Metzger (GM26): I don't see Utah making the jump everyone thinks they will. I think they'll be in the mix for the last playoff spot, but I don't think they're comfortably getting a mid-level seed. Maybe I'm just looking at them the way everyone else looks at the Pistons though.
Michael Snyder (Mophatt1): Portland had no business playing in the second round last year and I think it’ll be tough for them to make the playoffs this year. After Damian Lilliard and CJ McCollum, not a whole lot to like.
Ken Wallace (revken): I think Memphis will struggle to fulfill expectations even with the return of their injured stars and the addition of Parsons.
Steve Hinson: The Grizzlies' advanced numbers were really bad last season. Despite their injuries, they still had their core for the majority of the year. And a team struggling with injuries looking at Chandler Parsons as the solution, well, that seems like desperation to me. It's probably time to rebuild in Memphis.
Justin Lambregtse: The Golden State Warriors. I think that they will have issues with integrating Kevin Durant early-on in the season. I think that they will figure things out as the season goes on, but I don't think that they have a better team than last year. Their raw talent will keep them on top of the West, but people expect them to come close to their record last season, or even improve on that record. I do not see them coming close and I think they will win 65 games at the max if everything goes perfect (that is still a crazy amount of wins). I don't see everything going perfect for them.
Ben Gulker: OKC. Russell Westbrook has become a legitimate NBA superstar, but losing Ibaka and Durant creates a a massive hole. At this point, Kyle Singler might start at small forward. Their frontcourt is interesting, and combined with a healthy Westbrook, might be good enough to hover around .500. But, that's a pretty dramatic drop from a year ago.
Ryan Pravato (Prava88): The Houston Rockets are going to stink even worse than people think. That roster has dysfunction and boring written all over it. Not a lot of defense either.
Kevin Sawyer: The Grizzlies. Gasol and Randolph were bad last year, and are coming off injury, and are in their 30s, as is Mike Conley. Vince Carter will be 40 (!). A massively overpaid Chandler Parsons won't be enough to keep the dominoes from falling.
Lazarus Jackson (lazchance): The Timberwolves will still just be puppies. Thibs will have that team ready to defend night in and night out, and I believe in Karl-Anthony Towns, but they are still missing reliable scoring anytime he sits (granted, that won't be often under Thibs, but still).
What are your predictions for the Western Conference this season?