Here's the first part of my NBA outlook: the Western Conference playoff teams.
(Here's a look-back at last year's edition.)
|The Thunder are looking to drive past the new-look Mavs.|
1. Oklahoma City Thunder
|OKC's Big Three|
2. Dallas Mavericks
|Lamar just doesn't look right in Mavs colors.|
|I loved what SA did during the draft.|
Oh yeah, the Spurs were the team that had the best record in the West last year. Although, this is the last year of Tim Duncan's contract (and career?) with the title window is closing rapidly for this veteran team, Coach Popovich is the perfect coach to manage his players' minutes in this compressed season. I think the young players like Kawhi Leonard , James Anderson, Tiago Splitter, and Cory Joseph can bring an injection of life to the team if given enough minutes like Gary Neal did last year. There will be times when Pop gives his vets the night off, and they're always more susceptible to injury given their age, like in last season's playoffs, so the 3 seed sounds about right.
4. Denver Nuggets
I don't think the "10-deep with no go-to guy" team can get far in the playoffs, but it can be deadly in the regular season and especially so in this compressed season. There's some roster turnover here with J.R. Smith, Wilson Chandler, and Kenyon Martin stuck in China and Ray Felton swapped for Andre Miller, but this is a very deep team with some young legs. I think Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari will thrive with their larger roles, and I love what the re-signed Arron Afflalo brings to the table. Nene got his new contract and is a force inside, and the rugged rookie Kenneth Faried will become a great compliment to him along with Timofey Mosgov, Chris Andersen, and Al Harrington. Brewer and Fernandez are great cheap additions, and rookie Jordan Hamilton can become instant offense off the bench as well. They have a lot of nice pieces going forward, and hopefully Lawson and/or Gallinari will take that next step towards stardom.
5. L.A. Lakers
|At least Kobe's got the post-divorce goatee going for him.|
6. Memphis Grizzlies
|Can Gay stand tall when called upon?|
7. L.A. Clippers
|"So I'll throw it up, and you go get it."|
8. Portland Trail Blazers
|Aldridge did a nice job recruiting Crawford.|