2013-14 Western Conference Breakdown

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Photo: Keith Allison/Creative Commons

Denver Nuggets

Coach: Brian Shaw

2012-13 Record: 57-25 (3rd in the West)

Hello: Nate Robinson, J.J. Hickson, Darrell Arthur, Randy Foye

Goodbye: Andre Iguodala, Corey Brewer, Kosta Koufos

Nuggets Fans Should Be Excited About:
You mean other than JaVale McGee working his magic in the low-post?! Well, the Nuggets have a promising, young head-coach, in Brian Shaw, and will hope to see continued growth from Ty Lawson, Kenneth Faried, and Evan Fournier—the future of this team.

Nuggets Fans Should Be Worried About: The real possibility that after a tumultuous summer, in which they lost their GM, coach (Coach of the Year, no less) and best player, the team is in for a big drop-off.

Prediction: The Nuggets won 57 games last season, but they won’t get close to that number this year as Shaw attempts to implement his system, and the team recalibrates. They’ll still be a handful at the Pepsi Center, but won’t make the playoffs. 4th in the North West, 11th in the West.

 

Photo: Mike Tegethoff/Creative Commons


Minnesota Timberwolves

Coach: Rick Adelman

2012-13 Record: 31-51 (12th in the West)

Hello: Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer, A.J. Price, Ronny Turiaf, Shabazz Muhammad (Drafted)

Goodbye: Brandon Roy, Luke Ridnour, Greg Stiemsma

Timberwolves Fans Should Be Excited About: Watching what should be one of the best offenses in the league. The Timberwolves should score for fun and are a League Pass must.

Timberwolves Fans Should Be Worried About: Do I even need to say? Yep, it’s injuries. The Wolves were decimated by injuries last season, and this year the fan-base had a collective “here we go again” moment when Chase Budinger went down. Good health is the key for this team.

Prediction: Assuming that the T-Wolves stay healthy they should be a playoff team this season. They’ll struggle defensively at times, but this is the most talented roster in Minneapolis since the KG era. 2nd in the North West, 7th in the West.

 

Photo: Keith Allison/Creative Commons


Oklahoma City Thunder

Coach: Scott Brooks

2012-13 Record: 60-22 (1st in the West)

Hello: Ryan Gomes, Steven Adams (Drafted)

Goodbye: Kevin Martin, Ronnie Brewer

Thunder Fans Should Be Excited About: Kevin Durant spending the summer seething after all the criticism aimed his way during last year’s playoffs, and unleashing fury on the hard-court in 2013-14.

Thunder Fans Should Be Worried About: Russell Westbrook’s absence at the beginning of the year and the over-reliance on Durant because of it. Westbrook and Durant together make OKC one of the top offensive teams in the NBA. But Westbrook’s absence puts a ton of pressure on Durant, and takes away Serge Ibaka’s open 18-footers off the pick-n-pop.

Prediction: One of OKC’s young guns is going to have to step up in Westbrook’s absence—a Reggie Jackson or Jeremy Lamb—and continue to play well when he returns. Remember, there’s no Kevin Martin this year either. They’ll cruise into the playoffs, but there are too many question marks to be confident that they’ll win the West. 1st in the North West, 3rd in the West.

 

Photo: YouTube


Portland Trail Blazers

Coach: Terry Stotts

2012-13 Record: 33-49 (11th in the West)

Hello: Robin Lopez, C.J. McCollum (Drafted), Mo Williams, Dorrell Wright, Thomas Robinson

Goodbye: J.J. Hickson, Jared Jeffries, Eric Maynor, Sasha Pavlovic

Trail Blazers Fans Should Be Excited About: The plethora of exciting, young players on the roster, including reigning Rookie of the Year, Damien Lillard. Oh, and the Trail Blazers actually have an NBA-caliber bench this year, so that’s something to get excited about.

Trail Blazers Fans Should Be Worried About: A potential sophomore slump for Lillard this year—it happens. And then there’s the constant trade rumours surrounding LaMarcus Aldridge, which could be a major distraction to the team.

Prediction: The Blazers have more than enough talent to sneak into the playoffs, but the making the post-season in the West is going to be an absolute dogfight, and it may be in their best interests to move Aldridge, and focus on the draft again. 3rd in the North West, 9th in the West.

 
 

Photo: YouTube


Utah Jazz

Coach: Tyrone Corbin

2012-13 Record: 43-39 (9th in the West)

Hello: Trey Burke (Drafted), Andris Biedrins, Brandon Rush, Richard Jefferson, John Lucas III

Goodbye: Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Mo Williams, Randy Foye, DeMarre Carroll

Jazz Fans Should Be Excited About: Lots of minutes for the team’s young big men, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanther. Both were in the shadow of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap last season, and now fans in Salt Lake City get a chance to see what they have.

Jazz Fans Should Be Worried About: The possibility that Favors can’t live up to the hype. Defensively he’s looked solid, but his offensive game is still lagging behind. Sometimes it’s easier to play 20 high-energy minutes a game than to be the go-to guy.

Prediction: The Jazz are under no illusions about the 2012-13 season—they’re going full-speed ahead on the race for Wiggins. This season gives the team a chance to allocate valuable playing time to Kanther, Favors, and the likes of Gordon Hayward and rookie point-guard, Trey Burke. 5th in the North West, 14th in the West.

 

Photo: Nicholas La Photography/Creative Commons


Golden State Warriors

Coach: Mark Jackson

2012-13 Record: 47-35 (6th in the West)

Hello: Andre Iguodala, Marreese Speights, Jermaine O’Neal, Toney Douglas

Goodbye: Jarrett Jack, Carl Landry, Richard Jefferson, Andris Biedrins, Brandon Rush

Warriors Fans Should Be Excited About: You know, only the fact that they’re probably the most exciting team in the NBA. They have shooting in the backcourt (do they ever!) athleticism on the wings and speed to burn. Fun times in the Bay Area!

Warriors Fans Should Be Worried About: A possible loss of some of the on-court chemistry the team developed last season. Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry, key players last year, are gone, and Mark Jackson will have to figure out a way to balance his wing-heavy roster.

Prediction: The Warriors may have some initial teething problems (please, no ankle problems!), but they’re going to be an offensive juggernaut, and with Iggy on board they should be better defensively. This is the best Dubs team since the days of Rick Barry. 2nd in the Pacific, 5th in the West.

Photo: Nicholas La Photography/Creative Commons


Los Angeles Clippers

Coach: Doc Rivers

2012-13 Record: 56-26 (4th in the West)

Hello: J.J. Redick, Jared Dudley, Darren Collison, Byron Mullens, Antawn Jamison, Lou Amundson

Goodbye: Eric Bledsoe, Caron Butler, Chauncey Billups, Grant Hill, Lamar Odom, Ronny Turiaf

Clippers Fans Should Be Excited About: Having an NBA coach that isn’t Vinny Del Negro. Doc Rivers, unlike his predecessor, is a top-five NBA coach and should get the best out of a team that’s somewhat underachieved the past two years.

Clippers Fans Should Be Worried About: The big man rotation. Out go Lamar Odom and Ronny Turiaf, and in come Byron Mullens and Lou Amundson. If I were a Clippers fan, I wouldn’t exactly be full of confidence when Blake or DJ get into foul trouble.

Prediction: The Clippers got a whole lot better just by adding Rivers, but they also got better in the back-court—offensively and defensively—with the additions of J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley. Free-throws and the big-man rotation remains an issue, but this is the best Clippers team in the ‘wait the Clippers are good now?’ era. 1st in the Pacific, 2nd in the West.

 

Photo: Keith Allison/Creative Commons


Los Angeles Lakers

Coach: Mike D’Antoni

2012-13 Record: 45-37 (7th in the West)

Hello: Nick Young, Chris Kaman, Jordan Farmar, Wesley Johnson

Goodbye: Dwight Howard, Antawn Jamison, Earl Clark, Metta World Peace

Lakers Fans Should Be Excited About: An end to the Dwight-mare, and an improvement to the on-court chemistry that could come with moving past that tedious saga.

Lakers Fans Should Be Worried About: Watching the worst Lakers team of the 21st century. With Kobe out until who-knows-when, and Steve Nash a constant injury concern, the Lakers starting five could be Blake-Young-Johnson-Gasol-Kaman. Please don’t try and convince me that’s a playoff team in a stacked West.

Prediction: A ‘no one believes in us’ attitude, coupled with an early Kobe return—and the 40 shots a game that will come with that—could keep the Lakers hovering around the eighth seed. But really, what’s the point? Time to tank. 3rd in the Pacific, 12th in the West.

 

Photo: WikiMedia


Phoenix Suns

Coach: Jeff Hornacek

2012-13 Record: 25-57 (15th in the West)

Hello: Eric Bledsoe, Alex Len (Drafted), Gerald Green

Goodbye: Luis Scola, Michael Beasley, Jared Dudley, Jermaine O’Neil

Suns Fans Should Be Excited About: Watching the supreme athletic specimen that is Eric Bledsoe, dunking on players a foot taller than him, and embarrassing them with chase-down blocks from behind—worth the price of admission alone.

Suns Fans Should Be Worried About: Bledsoe doing the less glamorous things that it takes to run a basketball team—like draining jumpers, getting your teammates going, and running the pick-n-roll. And, of course, the Suns are the Sixers of the West in terms of having a borderline D-League caliber roster.

Prediction: The Suns are going to bad, but since there’s a lot of competition this year in the race to the bottom, they’ll soon realize that being REALLY bad is in their best interest. Look for a quick end to the Dragic-Bledsoe backcourt experiment as the Suns put up a ‘for sale’ sign on their roster. 5th in the Pacific, 15th in the West.

 

Photo: WikiMedia


Sacramento Kings

Coach: Mike Malone

2012-13 Record: 28-54 (13th in the West)

Hello: Carl Landry, Luc Mbah a Moute, Ben McLemore (Drafted), Greivis Vasquez

Goodbye: Tyreke Evans

Kings Fans Should Be Excited About: Waving a long goodbye to the Maloof family who almost destroyed NBA basketball in the Sacramento. When you’re not sure if your team is staying from one season to the next, stability is something well worth getting excited for.

Kings Fans Should Be Worried About: Well, now that the off-the-court worries are no more, the weird, unbalanced Kings roster returns as the chief worry for those in Sacramento. I’d also be worried about Boogie Cousins getting paid and how that will affect his motivation going forward…because you know, before he got paid, he was fine. Yep.

Prediction: Cousins, despite all the issues, is super-talented, and rookie Ben McLemore should be fun to watch, but as it is with every Kings team for the past 6 years, there are just too many parts that don’t fit together here. Not quite the pick-up team from hell, as Bill Simmons described them last season, but the pick-up team from somewhere else that’s bad. 4th in the Pacific, 13th in the West.

 

Photo: Keith Allison/Creative Commons


Dallas Mavericks

Coach: Rick Carlisle

2012-13 Record: 41-41 (10th in the West)

Hello: Jose Calderon, Monta Ellis, Samuel Dalembert, DeJuan Blair, Devin Harris

Goodbye: Elton Brand, Chris Kaman, O.J. Mayo, Anthony Morrow

Mavericks Fans Should Be Excited About: A healthy Dirk Nowitzki (hopefully). When Dirk returned last season he almost dragged a misfit team into the playoffs, and he’s still enough of an elite offensive force to do the same this year.

Mavericks Fans Should Be Worried About: Perimeter defense. Offensively the Calderon-Ellis backcourt should be fun, but seriously, it could get really ugly with those two trying to stop opposing guards. Samuel Dalembert better be ready at the rim.

Prediction: What the Mavs did this summer—signing good, but one-dimensional players to bad contracts, instead of maintaining flexibility—doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in the long-run. That said, in the short-run they possess enough firepower offensively to sneak into the playoffs. 4th in the South West, 8th in the West.

 

Photo: Norma Gonzalez/Creative Commons


Houston Rockets

Coach: Kevin McHale

2012-13 Record: 45-37 (8th in the West)

Hello: Dwight Howard, Ronnie Brewer, Omri Casspi, Marcus Camby

Goodbye: Thomas Robinson, Carlos Delfino

Rockets Fans Should Be Excited About: Resembling a better version of the 2009 Orlando Magic side that made the NBA Finals, with Dwight Howard anchoring the team down-low, and shooters spread out around the perimeter.

Rockets Fans Should Be Worried About: A couple Dwight-related things: 1. Maybe he’s not good enough, post-back surgery to make up for the Rockets horrific perimeter defense; and 2. Maybe he complains about running the pick-n-roll, and wants more touches with his back to the basket. I can see Mike D’Antoni smiling now.

Prediction: The Rockets are one or two pieces away from being a legitimate championship contender (incidentally, they could use Omer Asik to trade for that piece) but with two top-15 players on the team, in Howard and James Harden, they’re going to win A LOT of games. 2nd in the South West, 4th in the West.

 

Photo: YouTube


Memphis Grizzlies

Coach: Dave Joerger

2012-13 Record: 56-26 (5th in the West)

Hello: Mike Miller, Kosta Koufos

Goodbye: Darrell Arthur, Austin Daye, Tony Wroten

Grizzlies Fans Should Be Excited About: Welcoming back the best Grizzlies team of all time and hoping that the returning core of Conley, Allen, Randolph, and Gasol can go a step or two further this season.

Grizzlies Fans Should Be Worried About: A lack of chemistry caused by the departure of Lionel Hollins. New coach, Dave Joerger, was one of Hollins’ assistants, but the players loved Hollins, and Hollins loved his players. That kind of coach-player chemistry will take time to reestablish.

Prediction: The Grizzlies will remain an absolute pain in the ass to play for every team in the NBA. If they can get some outside shooting from new acquisition, Mike Miller, and Quincy Pondexter, they’re a title dark-horse. They’re not as deep as other teams in the conference, however, and a major injury could derail their season. 3rd in the South West, 6th in the West.

 

Photo: Keith Allison/Creative Commons


New Orleans Pelicans

Coach: Monty Williams

2012-13 Record: 27-55 (14th in the West)

Hello: Tyreke Evans, Jrue Holiday, Anthony Morros, Greg Stiemsma

Goodbye: Robin Lopez, Greivis Vasquez, Roger Mason Jr.

Pelicans Fans Should Be Excited About: A second year of Anthony Davis, who should be bigger, stronger, and more NBA-savvy. Oh, and it’s impossible to ignore the name change. Don’t let anyone tell you that Pelicans is a stupid name, because I’ve seen plenty of pelican-related YouTube clips, and those birds are terrifying.

Pelicans Fans Should Be Worried About: Aside from a Louisiana pelican eating their pet cats; the ‘too many cooks’ type backcourt that runs a real chance of not meshing properly. Holiday, Gordon and Evans all need the ball, and there’s only one of those to go around.

Prediction: The Pellies (yep, I’m going with Zach Lowe’s nickname for them) have a really talented roster, top-to-bottom. But it’s not a roster that necessarily fits well together, and in a loaded West, everything has to go well to make the post-season. An Eric Gordon trade, mid-season, may affect New Orleans’ playoff prospects, but it’ll be better for them going forward. 5th in the South West, 10th in the West.

 

Photo: Keith Allison/Creative Commons


San Antonio Spurs

Coach: Gregg Popovich

2012-13 Record: 58-24 (2nd in the West)

Hello: Marco Belinelli, Corey Maggette,

Goodbye: Gary Neal

Spurs Fans Should Be Excited About: Oh, you know, everyone stupidly writing off their team, claiming they’re too old, before being forced to eat crow for the billionth time, when Gregg Popovich outsmarts every coach in the league, Tony Parker reminds people that he’s a basketball genius, and Tim Duncan refuses to age.

Spurs Fans Should Be Worried About: A post-NBA Finals hangover. The Spurs couldn’t have picked a more brutal, gut-wrenching way to lose, and the lingering effect of that defeat may impact the team’s play at the start of the season…but, it’s the Spurs, so probably not.

Prediction: Manu Ginobli isn’t the player he once was, but not to worry; Kawhi Leonard is a star in the making and should become the Spurs 3rd scoring option. The Spurs have everything you need to win in today’s NBA—shooting, low-post scoring, perimeter defense, and great coaching. They’ll be the pick of the West this season. 1st in the South West, 1st in the West. 
 

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