The Association Preview: Western Conference Hardwood Facts

I’ve referenced this song just about every time I talk about the Western Conference in the NBA. Not only is this peak Will Smith in the music industry, but also because the NBA should do one of those preview commercials with a montage of Steph Curry, KD & Russ, Pop and the Spurs, ‘Brow and ‘Beard’ dancing to this song.

What to take away from that nonsense: the west is going to be historically great…again. After last season, no way did I think it could get more competitive. OKC fell into a hole early with no Durant or Westbrook and even after a historic February from Russ, they still missed out on the playoffs.

San Antonio got significantly better, which is absolutely ridiculous. The Pelicans paid Anthony Davis an egregious amount and no one complained about it because he is worth it. Now he’s adding three-pointers to his game.

Houston added Ty Lawson, and James Harden had a summer that included: dating Khloe Kardashian, playing insane amounts of FIFA according to his Instagram, and inking a $200 million shoe deal with Adidas, followed closely by all sneakerheads.

The Clippers had the most fun, especially when they blockaded DeAndre Jordan’s house in the free-agency emoji war, then proceeded to steal back Jordan from Chandler Parsons, Mark Cuban and the Mavs. Paul Pierce was there to pop bottles of champagne. Oh, by the way, the Clippers added Pierce, Lance Stephenson and Josh Smith.

And then there is the Warriors. You know, the team that just pulled off the best season by a NBA Champion since Jordan’s Bulls. Who cares about them though, right?

Buckle your seatbelt. It’s going to be another wild ride.

*All records are from the 2014-15 season. 

Northwest

Portland Trailblazers (51-31):

How do you replace beloved PF LaMarcus Aldridge (23.4 PPG / 10.2 RPG / 35.4 Min.) and SG Wes Mathews (15.9 PPG. / 33.7 Min.) and also major contributors Aaron Afflalo and Robin Lopez? You don’t. Portland was the 4th seed a season ago, safe to say they won’t be there this year. The good? Damian Lillard playing hero-ball for 82 games sounds fascinating.

Oklahoma City Thunder (45-37):

kd-russ

Refer to the Russell Westbrook section of this post. Everything we all have ever wanted from Russell Westbrook happened form February 1st through the end of March. He was OKC last season. Unfortunately, he now has to share the ball with some guy everyone has somehow forgotten about in Kevin Durant, and also a very deep team.

Utah Jazz (38-44):

If you’re a basketball junkie as I, who devotes his hard-earned money to League Pass, then you know about the Jazz. Describing their last two months of the season as a “delightful surge from a young team” is a complete disgrace. Rudy Gobert, also known as the Stifel Tower, is inviting anyone to his block party. 

They have a bunch of interesting pieces; including Gordon Heyward, Alec Burks, Trey Burke and Derrick Favors. Last season we saw how magnificent this team can be defensively, leading the league in points allowed at a minuscule 94.9 points per game.

Denver Nuggets (30-52):

Who is a Emmanuel Mudiay? That was the biggest question heading into the NBA Draft last June. He has the talent of a #1 overall pick, but he only played eight total games in China and scouts had little tape on him at the professional level. Denver was the perfect fit for him. A team without an identity and a franchise that has been lost since Carmelo left. He’s one of the most intriguing rookies in quite sometime because he has the “franchise saver or bust” warning all over him.

Minnesota Timberwolves (16-66):

Ricky Rubio played all of 588 minutes with ROY Andrew Wiggins and just 36 minutes with NBA Dunk Champ Zach LaVine. The potential Rubio-LaVine-Wiggins-Garnett-Towns is going to be a wild ride. A wizard with his dribbling and passing at point guard, a high-flying, streaky shooting guard, Andrew Wiggins, a future hall of famer and the #1 overall pick in last year’s draft? Good god.

Also, a sad note. The game lost a great coach, and a better man today.

Pacific

OAKLAND, CA MAY 3: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors during the game against the Memphis Grizzlies in Game One of the Western Conference Semifinals of the 2015 NBA Playoffs on May 3, 2015 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)

Golden State Warriors (67-15):

Yeah we get it, y’all are good. All this talk of the Warriors getting lucky (outside of every championship team in sports, ever) last season is nonsense. They were really freakin’ good last season.

They ranked first in all of these:

  • Record
  • Point differential (+10.1) one of the best eight point differentials in NBA history.
  • Offensive efficiency
  • Defensive efficiency
  • True Shooting %
  • Assist Ratio
  • Note: only lost 7 games with a full healthy roster all season.

Now the Rockets/Clippers have been trash talking them before the season has started. Watch. Out.

Los Angeles Clippers (56-26):

Chris Paul will be a lock top-five point guard ever and might even claw his way into the top-three. He finished 3rd in the league in PER (26.04), 4th in WAR (16.75), and second in Estimated Wins Added (21.4). He’s been doing this for the better part of the decade now. He has a deeper roster around him, including a future Hall of Famer who a basketball IQ level on the same as his. And of course, he has his big man back. Clippers-Warriors games will be anarchy on hardwood floors.

Phoenix Suns (39-43):

You can’t blame the Suns going for it last season. Coming off a 50-win season and near-playoff birth in ’13-14, many (including myself) were excited to see Goran Dragic, Isaiah Thomas and Eric Bledsoe play all together. Now Dragic is Miami, Thomas in Boston and Bledsoe has a new running mate in the backcourt.

This offseason the front office went all in on getting Deandre Jordan, among other free agents, and ended with a 33-year old Tyson Chandler. Not exactly what they had hoped for, though Chandler will clean up things defensively, the Suns are in middle of the road limbo right now.

Sacramento Kings (29-53):

The circus that has become the Sacramento Kings, between an aloof owner (Stauskas?!) and a constant feud between star player and coach, the Kings still have a fun and quirky starting five. The Rondo-McLemore-Gay-Cauley-Stein-Cousins looks wild on paper. Rondo has a year and $9 million to prove he still has something left. McLemore has underachieved entering year three. Rudy Gay is a black hole. Cauley-Stein is going to dominate in the defensive paint from the get-go. And Boogie Cousins will average a stupid 24.1 PPG./ 12.7 RPG. / 1.75 BPG. and probably be dealt in a blockbuster deal by next July.

Long live the Kings.

Los Angeles Lakers (21-61):

The Mamba gears up for his 19th season in the Association.
The Mamba gears up for his 19th season in the Association.

Counting both regular season and postseason games, Kobe Bryant has played exactly 1,500 basketball games. And only 41 came in the last two seasons. His comeback (and possible finale?) tour will be fun to watch him do Kobe things, but it’s obvious this team won’t be his much longer. D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle running pick-n-roll all season with Hibbert clogging the paint and Nick Young and Lou Williams yelling for the ball beyond the 3-point line will be ShowTime at its finest. Kind of.

Let it fly, Kobe.

Southwest

james-harden-nba-playoffs-dallas-mavericks-houston-rockets-850x560

Fun Fact: THIS ENTIRE DIVISION MADE THE PLAYOFFS

Houston Rockets (56-26): 

I still sort of think James Harden should have won the MVP last season. Of course, once Steph Curry and the Warriors filleted the Rockets in the Western Conference Finals, the idea was negated. Still, the Beard played all 81 games, averaging 27.4 PPG. / 5.7 RPG. / 7.0 APG. with a 26.8 PER, without Dwight Howard for half the year.

Now he has a rejuvenated Ty Lawson and a roster loaded with shooters, wingers and slashers around him. Lift off.

Memphis Grizzlies (55-27):

Nothing but respect for this team. They locked up their guy (Marc Gasol for 5-years $110 million), and kept virtually the same roster from a season ago in tact. They will win more than likely, 55 games again, and everyone will speak about how underrated this team continues to be. Though, like the Bulls a season ago, I feel as if Memphis missed their opportunity.

Like the Bulls, the Grizzlies were up 2-1 in their Conference Semifinal match-up against the Warriors, with another game at home to make the series 3-1. They had the Warriors down, but you can only “grind” out so many games as the Grizz do every night. They are enjoying their most success in franchise history, but at what point can they make the next step?

920x920

San Antonio Spurs (55-27):

Winners of the offseason. Winners in life. Winners for the past two decades. Free-agent signee PF David West left $11 million on the table to play for this team. Because they win. LaMarcus Aldridge and Tim Duncan as a frontcourt will conjure up limitless amounts of 15-foot bank shots and total wizardry on the blocks. Though the ‘Big 3’ and LAM are big contributors, this team feeds off Kawhi Leonard.

Injured for the majority of the first-half of the season, Kawhi reminded all basketball aficionados of peak Scottie Pippen with his stellar play post All-Star break. He shot 52% avg. 17.9 PPG./6.8 RPG./2.6 SPG. (which led the league), and played lockdown defense on each opponents best player, and only averaged two fouls a game. Six rings in San Antonio is a near sure thing.

Dallas Mavericks (50-32):

DeAndre Jordan would have changed this franchise’s entire outlook for the next five years. At 37-years old, sure Dirk’s game could yield him to play till he is 50,8 but the end is near for the tall baller from the ‘G’. Zaza Pachulia and JaVale McGee are as makeshift at the center position as it gets and Dallas got Deron Williams four years too late. Chandler Parsons is a stud on-and-off the court but he is not equipped with the tools to put this team on their back.

New Orleans Pelicans (45-37):

Save the best for last. After the $145 million extension, the last thing I expect AD to do is slow down. I was all in on Davis last preseason, and now I’m all in on him for the next, I don’t know, 15 years. He finished 4th in points per game, nearly set the all-time record for PER in a season (30.89), and led the league in blocks (2.94). As a whole, the Pelicans are a team on the rise, 45 wins in the West a season ago is no joke, and Davis missed 14 games.

So where does the ‘Brow go from here? Conventional wisdom puts him as this season’s MVP (which I do) but a video surfaced this offseason of Davis working on his already reliable jumper. But from the 3-point line. Adding more range to an already impressive shot chart?

The man is limitless.
The man is limitless.

-Goat

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