Blog: Season 1

Jackson Williams, a sports enthusiast, writes about all things sports. 

Sportzball: Season 1

Western Conference Over/Under + Bold Predictions for Every Team

On Tuesday, August 29th, Westgate Las Vegas Sportsbook released its’ over/unders for the 2017-2018 NBA season. For those who don’t know, the over/unders are the projected win totals for each team in the NBA. After what has been a wild offseason, fans were very excited to see how the shakeups would affect their team's’ projected win totals.

Many of the moves in the offseason saw high-end players move to the western conference, which creates even more of an imbalance than there already was. Many already thought of the Western Conference as the better of the two conferences, but now I don’t imagine the East being close to as competitive as the west. The Western Conference saw itself get even deeper as the Timberwolves traded for Jimmy Butler, and the Oklahoma City Thunder traded for Paul George.

For the rest of this article, I will break down each Western Conference team’s over/under and give a bold prediction for each team.

Phoenix Suns: 28.5

The Suns are predicted to win around 28 games during this upcoming season, which is only 4 more games than they won last year. The team is going into a full-fledged rebuild during the coming years, because they recognize the incredibly amount of talent and depth in the western conference. The team will rebuild around budding star Devin Booker, and he will likely continue to break out this season. The team will have a couple interesting players like Booker and Josh Jackson. It will be interesting to see how Josh Jackson’s game translates into the NBA.

Bold Prediction: Devin Booker will make the Western Conference All-Star team in 2018.

 

Sacramento Kings: 28.5

The Kings are projected to win 28 games this year, which are 4 games less than they won in 2017. The team traded away Demarcus Cousins during the all-star break last year and are now a mix of really young talent with a couple veterans. During the offseason, the team signed Vince Carter, Zach Randolph, and George Hill. Those three veterans show that the team is willing to work on getting the franchise moving in the right direction. They brought in players who will positively impact the culture, and show the young players how to be successful in this league. The Kings drafted De’Aaron Fox, Justin Jackson, Harry Giles, and Frank Mason, all of whom I think are part of a talented young core that the Kings can build around in the future.

Bold Prediction: The Sacramento Kings will not be good, but they will win more games than the Los Angeles Lakers.

 

Los Angeles Lakers: 33.5

The Lakers are expected to win seven more games than they did last year. The team’s offseason was highlighted by the team trading away D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov, and drafting Lonzo Ball. It will be interesting to see how the team’s core improves during this season. I am particularly interested in looking to see how Brandon Ingram develops, I am curious to see if he develops into the player many think he can become. Lonzo Ball creates an interesting scenario with the team because he was not well known for his scoring, he was best known for his passing ability. He was drafted with the second overall pick because many people think he has the ability to make his teammates appear significantly better by creating better shots for them with his passing ability. I am very curious to see how Lonzo’s playmaking abilities translate to the NBA and am very interested in how his play could affect the offseason next year.

Bold Prediction: Lonzo Ball has major difficulty scoring and playing defense among NBA level talent, and his passing ability will not be able to offset his shooting struggles.

 

Dallas Mavericks: 35.5

The Mavericks are pretty boring in my opinion. During the offseason, they did not see themselves get much better, and did not land any players that could help them compete in the Western Conference. The team retained Nerlens Noel, which was the only real move they made. The Mavericks are trapped in the west, and now are being forced into a pseudo-rebuild. They don’t have the talent to compete in the west, but they would arguably be a playoff team in the east. I am looking forward to seeing Seth Curry continue to develop, and seeing is Harrison Barnes’ breakout was for real or just an aberration.

Bold Prediction: Seth Curry will become one of the premier three-point shooters in the league, and will earn himself a lucrative long-term deal in the offseason.

 

Memphis Grizzlies: 37.5

The Grizzlies won 43 games last season. The team did nothing major to put themselves in a better position to compete in the Western Conference. They plugged some minor holes with the addition of players like Tyreke Evans and Mario Chalmers, but they are still not talented enough to keep up with the rest of the west, and will see themselves fall out of playoff contention. Mike Conley enjoyed a breakout year last year, but this year I expect him to regress back to they way he was before, and I think this year will see Marc Gasol begin his decline.

Bold Prediction: The Grizzlies will have a hot start to the season, and find themselves among the leaders in the Western Conference, but will quickly fall out and try to sell a big-name player to a contender in the East.

 

New Orleans Pelicans: 39.5

Anthony Davis and his Pelicans are projected to win 5-6 more games than they won last year. A full season of the combination of Davis and Demarcus Cousins could prove to be interesting for a couple of reasons. The two could continue to mesh well, and potentially win a ton of games and make the playoffs, or the duo might not mesh well with new teammate Rajon Rondo, and we could see Cousins become increasingly frustrated with the team, and they could flounder to the bottom of the West.

Bold Prediction: The Combination of Rajon Rondo, Anthony Davis, and Demarcus Cousins will cause problems for the team, and they will end up trading Cousins to a contending team in the East.

 

Utah Jazz: 40.5

The Jazz’s big story of the offseason was their star player, Gordon Hayward, choosing to leave for Boston. The team is projected to win 11 less games this season, which makes sense because when the team lost Hayward, they replaced him with a medley of mediocrity. However, they still do have Rudy Gobert, who I think will continue to develop and become a star. The team added Joe Ingles and Ricky Rubio, who will try and fill the void left by Hayward and George Hill. The team will be fairly mediocre next season, but I think will end up winning more than 40.5 games in a collective effort to spite Gordon Hayward.

Bold Prediction: Rudy Gobert continues to develop into a star wins Defensive Player of the Year.

 

Portland Trail Blazers: 42.5

The Blazers have the potential to be interesting this year. They won 41 games last year, and I can see them winning more than the projected 42.5 this season. They will have a full year of Jusuf Nurkic to join CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard. Once the Blazers acquired Nurkic last year, they went on a run that put them into the playoffs. After he joined the team, the team went 14-6. I think that Nurkic has the potential to be really good in this league, and pairing him with two elite shooters in McCollum and Damian Lillard has the potential to be a big 3 to match up well with teams like OKC.

Bold Prediction: The Blazers will make the playoffs in the 5th or 6th seed, and stretch their first round series to seven game before losing.

 

Los Angeles Clippers: 43.5

The Clippers spent their summer trading away their star player, Chris Paul, to the Houston Rockets. They won 51 games last year, so they are projected to lose 8 more games this season. I think that the Clippers completely missed their championship window, and I mean this isn’t really a hot take. The Clippers were supposed to be championship contenders once LeBron’s Miami team broke apart, but then the Warriors leapfrogged them. We are now living through the decline of the team, and I almost feel bad. If I am being honest, I just do not think Blake Griffin is a great NBA player. He is made of glass, and can’t shoot late in games. I think that without the leadership of Chris Paul, the team will collapse. They simply did not do enough in the offseason to offset the loss of Paul. They added Lou Williams and Patrick Beverley, but that still is not enough to compete in a very tough Western Conference.

Bold Prediction: The Clippers will find themselves without one of their key players (Deandre Jordan or Blake Griffin) early in the season and will quickly find themselves out of the playoff picture.

 

Denver Nuggets: 45.5

The Nuggets won 40 games last year, so this is a pretty significant jump. They appear ready to go all in and build around Nikola Jokic. They went out during the offseason and acquired Paul Millsap who I think will fit in perfectly alongside Jokic. They have a solid young core of players, and I have a feeling that they will be one of the better teams in the Western Conference. Now, I think that the loss of Danilo Gallinari will be significant, and it will take the team some time to figure out how to replace his production with the players they have, but eventually I think that they will put things together and secure a middle seed in the NBA playoffs.

Bold Prediction: The Nuggets will make the playoffs as a 5-6th seed and will pull off a first round upset.

 

Minnesota Timberwolves: 48.5

In my opinion, the Timberwolves made the biggest move of the offseason in acquiring Jimmy Butler from the Bulls. The team acquired him for next-to nothing, and I was shocked the move was not pulled off by a team like the Cavaliers or the Celtics. The more I think about the move, the more it makes sense. The Timberwolves have paired Jimmy Butler, with the already formidable duo of Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, all under Butler’s former coach Tom Thibodeau. Butler had his best, most productive years while under the tutelage of Thibodeau, and I think that he will be able to turn Butler, Wiggins, and Towns into one of the most formidable big 3’s in the NBA. Last year the team won 31 games, so they are projected to win 17 more games this season, which is an insane jump, and shows how much of an impact Jimmy Butler can have on a team.

Bold Prediction: Jimmy Butler has the best year of his career and not only leads the Timberwolves to a top 4 seed in the West, but also puts together an MVP-caliber season.

 

Oklahoma City Thunder: 51.5

Last year, Russell Westbrook carried a very mediocre team to 47 wins. He averaged a triple-double, and won the MVP award. This offseason, the Thunder set out to get him some more help, and they acquired Paul George. Paul George was one of the top players in the Eastern Conference, and is one of the premier small-forwards in the NBA. I see this team having major chemistry issues. During his time in Indiana, Paul George liked to have the ball in his hands during late game situations, because he felt that he was the best player on his team, so he would have the best opportunity to make an impact. He is now pairing up with Russell Westbrook, who had the highest usage rate in the NBA last season. He had the ball in his hand for 25% of his teams’ possessions. I see Paul George getting turned into a spot-up perimeter shooter, instead of continuing being the dynamic all-around scorer that he was in Indianapolis. It will certainly be interesting to see how the two play together, but I see it ending poorly, much like how Russell’s relationship with Kevin Durant ended.

Bold Prediction: Russell Westbrook and Paul George have chemistry issues, and have a continual power struggle over the course of the season, and end up falling out of the top 4 teams in the west, and end up with a 6th or a 7th seed in the playoffs.

 

San Antonio Spurs: 54.4

Gregg Popovich is still at the helm of the Spurs, Kawhi Leonard is still the go-to guy on the team, and the Spurs will once again be competitive at the top of the Western Conference. Not much changes year to year in San Antonio, and regardless of what changes, Coach Pop tends to bring out the best in all of his players (with the exception of Lamarcus Aldridge), and they still manage to pull out over 50 wins every year. Kawhi Leonard will continue to establish himself as one of the best two-way players in the league, and the team will scratch and claw their way to the playoffs again.

Not-So- Bold Prediction: Kawhi Leonard is again an MVP finalist, the team will be a top 3 team in the West again.

 

Houston Rockets: 55.5

Last season the Rockets were led by the incredible season that James Harden had. He was the MVP runner up, and was one of the best point guards in the league. This season he will team up with Chris Paul in attempt to gain more offensive firepower and compete with the Warriors for the Conference Crown. I think that this duo has the potential to work very well. Chris Paul is a point guard, but is not as ball dominant as players like Russell Westbrook. I think that Paul will help get Harden even more open looks and put him in a position to succeed and have his best shooting season of his career. Harden’s overall numbers may dip, but I see him transitioning away from driving to the hoop and moving back behind the arc more. I think that the team still has a solid supporting cast to back up the duo of Harden and Paul, but I think they gave up a lot on defense by trading away Patrick Beverly. I think that the team still has the offensive firepower to make up for it though, especially if they are able to find a way to pry Carmelo Anthony away from the Knicks.

Bold Prediction: James Harden wins MVP, Chris Paul finally makes it to the Western Conference Finals before the team gets demolished by Golden State.

 

Golden State Warriors: 67.5

Yeah, the Warriors are still ridiculously good. I am still ridiculously happy about it. This offseason they made a couple big acquisitions in Nick Young and Omri Casspi, who are perfect fits in the Warriors system. The team also got Jordan Bell from the Bulls, and he is a highly touted defensive prospect who has the potential to be just like Draymond Green. Javale McGee has even been working on his three-point shot (Javale hitting 3’s: #lightyears). The rich got richer, and they are still perfectly suited to compete in the west and come out on top. The first year of superteams tends to be the hardest to build a good team with good chemistry, and the Warriors were successful in their first year, and they’re going to get even better next year.

Bold Prediction: Warriors win the 2018 NBA Finals and Klay Thompson wins Finals MVP.