Last year, the Spurs won 47 games, and ended up with the 7th seed in the west. They were playing without their star for the entire season, and also suffered from injuries to Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. Last year’s Spurs was definitely the least talented and worst team we’ve seen since Tim Duncan was drafted, yet they still made it to the playoffs in the competitive western conference.
Now, they have traded away Kawhi Leonard, who might as well not have been on the team last year, as well as Danny Green, who had a very disappointing season, for DeMar Derozan. Derozan was a solid all star in the east, and a very good offensive player with a reliable mid-range shot.
I fully expect Derozan to fit in well with their star power forward, LaMarcus Aldridge. Last year, Aldridge had limited help on offense. Although he played well, he can play much better when he is next to another offensive star, as he demonstrated with Damian Lillard in Portland. Although Derozan isn’t the offensive talent that Lillard is, he is still very capable and has had a lot of success over the last five years with the Raptors, where he averaged over 20 ppg in each season.
In short, the Spurs got a major upgrade over their team last year. Now the question remains, what happened to everyone else in the West?
The Warriors are obviously still as good, if not better than last season, and can be expected to remain the kings of the west. The Lakers will also be fighting for a top four spot in the playoffs. The Rockets lost a few key players, but still have Harden and CP3, and should remain a title contender.
The rest of the possible playoff teams: Blazers, Thunder, Jazz, Pelicans, Timberwolves, and Nuggets were all in the mix with the Spurs for playoff positioning. Some of them will likely drop out, and others could join the race. Most of these teams stayed the same, so it’s a question of how they’ll develop internally, how their rookies will contribute, and what last offseason moves they can make to improve.
The Blazers and Jazz have some young talent that developed a lot just over the course of the regular season. Next year, both teams will likely be better. The Pelicans lost Rajon Rondo and DeMarcus Cousins. They played well without Cousins, but losing Rondo was a very tough loss, and his importance to the team has been understated.
The Nuggets picked up Isaiah Thomas, and should have a lot of bench scoring next year. The Timberwolves stayed mostly the same, but might have chemistry issues brewing. The Thunder got Schroder for Melo, which is a huge upgrade, but still will be fully reliant on Westbrook’s ability to pad his stats.
Two other teams that I expect to make noise are the Mavericks and Suns. Mavericks got Deandre Jordan, and have exciting young players in Dennis Smith Jr. and Luka Doncic. The Suns have a very young core with potential in Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, Deandre Ayton, and Marquese Chriss. They also added Trevor Ariza, who should help the young core develop.
My projections for the western conference standings are:
What do you all think? Let me know in the comments.
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