With a new NBA season coming up, every team has expectations. The Warriors are looking to cruise to another championship, others are rebuilding and everyone else is looking to compete in the playoffs. When taking previous seasons and offseason moves along with early expectations into account, I believe the following teams in the West have more pressure to succeed than anyone else.
Los Angeles Lakers:
This is a no brainer. If any team in the eastern conference added Lebron James, they’d be in the finals. Getting through the Warriors, Rockets and the other teams in the west is a much tougher task. They also signed veteran pieces to complement Lebron. While I think their offseason moves were great, it will be tough for Luke Walton and the Lakers coaching staff to figure out the rotation, as they need to balance their chances of winning now with development of their young players.
Some predict Lakers will fail to even make the playoffs. I believe this is absurd, as I predict them to be the third seed. However, failure to make the playoffs would be a major failure by the team, but I think failure to make the second round would be a really bad season for them.
There is a lot of pressure on the Rockets to make the finals given how close they were last year. With their unfortunate offseason, many say they are noticeably worse than last year. Their GM, Daryl Morey, had a very aggressive style of obtaining players by going for stars like Dwight Howard and Chris Paul and three-point shooters to surround James Harden. Coach Mike D’Antoni also has a very unique style.
Since the Warriors started their incredible run four years ago, the Rockets have had only one goal in mind: beat the Warriors. This year they have another shot at it, and failure to do so will end in another disappointing season
Portland Trail Blazers:
The Blazers seem to have their two stars of the future and they have a lot of other contributors around them, but they somehow failed to make any real noise in the playoffs. They surprised everyone by getting the five seed a few years back and made it to the second round where they gave the Warriors a run for their money. Then they followed that up by getting swept in the first round of the last two post seasons. They have one of the best players in the league in Damian Lillard, and a great second star in CJ McCollum, but still seem to be stuck.
Their offseason from 2016 certainly doesn’t help, as they have no cap space to work with. Failure to make the second round will definitely be a really bad season, but even losing in the second round would be a disappointment in my book.
The Jazz seem to have a very bright future. Donovan Mitchell has more than madeup for the loss of Gordan Hayward already, and having Gobert makes them the top defensive team in the NBA. Many analysts think this will be their year to challenge the Warriors. While I predict that they’ll be a six seed, I think failure to be a top four team and/or make it beyond the second round would be a bad season for them.
New Orleans Pelicans:
The Pelicans had a surprising postseason last year when they swept the Blazers. Anthony Davis is a very talented player but needs some major post season success to cement his legacy. In my opinion, their season is a failure if they aren’t a tough out in the second round.
There are other teams with pressure, as well. If the Warriors don’t win another championship, their season is a failure. If the Timberwolves or Nuggets fail to make the playoffs, they might fire their coaches. Based on this offseason and previous seasons, however, I believe the Lakers, Rockets, Blazers, Jazz and Pelicans are under the most pressure.
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