Let's start in the Western Conference, from least to beast:

Not a chance:
15. Seattle Sonic: 20-62.  I love how, after Greg Oden went down in Portland, some people in the media tried to spin it as if Portland was smart.  They were trying to "win" the lottery two years in a row, right?  Well, guess what:  That's actually the plan in Seattle.  They won Kevin Durant (some would argue he's the better pick, though I am admittedly not one of those people), and Jeff Green.  And probably OJ Mayo next season (or whoever is #1).  Seriously, this team only won 31 games with Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis' career season; how are they going to top even 20 wins without them, and when their replacements have a total of 0 games of profession experience?  With Earl Watson now taking the starting PG job from Luke Ridnour?  This team is tanking their season.

14.  Minnesota Timberwolves: 22-60.  If you can only muster 32 wins with Kevin Garnett, and in his place take back most of a team that won only 24 games last year... hmm.  22 wins sounds about right.  How about them Vikings Twins.

13.  Portland Blazers 30-52:  Mustered 32 wins last season with Zach Randolph.  They lost Greg Oden for the year.  This will be another down year.

12. LA Clippers 31-51:  Sam Cassell will probably get traded at some point, leaving the team talentless, except for maybe Corey Maggette.  Actually, Corey Maggette will also probably get traded at some point, too.  And Elton Brand is probably not playing this season.  31 wins might be too optimistic.

11. Sacramento Kings 32-50:  A one-game downgrade seems right.  This team isn't playoff contender worthy yet, and the lose of Mike Bibby (plus Ron Artest's suspension) all but guarantees a slow start to the season.   It'll be hard for them to get any momentum after that, and Bibby is probably getting traded (Cleveland?).  Artest is a possibility, too (NYK?).  By the end of the season this team will be Kevin Martin getting triple-teamed.

Fighting to make the playoffs:
10. Memphis Grizzlies 38-44:  Yeah, they are everyone's sleeper team.  I can dig it.  They can win 16 more games than last season, and they still won't make the playoffs.  In fact, they would have to double their win total from last year (22) to make the playoffs.  Would you bet on that?  Especially with this team unsure about their PG... is it Conley Jr?  Damon Stoudemire?  Kyle Lowry? 

9.  LA Lakers 39-43:  It's hard to bet against Kobe - if he wants to make the playoffs, he will.  But my best guess is this: he'll either get traded at the deadline (and the Lakers collapse like Indy last season), or he'll bail with an "injury" for the second half.  The team will do okay without him for a bit, but they won't make the playoffs.

Just barely making it in:
8. Golden State Warriors 42-40:  Yeah, I know.  Everyone loves the Warriors, especially after their impressive run to end the season and then "upset" the Dallas Mavericks.  But you know what?  They'll miss Jason Richardson more than you think. They are still too inconsistent.  And, oh yeah... Baron Davis is a lock to miss 15 games a year.  That'll hurt this team a bit.  On the plus side... skinny Rocky looks like a nice addition.

7.  New Orleans Hornets 45-37:  They won 39 games last year, without Chris Paul, David West and Peja for most of the season.  With guys like Rasual Butler getting big minutes.  I think the Hornets are a bit underrated.

The Contenders:
6.  Utah Jazz 49-33:  The Jazz did well last season.  But they have to hope to get another full season out of Karl Boozer, and that he continues to play at an MVP-level.  I think the latter is likely, but the former might not be as likely.  They'll still win a lot of games.  The real question:  What will they get out of (or for) Andrei Kirilenko this year?   And is Paul Millsap going to make the jump?

5. Denver Nuggets 52-30:  Injuries are the only thing that can slow down this train.  The Nuggets are the darkhorse contender in the West.  Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony will blend together well.  Marcus Camby, plus Nene and hopefully Kenyon Martin, give the Nuggets some depth in the front court.  Can J.R. Smith stretch the offense with his long-range shooting abilities?

4. Phoenix Suns 54-28:  Shawn Marion plays the "injury" card for a few games this year, slowing the Suns down a bit.  Still, this might Nash's year.  Nah, check that... Amare's year. 

3. Houston Rockets 58-24:  The SML favorite to win the title this year.  If they can make it through the first round.  Home court advantage will help.  Adding Luis Scola to Yao Ming (our MVP favorite) and Tracy McGrady was a great move.  They will try out different PGs - Steve Francis, Mike James, Rafer Alston - until they work it out.  Or they'll trade for Sam Cassell.  This is the season the Rockets make a huge leap forward, making it to the Western Conference Finals at the very least.

2. San Antonio Spurs 58-24:  Tim Duncan never fails to wins at least 58 games.  Why not bet on him again?

1.  Dallas Mavericks  62-20:  Some people might think Dirk Nowitzki is damaged after last year's upset loss in the first round to the Warriors.  Don't think so.  He and the Mavs won't focus so much on the regular season, but they will lock up the top spot again in the West.  Be weary of Josh Howard's wrist injury, it could be more damaging to the Mavs than you think - he really makes that offense work.  But assuming he's okay by the second half, the Mavs get it together, and guess what?  They have a rematch with the Warriors in the 1st round again.

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[October 30, 2007 2:06 PM]  |  link  |  reply
Rickhouse said

Alot of people are liking to Houston to win the title this year. I like that Cassell trade scenario, it would seem to make perfect sense.

I think the Kings are another darkhorse playoff contender. If they get hot once Bibby comes back, having a big 3 or Kev-Mart, Bibby, and Artest is almost as good as anyones right?

[October 30, 2007 3:07 PM]  |  link  |  reply
stopmikelupica said

I do like the Kings Big Three, but I think Bibby and/or Artest will be traded by the deadline. Even if they don't, the problem with their big three is that all three are backcourt players (or SF, in Artest's case). To work in the West they need a frontcourt presence, too. It's why the Suns, Mavs, and Spurs (and now Rockets) are better teams than the Kings.

[June 3, 2010 8:32 PM]  |  link  |  reply
Dance Beats said

I couldent agree more with this article because several sources says the same thing.

Spring Training 08

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