Earlier today, Kyle Baillargeon made his preseason predictions for the Eastern Conference. Now it's time to take a team-by-team look at the Western Conference.
Here is how Kyle sees the Western Conference playing out:
1. Los Angeles Lakers - 61-21
The triangle offense is just a distant memory with Steve Nash at the helm, and this team should expect to score in spades. When Dwight Howard comes back, assuming he is his normal self, watch out.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder - 60-22
The Thunder will be at or near the top for years to come, with only the retooled Lakers poised to stand in their way. The Thunder should take last year's loss in the NBA Finals as a learning experience and expect to come into this season with something to prove. It's also amazing to consider that KD35 just turned 24.
3. San Antonio Spurs - 59-23
Tempted to give the Spurs a lower record, simply because they know it's all about the playoffs and not the regular season. But that's just silly. This team will continue to be good until they prove otherwise.
4. Los Angeles Clippers - 54-28
Chemistry is a concern for the bench, where Matt Barnes and Jamal Crawford are not necessarily known for being quiet role players. CP3 combined with the talented and athletic front court should make for a four seed in the tight west.
5. Denver Nuggets - 53-29
This should be an exciting team to watch. Denver will be running all year, and Iguodola gives them a defensive anchor. With the right matchups, this team could surprise many and go deep into the playoffs.
6. Memphis Grizzlies - 51-31
Memphis opened some eyes two seasons ago in the playoffs, and they showed last season that they're no fluke. We've seen in this league, however, that you need a star to be one of the elite teams. Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Rudy Gay are all very good, but it's tough to imagine them in the championship with this squad as constituted.
7. Dallas Mavericks - 50-32
At this stage, Darren Collison is likely preferable to Jason Kidd, so that's an upgrade. Though it isn't the same as Deron Williams, whom they tried hard to get. Assuming there aren't any chemistry issues with all the new faces, don't put it past Dallas to make another run.
8. Utah Jazz - 46-36
The Jazz proved you can still be a solid team after trading away your best player. They just aren't ready yet to move up in this tough conference. Thankfully, they're very young and in a few years we could be talking about them as championship contenders.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves - 45-37
If Rubio comes back quickly, this team could end up higher than this. Minnesota has the best power forward in the league in Kevin Love, and they're somehow a very fun and potentially dangerous team. Brandon Roy is a wild card, and if he can play anything like we've seen in the past, he's a fantastic addition.
10. Phoenix Suns - 41-41
The Suns are finally in the post-Steve Nash era, and things don't look quite so bad. They won't contend this year or next, but patience and a little bit of luck in the lottery could help them out sooner rather than later. Losing Channing Frye hurts, with no idea of when he'll return. Kendall Marshall was a great pickup in the draft this year and should be a solid building block for the future.
11. Golden State Warriors - 39-43
This team is too much of an injury risk to put any higher. If Curry and Bogut are healthy though, they could very well contend for the eighth seed. Klay Thompson is ready to take another step and will hopefully avoid a sophomore slump.
12. New Orleans Hornets - 35-47
It's probably too much to expect this many wins out of such a young squad, but the talent is there. Anthony Davis is a stud and Eric Gordon is ready to put a frustrating season behind him. The rebuild could be quick for the Hornets.
13. Portland Trail Blazers - 34-48
The Blazers don't quite have an identity, but Aldridge is still young and a solid piece to build around. Batum made headlines with his actions at the Olympic games, and he is hoping to make headlines with his play this season.
14. Sacramento Kings - 30-52
Jimmer Fredette was a big miss, and Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins are both talented but not of the right mindset to be leaders. This team is a mess and the chemistry, or lack thereof, will certainly hurt them.
15. Houston Rockets - 28-54
The Rockets shot high in trying to get Dwight Howard, but all they did was shoot themselves in the foot, at least for this season. It's well known that Daryl Morey believes you need to either be elite, or in the basement, and not somewhere in the middle. The Rockets will most certainly be contending for the 1st overall pick this year.
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