Thought for the fun of it I would make a forecast of the NBA Western Conference coming season 2016-17. This involves some intuition, a little common sense, some numerology work and then a big guess– just like the pro sports coverage people do. I have on numerous occasions professed my clear cut Blazers bias, so I am only really interested in the western division guys.
Decades ago the NFL did a heavy propaganda campaign selling the idea of parity. The thought was it would give smaller market teams a better chance to compete and make the season games closer, and thus a bigger audience and more profit. As I look at this coming Western Conference season, I think about those years and the idea of parity.
My personal feeling is that things will be closer and more bunched up this year, without any one or two teams running away with record setting numbers of wins. For the most part teams that were at the top come down the list, and some that were at the bottom come up the list. Those that were in the middle stay middle-ish. This is, of course, a generalization but sums up the way it looks like things will shape up for the season.
Exceptions always exist with any speculation, and so will it be in this case as well.
Having clarified that, it should be said this is not a position by position prediction, but an assessment of the trend for the year. The teams are listed in the order of finish at the end of last season 2015-16. Kindly take into consideration that this is written before the trading and signings end, and rosters are not settled. In fact teams have not even gotten together yet.
Golden State Warriors— Historically it has not proven successful to load up on aging superstars to bolster a team’s roster (Payton manning being one recent exception). Kevin Durant is not that old, but the Warriors do not reach the same elevated space as they did last year. Baffling early season losses pop the elevated balloon and add to the mystery of their struggles.
San Antonio Spurs–The Spurs lose Tim Duncan, but still have a bevy of bucket list candidates on their roster. Always competitive, they will hold their own. Rising franchises with younger players and new ideas chip away at their heels. Even with the old fox at the helm, they also do not reach the same level of accomplishment as last season.
Oklahoma City Thunder–The Thunder may have suffered most from developments during the draft, free agency and trade period. The Oklahoma franchise has proven resourceful, and they will stay competitive. The regrouping period after Durant’s loss will take two or three years, and they could take a noticeable dive in the standings for this season.
Los Angeles Clippers–This has been a team always on the edge of dysfunction and good for a family drama along the way. The emotionally unpredictable Doc and his repeat legions from last year stay in the mix and remain competitive. However, fate and circumstance says they will not be a serious contender for the top spot in the conference.
Portland Trail Blazers–Still in the afterglow from single handedly picking the Blazers exact results of last season, I feel some performance anxiety pondering the coming one. The guess here says that they win a few more games, but may not improve much in the standings. They will be better and move favorably toward what numerically looks like superb prospects for them in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons.
Dallas Mavericks-–Even with Mark Cuban’s known generous spending, it is difficult to buy a championship. The Mavs should improve slightly in record, but most likely will not move much in the standings at the end of next year. A look at their ho hum post season activities doesn’t inspire too much optimism toward major upward mobility.
Memphis Grizzlies–Always a bit of a mystery, Memphis seems delegated to perform about the same with possibly some slight improvement in wins. The acquisition of Chandler Parsons will not bear as much fruit as anticipated. With a new coach and new system, the adjustment period takes longer that management wanted. Their three pronged talent base should keep them competitive.
Houston Rockets–This always entertaining dysfunctional club might not get rid of its image this season. The new coach does not have the most harmonious past with player issues and outside distractions. The riddance of Dwight Howard leaves the fragile Harden to rule his roost. Expect the usual wild, wacky and weird out of the oil city.
Utah Jazz–The industry pundits past couple seasons talk about the young and restless Jazz being on the move could just come true this season. This can be the season that finds them in the mix and replacing some of the teams that were near the top last season. Their acquisitions seem to fit, and the young players gained valuable playing time last season.
Sacramento Kings–Will they lose the title of dysfunction 101 this year? They should remain number one at something. Oops, we’re supposed to be talking about basketball, not therapy. Not a lot to talk about here. Perhaps a new coach can coax something out of the Kings. Not too much change foreseen. However, there is talent and they could surprise.
Denver Nuggets–A young and younger Denver squad says another transitional year of development and getting acquainted. As with any youth movement, there will be moments when they play with verve and fury. Then come moments of chaos and confusion. They could be something like Portland last year, and grab quite a few more wins than the pundit’s project.
New Orleans Pelicans--New Orleans pro teams seem to have a mama voodoo curse that deters any sustained winning seasons or championships. It looks like another building transition year with a slight note of optimism. They acquired some talent and will catch some better teams off guard with surprising wins. Not many more than last year, however.
Minnesota Timberwolves–The Wolves have started out with a lot of optimism for the past several years, only to see dreams fade to naught. This year the optimism may well be justified. Odds say that Tom Defense gets more out them than the recent previous coaches. Look for them to make a noticeable improvement in the win column.
Phoenix Suns–There is room for some optimism here. Rookie coach Earl Watson is close enough to his playing days to establish good rapport with his young players. And the addition of a couple of old veterans adds some glue to the unit. This writer says they do improve from last year’s record. No threat, however, to topple the front runners.
Los Angeles Lakers–Young Luke sideline walker will have a way of getting more out of this group than the league prognosticators expect. A proud city and franchise will not long tolerate the kind of season they had last year. Not to worry. This source says they will be out of the basement and into some respectability for the boys from Tinseltown.