Continuing our case-making for the season outcomes, we look at the non-playoff teams in the Western Conference. If you missed it, check out the Western Conference Playoff Teams here.
9. San Antonio Spurs - 43.5
10. Portland Trail Blazers - 41.5
11. Los Angeles Clippers - 35.5
12. Dallas Mavericks - 34.5
13. Memphis Grizzlies - 34.5
14. Phoenix Suns - 28.5
15. Sacramento Kings - 25.5
Note: The following is not gambling advice. Don’t take it as such. Obviously.
9. San Antonio Spurs (43.5)
Over (Dom): Last year, the Spurs won 47 games while Kawhi Leonard played a grand total of 9. They still managed a fantastic defense and were middle of the pack offensively. I am probably higher on Kyle Anderson than I should be, but adding Demar DeRozan for a full season and losing a generally bad backup point guard in current Tony Parker doesn’t read to me like a team that’s going to get 5 games worse. I’d bet the over here with a confidence in Gregg Popovich and the Spurs making lemonade out of lemons.
Under (Bobby): The Spurs under Pop have always been known for their spacing, ball movement, and strong defenses. This roster does not match that style, and while he has been excellent at adapting his schemes, this is the season where there are too many mismatched pieces to succeed. Most of this team prefers mid-range shots to 3s, and that’s going to compress the floor and lower efficiency. Shots at the rim will be more difficult, as teams can sag off of all five players in the starting lineup. Overall, don’t expect this offense to perform to the standard that previous Spurs teams have established.
Defensively, this team lost two of the best perimeter defenders in the league. Murray is an excellent defensive point guard, but the defensive talent took a notable step back. Additionally, the Spurs were already the second slowest team in the league; don’t expect that to change. Teams will try to run them off the floor, and could succeed on a lot of nights.
10. Portland Trailblazers (41.5)
Over (Bobby): Portland, despite being projected by some to miss the playoffs, made a strong push last season to win 49 games. They are being projected to show a steep drop-off this season. To put it in perspective, VORP shows that this is the equivalent of losing both CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic for the entire season, assuming they are replaced by average players. Even if they see their health suffer this season, this is too massive a gap to make up.
Add in that a team with a dynamic offense has returned it’s top 6 players by minutes, and the core group is starting to hit their prime, and this is going to be a team that scores its way to wins at a high level.
Under (Dom): The Blazers had a margin of victory of a 48 win team last year, but were one of the healthiest in the NBA per Man Games Lost:
New Orleans Pelicans and Phoenix Suns are most injured teams in the NBA to this point of the season. Portland Trailblazers and Oklahoma City Thunder have been healthiest so far. pic.twitter.com/Vo7HJzypP6— Man Games Lost NBA (@ManGamesLostNBA) April 2, 2018
To add to that, they lost a few of the better depth pieces on the roster in Ed Davis and Shabazz Napier and their depth chart looks to have a just injured Seth Curry and Evan Turner playing really key roles for them offensively. If things go south early do they entertain trading McCollum? Because their schedule starts out rough, there are a lot of questions here. Fade the under.
11. Los Angeles Clippers (35.5)
Over (Dom): Last year, the Clippers were approximately a .500 team (17-16 with a -0.8 net rating) after trading Blake Griffin last year, and lost DeAndre Jordan but gained Marcin Gortat and a hopefully healthy Milos Teodosic along with Avery Bradley coming back. There is a shot they get more games from Gallinari to add to wing depth and the additions of a few promising rookie guards make this an over to me. They don’t have a true star, but I don’t see a weak spot either. 35.5 is a good number, I’d fade the over.
Under (Bobby): This is a team that lost its best players from last season, and was already a mediocre — at best — team. There isn’t a lot of talent here that goes above a 15-20 MPG role player, and it seems like every player has a massive hole in their game that can be exploited, like Teodosic’s defense.
Additionally, there has been almost no continuity in this roster. If you compared the roster from those playoff teams several years ago to this, I don’t believe a single player remains. Gallinari does give them some continuity though; they can keep alive the tradition of players breaking their hands by punching people.
12. Dallas Mavericks (34.5)
Over (Dom): The Mavs won just 24 games last year but had the margin of victory of a nearly 33 win team. That, frankly, is nuts. It was the product of what tanking really is in the NBA which was Rick Carlisle (who is a great coach) running lineups with Dennis Smith Jr., Dirk, Yogi Ferrell, and Harrison Barnes out in close late game situations that had no hope of defending anyone. Adding the best rookie prospect in the draft and a proven playmaker in Doncic along with a huge upgrade at center should put this team in the upper 30s in wins. To add to it they owe Atlanta their pick unless it’s top 5, so I don’t see them tanking again. Fade the over.
Under (Bobby): Contrary to Dom, I see a top-5 protected pick as being motivation to tank especially hard. After all, you have little ability to improve this off-season without draft pick. This is an interesting team. There are a lot of players who would be nice to have as role players. Wesley Matthews and Harrison Barnes could both fill holes on a lot of teams. But as the primary options, they simply aren’t good enough.
Many people expect Doncic to come in and make this team successful, but the European game for guards often doesn’t translate to the NBA. Sometimes even the skills don’t translate (see Abrines, Alejandro), much less the control of the game. Doncic will have a large role immediately, and will likely struggle to adjust to the NBA speed. And 11 wins is a massive improvement. Doncic and DeAndre Jordan aren’t enough of a roster improvement to achieve this.
13. Memphis Grizzlies (34.5)
Over (Bobby): There is one thing that separates Memphis from the other teams at the end of this list: talented, established veterans. Mike Conley and Marc Gasol are both players that are always trustworthy, have veteran savvy, and affect the game on both ends of the floor. Additionally, this team has continuity in its roster and play-style.
Kyle Anderson and Jevon Carter are underrated pickups, as their games will fit the culture and schemes in Memphis. Add in Jaren Jackson Jr. as a player with high potential, and this team could threaten to make the playoffs if healthy.
Under (Dom): Memphis is sort of the light Spurs, where they seem to keep on winning most years when you really don’t think they should. But of late Marc Gasol has seen a steep decline in his defense and Mike Conley has been injury prone. Chandler Parsons might get healthy, but when’s the last time that has consistently happened and who’s there to replace him if he’s not? I love Jaren Jackson Jr. as a prospect, but rookie bigs traditionally aren’t totally ready to make an NBA level impact. There’s a shot they overachieve and even get close to the playoffs so I fade the under on this one.
14. Phoenix Suns (28.5)
Over (Dom): Phoenix had one of the worst coaching situations in the NBA last year and seems to have made a huge leap with the Jazz’s assistant Igor Kokoskov. Adding him with proven veterans in Trevor Ariza and Ryan Anderson plus a full healthy season from Devin Booker can well push this team near 30 wins, and if they go out and get a starting caliber point guard they’ll be a fun team to watch. Deandre Ayton has looked dominant in Summer League and preseason and if he can get his defense to be average might be next in line in the list of up and coming great big men. I’d fade this one as they were pretty awful and don’t have a point guard along with questions on Ayton’s defense, but it’s possible.
Under (Bobby): Who is the point guard for this team? What is the big man rotation? This is one of the most confounding roster constructions you will see. They are counting on Ayton to be a great player, but bigs tend to struggle to adapt to the professional game.
Devon Booker has quietly become one of the most overrated young players in the league, as he isn’t especially efficient, and doesn’t contribute on the defensive end at all. Ariza doesn’t move the needle much as anything more than a 3-D guy, and Anderson combined with the bad defensive players is going to make any opposing team’s highlight video unusually long. Don’t be surprised if they finish with under 30 wins.
15. Sacramento Kings (25.5)
Over (Bobby): The Sacramento Kings won 27 games last season, and it’s hard to argue that they got worse. This is an unusually young team, with 5 rookies, 6 sophomores, and 5 players with under 3 years of experience signed right now (some of which will be cut after preseason). That is a lot of potential for improvements. Skal Labissiere showed signs of talent last season, and adding another lottery pick doesn’t hurt. This won’t be a good team, but they won’t be 25 wins or worse bad.
Under (Dom): The Kings won 27 last year with the margin of victory of just under a 22 win team. Marvin Bagley has looked pretty unimpressive and already had questions on his defense. Other than that they added Yogi Ferrell and Nmanja Bjelica, seem to have no reliable wing depth, their coaching is iffy (I can’t even evaluate a coach with this roster) and I’m confused as to their direction (I think they are too). Oh and they reacquired Kings great Ben McLemore, known at this point almost as much as anything for having the ball stolen twice in nearly the same way by Kawhi Leonard a few years ago.
They apparently already played Bagley at small forward in preseason. It’s actually almost hard to be this bad, but I think I still bet the under.
Who comes out on top in their over/under predictions for the bottom half of the Western Conference?
This poll is closed