With many key free agent movements and signings, the NBA Western Conference is the far superior conference with many good teams and some of these teams may not even make the playoffs. I will make a way to early prediction on the Western Conference seeding from first to eighth place and which teams will make the playoffs.
I predict two notable teams that will miss the playoffs, the San Antonio Spurs and the New Orleans Pelicans. The Spurs fell to seventh last season and they will once again not likely have Kawhi Leonard. The Spurs do not have the talent as some of the other teams in the West and they have not improved. The Pelicans lost two starters this off-season in Demarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo. Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday are special talents but losing 2/5 starters will hurt them. The West is too talented to afford to lose Leonard for the Spurs and Rondo/Cousins for the Pelicans to overcome this and make the playoffs.
Golden State Warriors
Surprise, surprise, I have the Golden State Warriors finishing first in the West. If having Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green was not enough, they went and signed Demarcus Cousins. Come playoff time, barring any injuries, the Warriors will have 5 all-stars on their starting lineup. This starting lineup is the best in NBA history and almost seems not fair to the rest of the league. The Warriors usually have some up and downs during the season but they are so talented and should still end up in first at the end of the season and will likely win another NBA Title this coming season.
The Houston Rockets were 1 game away and a Chris Paul injury from beating the Warriors last season and making the NBA Finals. They re-signed Chris Paul and will look to re-sign Clint Capela. They however did lose a starter in Trevor Ariza, who is known for being a great defender and he is one of the best in the league in getting steals. They shoot 3’s like crazy and have shot makers. James Harden is the reigning MVP and he will try and take his team to the NBA Championship this season. I have them finishing second in the West at the end of the season behind the Warriors.
Los Angeles Lakers
Did the Los Angeles Lakers sign anyone big this off-season? Oh, that’s right, some guy named LeBron James. The Lakers were a 35-win team last season and did not make the playoffs but had promising and talented young players. Now they add LeBron James to the team and they will automatically make the playoffs and win a bunch more games. They also added Rajon Rondo who should help develop Lonzo Ball and hopefully improve his game. Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma will look to improve this season and should have an easier time playing with James. They could trade for Kawhi Leonard which means they will likely lose at least one of their talented young players but it would be worth it for Leonard. They did lose Julius Randle but it shouldn’t hurt them very much. I have the Lakers finishing third in the West and will make the playoffs with the addition of James.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Oklahoma City Thunder were able to re-sign Paul George this off-season which was huge for them. Paul George and Russell Westbrook were one of the best duos last season. They should improve and play better after a season together under their belt. Unfortunately, they still have Carmelo Anthony who is hurting their team defensively and on offense. He is not the same player he once was and is slowing them down. Reports are the Thunder may part ways with Anthony which would help them with cap room and as a team. Steven Adams is a good center and third piece to Westbrook and George. I think they will finish fourth once again and have the potential to be a threat in the West.
The Utah Jazz were a nice surprise last season finishing fifth in the West. They have talented players in Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. They are one of the best, if not the best defensive team in the entire league. They did not make any splashes this off-season but Donovan Mitchell will only improve this season. They were able to knock off the Thunder in the first round of the playoffs last season. I have the Jazz finishing fifth again in the tough Western Conference.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are another talented team with Jimmy Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Andrew Wiggins. Their issue is 3-point shooting which nowadays is a big deal. They finished eighth last season but Butler missed an extended period of time and they would have been higher in the standings if he was healthy. There have been reports Butler is fed up with Towns and Wiggins and may leave after this season. They have a talented team and should do slightly better this season. I have them finishing sixth in the West this coming season.
The Denver Nuggets were on the outside looking in after finishing ninth in the West last season. They lost Paul Millsap for much of the season and he could have really helped them get in the playoffs. The Nuggets like the Timberwolves are a very talented team with Nikola Jokic, Paul Millsap, Gary Harris, and other good young players. This should finally be the year where they get in the playoffs. The Nuggets have quietly built a good team and I have them finishing seventh in the West but wouldn’t be surprised if they finished even higher.
Portland Trail Blazers
The Portland Trail Blazers finished third in the West last season and looked like a legit threat before being swept in the first round by the New Orleans Pelicans. It seemed the Blazers over achieved finishing third and I think they slip this season. They have two of the best guards in the league in Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum but they have not proven they can win. The Blazers have not added anyone this off-season and with a few teams getting better, they could slip and I have them finishing eighth this coming season.