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NBA 2016/17 Western Conference Preview

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Christopher DiGeronimo

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The Western Conference has been the most dominate conference in the NBA, and it looks like there

aren’t any signs of it slowing down. The fast paced offences of the west seem to be superior to all in the

east, and as a matter of fact the west is home to a super team. With that being said, if everything goes

as planned we should see a western conference team hoisting the Larry O’Brian Trophy at the end of the

year. You guys are probably thinking I’m talking about the Warriors, but with all the talent in the west it

could very well be a number of different teams that could take it all.

 

Dallas Mavericks: Dirk, that’s all I have to say. Dirk has been the face of the Mavericks since he was

drafted in 1998. He has a championship, a MVP, and countless All-Star appearances. He is hands down

one of the greatest European players of all time. With that being said Dirk has nothing to prove in 2016,

it is his teammates that have to help him out. The Mavs did a little spending this summer and acquired

former Golden State Warriors Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut. Hopefully Barnes and Bogut can bring

their winning culture to Dallas. The Mavs always seem to be in the running for top tier free agents but

they always seem to come up short, and end up patching up the edges with second tier free agents and

role players. This can be shown through the signings of Wesley Matthews and Deron Williams last

offseason. This can also be shown through the signing of Harrison Barnes when the Mavs missed out on

Kevin Durant this past offseason. The signing of Barnes could potentially work out for the Mavs in the

long run because Barnes could potentially bud into a superstar. He was never really able to fully display

his talents in Golden State so hopefully he can develop in Dallas. In 2016 I see the Mavs keeping up with

the pack and fighting for a playoff spot.

Prediction: 4 th Seed

Denver Nuggets: This run and gun 2016 Denver Nuggets team is almost ready to dig for gold. This team

is very young and raw, with a steady dose of veteran presence. The Nuggets are led by second year point

guard Emmanuel Mudiay, young centers Nikola Jokic, Jusuf Nurkic, “The Manimal” Kenneth Faried and

sharp shooter Danilo Gallinari. The Nuggets also drafted Kentucky star Jamal Murray seventh overall in

this year’s draft, so he should also be a contributing factor. If all this talent actually pans out and starts

to gain chemistry, this is going to be a dangerous team in the future. The veteran presence of Jamieer

Nelson, Mike Miller, and Wilson Chandler should help with that development. The main concern for this

Nuggets team is staying healthy for all 82 games. If Denver is able to stay away from the injury bug, they

should be able to stay relevant in this stacked Western Conference. If they do not stay healthy, they are

going to be eating everyone’s dust.

Prediction: On the Bubble

Golden State Warriors: Look, up in the sky, it’s a bird, it’s a plane, no it’s the NBA’s super friends. With

the acquisition of Kevin Durant over the summer the Warriors addressed their biggest weakness,

shooting. Excuse me while I laugh at my own joke. The Warriors were pretty good last year based upon

the fact that they only won 73 games but lost the biggest game of the season, Game Seven of the NBA

Finals. With all that anger and rage from losing that one game, the Warriors lured Oklahoma City’s

adopted son to California and decided that they want to win all 82 games in 2016. Some say that the

power trio of Curry, Thompson, and Durant won’t work because each of them command the ball, but I

feel that Coach Kerr has something up his sleeve and it will all work out. The Warriors also have

complimentary players Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston who can contribute in

the starting lineup and off the bench. The Warriors also acquired Zaza Pachulia to make up for the loss

of Andrew Bogut and signed forward David West to add some veteran presence off the bench. Overall in

my opinion this is the most well rounded and most talented team in the NBA. I feel if the Warriors do

not win the title in 2016, LeBron is paying off Adam Silver.

Prediction: 1 st Seed

Houston Rockets: With the loss of Dwight Howard to free agency, James Harden has now reclaimed the

City of Houston. The Rockets will rely heavily on Harden to be their predominant scoring option, with

help from Trevor Ariza and newly acquired Ryan Anderson. The Rockets added some depth at the point

guard position adding often injured Eric Gordon, and drafting guard Gary Peyton II out of Oregon State.

In 2016 Rockets fans should look forward to the development of young center Clint Capella. Capella

showed flashes of dominance last year, and now with the departure of Dwight Howard, Capella’s ceiling

should sky rocket (no pun intended). One contributing factor to the Rockets success this year is going to

be how they handle new coach Mike D’Antoni. D’Antoni has had some success in the Western

Conference in the past, but he has also failed miserably. His offensive philosophy is “If you can outscore

the other team, you are going to win”. With that being said the Rockets offense should have no problem

adjusting to that philosophy, it is just the defense that is going to be suspect. James Harden doesn’t

really play defense anyway, but look for guards Patrick Beverley and Pablo Prigioni to help him out on

that side of the ball. Overall this Rockets team is going to be involved in some good ol’ western

shootouts but I feel they will come out on top in most of those battles.

Prediction: 6 th Seed

Los Angeles Clippers: The excitement surrounding Lob City has slowly been dying out these past few

years, based upon the fact that the Clippers haven’t been able to make it far in the playoffs. The talents

of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan have been great in the regular season where you play

each team once but they haven’t been able to win an important playoff series. I believe this is damaging

their legacy as a powerhouse in the Western Conference. If the Clippers are able to dominate in the

regular season, it is a must that they carry that success at least to the Western Conference Finals. If they

do not, I believe this season will be a failure. Doc Rivers has the same talent around him, he just has to

find a way to bring it together. The Clippers drafted Brice Johnson and Diamond Stone in this year’s

draft, so hopefully this young talent can help contribute right out of the gate. In 2016 I believe the

Clippers will make the playoffs, but I see another first round upset in their future.

Prediction: 7 th Seed

Los Angeles Lakers: Kobe Bryant will definitely be missed in the city of Los Angeles. He was the last

remaining piece that reminded Lakers fans of the glory days. Winning is something that will also be

missed in the Staples Center this year. In 2016 The Lakers look to top picks D’Angelo Russell, Julius

Randle, and Brandon Ingram to lead this glorified franchise back to the playoffs. The Lakers also added

veteran talents Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov to help bolster this young roster. The Lakers hope that

the talent that they have acquired via free agency and the draft will eventually come together and form

a contender in the future. While the Lakers patiently wait for that to happen, they can count on Swaggy

P (the poor man’s J.R. Smith) to keep up his antics and entertain the crowd while they go through these

growing pains. This team can be great in the future, but the future is not 2016.

Prediction: Do not make playoffs

Memphis Grizzlies: The Grizzlies made Mike Conley a very rich man this past offseason, and he deserves

it. Even though Conley is the highest paid player on the team it doesn’t necessary mean he is the best

player, I believe that accolade belongs to center Marc Gasol. Memphis is always a quiet team that

nobody really thinks about, but they are always quietly good. They have a solid team and with the

acquisition of Chandler Parsons their offensive ability will definitely improve. Parson’s signing also takes

some pressure off Conley and Gasol to constantly produce on the offensive end. The Grizzlies have

made the executive decision this season to have former All-Star Zach Randolph come off the bench.

Now you may think this is a bad thing, but I think it shows the depth of this playoff caliber team. In 2016

I believe the Memphis Grizzlies will continue their success in the west.

Prediction: 5 th Seed

Minnesota Timberwolves: As a fan when you see Minnesota on your teams schedule you automatically

say to yourself “Oh that’s an easy win”. In 2016 opposing fans will not be saying that much longer. When

you look up and down this Timberwolves roster, all you see is young talent. To start it off at the top, you

got euro sensation Rickey Rubio running the point. At the two you got slam dunk champion Zach LaVine.

At the small forward you got 2014 number one overall pick Andrew Wiggins. At power forward you have

rebounding machine Nikola Pekovic, and finally at center you have 2015 number one overall pick and

reigning rookie of the year Karl-Anthony Towns. All this talent is headed by well-respected coach Tom

Thibodeau. With a team like this you can only imagine the potential this team has. Minnesota will no

longer be a floundering last place team, they will be fighting tooth and nail for a playoff spot in 2016.

Prediction: 8 th Seed

New Orleans Pelicans: When you have Anthony Davis on your team, it shouldn’t he hard to win, but that

has been the biggest problem for New Orleans. Anthony Davis has been labeled the chosen one, but

injuries have held him back from reaching his full potential. With that being said, the pelicans look to

Tyreke Evans, Omar Asik, Alexis Ajinca, and newly acquired Terrence Jones to help out on both the

offensive and defensive end of the court. One bright spot the Pelican have to look forward to is the

development of rookie Buddy Hield. I believe if he can continue shooting like he did in college; the

Pelicans might have a stud on their hands. I believe if the Pelicans can stay away from the injury bug,

they have the potential to be a good team, but I have a feeling that the bug might bite their feathers.

Prediction: Do not make playoffs

Oklahoma City Thunder: Kevin Durant pulled a LeBron and left his adoptive city to chase titles in the

Golden State. We all thought he was better than that, but you know what they say “If you can’t beat’em,

join’em”. Enough about Kevin Durant, this 2016 Thunder season is going to be all about Russell

Westbrook. This season is going to determine if Westbrook is a true NBA superstar. This team is not very

talented on paper, but it is going to depend on how Westbrook preforms under the spotlight and how

he is able to collaborate the talent around him. The Thunder did add some talent by acquiring Victor

Oladipo in exchange for Serge Ibaka. Oladipo has the potential to be a serviceable replacement for

Durant’s scoring, but he doesn’t have the talent to replace him fully. With that being said Steven Adams,

Enes Kanter, and Anthony Morrow all have to step up and take bigger roles on this team if they want to

be competitive in the west. In 2016 I don’t believe the Thunder will make it back to the Western

Conference finals, but they have a chance of making it to the playoffs.

Prediction: 3 rd Seed

Phoenix Suns: This is another young team the could potentially make some noise in this tight Western

Conference. The Suns count on point guard duo Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight to lead the way, with a

lot of young talent surrounding them. Second year guard Devin Booker looks to build on his rookie

campaign as the future star of this team. Rookies Dragon Bender and Tyler Ulis look to contribute right

away and young center Alex Len hopes to develop into a powerful force. This young talent wouldn’t be

complimented if there weren’t any savvy veterans to help them out. The savvy veterans that fill out this

roster are center Tyson Chandler, guard Leandro Barbosa, and forward sharp shooter Jared Dudley.

These veterans could help make a difference on this team because they all have playoff and

championship experience. This experience could really help out in the long run, if this team is able to

stick together. In 2016 the Suns will be an up and coming team, but their youth might make them fall

short of the stratosphere.

Prediction: On the Bubble

Portland Trailblazers: Damien Lillard is pretty much a perennial All-Star, but he often gets over looked.

When Lamarcus Aldridge left for the Spurs last year, the burden was placed on Lillard and he handled it

pretty well. As a matter of fact, Lillard led the Trailblazers to the fifth seed in the playoffs. With a

revamped Western Conference and the pieces that have put around Lillard, I don’t believe it could be

done again. In 2016 there are a lot of improved teams, and I believe the Blazers will fall short of a playoff

spot.

Prediction: Do not make Playoffs

Sacramento Kings: DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins is both the strength and weakness of the Sacramento

Kings. He can either score 50 points or he could obtain 50 technical fouls. That has been a problem for

the Kings the past couple of seasons, Cousins is either hurt or he is suspended. If Cousins is able to stay

on the court for all 82 games the Kings could actually stay relevant for most of the year. The Kings have a

lot of weapons that could potentially help them out. They have point guard Darren Collison and forward

Rudy Gay. If these two are able to get any kind of chemistry, they could potentially be a powerful duo.

The Kings also have second year center Willie Cauley-Stein who looks to develop under the watch of

Cousins, and recently acquired Aaron Afflalo who could help out on the perimeter. The Kings have also

signed troubled point guard Ty Lawson who can really contribute if he can return to the old Ty Lawson

that played for the Denver Nuggets. Overall I feel the Kings are a good team, but it all depends on the

moods of DeMarcus Cousins to determine how far the Kings go.

Prediction: On the Bubble

San Antonio Spurs: Now that Tim Duncan is gone, who is going to be the leader of the most boring team

in the NBA. I believe that award will go to young superstar Kawhi Leonard. I feel Kawhi is ready to take

over this team and really contend for a MVP season. He will do all this, and yet nobody will even notice

because the Spurs are the Spurs. They win and that’s it, everybody just goes about their business. Greg

Popovich the “Puppet Master” got himself another superstar in Pau Gasol to go along with last year’s

signing LaMarcus Aldridge. The Spurs seem to be one of the best teams in the NBA and yet nobody talks

about them. As a matter of fact, if I didn’t look up every teams roster I would have forgotten about the

Spurs. In 2016 I expect nothing less than a conference finals appearance from the Spurs.

Prediction: 2 nd Seed

Utah Jazz: The music died in Utah over 20 years ago, but fans in Utah seem to believe that the music is

back. Gordon Hayward looks to lead this young team to a playoff spot which has been alluding him his

whole career. The core of this Utah team includes Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert, and Dante Exum. I feel if

this core can really come together and reach their full potential, the Jazz are going to be good to go in a

couple of years. The music is slowly coming back but it is sort of a background noise in 2016.

Prediction: Do not make playoffs

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NBA 2016/17 Western Conference Preview