The Wild WILD West

In light of this crazy offseason, including the absolutely ludacris Westbrook-Paul trade, I wanted to break down each West team and see how I think they stack up going into the season. I'm going to try to rank teams by how good I think they are are their best (not exactly how I think they'll finish in the regular season standings), and detail each roster; the rosters are how I would do them if I was the coach, moreso than how I predict they will actually be.

Elite (have a superstar duo capable of winning a title)

1. Warriors

  • This may seem like a cop-out, but I am going to go with Steph/Klay/Draymond until further notice. Steph and Klay are almost as good as the other duos, and Draymond is by far the best third wheel. This assumes Klay is healthy by playoffs of course.
  • Oh yeah, and then there's the young All Star (deserving or not) point guard they just added....who knows how that is going to work, but I have a feeling they'll trade him for Robert Covington and Jeff Teague and be great.
  • Their issue is depth, and it is a big issue.
PG: Russell
SG: Steph
SF: Klay
PF: Draymond
C: Looney/Cauley-Stein

2. Clippers

  • This one is the group everyone is talking about, and for good reason. They added two superstars to a team that was already in the playoffs with none. However, Kawhi is a bit injured and Paul George is having surgery on both shoulders this offseason, and may not even be healthy by the start of the season. Still, I expect them to be a top two team at the end of the year.
  • Landry Shamet may end up being a big part of what they do as a Redick-type player.
  • Their post defense is what worries me.
PG: Beverley/Lou
SG: George/Shamet
SF: Kawhi/Harkless
PF: J. Green
C: Zubac/Harrell

3. Lakers

  • I think people are actually sleeping on the Lakers a bit, if that is possible. They have a really nice setup with Danny Green and KCP as the 3&D wings next to Lebron, who is finally playing point guard. Davis will probably move to center when the games matter, allowing Kuzma to PF on offense (Lebron at PF on defense).
  • Kuzma and Demarcus Cousins are the alternative scoring options after Lebron and AD, which could work well. I think they should get Kuzma and/or Cousins to come off the bench as a 6th man scorer.
  • They also have some chemistry in a weird way, since Davis, Cousins, and Rondo were all on the Pelicans two seasons ago. I think the bench lineup with Rondo and Cousins might actually be a nifty unit sometimes. (I ordered this depth chart the way they're probably gonna do it, not the way I would do it).
  • Coaching is obviously their big concern.
PG: Lebron/Rondo
SG: Green/Cook
SF: Kuzma/KCP
PF: Davis/Dudley
C: Cousins/McGee

Great Teams (may be able to win a title off of chemistry and overall talent)

4. Jazz

  • The most fun roster in the league to follow in my opinion (besides the Bucks). They have talent at every position and a bunch of hard workers. If Donovan Mitchell improves, they could move into the elite tier, but for now, his efficiency hurts.
  • I worry about their ability to play Bogdanovic or Jeff Green at PF. I'm not sure that was a good move; I think they would've been better off keeping Favors. Still, if it works, it could be a lineup that provides tremendous spacing around Gobert.
  • Their concern is whether they can match the elite talent in the conference through team play and whether their defense will take a big step back without Favors and Rubio.

PG: Conley/Mudiay

SG: Mitchell/Exum

SF: Ingles/O'Neal/Niang

PF: Bogdanovic/Green

C: Gobert/Ed Davis

5. Nuggets

  • Last season's 2 seed, the Nuggets would be taking a big step back despite an offseason that I see as improving them. I am just not sure they improved quite as much as the teams ahead of them. However, most of their ceiling rides on Jamal Murray.
  • Their young guards could be huge assets with some improvement. Jerami Grant will also be a huge addition I think, able to play SF and PF and providing quality defense and 3pt spacing (no more Plumlee at PF). Michael Porter Jr. is a huge wildcard who could end up being the ace in their sleeve.
  • The concern is whether they are still too young to play with the big boys and whether Millsap is going to regress without the young guards stepping up to replace his production.

PG: Murray/Morris

SG: Harris/Beasley

SF: Grant/Barton/Craig/Porter Jr.

PF: Millsap/Hernangomez

C: Jokic/Plumlee

6. Blazers

  • Portland continues to make weird moves, but I think they proved this postseason (and this and last regular season) that it would be foolish to underestimate them as long as they have Lillard.
  • Hassan Whiteside is weird, but Terry Stotts just made Enes Kanter look great in the playoffs, so he might be able to work wonders with Whiteside. At the worst, he is a Great stopgap option until Nurkic gets healthy (which might be a long time).
  • Their weakness is the small forward spot, and power forward isn't a strength either unless Zach Collins steps up with more consistency (though I think his best position is center). They have weak starters and little depth, and their depth is undersized.

PG: Lillard/Simons

SG: McCollum/Bazemore

SF: Hood/Hezonja

PF: Collins/Tolliver

C: Nurkic/Whiteside


7. Rockets

  • I flat out think the Westbrook trade was horrible and will cripple their chances of winning a title. The fact that they gave OKC 2 1sts and 2 pick swaps is just the icing on the poop cake. Westbrook is the best backup PG in the league, but I don't have any idea how he is supposed to fit with Harden, unless Harden just wants to move back to playing SG.
  • They also continue to get older and older at the role player spots, with PJ Tucker nearing retirement (and playing league leading minutes last year) and Eric Gordon continuing to get worse.
  • Their issue is a max contract guy who should've gone to Orlando or Detroit or Chicago. Their depth is also pretty awful.

PG: Westbrook/Rivers

SG: Gordon/Green

SF: Harden (his defensive position)

PF: Tucker/Faried

C: Capela

8. Spurs

  • Popovich may have a chance to make yet another fruitless playoff run while delaying his retirement. He is still an elite coach, but I don't think the Spurs have any ceiling. If they had landed Marcus Morris, they would've had a really nice roster, but not low-character reneging left them with a bit of a hole (not that I really blame him, he got basically twice as much money from the Knicks, but he clearly chose money over winning and class and even playing time probably).
  • Still, they are deep with saavy vets and have a lot of potential at point guard with two young guys. They may have some trouble figuring out what to do at the position actually. Lonnie Walker is also a wildcard.
  • Their concern is that their best player is either Lamarcus Aldridge or Rudy Gay or Derrick White or DeMar DeRozan, and those are 4 bad options (and White may not even start).

PG: White/Murray

SG: DeRozan/Forbes/Walker

SF: Carroll/Bellinelli

PF: Gay/Samanic

C: Aldridge/Poeltl

9. Mavericks

  • Dallas is another team I'm really interested in from the fun angle; I think they may be really exciting to watch this year. This spot may be too high for where their roster really is, but I can't help looking forward to seeing what they can do on the court.
  • If Porzingis comes back healthy, I think they will have perhaps the best spacing in the league, as well as a defense that is sneakily very good. Their rebounding may be an issue. Their shooting guard group is a really fun pair and I think the Doncic-Curry effectiveness on court could be amazing. Maxi Kleber is underrated and could be a really cool small ball pair with Porzingis.
  • Curry/Wright/Doncic/Porzingis/Kleber could be a super fun lineup.
  • The big issue is youth, chemistry, and whether Porzingis will be the same player he was before.

PG: Doncic (SF on defense)/Brunson

SG: Wright/Curry

SF: Finney-Smith/Hardaway Jr/Jackson

PF: Porzingis/Kleber

C: Powell/Marajnovic

Decent (aka probable playoff teams in the East)

10. Thunder

  • I don't have them rated this low because of the Paul/Westbrook swap, more for the Gallinari/George swap and the loss of Jerami Grant for no return. I like Chris Paul better than Bledsoe as a complementary player, but Westbrook did have the ability to carry a crummy roster to respectability, and Paul no longer has that I don't think.
  • Even so, with Paul, Gallinari, and Adams, they have three veterans who want to win and compete hard. They may end up shocking the world and making the playoffs; wouldn't that be a Huge coup considering how many draft picks they have in the bank now.
  • Their weakness is being generally terrible at all spots on the roster outside of that Medium 3. They will probably end up playing Gallinari at PF a lot, and I feel sorry for SGA, who got moved from a prime situation to a really weird one as the Clippers took off.

PG: Paul/Schroder

SG: Gilgeous-Alexander/Ferguson

SF: Gallinari/Nader

PF: Patterson/Muscala

C: Adams/Noel

11. Pelicans

  • Despite losing Anthony Davis, David Griffin recouped assets nicely and pivoted the team in a way that years of previous management couldn't even dream of (getting "lucky" with Zion didn't hurt of course). They'll be fun to watch and root for as an underdog team with tons of weird talent, but I think they should send the Lakers players back to another team ASAP.
  • Jrue Holiday isn't really a lead superstar type player, but I think he will have a big season as their alpha player. If things break the right way, they might even end up in the playoffs, though I think they will give their misfit Lakers players too much playing time and prevent that. Adding Redick and Favors were great win-now moves.
  • Their problem is that they'll probably start Lonzo at PG and move Jrue to SG, which is really dumb. They should try to groom Lonzo behind Jrue, who would probably be a great mentor, especially since the two have similar styles in some ways.

PG: Jrue/Lonzo

SG: Redick/Moore/Walker-Alexander

SF: Ingram/Hart

PF: Zion/Miller/Williams/Wood

C: Favors/Hayes/Okafor

12. Kings

  • Poor Kings just continue to not really make good decisions, just when you think maybe they'll turn things around in a positive direction. They shelled out major money for Harrison Barnes, which makes sense since he's led Dallas to the playoffs the last few years, and Trevor Ariza, who gave so much effort in helping Phoenix and Washington tank last year. Adding Dedmon was a good move though.
  • Fox and Hield continue to be one of the most exciting backcourts in the league, maybe The most exciting. There is a chance that they actually carry Sacramento to the playoffs despite their front office's attempts at bungling things.
  • Marvin Bagley was much better than I expected this year, but he still needs to improve his defense. Still, the Kings have a Ton of versatility in their lineups with several players who can slide between positions and now have some veterans who could help them win.
  • The issues are having enough talent after Fox/Hield, and whether Fox/Hield are really an elite tandem, or just an exciting one.

PG: Fox/Joseph/Ferrell

SG: Hield/Bogdanovic

SF: Barnes/Ariza

PF: Bagley/Bjelica

C: Dedmon/Giles

Bad (really bad)

13. Suns

  • They added Ricky Rubio on a big contract. Yay Suns, overpaying for a mediocre vet who doesn't seem to fit very well with your star.
  • Also, they traded for Dario Saric, I guess thinking he is the PF of the future. They also seem to not have a spot for Mikal Bridges after signing Oubre and trading for Tyler Johnson last season.
  • Suns gonna Suns, and that is the issue.
PG: Rubio
SG: Booker/Tyler Johnson
SF: Oubre/Bridges
PF: Saric/Kaminsky
C: Ayton/Baynes

14. Timberwolves

Why do I get the feeling that the Timberwolves think they'll make the playoffs this year? I actually think their new GM is pretty shrewd, he made several good moves on draft day, but then the players he drafted didn't make sense to me.

I really hope they are able to trade for D'Angelo Russell for their sakes, and for KAT's sake. Their roster is such garbage, but Russell/KAT would be a fun pair.

Their issue is having a ton of bad players and very few good ones.

PG: Teague/Napier

SG: Okogie/Culver

SF: Covington/Wiggins

PF: Layman/Bates-Diop/Bell (no idea what they're gonna do at SG, SF, and PF especially)

C: Towns/Dieng

15. Grizzlies

I like the signing of Tyus Jones and I like the trade for Jae Crowder. However, they just don't have any good players.

However, they do actually have a nucleus of really young, really talented players who on paper fit together very well and could form a group core going forward. They may just start a young player at every position, but they also have really good veteran role playing role models.

Their issue is being too young to be any good at all.

PG: Jones/Morant/Melton

SG: Holiday/Allen/Dorsey

SF: Igoudala/Josh Jackson/Brooks

PF: Jaren Jackson/Crowder/Caboclo

C: Valanciunas/Clarke/Plumlee

And there you have it! All 15 Western conference teams. I would not be entirely shocked if 14 of them were good enough to make the East 8 seed this season. What do you think about the Wild Wild West?

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