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Grading Myself: An Update on Who in the West Can Stop the Bucks?

Let’s See If This Pans Out Better Than the East

Golden State Warriors v Phoenix Suns
The Best in the West
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Hi Bucks’ fans! Sooooo, I’m not sure how many of you remember me breaking down every other team in the NBA and seeing where things stood in relation to the Bucks, but with the Association looking pretty clear at this point, I’m going to grade myself since when we get to the playoffs, things will get pretty busy. For now, with the stretch run just about to go under way, I think it’s time I grade...myself. I’ll try to be fair, but if it wasn’t me I’d probably grade a bit harder. This will be in order of how I ranked them in the preseason, by division. Here we go.

Northwest Division

Oklahoma City Thunder

My odds were 1,000,000 to 1. I said I wouldn’t pretend this team had a chance, and while they are the fourth worst team, they are still bad. I didn’t bother to analyze them, except their payroll which still is $23 million under the cap. Savin’ money I guess. Grade: A-

Minnesota Timberwolves

I’m worried I have Portland ahead of them (frown face), and that my odds were 500/1. This is why I was so mad when we lost to them, even though they now are a legit playoff threat. I said this team was top-heavy and not deep, and that creates super teams usually. This team is a budding super team if they keep Karl Towns and Anthony Edwards continues his ascension. The power forward trio is contributing. Naz Reid is doing well. D’Angelo Russell has figured out he is good as a number three option. I didn’t think they would be this good, so whoops. Grade: D

Portland Trailblazers

I gave them 25/1 odds, which were equivalent to Boston. In this case, I was wrong. To be fair, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum have combined to play the total games the team has. Norman Powell was playing good basketball, Anfernee Simons stepped up, Jusuf Nurkic had a good season and so did Robert Covington. I think it came down to Lillard’s injury, and that’s why I’m being generous. Quote: “My odds are only relatively high because of Lillard.” Grade: B-

Denver Nuggets

My odds here were 5/2, and say nothing on what I think happens in Jamal Murray returns. I did say that part of the problem with Denver is the altitude, but ironically this season they won in Denver and lost at home. Michael Porter Jr. had a bad season, but Jeff Green and Aaron Gordon stepped up. Will Barton may have had his best “Will Barton season.” Monte Morris and Zeke Nnaji are filling in. I didn’t mention Nah’Shon “Bones” Hyland, and he’s been a nice surprise this season. Also, I did say that Nikola Jokic would need to “back up his unlikely MVP campaign with an even unlikelier one.” He’s doing that. But, Denver just doesn’t feel as good. I’m not sure what to say here, so I’ll go with this. Grade: B

Utah Jazz

Utah has righted the ship, and my odds with them beating the Bucks were “even”. Currently, they are a half game ahead of the Bucks if they were in the same conference. I said that Donovan Mitchell would need to be an MVP, and I think if they catch (at least) Memphis, he should be. The trio of Rudy Gay, Hassan Whiteside and Eric Paschall have been nice off the bench. Adding in Nickeil Alexander-Walker in with Jordan Clarkson in the guard mix will be beneficial. The top 6/7 of the Jazz is better than what the Bucks have, with the main difference being Giannis, and I still believe that to be the case. While I thought the Jazz would be tied with (surprise for later) for best in the west, I would say that they are going through diversity and coming out okay at this point. I’m giving myself a good grade here. Grade: B

Southwest Division

Houston Rockets

Okay, so I gave Houston the same odds as Toronto. To be fair, I was right about Houston, I just wanted to point that out. Maybe I was loving that it looked like the Raptors would suck after what they did to us in 2019? The odds were 5,000/1, and as for Houston’s lack of success, I did state they would be better than last season. Again, not a hard prediction. I mentioned K-Mart Jr., Kevin Porter Jr. and Jae’Sean Tate being net positives would need to happen, and I would say that they haven’t been net negatives (mostly), so it’s going okay here. John Wall didn’t realize he would need to play to be worth any trade value. Overall, it was mostly a slam dunk. Grade: A

San Antonio Spurs

My odds here were 200/1, and I started off by saying that this is the first time in 30 years they have not had an All-Star on the roster. Congratulations, Dejounte Murray. He also helped the Spurs “figure out who their best player is” out of him, Derrick White (traded), Lonnie Walker IV (meh) and Keldon Johnson (second best?). Maybe the second best is Jakob Poeltl here. Zach Collins and Thaddeus Young weren’t very good and/or haven’t played, although Doug McDermott has done solid and provided a good veteran presence. I think this one went pretty well too. Oh, until I said “don’t count out Coach Pop, but realistically, this is probably the third worst team in the West.” That made me feel bad, until I noticed they are fourth worst by a half game. Grade: A

New Orleans Pelicans

I’m just going to say that New Orleans, Chicago, New York, Charlotte and Memphis all had the same odds of 50/1. Here’s a bad quote: “This team’s not just Zion Williamson, but him running for MVP would be a good start thing”. I think CJ McCollum getting traded to join Brandon Ingram and Jonas Valanciunas kind of makes the first part right, but it’s the MVP part that was bad. As for the rest, has Devonte Graham been an upgrade over Lonzo Ball? Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Herbert Jones were the two young players that needed to step forward this season, and now they need Trey Murphy or Jaxson Hayes to do so. I said this was a playoff team, oof, if this team played up to its potential. I would say they have a chance, they are better than Portland, the Lakers are the Lakers, and the Clippers can’t stay healthy. Maybe I will be more right than I thought. Grade: B

Memphis Grizzlies

They had 50/1 odds, just like New Orleans, and then at the end I changed my mind and gave New Orleans the slight edge. I really thought the Valanciunas for Steven Adams trade was that bad for Memphis. Meanwhile, when playing Dillon Brooks has earned his contract. Steven Adams is being Steven Adams. Jaren Jackson Jr. returned and made a massive step forward. Desmond Bane is leading the other “intriguing young players” and playing exceptional. And speaking of exceptional, Ja Morant is really making New Orleans regret not taking him. Imagine if he was there with CJ and Ingram. But this didn’t go well, seeing that Memphis is 40-18 and doing better than the Bucks. Grade: D-

Dallas Mavericks

Dallas has been around where I thought they would be, with 10/1 odds to beat the Bucks. I think it was a safe-ish bet to put Dallas first, and being 33-24 just means that Memphis is beating them. Dallas is basically where they should be. Luka Doncic is playing great as expected, and I really thought Kristaps Porzingis was having a good year. Jalen Brunson, now the second best player here, was playing up to his potential as the “third best player on this team”, like I said he was. I did state that Willie Cauley-Stein was my favorite for who would weed themselves out of the backup center logjam, does anybody know what happened to him? Aside from that, and Tim Hardaway Jr.’s injury, I was pretty accurate with how I picked Dallas. Grade: B+

Pacific Division

Sacramento Kings

Okay, so I gave the Kings 150/1 odds, and well, I would say they are still around that area. De’Aaron Fox still should be an All-Star like I said, and I also said that this team has as “good of a chance as any of them (referring to Kings’ teams between 2005 and now)” to end the postseason drought. And when I say that, I do not and will never include the play-in. I think the trio of Fox, newcomer Domantas Sabonis and Harrison Barnes is formidable, but I am not sure the Kings can make it to the Warriors or Suns in the postseason. Tyrese Haliburton, while here, built upon his rookie season and Davion Mitchell seems to be following in his footsteps (hence the ability to move on). Due to all of the trades, it will be hard to gauge the rest of the season, but I think I’ll give myself a decent grade since they are about where we all expected. Grade: B

LA Clippers

I gave odds with and without Kawhi Leonard, and since he has not played, I’ll focus on the without odds of being 20/1. Remember, this team made the Western Conference Finals and kind of came close to the Finals without him. And yet, without Paul George as well, this team is just a tread-water team. He wasn’t quite playing like an MVP, but he was an All-Star caliber for sure. They then made a big move for Norman Powell and Robert Covington (and two former Bucks that won’t be impactful) only to have Powell get hurt. Reggie Jackson is playing like he did last postseason, but him being the main option just isn’t enough. The depth from Terance Mann, Luke Kennard and Ivica Zubac is happening. My second best quote was: “They might not even make the playoffs in the deep Western Conference”. Deep or not, they might not make the playoffs. I also said: “...and Serge Ibaka coming back strong will be helpful too”. Let’s apply that to the Bucks. I think with Paul George, this is pretty accurate, and I’ve been kind to myself based on injuries. Grade: B+

Golden State Warriors

My odds with the Warriors assumed Klay Thompson returned and with a vengeance. They were 5/1 odds, and with Klay getting 18 points in 25 minutes or so, he’s back. Steph played like an MVP for a while, and Andrew Wiggins is being the “better version of Harrison Barnes”. Golden State is also showing that they acquired depth, like I suggested, and still are able to go 14-15 deep when healthy. I barely mentioned above-average Thompson replacement Jordan Poole, and that’s probably my worst take from there. Quote: “...a return to the Finals is not out of the question if Klay, Curry and the rest are healthy. This team can definitely stop the Bucks.” Grade: A

Phoenix Suns

The odds were 3/1, and while you may or may not agree, they are the third best odds from the West behind the Jazz and, the only team left. Did I expect them to be on pace for 60-65 wins? No. I did ask if they would be more motivated or step back, and they stepped forward. No doubt about it. This wouldn’t be that bad, but I have to quote myself here. Quote when referring to why they were not the cover photo: “...because I don’t think they have a good chance of returning to the Finals”. Adam and/or Mitchell, if you guys can help me find a puke emoji for this one, I would appreciate it. (Editor’s Note: )

Grade: C+

LA Lakers

I gave them 50/50 odds of beating the Bucks. Why? LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook all have been or are the best at their position. They might be the best star duo LeBron has ever had. The big names on the bench like Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard. Malik Monk and Talen Horton-Tucker being solid players, like they actually are.

What went wrong? Westbrook became worthless. LeBron and AD have each missed at least 17 games. Avery Bradley, who I didn’t even mention, has the second most starts. Stanley Johnson and Austin Reaves are valuable pieces here. Dwight Howard’s PER is higher than Westbrook’s. DeAndre Jordan is also hot garbage. Wayne Ellington and Kent Bazemore are hidden on the bench. Rajon Rondo was traded to get out of there, for nothing. However, I was right about Horton-Tucker and Monk. Grade: F

Here is a summary of my grades.

Grades:

A: Houston, San Antonio, Golden State

A-: Oklahoma City

B+: Dallas, LA Clippers

B: Denver, Utah, New Orleans, Sacramento

B-: Portland

C+: Phoenix

D: Minnesota

D-: Memphis

F: LA Lakers

Not as bad as the East. My only A’s were Cleveland and Orlando, and I had way too many worse grades. Aside from Minnesota, Memphis and the Lakers, I was pretty much spot on. In fact, if you switch Memphis with the Lakers and their records, I was spot on. Sure, I said some silly things, but c’mon. Nailing Golden State, Dallas and the Clippers weren’t easy, neither was San Antonio. I think I did pretty well here, but it’s up to you to determine how you think I did overall? Was I too easy or too harsh with my grading? Feel free to check the archives and read them for yourself. In the meantime, vote below and comment too please!

Poll

What Is Your Grade For Julie Overall Based On Her Preseason Predictions?

This poll is closed

  • 23%
    "A" (Julie did great, and nobody saw the Lakers being this bad)
    (7 votes)
  • 46%
    "B" (Wow, good job with Oklahoma City and Houston. Golden State actually was pretty impressive though)
    (14 votes)
  • 10%
    "C" (You were fine, but I think you shouldn’t take injuries into account)
    (3 votes)
  • 16%
    "D" (How did you possibly think Phoenix wouldn’t return to the Finals?)
    (5 votes)
  • 3%
    "F" (C’mon, this was WAY better than the East)
    (1 vote)
30 votes total Vote Now