*Editors Note- This blog post is brought to you by my good friend Hustleman, aka Charlie Hustle. Charlie probably has the most basketball knowledge of any one I know, and that’s saying a lot. I know a lot of basketball as well, but this guy is a basketball encyclopedia! Check him out on twitter @chowleehustle
(This is a 2 part series-next one being Eastern Conference. Obviously)
It is upon us. The 2013/2014 NBA season! The day we have all been waiting for since june 21st, the day after the Heat doubled up for their back to back titles. And boy do we have a doozy on our hands this season! So many impactful players switching teams (not including Jason Collins), 13 new head coaches,(if you can call Mike Brown a head coach), and so many teams with the legit feeling of a NBA title in their grasp! I guess the biggest question of this upcoming NBA season is what does Lebron hold on to longer, the Larry O’Brien trophy or that hairline?!
The Western Conference is shaping up to be more interesting than a Justin Bieber/Miley Cyrus sex tape! Don’t act like you wouldn’t watch that, if you had it right there in front of you.
With so many squads, there’s a lot of question marks, with the only constant in the west being the only constant the west has had since 95: the Spurs will be a contender! I think we can pencil that in! Every year the Spurs are too old right? Well they were a Jesus Shuttlesworth divine play away from winning another title! The spurs have had nothing short of a dynasty over the past 13 years, winning 4 titles out of 5 trips to the finals! All ode to the “Popp system” a lot of players owe a lot a money to G-Popp, the latest being Gary Neal, who signed with Milwaukee for money he would never been offered in Belgrade which is where he would be if not for Pop! And Danny Green will be next Spur to get a payday elsewhere and then be exposed for the system guy he is! Anyways ill get back to the spurs later, but first let’s get to who I think will earn the 1 seed out West and that is…..
#1 The Los An”jealous” Clippers!
The Clipps first? No way! How? Well to me, it comes down to Sterling finally realizing that, to win, there’s one big thing you have to do! PAY a coach! And he finally did! And he got 1 of the best in Doc! Perhaps the best Time Out coach in the League. You always feel his team scores after time outs, and easily too! Couldn’t be more opposite then Vinny D. He had to go! Whether CP3 said so or not. Dude was a schmuck in the coaching ranks! Better off in the booth with Wilbon and crew.
I say An”jealous” Clippers because they want what the Lakers “HAD”, not have, but had! Which is why, right off the bat, Doc is changing the culture and covering up those Laker banners. When you are in the Clippers house, they don’t have championship banners of other teams, its about the Clip show now! And the Clip is full! Team is deeper than an apnea sleeper! Brought in desperately needed shooters in the new heftier Jared Dudley and the self proclaimed best shooter in the world JJ Redick(check out his rap songs btw, no joke). Some real corny Duke shit if you ask me! But no one did, but I volunteered that opinion! Also brought in Antawn Jamison for Corner 3s and replaced Bledsoe with an almost as quick point guard in Don Cheadle! Wait, I mean Darren Collison. If u ever seen “Rebound, the story of Earl Manigault” you would get the Cheadle reference. Also the Clipps added Byron, Bryon, BJ, Mullens. I said 3 names but its all the same guy, he has to play better for me to care what his first name really is anyways. But he does add depth, and a 7 footer than can keep the defense honest by hitting the deep J and a 3pointer or 2 here and there!
All those new additions and retaining CP3, BG, DJ, Jamal and Barnes says to me “1 seed!”, although I do feel all of my Top 3 seeds in the West are interchangeable and could all get the #1 seed, with only a game or two between each team. Adding that premier elite coach I feel, makes the difference when you have the talent the Clippers have.
I could go Spurs here with full confidence but I’m a go out on a Limb, and roll wit the Dubs! Everyone’s new favorite team! And probably the most exciting League Pass team!(Better renew now, but them fuckers upped it another $20, and still only get 1 HD channel!) So if you haven’t figured out by now the “dubs” are the Warriors. And I think they got the right blend of talent, youth, athleticism, experience and coaching to go on one hell of a ride this season, led by the best shooter in the world, Stephon “ur’kell” Curry! Dude’s wetter is smoother than a Cows Utter!(That’s a real white analogy) I’m sure if Curry read it, he would get half of the reference.
With the Splash Bro’s, Barnes, David Lee, Bogut, all coming back HEALTHY, and add to the mix the new AI? That’s a sqizzzuad if I ever seen one! You also got Draymond Green off the bench along with Ezeli, Mo Speights, J’O’Neal and the dime a dozen journeymen Toney Douglas, that’s a nightmare to go up against. Yes, they lost Jarret Jack, maybe the best backup PG in the league, but if one of Currys ankle’s get spicy(get it, spicy curry? Okay bad joke), and he goes down, you have Andre Igoudala to also run the PG position. He averaged almost 6 assists a game last year, and with the shooters G state has around em, Iggy may average more in the 2014 campaign! Marc Jackson is salivating waiting for this season to get under way! MJack is my early favorite for Coach of the Year!
3 seed – San Antonio Spurs
It bears worth repeating, I could easily see the Spurs grab that 1 seed as well, but 1, 2, 3, all get home court for the 1st round anyways. Spurs may not care as much, they just need to hit the playoff with 100% full health like when Link goes up against Gannon from the adventures of Zelda, because you know your going to get beat up, its just how much do you have in reserve in the tank. Not a whole lot needed to say about the Spurs, if you aren’t familiar with them, where the hell ya been? They’ve been together longer than AC Green and his right hand. One year the spurs will fall off, but I don’t think its this year. Everyone is back, and hungry as hell, especially Manure Ginobili, who choked a couple of those finals game off last season. Kawhi is ready to hop in the spotlight as soon as Timmy and Manu can’t walk anymore. The Spurs, like always, added one sneaky piece to the puzzle, which seems insignificant, but with Popovich, he makes the most of players, when they signed Marco Bellinelli! Who will somehow fit in perfect for San Antonio and probably win them 3 or 4 extra games cause Popp will know how to use him, IF he learns how to put some effort on defense. I don’t think Bellinelli will ever learn defense, but if he can learn effort, that’s enough to keep himself on he court under Popp.
4 seed – The Broke-lohoma City Thunder
What did OKC do in their off-season? You would think Sam Presti, the mastermind, would have added all kinds of core pieces and glue guys to help the Thunder get back to the NBA finals right? Well he added…. Ryan Gomes! Wait… there’s more!… Resigned Derek Fisher! Good job Sam, you were really On the ball this offseason! But hey, you won’t see this SONICS fan complaining, that the thunder is broke and too cheap to go over the Cap and can’t get a free agent to sign there for shit! The hell with em! I heard somewhere that in the Salary Cap era, 0 teams have won the title not going over the cap. Well OKC, good luck with those title hopes!
All the negative aside, Kevin Durant is going to PUT ON A SHOW the 1st 4 to 6 weeks of the season while Westbrook is out. I mean a SHOW! Like the Kobe show, when KB8 averaged 35.1 ppg for a season! Durant may average 35 or more with the roster they currently have. Since they let Kevin Martin walk, and brought in exactly 0 shooters to replace him, they are going to be in trouble. Luckily they have KD, and Russell will be back by January, but until then, KD keeping them afloat at around .500 ball. Ibaka is a solid role player but he’s not a #2 option, so Reggie Jackson is going to have to come in and hold it down while Westbrook is out. Similar situation to how when Ray Allen went down when he was on the Sonics and Rashard should have been the stepped up, but was too much of a sissy, so Ronald “Flip” Murray came out of nowhere, literally, from Shaw University, and took over the scoring load! That’s what Reggie will have to do for Serge while Russell is out.
To round out the rest of the squad, you have the soon to be cut/traded/amnestied Kendrick Perkins, who has handcuffed the Thunder since they traded away Jeff Green for him. Presti refuses to admit his mistake on that one and rid themselves of his dead weight. They have Sefalosha, who has been improving his outside shoot but I still wouldn’t call him a shooter, so they are “banking” in on Jeremy Lamb to make a HUGE leap towards becoming a rotation player. I like Lamb, I think he has the tools to be a solid Pro, but we don’t know yet. We don’t know if he’s ready for the daily in and out grind of the NBA. Can the Thunder depend on him for 13, 14 or maybe even 15 a game, because to stay relevant in the west, with Westbrook out, they are going to NEED it from him!
5 seed – Phewston Blockets or Houston Rockets
Phew! Dwight Howard finally made a decision!(He should have made the decision to pull out a couple of times too) He chose the rockets! He chose to team up with Omer Asik in the post! What an awesome combo! They both rebound, they both clog up the paint, they both block shots and they both shot under 60% from the FT line! And they both have very minimal post moves! Good luck with that Mchale! Sure, they still have a lot of talent, so they will be formidable, but I don’t think they are on the level of the top 4 seeds. Unless, they trade Asik for Ryan Anderson, which would pair Anderson Back up with his buddy Dwight. And then Houston would have 2 phenomenal white shooters on the perimeter with Chandler and Ryan?! (They are white so we are on a first name basis). To help out Harden and Company? Its a no brainer! Asik is wasted space right now, so ship em out. Another move I would look at making if I was the Rockets, is maybe throw a flier out there on Rondo. NBA circles say Rondo is on the market, and I think Houston, along with Indiana, are the 2 contenders that could look to improve their PG spot. Indy could trade Granger for Rondo, Houston may have to include Chandler Parsons, which would suck, and I would try my hardest to not give him up, he was one of the best values in the NBA last year, but if you can get a play maker with the likes of Rondo, sometimes you have to pull that trigger! And rondo would immediately make Howard a better player, and he makes your team 5 to 7 wins better without question. C’mon Houston,do it. You don’t want to have to pay Lin all that money he’s scheduled to receive on that back ended contract you signed him to! Get rid of him while ya got the chance! Make it a blockbuster and add some shooters to your bench as well, because Francine Garcia ain’t cuttin it!
6 seed – Tried, trusted and true! Good Ol Memphis Grizzlies
The twin towers in Memphis always makes them a formidable a squad, but they need more than that to put em over the top. Conley is a barely above average PG, but after him, you have Tony Allen who is a premier wing defender but is also allergic to offense. Jerryd Bayless, who loves to put the ball in the hoop, but that doesn’t mean the ball always wants to go in the hoop for him, takes a lot of shots: but doesn’t always get a lot of results. Tayshaun at the 3 isn’t doing the Grizz any favors either. They should just let Pondexter start now, he was one of their few bright spots in last years playoffs, and he should be on the verge of a big season, since its a “Contract year”, and we know how NBA players get when its a contract year! But even if QPon takes leaps and bounds, its still not enough to get the Grizz in the upper echelon on the mighty western conference.
7 seed – the Fuggets!
This is where for some it gets tricky. You basically have to figure, those top 6 teams are all a LOCK to make the playoffs. And then everyone else is fighting for 2 seeds. Well, my 7th seed selection is a lock for me. And that’s the Denver Fuggets! Cause even after as good of a season as they had last year, they still said fugget, and fired George Karl, weeks after winning coach of the year. “Isn’t it ironic? Don’t cha think? Its like 10,000 spoons, when all you need is a knife? And seeing the man of your dreams, and then meeting his beautiful wife!” Sorry I got off track there, got stuck back in my adolesence singing Alanis Morrisette. Shout out to Nickelodeon!
Well The Fugget Nuggets lost Iggy and Corey Brewer, both I think are key losses, but they did an ample job of replacing them with : Randy Foye, Nate Rob and Jj Hickson, all of which had pretty solid seasons last year. Foye knocked down almost 170 3s last season, while shooting a dismal 40%, but paired up with Lawson he should get some good looks this season. Hickson was one of 8 guys last year who averaged double digit rebounds. And Nate, who put the Bulls on his back to beat the Nets in last years playoffs, wasin a series with Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, Joakim Noah, and Carlos Boozer. Nate Rob may have been the best player in that series, at least for a couple games!
Denver still has Andre Miller, Wilson Chandler, The manimal Faried, Mozgov, Javale McGee, and eventually will get Danilo Galinari back, they have plenty of enough talent and athleticism to make the playoffs. Their biggest question mark is Brian Shaw. Who is a disciple of Phil Jackson, which means he has some triangle in him! Does he try to implement the triangle in Denver? A team that has Javale Mcgee on it? I mean c’mon, it took MJ a couple years to really figure out the triangle, it would take Mcgee a lifetime! But regardless of what system Shaw goes with, he has enough players to be ahead of the rest of the conference, and its not to be forgotten, they did tie the Heat for the best home record in the NBA last season at 38-3, so needless to say, but still will be said, Denver is a very tough place to play for visiting teams.
Seed number 8
The final seed, whose going to get it? Its one of the worst places to be as an NBA organization. Odds are you get swept out the playoffs, and because of it, you miss out on the Draft Lottery. Stuck in mediocrity. Its where my beloved Sonics were for years, until Gay Bennet came in, brought along Sam Presti who knew you have to suck for awhile to be good, and turned the whole franchise around. Bad memories. Anyways, back to this years 8 seed. As I mentioned earlier I feel the 1st 7 seeds are a lock, and ultimately you have 4 teams fighting for the 8th seed: Mavs, Wolves, Blazers, and I guess you can say Lakers and maybe the Hornets, I mean the bobcats, or wait my bad, the Pelicans! Then after them, you have the Kings and last and the very least, Phoenix Suns! Its hard to chose one of these teams for the 8 seed, for with all these teams, and every team I suppose but even more so with these teams, its goin to come down to who stays relatively healthy! They have guys that have acquired the injury prone label at some point in the careers, so since I have to pick 1 of em, I’m going with…
The T wolfs! Not the wolves, but the wolfs! I think they got the best roster out of the lower tier teams. They added Kevin Martin from the Thunder and Corey brewer from the Nuggets, so taking key rotation players from an enemy is always a plus. They still have Rubio, Love and Big Pekovic. Love and Pek can go up vs any 4/5 combo in the L and go toe to toe. That includes Zbo and Gasol, Brook and KG, Bynum and Varejao/Thompson. But the wolfs needs Rube and KLove to stay hellfyy! Its crucial, if not they will be back at 25 wins a season. And out of the 4 or 5 teams left, I think Kevin Love is the best player out of all the teams, ahead of Dirk and Kobe, at this stage of their careers. We know KL can score 25, grab 12 rebs, hit the tre ball too, and is a great passer, he just needs to stay on the court! The one place where the Wolfs can improve is at Small Forward, where they had Budinger, but he got hurt again so they have the other DWill in Derick Williams. Personally, I think they should go hard after trying to trade for Rudy Gay, since Toronto is supposedly open to trading him, and then you can bring the duo that never happened, but always should have… The Gay-Love duo! Then you could call the wolves the Minnesota Macklemores! I don’t know what it would take to bring Gay in,(I just know what it takes to keep Gay out) but they should go for it. Trade DWill, trade one of your SG guards, throw in Shved, Barea, something, to help get you over the hump. Its almost Do Or Die time with Kevin Love. You need to show him why he should stay, so you have 2 bring in ONE more piece!
9 seed – Rip city!
Portland could definitely land the 8 spot, especially if CJ MCcollum didn’t get hurt for who knows how long, but even without CJ, they did well in the off season by acquiring Robin Lopez, Dorell Wright, Mo Williams, and even throw in a solid backup PG in Earl Watson. For my Fantasy Hoops guys out there, Watson is that guy, always on the waiver wire, you might pick up Saturday night so he can get you 2 or 3 steals in Sundays game to win you that category! Robin Lopez is key because he allows Lamarcus to continue to be the Western Conference’s Chris Bosh. 18 foot straight away jump shooter, with an occasional elbow Jumper and a couple Offensive rebound putbacks a game. With Robin, LaMarcus, Batum, Wesley J, and DLill, they have an awesome starting 5, and a solid bench, which also includes the slept on Thomas Robinson who will bring some much needed muscle and toughness which Aldridge lacks, they will be right in the Hunt for the 8 seed.
10 spot –
Dallas Mavericks – Cuban was busy this offseason but I don’t know if it was busy enough to make the playoffs! Only time will tell, and speaking of time, father time is coming after Dirk work! And if father time is after you, he’s not very nice! I think Dirk can fight off father time for one more year, and then it may be all downhill. I would bet Dirk has a comeback year this season and averages 22, 23, maybe 24 a game, and with the additions of Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon, it will help them a lot, but Denv, Minn, Portland are just too stacked for me to put Dallas above them. The Ellis/Nowitski pick and roll is going to be a thing of beauty, its a pick your poison situation for the defense, but even with that, I don’t think the supporting cast is enough. Dalembert, Vince, Marion, 3 crummy ass backup PGs, and Jae Crowder, I think they need a little more. Who knows, maybe Cuban makes a move for Rudy Gay as well? Its possible. Is there enough basketballs for Gay, Ellis AND Dirk? Carlisle would have his hands full for sure! I feel this season Monta shows his naysayers he can be a productive player on a playoff caliber team, and he is able pass up good shots for better ones, but I think they miss out on the playoffs by a game or 2 at most. May even come down to a tie breaker. But its okay Dallas fans, Cuban will have them right back at the top soon enough!
11 seed – Los Anjealous Lakers!
Earlier I said the Clippers are jealous of what the Lakers “HAD”, the Lakers are jealous of what the clippers “HAVE” as in currently posses, which will be a playoff team, which the Lakers are NOT! I just don’t see it. From top to bottom. The Mamba will come back at some point, we don’t know when, and he will get his 24 a game. Pau should have a monster year, in terms of fantasy, but none of that will translate into a lot of wins. Starts with Shitty coach in Mike D. Having 6 SG’s on your roster that don’t play defense, and having a coach that doesn’t make you play defense either. From Kobe, to Nick Young, to Wesley Johnson, to Jodie Meeks, to Xavier Henry, and even Darius Johnson Odom. Then throw in Nash and Steve Blake? And Duhon? Opposing guards are going to FEAST on LA! Nick young has never played D in his life, can score at will, but has NO D like a lesbian. Wesley could barely get offthe bench for Minn or Phoenix. He can shoot, but he’s not definitely not scare-ing anyone. I”d be surprised if Henry has ever scored double digits in an NBA game before. We have seen the “best” of meeks, if you can even call it that. Johnson Odom may be in the D league. And then Jordan Hill is your average undersized backup big. They signed Chris “its O” Kaman, we don’t want you on any other NBA rosters. Get its “Okay man”.. whatever! But basically what I am trying to say here is the Lakers roster is bad this season. Really bad. Without much hope for the future either! I won’t be shedding any tears for that fan base!
12 seed – I guess its not a seed anymore past 8, but I got to rank these bummy ass teams somehow. I’m going with the Pelicans here! Don’t get me wrong, I LIKE the pelcs! Their starting 5 is serious! But their bench leaves more to be desired! Starting 5 of Jrue, EGordon, Tyreke havoc, Ryan Andersona and the Una Brow! That’s a good 5, but their bench consists of an Overrated Austin Rivers. An unrated al farouq aminu, and….. Jason smith! Yikes! You almost have to bring Tyreke off the bench, in a Manu type of role to make their bench even mentionable. And throw in that EG always seems to be hurt, and Reke and we’ll see what’s up with Ant Davis, hope he’s healthy, but ya never know! Anyways, there’s always next year for the Pelcs!
Last 2 teams- Kings and Suns!
Suns are bad, like really bad, like a 4 year old crack baby with ADHD bad. They gave away their 3 best players in Beasely, Scola and Gortat for basically nothing at the moment, but they do have 4 1st round picks in the next draft, and you can add Wesley Johnson in that too. The only good they did was sign Bledsoe, which is a great move for their future, give EB a test year to see if he can run an NBA team, and then bring in draft picks to build with him. The other problem the suns have is their 2 best players play the same position with Bledose and Dragic. Rumor is Dragic may get traded for assets similar to what they just did with Gortat. So who knows what the long term future holds for phoenix, but as far as the immediate future goes, its in the cellar!
And I have the Kings above the suns, but it doesn’t really matter. The suns are so bad I had to talk about them first. Yeah the Kings signed Cousins, and picked up Vasquez. But this isn’t a pickup game in NY. Your not going to win with a Puerto Rican Point guard and a Suge Knight look alike thug as you big man. Not in today’s NBA! Stern will not allow it! They got some “fun” pieces in Shac town, but not enough to be relevant!
So there you have it! Hustle’s western conference Preview!