On Tuesday, ESPN released their forecast on the Western Conference and their standings by season’s end, in doing this they polled 100 knowledgeable contributors from ESPN to get their take on where teams can finish come April of next year.
Of course, the Western Conference is a tight, contested conference each season and this year is no different as the Lakers have improved, the Thunder are still as tenacious as ever, never doubt San Antonio, and then there’s the Clippers, Grizzlies, Timberwolves and Jazz. In this survey, the polled “experts” have Oklahoma in first and the Lakers in second and the only issue that many have with this prediction, is that it’s hard to imagine the Thunder would win less than 60 games. Personally, I see them around the 61-63 mark.
The Lakers will still have growing pains as they mesh and obviously are the second best team in the west, third place went the Spurs and once again I’m in agreement barring the squad doesn’t have any health issues; outside of age/health can’t go wrong with Popovich and Duncan.
When the AI9 trade concluded, it was my position that Denver could garner as high as the #3 spot and as low as the #6 spot, and while that’s still my position, I can see them — logically – grabbing the #4 seed. The Clippers announced today that Chris Paul had a successful thumb surgery and should be out for 8 weeks which puts him a week or so before the regular season. Generally speaking, he should be ready for the regular season, but health is a funny thing in the NBA and it can easily be taken away.
I can easily see LAC slipping to a fifth seed and the Denver Nuggets taking that 4th seed, however, this is another case of health in relation to Denver. Of course, health is always a priority for all the NBA teams. Denver was an 20th defensive efficient team last year, but automatically upgraded when they added a top three perimeter defender to their squad and let go a negative wins produced Al Harrington. Also, AI9′s athleticism and will live in Denver’s run and gun style as they run off of the fast-breaks. When the lane is clogged as to not allow Ty Lawson to penetrate, or JaVal/Manimal can’t seem to attack for an easy bucket, it will give Iguodala a chance to shine from three-point land.
Wilson Chandler — from what we heard today from George Karl on a local radio station — has been in the gym everyday bettering himself, along with the Manimal’s bounce, a healthy Gallo, a hungry Hamilton, rookie Fournier with amazing court vision, energized Brewer, the twin towers in Mozzy and Kosta paired with Anthony Randolph and not to mention Andre Miller throwing football passes off the bench, I think a 4th seed prediction sounds about right.
Now, if only October can hurry and arrive.