Western Conference playoff prediction - seeding 5-8.
Okay seriously, no bias here. I am also assuming that Chandler Parsons will be 100% and competitive as the starting small forward. (I am also assuming JaMychal Green will be back, though that looks more sure fire than Parsons’ health.) The additions in the offseason tackled a few problems that held the Grizzlies back last season. Tyreke Evans brings in another scoring option, but it is TBD on whether he will come off the bench or not. Ben McLemore, when he returns from injury, will also provide another ball-handling/shooting threat. And the combination of Green/Gasol/Wright is a pretty scary front court for any team.
There are still some question marks regarding the young talent that Memphis has produced, Andrew Harrison and Wade Baldwin IV are both wild cards. Wayne Selden looked good in the pre-season but that doesn’t mean much. And the two draft picks from the 2017 draft still aren’t for-sure rotation players. GBB’s own @BallFromGrace is walking through the Grizz schedule right now and pointed out a few important stretches for the year.
The Houston season series will be over by November, but December is a brutal month for Memphis with travel and back-to-backs. Other positive notables in Memphis’ favor are that the last 19 games of the season don’t consist of GSW, HOU, or SAS. The last two month stretch will prove critical for Grizzly seeding.
I don’t buy into the fact that Jimmy Butler all the sudden makes the T-Wolves a contender. But I love the young talent that Minnesota has, and they have added some legitimate talent to their bench. Jamal Crawford and Taj Gibson are nice supplementary pieces, and Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins are only going to get better. Minnesota will compete with any team in the NBA, but let’s not kid ourselves about how much this team still has to overcome.
Aside from Minnesota playing Golden State two times in the pre-season, they open their season against six potential playoff teams in both the East and the West. The month of January is going to be tough, but the last two month stretch of March and April should work in Minnesota’s favor. I just can’t get behind a team that’s starting a way-overpaid Gorgui Dieng. Bottom half of the Western Conference playoffs is a good start for this new-look Minnesota team.
I struggled committing to the Nuggets playoff berth, but the upcoming Nikola Jokic craze and the addition of Paul Millsap swayed my thoughts. The guard play for Denver is solid as well. Emmanuel Mudiay is still raw, but slowly becoming a reliable guard, Jamal Murray will get more reps to hone in his skills, Gary Harris is becoming a legit NBA guard, and pieces like Will Barton and Wilson Chandler with experience put together a nice roster. Denver will surprise a few people if they can figure out a way to efficiently score. There are no dominant offensive players (unless you count slow-motion Paul Millsap), that could be their biggest weakness.
They start the season with five out of seven on the road. February is all around a tough month and March doesn’t get much easier with a brutal eight out of nine on the road to close the month. In general, the second half of the season will be tough on the Nuggets. If they can survive in the West after the second half, they deserve a playoff spot.
I don’t have much faith in the Clips this season, but they are poised to be better than the bottom half of the West based on talent alone. They are still holding onto Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan and added scoring threats in Lou Williams and Danilo Gallinari. But outside of those four, there aren’t many options with real NBA experience. Patrick Beverley is a solid defender, but isn’t known for his offensive game. Maybe Austin Rivers will have a good year that we aren’t expecting. There is something we can all be excited about, and that is the addition of Milos Teodosic, just watch and be amazed.
After an easy October, and average first half, the Clips hit a tough January-February stretch. They hit a stretch of nine of twelve on the road, including a trip from Boston to Oakland to Phoenix to Denver and back to LA. March isn’t much better, more road games than home games, but the final stretch into April should give the Clips a chance to cement their way into the playoffs.
Stay tuned for more playoff predictions.
All rosters and schedules provided by ESPN NBA.