NBA 2016-2017 Western Conference Preview and Predictions

The NBA season is right around the corner, starting off with the Knicks v.s Cavaliers on Tuesday night. After blowing a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals the Golden State Warriors are the favorites to come out the conference for the 3rd year in a row. The Warriors lost key players in Andrew Bogut, Harrison Barnes, and Festus Ezeli but offset that by adding former MVP and All-Star Kevin Durant, David West, and ZaZa Pachulia. As for the rest of the Conference there wasn’t much change. We lost three future Hall of Famers to retirement when Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, and Kevin Garnett all hung their sneakers up this offseason. They left an indelible legacies and their greatness will be felt throughout the league for years to come. With the sudden influx of money players like CJ McCollum, James Harden, and Russell Westbrook benefitted the most and signed big money extensions to stay with their franchises. After an eventful offseason the new Western Conference will certainly be more competitive and fun to watch once again. After preseason study and research it’s time to roll the red carpet for my predictions for this new NBA season.

The Playoffs:

  1. Golden State Warriors:

This should be obvious. These Warriors are the overwhelming favorite to make it out of  the  Western Conference. The Splash Bros have adopted a new member with the addition of Kevin Durant. The main question is how will their signature depth defense be tested this offseason. We all see how the knee injury Andrew Bogut sufferred unraveled the Warriors interior offense and Kyrie Irving and LeBron James and feasted on it. Can they count on Durant, ZaZa Pachulia, and JaVale McGee to protect the rim when James and Irving enter the paint? How will coach Steve Kerr utilize Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston as well as the rest of the Warriors Bench Mob during the regular season? As much of a lock the Warriors seem to have they do have chinks in that formidable amour.

2. San Antonio Spurs:

Tim Duncan is gone, and Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are seemingly entering the final phases of their Hall of Fame careers. Enter LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard. This is now their team and it’s on this duo to guide this team to success just as was expected by Tim Duncan.   The Spurs are fortunate to have the best coach in the game in Greg Popovich, a man who will get the most out of everyone on his roster. Expect more of the same from this consistently great franchise.

3. Los Angelous Clippers:

This is a make or break season for the Clippers. Both Blake Griffin and Chris Paul have opt-out options in their contracts after this season. If they cannot make at least the conference finals this team may get blown up. There is no reason to not expect Blake Griffin to wrest more control from Chris Paul and have the offense run through him as a secondary playmaker. Defense and depth have always been major issues for this team and it seems like those same issues will rear their ugly heads once again.

4. Portland Trail Blazers:

The Trail Blazers will go as far as Damien Lillard and CJ McCollum will lead them. They have stock as the second best backcourt in the league behind the Warriors backcourt. The Blazers essentially are running it back just with the addition of Evan Turner to help upgrade the bench with Allen Crabbe. This will be one of the more entertaining and fiery  teams to watch, as they proved they aren’t afraid to take it to anybody after fighting valiantly against the Warriors in the second round the playoffs last season.

5. Houston Rockets :

Mike D’Antoni and James Harden are a match made in heaven. The newly minted point guard will have even more control of the offense. The Bearded playmaker/scorer will have the ball in his hands and the Rockets offense will be as explosive as before. Offseason acquisition in Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon will help spread the court for Hardens signature eurostep layups and tough step back jumpers.

6. Dallas Mavericks:

Will this season be the swan song Dirk Nowitzki? Can Harrison Barnes prove that he is capable of being a featured scorer? Which version of Wesley Matthew will we see this season? How much does Deron Williams have left in the tank? This is a stagnant team and the hope is that it won’t be one that wastes the remaining years of Nowitzki’s illustrious career.

7. Oklahoma City Thunder:

2016-2017 will be the year that we as fans can say that Russell Westbrook unleashed unprecedented fire to any and everyone who dare stand in his way to the rim and a win. After a long and difficult offseason Westbrook can finally go back to doing what he loves, playing fast and assaulting rims with passion not seen since was Michael Jordan and a young Kobe Bryant were kings of the court. The favorite for the MVP will be must-watch tv all season long. If he can guide this Thunder to at least 50 wins he could have a real chance at the award.

8. Utah Jazz

This is the year that Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors bring everything together and lead this Jazz team to the playoffs. Despite early Injuries to both veterans, all signs are pointing to this season being the season they live up to lofty expectations. They have a tough underrated defense to lean on and a bonafide scored in Hayward who can hit shots in clutch situations.

Just Missed it:

Minnesota Timberwolves

Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, and Zach Lavine are ready to make that next step towards making their franchise relevant again, but it just isn’t meant to be this season. The addition of Tom Thibodeau will make them a better team but the West is just to stacked and deep at the 5-8 seeds for them to make noise. They will be one of the most if not the most exciting teams to watch due to the rim attacks from Andrew Wiggins and Zach Lavine but they may have to wait one more year to enter into the mainstream NBA conscious.

Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies are officially back t0 100% health. After a tumultuous season they should return to the grit and grind they’re famous for that has made them one of the toughest opponents for years now. Armed with a huge contract, Mike Conley will have to prove that he worth the most lucrative contract in history despite having not many accolades. Will they have enough offense to withstand barrages from teams like the Warriors and Trail Blazers though? According to history of this franchise the answer is leaning towards no.

 

The Rest:

New Orleans Pelicans:

Just not a good enough supporting cast around Anthony Davis. This franchise is going to end up waisting away Anthony Davis’ youth because they can’t sign the guys needed to match their star players unique skill set.

Sacramento Kings:

The kings of mismanagement and discourse.

Denver Nuggets:

The development of guys like Emmanuel Mudiay, Jamal Murray, and trading away someone like Kenneth Faried will help this team come back to relevancy. A team that is just on the cusp but need a little more help.

Phoenix Suns:

Another team that needs to develop and nurture its key young guys and just a trade or two away from reaching relevancy once again. The potential of Devin Booker will have the Suns front office salivating at how lucky they’re to have such a great player.

Los Angelous Lakers:

This roster will grow and learn with new coach Luke Walton. All signs are indicating that this once great franchise is eager to learn and make the most of the teachings that a former champion like Luke Walton has. Waltons development of DeAngelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, and Brandon Ingram will be pertinent to the future success of this franchise.Expect a lot of growing pains along with the flashes of greatness.

 

 

KD2DC Isn’t Happening, But We Should’ve Seen It Happening

Kevin Durant’s journey to super-stardom began in the great state of Maryland. Growing up in Prince Georges County, raised by his single mother, he grew to love the game of basketball while playing AAU with future NBA players such as Ty Lawson, Greivis Vasquez and Michael Beasley. He expanded his game at the famous Barry Farms court, home of the Goodman League.  After playing high school basketball originally at National Christian Academy and renowned Oak Hill, Durant finally made his home at Montrose Christian. He concluded his high school career as an Washington Post All-Met Player of the year and the MVP of the McDonald’s All American.  As we all know he committed to play basketball at the University of Texas, unfortunately never fielding offers from either Georgetown or the University of Maryland. Part of that might be the fact that Durant was never recruited by either program or his lack of interest in playing for them. Nonetheless, Durant had a phenomenal freshman year, acquiring college accolades like they were candies. After becoming the first freshman to win the Naismith College Player of the Year award, Durant declared for the 2007 history and was selected second overall by the Seattle Supersonics. From his rookie year to this season, Durant has continued to improved. Growing from his role as a “professional scorer” and perennial All Star/NBA selection to the MVP, famously declaring that his mom was “the real MVP.” Throughout his amateur and professional career, Durant has become the pride and joy of the DMV area, a man whom players from the area have grown to admire and love.

KD2DC suddenly started to gain more traction in 2014. Fans started wearing Kevin Durant Wizards jerseys, shirts and having the KD2DC hashtag trending on Twitter. Rumors started churning more and more of Durant wanting to come home and play for his hometown a la LeBron James for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Unfortunately all these rumors and fans salivating at the possibility of one of the best players in the League coming home seems to have turned off the future free agent. When the Oklahoma City Thunder came to Verizon Center to play the Wizards this past season, he had some choice words for fans. He was quoted as saying that Wizards fans should be grateful and cheer for the team they have now. It also seemed to annoy him that fans were paying more attention to him than their own team, in his mind disrespecting John Wall and Bradley Beal. That single game may have been the demise of KD2DC dream. The KD2DC campaign never had a chance when compared to better teams and situations from the likes of the Celtics, Spurs, Heat, Warriors and of course the Thunder. Durant never promised anything, never saying whether it was or wasn’t a dream of his. Wizards fans just have swallow that tough pill and be thankful for the good team they currently have.