The Western Conference will have a much different look this season. Durant in Golden State, Bogut and Barnes in Dallas, Parsons in Memphis, no Kobe in Los Angeles, and no Duncan in San Antonio. With all of these changes, we decided to examine the landscape of the Western Conference for the upcoming season. How many games will Golden State win? Will Utah make a leap in the standings after a strong summer? Can Memphis stay healthy enough to make the playoffs? All of those questions will be answered below. We will release 3 new teams every other day, starting with the teams at the bottom of the West.
10. Minnesota Timberwolves (37–45)
Last season, everyone started to slowly jump on the Timberwolves bandwagon after seeing how good Karl-Anthony Towns really is. Little did they know, the Wolves would go on to get possibly the steal of the draft in Kris Dunn who will be a serious Rookie of the Year candidate this season. With an improved young core, and Tom Thibodeau running the show, the Wolves will be exciting to watch next season. Will they have enough to make the playoffs this season? It’s a possibility. The year after? Definitely.
11. New Orleans Pelicans (33–49)
The Pelicans made the playoffs in the 2014–15 season and everyone thought Anthony Davis was the next big thing. One year later, people sort of forgot about the former Kentucky Wildcat. Due to injuries and lack of support on the roster, Davis has been unable to perform at the level he’s capable of playing at. This season, they brought in Buddy Hield, who should help score the ball. But they also lost Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon. Regardless of those changes, until New Orleans makes a serious upgrade at the point guard position this team will continue to struggle.
12. Phoenix Suns (28–54)
Devin Booker played as good as anyone in Phoenix could have imagined last season. But despite his impressive rookie campaign, Phoenix was not healthy enough to compete. The Suns added some familiar faces this summer in Jared Dudley and Leandro Barbosa. But unfortunately for Phoenix, a lineup with Dudley, Barbosa, and Tyson Chandler would have been great five years ago, not so much in 2016. Figuring out what to do with Bledose and Knight will also be a big question for this team, and so will their health. Either way, the Suns simply don’t have enough talent to compete for a playoff spot yet.
13. Sacramento Kings (26–56)
It’s a new season for the Kings, with a new coach, and a new arena. But this team will have a lot of the same problems as last year. DeMarcus Cousins has said all the right things about Dave Joerger, but it seems like a matter of time before Boogie is frustrated with management once again. With Rondo gone, and Rudy Gay a likely trade candidate, the Kings are in for another rough year. The DeMarcus Cousins trade rumors will likely surface again, but whether they will actually trade him remains to be seen. Either way, Sacramento will likely miss the playoffs once again this season.
14. Denver Nuggets (26–56)
Coming off a strong rookie campaign and Olympic performance, Nikola Jokic is someone to look out for this season. But with a similar roster to last season, and many teams improving in the West, the Nuggets will have their fair share of up’s and down’s. Selecting Jamal Murray in the draft was a nice pick, but it’s unclear how much playing time he’ll get. Murray will have to split time with Mudiay, Gary Harris, Will Barton, and Jameer Nelson. Denver has a lot of nice pieces, but unfortunately they just won’t have enough to be in playoff contention.
15. Los Angeles Lakers (25–57)
It’s the start of a new era for the Lakers, who will be without Kobe Bryant and Byron Scott this season. Brandon Ingram’s rookie campaign will be a top storyline and in a new offense D’Angelo Russell is a serious candidate to have a breakout year. Luke Walton’s new style of play should make this team exciting to watch, but the Lakers will not be getting many W’s this season. Our projected 25 wins is a jump up from last year’s 17, but this storied franchise will be in the lottery once again.