Wild, Wild West

1. San Antonio Spurs: 55.5 – OVER.  Every year the Spurs seem to exceed expectations.  Why would this year be any different?  The bench is as deep as always, Marco Belinelli is a more consistent Gary Neal, and Kawhi Leonard is going to make the jump to stardom this year.  They have the best coach in basketball and will be motivated after last year’s final debacle.  Oh, and they have Tony Parker in his prime and a selectively dominant Tim Duncan.  60 Wins, you’re number 1 seed in the west, and this year’s NBA champions.  Ladies and Gentlemen, the San Antonio Spurs! 

2. Oklahoma City Thunder: 51.5 – OVER, LOCK.  This line makes no sense.  I would understand this if Westbrook was going to be out for half of the season but he is expected back in a few weeks!  They have the young pieces that are finally ready to help in Jeremy Lamb, Reggie Jackson (who looked great in the playoffs last year), and Steven Adams.  Sam Presti is one of the smarter GMs in basketball.  And all this without mentioning Kevin Durant, who is sick of going out early in the playoffs.  52 wins is an absolute joke for them.  59 Wins.  Over.  LOCK.

3. Los Angeles Clippers: 57 – UNDER.  I understand Doc is a great coach is highly respected in the locker room, but did you see his offensive sets the past few years in Boston?  They were highly unimaginative and stagnant.  Sure part of that was due to personnel but it’s not like he received a brand new offensive mind for switching coasts.  Their big men are overrated as they rely mainly on athleticism and can’t shoot free throws.  57 wins seems about right for them but for the reasons above, AVS is going slight under.    

4. Houston Rockets: 54.5 – UNDER.  Is it possible that Dwight has peaked already?  In the 2010-11 season Dwight averaged 23 pts, 14 rebounds, 2.5 blocks and a PER of 26.13 (the second highest PER of the season behind LeBron).  A strong argument could have been made that he would be the second person taken overall in a draft to start a team for the next five years.  So how did we get here?  He’s been dumped by two teams in two years, can’t shoot free throws, and has had constant back issues.  To state the obvious, he is no where near the player he was three years ago.  You can’t trust him and between that and the lack of a productive bench, you can’t trust the Rockets either. 

5. Golden State Warriors: 51.5 – OVER.  The most entertaining and best shooting team in basketball really grew up in last year’s playoffs.  They found the two best shooters in the entire league to pair next to each other in the back court and nailed the 9th overall pick by selecting Harrison Barnes.  Early reports are Andrew Bogut has looked healthy in campy.  And we have to mention Andre Iduodala.  He is the perfect, do it all type fit for this team, something they were missing last year.  The Warriors are here to stay and that’s a good thing for anyone who enjoys basketball.

6. Memphis Grizzlies: 50.5 – OVER.  Memphis is the all around solid team that is always a pain to play.  They haven’t changed much since last year and that continuity has to count for something, right?  The addition of Kosta Koufos is an underrated and underappreciated move that will allow Randolph and Gasol to rest a little more during games.  They are still an absolute pain to score on.  This same team won 56 games last year, and they aren’t 6 games worse this year.  Take the over. 

7. Dallas Mavericks: 43.5 – OVER, LOCK.  Dallas had 41 wins last year and…they were terrible.  Dirk was never himself after missing time early last season with an injury.  Monta Ellis provides Dirk with a much needed scoring partner and Jose Calderon is the perfect pass first point guard who can set Dirk up in the spots on the floor he’s most comfortable with.  Dirk looks to finally be over his championship hangover (must have had some Fireball.  I know how you felt Dirk).  Rick Carlisle teams always manage to be above .500 as he as has proven to be one of the top 8 coaches in the game.  This one has the potential to go way over but we’ll temper expectations and predict 47 wins this year. 

8. Minnesota Timberwolves: 41 – OVER, LOCK.  The T’Wolves couldn’t catch a break last year as injuries plagued them all year.  They lost their best players for months at a time and ended up losing the most games due to injury in the entire league (13 games).  Without those injuries, ESPN Stats projected them to win 44 games last year as opposed to the 31 they actually won.  The sheer healthiness of a young and improving lineup will add up to many more wins this year.  Throw in the addition of Kevin Martin and the T’Wolves have their first semblance of hope since…KG and Stephon Marbury were on the team?!  Well, at least until Kevin Love leaves for Boston or LA.  Good thing I’m not a T’Wolves fan, but I do however like them in the 45 win range. 

9. Denver Nuggets: 46 – UNDER, LOCK.  This was, perhaps, the most dumbfounding number of all.  46 wins for the Denver Nuggets?  What am I Missing?  This team lost too much talent, their great head coach, and their equally great GM.  Their second best player, Danilo Gallinari, isn’t due back until January and even then he’ll be rehabbing an ACL tear.  Kenneth Fareid has seemed to regress and is only good for about 20-25 minutes a game.  They have about 4 PGs in their playing rotation and their best player is an unimposing Ty Lawson.  Again, what am I missing?  Until I figure it out, short them and thank me later. 

10. New Orleans Pelicans: 39 – UNDER.  Talk about a mishmash of players.  I understand the Pelicans have a new name and have been terrible for years, but what’s the point of acquiring all these guys only to max out as an annual 6-8 seed?  Tyreke Evans is an extremely overpaid 6th man on a team that has a surplus of guards.  Eric Gordon is going to get hurt again.  Jrue Holiday is a nice piece but is he really worth trading away a first round pick in this draft?  The one issue here is Anthony Davis.  He has looked dominant in the preseason and could singlehandedly force them to win 42 games.  Until I see it, bet against them. 

11. Portland Trail Blazers: 38.5 – UNDER.  Every year the Trail Blazers have postseason expectations.  Every year they fail to realize them.  Until they prove me otherwise I’m happy to take the under.  Their main problem is they have no real stars.  Aldridge and Lillard are nice pieces but are not carrying any team to the second round of the playoffs this year.  Sell. 

12. Los Angeles Lakers: 36.5 – UNDER.  Since when has an LA Lakers team been this horrible?  They have just a complete lack of talent.  Let’s include Kobe in this conversation and take away him and Pau.  Their remaining roster 3-15 is probably the worst in the NBA.  Steve Nash is done as a competitive point guard and can’t guard me or you.  Steve Nash, Nick Young, and Chris Kaman are their 3-5 best players!!!!  Wow.  The big wrinkle here is when Kobe comes back.  It’s never smart to bet against him but if they start 3-11 why would he rush back?

13. Sacramento Kings: 31 – OVER.  They were inarguably the most chaotic team in the league year and still managed 28 wins.  There is enough talent here and Boogie has the potential to be a stud.  Vasquez, who they brought in, played well in spurts last year.  One of the big underrated factors here is the new ownership.  Surely they want to make a splash and be competitive in their first year.  Fortunately for them, they have a ton of expiring contracts and their first round pick is available.  Rudy Gay, Paul Millsap, Jeff Green, and Rajon Rondo have all been rumored to be possibilities to be traded there.

 14. Utah Jazz: 25 – UNDER.  The Jazz agreed to take on the Warriors’ bad contracts (and also received two first round picks) in an effort to speed up their tanking.  Their best four players (Kanter, Burke, Hayward, and Favors) are all under 24 and are full of potential.  There is just no incentive here to win a lot of games. 

 15. Phoenix Suns: 21 – UNDER.  Along with the 76ers, they are the poster child for tanking.  They already traded Marcin Gortat before he could even play a game and will be fielding calls on Goran Dragic shortly.  Plus the West is better than the East this year with more teams believing they have a chance to win the title.  Under is the call as they start to welcome Julius Randle into the desert already.

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