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2016-17 NBA Over/Unders: Part II

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The Denver Stiffs staff predictions are in, and this time they’re guessing the records for each team in the Western Conference.

NBA: Preseason-Denver Nuggets at Los Angeles Lakers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

With the NBA season beginning yesterday, and the Nuggets season beginning today, the Denver Stiffs staff got their prognosticating caps out and made some predictions.

However, for some of you that may be interested in knowing what we think of each and every team in the league, more words are required. Ryan Blackburn and Daniel Lewis took some time to make predictions of their own, taking the over or under on each team in the NBA.

Here is part two, for the Western Conference, with part one, for the Eastern Conference, having been published on Tuesday.

(ed. note - Ryan and Daniel used over/under values from Sept. 20 - an updated over/under for the NBA can be viewed here.)

NBA: Preseason-Miami Heat at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Southwest Division

New Orleans Pelicans - 36.5

Blackburn (27-55): With Anthony Davis’ injury history, Jrue Holiday’s injury history, Tyreke Evans’ injury history, Omer Asik’s injury history…what were we talking about again? Oh yeah, the Pelicans could recover this year, but I just don’t see the team ever being healthy enough to get back to prominence with the current core intact. If Anthony Davis plays in 70 games, I will change my avatar to a unicorn.

Lewis (30-52): Ryan said it well - this team doesn’t have the ability to win 40 games with all the players helping the training staff earn their salaries. Anthony Davis is still one of the top players in the game, but other than Jrue Holiday, who else on their roster can they trust? Buddy Hield could play big minutes all season long - hopefully their first round pick, who is nine months younger than Davis, is up to the challenge.

Houston Rockets - 41.5

Lewis (48-34): It’s going to be fun to watch the Rockets score over 100 points every night, with James Harden making a case for league MVP. There is so much firepower on offense, and with D’Antoni’s offense, it’s going to be so much fun to watch. I think Eric Gordon is in line for a huge season - this is the first time in his career he’s been able to choose the team he wants to play for. If he’s able to shoot 40 percent on 3-point attempts and stay healthy for 70 games,

Blackburn (40-42): Will the Houston Rockets play enough defense? Mike D’Antoni says they will, but saying that just feels weird. He employs a team that will likely start James Harden, Eric Gordon, and Ryan Anderson. Anthony Davis could barely elevate the latter two to a playoff spot in New Orleans, and while the Beard is awesome, it truly is all on him.

Dallas Mavericks - 39.5

Blackburn (38-44): The Dallas Mavericks upgraded at center to Andrew Bogut and downgraded at small forward to Harrison Barnes. Deron Williams and Dirk Nowitzki are each another year older, and Wesley Matthews isn’t the same player he was in Portland before the torn Achilles. They didn’t get better, and too many other teams did.

Lewis (30-52): There are a few things you can count on in sports: Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, the Cubs not making the World Series, the Washington Capitals losing in the playoffs, and Rick Carlisle coaching a .500 team. Well, the Cubs are in the World Series this year, so maybe sometimes things don’t always work out. The Mavericks added the “Trash Bros” from the Warriors, and have to rely on Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut to help them win games. Bogut is not the player he used to be - he played 20 minutes a game last season, his lowest average of his career, and he’s dealing with back injuries. The Western Conference has moved past the Mavericks.

Memphis Grizzlies - 43.5

Lewis (34-48): The Grizzlies invested in Chandler Parsons, a model who plays basketball part-time. He’s coming off his second consecutive knee surgery, and there’s no such thing as minor knee surgery. While I like the decision to bring Zach Randolph off the bench, I’m not sure if it’ll make a big difference over the entire season. There’s no way they can have the injury problems from last season - right?

Blackburn (50-32): This is indicative of relative health this year. The Memphis Grizzlies cannot have as many injuries as they did last year and expect to make the playoffs. The bottom of the conference is stronger than ever, and the Grizz are relying on aging veterans in Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, and to a lesser extent Zach Randolph. They are a boom or bust team because of injury history.

San Antonio Spurs - 56.5

Blackburn (60-22): A similar scenario is created for San Antonio. People forget that Pau Gasol is still a good player. There are only six players in NBA history that posted 16 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 blocks per contest. Gasol at age 35 was four years older than any of the others. He will elevate the Spurs and help them post 60 games.

Lewis (63-19): The Spurs are going to be one of the best teams in the Western Conference, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves and talk ourselves into thinking they’re contenders. Pau Gasol will help them score and rebound, but he’s also going to help the other team score and rebound as well - watching him try to protect the rim is like watching someone try to get out of a sleeping bag. They’ll be a great regular season team, earn home-court in the playoffs, and then lose in the second round.

NBA: Preseason-Portland Trail Blazers at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Pacific Division

Golden State Warriors - 66.5

Lewis (70-12): They’re going to be amazing to watch and terrible for the league. While people are flocking to watch the Warriors warmups, the small market teams are going to be struggling to get fans to come to games during the week. It’s going to be so easy to cheer against them - I hope they embrace the role of a villain. It’ll make for better entertainment in a season where things look as rigged as the presidential election (the Illuminati, they’re running this country).

While I expect the Warriors to easily defeat every team they play this season, I do think that the fates will combine to deny them a third consecutive Finals appearance.

Blackburn (70-12): It’s hard to game plan losses for the Warriors. There are tough back to backs and long stretches on the road where a loss or two can be factored in, but how many losses can they really have? The talent of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and a surprisingly strong bench is just too much.

Los Angeles Clippers - 53.5

Blackburn (54-28): The Clippers could probably sleep their way to 50 wins this year. Barring a long term injury to Chris Paul, the team will be good. Considering CP3 and Blake Griffin will both likely be free agents next year, this is the year they have to make a move. If they don’t make the Western Conference Finals this year, it will be time to break up the core.

Lewis (60-22): After a heartbreaking loss to the Portland Trail Blazers in the playoffs last year, I think the Clippers found their source of inspiration for this season. When Austin Rivers played the game of his life with blood seeping down his face, he gave his teammates an example of never giving up when the going gets tough. If Blake Griffin grows from that experience and becomes the best power forward in the game, the Clippers could find themselves not only making the conference finals but the NBA Finals as well.

Los Angeles Lakers - 24.5

Lewis (19-63): If the Lakers finish outside the top-3 in the lottery, they not only lose their draft pick to the Philadelphia 76ers as part of the Steve Nash trade, but they lose their 2019 first round pick to the Orlando Magic. So while it’s nice to think, “Hey, maybe they’ll be more competitive with Luke Walton,” there is so much incentive to be one of the three worst teams in the league. That’ll mean a lot of opportunities for their young players to develop during games, or whatever phrase they decide to use.

Blackburn (20-62): This is right where the Los Angeles Lakers need to be during this season. They don’t need to make the playoffs or even try to do so. They must turn the reins over to D’Angelo Russell and Brandon Ingram to see how those two coexist. Russell looks the part of an offensive star, but the Lakers must figure out who can join him. The process will be sloooooow.

Phoenix Suns - 26.5

Blackburn (24-58): The Phoenix Suns return a three guard rotation of Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, and Devin Booker to go with a mysterious frontcourt rotation of veterans and young players they need to play. This is a team that should go young, but they love Bledsoe, as injury prone as he is. If he stays healthy for more than 65 games, my prediction could look very dumb in a couple of months.

Lewis (33-49): While last year was a disaster, they have two talented guards in Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker, and perhaps there will be enough positive energy with new head coach Earl Watson that the young Suns will be able to reach 30 wins. I think some teams will overlook the Suns, especially on long west coast road trips, and the Suns will be able to put up points and win games where they are the underdogs.

Sacramento Kings - 32.5

Lewis (30-52): Just when you think, “Hiring Dave Joerger is a good move,” Rudy Gay announces he wants a trade, Darren Collison gets suspended, and Ty Lawson misses a flight after spending the night partying in Las Vegas with some of his teammates. They drafted four players, none of whom are point guards, and added two centers to a roster with Demarcus Cousins, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Kosta Koufos. Cousins will help them win some games on his own, but this team is a turd sandwich.

Blackburn (24-58): This Sacramento team is destined to fail. They are saying the right things, and in some ways they are playing better, but one of their favorite shots is a mid range jumper for DeMarcus Cousins, which just won’t work long term. Could they win more games? Maybe. I just see the guard situation and unnecessarily crowded front court as barriers to success.

NBA: Preseason-Portland Trail Blazers at Utah Jazz Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Northwest Division

Denver Nuggets - 34.5

Blackburn (40-42): Denver does just enough to grab the 8th seed. The team is about to take at least one to two steps forward with development, and a win bump will happen. I’m projecting a slightly better bill of health than last year, and improved depth will help the team stay the course behind Balkan Buddy Ball. This win prediction could be high if the Nuggets sell off one too many veterans, but it also could be low if a young player makes a leap to stardom. Both scenarios are absolutely possible.

Lewis (40-42): I think they’ll be able to survive a rough first month of the season, and then ride their depth throughout the season to be competitive. They have a lot of assets they could also turn into a star player around the All-Star break, which could help them make a playoff push in late March/early April. I have them finishing with 40 wins, which seems high, but whatever, I’m going for it.

Portland Trail Blazers - 46.5

Lewis (56-26): The Thunder won the division last season with 55 wins - I think it’s highly unlikely they repeat as division champs without the services of Kevin Durant this season. That leaves a void for the Trail Blazers to step into. The Trail Blazers have a fantastic home court advantage, and should be able to win a ton of games in the Moda Center. Evan Turner’s ability as a ballhandler off the bench should help Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum stay fresh throughout the season, and they have tons of depth in the frontcourt and on the wing. They should have another top-10 offense, and if their defense improves, they’ll be Northwest Division champs.

Blackburn (45-37): Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum have a new ball-handling running mate, and his name is Evan Turner. It doesn’t look like Turner will start, which is the smart decision, but I wonder how Lillard and McCollum will play off of Turner when he plays (and it will be a lot). Is it even a good idea to take the ball out of the dynamic duo’s hands? I see them basically even with last year.

Utah Jazz - 47.5

Blackburn (53-29): Here’s my bold prediction. It’s now or never for Utah, and I have a lot of faith in their individual pieces and depth as a whole. Gordon Hayward is injured to start the year, but with so much depth on the wing (Rodney Hood, Joe Johnson, Alec Burks, Joe Ingles, and even going big with Trey Lyles. They will weather the storm and finally make the jump.

Lewis (50-32): The Jazz nearly made the playoffs last season, finishing with a 40-42 record that was good for ninth in the conference. They won games by slowing down the game, playing great defense, and getting great play from Gordon Hayward on offense. This year, they won’t have as terrible of point guard play, with the addition of George Hill via trade and Dante Exum back from injury. Joe Johnson should give them a veteran scoring option in the fourth quarter, and Boris Diaw gives them a versatile big man off the bench.

Hayward was the one player they couldn’t lose the injury, and he’ll miss time to start the season. They’ll be dominant at home, they’ll continue to lose some close games, but they’ll be a force to reckon with in the playoffs this season.

Minnesota Timberwolves - 41.5

Lewis (42-40): The Timberwolves won 29 games last season, but added Tom Thibodeau to build the young team into contenders. With a franchise player in Karl-Anthony Towns, they look to be heading in the right direction. They have a young team, and they’ll have growing pains as they try to become a playoff team. They’ll beat teams that are much better than they are and lose to teams that are much worse than they are, flirting with .500 throughout the season.

Blackburn (37-45): The Minnesota Timberwolves are everyone’s love child this year, and Karl-Anthony Towns is the golden boy. The over/under is 41.5 wins the last time I checked, and while KAT is supremely talented, it’s going to take a star leap from Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, or Kris Dunn to get them to that number…unless KAT becomes a top five player in the NBA next year…which might happen.

Oklahoma City Thunder - 45.5

Blackburn (44-38): After the departure of Kevin Durant, the Oklahoma City Thunder will obviously slide, but how far? I don’t think they will slide out of the playoffs, but I do think they are at the bottom of the teams in the 4th to 7th range in the West. Russell Westbrook will be amazing, but is surrounding him with four players suited to play in the paint a good idea?

Lewis (38-44): The Vegas odds have the Thunder finishing third in the division, but I am much lower on them. I am taking the under, and think they’ll end the season with a 38-44 record, which would put them last in the Northwest Division. I’m concerned about their total lack of perimeter shooting, their complete reliance on one player for offense, and their depth off the bench. This was a team built to succeed around Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook - take away one of those pieces, and things fall apart. They’ll beat teams that aren’t able to score efficiently from the perimeter, but if a team can rebound against their big men on defense while not sacrificing perimeter scoring, it’ll be easy to beat them. If Westbrook misses games, their offense is like a ship without a rudder, sails, or captain.