With the NBA season beginning today, and the Nuggets season beginning Wednesday, 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.
You’re reading Part Two, where we list our predictions for the Western Conference. You’ll be able to read Part One, where we list our predictions for the Eastern Conference, by clicking here.
Lewis: Give me the over for the Thunder. I like the addition of Dennis Schroder, allowing Westbrook to get more rest during games while also giving the offense another ball handler and slasher. I’m also thrilled to see Jerami Grant get more minutes as well — he’s a guy that can defend 1-5, and has continued to improve each season. I have them winning the Northwest Division.
Blackburn: Given the recent news on Andre Roberson and Russell Westbrook’s injuries, give me the under. The Thunder are clearly a good squad, but 50 wins is a lot to ask for a team that’s already missing one of the best defenders in the NBA. Without Roberson last year, the Thunder were an average defensive team. That’s bad news.
Utah Jazz - 49.5
Blackburn: I’m taking the over. The Jazz are legit. Mitchell and Gobert are fun. Ingles is fun. The team is designed to weather the injury storm for each of their players except Mitchell. I expect the, to be in the low fifties.
Lewis: The Jazz are a really good, balanced team. With Adam Mares’ fave Joe Ingles and my fave Donovan Mitchell, there’s a lot to like about this team. They’ll be a top-5 team in the league when Gobert is healthy, because of the impact he makes both on defense and offense. They’ll need Alec Burks and Dante Exum to be contributors off the bench, and I’m curious to see what lineups they use to close games. I’ll take the over.
Denver Nuggets - 47.5
Blackburn: The Nuggets may make me regret this, but I’m taking the over here and have them pegged for 50 wins. The rest of the West is falling apart right now. The Thunder have injuries. The Spurs have injuries. The T-Wolves are about to explode. The Blazers lost depth. The Nuggets are won of the only teams that stayed the course, and I think it will help them this season. Nikola Jokic is a legitimate All-NBA player, while Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, and Paul Millsap will all prove to be solid starters surrounding him. If the bench steps up, as it has shown in the preseason, the Nuggets will be in a position to rise above the morass of teams fighting for position in the Western Conference.
Lewis: The team that we’re most interested in here at Denver Stiffs, and I’m taking the under. I have the Nuggets pegged at 47 wins, so it’s not that I’m down on them, I just think that Vegas got this number right on the nose. I like that they’re willing to play big, with Trey Lyles at POWER FORWARD and Juancho Hernangomez or Tyler Lydon (or Michael Porter Jr.) at small forward off the bench. With how good of a shooter Hernangomez or Lydon is at small forward, they don’t lose spacing and they get bigger guys that’ll hang with second unit reserves. I think the biggest difference maker will be Jamal Murray. I think that the Nuggets third year pro is poised to make a jump up to the level of point guards like Mike Conley Jr. and Kemba Walker. If he does, the Nuggets are going to be a tough team to beat at home once again.
Minnesota Timberwolves - 44.5
Lewis: Whether or not they keep Jimmy Butler, this team is a mess. There are chemistry issues, injury concerns, scheme limitations ... did I miss anything? Incredible that they’re going to have such a bad start to their season with a player as good as Karl-Anthony Towns on the roster and signed for the next five years.
Blackburn: Not much more to say here. The number has dropped in recent days, but under on nearly any number. This is a dumpster fire.
Lewis: I have Portland winning exactly 42 games. We know that Lillard and McCollum are going to be able to deliver them a big winning streak at some point, they’re going to play a few exciting games, but they aren’t getting production from their bigs to push them over the edge. They’re a middle of the pack team, with one good burst but nothing to make them special. It’s offensive to me that they didn’t try getting DeMarcus Cousins to sign with them, but the front office also gave Evan Turner a massive contract in free agency.
Blackburn: Given the tidal wave of injuries around them, it’s possible that the Blazers maintain their positive record from last season. They definitely played over their heads, staying healthier than the competition and enjoying an All-NBA first team season from Damian Lillard. The desire to write them off completely is unwarranted, as they retained their four most important players in Lillard, McCollum, Nurkic, and Aminu. I have them at 44 or 45 wins, comfortably ahead of the 42 number currently set.
Golden State Warriors - 62.5
Blackburn: I have Golden State at 59 wins and the under. Why should they care about the regular season? Why should they push their players to play 100% all the time when that isn’t the ultimate goal? The Warriors have their sights set on another championship, and I expect them to once again be conservative with their players, leading to some unforeseen losses.
Lewis: I’m going to take the under for the Warriors. While they are clearly the best team in the league, there are definite issues with their team that are going to be talked about this season. Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala are in the “old veteran” age group now, and if one of them is out, they have to turn to Quinn Cook or Jacob Evans. The league is going to crack down on illegal screens, which will hurt Draymond Green, and while they have a lot of big men, they don’t have many good ones outside of Cousins, who, in case you missed it, tore his Achilles tendon last season. If Cousins is his old self, sure, they’ll be unstoppable. If Cousins follows the same route as other large NBA players to suffer an Achilles tear, they’ll be unstoppable, but there will be an obvious weakness.
Los Angeles Lakers - 48.5
Lewis: Take the under and start looking for ways to spend the money you’ll get in April. LeBron James is amazing — THIS IS UNDENIABLE — but they’re also going to be playing Michael Beasley or Kyle Kuzma at center. Lonzo Ball is going to get benched in the fourth quarter for James. I do think that Josh Hart has a big year, because he’s a smart defender that can shoot well, and doesn’t play with the ball in his hands.
Blackburn: I’ve warmed up to the Lakers in recent days having watched them play in the preseason. Brandon Ingram looks legit, and Kyle Kuzma looks like he’s taken a step defensively given that he now tries. Also, I don’t think LA’s roster is complete. At some point, they will acquire another big man who can help them win against teams with a tough opposing center. They will play small, and they have the personnel to do it, but not for 82 games. The safe bet is the under, but I think they make it closer than anticipated.
LA Clippers - 37
Blackburn: The LA Clippers are going to be fun and they’re going to go under, and that’s fine. Going with a trio of unproven starting centers in Marcin Gortat, Montrezl Harrell, and Boban Marjanovic is just the start, but I expect the Clippers to realize that they just aren’t quite good enough to compete with the West right now and turn things over to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Expect teams to offer picks to the Clippers for Tobias Harris and Lou Williams at the deadline as well.
Lewis: Another team where it’s easy to take the under and feel pretty confident doing so. They’re a team that could be involved in trade rumors all season, with players like Patrick Beverley, Avery Bradley, and maybe even Tobias Harris potentially on the block. Everyone knows that Gallinari is only good for 53 games, and they could struggle to find scoring late in games outside of Lou Williams. They’re a meh team, but if they get hot, I’m going to look dumb.
Phoenix Suns - 29
Lewis: I’m excited to watch DeAndre Ayton put up huge stats for a Suns team that I think won’t get their 20th win until March. With Ayton beasting down low, I think Ryan Anderson will have a nice season, showing off the shooting touch that helped him get $80 million from Houston. I could see them play Devin Booker more at point guard, with Josh Jackson at shooting guard, and actually have a decent lineup with Ariza or TJ Warren at small forward. They’re going to give up a ton of points, while Ayton figures out NBA offenses and the guards learn how to guard even a little bit, but there’s a future to be excited about now that they’re past the lottery failures of Dragan Bender and Alex Len.
Blackburn: The Suns have talent, which is a far cry from last season. That said, it’s hard to see where things come together. Ryan McDonough was just fired. The Suns don’t have a point guard. They’re counting on Booker and DeAndre Ayton to be a good enough duo to carry the Suns at times, and I don’t see that working well, at least not immediately. The complementary players are decent but also overrated, and it won’t surprise me if those players aren’t on the roster at the end of the year.
Sacramento Kings - 25.5
Blackburn: Always take the under on the Kings.
Lewis: There are pieces to be excited about here, enough for me to take the over for the Kings. I still have them under 30 wins, but I believe in De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield. I think Marvin Bagley III was the wrong pick here (hello, Jaren Jackson Jr.) and they still don’t have a solution at center. I’m going to be rooting for Harry Giles to succeed, but this is a young team that is learning how to play together, and winning won’t come this season too often. They shouldn’t be looking to tank in March/April though, and should use those games as an opportunity to develop their young players as win as frequently as possible.
Houston Rockets - 56
Lewis: I’m taking the under for the Rockets, and it’s purely based on my assumption that they’ll rest players during the season. I’m also on board with them signing Carmelo Anthony. He’s going to be the fourth or fifth option on offense, and with Chris Paul, he finally has a teammate that will not allow him to shoot long twos without repercussion. If they can get any positive play from Marquese Chriss, Bruno Caboclo, and James Ennis III, they’re going to be just fine. I’m a believer in them in the playoffs, just not during the regular season.
Blackburn: Given the fallout from the rest of the league injury wise, I’m taking the over on the Rockets and have them winning 57 games. At one point, I championed Trevor Ariza as a massively important piece that the Rockets had lost this offseason. After digging into the numbers though, it’s clear that Houston can replace him. James Ennis will be the name to watch here. Eric Gordon may start more games. Carmelo Anthony may be fine. In any case though, Harden, Paul, and Capela are the important trio, and they will probably combine for over 35 win shares again this year.
New Orleans Pelicans - 46
Blackburn: The floor for the Pelicans is extremely high. They will almost certainly be an above .500 team if everyone stays reasonably healthy. I believe in their pieces fitting together, though there’s the question of whether they have enough pieces. Is Elfrid Payton good? Will one of Solomon Hill or Darius Miller start? Aren’t pelicans supposed to have wings? I have the Pelicans at 47 wins, so give me the over...barely.
Lewis: I love the Pelicans. I love that they signed Julius Randle. I love that they’re going to be playing with three guards a lot. I think they’re going to get good production from Nikola Mirotic and Elfrid Payton, they’re going to play fast, and they’re going to rely on Anthony Davis to wreck offenses and defenses. Give me the over for the Pelicans, finishing as the 5-seed.
San Antonio Spurs - 44.5
Lewis: With Dejounte Murray out, DeMar DeRozan is going to have to have a career-best year in order for them to hit their over. .
Blackburn: Dejounte Murray’s ACL tear is awful. He was probably San Antonio’s third best player this season behind DeRozan and Aldridge. Now, that honor is bestowed upon...Rudy Gay? Pau Gasol? Patty Mills? Yeah...I’m going under.
Dallas Mavericks - 34.5
Blackburn: This line is pretty good. The Mavericks will be competitive every night, but there will also be the moments where having two inexperienced ball handlers in Dennis Smith Jr. and Luka Doncic comes back to haunt them. I’m a Doncic stan, but he will take some time to adjust to NBA life, even if he’s better at it now than other rookies. Give me the under.
Lewis: Let’s go with the under for the Mavericks. While they finally got DeAndre Jordan signed, and he stay signed with them, they would need Luka Doncic to have a huge rookie season in order to hit that 35 win mark. If you doubt Doncic, do so at your own risk, but I don’t think he’s going to help their offense so much that it counters how poor their defense will be. There’s no reason for them to tank, having traded their 2019 first round pick to Atlanta, so they’ll be trying to compete the entire season.
Memphis Grizzlies - 32.5
Lewis: Taking the over on the Grizzlies is an easy call at this number. With Mike Conley Jr. hitting 30, he’s got the experience and health to lead them once again. I love that they added Jevon Carter and Jaren Jackson Jr. to their team in the draft — those are two rookies that are going to be positive difference makers for a long time. With Kyle Anderson, Dillon Brooks, and JaMychal Green in the frontcourt, they’ve got the makings of a nice little frontcourt there. I think they’ll be in a lot of close games, but they need a little more scoring and a little more defense to be an above .500 team in the Western Conference. If Marc Gasol and Jackson Jr. are outstanding, they’ll be the 8-seed and bump out the Lakers easily.
Blackburn: I’m taking the under. There are some decent pieces in Memphis, but the immediate success of the franchise centers around the excellence of Mike Conley and Marc Gasol. Both players have concerns, and given the success rate of players coming back from achilles injuries, I can’t trust Conley to be the player he was on both ends of the floor. In addition, there may be pressure to trade Gasol before the deadline if the team is out of the playoff race and Jaren Jackson Jr. needs more time to develop.