If you’ve read part one of the over/under picks from Ryan Blackburn and Daniel Lewis, congratulations. You’re now in the right place to see their picks for the Western Conference, including their predictions for the Denver Nuggets.
If you agree or disagree with some of their picks, please comment as you normally would, or hit them up on their Twitter accounts to keep the conversation going.
Here’s to another wonderful season!
All over/under numbers are from The Action Network.
Utah Jazz - 53.5
Ryan Blackburn (@NBABlackburn): Maybe the toughest call in the Western Conference, but I have the over at 54-28. There are a number of ways the under hits for this team, most notably injury to a team relying so heavily on six players: the five starters and whoever of Joe Ingles or Royce O’Neale comes off the bench. Despite that, I believe in the Jazz, to a degree, and think Quin Snyder is an excellent coach. Therefore, they will find a way.
Daniel Lewis (@minutemandan): This was a tough call, because I picked them to finish with 53 wins, so I’m taking the under. I think Mike Conley is a great fit for the Jazz — a veteran point guard that can share playmaking duties with Donovan Mitchell, defend, and stretch the court. I think they found a solid wing player in Bojan Bogdanovic (although I’m not sure how much more he has in the tank). They could really use anything from Dante Exum, because without him, I think their bench is going to have some struggles. Gobert could win Defensive Player of the Year, but it won’t matter if he gets played off the court again by Clint Capela.
Denver Nuggets - 52.5
Blackburn: Once again Nuggets Nation, pound the over. I have the Nuggets finishing at 58-24, and there are so many scenarios where this team hits on the over. It’s ridiculous. They have the highest floor of any team due to their bench and egalitarian system that relies heavily on one player only: Nikola Jokic. They can withstand injuries to anyone else, even Jamal Murray. Jerami Grant adds a new dynamic to the roster, Gary Harris and Will Barton are healthy, and the team is hungry to take the next step.
Lewis: GIVE ME THAT OVER. The Nuggets are my pick to win the Northwest Division, finish with the 1-seed, and win their first championship, so I’m obviously high on them. Is it irrational? Absolutely. But I think you’d find a lot of support from unbiased analysts for the over. This is a good team, and the sky is the limit for them.
Portland Trail Blazers - 46.5
Lewis: While I ultimately decided to take the under for the Jazz, I’m in the same boat with the Trail Blazers, and with them, I decided to take the over. Their season hinges on the star power of CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard. Not only will they have to carry the scoring load for the offense, but their leadership will be vital as they incorporate several new players into the rotation, including the impetuous talent that is Hassan Whiteside. Hopefully they won’t have too many problems finding enough touches for both Whiteside and Nurkic once their injured center is able to return to the court. I would definitely hate to see that!
Blackburn: Betting the over on the Blazers is never a bad idea. Time and time again, Vegas and analytics as a whole rate Portland poorly. Every time, Damian Lillard hits a new gear and cobbles together a quality squad. I have Portland at 48-34, not significantly higher, but they’re a candidate to make a trade and boost their regular season win total artificially.
Minnesota Timberwolves - 35.5
Lewis: I took the over for the Timberwolves, because of Karl-Anthony Towns and most decidedly not because of Andrew Wiggins. Has their even been more of a dichotomy between the talent and production of two max players on the same team? Towns will get more opportunities to shoot from the 3-point line this season, but with a supporting cast that is about as exciting as a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, he’s not going to be transcendent enough to carry them to a .500 record this season.
Blackburn: Another over here, but just barely. At 36-46 in my prediction, this is one team bettors should stay away from for sure. There are too many avenues for Minnesota to improve, from the addition of Robert Covington as a full time starter to improvements from Towns, to a better season from Teague or Wiggins. I see so many scenarios where Minnesota either plays well enough to push for .500 or trades half their veterans to play Jarrett Culver and Josh Okogie a significant amount.
Oklahoma City Thunder - 31.5
Lewis: This will be an extraordinary season for the Thunder, who are without Russell Westbrook for the first time since the team arrived in Oklahoma City. That’s one reason I’m taking the over for the Thunder. I think Chris Paul does a great job piloting them to at least 30 wins, and with Steven Adams, Danilo Gallinari, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, they’ll easily that 31.5 mark before the end of the season. I don’t think the gap between them and the Timberwolves is that big, and they have a much better path to becoming contenders again.
Blackburn: My first disagreement with Dan. I’m actually going under because I think this team will trade their pieces relatively quickly. Danilo Gallinari will be sought after, and there are enough teams will be seeking out Chris Paul as a point guard upgrade for a contender. The Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, Minnesota Timberwolves, and even a return to the Los Angeles Clippers or New Orleans Pelicans would make some sense for the aging star guard. Because of this, I’m going under and betting on a quick fire sale by Sam Presti.
LA Clippers - 53.5
Blackburn: I have the under on the Clippers almost entirely due to Paul George sitting out the first few games. Normally, this team would be in the 58 to 60 win range, but I’m a bit worried about George and his healthy return to action. There will be an adjustment period, and the start to their season is tough enough that I have them in between 50 and 52 wins. Not quite high enough to take the over.
Lewis: It didn’t take much to take the over for the Clippers. While they obviously won the offseason, it’s hard for me to look at Paul George and Kawhi Leonard with the Clippers and see Jason Statham and Dwayne Johnson in the latest Fast and Furious movie. Yeah, it’s something I’m interested in, and I liked both of their characters before this year, but together, it just seems like a little bit of an odd pairing. What’s odd is that I’m more excited when I think about the supporting cast (the Vanessa Kirby and Idris Elba) that is on this team in Montrezl Harrell, Lou Williams, Patrick Beverley, and Landry Shamet.
Los Angeles Lakers - 50.5
Lewis: I’m taking the under, but I’m nervous about it. Do I hate the Lakers? Obviously yes. Did I see Anthony Davis and LeBron James look unstoppable together this preseason? Again, yes. Their supporting cast is mediocre at best, especially with Kyle Kuzma already injured. But I don’t think it’ll matter much, because they’ll be able to maximize the contributions from guys like Danny Green and Quinn Cook.
Blackburn: I’m with Dan here. Under because there are so many ways this could go wrong, namely an injury to LeBron James or Anthony Davis. Those guys are great, but the rest of the roster is not built to survive a long period of time with either guy out of the lineup. It’s unlikely that LeBron will last a full season without sustaining some sort of injury he has to rest to recover fully from, and the Lakers are playing for the playoffs anyway. They don’t care about seeding as long as they get there.
Golden State Warriors - 47.5
Blackburn: I’m right at 47-35 with the Warriors, and I’m taking the under on them. I just don’t believe in the “we can survive with just five rotation caliber players” strategy they are employing with Klay Thompson out of the lineup. Glenn Robinson III will start at small forward for them, and naming the Warriors’ seventh best player on the roster is a challenge right now. They may eventually decide not to push Klay to return this year and give Steph and Dray a rest after five straight deep playoff runs and Finals appearances.
Lewis: I’m taking the under for the Warriors. Let’s see how good Steph Curry is once all of his elite weapons are stripped from him. Let’s see how many wins they can get with D’Angelo Russell having to be assigned to the lesser offensive threat. Let’s see how Draymond Green does when the defense isn’t scrambling to contain two of the best off-ball shooters to ever play in the NBA, while one of the best all-around shooters in league history is setting screens. I won’t be shocked to see them miss the playoffs.
Sacramento Kings - 37.5
Blackburn: I’m on the over for the Kings at 39 wins. There’s not a lot of wins to go around for the other teams after projecting six playoff teams in the Northwest and Pacific combined, but the Kings are good. They have talent and depth now after signing some quality veteran pieces to fill out their rotation. In the end though, it comes down to believing in De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield, and I do.
Lewis: I took the over for the Kings, who I think are still one year away from the playoffs. I think Marvin Bagley is going to need another year to really learn how to be a difference maker on defense, but that inexperience won’t hinder him on offense, where he’ll breakout as the next version of Amar’e Stoudemire. I think De’Aaron Fox has an All-Star caliber season, while Buddy Hield continues to be a tremendous 3-point shooter. They just need a year together to go through some up’s and down’s, and they’ll be where they want to be after that.
Phoenix Suns - 28.5
Lewis: Take the under. The Suns stink. Devin Booker skipping playing for Team USA so he could focus on competing for the playoffs with this roster was such a joke. DeAndre Ayton gets stats, but hasn’t learned how to win yet. It’s just a bad franchise, and a team that a lot of other Western Conference teams are going to easily beat.
Blackburn: Always go under on three teams: the Lakers, the Knicks, and the Suns. The first two are for large market biases, but the last one is for organizational ineptitude. They signed Ricky Rubio, which was a good but short-sighted move. The real issue was not finding a competent forward defender to help insulate Deandre Ayton and Devin Booker. Mikal Bridges is too young. Dario Saric is smart but sometimes forgets to try. Kelly Oubre is a fake good defender in that he looks like he’s a positive defender but actually isn’t. Eventually, they will figure it out...
Houston Rockets - 53.5
Lewis: I felt like taking a chance, so I went with the over for the Rockets. I’m a big Russell Westbrook fan, and I think it’s going to work out fine (eventually) for him and Harden. They’ll be able to have success on offense, and I think they’re hoping that Westbrook is able to unleash more of his energy on defense since he won’t have to do so much on offense. Eric Gordon, Clint Capela, and PJ Tucker are all still on the team, and will continue to make big contributions for the team.
Blackburn: I’m with Dan here. Over on the Rockets, who have maintained a formula for several years that makes sense. James Harden = 53+ wins, save for one year when the Rockets had Ty Lawson, Dwight Howard, Josh Smith, Marcus Thornton, Terrence Jones, and Michael Beasley on the same roster. I’m willing to bet they get to around 56-26 this year and could finish better than that if Westbrook and Harden coexist better than expected.
San Antonio Spurs - 46.5
Lewis: I’m joining what seems like a bandwagon and taking the under for the Spurs. I don’t think Gregg Popovich is as motivated as he was in season’s past, and without the elite talent of Tim Duncan, he hasn’t been able to replicate the same success he used to coax out of his teams. I think they’re going to be one of the best defensive teams in the league, and they’ll win a lot of games with LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan leading the offense. They just seem like a team that will have a lot of really crushing buzzer beaters happen against them.
Blackburn: An under on the Spurs always feels scandalous, but it’s not in this case. DeMar DeRozan may be a free agent in 2020 if he declines his player option. LaMarcus Aldridge, though his game will continue to age well, is 34 years old and entering his 14th season. With so many young guys coming in, from Derrick White to Dejounte Murray to Lonnie Walker, the Spurs have some inexperienced guards who aren’t finished products and need time to get better. After finishing with 48 wins last year with nearly perfect health outside of the obvious injury to Murray, is it so bold to think they either get unlucky or regress a bit this season?
Dallas Mavericks - 40.5
Blackburn: I have the Mavericks at exactly 41-41, so by definition, I’m going with the over, The Mavericks could be good. Luka Doncic is obviously fun, and Kristaps had his moments before the ACL tear. This team is primed for a trade, with some decent sized contracts and a desire to make the playoffs as soon as possible. The Mavericks will definitely hit the over if Luka or KP take the next big step in their development though. That’s an easy over.
Lewis: Luka! I’m taking the over for the team that was lucky enough to land the international superstar in the draft last season. I am not expecting big things from Kristaps Porzingis this season, as the Mavericks try to work their new toy into their everyday lineup. Luka Doncic will help them win more games than they did last season, and should help players like Tim Hardaway Jr. and Delon Wright have career years.
New Orleans Pelicans - 39.5
Blackburn: I’m going under here. The Pelicans are loved by the analytics, but I’m having trouble seeing Jrue Holiday as the same impactful presence offensively that Luka Doncic can be. They just command different amounts of respect, even if Holiday’s numbers are better. I’m still not sold that this team keeps all of their pieces either, and the Zion injury doesn’t help that cause. They could turn JJ Redick or Derrick Favors into a protected first rounder very quickly.
Lewis: For the record, I was taking the under for the Pelicans before the news of Zion Williamson’s knee surgery that will shelve him for 6-8 weeks. While there are a lot of fun pieces on this team, I just don’t think they’re going to fit together to start the season. They have a tough schedule leading up to the All-Star break, and now they’ll be without one of the best young players to enter the league in a long time. They could be a team that gets lava hot after the All-Star break and gathers a ton of positive momentum for the 2020-21 season.
Memphis Grizzlies - 27.5
Lewis: I’m taking the over for the Grizzlies. I like Ja Morant, who reminds me of Derrick Rose with his ability to get to the rim and score over defenders. Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. are an exciting core, and Grizzlies fans should be excited about their potential. They’re in Year One of what looks like a three year rebuild, but if Morant is able to excel as a rookie, they should look to try to return back to playoff contention sooner rather than later. The league is more fun when the Grizzlies are good, with some of the best fans in the country.
Blackburn: I like what the Grizzlies are doing, but I’m taking the under. There just aren’t enough wins in the West to go around, and while Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clarke will show exciting flashes, it’s hard to be a really good team with so much youth. Look for the Grizzlies to move Andre Iguodala and maybe Jae Crowder or Jonas Valanciunas to teams in need of playoff rotation depth, which will only further worsen the Grizzlies’ chances of cracking 28 wins.