In 2017, the entire NBA was overpowered by the Golden State Warriors. With a clear separation between the NBA Champions and the rest of the league, adjustments have been made over the offseason in order to assure that certain franchises remain competitive. In fact, only three games separated the #3-seeded Portland Trail Blazers to the #9-seeded Denver Nuggets. Although Golden State is the heavy favorite once again, here are three teams that will surprise the West:
Los Angeles Lakers (2017: 35-47)
Many are writing the Los Angeles Lakers as the newest contenders in the Western conference, while others are debating on whether they’ll even make the playoffs. With that said, the factor of LeBron James gives the Lakers an expected 10+ in the wins column. With the number of role players Los Angeles contains, I am willing to claim that the Lakers have the most complete roster in the NBA.
The only issue is that Los Angeles is not currently surrounded by shooters, as they ranked 29th in three-point percentage in 2017 (34.5%). While I think claiming Los Angeles being labeled as a contender is a bit optimistic, I am willing to write them down as a surprise team that lands between the #4-7 seed in the West.
Denver Nuggets (2017: 46-36)
The Denver Nuggets are a unique pick, simply because no one is really talking about them as a playoff team in the West. Having missed the playoffs each of the last five seasons, the last time Denver made it out of the first round of a postseason was back in the 2008-09 campaign.
Adding Isaiah Thomas will play a factor if healthy, and retaining both Will Barton and Nikola Jokic were both moves that will keep the Nuggets in conversation. Outside of Milwaukee, I thought the draft selection of Michael Porter Jr. was the best overall selection of that particular night. If a few things go the right way, Denver will find themselves back in the postseason picture.
Portland Trail Blazers (2017: 49-33)
This piece is meant for teams that will surprise, and I think the Portland Trail Blazers will indeed surprise; just not in a positive manner. There are conversations taking place about the satisfaction of Damian Lillard in Portland, as he is owed roughly $89.4 million over the next three seasons.
Although the Trail Blazers have made the playoffs in each of the last five seasons, franchises such as the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets could be primed for postseason positions. If that’s the case, then Portland could find themselves on the brink of a frustrating rebuild stage. With virtually no cap space to work with, the Trail Blazers will have a difficult time once again achieving success in the postseason, if they make it.