Although the NBA season isn’t projected to begin until October, The Athletes Hub has projected the outcome of the Western Conference. Pending injuries, trades, and any other setbacks, here are the early estimations for the 2018-19 season:
Brian’s #1 Seed: Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors have been the best team in the NBA over the last four seasons, and adding DeMarcus Cousins makes them even better. The core of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green should carry the Warriors to another NBA Finals appearance
Devon’s #1 Seed: Golden State Warriors
As predictable as it may be, the Golden State Warriors will finish with the best regular season record by the end of the upcoming season. The Houston Rockets have lost a few pieces in the recent offseason, while the Los Angeles Lakers won’t be unified enough to top one of the greatest dynasties in NBA history.
Martin’s #1 Seed: Golden State Warriors
After winning the NBA Championship for the third consecutive season, the Golden State Warriors team didn’t lose any impact players, and even improved by signing Jonas Jerebko and potential All-Star DeMarcus Cousins. With the amount of talent in Golden State, this team is going to be difficult to beat in the West.
Brian’s #2 Seed: Houston Rockets
The Houston Rockets were one game (and perhaps one injury) away from making the NBA Finals last season, and they should be in contention once again. Talents including James Harden, Clint Capela and Chris Paul are back, but Trevor Ariza is gone. It will be interesting to see how Carmelo Anthony fits with this team, but if he makes them better, Houston might just make it all the way this time.
Devon’s #2 Seed: Houston Rockets
The Rockets may have lost Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute, but still contain one of the most dangerous trios in the game in James Harden, Chris Paul and Clint Capela. Their 8.5 average point differential was the highest margin in the league in 2017, and while that number may decline slightly, Houston will be a top tier franchise in 2018.
Martin’s #2 Seed: Houston Rockets
After acquiring Chris Paul from the Los Angeles Clippers, the Houston Rockets have become a force in the Western conference. Both Paul and James Harden helped the Rockets finish the season with the best regular season record in the West, and were one game away from an NBA Finals appearance. Even though Houston lost one of their best defenders in Trevor Ariza, they were able to bring back Paul and Clint Capela, along with adding Carmelo Anthony.
Brian’s #3 Seed: Oklahoma City Thunder
Re-signing Paul George was huge for Oklahoma City. Both him and Russell Westbrook provide a dynamic combination for what could be a better offensive team. One of the better moves of the offseason was geaining Dennis Schroder for Carmelo Anthony. Schroder provides depth at the point guard position, as the Thunder will improve on last season.
Devon’s #3 Seed: Oklahoma City Thunder
Many expect for the departure of Carmelo Anthony to hurt Oklahoma City’s chances, but I see it as addition by subtraction. His 16.2 ppg and 40.4% from the field were both career-lows, and now the Thunder can return to a Russell Westbrook-led style. With that, this team should be a regular season powerhouse that hopefully doesn’t fizzle out in the postseason.
Martin’s #3 Seed: Oklahoma City Thunder
With Paul George and Russell Westbrook on the roster, it will keep Oklahoma City as a contender in the West. Although the team could not follow through in 2017, removing Carmleo Anthony may actually help their chances. The front office brought in role players such as Nerlens Noel and Dennis Schroder, who could play as factors in the upcoming campaign.
Brian’s #4 Seed: Los Angeles Lakers
The best free agent signing of the offseason is clearly LeBron James, but adding Rajon Rondo and Lance Stephenson isn’t too bad either. Rondo has incredible passing skills, which he showcased in the playoffs with New Orleans. Both Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma should continue to improve on strong rookie seasons to help the Lakers get home court advantage for at least one playoff series. This team will likely be the most talked about in the NBA next season, for better or worse.
Devon’s #4 Seed: Los Angeles Lakers
This may be wishful thinking, but any team that has LeBron James on it is bound to be labeled as a contender. The Los Angeles Lakers signed a variety of role players, their roster is arguably the most complete in the entire league. With the young core of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Kyle Kuzma intact, the Lakers should find their way into the postseason.
Martin’s #4 Seed: Utah Jazz
After losing Gordon Hayward to the Boston Celtics, not many expected the Utah Jazz to be a playoff team. Led by rookie Donovan Mitchell, Utah shocked everyone by pushing Oklahoma City out of the postseason in the first round. Even with a year of experience from Mitchell, it won’t be enough to beat Houston or Golden State. On the other hand, the future is bright for this Utah Jazz roster.
Brian’s #5 Seed: Utah Jazz
Rudy Gobert is a proven top five center, Donovan Mitchell had an incredible rookie season, and Grayson Allen could end up being an NBA Draft steal. Along with Ricky Rubio, Derrick Favors and a healthy Dante Exum, there’s a ton of talent to work with in Utah. If the roster can get everything to gel together, the Jazz could overachieve this season.
Devon’s #5 Seed: Utah Jazz
The Utah Jazz will be an interesting team to pay attention to, as soon-to-be sophomore Donovan Mitchell has painted himself into the spotlight. With 99.8 points allowed per game, the Jazz were tied for the lowest points allowed, alongside the San Antonio Spurs. There weren’t a whole lot of changes made in the offseason, as Utah will comfortably slide into the postseason this time around.
Martin’s #5 Seed: San Antonio Spurs
In an offseason where San Antonio lost Tony Parker and traded Kawhi Leonard to the Toronto Raptors, they are expected to take a step back, but that will not be the case. DeMar DeRozan, who the Spurs acquired for Leonard, is still one of the best shooting guards in the league. With the supporting cast, as well as one of the greatest basketball coaches of all time in Gregg Popovich, San Antonio will have enough firepower to make the playoffs.
Brian’s #6 Seed: New Orleans Pelicans
Julius Randle is replacing DeMarcus Cousins to team up with MVP candidate Anthony Davis. Replacing Rajon Rondo with Elfrid Payton will be a downgrade, but for a team coming off their best season in the last decade, it’s difficult to see the Pelicans doing more than they did in 2017. That being said, Anthony Davis is still a preseason pick for the MVP award.
Devon’s #6 Seed: Minnesota Timberwolves
Minnesota has been an above-average franchise for a few years now, but are still missing a breakout season. With talents such as Jimmy Butler, Andrew Wiggins, and Karl-Anthony Towns, it’s a wonder why the Timberwolves aren’t seen as a top contender. After barely sliding into the postseason in 2017 as the #8 seed, Minnesota actually had the fourth-highest points per game average in the West. This franchise won’t find themselves far into the postseason, but should ease their way into the playoff picture by the end of the upcoming regular season.
Martin’s #6 Seed: New Orleans Pelicans
After getting eliminated by the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Semifinals, the New Orleans Pelicans will be looking to bounce back and build off of last season. Led by Anthony Davis, New Orleans looks like a team that could be a sleeper this year. With all the incoming talent on the team, it would not be surprising if the Pelicans upset an opposing franchise in the first round of the 2018-19 postseason.
Brian’s #7 Seed: San Antonio Spurs
Adding DeMar DeRozan to this team is a huge upgrade over 2017, and gives the San Antonio Spurs a legitimate star to play alongside LaMarcus Aldridge. Although it may be tough to get over the losses of Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Tony Parker, if anyone can coach them to success, it’s Gregg Popovich. This team may not be an elite offensive roster, but the Spurs will be effective in the post, and should make the playoffs again.
Devon’s #7 Seed: Denver Nuggets
After adding Michael Porter Jr. and Isaiah Thomas, the Denver Nuggets will go from a team on the outskirts to a team within the postseason. While the #7 seed in the West is essentially a death wish, the Nuggets should feel accomplished by making the playoffs in the first place. This franchise will be a surprise pick to many, as it forces one playoff team from 2017 to miss the cut in 2018.
Martin’s #7 Seed: Los Angeles Lakers
After finishing 35–47 last season, the Los Angeles Lakers still showed potential with assets in Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Along with the young talent on the team, the front office added some much-needed firepower in Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson and LeBron James. With James at the helm, the Lakers should be able to make some noise this season.
Brian’s #8 Seed: Minnesota Timberwolves
There are definitely some chemistry issues with this team, which is why the Timberwolves will finish here. Jimmy Butler and head coach Tom Thibodeau didn’t gel in Chicago, and something may have resurfaced in Minnesota. Karl Anthony-Towns isn’t the elite defender we thought he’d be, but this team as a whole isn’t great on that end. I could see Minnesota possibly missing the playoffs, but there’s enough individual talent to put them in the picture for now.
Devon’s #8 Seed: San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs have a tradition of winning in the regular season, and under Gregg Popovich, I can’t bring myself to count out this franchise. After exchanging Kawhi Leonard for DeMar DeRozan, San Antonio will make the postseason by the skin of their teeth. This projection forces New Orleans to miss the playoffs in 2018 after losing both DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo in free agency.
Martin’s #8 Seed: Denver Nuggets
Even though it was not a season to remember, the Denver Nuggets showcased that they are a team to watch out for. Led by Nikola Jokić, who is staying in Denver for the next five years at $148 million dollars, Denver should manage to slip into the postseason. With new faces like Isaiah Thomas and rookie Michael Porter Jr, Denver is a wild card franchise heading into 2018.
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