1. Golden State Warriors
Key Additions: Kevin Durant, Zaza Pachulia, David West
Key Losses: Andrew Bogut, Harrison Barnes, Leandro Barbosa, Festus Ezeli
Much like out in the East there is no real surprise as to who tops this list. The Warriors added a top 3 choker/player in Kevin Durant to a roster already loaded with chokers/all stars! Realistically this is the most talented NBA team (on paper) in history. Of course there are questions though.. depth is potentially an issue and injury concerns are real. Their lack of size could present itself as a problem, and who gets to shoot the ball could be an issue.. But we are willing to bet these guys can figure it all out & by the end of January they could be tearing apart every team they face with the unprecedented skill, length & versatility only the Warriors possess.
Things could get very interesting in Free Agency if they don't win the title this year... Iguodala, Curry and Durant all could be unrestricted free agents and those three alone could probably fetch 90% of the cap. So if things don't go well straight away this could be a one & done super team…. so lets sit back and enjoy watching them either dominate, or implode!
2. San Antonio Spurs
Key Additions: Pau Gasol, Dejounte Murray, David Lee
Key Losses: Tim Duncan, Borris Diaw
People have been saying the Spurs might be better this year because of the Current Pau > Current Duncan logic. Those people are idiots... No team losses the greatest Power Forward off all time & gets better. TD's loss will mainly affect their defence & locker room presence. He was the on court coach & coordinator of the teams defense. Always in the right spot, always communicating. In the locker room he was obviously a fucking legend. Not a single bad word has ever been spoken publicly about the man from team-mates or coaches and as a fan you can just tell the guy was the real deal and someone you'd love to have on your team. Now all that said the Spurs are still the 2nd best team in the West. They will really hand the keys over to Kawhi Leonard now, and LaMarcus Aldridge could take on that leadership roll he was very good at in Portland. The Spurs are still a very deep & versatile team, and with Pop coaching away you can just pen them in for 55 + wins and a top 4 seed. It would not surprise me if they have a better record than the Warriors and infact if Duncan didn't retire they would be number #1 on this list.
3. Los Angeles Clippers
Key Additions: Mo Speights, Brandon Bass, Raymond Felton
Key Losses: Cole Aldridge, Jeff Green
As you can see there are no key losses or gains here. The Clippers largely kept their core intact and paid 6th man Jamal Crawford, as well as Austin Rivers and the rest of their bench. You could argue that Bass & Felton are more consistent options off the bench than guys like Josh Smith & Lance Stephenson but the fact remains this team will go as far as their starters take them. When you look at the top 20 players in the league only a handful of teams have more than one. Only two teams stand out in this regard, the Warriors and the Clippers (who have 7 of the top 20 combined). We have them at the 3 seed, a fairly safe prediction, but reality is this team is Lit & if they don't have another horrendous year of injury, they could finish up at the top.
I can't shake the image of Steve Ballmer losing his shit with excitement when I think about the best case scenario for the Clippers.... but I would also happily settle for CP3 slapping DeAndre across the face, Blake punching someone & Doc quitting mid game if things turn to shit… JJ Reddicks podcast would be off hook! This is make or break time for the Clippers!
4. Oklahoma City Thunder
Key Additions: Victor Oladipo, Joffrey Lauvergne, Ersan Ilyasova
Key Losses: Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka
Yes... These are the predictions for the upcoming 2016/17 season. Ya'll think I have gone crazy putting OKC here don't ya!? But have a look at the West and tell me who will be better than this team out of the remaining options? Russ is about to go ham on this whole league. The Westbrook/Oladipo back-court will be one of the best in the league…. It's definitely the most athletic. OKC have such a huge front line and even though they lost Durant, I think they will be amongst the leagues elite in terms in terms of rebounding & defense. One area that is still a concern is shooting out on the wing, particularly because Westbrook himself is not really a threat from deep, and the one thing Ibaka actually did last year was hit the corner 3. But still, this team was only one win away from the NBA finals!!! All they have lost is a heartless choker and the skeleton of Serge Ibaka. Book them in for a 4 seed.
5. Portland Trail Blazers
Key Additions: Festus Ezeli, Evan Turner
Key Losses: The owners Bank account
Portland should be one of the most consistent teams this season. These guys have all had a successful season together and are ready to build upon last year. Damian Lillard is the unquestioned leader and is turning into one of the most respected players in the league. Last year RIP City surprised everyone, but teams will prepare more diligently for them in 16/17. They spent a lot to keep the pieces they had and spent even more adding cogs like Even Turner & Festus Ezeli. The result is a team that is guaranteed the 5th or 6th seed in the West, but the flip side is the talent on this roster just falls short of the teams above.
Blazers are a must watch on league pass this year! The shooting & athleticism all across the roster to go with the playmaking of guys like Evan Turner, Dame & CJ means you won't want to miss a game! I have them at 44/45 wins but with a lot of games within 10 points. I just can't see this team getting blown out very often, but equally I think most teams will be ready for them and these games could come down to the wire on a regular basis.
6. Utah Jazz
Key Additions: George Hill, Joe Johnson, Borris Diaw
Key Losses: Trey Burke
The Utah Jazz have been building this roster carefully and purposefully for the past 5 years. The time is now to really go for it & make the jump with Gordon Hayward's free agency fast approaching. This figures to be a top 3 defensive team & with added play makers like Diaw & Hill the offence might just crack top 15. To me Joe Johnson is more of a 'name' than an addition at this point in his career, I would rather see Joe Ingles get minutes as he has more pass first instincts & the ball won't get bogged down. The reason I am not all in on the Jazz and don't have them at the 3 seed is they still haven't showed consistency over the past two seasons. The core of this team hasn't changed. Quinn Schneider will still be relying heavily on Hayward & Hood to finish off games, and Gobert & Favors to hold down the front court. My heart is with this team but I'm apprehensive when talking up their potential.
I am predicting a logjam between the 4th & 10th seed in the west with all these teams around the 42-45 win mark. I think Jazz will need to win a lot of games in blowouts to reach their potential this season as close games are never their strong point and I will back the Blazers, Mavs, OKC & even Grizzlies to edge them more often than not if it comes down to the wire.
7. Houston Rockets
Key Additions: Ryan Anderson, Nene, Eric Gordon
Key Losses: Dwight Howard
Dwight is out, and much like the situation in OKC with Westbrook it gives James Harden a chance to be the man and not share the spotlight. The thing with both these guys (Harden & Westbrook) is will they share the ball? I think the answer for James Harden is No, unless he's throwing a pass directly for an assist. Harden will lead the league in scoring, shot attempts and usage this year. Imagine Steve Nash in the Suns Mike D'Antoni system with a James Harden mind set (and skill set to be fair Harden is very gifted). I think this team could lead the league in points per game, they will play fast and basically all the rest of the guys on this roster are shooters, slashers or dunkers so lets all welcome the Harden show! The reason I don't have them up in the top 4 is purely because of defense... Sure they have a few above average defenders on the team, but the coach is not exactly known for focusing on that end of the floor so until Harden himself decides to apply himself and become a true two-way player, I have the Rockets in the logjam, but making it with the 7th seed.
8. Dallas Mavericks
Key Additions: Andrew Bogut, Harrision Barnes, Quincy Acy, Seth Curry
Key Losses: Chandler Parsons, Zaza Pachulia, David Lee, Raymond Felton
The Mavericks starting lineup is probably top 5 in the league, however the bench is easily one of the weakest. This may not be such a problem only that the starters are also some of the most injury prone players of all time. I still can't see them dropping out of the playoffs though... They are so well coached, Dirk will still be averaging near 20PPG & Harrison Barnes & Andrew Bogut are championship level players with a chip on their shoulder. Best case scenario here is a healthy & skillful team you don't want to face in the first round of the playoffs if you are the Warriors… But shit wouldn't it be awesome for all of us!