Wednesday 13 December 2017 / 06:11 PM

WESTERN CONFERENCE PREVIEW: BEST CASE/WORST CASE

Folks! It’s time for the NBA season finally, with just a week left before we’re tipping off the season with the Celtics and Cavaliers. With that being said, now is a good time to take a look at all the teams coming up in each conference and what we could see from each. Now, with the NBA moving so frequently, we decided to take a different approach to this: with each team’s best-case and worst-case season! Take a look, in projected order of finish:

1. Golden State Warriors

Best Case: I don’t know what else you want from me. Best case is anything where the Warriors stay remotely healthy, and where they don’t have some sort of unforeseen locker room drama over Durant’s many Twitter accounts. Beyond that, the Warriors roll through the West and get a top seed and then go through the playoffs with a little more resistance in the West, but a walloping win over an old Cavs team.

Worst Case: Really, the only thing I can see is an injury. Durant or Curry go down, and the match-up problem of the Thunder or Rockets just sneak one off the Warriors. But seriously, even then, I don’t know if I see it. This team just really complements each other well. But hypothetically, let’s say they get uprooted.

2. Oklahoma City Thunder

Best Case: The Thunder mesh the second-most complimentary roster in the NBA, with Melo showing up in prime fashion behind some actual love for the game. They rocket up to the second seed and match up against the Warriors in the Western Finals. They use a Russ-Curry, Roberson-Klay, PG-Durant, Melo-Draymond match-up to somehow upset the Warriors and go to the Finals, getting a ring for Brodie and company.

Worst Case: This little experiment struggles. Melo still is Melo and doesn’t try as much, especially on defense. The offense runs into way too many isolation problems and stagnates. They Thunder hover around .500 and come into the playoffs as a disappointment. The star power wins some games, but they ultimately make a quick exit, as PG and Melo leave this summer.

3. San Antonio Spurs

Best Case: The Spurs add Rudy Gay and beef up their win, with the long bodies of Kawhi and Rudy just ruining opponents on the perimeter (ugh). They ride the development of Patty Mills, and LaMarcus returns to form. They power through to a WCF match-up against Golden State, where they use the length to upset them in seven games, as the Spurs go back to the Finals.

Worst Case: The addition of Gay doesn’t mask the serious speed problems for the Spurs. They age again, with Manu and Parker turning into non-factors and Kawhi gets used a little more than he should. The Spurs finally sink to around 50 wins and they make a second-round exit to the Rockets or Thunder.

4. Houston Rockets

Best Case: The Rockets gel around Harden and CP3, and ride it to a league-leading (other than Golden State) offense. They take the West’s second overall seed, and use their depth to smother the Thunder/Spurs in the playoffs. Then, they match up against Golden State and counter their death lineup, upsetting them and getting to the NBA Finals.

Worst Case: The CP3-Harden marriage falls apart with Harden no longer getting to dish like he did. CP3 struggles with injury and all that depth they traded away for him eats them with Harden trotting out there with a less-studded supporting cast. They get an early exit in the playoffs as tensions rise between the low-key Harden and the uppity CP3.

5. Minnesota Timberwolves

Best Case: The addition of Jimmy Butler transforms that anemic Wolves defense into a top-10 unit. He also fixes their star issue and complements KAT and Wiggins to a versatile offense. Wiggins shoots more consistently from three, and Butler, Teague and Crawford add some shooting that they need as the Wolves take their jump into the West’s elite. They use this young group to upset the bunch and make the Western Conference Finals and give Golden State a really surprising run.

Worst Case: The shooting issues don’t get fixed, as Butler and Wiggins are left plodding on the paint. KAT plays more iso, and the offense stagnates in Coach T’s system. The Wolves struggle to maintain a .500 record as they try to gel, and Butler take shots away from Wiggins, making him less efficient. The Wolves stumble to a 9th or 10th finish.

6. Los Angeles Clippers

Best Case: The Clippers use that deep trade haul for Paul to gel into a surprisingly good team. Teodosic is a Ricky Rubio on steroids and Pat Beverley compliments him as the Clippers harass opposing guards. The Blake-DeAndre pair stays healthy, and the new addition in Gallinari on the wing brings some needed shooting to the roster. The Clippers roll into the West’s top four, and go to the Western Finals.

Worst Case: Injury bugs plague Jordan, Gallinari and Griffin like always and the starting group barely logs 30 games together. Teodosic struggles in the NBA and they rely on Pat Bev and a thing group of guards to get by. The depth issue kills them, and the they tumble down the West standings, barely making the playoffs and getting bounced in the first round.

7. Portland Trail Blazers

Best Case: The Blazers duo of Lillard and McCollum get better and better, as they both propel into an argument for the best in the NBA for guard tandems. They benefit from a full year of Nurkic, who plays 70 games and gives the Blazers some needed toughness inside with Ed Davis. They head into the post season and upset a top-four seed, and make some noise to show they aren’t a fringe team anymore.

Worst Case: The expensive roster starts to cave, and the defense just continues to get worse with that guard group. The lack of presences of scoring gets worse, with Turner struggling and Nurkic’s offensive deficiencies getting more glaring. The Blazers plummet below .500 and they win 38, heading back to the lottery with one of the NBA’s most lofty payrolls.

8. New Orleans Pelicans

Best Case: That pairing of Cousins and Davis somehow survives the injuries and the Pelicans get healthy by the All-Star Break. In that time, the presence of two superstars propels the Pelicans to an above .500 team. Cousins stays through the trade deadline, and the Pelicans get into the playoff. There, the Holiday-Davis-Cousins trio bullies a smaller team in round one before taking the Warriors to 6 in round two.

Worst Case: The injuries pile up, and Jrue Holiday barely plays 50 games. The wheels come off the bus in November, and by the trade deadline, the Pelicans ship off Cousins for some pieces to retain before he walks in the summer. They Pelicans hit reset for the umpteenth time.

9. Denver Nuggets

Best Case: Nikola Jokic lives up to the ridiculous hype and improves his defense. They Millsap-Jokic pair terrorizes the West, and the Nuggets use their improved guards to harass teams. Jamal Murray and Emmanuel Mudiay make a leap, and the Nuggets become the trending young team, and sneak into the postseason with some serious hype for the future.

Worst Case: Jokic’s defense stays the same, the young players regress back, and Millsap regrets his decision quickly. The Nuggets have to put out the Kenneth Faried fire, which divides the locker room. They fall back into the lottery and struggle to get 35 wins.

10. Utah Jazz

Best Case: The Jazz don’t miss a step, with Rubio and the twin towers of Favors and Gobert turn into a version of Lob City. Joe Johnson takes on a starting spot, and the Donovan Mitchell experience takes off. The Jazz rally into the playoffs, and give a contender some serious fits with a complete team.

Worst Case: They struggle to muster any scoring with Hayward gone, and Gobert is asked to do too much on offense. Rubio and company struggle with chemistry, and the entire roster takes a step back. They ship off Johnson and possibly Favors at the All-Star Break to start a rebuild early.

11. Memphis Grizzlies

Best Case: Mike Conley continues to do what Mike Conley does and stays one of the best point guards in the NBA. Marc Gasol asserts himself again as one of the NBA’s best centers, and the Grizzlies ride their star power all season to a playoff spot. Chandler Parsons has a bounce back year and JaMychal Green fills in nicely for Z-Bo, and the Grizzlies get more mileage and a small reset in an old team.

Worst Case: Miles catches up and Conley and Gasol struggle to stay on the floor. Parsons stays bad and they try and ship him out at the deadline, and Green doesn’t add scoring. The rest of the roster doesn’t do much to relieve minutes, and the Grizzlies remain an injury away from disaster. They mull a rebuild and deal one of Conley or Gasol at the deadline.

12. Dallas Mavericks

Best Case: The Mavs ride Nowitzki and Nerlens Noel in the paint. Dennis Smith Jr. shows out early, and he meshes with Barnes and Matthews on offense. The Mavericks pick up their bad offense and pair it with some suddenly good defense and become a borderline playoff team until shooting takes them out. They win 40 games and show signs of life.

Worst Case: The Curry injury kills the offense and Barnes and company take bad threes. Smith struggles in the big leagues early and Dirk starts the break down. The Mavs head toward the tank in January after struggling in the first three months. They mull changes ahead of the trade deadline and may become sellers.

13. Los Angeles Lakers

Best Case: Lavar Ball is right and the Lakers start their trek toward heading back to the postseason with Lonzo leading the charge. Kuzma takes the league by storm and Brandon Ingram finally starts scoring points. Randle and Lopez terrorize the front court, and the young guys mesh really early. The Lakers make the playoffs as the eight seed, and we all start to think Lavar is a psychic.

Worst Case: Lonzo and Lavar’s stuff causes some friction in the locker room as Ball doesn’t live up to the hype. Ingram doesn’t take a jump, and the roster sits in standstill despite all the new talent. Ball dominates the news and the team grows tired quickly, as the Lakers stay drama city.

14. Sacramento Kings

Best Case: The young nucleus of Labissiere-Hield-Fox-Giles-Jackson-Cauley Stein take off in their influx of minutes. Randolph and Carter teach the youngsters some things, and the Kings are competitive in most of their games. They push toward .500, shocking analysts and giving some legitimate hope about the future of the franchise.

Worst Case: The mix of old and young plays out predictably: injuries to Carter and Randolph force more minutes to a team not ready for it, and the young guys play 35 a night. They don’t show much signs of improvement, and instead develop some rough habits. Still get a top pick in this situation though.

15. Phoenix Suns

Best Case: Booker again proves he’s one of the best young guards in the league and starts to carry the Suns to wins. They tick closer to 30-35 wins as he gets some help from Chriss and Bender, who develop. Josh Jackson turns into a starter quickly, and Booker gets him a partner on the wing to help hide his faulty defense.

Worst Case: The Suns lose a lot, which is kind of a good thing, but the young guys still don’t develop.

Add Comment

About the author

Austin Albertson

Austin is CBS' senior NFL and NBA analyst, bringing you commentary on everything between the lines and inside the hashes, from the film room to the scoreboard.

More nba News

Special Features

PARTNERS