NBA Basketball Predictions: 2010-2011 Western Conference Power Rankings
With all of the movement in the East, the NBA’s Western Conference suddenly has become the much less interesting conference. With guy like Carlos Boozer and Amare Stoudemire going from the West to the East, the pendulum definitely has shifted, and the East appears to be the more dominant conference as we enter the 2010-2011 NBA season.
That being said, the defending champions still reside in the West, and in all likelihood, any championship in 2011 will have to go through the Los Angeles Lakers. A weaker West should mean an easier path to the playoffs, home court advantage and the NBA Finals. Of course, the Oklahoma City Thunder and Kevin Durant may have something to say about any early NBA predictions that have Kobe and the Lakers going to the Finals for the fourth year in a row.
Here is what we think our Western Conference power rankings will look like come mid-April.
1. Los Angeles Lakers
Jerry Bus may not admit it, but his team definitely made some moves to counteract what Miami was doing in South Beach this summer. The acquisition of Matt Barnes gives the Lakers another perimeter player that can’t bang with Dwyane Wade and LeBron James (on occasion). Of course, the Lakers best transaction to help them defend the Miami triumvirate came over a year ago, when they brought in Ron Artest. Forget Kobe vs. LeBron, if both the Lakers and the Heat make the NBA Finals, it is Ron Artest who will stick LeBron James—and if that’s not must see TV, then what is?
2. Dallas Mavericks
With all due respect to any “rising” teams, the second best team in the West will be the Dallas Mavericks. This is a team full of talent and can play with any other NBA franchise in the league. Dirk Nowitzki is one of the league’s best scorers, and with Roddy Beaubois looking like a future all-star and Caron Butler having had a full offseason with the team, the Mavericks are set to be the #2 team in this conference and challenge the Lakers for Western supremacy.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder
We weren’t daring enough to make the Thunder the second best team in the West. Sorry, as much as we love Kevin Durant and what Oklahoma City has going on with their talented roster, it seems a bit of a stretch to project that a team will go from the 8th seed to the 2nd seed with no significant changes to their roster. Of course, the 3rd seed isn’t all that far away from the 2nd seed, but there is a huge difference between the two since the 2nd seed is only guaranteed home court advantage in the 1st round. That said, I truly do believe that the Thunder aren’t the same team that we saw during the first half of the basketball season, and with just one more year of experience, they should go from squeaking into the playoffs to sneaking past teams in the postseason. Having Durant will help with that, given that his improvement has been tremendous from year to year.
4. Portland Trailblazers
Maybe we are more helpful than we should be, but the Portland Trailblazers are the kind of team that eventually has to turn it around, right? They nearly toppled the Phoenix Suns in the first round last year, and they did it despite suffering the most serious injuries of any team in the NBA. They have gotten better and better every season as they always manage to add somebody of value to their incredibly deep roster. This year, if Brandon Roy can stay healthy, the sky is the limit for this team. They have a multitude of big man that can play in the middle with Greg Oden, Marcus Camby, LaMarcus Aldridge and Zaza Pachuilia playing in the frontcourt. Those guys should be Roy’s best friends and making playing basketball in Portland even easier than it already has for this silky smooth swingman.
5. Denver Nuggets
By default, this spot goes to the Denver Nuggets. They didn’t do anything to get all that much better, but with so many teams in the Western Conference losing players to the Eastern Conference, the conference is weaker, and teams like Denver will benefit. Of course, Denver won’t be much of anything if they decide to deal Carmelo Anthony before the end of the season, but maybe—just maybe—they will hold on to the Carmelo and get the most out of him—while they have him.
As for the rest of our rankings…
6. San Antonio Spurs
7. Phoenix Suns
8. Utah Jazz
9. New Orleans Hornets
10. Los Angeles Clippers
11. Memphis Grizzlies
12. Houston Rockets
13. Sacramento Kings
14. Golden State Warriors
15. Minnesota Timberwolves