Based on my predictions for all 1,230 regular-season games for the 2014-2015 NBA season, here is my predicted order of finish for the Western Conference:
1. San Antonio Spurs (62-20)
With a refreshed Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker (neither played for their national teams this summer), the Spurs have a legitimate chance to win 60 games in consecutive seasons for the first time in franchise history.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder (58-24)
Kevin Durant held down the fort early last season while his All-Star teammate, Russell Westbrook, recovered from a knee injury. Can Westbrook and the rest of the Thunder return the favor this season as Durant recovers from a foot injury.
3. Los Angeles Clippers (56-26) 4th tiebreaker, predicted to go 34-18 in Conference
Los Angeles has improved its win total in each of the past five seasons which culminated in a franchise high 57 wins last season. Even if the Clippers cannot improve its win total a sixth straight time, a third consecutive 50-win season is clearly in the cards.
4. Memphis Grizzlies (56-26) 4th tiebreaker, predicted to go 32-20 in Conference
The Grizzlies, who got 50 wins in Dave Joerger’s first season as an NBA head coach despite Marc Gasol missing 23 games last season, should improve on that number with a healthy Gasol, a newly acquired Vince Carter and a full year under Joerger’s system.
5. Portland Trail Blazers (54-28)
Damian Lillard has played all 82 games in each of his first two seasons. Even if he cannot extend that streak to a third straight season, the stability that veterans like Steve Blake and Chris Kaman will bring to Portland’s second unit will keep the Trail Blazers relevant in the Western Conference this season.
6. Houston Rockets (53-29)
No they didn’t sign Chris Bosh and yes they lost some depth when they traded away Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik, but the Rockets still have an All-Star duo in James Harden and Dwight Howard and Trevor Ariza fits nicely into the space departed by Chandler Parsons.
7. Golden State Warriors (51-31)
The firing of Mark Jackson and the hiring of Steve Kerr leaves the Warriors in the same relative position in the West—a playoff team in the bottom half of the bracket that will need a favorable matchup to get past the first round.
8. Dallas Mavericks (47-35) 5th tiebreaker, predicted to go 14-17 against predicted playoff teams in West—includes four games against the Los Angeles Lakers
Although they have reacquired Tyson Chandler, whose mere presence should improve their defense, the Mavericks gave up a reliable point guard in Jose Calderon. With Jameer Nelson and Raymond Felton manning the point, it is unlikely that Dallas’ offense will be as efficient as it was last season and if Chandler, who has missed 43 games in the past two seasons, misses any significant time the Mavericks’ defense will struggle as well.
9. Los Angeles Lakers (47-35) 5th tiebreaker, predicted to go 12-17 against predicted playoff teams in West—includes four games against the Dallas Mavericks
10. Denver Nuggets (44-38)
11. Phoenix Suns (39-43)
12. New Orleans Pelicans (32-50)
13. Minnesota Timberwolves (31-51)
14. Sacramento Kings (28-54)
15. Utah Jazz (20-62)