The NBA’s Western Conference is going to be brutal this year. Let’s see which teams will miss out on the playoffs.
The 2018-19 NBA season is just days away, so this is the last chance for NBA writers to get their rankings of each and every team in both conferences in. This week’s Whiteboard columns are my buzzer beater to do just that — Tuesday covered the lottery teams in the East, while Wednesday dealt with that conference’s playoff teams.
Everybody should be familiar with the format of these pieces by now, but if not there’s a handy subscribe button to ensure you never miss a beat. Predictions are made based on all sorts of things, including statistics, pending roster moves (hello, Jimmy), the probability of a team imploding (looking at you, Washington), and more. Let’s jump right in to the bottom of the West.
- 15. Sacramento Kings
- 14. Phoenix Suns
- 13. Memphis Grizzlies
One of these teams is not like the other. The Kings are going to be really bad, and according to their whiteboard even Sacramento’s front office realizes that. The Suns and the Grizzlies both have aspirations to be good, but it just isn’t happening.
Phoenix is too young to win on a nightly basis. Even with some veterans like Trevor Ariza and Tyson Chandler, the Suns’ best players will be the young guns, and players like Josh Jackson and Deandre Ayton aren’t ready to win on a nightly basis yet. They’ll be fun to watch, and they’ll inspire Phoenix fans, but they won’t win a ton just yet.
The Grizzlies have the opposite problem. Jaren Jackson Jr. is injecting some very badly needed youth there, but the rest of Memphis’ core is crumbling. The Grizzlies should have Mike Conley back, which will help, but Marc Gasol was healthy for most of last season and Memphis lost 60 games. If you took a random 22 win team and added 31-year-old Conley coming off of an injury season, would you really expect that squad to suddenly be a playoff team? Probably not.
- 12. Dallas Mavericks
The Mavericks get their own tier here because they’re the last team that was relatively easy for me to decide wasn’t going to make the playoffs, but at the same time they seem better than the three bottom teams. With solid veterans plus the fun young core of Luka Doncic and Dennis Smith, Dallas is building something good. It’s just not ready quite yet.
- 11. Minnesota Timberwolves
- 10. San Antonio Spurs
- 9. Los Angeles Clippers
No matter how you slice it, three really solid teams have to miss the postseason in the Western Conference. I picked these three because two of them have catastrophic issues, and one of them lacks star power.
The Wolves are trying so bad to not let Jimmy Butler bully them, but it’s not really working. Whether they trade him or not, things are really bad in Minnesota. That usually doesn’t coincide with a great season.
Picking San Antonio to miss the postseason is nerve-wracking, and for a long time I wouldn’t have done it. Injuries both to Lonnie Walker and Dejounte Murray can’t be ignored, though, and there aren’t many skilled two-way players left on the Spurs’ roster. If Gregg Popovich gets this team in the postseason, put him in the Hall of Fame right now.
Los Angeles has assembled a core of very capable role players, but without that centerpiece star, it’s hard to pick the Clippers to make the playoffs over teams with top players. They may well find a way to get one before the end of the season, but if not making the postseason will be tough. Injuries also tend to hurt the Clips, and could end up in them falling farther down the standings.
#Content you can’t miss
Jimmy went to practice and got vociferous; Adrian Wojnarowski has the latest on Butler’s confrontation with players, coaches, and Minnesota’s general manager
Square pegs in round holes; Cody Williams identifies 10 players who won’t be good fits with their new teams
You better read Howard; Howard Beck explains how Kyrie Irving is unconventional compared to, well, just about everybody
Indiana is lacking originality; Caitlin Cooper believes the Pacers’ half-court offense needs some work
Gotta love the Morii; Jay King has the scoop on why Marcus Morris is boycotting NBA 2K
Betting against the King; Daniel Lubofsky thinks these three factors could prevent the Lakers from making the postseason