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2009-10 Western Conference Preview

Posted by Neil Paine on October 27, 2009

Click here for the Eastern Conference Preview

After many months of projections, it's finally time to unveil our official preseason forecast. They're based on our Win Shares projection system, with rosters/depth charts current as of Sunday, October 25, 2009. We used Win Shares to establish a base team strength rating for each squad, and then plugged those into the handy log5 formula and ran another 10,000-season simulation. What follows are the rosters (newcomers are highlighted in yellow), projected per-minute stats from our Simple Projection System, projected WS, the results of our 10,000-season sim, and my brief (200-words-or-fewer) thoughts on each team. So let's start the show, in reverse order, beginning with…

15. Sacramento Kings (20-62, 5th in Pacific Division)

Talent Rank AvgW AvgL High Low O-Rank D-Rank Playoffs Conf Semis Conf Finals Finals Champs
0.230 30 20.0 62.0 35 6 29 30 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Pos Player P/36 TS% A/36 R/36 TO/36 ST/36 BK/36 WS
G Tyreke Evans 3.2
G Kevin Martin 22.8 61.2 2.4 4.0 2.4 1.1 0.2 5.7
F Andres Nocioni 16.9 55.3 1.8 6.4 2.2 0.6 0.7 2.2
F Jason Thompson 14.6 55.2 1.6 9.5 2.2 0.8 0.9 2.0
C Spencer Hawes 14.3 52.5 2.4 8.9 2.4 0.7 1.5 1.0
G Beno Udrih 13.4 53.1 5.2 3.7 2.5 1.2 0.2 1.2
G Francisco Garcia 15.4 56.3 2.6 4.4 2.1 1.5 1.1 0.9
F Donte Greene 11.6 46.0 1.9 4.8 1.8 0.9 0.7 0.2
C Jon Brockman 1.2
G/F Desmond Mason 11.7 48.8 2.0 5.3 2.0 0.7 0.7 0.3
F Sean May 13.9 50.4 2.1 8.2 2.6 0.8 0.7 0.7
G Sergio Rodriguez 11.1 49.7 7.9 4.0 3.2 1.5 0.1 0.8
F Omri Casspi 0.5
F Kenny Thomas 8.6 49.1 2.1 8.1 2.2 1.3 0.4 0.1

Comments: Good grief, this team is awful. Even if Kevin Martin is 100% again, how can they possibly come close to competing?…Defensively, I don't see what Westphal can do to fix their problems. They probably get better at defending the 3-point shot just by regression to the mean alone, but that's not going to be worth much when you think about the personnel they have.…Tyreke Evans is different from other combo guards in that he doesn't lack size. Put that 6'6" frame with his athleticism and versatility, and I'm really high on Evans — he has superstar written all over him.…Kevin Martin is mega-efficient. You don't see how when you watch him shoot with that funky release, but he's smart, he knows how to score, how to draw fouls. You can't win with him as your #1, though, because he doesn't defend at all.…Spencer Hawes needs to get more efficient. He has the potential to deliver much better results than he's given them so far.…Mason was a bad signing. Not only is he completely ineffective at this point, but the Kings needed to give his minutes to somebody like Garcia.…Forget the playoffs, they'll be lucky to win 25 games.

14. Los Angeles Clippers (23-59, 4th in Pacific Division)

Talent Rank AvgW AvgL High Low O-Rank D-Rank Playoffs Conf Semis Conf Finals Finals Champs
0.264 29 22.7 59.3 39 10 30 28 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Pos Player P/36 TS% A/36 R/36 TO/36 ST/36 BK/36 WS
G Baron Davis 17.6 49.3 7.5 4.1 2.9 1.9 0.5 2.9
G Eric Gordon 17.3 60.9 3.0 3.0 2.1 1.1 0.5 3.4
F Al Thornton 16.5 51.0 1.6 5.4 1.9 0.8 0.8 1.2
F Blake Griffin 3.2
C Marcus Camby 11.1 52.6 2.8 12.6 1.7 1.0 2.9 4.5
C Chris Kaman 14.7 54.3 1.9 10.6 2.9 0.7 2.1 2.2
G Sebastian Telfair 12.2 48.9 6.0 2.5 2.3 1.2 0.2 0.4
G/F Rasual Butler 12.5 52.6 1.2 3.9 0.9 0.7 0.8 1.3
G/F Ricky Davis 13.4 51.7 3.7 3.9 2.2 1.0 0.2 0.5
F Craig Smith 17.6 59.6 1.8 7.7 2.3 0.9 0.5 1.6
F/C DeAndre Jordan 11.8 59.1 1.0 10.5 1.9 0.6 2.5 0.9
G Mardy Collins 10.5 46.7 4.5 4.6 2.5 1.3 0.4 0.0
F Steve Novak 15.6 60.9 1.4 4.3 0.8 0.7 0.2 0.6
F/C Brian Skinner 9.3 48.6 1.2 8.8 1.8 0.8 2.2 0.1
G Kareem Rush 13.4 50.0 2.4 4.1 1.6 1.0 0.4 0.0

Comments: Blake Griffin is going to be a perennial 20-10 guy, but I'm not sold on him defensively. It's not a huge deal for L.A. right now because they have more issues on offense, but I doubt he'll ever be in that Kevin Garnett/Tim Duncan class where he dominates at both ends.…I'm still waiting for Baron Davis to be Baron Davis again. He was so good at times in Golden State, but 2008-09 was a total disaster. At 30, coming off by far his worst season, I don't know what to realistically expect from him.…Al Thornton is one of the most overrated guys in the league — he's totally inefficient, and a terrible defender. Deluding themselves into thinking he's a solid option is one of the reasons they've been so bad.…Eric Gordon is going to be very good. He's not quite there defensively, but he really impressed me last year.…Camby and Kaman have their flaws, but I'd take that pair at center. Plenty of teams get by with a lot worse.…They've got some decent talent assembled, but Dunleavy isn't going to be the guy on the sidelines when they take it to the next level. He has them in a real rut offensively.

13. Oklahoma City Thunder (26-56, 5th in Northwest Division)

Talent Rank AvgW AvgL High Low O-Rank D-Rank Playoffs Conf Semis Conf Finals Finals Champs
0.306 28 25.7 56.3 43 11 28 24 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Pos Player P/36 TS% A/36 R/36 TO/36 ST/36 BK/36 WS
G Russell Westbrook 17.4 50.9 5.9 5.6 3.5 1.5 0.3 2.0
G James Harden 3.1
F Kevin Durant 23.0 57.5 2.6 5.7 2.8 1.2 0.8 5.1
F Jeff Green 15.7 53.8 2.0 6.5 2.2 1.0 0.5 2.4
C Nenad Krstic 14.4 50.7 1.3 8.1 1.6 0.6 1.3 1.7
G/F Thabo Sefolosha 10.8 50.9 3.0 6.2 1.9 1.7 1.0 1.9
G Shaun Livingston 12.3 54.0 4.4 4.8 2.0 1.2 0.6 1.6
F/C Nick Collison 12.0 56.8 1.5 10.2 1.7 0.9 1.0 3.5
F/C Etan Thomas 11.3 54.6 1.3 8.3 2.1 0.6 1.9 0.8
G Kyle Weaver 10.2 56.3 3.2 4.4 2.1 1.4 0.8 1.4
G Kevin Ollie 9.1 50.9 4.6 3.4 1.5 0.9 0.2 0.8
C B.J. Mullens 0.8
F Ryan Bowen 8.6 53.4 1.8 5.1 1.1 1.7 0.7 0.5
F D.J. White 16.3 56.3 2.5 7.5 1.5 1.0 1.0 0.3
F Serge Ibaka 0.1

Comments: I couldn't have been more wrong about Kevin Durant. Yes, he's still a defensive liability, but the early returns had him looking like one of those high-usage/low-efficiency types you can't win with. He did more since Carlesimo got fired than he had done since leaving Texas.…I don't know if James Harden is another Brandon Roy or not, but he's very talented. There were no holes in his game in college.…Green is redundant with Durant, and he's not a PF. He won't be a part of the first great Thunder team.…Westbrook was wildly inefficient, but they need guys like him who can create. You look at the rest of this roster, aside from Durant, Westbrook, and Harden, and they need those guys to do the lion's share of the heavy lifting on offense.…I like Westbrook's defense, though. He and Harden are going to be a pretty good pair in the backcourt.…They have the talent to compete in a few years, but I don't think anybody's expecting 2009-10 to be much more than a learning experience. They'll use the time to figure out who fits long-term and what other pieces they need to go after.

12. Memphis Grizzlies (26-56, 5th in Southwest Division)

Talent Rank AvgW AvgL High Low O-Rank D-Rank Playoffs Conf Semis Conf Finals Finals Champs
0.309 27 26.0 56.0 40 9 27 26 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Pos Player P/36 TS% A/36 R/36 TO/36 ST/36 BK/36 WS
G Mike Conley 13.3 55.3 5.3 4.1 2.1 1.3 0.1 3.2
G O.J. Mayo 17.8 55.5 3.1 3.8 2.5 1.1 0.2 2.8
F Rudy Gay 18.7 54.5 1.8 5.7 2.3 1.3 0.8 3.1
F Zach Randolph 20.8 52.9 2.2 10.5 2.6 0.9 0.3 3.2
C Marc Gasol 14.2 59.5 2.1 8.6 2.3 0.9 1.3 4.2
G Allen Iverson 19.5 53.1 5.4 2.9 2.6 1.6 0.1 3.6
G Marko Jaric 9.7 48.9 4.5 4.0 2.3 1.6 0.6 0.5
C Hasheem Thabeet 1.9
F Darrell Arthur 11.2 48.3 1.3 8.5 1.2 1.3 1.3 1.3
F Sam Young 0.6
F DeMarre Carroll 0.8
G Marcus Williams 13.8 50.0 6.0 4.7 3.1 1.0 0.3 0.1
F/C Steven Hunter 13.0 54.4 2.2 7.5 1.6 1.0 1.2 0.2
C Hamed Haddadi 15.0 55.4 2.9 9.7 2.3 0.8 2.0 0.5
F Trey Gilder 0.0

Comments: There's some individual talent here. Mayo, Conley, Gay, and now Iverson? The problem with that group is giving each enough touches to keep everyone happy.…Marc Gasol was a real pleasant surprise last year. He has nice offensive skills, he can pass it and score inside. You just wish you could combine his offense with Thabeet's defense.…Thabeet is going to rebound and block shots just by virtue of his size, but there are ways of mitigating his defensive impact, and his offensive game makes Greg Oden look like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.…I question the Randolph trade. He's a black hole in the post who brings the offense to a halt whenever he touches the ball, and his work ethic is notoriously bad. I can't figure out how he fits on this roster.…Rudy Gay's development has stalled. Two years ago it looked like he was coming on, but he took a step backwards last season.…I don't envy Lionel Hollins. The chemistry on this team could be a nightmare when it's all said and done.

11. Minnesota Timberwolves (30-52, 4th in Northwest Division)

Talent Rank AvgW AvgL High Low O-Rank D-Rank Playoffs Conf Semis Conf Finals Finals Champs
0.348 26 29.7 52.3 49 17 26 23 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Pos Player P/36 TS% A/36 R/36 TO/36 ST/36 BK/36 WS
G Jonny Flynn 2.9
G Ramon Sessions 16.0 53.7 7.6 4.7 2.5 1.4 0.2 4.3
F Ryan Gomes 15.1 53.1 2.0 6.0 1.7 0.9 0.3 3.0
F/C Al Jefferson 21.6 54.3 1.6 11.0 1.9 0.8 1.6 6.3
F/C Kevin Love 16.2 55.5 1.7 12.8 2.0 0.7 0.9 3.8
G/F Corey Brewer 10.5 46.8 2.6 6.0 1.7 1.6 0.5 0.8
G/F Sasha Pavlovic 11.7 50.1 2.6 4.3 1.8 0.9 0.4 1.4
C Ryan Hollins 11.9 57.1 1.2 7.4 1.9 0.7 2.1 2.1
G Wayne Ellington 1.5
G/F Damien Wilkins 13.2 48.5 2.7 4.5 1.9 1.3 0.4 0.6
F Brian Cardinal 9.1 51.3 2.8 6.1 2.0 1.3 0.5 0.7
F Oleksiy Pecherov 15.1 51.3 1.2 8.4 1.6 0.9 0.5 0.8
C Mark Blount 13.8 50.9 1.1 6.5 2.0 0.7 0.8 0.3
G Jason Hart 10.1 43.7 4.6 4.4 2.0 1.5 0.3 0.3
G Antonio Daniels 10.6 54.0 5.7 3.2 1.8 1.0 0.1 0.8
C Nathan Jawai 14.1 54.0 2.9 6.1 2.2 1.0 0.7 0.2

Comments: They overhauled the entire roster this summer, which I thought was necessary. Most of the guys they brought in are disposable, but they're better spare parts than the guys they had before, and they have more cap flexibility now.…What do you do with all of those PGs? I think they struck out on Flynn; he didn't score enough in college, he wasn't a consistent shooter, and he's going to be a defensive liability.…Sessions can play. He's not much of an outside shooter, but he's a great passer and he'll initiate a lot of good possessions for your offense.…Jefferson and Love are an impressive duo on offense. If they both stay healthy, it's going to be tough to stop their high/low action.…I like Wayne Ellington. I don't know if he's going to play a major role this season, but he's going to be a solid player someday.…Gomes has always been underrated, but last year he had to lead them in minutes and his efficiency slipped under the strain. He's much better suited for a complementary role.…They have some core players, but there's probably not enough supplemental talent here to make a playoff push.

10. Golden State Warriors (36-46, 3rd in Pacific Division)

Talent Rank AvgW AvgL High Low O-Rank D-Rank Playoffs Conf Semis Conf Finals Finals Champs
0.435 18 36.2 45.8 51 19 13 27 2.6% 0.2% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Pos Player P/36 TS% A/36 R/36 TO/36 ST/36 BK/36 WS
G Stephen Curry 3.4
G Monta Ellis 19.0 55.8 3.9 4.6 2.3 1.5 0.3 4.3
F Stephen Jackson 18.3 53.1 4.9 4.4 3.1 1.3 0.5 3.2
F Corey Maggette 21.3 58.4 2.5 6.2 2.8 1.0 0.2 4.9
C Andris Biedrins 14.2 61.0 2.0 13.0 1.8 1.1 1.8 6.6
F Anthony Randolph 16.4 52.9 1.8 11.3 2.4 1.4 2.2 2.1
G Kelenna Azubuike 15.8 56.2 1.8 6.0 1.4 0.9 0.7 2.7
G/F Anthony Morrow 16.3 59.5 2.1 5.0 1.3 0.9 0.3 1.3
C Ronny Turiaf 11.3 55.7 3.3 7.7 1.6 0.7 3.1 2.8
G C.J. Watson 14.0 56.8 3.9 3.9 1.8 1.8 0.1 2.0
F/C Mikki Moore 10.1 59.8 1.5 7.4 1.6 0.6 0.7 1.0
F Devean George 9.0 47.7 1.3 5.0 1.1 1.1 0.6 0.5
G Acie Law 11.0 49.5 5.0 3.6 2.0 1.0 0.2 0.3
F Brandan Wright 16.6 58.2 1.4 8.3 1.3 1.1 1.8 1.1
F Richard Hendrix 0.1
G Speedy Claxton 11.0 45.0 4.9 4.2 2.3 1.7 0.4 0.1

Comments: Stephen Curry will have a nice, long NBA career like his dad did, but the question is what kind of role he's going to play. He could be a good sixth man or a decent starter, depending on how he adapts to the pro game and learns what it takes to be an NBA point guard.…Offensively, they're going to be as difficult to deal with as ever. There's a lot of redundancy, but on a Don Nelson team that's not a bad thing. The issues are going to come on the defensive side of the ball, because I don't see them being able to stop anybody.…Everybody loves Anthony Randolph, but he needs more time. His midrange game is really terrible right now.…Azubuike and Morrow have exceeded all expectations. For a couple of undrafted guys to play like they did, it really impressed me last season.…Biedrins is nice to have around but you never want him to be your best all-around player, like he was for them last year.…Maggette is an efficient offensive player because he draws fouls and makes shots, but he was a bad fit here. They needed ball movement, and Maggette kills any chance for that.

9. Phoenix Suns (46-36, 2nd in Pacific Division)

Talent Rank AvgW AvgL High Low O-Rank D-Rank Playoffs Conf Semis Conf Finals Finals Champs
0.560 12 45.6 36.4 61 26 5 22 61.4% 14.9% 4.3% 1.0% 0.1%
Pos Player P/36 TS% A/36 R/36 TO/36 ST/36 BK/36 WS
G Steve Nash 17.0 61.7 10.5 3.5 3.7 0.8 0.1 7.1
G/F Jason Richardson 18.8 56.0 2.6 5.0 1.6 1.2 0.5 5.9
F Grant Hill 14.6 57.1 2.8 5.7 1.9 1.2 0.8 4.3
F/C Amare Stoudemire 23.0 63.6 1.8 8.8 2.6 0.9 1.5 10.1
F/C Channing Frye 13.6 50.0 1.5 7.9 1.6 0.8 0.8 2.9
G Leandro Barbosa 20.1 58.8 3.5 3.7 1.9 1.5 0.2 5.2
G Goran Dragic 13.0 51.2 5.2 5.4 3.2 1.4 0.3 0.9
F Jared Dudley 11.9 55.9 2.0 6.9 1.4 1.6 0.3 3.0
F/C Earl Clark 1.9
C Robin Lopez 12.3 57.7 1.1 7.0 1.7 0.8 2.1 1.3
G/F Alando Tucker 16.9 52.5 2.1 4.9 1.8 0.8 0.4 1.1
F/C Louis Amundson 11.6 53.4 1.2 8.9 1.9 1.1 2.0 1.8
F Taylor Griffin 0.3

Comments: At least they've gone back to their old identity under Alvin Gentry. It was a mistake to look at this roster and say, "let's be a defense-first team." Not everyone can do that; sometimes you have to play to your strengths. Phoenix's strength is its offense and they should have embraced that.…Re-signing Nash was crucial, but you have to wonder how much he has left in the tank the this point.…They have some strong offensive talent, with Nash, Stoudemire, Grant Hill, Jason Richardson, etc. But it's going to be an uphill batle on defense.…Channing Frye is totally inconsistent. Sometimes his midrange game is working and he shoots well enough to be efficient, and sometimes he'll kill your offense with those same shots. You never know which version you're getting.…I love Leandro Barbosa's offensive game, and it's the perfect fit for Gentry. He needs to be out there running and gunning, not walking it up.…They're still going to compete for a playoff spot, because they do have a nice core, but I don't see them making a splash if they sneak in as an 8 seed.

8. Denver Nuggets (47-35, 3rd in Northwest Division)

Talent Rank AvgW AvgL High Low O-Rank D-Rank Playoffs Conf Semis Conf Finals Finals Champs
0.591 10 47.4 34.6 64 31 11 9 78.5% 23.4% 7.4% 2.4% 0.3%
Pos Player P/36 TS% A/36 R/36 TO/36 ST/36 BK/36 WS
G Chauncey Billups 17.9 59.3 6.7 3.2 2.3 1.3 0.3 9.4
G J.R. Smith 20.6 59.4 3.5 4.6 2.4 1.3 0.3 5.1
F Carmelo Anthony 24.7 55.5 3.5 7.1 3.1 1.2 0.4 6.5
F Kenyon Martin 13.6 53.1 2.0 7.0 1.7 1.5 1.3 4.2
C Nene Hilario 16.0 63.2 1.7 8.7 2.2 1.3 1.4 7.8
G Anthony Carter 9.2 50.3 7.0 4.1 2.8 1.9 0.4 2.2
G Arron Afflalo 11.1 54.5 1.6 4.5 1.3 0.9 0.4 1.8
F Renaldo Balkman 11.4 55.8 1.7 8.9 1.6 1.9 1.1 2.6
F/C Chris Andersen 11.4 59.4 1.0 10.4 1.7 1.0 3.9 4.5
F Malik Allen 11.1 47.3 1.9 6.4 1.4 0.6 0.9 0.7
F/C Johan Petro 11.9 47.6 1.2 9.6 1.9 1.1 1.1 0.5
G Ty Lawson 1.7
F Joey Graham 14.2 54.7 1.3 6.9 1.8 0.8 0.3 0.7

Comments: They assumed that last year represented their true talent level, and they basically stood pat. I'm not sure that was smart — they of all people should know that the margin between the #2 seed and #8 is razor-thin out West.…I can't say whether Billups changed the culture there or not, but he solved their problems at PG and SG, and gave them great efficiency in the process.…Carmelo had a down year last season, he didn't shoot it as well from midrange, and that's his bread-and-butter.…With Dahntay Jones gone, they should give J.R. Smith a chance to start. He's highly talented, and maybe a more consistent role will even out the ups and downs in his game.…Nene is legit. He was one of the keys to their performance last season.…I'm really big on Ty Lawson's game. If you can see past his height, they're getting a guy who had "can't miss" numbers at UNC. He's going to make those lottery teams regret passing on him.…They're going to have a good year, but it probably won't live up the standards they set last season.

7. Dallas Mavericks (48-34, 4th in Southwest Division)

Talent Rank AvgW AvgL High Low O-Rank D-Rank Playoffs Conf Semis Conf Finals Finals Champs
0.588 11 47.5 34.5 62 32 9 10 79.8% 24.1% 7.8% 2.2% 0.4%
Pos Player P/36 TS% A/36 R/36 TO/36 ST/36 BK/36 WS
G Jason Kidd 10.0 52.1 8.8 6.7 2.7 1.8 0.4 6.0
G Jason Terry 19.2 56.9 3.8 2.8 1.6 1.3 0.3 6.8
G/F Josh Howard 19.7 53.5 2.0 6.3 1.8 1.0 0.6 5.7
F Dirk Nowitzki 24.0 57.1 2.7 8.2 2.0 0.7 0.8 10.6
C Erick Dampier 9.3 64.0 1.5 10.7 1.6 0.5 1.8 5.0
F Shawn Marion 14.0 54.3 2.0 8.9 1.5 1.5 1.1 3.6
F/C Drew Gooden 15.6 51.6 1.5 10.1 2.1 0.9 0.7 3.4
G Jose Barea 14.3 52.6 5.7 4.2 2.4 0.9 0.2 1.6
G Quinton Ross 8.6 47.6 1.8 4.2 1.0 1.1 0.6 0.8
G Matt Carroll 12.6 53.0 1.6 4.2 1.4 1.0 0.3 0.8
F Shawne Williams 14.5 51.0 2.0 7.1 1.8 0.8 1.1 0.6
F Tim Thomas 15.0 53.0 2.6 6.0 1.9 0.9 0.4 0.9
F/C Kris Humphries 15.3 52.8 1.5 9.5 1.6 1.0 1.0 0.6
G Rodrigue Beaubois 0.2
F James Singleton 12.9 59.6 1.1 9.6 1.6 1.1 1.1 1.0

Comments: Carlisle can really coach. They were in total disarray after the Kidd trade, letting Avery Johnson go, etc., and he found a way to restore order to that situation. Nobody thought they were a 50-win, 2nd-round team going into last year.…Shawn Marion's effectiveness is all about using him the right way. Miami and Toronto didn't understand that, but I think Dallas will.…Dirk is 31 and he fell to sub-MVP levels of production last season. We could be seeing the beginning of the decline phase of his career.…Everyone hates Erick Dampier, and he certainly has plenty of weaknesses, but he's super-efficient on the rare occasions he does something with the ball, and he's not as bad a defender or rebounder as you might think.…Josh Howard doesn't operate well outside of those isolations they used to run. He's not a great fit for them anymore.…They certainly have depth now, they're versatile, they can throw a lot of different combinations at you. But in the end it's going to come down to Dirk making jump shots, it always has.

6. Houston Rockets (49-33, 3rd in Southwest Division)

Talent Rank AvgW AvgL High Low O-Rank D-Rank Playoffs Conf Semis Conf Finals Finals Champs
0.606 9 48.5 33.5 63 32 15 4 85.9% 29.7% 11.0% 3.7% 0.7%
Pos Player P/36 TS% A/36 R/36 TO/36 ST/36 BK/36 WS
G Aaron Brooks 16.2 53.3 4.4 3.2 2.3 0.9 0.2 4.4
G/F Shane Battier 8.8 56.4 2.2 5.0 1.0 0.9 1.0 6.3
F Trevor Ariza 13.6 55.9 2.7 6.6 1.6 2.3 0.5 6.9
F Carl Landry 16.1 63.3 1.2 8.7 1.6 0.7 0.7 7.2
F/C Luis Scola 15.1 56.4 1.9 9.9 1.8 1.0 0.2 7.4
G Kyle Lowry 13.4 55.4 5.6 4.4 2.3 1.5 0.4 3.5
C David Andersen 1.4
G Tracy McGrady 19.4 49.5 5.5 5.0 2.3 1.2 0.5 4.5
F Chuck Hayes 6.1 49.1 1.9 10.1 1.3 1.6 0.8 2.8
G Jermaine Taylor 1.1
F/C Pops Mensah-Bonsu 14.6 48.8 1.6 11.4 2.3 1.1 0.7 1.0
F/C Joey Dorsey 15.0 55.0 3.3 6.2 2.0 1.1 0.7 0.7
F Chase Budinger 0.5
F Brian Cook 14.7 50.2 1.9 6.6 2.2 0.8 0.7 0.5

Comments: Yao is out, McGrady is gone for half the season. People ask, how will they survive? It's simple: defense. They're going to be one of the league's best defensive teams.…Artest left for L.A., but I think Ariza can more than make up the difference. He's more durable, less selfish, more efficient, and might even be a better defender at this stage.…Luis Scola is their top player, and he'll have to continue to be efficient at both ends. But Aaron Brooks will be the facilitator — if they commit to that up-tempo style, he'll be the guy they rely on to create chances for everybody.…Kyle Lowry is another guy that you have to figure will take on more usage. He's real savvy; he'll draw fouls, then get you to back off and pull from midrange.…This looks like the grand usage-efficiency experiment we've wanted to see. Look at that starting 5 — there's not a bona fide scorer there, but they've all been efficient in lesser roles and they all play tough D. Before McGrady returns, we're going to find out whether a group like this can still have a decent offense, or if they fall apart under the increased usage load.

5. New Orleans Hornets (51-31, 2nd in Southwest Division)

Talent Rank AvgW AvgL High Low O-Rank D-Rank Playoffs Conf Semis Conf Finals Finals Champs
0.637 8 51.2 30.8 68 35 8 7 94.9% 45.3% 18.8% 7.2% 1.6%
Pos Player P/36 TS% A/36 R/36 TO/36 ST/36 BK/36 WS
G Chris Paul 20.9 59.7 10.4 4.8 2.6 2.5 0.1 17.0
F Peja Stojakovic 15.1 54.7 1.4 4.5 0.9 0.8 0.1 5.2
F Julian Wright 12.3 52.8 2.3 7.0 1.9 1.6 0.8 2.6
F David West 19.1 53.8 2.2 8.0 2.0 0.7 0.9 7.6
C Emeka Okafor 14.8 57.2 0.9 11.2 2.0 0.7 1.9 6.8
G Darren Collison 1.1
G Devin Brown 13.1 48.6 3.0 5.2 2.1 1.1 0.2 0.9
G/F James Posey 11.1 56.7 1.7 6.2 1.3 1.1 0.4 3.1
F Darius Songaila 12.9 54.4 2.5 5.7 1.9 1.4 0.5 1.7
C Hilton Armstrong 11.1 57.0 1.2 7.0 2.6 0.9 1.5 1.3
G/F Morris Peterson 13.1 53.1 1.4 5.0 1.1 1.0 0.2 1.8
G Bobby Brown 14.3 49.5 4.4 2.7 2.3 0.9 0.2 0.3
G Marcus Thornton 0.6
F Ike Diogu 18.3 57.5 1.5 8.9 2.3 0.7 0.7 0.8
F/C Sean Marks 9.7 52.5 1.0 7.8 1.6 0.5 1.4 0.4

Comments: It all begins and ends with Chris Paul. He's the game's best PG, and he's going to win an MVP one of these days.…The Peja deal was a mistake — he wasn't worth the money then and he certainly isn't worth it now. It really hampered their flexibility going forward and prevented them from putting a stronger cast around Paul.…David West was a borderline All-Star; he made the team but you could definitely make the case that he didn't deserve it. Either way, though, he's a solid enough sidekick for CP3.…They asked James Posey to do more than he had in Miami or Boston, and predictably he declined. Any time he's edging close to 30 MPG, you've maxed out his abilities.…I don't really get the Okafor trade. They say he's an upgrade over Chandler, but is that even true? And if so, how much of an upgrade could he possibly be to justify the extra years on his contract?…Their bench is a mixed bag. I like Collison as backup material, but the less you see of some of these other guys, the better.

4. Utah Jazz (54-28, 2nd in Northwest Division)

Talent Rank AvgW AvgL High Low O-Rank D-Rank Playoffs Conf Semis Conf Finals Finals Champs
0.675 6 53.7 28.3 68 39 4 8 98.5% 60.8% 32.5% 16.2% 4.6%
Pos Player P/36 TS% A/36 R/36 TO/36 ST/36 BK/36 WS
G Deron Williams 18.5 58.4 10.1 3.0 3.2 1.1 0.3 9.4
G Ronnie Brewer 15.7 58.6 2.5 4.2 1.4 2.0 0.4 7.4
F Andrei Kirilenko 14.0 56.6 3.8 6.0 2.3 1.5 1.7 5.6
F Carlos Boozer 20.1 56.1 2.8 11.1 2.5 1.2 0.4 6.9
C Mehmet Okur 17.5 57.7 2.0 8.2 1.8 0.8 0.7 7.1
G Ronnie Price 11.9 49.8 4.8 3.7 2.5 1.8 0.3 0.9
G Kyle Korver 14.5 57.6 2.4 4.6 1.7 0.9 0.6 2.9
F Paul Millsap 15.7 57.8 2.1 10.2 2.0 1.3 1.3 6.9
C Kosta Koufos 14.9 56.0 1.8 8.5 1.7 0.9 1.7 1.6
F C.J. Miles 15.0 56.2 2.6 4.1 1.5 1.2 0.4 1.9
F Matt Harpring 15.4 53.3 1.9 6.3 2.1 1.2 0.4 0.5
G Eric Maynor 1.2
G/F Wesley Matthews 0.6
C Kyrylo Fesenko 12.9 54.4 2.0 8.0 2.2 1.2 2.0 0.8

Comments: They didn't make any changes this summer, and that was kind of the point.…Boozer didn't opt out, but they needed to re-sign Paul Millsap to keep their options open at PF. Millsap played better than anybody expected after Boozer went down, so now they've got that logjam at the 4 again. If he's his old self, Boozer is obviously the better of the two, but that's far from a given.…Everybody was hurt for them last year. If they get Deron Williams, Boozer, Kirilenko, etc. healthy and back to the way they played a few years ago, look out, this team will be dangerous.…Ronnie Brewer is one of the most underrated players in basketball, at least offensively — he's athletic, he'll drive on you and draw fouls. His efficiency numbers have been sky-high. His weakness is shooting, though, and he needs to get better on D.…They run hot and cold. They'll have stretches where they look like they can beat anybody, and then they'll go out and lose to somebody inferior.…They need to get better on the road. You're not going to succeed in the playoffs if you don't win away games.

3. Portland Trail Blazers (54-28, 1st in Northwest Division)

Talent Rank AvgW AvgL High Low O-Rank D-Rank Playoffs Conf Semis Conf Finals Finals Champs
0.667 7 54.1 27.9 68 39 2 11 99.0% 60.8% 31.1% 14.2% 4.2%
Pos Player P/36 TS% A/36 R/36 TO/36 ST/36 BK/36 WS
G Steve Blake 11.5 54.0 5.8 3.0 1.8 1.0 0.1 4.3
G Brandon Roy 20.6 56.8 5.1 4.7 1.8 1.1 0.3 11.4
F Nicolas Batum 11.3 57.2 2.0 5.7 1.3 1.3 1.0 3.4
F LaMarcus Aldridge 17.9 53.8 1.8 7.6 1.5 0.9 1.1 8.3
C Greg Oden 15.2 60.7 1.1 11.3 2.3 0.7 1.8 4.9
G Andre Miller 15.9 53.8 6.5 4.3 2.5 1.3 0.2 5.3
G/F Rudy Fernandez 15.0 59.7 2.9 4.0 1.6 1.3 0.3 4.9
F Juwan Howard 12.1 51.1 2.2 6.8 2.0 0.6 0.4 0.8
C Joel Przybilla 8.2 62.3 0.7 12.5 1.6 0.5 1.8 5.1
F Travis Outlaw 17.1 53.3 1.5 5.7 1.6 0.9 1.0 3.2
G/F Martell Webster 13.6 55.6 1.7 5.2 1.5 0.8 0.5 1.2
G Jerryd Bayless 13.4 51.6 4.2 3.9 2.8 1.0 0.2 0.9
F Dante Cunningham 0.3
G Patrick Mills 0.0
F Jeff Pendergraph 0.0

Comments: How is Andre Miller going to fit in? Not in terms of playing style — I know he likes an up-tempo offense, and he's not going to knock down open jumpers when they double Roy, but they'll work through that. I mean in terms of their rotation: he's an upgrade over Steve Blake talent-wise, but they're talking about starting Blake and bringing Miller off the bench, and where exactly does Bayless fit?…Batum had a really solid season. He's not the greatest defender yet, but he's efficient, and they played some of their best ball when he was in the lineup.…If Oden ever figures out how to stop fouling and play straight up, he's going to become an elite center really quickly.…Fernandez's game is scary good. He played D, shot well, had those highlight dunks. He's dynamic in every sense of the word.…Roy is quickly approaching Kobe levels of production. He's not as good defensively, but he's getting there. If that statement sounds absurd, then you haven't been paying attention, to either player.…They're going to be really good. That setback vs. Houston was a learning experience; I think you're going to see them motivated and ready from the start.

2. San Antonio Spurs (55-27, 1st in Southwest Division)

Talent Rank AvgW AvgL High Low O-Rank D-Rank Playoffs Conf Semis Conf Finals Finals Champs
0.683 5 54.7 27.3 72 36 7 5 99.4% 65.5% 36.5% 19.4% 6.0%
Pos Player P/36 TS% A/36 R/36 TO/36 ST/36 BK/36 WS
G Tony Parker 21.9 55.7 6.8 3.5 2.6 1.0 0.1 8.5
G Manu Ginobili 21.2 59.8 4.8 5.8 2.9 1.8 0.5 8.5
F Richard Jefferson 19.7 55.9 2.6 4.4 2.1 0.8 0.2 6.2
F Antonio McDyess 11.5 52.1 1.6 10.8 1.2 0.9 0.9 5.4
F/C Tim Duncan 20.3 54.7 3.5 11.3 2.4 0.7 1.9 9.6
G Roger Mason 14.3 55.6 2.6 3.5 1.5 0.7 0.3 3.8
G George Hill 13.0 52.1 3.9 4.8 2.0 1.3 0.6 2.0
F Michael Finley 12.6 52.8 1.9 4.2 1.0 0.6 0.3 2.9
F Matt Bonner 12.9 58.5 1.6 7.3 1.0 0.8 0.5 4.4
C Theo Ratliff 7.8 54.0 1.1 7.4 1.3 0.9 2.5 1.2
G Keith Bogans 11.2 54.0 1.9 5.1 1.1 1.1 0.2 1.2
F Marcus Williams 15.3 52.8 3.2 6.9 1.8 1.1 0.7 0.1
F DeJuan Blair 0.7
C Ian Mahinmi 9.5 50.1 1.2 10.4 2.2 0.6 1.2 0.2
G Malik Hairston 13.7 53.0 3.2 6.5 2.4 1.3 1.2 0.1
F Marcus Haislip 0.1

Comments: Jefferson is going to be really good for them. He's no Bowen defensively, but he can hold his own against scoring wings, and he's got a nice, versatile offensive game that will take pressure off of Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili.…Too often, we've seen an injury to Ginobili derail them, so it will be important for them to keep him fresh, monitor his minutes to minimize the risk of him getting hurt before the playoffs.…There's a reason Duncan is maybe the best PF ever. He's so consistent, but you wonder if he'll ever start to decline. I think the slide may have already started on defense last year; he was not as dominant as we've been accustomed to seeing.…Parker was outstanding last year. He routinely carried them on offense, which early in his career I never thought he'd be able to do.…We talked about the Wallace signing being a savvy veteran move for Boston, but McDyess to San Antonio is in the same class. They have different styles and personalities, but they both bring efficiency and smarts to a champiosnhip-ready team.…DeJuan Blair should never have fallen to #37. He's a rebounding machine; I wouldn't be surprised if he was the next Paul Millsap.

1. Los Angeles Lakers (57-25, 1st in Pacific Division)

Talent Rank AvgW AvgL High Low O-Rank D-Rank Playoffs Conf Semis Conf Finals Finals Champs
0.715 3 57.4 24.6 70 42 3 6 99.9% 75.4% 50.7% 33.7% 12.8%
Pos Player P/36 TS% A/36 R/36 TO/36 ST/36 BK/36 WS
G Derek Fisher 13.0 53.8 3.8 2.8 1.3 1.4 0.1 4.7
G Kobe Bryant 26.2 56.5 4.8 5.4 2.7 1.5 0.5 11.6
F Ron Artest 17.8 52.1 3.3 5.4 2.2 1.7 0.5 5.8
F Pau Gasol 18.6 60.7 3.4 9.1 2.0 0.6 1.2 10.7
C Andrew Bynum 17.1 61.9 2.0 10.5 2.0 0.5 2.3 7.9
G Jordan Farmar 14.1 52.4 4.7 4.0 2.4 1.7 0.3 2.0
G/F Luke Walton 11.1 51.0 4.9 5.8 2.1 1.1 0.4 2.3
F Lamar Odom 13.7 55.5 3.3 9.7 2.1 1.1 1.2 6.7
C Didier Ilunga-Mbenga 12.0 50.7 2.0 6.7 2.0 1.3 2.8 0.7
G Sasha Vujacic 14.6 56.6 2.8 4.2 1.2 1.7 0.2 3.3
F Josh Powell 12.1 49.9 1.6 9.1 2.3 0.5 0.8 0.7
G Shannon Brown 15.7 52.9 2.9 4.0 2.7 1.6 0.6 0.5
F Adam Morrison 12.4 47.1 2.4 4.2 1.8 0.5 0.2 0.2

Comments: Everyone's worried about Artest screwing up their chemistry, but I'd be worried about how his playing style fits in. He's selfish, he's a ball-stopper. He does his best work on teams without other offensive options, but he's going to struggle to find a role in this lineup.…Dumping Ariza for him was a downgrade, maybe at both ends. Ariza was suited to the role-player mindset, and he was getting better defensively each year. Meanwhile, Artest's D has been declining for years. They made one offseason move, and it probably made them worse.…This roster is stacked. They can throw a variety of looks at you, they can go big or small. When they have everybody firing on all cylinders and working within the triangle, they're incredibly difficult to stop.…They're not a mortal lock to win the West, but it's hard not to see them representing the conference in the Finals next summer.

The Western Conference Playoffs

First Round

  • #1 LA Lakers over #8 Denver
  • #4 Utah over #5 New Orleans
  • #2 San Antonio over #7 Dallas
  • #3 Portland over #7 Houston

Semifinals

  • #1 LA Lakers over #4 Utah
  • #2 San Antonio over #3 Portland

Finals

  • #1 LA Lakers over #2 San Antonio

NBA Finals

  • Cleveland over LA Lakers
Outcome Probability
Cleveland in 4 12.3%
Lakers in 4 2.4%
Cleveland in 5 23.4%
Lakers in 5 5.0%
Cleveland in 6 18.2%
Lakers in 6 10.5%
Cleveland in 7 19.0%
Lakers in 7 9.1%

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14 Responses to “2009-10 Western Conference Preview”

  1. P Middy Says:

    Those Clippers! Man! Griffin is out for six weeks. Davis had one of the biggest production drop-offs I've seen in my stat-watching lifetime last year. Camby is injury prone. Their horrific injury bug even hit Kaman last year. Is it just me, or do you do everything at this point if you're director of operations? Bring in the Shamans, Exorcists, whatever. Hire a whole new training staff. It's gotten ugly.

  2. Boss Says:

    Funny thing is, Artest hasn't been shooting at all during preseason. His D and passing have been great though. I find it tough to believe that the Lakers could lose 25 games if they are healthy.

  3. Anon Says:

    Got any Finals predictions Neil?

  4. Joe Schaller Says:

    Utah, perennially showing huge potential and rarely living up to it.

    Along with the Clips the T-Wolves are off to a bad start with injuries. I thought Minnesota would surprise this year but I said that last year too only to have Big Al go down.

    I figure one of San Antonio, Denver or Portland to seriously challenge the Lakers. I don't regard Artest as an upgrade over Ariza on pure talent and certainly not when considering the potential disruption.

  5. Jason J Says:

    Are the Wolves really planning to start Flynn and Sessions? They'll need booster chairs to play defense. Also neither of them is really a great shooter. No, sir. I don't like it.

    I've been reading a lot of nay-saying on the Artest pick up, but I think he does make them better. He's a better shooter from deep than we give him credit for (significantly better than Ariza), and he's a good passer as well. He'll slow down their breaking offense some, which isn't so good since that's how they cracked a lot of games open last year, but he gives them another post option and a constant mismatch to exploit. Defensively I don't like him on 2s as much as Ariza, but on powerful 3s like Melo or Bron, he's an upgrade.

  6. Walter Says:

    Yeah.... I think the Lakers comments are way off base. Artest has been anything but selfish so far (he actually needs to shoot more), and I think you over valued Ariza defensively. I distinctly remember watching Kobe Bryant wrestle with Artest in the 2nd round and Carmelo in the conference finals because Ariza couldn't take their physicality. Having Kobe wrestle the bigger small forwards is not good for the Lakers (or Kobe's body). Ariza is great at jumping passing lanes and playing small quick players. The Lakers are likely going to see Pierce or Lebron in the finals and both of those guys are the strong type of SF that Ariza can't guard (Kobe and Odom had Lebron duty last year for that reason). Artest is a MUCH better defensive fit for their potential finals oppenent.

    Also, people praise Ariza for his great playoff run and shooting in the finals but did you see what Turkoglu did to him offensively:
    NBA Finals: 18.0 pts, 49% FG, 44% 3P
    Reg Season: 16.8 pts, 41% FG, 36% 3P

  7. Jared Ras Says:

    Clippers and Thunder have ZERO chance to make the playoffs? I know that's from your 10,000 seasons simulation based on talent ranks, but I'll give them outside shots... I think the Thunder, as much as it pains me to say it, have some talent.

  8. Pariuri Sportive Says:

    I don't think that Ron Artest will fit great in the LAL team especially aside K.Bryant.
    San Antonio Spurs have the better boost from McDyess and R. Jefferson than LAL has from Artest. This season could be one of the latest for Duncan for beeing the #1 at the end of the playoff 2009-2010. Go Spurs Go!

  9. Joe Schaller Says:

    Opening game: Artest 3-10fg (1-5 3-pt), 3-7 ft. This is my concern about Ron. He puts up too many shots at a low percentage. Many will be watching to see if this continues.

  10. khandor Says:

    Joe,

    IMO, the only stat of concern for this year's version of the Lakers is the number in the W column. Thus far, it's 1 [for 1]. As long as the numbers continue to pile up in that column there are going to be a whole bunch of smiling faces in LaLaland this season. As suggested by Reggie Miller and Kenny Smith during last night's TV broadcast, it is going to be every difficult indeed for any team in the NBA to beat the Lakers this season.

  11. Gerrit Says:

    Joe,

    You think his free throws are bad shots? He got to the line 7 times, that's generally a efficient basketball.

  12. Joe Schaller Says:

    Lakers fans are such a sensitive bunch. Do ya think the Lakers might be favorites? Duh! Considering Artest's history, to suggest that there can be no concerns seems a little nutty to me.
    Are four missed free throws out of seven attempts bad shots? Was his shot selection with the Rockets bad? I guess it depends on your definition of bad.

  13. Gerrit Says:

    Joe,

    It struck me as odd that you mentioned that he missed four of his seven free throws as evidence of bad shot selection.

    Watching the game it seemed as though Artest's shot selection was good, they just weren't falling.

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