Seeds 11 through 15
11. Sacramento Kings
With the additions of veterans George Hill, Zach Randolph and Vince Carter to pair alongside Sacramento’s young core, I actually really like what the organization has done this offseason. If they were in the Eastern Conference, I could even very well see the Kings turning into a playoff team this upcoming year.
However, they are indeed not in the Eastern Conference and despite some talented guys on the roster, the Kings more than likely will not be able to quite keep their heads above water in the crowded West, thus the 11th seed will likely be pretty close to their ceiling.
12. New Orleans Pelicans
It was a small sample size last year, but the New Orleans Pelicans went just 7-10 with DeMarcus Cousins in their ranks. I have a feeling that sooner rather than later we may have to accept the fact that Boogie simply isn’t a winner. Anthony Davis is an elite talent and I love what Jrue Holiday brings to the table, but I don’t think this team has enough other guys on the roster that will make them truly competitive.
Although they finished tenth in the conference last season, I don’t see them improving all that much whereas several other teams – such as Minnesota and even Sacramento – have made significant improvements this offseason that very well ought to push New Orleans even further down the standings.
13. Dallas Mavericks
The Dallas Mavericks lack the talent to be daunting in a crowded Western Conference, but they also have enough vets and a solid enough coach to prevent them from completely bottoming out. This is a sad way for Dirk Nowitzki to finish up his career, but his loyalty to the franchise – and theirs to him – is commendable.
The Mavs will be able to outsmart opponents to log some wins this season, but at the end of the day they likely won’t have the juice to truly compete.
14. Los Angeles Lakers
Sorry, Lavar, but I don’t think even Lonzo Ball will be enough to save the Los Angeles Lakers this season. This is a young team that, as last year clearly showed us, still has a lot to figure out. Perhaps they’ll be a bit of a surprise and leapfrog a few of the teams I have pinned ahead of them, but I see no way that they come anywhere close to sniffing the playoffs.
15. Phoenix Suns
It will be yet another rebuilding year for the Phoenix Suns as they direct their attention solely on the future. They’ve been down for quite some time and unfortunately with how formidably built the Western Conference is, they may remain that way for a while yet.
As I mentioned earlier, in truth these rankings are very premature and could very well change dramatically based on the offseason moves that clearly have yet to be done. While most of the top free agents have already been picked up, one or two savvy signings could have big implications for any one of these Western Conference teams.
And although I pinned the Jazz higher than even I suspected they ought to be, if someone had told me they would have been the fifth seed this last year at the beginning of the 2016-17 season, I would have had a hard time believing it. I tend to be a pro at jinxing the Jazz, though, so we’ll see whether my optimism ends up being on point or poorly misplaced.
However, even when looking at the daunting landscape in the Western Conference, I feel very much inclined to put my trust securely in Quin Snyder, Rudy Gobert and the rest of the Jazz front office and roster. Losing Hayward was a tough blow, but this team still has plenty of pieces that should help it compete, especially considering that several other squads have plenty to figure out about their own rosters as well.