Were 290 days away from next year’s NBA season but that hasn’t stopped ESPN’s NBA Insider Kevin Pelton from projecting next year’s NBA playoffs.
I don’t have any huge problems with the Eastern Conference. There are a couple teams I’d slightly change up, but nothing major. Where I have my problem is the Western Conference. The two teams I’m surprised that someone with so much NBA knowledge would leave out are the Los Angeles Lakers and the San Antonio Spurs.
LeBron James has led his team to the NBA Finals eight years in a row. Yes, I realize he was in the weaker Eastern Conference, but that doesn’t take anything away that he’s done. I don’t see how a player who has done this much will miss the playoffs.
Many of these experts haven’t warmed up to this new-look Lakers team. They now have a veteran leader and the best player in the NBA. They have a couple of budding stars in Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball. They seem to have what it takes to at least make the playoffs.
Pelton also excluded the San Antonio Spurs from his projected playoff bracket after trading their star player in Kawhi Leonard and losing long-time Spur Tony Parker. So between the two players they lost from last year’s roster, they lost a combined 6.6 points, 0.8 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game. However, in the trade involving Leonard, the team received DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl from the Toronto Raptors. These two players combined for 28.1 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game last season.
We also can’t forget the Spurs still have one of the best coaches in NBA history.
So, if I’m sitting here complaining how Pelton’s projection for next season’s playoffs look, that means I should probably list mine and see how we compare.
1. Golden State Warriors
They’re last year’s champions and added one of the best big men in the league in DeMarcus Cousins. Even though Cousins isn’t expected to return until about halfway through the season, the Warriors have the team to lead the West.
2. Houston Rockets
The Rockets lost two key players in Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute, but found a way to re-sign Clint Capela and will have Carmelo Anthony on the team next season. They may not be as good as they were last season, but I don’t see them dropping too far in the standings.
3. Utah Jazz
The Jazz came on the scene last season with a surprising year from rookie Donovan Mitchell. If Rudy Gobert can stay healthy, the Jazz have some potential.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder and Carmelo Anthony decided to part ways during the off season. The Thunder found some success with Anthony on the bench last season. We all thought Paul George would run off to LA this offseason, but George has decided to stay for some unfinished business.
5. San Antonio Spurs
I spoke on this above. The Spurs dropped Kawhi and replaced him with an All-Star caliber player in DeMar DeRozan and a good role player in Poeltl. I’m not giving up on the Spurs just because they lost their best player; the Spurs are still a playoff team.
6. Los Angeles Lakers
I also spoke on the Lakers. No way do I believe this team will miss the playoffs with the best player in the league on their team. I admit, it will be interesting how this team plays out, but LeBron has always found a way to bring teams together and make them competitive.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves
The Timberwolves are bringing back their starting lineup from last season. For the last couple seasons, I’ve been high on the Wolves and they’ve continued to underwhelm.
8. Portland Trailblazers
I have the Trailblazers beating out the Denver Nuggets for the last playoff spot. I’m not completely sold on this team so I wouldn’t be surprised if the Nuggets slipped into the playoff field.
My standings can also be scrutinized such as I did to Kevin Peltons list, so if you have a problem with my list or want to discuss on who I left out or where I got mine wrong then feel free to discuss this with me on Twitter (@DatDudesBench).