Sports

Diehl ’18: The far-too-brief NBA Preview: The Northwest/Pacific Divisions

By
Sports Columnist
Friday, November 6, 2015

It’s time to preview the final two divisions out West. With more skimpy analysis and ludicrous predictions than ever before, this promises to be the most mediocre preview of them all.

 

Northwest Division

1. Oklahoma City Thunder

Best-case scenario: The big three of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka stay healthy for the regular season — and most importantly, the playoffs. Dion Waiters also stays out of the way.

Worst-case scenario: Enes Kanter sinks them on defense, and Durant gets hurt again. Barring that, the Thunder are looking to compete with the best of the West.

Bold prediction: The Thunder beat the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals and advance to the NBA Finals to play the Cavaliers.

2. Utah Jazz

Best-case scenario: Rudy Gobert continues to be a revelation, the young guns develop quickly and the Jazz make the playoffs for the first time in three years.

Worst-case scenario: The Jazz can’t find a suitable point guard to steer them to the playoffs, and they take another trip to the lottery.

Bold prediction: Derrick Favors makes his first all-star team in leading the Jazz to the playoffs.

3. Portland Trail Blazers

Best-case scenario: Damien Lillard and C. J. McCollum propel this young team to a better record than anyone expects while the bigs show surprising production down low.

Worst-case scenario: The youth movement is too enthusiastic, and the Blazers head to the lottery.

Bold prediction: Lillard finishes in the top five in the NBA for scoring, but the Blazers miss the playoffs.

4. Minnesota Timberwolves

Best-case scenario: Karl-Anthony Towns wins Rookie of the Year, and the Wolves finish with a record close to .500.

Worst-case scenario: The emotional toll of Flip Saunders’ death is too much for the young pups, and they spend another year lurking close to the bottom of the league.

Bold prediction: These guys are better than most people give them credit for, and Ricky Rubio emerges as a more complete point guard.

5. Denver Nuggets

Best-case scenario: Their TV contract runs out after five games to spare their fans the terrible product the Nuggets would have put on the court this season.

Worst-case scenario: Emmanuel Mudiay decides to take advantage of the legal weed laws in Denver, and the rest of the Nuggets quit basketball and decide to try their hands (or feet) at skiing.

Bold prediction: The Nuggets are deep in the lottery by the end of the year.

 

Five things I want to see:

1. The Thunder stay healthy all year. The NBA deserves to see them at full force for an entire season.

2. Gobert wins Defensive Player of the Year. ALL SALUTE THE STIFLE TOWER, BABY!

3. Lillard starts the all-star game. It’s Dame time.

4. Towns wins Rookie of the Year.

5. Josef Nurkic actually becomes a pro-skier — the biggest of all time.

Pacific Division

1. Golden State Warriors

Best-case scenario: The Warriors repeat exactly what they did last year. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Worst-case scenario: Without Steve Kerr on the bench, the Warriors are lost and somehow don’t make the NBA Finals.

Bold prediction: While there’s no reason to think the Warriors won’t repeat as champions, some unforeseen circumstances prevent them from doing so. Maybe Andrew Bogut decides to become the next Crocodile Hunter, or Draymond Green decides to make a career out of being annoying.

2. Los Angeles Clippers

Best-case scenario: The Clips — with the additions of Paul Pierce, Lance Stephenson and Josh Smith — are able to finally turn a top-heavy roster into a title contender with real depth.

Worst-case scenario: Pierce breaks down, Stephenson blows in some more ears and the Clips can’t find a consistent desire to win.

Bold prediction: The Clippers, yet again, fall in the second round of the playoffs. Cue GM Doc Rivers attempting to fire Coach Doc Rivers.

3. Phoenix Suns

Best-case scenario: The double point guard system of Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight finally clicks, and the Suns scorch their way into the playoffs.

Worst-case scenario: The wild West proves to be too challenging for Phoenix’s current roster to compete for a playoff spot, and the Suns wind up in the lottery again.

Bold prediction: The Suns just miss out on a spot in the playoffs to my hometown Jazz.

4. Sacramento Kings

Best-case scenario: By some miracle, George Karl, Rajon Rondo and DeMarcus Cousins get along. Don’t bet on it.

Worst-case scenario: The Kings crash and burn under expectations of making the playoffs. Bet on it.

Bold prediction: The roster looks very different next year.

5. Los Angeles Lakers

Best-case scenario: Kobe Bryant gets hurt. That’s the only way the Lakers have a shot at being respectable.

Worst-case scenario: Kobe stays healthy, taking away valuable minutes from D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson.

Bold prediction: The Lakers finish with the worst record in the NBA.

Five things I want to see:

1. Riley Curry take over for Luke Walton as honorary coach for a Warriors game.

2. The Clippers make the Conference Finals. It deserves the entertainment.

3. Jeff Hornacek break out the first-ever four point guard starting lineup.

4. Rondo, Cousins and Karl join Gordon Ramsay in “Kitchen Nightmares NBA Edition: A Recipe for Disaster.”

5. Kobe says “I suck.” Then “I really suck.” Then “I really freaking suck.” Then “My greatness was a lie. I’m sorry I ever knocked the Jazz out of the playoffs.” A boy can dream, can’t he?

And that wraps up the previews. Time to look forward to the NBA season, during which the things that happen are even crazier than anything written in this column. Go Jazz!

Joe Diehl ’18 wore his Trey Burke Jazz jersey on opening night and people said “cute costume.” Boost his self esteem by writing nice things to joseph_diehl@brown.edu.