Too-early but in-depth Predictions for the West: TIER 3 – NON CONTENDERS

 

TIER 3: NON CONTENDERS

(15) Phoenix Suns

Tier 3
Devin Booker is an emerging star to build around for the Suns.

Actual record last year: 24-58 (-5.6 point differential)

Record should have been

The team went on a desperate tank run to end the year, but even without that their talent level was still about at the 25-30 win level.

Impact adds

SF Josh Jackson (R)

Impact losses

C Alex Len?

Predicted win-loss total

I’ve written numerous times about why I feel like Josh Jackson was the #1 prospect in the NBA Draft, both during the college season and during the draft process.

That said, I don’t expect anyone to agree with that projection right now. In fact, I don’t expect anyone to agree with that projection after this year, given that Jackson may stumble out of the gate as he tries to develop his shot.

Check back in Year 3 to see that come to fruition. In the meantime, Suns fans will have to suffer through the growing pains of Jackson’s iffy shot, and Marquese Chriss‘ iffy defensive IQ, in another rebuilding year. record: 25-57.

(14) Sacramento Kings

Actual record last year: 32-50 (-3.9 point differential)

Record should have been

The Kings’ record last year came with half a year of DeMarcus Cousins. Without a veteran like Boogie, that same team may have been closer to 25 wins.

Impact adds

PG George Hill, PG De’Aaron Fox (R), C Zach Randolph

Impact losses

SF Rudy Gay, PG Darren Collison, SG Arron Afflalo

Predicted win-loss total

I’m a big George Hill fan, but it feels to me like most of their veteran additions (like Zach Randolph and Vince Carter) were made with the intention of teaching their young pups good habits and work ethic rather than a genuine belief in a playoff push.

If the Kings did want to try their asses off to make the playoffs, I’d be more bullish on my projected record. However, we have to keep in mind that this is a team that’s going to lose their draft pick in 2019 — this season will be their last chance in a while to net an impact lottery star. Given that, I’d expect a HARDCORE tank to close out the year, with all those old vets suddenly coming down with an awful case of the “flu”. record: 27-55

(13) Los Angeles Lakers

Actual record last year: 26-56 (-6.9 point differential)

Record should have been

Oddly enough, the Lakers’ 26 wins last year may have been an overachievement. They rattled off some unexpected wins at the beginning and end of the year, but for the meaty portion of the middle, they looked fairly lost. Their point differential was worse than Phoenix’s, and you can argue they should have been below 25 wins.

Impact adds

PG Lonzo Ball (R), C Brook Lopez

Impact losses

PG D’Angelo Russell, SG Nick Young

Predicted win-loss total

Everyone wants a “hot take” on Lonzo Ball, but I don’t really have one. He was my #3 prospect overall, but I imagine his shot and his overall game will be a work in progress. In terms of overall impact, first-year Lonzo Ball may be the equivalent to second-year D’Angelo Russell and an overall wash. The Lakers will suffer more in the short-term from the loss of Lou Williams (who got traded last year) and Nick Young, both of whom shot well for the team this past year.

There are two reasons why I’d expect a slightly better Lakers team: #1) Brandon Ingram should improve. #2) The team has no motivation to “tank” because they don’t have their draft pick. That should mean extended minutes for competent center Brook Lopez and extra effort in a world where the teams like Sacramento are tanking around them. I would expect this team to be among the worst early in the year but grab a few wins late. record: 28-54

(12) Dallas Mavericks

Actual record last year: 33-49 (-2.9 point differential)

Record should have been

Given their point differential and the amount of injuries, their record was about what you’d expect.

Impact adds

PG Dennis Smith Jr. (R)

Impact losses

No one notable yet

Predicted win-loss total

I’m high on the long-term potential of this Mavs’ core, where Dennis Smith Jr. has that alpha dog “take charge” personality to eventually be a #1 option. If that’s true, Harrison Barnes will settle into his more natural role of 2nd/3rd banana, and Nerlens Noel can focus on being a terror on the defensive side of the court (presuming they retain him, as expected.)

In the meantime, it’s difficult to expect that to happen right away. Smith will be a high-volume player who may contend for Rookie of the Year based on his raw stats alone, but may not do it with much efficiency in year one. record: 35-47.

Full Series:
Eastern Conference: 
Tier 3Tier 2Tier 1
Western Conference: Tier 3, Tier 2, Tier 1

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