EARLIER in the week, I established that because of blockbuster trades and free agency moves playoff spots aplenty would be opening up in the Eastern Conference. Only naturally that means that there are now more skilled teams in the West vying for a coveted postseason appearance. Of course, that means that a playoff team or two will have to drop out of the race from a season ago, so who are the leading candidates?
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Golden State Warriors
Ins: Jordan Bell, Nick Young, Omri Casspi
Outs: Ian Clark, Matt Barnes, James McAdoo
DO I need to go into a lot of detail here? The Warriors aren’t going anywhere after forking out the bank to keep their core together while adding a key rook and yet ANOTHER sharp shooter in Nick Young.
Ins: Chris Paul, P.J. Tucker, Tarik Black, Luc Mbah a Moute, Demetrius Jackson
Outs: Patrick Beverley, Sam Dekker, Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell
AFTER acquiring another ball dominant guard many believe that the Rockets will struggle to get their All-Star duo to co-exist. Two players of such elite talent and driven to winning will take some time to feel out their role for the team and how to play alongside one another, but they will be fine in the long run. I don’t know if that means they can top the Warriors with their talent, but they are much better prepared to do so than they were in the past.
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Los Angeles Clippers
Ins: Danilo Gallinari, Patrick Beverley, Sam Dekker, Sindarius Thornwell, Milos Teodosic, Willie Reed, Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, DeAndre Liggins
Outs: Paul Pierce, Jamal Crawford, Chris Paul, Marreese Speights, J.J. Redick, Luc Mbah a Moute
THE massive turnover at LA leaves them in a bit of a predicament in 2017-18. Granted, they do still have two All-Stars on their roster, but the Clips lost their best player in Chris Paul and other key players in Redick and Crawford. They have some solid inclusions coming and I’m thinking they will keep their playoff spot albeit in a lower seed than last season.
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Ins: Ben McLemore, Mario Chalmers, Tyreke Evans, Dillon Brooks
Outs: Vince Carter, Zach Randolph, Tony Allen
I loved some of the Memphis grit-and-grind teams that were so prominent in the past decade. Guys like Mike Conley and Marc Gasol were the leaders of the team, but they were well supported by Zach Randolph and Tony Allen. With both of the latter two leaving for greener pastures the curtain drops on a great era for the Grizz and as a result, I don’t expect to see them in the postseason for the first time since 2009’10.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Ins: Paul George, Raymond Felton, Terrance Ferguson, Patrick Patterson
Outs: Victor Oladipo, Norris Cole, Taj Gibson, Domantas Sabonis
MINUS Kevin Durant the Westbrook-led Thunder wasn’t as bad as everyone thought last season, largely in part to Westbrook’s historic season. Most people threw shade at his supporting cast from a season ago but heading into this season he has a new teammate that few can hate on. Whether Paul George sticks around beyond this season or not remains to be seen, but regardless the playoffs are a certainty this season for OKC.
Ins: Caleb Swanigan, Zach Collins, Andrew Nicholson
Outs: Allen Crabbe, Festus Ezeli
JUSUF Nurkic came to life late in the season for the Blazers to help them starve off the Nuggets and claim the 8th seed. Their ultra talented backcourt might disagree with me, but I don’t think Portland has enough weapons to recreate that same level of success. Even though they were linked to getting Melo for a period of time let’s face facts, he isn’t coming, meaning no postseason action for Dame this year.
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San Antonio Spurs
Ins: Rudy Gay, Joffrey Lauvergne
Outs: Dewayne Dedmon, Jonathon Simmons, David Lee
THE last time the San Antonio Spurs missed the playoffs I was 4 years old. So I don’t expect Pop and Co. to buck the trend and slide out of contention with the majority of their core still intact. I have a hunch that Rudy Gay can be a good addition for the Spurs and if healthy he could help them go on another inconceivable deep run.
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Ins: Ricky Rubio, Thabo Sefolosha, Donovan Mitchell, Jonas Jerebko
Outs: Gordon Hayward, Trey Lyles, George Hill, Borris Diaw
THE loss of Gordon Hayward isn’t the end of the world for the Jazz, but there is no doubt that it will still have a negative impact. Adding Donovan Mitchell helps the squad in the long run, but it’s unfair to expect him to solve all their problems. I think that the Jazz can tread water and still make the postseason, but they have to have some things go their way.
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