NBA Standings Predictions: Top Three of the West
By: Joe Borek (@jjborek26)
Alas, the 2021 NBA Season has started and has started with a bang. The newly looked Sixers are starting on fire, The Lakers are still showing their killer, as is their LA counterpart, and the Suns and Magic have both been pleasant surprises early. As we kick off the beginning of the season, I wanted to offer my take on who I believe will be the top three teams in each conference. This article will be on the Western Conference as we look into who will finish top three in my opinion. I will check back in midseason to see where my predictions shake out. I hope you enjoy and follow along. Now let’s get dribbling.
1. Los Angeles Lakers
This team still means business and even arguably improved over the offseason. They lost veteran Rondo but brought in great combo guard Dennis Schroder who can D anyone up while getting his on the offensive end. He is an entertaining, good scrappy player to watch. Their other key vet loss was Dwight Howard, who is still doing well with Philadelphia but has been replaced nicely in LA. His replacement is, of course, Montrezl Harrel, who decided to relocate locker rooms and come to the Lakers this offseason. The additions add value at key positions compared to the still good but aging vets they subtracted. They, of course, still hung on to their energy ballplayer in Alex Caruso as well, who everyone in LA seems to adore. Having made good offseason additions while still being lead by Anthony Davis and LeBron James will, in my opinion, still put the Lakers atop the Western Conference. They have also seen improved shooting from Kyle Kuzma early after struggling last season. He is averaging just over 11 points shooting over 45% from the floor and almost 42% from three. If that continues, the Lakers should be in a prime position to be able to contend for the NBA Finals once again.
2. Los Angeles Clippers
Also starting strong just like the Lakers, the Clippers are lining up the make the battle of LA a real treat yet again. Just like last season, the Clippers dealt the Lakers a loss in the opener. This Team, like the Lakers, has an excellent core and then filler players around them. They have a fun scrappy guard of their own in Patrick Beverly, who is a menace on defense. They also added more depth bringing in vet Nicolas Batum, who is so far bouncing back this season, shooting over 45% from three and almost 49% from the floor. If Batum can keep up close to this pace, that just adds another threat off the bench for the already filled out Clippers. They, too, added the better player of the Morris brothers in Marcus, who himself is off to a solid start averaging just over ten, and a rim protector who can also spread the floor in Serge Ibaka. These key additions, along with their core of Paul George, who keeps getting healthier each day and top three talent Kawhi Leonard, as well as six men of the year-level Lou Williams, will keep the Clippers right there with the Lakers all season in my opinion. They, however, will just fall short of claiming the top spot in my view, which will go to their LA counterpart Lakers, making them slot down to number two. This was already a great battle game one. I cannot wait to continue to see the intense battle of LA this season.
3. Portland Trail Blazers
This team is off to a more tampered start to the season. They are currently sitting 3-3 as they are set to tip-off against the Bulls later this evening, as I write. However, this team is filled out nicely this season around stars CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard, who are both straight up balling early. Lillard is averaging over 26.3 with 6.2 assists, while McCollum is averaging a team-high 28 points per game with 5.7 assists to tag along with it. These two studs now have a filled out roster for the most part around them, in my opinion. They could still use maybe one or two more bench players, but those are things that can be ironed out during the season. The Blazers, in my view, had one of the better offseasons. They brought in a top three and D player in Robert Covington, who is off to a slow start. Once he gets going, that really can open up the floor more. They also made an essential addition reuniting with Kanter, who came over from Boston after one year away from the team. This move gives the Blazers one of the best, if not potentially the best center duo in the league between Nurkic and Kanter. Nurkic is very ample on the defensive end protecting the paint where Kanter can get it done more offensively. These two matchups well together as a duo at the center position. The Blazers were also smart to keep Carmelo Anthony around, who seemed to fit it very nicely in portland, as well as add a low-risk high reward piece, Rodney Hood. If Hood can even become a shell of his past self a hit about 2-3 threes a game at some point this year, that will be key added scoring for the Blazers. These key additions mentioned as well as others to pair along with star guards Lillard and McCollum, will, in my opinion, be able to propel the Trailblazers into the top three. I feel it is only a matter of time until this team takes full flight.
So there you have it, my projected top three of the Western Conference. I will check back midseason on how I did. I hope you all enjoyed the read and will follow along. Enjoy the Basketball. It is going to be a fun season.