I did plenty of homework on each team before realizing a more accurate prediction could be done from the drawing of a hat, so that’s what I did. I put 30 different folded pieces of paper with all the teams listed in one hat and 30 different win-loss records in another. Most of the records come from my first stab at the 2014 standings, though those predictions are no match for ones from a couple of hats.
After knowing every record of every team, I created a scenario for how each team’s season would play out according to the record they drew. Most of the time it caused me to throw logic out the window, which was shocking. I had higher hopes. Maybe a simulator from a computer program would’ve been the better choice, maybe not.
It’s too late now. The results from the hats are in and here they are, starting with the Western Conference.
Team #1: Minnesota Timberwolves
How ironic. My local team is drawn first.
Record from a hat: 41-41
Scenario: This is a likely result with their current roster, which is nice because I don’t have to predict any wild trades or injuries right off the bat. The latter is something I hate doing in general. The former is something I flat-out suck at.
But the Wolves should get what looks like a healthy, dominant 23-point 13-rebound Kevin Love back with a collection of wings who can, like, actually shoot the ball. They could perform a handful of wins better or worse depending on:
- Their health, especially from Love, Ricky Rubio, and Nikola Pekovic.
- Whether they keep from becoming a bottom-5 defensive unit.
- Whether or not they score at a top-10 mark.
Even if they only manage an eighth seed, Minnesota should be a pain to take out in the playoffs with their high-octane offense.
Team #2: Oklahoma City Thunder
Heading into 2014, the Thunder find themselves with a depleted bench and an increasingly crowded Western Conference.
Record from a hat: 25-57
Two teams in and the shit hits the fan.
Scenario: Despite a soft schedule without Russell Westbrook, the Thunder stumble. The bench is worse than Portland’s last year, Kendrick Perkins gets eviscerated on both sides of the court, the young upstarts for Oklahoma City take a step back in their progression, and Serge Ibaka takes three steps back in his own progression. The more OKC slumps, the more weight Ibaka gains and he gains A LOT of weight (so does Hasheem Thabeet), so much he threatens to eat Perkins if he continues to miss wide open layups. He also burns his shooting hand one halftime trying to eat a hot pocket with his bare hands. The mid-range jumpshot he worked so hard to master falters. Oklahoma City goes 8-23 heading into 2014.
The chemistry on this team becomes a mess, a far cry from what it was like two seasons ago. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, who’ve performed just fine, complain to the media about the moves made over the last two years, the lack of a sophisticated offense, and Ibaka’s ‘Get Heavier than Washed Up Shaq’ diet. Management flirts with amnesty candidates until Russell Westbrook requests to be the one let go. He wants to start all over in Philadelphia, creating this poo-poo trade:
Oklahoma City sends: Russell Westbrook, Kendrick Perkins, Hasheem Thabeet.
Philadelphia sends: Thaddeus Young, Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes, Kwame Brown, and New Orleans’ 2014 first-rounder (top 5-protected). (Miami owns Philly’s protected 2014 first-rounder and Orlando owns their protected #1 in 2016.)
To make the trade somewhat fair, let’s say Turner and Young were pretty damn good with their opportunity in Philadelphia. You’ll see how this all plays out for the 76ers later.
For the Thunder, their offense suffocates. Durant averages 35 per game but on so-so (for him) splits of 46-37-85. Hawes and Ibaka don’t mesh well, Turner and Young can’t adapt to the role as OKC’s sixth and seventh men even with a pick-and-roll partner in Nick Collison, and Scott Brooks elects Kwame Brown to become his assistant coach rather than let him drag his ass up and down the floor 30 seconds per game. When Brooks gets fired for starting both Hawes and Ibaka, Kwame becomes the head coach. It’s a disaster. Well, you already know that since they finish 25-57.
But they do have their draft pick and New Orleans’. Also, there’s a pretty good chance none of this ever happens.
Team #3: Dallas Mavericks
Mark Cuban went through another summer of whiffing on prized free agents but landed a haul that at least wasn’t terrible. Is it enough to put Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks back into the postseason?
Record from a hat: 16-66
Scenario: After a really, really bad start, Dallas decides to blow it up by shopping Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion. A team out East (to be revealed in the Eastern Conference post) will get in a trade, sending a blue chipper, expirings, a young prospect, and a draft pick back to the Mavs. Also, Vince Carter will be shipped to a former team of his in exchange for an aging spot shooter. Unfortunately, nobody bites on Jose Calderon‘s contract.
Tank Mode is engaged as Dallas rests Monroe and Calderon, among others, and emphasizes ‘Monta Ball’ in order to put them in pole position for Andrew Wiggins. It works. ‘Monta Ball’ is a resounding “success”.
Team #4: Memphis Grizzlies
Record from a hat: 42-40
The West is going to suck this year.
Scenario: Memphis does have a new coach, though speeding up their offense should make them better not worse. They’re probably asking for too much of Mike Miller at this stage of his career, though that shouldn’t lead to a 14-win drop off. Other explanations could be nagging injuries and/or a desperation trade to get out of a large, guaranteed contract in exchange for expirings and draft picks.
In that case, a trade will go down with a team out East who, over the summer, made a surprising ascension from the bottom of the standings to possibly chasing a playoff bid. For Memphis, it doesn’t work out as planned and it doesn’t put their trading partner in the playoffs either. Shucks. More details about it in the post devoted to the Eastern Conference.
Regardless of Memphis’ trade that emphasizes the future, 42-40 will be just enough to make the playoffs out West.
Team #5: Houston Rockets
Will the Rockets blast off into contention?
Record from a hat: 52-30
They will! Finally, a sane pick from the hat that doesn’t force me to explore trades or stoop low enough to predict injuries.
Scenario: Dwight Howard will get his post ups, but sooner or later will have to run pick & roll. (Just put up with it, Dwight, and you can shoot as many free throws with your eyes closed as you want.) Omer Asik will definitely be trade bait but for the love of God please don’t trade Chandler Parsons.
It’s too bad New Orleans is in a race to get good right now. They don’t need a center like Asik right this minute but it’s a good fit if they want to make the playoffs versus rebuilding. More on this when the Pelicans are drawn.
For Houston, 52-30 seems about right in real life, give or take a few wins.
Team #6: Portland Trail Blazers
Record from a hat: 54-28
Scenario: The Blazers shore up their defense with Lillard and Batum making the most vast improvements on that end. Part of that also comes with an improved bench, even if C.J. McCollum misses a couple months.
Thomas Robinson becomes a candidate for the Sixth Man and Most Improved Player of the Year awards. Pairing him with Aldridge and Dorrell Wright in the frontcourt becomes ridiculously effective on offense and not a massacre on defense. Portland also gets more out of Meyers Leonard in his second year, as well as every ounce of Mo Williams that he has left. C.J. McCollum comes back from injury and is efficient right off the bat. Also, they benefit from the hat’s predicted downfall of Dallas, Oklahoma City, and Memphis.
In real-life, Portland will be an exciting team to watch. Clearly the hat thinks so too.
Team #7: Sacramento Kings
New ownership, new arena in the future, and new bad contracts!
Record from a hat: 36-46
Scenario: As bad as this team was last year, they still won 28 games. Now, DeMarcus Cousins plays up to his new extension. There’s also the addition by subtraction in Tyreke Evans and the progression in Isaiah Thomas that injects some much-needed success from a franchise that hasn’t had much to cheer for since…um…did Metta World Peace really lead this team to the playoffs in 2006?
Team #8: Phoenix Suns
Will Eric Bledsoe trick the hat into believing the Suns are a 64-18 squad?
Record from a hat: 17-65
Scenario: Eric Bledsoe will be a statistical freak, but it won’t translate to running a team well enough to even get over 20 wins. Also, the Suns keep Goran Dragic.
Marcin ‘Too Hot To’ Gortat, on the other hand, is a more complicated matter. The teams who need a guy like Gortat don’t have the most desirable players who match up salary-wise. He ends up shipped to New Orleans for Ryan Anderson instead of the Pelicans trading Anderson to Houston. This way, Anderson gets dealt to a rebuilding team versus a contender and the Suns have several picks to offer. I doubt they’d throw one of their first rounders in the deal, but they could pony up a second round pick.
Team #9: Los Angeles Clippers
A favorite of mine to dominate the regular season only to flame out in the second round. Will the hat think the same?
Record from a hat: 56-26
Scenario: Jared Dudley and J.J. Redick fit in just fine and losing Bledsoe isn’t that big of a blow when the Clippers signed Darren Collison on the cheap.
The problems lie in their frontcourt. Who can be trusted in the fourth quarter in a Game 7? Who’s going to stop Marc Gasol, Tim Duncan, or Dwight Howard? B.J. Mullens sure isn’t. DeAndre Jordan had an impressive pre-season, but that’s nothing new. In the hat’s scenario, Doc won’t be able to get more consistency out of Jordan or Mullens, even though it would’ve gone a long way, possibly past the second round.
Team #10: New Orleans Pelicans
Ah, the Pistons of the West as far as crazy off-seasons are concerned. Will their gambles work out?
Record from a hat: 33-49
Bummer. Anthony Davis has been awesome in the pre-season too. The progression to an All-Star from Year 1 to Year 2 is a lot to ask for, but if anyone can do it it’s the lock for the #1 pick in the 2012 Draft before the lottery balls even played out.
But there’s the defense and the backcourt to worry about. If Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon, and Jrue Holiday don’t work out together they could end up with what Chris Paul had to deal with in his last two years: An overpaid, mediocre supporting cast. There’s also the chase for a center when the Pelicans could keep Ryan Anderson and wait another year before searching for a big man to play alongside Davis, but they need to win now.
It’s too bad. There was a lot to be excited for when the Pelicans landed the first pick in the 2012 Draft, but then everything after drafting Anthony Davis happened. They can still be dangerous down the road, but so much needs to go right.
Scenario: The Brow’s progression from Year 1 to Year 2, from Rookie of the Year candidate to All-Star, is just one step in the right direction. However, the hat predicts a step back for Holiday, Evans, and Gordon. I actually think all three of those guys are better than what they’ve shown so far in their careers, but to have them all on the same team won’t end well this season.
Team #11: Los Angeles Lakers
Record from a hat: 45-37
Scenario: Kobe Bryant throws in his best performance since 2006, Wes Johnson resembles something of a basketball player, Nick Young is a candidate for the Sixth Man of the Year, Pau Gasol goes back to being Pau Gasol even with Mike D’Antoni at the helm, Steve Nash excels in D’Antoni’s system, Chris Kaman makes a few jump shots, the Lakers stay out of the bottom five in defensive efficiency, and Kobe remains content around the media and on Twitter. Of course he would if he’s playing like it’s 2006 and they make the playoffs.
Hopefully the hat doesn’t predict a title.
Team #12: Golden State Warriors
Record from a hat: 43-39
This isn’t the most ridiculous prediction ever. The Warriors went 47-35 last year and a lot of this season depends on Bogut’s health. There still isn’t much behind him in terms of solid offense and rim protection, though a Jermaine O’Neal resurgence would be epic.
Scenario: (Sigh) Nagging injuries from both Stephen Curry and Andrew Bogut, stalled progression from Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson, and missing the likes of Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry from last year’s squad is enough for the Warriors to underwhelm in 2014.
But, 43-39 is enough to make the playoffs in the hat’s NBA world. The real-life Warriors should duplicate their 2013 record if not snag home court advantage for at least one round of the playoffs.
Team #13: Denver Nuggets
One of the most unpredictable teams in the league this season thanks to their reliance on JaVale McGee. If only Kenneth Faried was seven feet tall with a jump shot.
Record from a hat: 52-30
This is the same team that allowed 36 points to Kevin Durant and then 40 to Chris Paul. It’s only the pre-season, but still.
Clearly, the friggin’ hat disagrees.
Scenario: JaVale makes the major improvements we’ve hoped for all these years, becoming a consistently feared rim protector for 36 minutes in the process. It would also help Denver if they got the really good version of Nate Robinson instead of really bad.
Team #14: Utah Jazz
The new home for Andris Biedrins and Richard Jefferson!
Record from a hat: 18-64
Scenario: This seems close enough to their real-life record, but the Jazz should be better than Phoenix. They’re like the Western Conference’s version of the Orlando Magic: a lot of young intriguing pieces, only the Jazz have to make decisions soon on who they want to keep long-term. They already locked up Derrick Favors. How that dictates how much Enes Kanter makes will be intriguing. Can they keep them both past next season?
Team #15: San Antonio Spurs
Let’s see if the hat is more kind to the Spurs than Ray Allen was to them in the Finals:
Record from a hat: 37-45
Did everyone retire halfway through the season?
Scenario: Everyone retired halfway through the season.
- Los Angeles Clippers (56-26)
- Portland Trail Blazers (54-28)
- Houston Rockets (52-30)
- Denver Nuggets (52-30)
- Los Angeles Lakers (45-37)
- Golden State Warriors (43-39)
- Memphis Grizzlies (42-40)
- Minnesota Timberwolves (41-41)
- San Antonio Spurs (37-45)
- Sacramento Kings (36-46)
- New Orleans Pelicans (33-49)
- Oklahoma City Thunder (25-57)
- Utah Jazz (18-64)
- Phoenix Suns (17-65)
- Dallas Mavericks (16-66)
Stay tuned for even more bizarre predictions featuring the Eastern Conference.