NBA

NBA preview 2019-20: Western Conference teams on the rise, fall, Rookie of the Year & predicted finish

By Sports Desk October 21, 2019

For the first time in six seasons, there may be a new winner of the Western Conference.

The Golden State Warriors, winners of the conference in each of the previous five campaigns, have lost Kevin Durant to the Brooklyn Nets and Klay Thompson to injury.

The Los Angeles Lakers added Anthony Davis but didn't improve nearly as much as the Los Angeles Clippers, a team that was better than them last season and have since added Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.

All we can do is guess who will win the conference this season and it could easily be an under-the-radar team like the Utah Jazz, who added Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic.

Here's what we think you can expect this season.

Team on the rise: Dallas Mavericks

Dallas improved a lot last year with Luka Doncic coming into the fold and now they will have a healthy Kristaps Porzingis. We'll have to see how it works in the long run, but this team appears to clearly be trending upward.

Team on the slide: Oklahoma City Thunder

This is obvious. Oklahoma City lost Russell Westbrook and George. A step back is inevitable. But this team has talent with Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Steven Adams, Danilo Gallinari, Dennis Schroder and Hamidou Diallo. We'll see how it works out and if the Thunder trade any of those guys to hasten their rebuild.

MVP: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

No Durant and no Thompson. That means a lot more shots for Stephen Curry. The big question is how he will fit with D'Angelo Russell, who is a lot more ball-dominant than Thompson. But if they can work well together, we could see the two-time MVP-level production from Curry again. 

Rookie of the Year: Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans

An obvious candidate. Williamson has already won the Rookie of the Year Award if he can get through the season healthy - and there are doubts about that given he will miss the start of the season due to knee surgery. Williamson will be on a team without a ton of talent and on highlights every single night. That's a great recipe to win Rookie of the Year.

Stat shot: Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets

Jokic has averaged 18.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists each of the last two years. Only Westbrook and Oscar Robertson have done that over a three-year span.

The Nuggets might not have added as much as some of the other teams in the West (see the Houston Rockets, Clippers, Lakers), but one more year of development of Jokic and Jamal Murray, plus a healthy Michael Porter Jr, should keep this team in contention for a playoff spot.

Three storylines

1. The Rockets duo: Will Westbrook and James Harden be able to mesh together in an offense? And how will Westbrook's shooting struggles fit with Mike D'Antoni?

2. Clutch performers: Will Davis and LeBron James dominate the league like we think they can or will the duo once again struggle to stay healthy?

3. A pair reigns supreme: Is it Harden and Westbrook? James and Davis? Leonard and George? Donovan Mitchell and Conley? Doncic and Porzingis?

Predicted order of finish

1. Clippers*
2. Lakers
3. Jazz
4. Rockets
5. Nuggets
6. Warriors
7. Trail Blazers
8. Spurs
9. Mavericks
10. Kings
11. Pelicans
12. Timberwolves
13. Thunder
14. Grizzlies
15. Suns

*NBA Finals representative

Related items

  • Carlisle salutes 'phenomenal' Doncic triple-double Carlisle salutes 'phenomenal' Doncic triple-double

    Rick Carlisle declared Luka Doncic "can do anything he wants on a basketball court" after he inspired the Dallas Mavericks to a 117-110 defeat of the San Antonio Spurs.

    The Slovenian prodigy conjured up a career-high 42 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists in a magnificent display at American Airlines Center on Monday.

    Doncic became the second-youngest player in NBA history to rack up a 40-point triple-double, with only his idol LeBron James having achieved the feat earlier in his career.

    Mavericks coach Carlisle said: "This guy can do anything he wants to on a basketball court. He's having one of those magical runs right now.

    "It's a phenomenal thing to watch. It's a phenomenal thing to be a part of."

    Forward Doncic said: "It feels like every day there are stats you don't know about, stats that you read about. It's great to hit."

    Dallas are 8-5 after winning two in a row, while the struggling Spurs have now lost six on the spin and are languishing at 5-9.

    Spurs shooting guard DeMar DeRozan said: "When adversity hits, you can't run from it, you can't shy away from it, you can't let it get you down.

    "Try to channel that energy and put it in the right place so we can understand why we got beat."

     

  • Doncic joins LeBron after 40-point triple-double, Clippers edge Thunder Doncic joins LeBron after 40-point triple-double, Clippers edge Thunder

    Luka Doncic stole the show in the NBA on Monday, while the Los Angeles Clippers edged to victory.

    Doncic, 20, finished with a triple-double of 42 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds in the Dallas Mavericks' 117-110 win over the San Antonio Spurs.

    The Slovenian became the second youngest player in NBA history to record a 40-point triple-double, with LeBron James the only other 20-year-old to manage the feat.

    Kawhi Leonard was sidelined again with a knee injury as the Clippers overcame the Oklahoma City Thunder 90-88.

    Paul George finished with 18 points, but it was Montrezl Harrell's 28 points and 12 rebounds off the bench that led the Clippers (9-5).

     

    Harden, Westbrook guide Rockets to eighth straight win

    James Harden had 36 points, six rebounds and five assists in the Houston Rockets' eighth straight win – a 132-108 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.

    He got plenty of support from Russell Westbrook, who posted a triple-double of 28 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists.

    Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Milwaukee Bucks past the Chicago Bulls 115-101 with 33 points and 10 rebounds.

     

    Horrible Hornets

    The Charlotte Hornets (6-8) were destroyed by the Toronto Raptors, blown out in a 132-96 defeat.

     

    George hits key three

    George stepped up when the Clippers needed him, sinking a go-ahead three-pointer with less than 30 seconds remaining.

    Monday's results

    New York Knicks 123-105 Cleveland Cavaliers
    Indiana Pacers 115-86 Brooklyn Nets
    Toronto Raptors 132-96 Charlotte Hornets
    Milwaukee Bucks 115-101 Chicago Bulls
    Houston Rockets 132-108 Portland Trail Blazers
    Dallas Mavericks 117-110 San Antonio Spurs
    Boston Celtics 99-85 Phoenix Suns
    Minnesota Timberwolves 112-102 Utah Jazz
    Los Angeles Clippers 90-88 Oklahoma City Thunder

     

    Thunder at Lakers

    The Los Angeles Lakers are 11-2 and return to action against the Thunder (5-8), who will be out to rebound from their narrow loss to the Clippers.

  • Marcus Smart rues late misfortune as Celtics' winning streak snapped Marcus Smart rues late misfortune as Celtics' winning streak snapped

    Marcus Smart was absolutely convinced his buzzer-beating attempt had landed but felt the Boston Celtics paid the price for a slow start in their defeat to the Sacramento Kings.

    The Celtics guard went to the hoop with a last-gasp effort that seemed destined to land but hit the rim and trickled to safety as Boston saw a 10-match winning streak in the NBA snapped in a 100-99 reverse.

    It capped a difficult evening for Smart, who went two-for-16 from the floor and made just one of eight three-point attempts.

    Speaking about the late near miss, he said: "I thought it was going in.

    "I think everybody thought it was going in and it just rolled out. It's one of those games, but that's not what lost us the game. 

    "What lost us the game was the early start for me and everybody else in that starting unit. We allowed those guys to get very, very comfortable, and as we know in this league, especially with great guys like those are over there, when they get comfortable it's kind of hard to get a stop to get going."

    Prior to that moment, Smart opted to shoot with 15 seconds remaining, having earned an offensive rebound and missed.

    "I came up with the offensive rebound, and instead of kicking it back out I lost track of time," he added. 

    "I thought I had a quick layup, instead of kicking it out and letting them foul us and controlling the game. And then I got called for the foul. He made two big free throws and got the bounce on one of them to go in.

    "And then Kemba [Walker] made a great play. They stopped him, my man turned around to help and he kicked it. I drove it, just like anybody else would do. The ball felt like it sat on the rim forever."

    Coach Brad Stevens hopes his side can learn from the mistakes they made.

    "There were a lot of controllables that we missed, but they had to also make some incredible shots," Stevens said. 

    "So, I think it was a mixture of those two, and we'll get to work from a film standpoint on those controllables and hopefully be better in those scenarios tomorrow. 

    "But also credit them. I thought a couple of those shots were awfully well contested and those go in and it makes a big difference."

© 2018 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.