2012-2013 NBA Western Conference Rankings

I’ve been waiting for Bogot long enough. With the start of the NBA season around the corner, it’s time for me to once again start putting my opinions on the line.

What follows are my regular season rankings for the Western Conference. Please note that my playoff rankings might differ considerably by the end of the season. My opinion of the Lakers is the most obvious example. If they manage to reach the end of the season with a healthy and rested (and somewhat deeper) roster, I will rank them higher for the playoffs.

Along with my ranking, I’m going to offer opinions of the Las Vegas regular-season win total lines for some teams. But when I offer a win total opinion in this post, that does NOT mean that I am going to bet this line. (I need a substantial perceived edge to bet. I’ll let you know which lines I’m betting in a later post.) Today’s opinions are just another way of stating which teams I think are over/undervalued headed into the regular season.                       


1. San Antonio Spurs: (56.5 wins: Over) I don’t see anyone ranking the Spurs atop the West, which I find curious. Didn’t this team go 50-16, earning the #1 seed, and win 20 consecutive games spanning the end of the season through the first two games of the Western Conference Finals?

And does anyone seriously believe that they will be worse this season? Yes, there is the ever-present age and injury risk to Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili. But starting rookies Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard will be considerably better, and late additions Stephen Jackson and Boris Diaw will be better incorporated into the team. This year’s Spurs are deeper, better, and less reliant on Duncan and Ginobili.

And they still have the best coach in the league.

2. OKC Thunder: (59.5 wins: No opinion) There’s not much to discuss here, except whether the young players everyone already knows — Durant, Harden, Westbrook and Ibaka — will continue to grow.

3. Denver Nuggets: (51.5 wins: Over) Call it a hunch, but I’m willing to step out on a limb on the Nuggets. I see them as the Miami Heat West. A quintessential Nellieball team.

Let’s see: Mid-market running centers, McGee and Mozgov, check. Spread fours: Gallinari, Chandler, check. Dominant Nellie-sized defensive wings: Iguodala and Chandler, check. Point forward: Iguodala, check. Scoring point guard: Lawson, check. Deep bench: check.

Great tactical coach: George Karl, check.

The shooting is suspect. And they have a glaring lack of a closer. But the overall talent, speed and dominant wing defense are there. The Nuggets are going to take the league by storm.


4. Memphis Grizzlies: (48.5 wins, Over) One of the league’s best teams should be improved by the return to full strength of Zach Randolph, and the subtraction of OJ Mayo.

They still have a hole at shooting guard behind Tony Allen, but this is a tough, tough team that simply doesn’t get the respect it deserves from the refs in the playoffs.

5. LA Clippers: (49.5 wins, No opinion) The Clippers have a bench ridiculously loaded with big-name veterans this season. So much so that Bill Simmons fears that jealousies over playing time and roles might erupt.

But their depth is a big asset. The real problem I see is that outside of Chris Paul, I don’t like anyone in their starting lineup. Blake Griffin? I’ll take the less egotistical, higher IQ, better passing, better shooting, and clutch free-throw shooting David Lee, thank you very much.

Better teammate. Better basketball player.

6. LA Lakers: (56.5 wins, Under) The Five-Allstar, multi-billion dollar lineup sixth? Am I insane?

Maybe. But I foresee a lot of problems for the Lakers in the regular season. Chief among them the fact that they are an extremely old team that just won’t care as much about playoff seeding as they will about staying healthy and fresh for the post-season.

Then there’s the fact that they have the worst bench in the league. Literally the worst. Antwan Jamison? A loser in his prime. The Lakers bench is atrocious. Joe Lacob’s first two seasons atrocious.

What else? Well everyone assumes that Dwight Howard, a 6-10″ center who relies completely on his power and athleticism for effectiveness, will just jump right back to being the same player he was after having major back surgery. OK.

And everyone assumes that Kobe will be just fine with Steve Nash dominating the ball, and distributing shots to Howard and Gasol. Or Gasol dominating the ball in the high post of the Princeton offense. OK.

And everyone assumes that Mike Brown will be able to control this team.



7. Utah Jazz (43.5 wins: No opinion): The Jazz have another mess in the backcourt, where they apparently expect Mo Williams to run the point. My guess is that Al Jefferson and Paul Milsap will revolt against that sooner rather than later, and Jamaal Tinsley steps in to right the ship.

But their solid frontcourt of Jefferson and Milsap , and the ongoing development of youngsters Hayward, Kanter and Favors should allow the Jazz to lock up the seventh seed in the West with relative ease. It is shocking how badly the bottom teams in the West have fallen off.

8. Minnesota Timberwolves (39.5 Wins: No opinion)

9. Golden State Warriors (36.5 Wins: No opinion)

Assuming they’ll even be in the hunt, the Warriors got a huge break in the race for the 8th seed when Kevin Love broke his hand and Dirk Nowitzki had to get his knee scoped.

The TWolves will look to plug the gaping wound with Dante Cunningham, Andrei Kirilenko and Derrick Williams, which won’t be easy. But this is suddenly a team with a lot of veteran players — Roy, Kirilenko, Barea, Ridnour, Pekovic — who know how to play and win, led by one of the best coaches in the league. That makes them a favorite in my book to hang on until Love and Rubio return, and then make their run into the last playoff spot.

I will be writing a detailed analysis of the Warriors’ prospects in the next week or so, so I’ll keep this short. The idea that Andrew Bogut’s arthritic ankle will allow him to play effectively over a significant portion of the season is at this point nothing more than a fantasy. Without Bogut, the Warriors have exactly one playable center on the roster, the rookie Festus Ezeli.

The Warriors’ reality is that to start the season at the very least, they are once again a small-ball team, that must go to a full-out running attack to have any prayer of winning. A small-ball team saddled with an incompetent coach in Mark Jackson, who doesn’t know how to play small ball, and an incompetent amateur GM in Joe Lacob, who wouldn’t allow Jackson to play small ball even in the unlikely event he wanted to.

And then there is the Warriors’ best player, Stephen Curry, once again sitting out games to rest his ankle….

It is very difficult at this point to see how this can work out. It appears that the Warriors will need several medical miracles to make the playoffs this year.

But they’ve already gotten two, when Love and Nowitzki went down. It seems likely that this year’s 8th seed will have a losing record.


Dallas Mavericks: (43.5 wins: Under) I don’t think that the Mavs would have made the playoffs even before Nowitzki came up lame. The frontcourt of the Kamanosaurus and Nowitzki (Brand off the bench) has to be the worst in the league defensively. And the backcourt of Collison and Mayo is no better! Their best defender is 100 year old Shawn Marion.

How could this possibly work?

Portland TrailBlazers: (33.5 wins: Over) The Blazers have three fifths of a very good starting lineup in Aldridge, Batum and Mathews. The rookie point guard Damian Lillard also looks promising. They will apparently be looking to run more under their new head coach, Terry Stotts, which I think better fits their talents. But this team is just too thin on the front line and bench to make a sustained run.

Phoenix Suns: (32 wins: No opinion) The Suns might wind up a better team than people think. Luis Scola’s teams tend to overachieve, even as his stats have fallen off. Dragic has turned into a pretty good point guard. And I like the coach, Alvin Gentry. But there’s not enough here.


Sacramento Kings (30.5 wins: No opinion)

Houston Rockets (28.5 wins: No opinion)

New Orleans Hornets (26.5 wins: No opinion)

I’m going to spare you from thinking about these teams.

65 Responses to 2012-2013 NBA Western Conference Rankings

  1. Maybe #9 is too high? Just watched the Clippers game. 70 friggin’ points. Did the Warriors push the pace at all?

  2. JVG: NBA blocked brother Stan from ESPN job


  3. “As some of you may know, we run a fantasy league at the Wages of Wins network. But, of course, our league is different because we don’t use ESPN’s scoring system. Instead we use Position-Adjusted Win Score per Minute (PAWSMIN), then adjust the scores in a spreadsheet to calculate wins produced. What’s interesting about this is that players who would go high in “traditional” leagues can tend to remain in the dregs of free agency all year, and players you have never heard of can go for outrageous prices.

    Furthermore, it’s a keeper league, and our salaries try to mimic the NBA: you get $580 to spend on the auction draft (corresponding to the NBA’s $58 million cap) and $120 to spend on waivers/free agents (anyone that isn’t drafted) plus whatever you didn’t use in the draft. One way that our league is not like the NBA: contracts are non-guaranteed (you can drop any player any time), and last exactly four years, after which they become free agents entered in the next auction draft. There’s no limit on Keeper roster spots in your team, though. Here was my team going in to the draft (I was an expansion team last year, so my team is pretty weak)”


  4. From nba.com: GM Survey

    Which player is most likely to have a breakout season in 2012-13?

    1. Klay Thompson, Golden State — 13.3%
    2. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland, and Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio — 10.0%
    4. Paul George, Indiana, and James Harden, Oklahoma City — 6.7%

    Also receiving votes: Nicolas Batum, Portland; Alec Burks, Utah; DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento; Stephen Curry, Golden State; Kenneth Faried, Denver; Taj Gibson, Chicago; Eric Gordon, New Orleans; Blake Griffin, L.A. Clippers; Gordon Hayward, Utah; Andre Iguodala, Denver; DeAndre Jordan, L.A. Clippers; Ty Lawson, Denver; JaVale McGee, Denver; Josh Selby, Memphis; Evan Turner, Philadelphia; Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City

    Last year: James Harden — 21.4%


    Which team made the best overall moves this offseason?

    1. L.A. Lakers — 86.2%
    2. Brooklyn — 6.9%

    Also receiving votes: Atlanta, Golden State

    Last year: L.A. Clippers — 85.2%


    Which team will be most improved in 2012-13?

    1. Brooklyn — 62.1%
    2. L.A. Lakers, Minnesota — 10.3%
    4. New Orleans — 6.9%

    Also receiving votes: Denver, Golden State, Milwaukee

    Last year: L.A. Clippers — 66.7%


    Who is the best assistant coach in the NBA?

    1. Brian Shaw, Indiana — 23.3%
    2. Mike Budenholzer, San Antonio — 20.0%
    3. Steve Clifford, L.A. Lakers, Mike Malone, Golden State — 10.0%
    5. Maurice Cheeks, Oklahoma City, Jay Triano, Portland — 6.7%

    Also receiving votes: Ron Adams, Chicago; Kenny Atkinson, Atlanta; Brett Brown, San Antonio; Michael Curry, Philadelphia; Darren Erman, Golden State; Armond Hill, Boston; Elston Turner, Phoenix

    Last year: Mike Malone — 29.2%


    Which team is the most fun to watch?

    1. Oklahoma City — 30.0%
    2. Miami — 26.7%
    3. Denver — 16.7%
    4. Golden State — 6.7%, L.A. Clippers — 6.7%, San Antonio — 6.7%

    Also receiving votes: L.A. Lakers, New York

    Last year: Miami — 33.3%


    Which player is the best pure shooter?

    1. Ray Allen, Miami — 56.7%
    2. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City — 20.0%
    3. Steve Novak, New York — 6.7%

    Also receiving votes: James Harden, Oklahoma City; Kyle Korver, Atlanta; Steve Nash, L.A. Lakers; Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas; Klay Thompson, Golden State

    Last year: Ray Allen — 85.7%


    • When it comes to coaching, Mr. Lacob is not getting the credit that he deserves. Lacob’s game planning and play calling is tranforming the Warriors, Mr. Lacob deserve to be ranked at least in the top three.

  5. From Rusty Simmons (Twitter):

    David Lee starts the game 1-of-6. During pregame, he kept yelling, “I’m dead weight right now.” Don’t know if he’s was sick or just tired. (I think I might have some insights on this one; Lee is a big St. Louis Cardinals fan)

    GSW C Andrew Bogut just did about a 30-min, physical workout against ast coach Pete Myers. Bogut’s ankle looked strong, but he was winded.

    Klay Thompson got pulled for missing a defensive assignment. To add insult: There aren’t enough seats, so he has to sit on the floor.

    Tweet from MT:

    @gswscribe: Consensus from GSW locker room: too many days in LA. Warriors better learn how to play thru clubbin fatigue or have discipline on the road

  6. From Hardwood Hype: Good read (including over/under analysis) as the Western Conference for 2012-13 is previewed


  7. From The Point Forward: 67 reasons to watch the 2012-13 season

    22. Golden State’s Klay Thompson sparking the “Would he be the No. 2 pick if the 2011 class were re-drafted?” discussion sooner rather than later. San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard just plugging along, not worrying about any of that.


  8. Right now the Warriors starting line-up worse than last year. No quickness on perimeter. Meyers made some terrible moves. His draft picks on Barnes and D. Green were wasted picks. Much better players available in the draft.

    As D. Wright is better than Barnes. Barnes has no game. Terrible draft choice.

    We needed a PF like Henson or Nicholson and drafted neither. We ddn’t a real PF, not Landry.

    Thompson not better than Ellis. and that’s not saying much.

    Any chance of the Warriors having a decent season winning half their games depends on a healthy Bogut and Curry. If Bogut can’t play much than we are two years away from putting together a real team when Bogut and Jefferso’s contracts expire. Thankfully, Biedrins contract expires at the end of this year.

    The D. Lee-Landry tandem together on defense is a joke. Get killed by anyone that can score inside.

    I’ll comment further on the Warriors trades for Bogut, Jefferson and Ezeili, after we see if Bogut is able to play and contribute this year.

    • “Thankfully, Biedrins contract expires at the end of this year.

      He has an option for the next year doesn’t he?

  9. @11 I couldn’t agree more with Frank that the Warriors have no quickness on the perimeter. It really stood out to me last night.

    Particularly in their point guards. Both Jack and Jenkins among the slowest at their positions in the league. So is Klay.

    It wasn’t the final score that distressed me so much last night as the style of play. It was the final game of a long road trip, and we know about those. The Clippers ran the ball down the Warriors throat, even after made baskets. The Warriors walked the ball up the court and set up simple static post ups nearly every play. This could be a long, agonizing season.

    Overheard from Lawlor’s partner: “Carl Landry is about 6-7.5″ in shoes.”

  10. @11, 12:

    Once again the Ws starting 5 turned up all neg’s on the +/-, but there are some promising signs.

    Draymond Green was “less negative” (-2) than any of the starters, and he had 5 rebounds, 2 blocks and a handful of points in 16 minutes. He may be too small/slow or whatever to pick him for first team anything, but he seems to get results. I especially like his D. He’s smart, hyperactive, and a troublemaker. It’s going to be fun watching him play this year.

    Klay Thompson didn’t shoot well overall (2-8), but was 2-3 on 3s. The kid can shoot. As poor as our wing defense is, Curry/Thompson is going to give opponents problems too.

    The Ws seem to be really working on Plan B, playing Lee with Landry. In other words, they’re seriously looking at a kind of smallball lineup, so could a smallball game plan be far behind? Lee/Landry isn’t their best pairing for that playing style, but at least the team is exploring options, and not just waiting for Bogut to arrive. That’s good.

    OK, I’m trying to be positive here. Despite their preseason record, this team needs to bring more. Here’s the +/- for our starting 5 in their last 4 preseason games against NBA teams. I left out the Lakers game because our first team feasted on the Lakers’ miserable subs in Q3 of that game, so it’s not representative.

    Starting 5 average individual +/-:

    Clippers -14.4
    Portland -7.8
    Utah -3.6
    Nuggets -7

    Our record in those games was .500, but in the battle of 1st teams only we lost every game. Note that while the worst overall rating went to Thompson, each individual starter was negative in all 4 games. Yikes. If Bogut is supposed to help, he’d better defend out to the 3-pt line, float like an angel around the rim, run the floor, sweep up rebounds, cook dinner, clean toilets and tune everyone’s car every night.

    It’s shaping up to be a long, excuse-filled season. Please tell me it ain’t so. PleasePleasePlease.

  11. Oops. Forgot our Sacramento game.

    Average -/+ among Ws starters: -16.2

  12. From MT: Golden State Warriors’ exhibition season brings positive signs for regular season


  13. From ESPN: Five teams at a crossroads

    Golden State Warriors

    The new regime in the Bay is committed to a serious rebranding campaign. It’s not just the smart new threads and the Snøhetta-designed jewel box slated for downtown San Francisco. The Warriors finally seem primed to be more than the NBA’s novelty act. They’re practicing defense again in Oakland, using analytics for the first time to make personnel decisions and, aside from a hiccup or two on the cap-management side, forging something that looks like a future.

    The Warriors traded roboshooter Monta Ellis for Andrew Bogut, one of the five best defensive big men in the game … when he can move on two feet. Stephen Curry has proven he’s far more than a spot-up shooter … when he can move on two feet. Add a little seasoning to Golden State’s young wing tandem of Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes, and you can pencil them in for the opener across the bay. David Lee makes a mint, but he contributes consistently and the Warriors have virtually nothing else on the books in two years, so why worry?

    But that’s the thing about cap flexibility — it’s a luxury that can lure smart people into iffy decisions. When you’re a front office strapped for cash, you have to be selective in your decision-making. But when you have clean books, you can be tempted populate the ledger with all kinds of stuff that isn’t good for you.

    The biggest decision facing the Warriors over the next week is whether to extend Curry. If not for his wonky ankle, this is a no-brainer for Golden State and even with all the concern, still is. But the cap can be unforgiving, and paying max or near-max money to a chronically-injured player can be devastating to a team’s long-term ambitions. Bogut, the team’s highest-paid player, has a bum left ankle and there’s no timetable for his return.

    The Warriors don’t have to make a contractual call on Bogut for two more seasons, but it’s hard for a team to forge a path without a vision of its future core. And, practically, it’s difficult to achieve goals if there’s $30 million worth of stars in street clothes — just ask the Houston Rockets.

    That’s the gamble for the Warriors: Do they construct a team for the foreseeable future around the inside-out threat of Curry and Bogut, knowing it’s very possible their two best players might not share a court for weeks, maybe seasons, on end?

    Do the Warriors commit to Curry, then wait and see on Bogut once they have a clearer prognosis on his health, knowing they’ll likely have some money to find an alternate big man? Do they look at their promising young wings as the guys who will usher in the new era, a Klay Thompson-Harrison Barnes ticket rather than Curry-Bogut? Can Golden State craft a clever contingency plan whereby there’s some insurance in the backcourt should Curry’s ankle be an indefinite concern?

    Or do the Warriors act without prejudice, knowing that the revenue they’ll generate in the most state-of-the-art arena in North America (with some of the most expensive seats in sports) can compensate for a lot of dead payroll?”


    • that’s a weird rhetorical query from espn — even with the assumption that the lacobites will succeed in getting some type of new facility that increases their profits, by the time it’s in operation, they’re guessing again about the payroll — the new arena won’t be in operation until biedrins’ and jefferson’s contracts are gone. the team needs to secure a young impact player within that two year span, and ‘projecting’ barnes to become one is more hope than reality at this point.

      • Empty blather from ESPN. They’re supposed to be about sports. They should leave the business analysis to Forbes. Or if they want to simply list all the open questions, they can write for Bleacher Report.

    • “The new regime in the Bay is committed to a serious rebranding campaign.

      Rebranding seems more important than serious team rebuilding. There’s a mindset here that echoes almost exactly the thinking of the organization. I wonder if they fed this to ESPN. And it is all painfully superficial. Lost in this is the fact that the Warriors already have an extraordinarily dedicated fan base, waiting for a good team, or that the team might have players, played correctly and complemented with the right players, might be worth watching. Also not mentioned is a series of expensive and questionable trades and decisions.

      Rick Welts, President, took the mike the last game, and talked about how they were improving the “fan experience.” New scoreboard and other doodads. I wonder how many bucks they sank into that.

  14. Seven days…

  15. The B.S. Report: Western Conference over/under podcast


  16. From CSN BayArea and MSteinmetz:

    OAKLAND — By the time reporters entered Warriors’ practice on Thursday, center Andrew Bogut was already icing his left ankle.
    But that wasn’t necessarily a bad sign.

    According to coach Mark Jackson, Bogut is beginning to pick up the pace of his practicing and playing. Bogut has been cleared to play five-on-five, though he hasn’t yet done that in a full-court setting. He did do five-on-five in a halfcourt, controlled-type situation.

    “He’s continuing to do a little bit more and we’re going to monitor him and we’re going to see how he feels by doing more and more,” Jackson said. “And when he’s ready to go, he’ll play but I think the smart way to do it is continue to introduce more play with him and then play it by ear.”

    Bogut fractured his left ankle in January and hasn’t played in a game since. The goal was for Bogut to play in a couple of preseason games and then be ready for the opener on Oct. 31.

    But Bogut missed the entire preseason and it’s looking more and more like he won’t be playing on Halloween night against the Suns in Phoenix.

    “He did a little bit of drill action with contact,” Jackson said of Thursday’s practice. “He looked very good. The bottom line is we’re not going to throw him out there. He’s too important to this franchise, too important to this basketball team. We want to be very, very patient with him.”

    Curry watches:

    Warriors point guard Stephen Curry sat out all of Thursday’s practice, but Jackson said that was no big deal.

    “We’re just continuing to play it smart,” Jackson said of Curry. “We don’t need him today. It’s making sure he’s ready when it matters most. But it’s just precautionary reasons.”

    Curry, who missed 40 games last season because of ankle issues, said he will be ready for the opener.


  17. From Hoops Analyst: Who Will Win ROY?


    • thanks, Prof. Zamir (a professional/academic versed in applied stats who’s a regular contributor over on g.s.o.m.) for your guess that they could win 44 if curry and bogut log 70 games each. agricultural commodities speculators make their guesses based on weather predictions, but the meteorologists could be more reliable than the fans putting a number on the games that those two are able to play at close to full capacity.

  18. Bloggers Roundtable: How many wins will get the Warriors into the playoffs this season? Will they get there?



    “This is a bad team with an unproven coach and a bad mix of players. All of their players are overrated with the exception maybe of Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry — and who knows what Curry can give them [because of his ankle problems that have lingered in the preseason].”


    • In short: the Ws have challenges. Wow, stop the presses.

      • Andrew Bogut is “nothing special?” This scout obviously has his head in the ground.

        I’ve watched plenty of NBA games to know Andrew Bogut – healthy – is an elite, game-changing defensive center.

        I really don’t care if Bogut’s out another couple of weeks or a month – recovering from his devastating injury. If he comes back healthy, the GSW’s get a top 5 NBA center. Together with Festus Ezeli as a potentially competent backup C, I’m actually quite pleased with the Center position where the W’s consistently have received nothing in production for so many years…

  20. The Warriors three best players are Curry, Rush, and D. Lee, and Bogut if he is healthy.

    Warriors management will deperately try to show that Thompson and Barnes were the right draft choices, and will overplay both, and with Rush not taking many shots, lose close games in the process.

    We’ll sit back and watch Thompson take the most shots and turn the ball over at a high rate, and defend no one.

    Barnes should be coming off the bench. Barnes will make it as SF, as he can only hit an average percentage of his three’s when left wide open. His success depends on the Warriors running as he has little ability to get to the hoop successfully in the half-court game,and if Jackons’s history is any indication he will not have the Warriors running, nor does he know how design a decent fast break.

    • Is Mark Jackson really the coach? Or is he just the guy who makes the speeches ala G. W. Bush while other (hopefully) more capable guys make the decisions…

      • I think that’s still kind of an open question, Og. Maybe it’s all in how you define “real.”

  21. Steinmetz: Bogut not talking timetable for return

    How has the ankle been feeling the day after workouts?

    Bogut: ”It’s been feeling very good and it’s responding well. Surprisingly I haven’t had a whole lot of swelling and tightness issues. So, pretty positive but just have to keep doing it for a long period.”


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