July 10, 2017

The NBA West: First overview of 2017-18

Dirk Nowitzki: Doomed
to miss the playoffs
yet another season?
For starters, I'm going to say that, much as Mark Cuban hates even discussing the idea, the Mavericks need to tank.

Two teams below them in last year's Western Conference standings got better, probably enough better to pass them, and the two teams immediately above them got enough better to widen the gap.

I love me some Dirk, but he's not going to carry that team. Harrison Barnes is a decent second banana, but that's it, and once again, so far at least, Cuban hasn't landed even a B-list free agent.

The Kings landed both Zach Randolph and George Hill. Neither is earthshaking, but that, and if Buddy Hield proves worthy of last year's trade, that certainly moves them ahead of the Mavs. Yes, they're likely losing Rudy Gay, but adding both De'Aaron Fox and Frank Mason in the draft, is good.

The T-Wolves should easily pass Dallas, even with more games of ground to make up. Adding Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson, and then Jamal Crawford, with the trade of Ricky Rubio perhaps being addition by subtraction, overall, is worth more than two games.

The Pellies will stay ahead of Dallas, whether actually making the playoffs or not, just by having Boogie Cousins for a full season.

Denver is upgraded through adding Paul Millsap, even with the loss of Danilo Gallinari. Add in a full season for Nikola Jokic to spread his wings, and they've got a good shot at the playoffs.

The Grizz are the most likely team to fall out. Losing Randolph will hurt somewhat. If, as rumored, they trade Marc Gasol to the Celtics, they'll be doing that to go full rebuild mode. (That said, given that the Celts are having to work to make cap room for Gordon Hayward, I don't know how they pull this off.)

Portland could also fall out of the playoffs after a quiet offseason.

Utah's addition of Rubio should be enough to partially offset the loss of Hayward. And, if Hayward actually comes via sign-and-trade, that helps more. And, I certainly don't expect the Clippers to fall out of the top eight. Indeed, getting Patrick Beverley in the Chris Paul sign-and-trade, and now adding Euro guard Milos Teodosic, it's possible the Clips will improve. Yes, you read that right.

Zach Lowe talks more about the major changes to teams, especially in the West. I agree overall, including his caveats about the long-term future of the Wolves unless Thibodeau takes off some of his previous coaching blinders.

So, there you have it, Mavs fans. It's possible you're nesting with the Suns and Lakers at the bottom of the conference. Hey, and Dirk's getting a full $5 million to suffer through this. Unless Mark Cuban has a wink-and-nod deal for an ownership stake after Dirk retires, that's a criminal underpay.

That said, without of course saying "tank," Cuban admits the team is clearly rebuilding.

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