2020-21 NBA Season Preview: Western Conference Tiers

We’re getting close NBA fans! On the latest episode of the Shoot or Pass podcast (OUT NOW), Chevy, Gabe, and I continue our 2020-21 NBA Season Preview. All eyes on the Western Conference, and for more reasons than just James Harden and his escapades to Vegas and the ATL. So, it’s only right we name all of the teams out West to some very original, fun tiers – don’t you think?

Check out Chevy’s NBA Western Conference – Early 2020-2021 Preseason Power Rankings here!

Here are the five NBA Eastern Conference Tiers and the teams I am nominating to each one!

THE BOTTOM FEEDERS

Irrelevant teams no one cares about

Oklahoma City Thunder – An obvious choice for this 2020-21 NBA Season Preview. This team went from overachieving and having a foundation to build on to getting it gutted by a draft pick hoarder (Sup Sam Presti!). To add, only TWO of the Thunder’s 8 starters/key reserves averaged double-digits points last year – (Shai Gilgeous-Alexander with 19 ppg & Al Horford with 11.9 ppg). Y I K E S

Minnesota Timberwolves – A.K.A. The Bottom Bitch Out West. Their draft/off-season moves were head-scratchers. The bar is low for this team. Though I must say, I am curious to see how the chemistry flows between D’ Angelo Russell, Karl-Anthony Towns, and rookie Anthony Edwards. Either way, it may be time for KAT to get the hell up out of there.

THE DUMPSTER FIRES

Teams making headlines for all of the WRONG reasons

Houston Rockets – Everyone is talking about James Harden, but there is another disgruntled player on the Houston Rockets. This player took a discount for the team to bring in Chris Paul, ship him off for Russell Westbrook, and has yet to be compensated as he feels he should be. His name? P.J. Tucker. Can he expect a pay day anytime soon? Not with Tilman Fertitta as the team’s owner, that’s for sure.

Sacramento Kings – This team is more of a bridge between a bottom feeder and a dumpster fire. Things should be calmer now that Bogi is gone and Buddy Hield is starting again. However, he is still out here liking tweets implying that he wants out of Sacramento. Friendly reminder – Buddy Hield has a history of butting heads with Luke Walton and while winning typically cures everything, this team is not set up to that. I mean they brought in Hassan Whiteside for goodness sake. YOU ARE NOT GOING TO WIN WITH HASSAN WHITESIDE!

WILDCARDS

Teams that can surprise us for good..or bad reasons

Golden State Warriors – Everyone is already writing this team off saying they are missing the playoffs. I’m not ready to do that yet, not as long as Steph, Dray, and Steve Kerr are there. However, I also am not going to go all-in and call them contenders. Can they compete for a playoff spot? Absolutely, though it’s a much more crowded playoff race this season.

San Antonio Spurs – Another team I am not ready to write off just yet. Sure, it’s becoming increasingly clear that is not the San Antonio Spurs of old. They couldn’t do much during free agency and won’t be able to until DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge are off the books.Yet, it’s hard to overlook the potential this young core has and under the tutelage of the legend Gregg Popovich, anything is possible. They could tank. Or shock us all and beat the higher seed twice in the play-in tournament and miraculously take the 8th seed. This team truly embodies the world “WILDCARD”

Memphis Grizzlies – I don’t really know about his team. They overachieved this past season thanks to an incredible rookie campaign by Ja Morant. I do not expect him to experience the dreaded “sophomore slump”. He’ll have a bigger workload this season as it was recently revealed that Jaren Jackson Jr. will be out for the start of the season after tearing his left meniscus in the bubble. There is currently no timetable for his return. That’s a good amount of scoring and rim protection to make up for.

Phoenix Suns – ARE THE BUBBLE SUNS FOR REAL, FOR REAL? Perhaps, as their off-season moves made waves. That Chris Paul/Devin Booker backcourt is going to be soooo much fun to watch. Not to mention, I am still in mourning over the loss of Jae “BAE” Crowder, who brings some three-point shooting, defense, and physicality on the wing. It all comes down to how these pieces all fit together and how the younger guys on the team continue to develop. Will Devin Booker take a leap this year into superstardom? Will DeAndre Ayton move toward being that worthy pick-and-roll option and post guy? How will the Cams and Mikal Bridges capitalize on the achievements they made last season?

Dallas Mavericks – The success of this team rides on the back of one man. No, it’s not Luka. We know he will ball out. The man is actually Kristaps Porzingis. How will he look coming back from yet another injury and durable he will be beyond it? The speculation is that a January return is a possibility. They brought in some defense with Josh Richardson and James Johnson, something they desperately needed to account for the colossal amount of points/leads they were giving up last season. In my opinion, this team can very well be a contender, but Luka needs a reliable #2 option. I hope The Unicorn proves me wrong because I am starting to think he is more of a liability than an asset for the Mavericks.

THE PRETENDERS

Teams whose bullshit I see right through

New Orleans Pelicans – To start, I love Stan Van Gundy. I believe he was a great hire and will do some good for this team and its young core, but I’m not buying into the Pelicans being a playoff team just yet. A shortened off-season and significant changes to their roster really does not help a team who is trying to be more COHESIVE. Van Gundy is not only tasked with the X’s and O’s of coaching, he has to build team culture and team chemistry. I expect Zion and Brandon Ingram to make strides this season with him as their head coach, but, achieving the aforementioned AND making the playoffs in one season is a BIG ASK.

Los Angeles Clippers – Let’s be real. The Ty Lue hiring was UNDERWHELMING to say the least. “Oh, but he’s a respected voice in the locker room!” Well, if he really was that respected voice in the locker room, then why the Clippers have so many locker room issues last seaon? They lost Montrezl Harrell and brought in Serge Ibaka, who in many ways will be an upgrade, but they still don’t have that other play-making point guard they need. To add, Zubac is the only true low-post option. That’s not enough to beat the Lakers, which is what this team was built for. Expectations remain high for this team. Anything short of an NBA Finals bid and we are in for another meltdown for the other team in L.A..

THE CONTENDERS

Not sure if they cook or clean, but let me tell you how they’ll get this RING

Los Angeles Lakers – What else is there to say for our 2020-21 NBA Season Preview of the Los Angeles Lakers? It’s them…and then every other damn NBA team. Rob Pelinka worked his magic again and the Lakers are seemingly widening the gap between themselves and the rest of the league with some impressive free agency acquisitions.

Portland Trail Blazers – I need more DAME TIME in the playoffs and I think I may be getting my wishes this year. The Blazers should’ve been a top-4 seed last season but kept getting hampered by injuries. That’s not happening this season. Jusuf Nurkic, Zach Collins, and Rodney Hood are all healthy. The renaissance of Carmelo Anthony appears to be back in full swing, as it appears he has added cornrows to his look again. On the whole, the Blazers quietly had a great off-season, poising themselves for a deep playoff run.

Denver Nuggets – The more I think about it, the more I become concerned about this team’s title chances. They lost their three best defenders (including Jerami Grant) and I am hoping this doesn’t come back to bite them in the ass. Nonetheless, if Mike Malone is good at any two things, it’s praying his team to series victories on the bench AND experimenting with rotations. Could this be the season we finally get BOL BOL? The success of this team will come down to how they deal with those defensive losses and the leaps Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. take. Can Jamal Murray elevate himself into All-Star status? Can MPJ become that third star?

Utah Jazz – I’m getting a lot of shit for naming the Jazz as contenders. Perhaps it’s warranted. They didn’t do much if anything at all to address their defensive and depth issues. Donovan Mitchell and Jordan Clarkson will remain with the team. Derrick Favors is back to bail the team out when Rudy Gobert goes to the bench. Equally important, Bojan Bogdanovic is healthy. TECHNICALLY SPEAKING, if we were to call this “running it back” then the Jazz are going to the playoffs and have a chance to win the title, albeit a very slim one. Here’s the deal, I NEED ANOTHER JAMAL MURRAY/DONOVAN MITCHELL SHOWDOWN. Make it happen, Utah!


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For a full 2020-21 NBA Season Preview, news, headlines, and more content – check out the Shoot or Pass podcast!


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