By JOB TENNANT, SportsRadio 610

The NBA isn’t playing the preseason ,and the beginning of the regular season looks like it is in really bad shape, but that doesn’t mean we can’t talk about projections. They are all based on speculation and assumption anyway, so let’s do a little bit of both.

Regardless of how little anyone likes it, Dallas has the trophy, the ring and the parade; and until someone else takes that from them, they will be sitting on top of the West. 

Dirk Nowitzki will probably never have another shooting performance like he did in the playoffs last season, but that doesn’t mean that he isn’t one of the best players in the NBA.  The Mavericks take the top seed in the West.

The Oklahoma City Thunder look like a team that is ready to go on a run for the next five years or more with the amount of young talent that they have that is growing together every time they step foot on the court. 

The Thunder showed everyone that they have what it takes to make a deep playoff run and with another year under their belts, there is no reason to believe that they can’t go further.  OKC takes the second seed.

Surprise!  If no one believes me on this, I get it, but at some point in time, the bad-luck teams get lucky.  The Portland Trail Blazers have taken so many hits and keep getting back up.  The team has proven its internal fortitude and desire to win. 

Management is clearly behind them after picking up Gerald Wallace at the trade deadline last year.  They might not be the most popular pick for this spot but if they stay healthy and catch a good break, there is no reason that they can’t get to the third spot.

L.A. Lakers fans have grown accustomed to winning and winning big under the reign of Kobe.  But the inevitable has finally happened.  The Lakers have lost that edge that keeps a team from being great and leaves them being very good. 

The post-season collapse that everyone watched last year, in conjunction with the loss of arguably the greatest coach of all time (or at the very least the greatest coach that Kobe has ever had, which is all that really matters to the Lakers) is too much for any team to ignore. 

Add to that the fact that Kobe is another year old, as is Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum has never shown that he is reliable enough to be counted on.  The Lakers still have enough talent to win regular-season games, but they won’t win a championship.  If the season is shortened it will help the Lakers but they still slip to the fourth spot. 

The Memphis Grizzlies made their presence known for the first time in a long time last season.  They will need to continue to build on that with at least one other aggressive move at the trade deadline to be really special but they are a good team as they stand. 

Also, they will be getting Rudy Gay back from an injury that kept him out of the playoff run.  Gay could be that extra addition if he can find a way to consistently play like a superstar instead of a star.  The Grizzlies take the fifth spot in the West.

The Nuggets are a fun team to watch because they are up and down the court and have a fantastic offense to watch if you are a real fan of basketball.  When they put Felton and Lawson on the court together there is probably not a better pair of passers from the perimeter in the NBA. 

However, their defense was ranked 21st in the NBA and their interior defense lacks a true shot blocker (despite the fact that personally I like Nene), as shown by the fact that they ranked 25th in blocked shots.  The defense holds them back, but they will be dangerous in the playoffs after they take the sixth seed in the West.

The Houston Rockets finally get over the hump and don’t get stuck with the dreaded 14th pick in the lottery.  They are a scrappy team that has talent but not a superstar.  If Daryl Morey is deserving of the “in Morey we trust” rhetoric it will be important for him to create a situation where the Rockets can attain a superstar. 

Luis Scola is probably the most underrated offensive four in the game but his defense is lacking, and the same can be said about Kevin Martin.  Kyle Lowry is probably the best player on the team but he can’t do it by himself. 

The Rockets need Chase Budinger to step up and fulfill people’s highest hopes for him, or Jordan Hill needs to step up and show that he belongs where he was drafted, or Patrick Patterson needs to go from being a good pick at 14 to being a rising star. 

Somehow, somewhere, the Rockets need a talent upgrade to be serious contenders.  However, for now, the city of Houston will be happy if they make the playoffs.  The Rockets keep the city happy with the seventh spot in the West.

There is normally a dogfight for the final seed in the West but I am going to go strictly gut feeling on this one.  The Phoenix Suns didn’t look all that good last year but they ended up just one pick in front of the Rockets in the 2011 NBA draft and took Markieff Morris (Marcus’ twin brother). 

Markieff seems to fill more of a need in the Valley of the Sun than his brother does in Houston and may have more of an immediate impact.  That goes along with the fact that this may be Steve Nash’s final push of his outstanding career. 

This will definitely not be his last year in the league but there is a question of how much longer he can still be an elite point guard.  He led the NBA with 855 assists last year, but there is no telling how much longer the 36-year-old can keep it up. 

The Suns take the final playoff berth; sorry, Spurs fans, but it’s over.

  1. Dustin Burnsed says:

    no, they can’t. There would have to be an actual season to play for the Rockets to make the playoffs.

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