To help ease the pain of enduring the monotony of the dog days of the NBA off season, ESPN released their projected records and standings next season for all 30 teams. It is no surprise that the Golden State Warriors sit at the top once again.
According to the article by Kevin Pelton, the Warriors are projected to win 58.6 games in the 2018-19 season. Last season, they were expected and projected to win 62.6 games but fell short of the mark because of injuries and their own complacency. For next season, Pelton suggests that a decline is imminent.
“Though Golden State may be healthier this season, aging and regression to the mean drop the Warriors’ projection to about where they ended the 2017-18 season (58 wins)-though it is still 3.5 wins ahead of any other team.”
“Regression to the mean?” Could this be more wishful thinking under the cloak of analysis? Regardless of the motive of Pelton’s statement, the fact of the matter is analysts, sports personalities and hot take artists have been predicting a “regression to the mean” since the 2015 title. Two titles within three years later, there’s been no regression or even progression. For the ‘Dubs, it’s been all about accession — it’s all about building and solidifying a dynasty.
What we’ve seen last season with this team was more than just injuries and battling bad habits and complacency. We also saw a team that was looking to conserve their energy until the playoffs. This is now a team that plays for June instead of January, and a 58-62 win range is ideal.
Like Kevin Durant said a few weeks ago, “Don’t worry about what goes on at the top of things” — when it comes to these projections, how could you argue?
Rounding out the West, Pelton ranked the Jazz second and the Rockets third. The Nuggets fourth, Wolves fifth, and Thunder sixth respectively. Rounding out the conference is the Pelicans at seventh and the Blazers at the eighth spot. The Lakers are on the outside looking in at ninth and projected to win 41 games.
Now for a couple of quibbles with these rankings...
First, the Rockets gave the Warriors everything they had until losing in seven in the Western Conference Finals. Even with the losses of Trevor Ariza, and Luc Mbah A Moute, the Rockets, in my opinion, are the second best team in the conference until the Jazz, or anyone else prove otherwise.
Secondly, I find it hard to believe that people are overlooking the Thunder as serious contenders. Regardless of how seamlessly Durant fit into the Warriors’ system and how Chris Paul meshed well with James Harden in Houston last year, those two examples are outliers. More often than not, it takes time to develop the chemistry needed to be a contender. This year is the second year for Russell Westbrook and Paul George as a duo, and OKC hopes to have a healthy defender in Andre Robinson plus the addition of a solid backup in Dennis Schroeder. When fully engaged, OKC is a dangerously long team on defense so it would be foolish for any team in the west to take them lightly.
As far as the Lakers are concerned, I can understand why Pelton put them at ninth. Despite the brilliance of LeBron James, the fact of the matter is he or the Lakers doesn’t really have the supporting cast to make a serious push. What the Lakers do have is tradable assets for next season. On the other hand, they do have the talent-other than James to push for 41 games. However, in such a stacked conference, 41 games may not be enough for a playoff berth.
What do you guys think? Is the projections accurate? Who do you see making the playoffs and in what seeding?