On Tuesday, ESPN released their forecast for the Western Conference and predicted their standings by season’s end. In doing this they polled 100 knowledgeable contributors to get their take on where teams can finish next April, forecasting the Denver Nuggets finishing at the fifth seed.
Of course, the Western Conference is a tight, contested conference each season and this year is no different as the Los Angeles Lakers have improved, the Oklahoma City Thunder are still as tenacious as ever, never doubt San Antonio Spurs, and then there’s the L.A. Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, Minnesota Timberwolves and Utah Jazz.
When the Andre Iguodala trade concluded, it was my position that Denver could garner as high as the #3 spot and as low as the #6 spot, and while that’s still my position, I can see them — logically – grabbing the #4 seed. The Clippers announced Tuesday that Chris Paul had a successful thumb surgery and should be out for eight weeks, which puts him a week or so before the regular season. Generally speaking, he should be ready for the regular season, but health is a funny thing in the NBA and it can easily be taken away.
I can easily see LAC slipping to a fifth seed and the Denver Nuggets taking that 4th seed, but this is another case of health in relation to Denver. Of course, health is always a priority for all the NBA teams. Denver was a 20th defensive efficient team last year, but automatically upgraded when they added a top three perimeter defender to their squad and let go a negative wins produced Al Harrington. Also, AI9′s athleticism and will live in Denver’s run and gun style as they run off of the fast-breaks. When the lane is clogged as to not allow Ty Lawson to penetrate, or JaVale McGee or Kenneth Faried can’t seem to attack for an easy bucket, it will give Iguodala a chance to shine from three-point land.
Denver has definitely improved and if they want a true shot at moving past the first round, they will want homecourt advantage.