In Day 2 of our Western Conference Preview we look at the 7th and 8th seed of our predicted playoff bracket. With how tough the Western Conference is this year, earning any playoff spot is going to take a really good team with about 48-50 wins. If you missed our preview of all the teams we don’t think quite have what it takes, check out benchpointsblog.com and look at the bubble teams. I give a reason why each team could earn the 8th spot in the Conference and why each team could finish dead last. Some are based on fact; some are based on time machines. I’ll let you decide what is more realistic.
But today, let’s focus on the teams we predict to make the NBA playoffs. If you read our NFL preview, you already know that we get everything right and you shouldn’t doubt us because we are that amazing.
- Utah Jazz
Last Year Finish: 11th
Projected starting Five
PG: Trey Burke
SG: Alec Burks
SF: Gordon Heyward
PF: Derrick Favors
C: Rudy Gobert
6th Man: Rodney Hood
Even with the injury to Dante Exum the Jazz seem poised to take the next step in their development toward respect in the Western Conference. The Jazz may not have a superstar but are loaded with good young talent. All this talent could lead to a potential trade during the season to acquire another piece to make this playoff run. If Gordon Hayward can continue his growth and become the scorer/playmaker that other teams must game plan for, and Trey Burke can build off his strong second half last year, the Jazz can start re-living their glory days of Stockton and Malone when making the playoffs was a given.
Rodney Hood and Trey Lyles. Two recent first round picks could be the key to the Utah season. The Jazz have a quality starting five, but can the two youngsters give the Jazz a quality second unit. Both players possess a strong all around game. The X Factor is going to be can they adapt to the NBA game quickly enough to give the Jazz quality minutes to give the starters a break. Quinn Snyder is a quality coach who seems like he can get the most out of this young talent.
As we said before, my guess is the roster you see today will not be the roster heading into the playoffs. But we think one of the top teams will be flying to Salt Lake City to take on the young Jazz in the Playoffs this year.
- Memphis Grizzles
Last Year’s Finish: 5th
Projected Starting Five:
PG: Mike Conley
SG: Courtney Lee
SF: Jeff Green
PF: Zach Randolph
C: Marc Gasol
6th Man: Matt Barnes, Brandon Wright
Memphis has an advantage over everyone else in the West. They are built differently. Memphis is focused on low post play and defense. And when healthy, they are really good at both. Memphis could have been a true contender last year if not for an injury to Mike Conley. It seems like the Grizzlies have built their best team and have their best chance to win it all this year.
So why do I have them at the 7th seed? First, the conference is that strong. Second, the Grizzlies are built for the playoffs. I think they are going to rest their players, some who are getting up there in age, and have a focus on the spring when the games really count. They may finish in the 7th seed but they will be one of the most dangerous teams come playoff time.
Outside shooting. Like I said before, the Grizzlies have outstanding low post play. They play tough hard nosed defense. The problem is that those players are not the best three point shooters. If the Grizzlies can find the balance between the paint and the arc they will be tough to stop.
The other end of the spectrum from the Jazz. The Grizzlies have an aging team at the end of their primes. If they can’t put together a title run this year you could see the Grizzlies blow it up and try to acquire some younger talent for next year. My guess is these boys have one more year in them.