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NBA-West Conference – Teams win total projection

Dallas Mavericks
Projected win total/Recommendation: 39.5 

 UNDER 

In: G Delon Wright, G Seth Curry, C Boban Marjanovic, F Isaiah Roby (R)
Out: F Dirk Nowitzki, G Trey Burke, G Devin Harris

Analysis: The Mavericks’ projected win total has been bumped up by five, a nod to Luka Doncic’s emergence and Kristaps Porzingis’ arrival after full season off rehabilitating an ACL tear. There’s continuity since guys like Dwight Powell, Jalen Brunson and Maxi Kleber grew during last season’s second half and Tim Hardaway, Jr. will have his role better defined, so Dallas should indeed win more than the 33 games it captured in ’18-‘19. Now that the bridge from Dirk to Doncic/Porzingis has been built and a farewell tour is complete, we’ll see the Mavs flirt with .500 but can’t back them winning 40 games without seeing Porzingis’ level, especially since his exposure in back-to-backs will likely be minimal. If Wright and Curry can stay healthy, backcourt depth will be excellent. Grade: B-

Denver Nuggets
Projected win total/Recommendation: 52.5 

 OVER 

In: F Jerami Grant
Out: F Trey Lyles, G Isaiah Thomas

Analysis: The Nuggets’ projected win total has been bumped up by five after easily topping last season’s number by winning the Northwest and finishing second in the entire conference with a 54-28 mark. They added an excellent piece in the versatile Grant and will get to see whether 2018 lottery pick Michael Porter, Jr. can emerge as an x-factor by season’s end. Despite their success, they aren’t exactly burdened by a target on their backs and their division lost one major player with OKC taking a step back. Avoiding 30 losses seems like low-hanging fruit if Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray stay healthy. Jokic is playing in the FIBA World Cup but Murray bowed out due to a foot issue, so that’s worth keeping an eye on in October. Grade: B

Golden State Warriors
Projected win total/Recommendation: 48.5 

 OVER 

In: G D’Angelo Russell, F/C Willie Cauley-Stein
Out: F Kevin Durant, G/F Andre Iguodala, C DeMarcus Cousins, F Jordan Bell

Analysis: The Warriors’ projected win total has been trimmed by 14 as a result of Durant’s departure and Klay Thompson likely out until at least February as he recovers from his torn ACL. Last season’s number required the Dubs to avoid 20 losses to go over and they dropped 25 regular-season games as a result of injuries and a lack of consistency on the defensive end. With Russell and Cauley-Stein on board and Looney back, Steph Curry and Draymond Green will have enough help to make a run at 50 wins and a playoff berth. I wouldn’t touch this win total but won’t dismiss this figure as too high or count Steve Kerr’s team out given all the talent that remains and the new building they’re opening. Grade: C

Houston Rockets
Projected win total/Recommendation: 54.5 

 UNDER 

In: G Russell Westbrook, C Tyson Chandler
Out: G Chris Paul

Analysis: The Rockets’ projected win total has been remained exactly the same despite the epic point guard swap that followed all the free agency news in adding to a historically explosive offseason. The purists wondering how a James Harden/Westbrook partnership will work are going to climb in on the ‘under’ and it’s amusing that this number is the exact same since last year’s preseason figure included the similarly polarizing presence of Carmelo Anthony, who lasted all of 10 games and was ultimately scapegoated for the slow start that resulted in a 53-win season. Considering the uncertainty surrounding head coach Mike D’Antoni as he looks to carve out a dynamic in which Houston’s new partnership can be most successful, it’s hard to get behind this group winning 55-plus. Grade: C+

Los Angeles Clippers
Projected win total/Recommendation: 54.5 

 OVER 

In: F Kawhi Leonard, F/G Paul George, F Moe Harkless
Out: G Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, F Danilo Gallinari, F Wilson Chandler, G Garrett Temple

Analysis: The Clippers’ projected win total has been bumped up by 19 for obvious reasons. This early into dissecting it, my lean is that the Clippers will be the team to beat come playoffs but I don’t necessarily see them dominating the regular season. Both Leonard and George ended the season banged up and will require some load management along the way to ensure they’re where they need to be in April. The presence of a Lou Williams/Montrezl Harrell-led bench should help sway games to where you can’t write off them winning 55 games. For the sake of applying a seal of approval to their brilliant offseason, we’ll ride the over on the NBA title favorite (7/2), but this is not a prop I’d touch. Grade: A+

Los Angeles Lakers
Projected win total/Recommendation: 49.5 

 UNDER 

In: F Anthony Davis, G Danny Green, G Avery Bradley, F Jared Dudley, G Troy Daniels
Out: G/F Brandon Ingram, G Lonzo Ball, G Josh Hart, C Tyson Chandler, G Reggie Bullock, F Mike Muscala, C/F Moritz Wagner

Analysis: The Lakers’ projected win total has been bumped up by only one, which tells you that those who screamed from rooftops that the 2018-19 number was inflated were indeed correct. LeBron James was on pace to give 50 wins a run before his Christmas night groin strain that derailed a season that wound up cursed with Ingram and Ball ultimately sidelined for the final few months. Davis and a solid pack of glue guys to join the James’ gang, whose odds to win the championship have been placed at 4/1. They look far better equipped to win a title with a more veteran group than last year’s LeBron and the kids feel, but that means this team will be more likely to try and conserve energy in the hopes that they’ll be healthy enough to flip the switch come may regardless of where they’re seeded. L.A. hasn’t won 50 games since 2011. Grade: A

Memphis Grizzlies
Projected win total/Recommendation: 26.5 

 OVER 

In: G Ja Morant (R), F Brandon Clarke (R), G/F Andre Iguodala, G/F Josh Jackson, F Jae Crowder, G Tyus Jones, G Grayson Allen, F Solomon Hil C Miles Plumlee, G De’Anthony Melton
Out: G Mike Conley, G Avery Bradley, G CJ Miles, G/F Chandler Parsons

Analysis: The Grizzlies’ projected win total has been trimmed by eight, which is actually conservative since this is the first offseason since 2007 where they won’t have Conley and Marc Gasol in the mix together, having moved on from both. Morant and Clarke will be given every opportunity to flourish alongside Jaren Jackson, Jr., who looks capable of blossoming into the new face of the franchise but is still the youngest player on the roster, escaping his teens in mid-September. There are some talented vets who will play hard and potentially create an environment where the Griz play spoiler against teams who overlook them, so betting the under carries risk. It will be interesting to see how Morant looks in the preseason after missing out on a Summer League title with Clarke, Bruno Caboclo and Allen. If he can impose his will, this roster may avoid 55 losses. Grade: B+

Minnesota Timberwolves
Projected win total/Recommendation: 34.5 

 UNDER 

In: G/F Jarrett Culver (R), C Jordan Bell, , G Shabazz Napier, F Noah Vonleh, G Treveon Graham, F Jake Layman
Out: F Dario Saric, G Derrick Rose, F Taj Gibson, G Tyus Jones, F Anthony Tolliver, F Luol Deng

Analysis: The Wolves’ projected win total has been trimmed by 10, which seems a bit much at first glance but understandable when you consider that last season’s number took into account the presence of Jimmy Butler in addition to Tom Thibodeau. After a wild soap opera broke out, Minnesota ended up dealing Butler, firing Thibs and sputtering to 36 wins on the strength of a rejuvenated Karl-Anthony Towns under interim coach Ryan Saunders. With a better sense of continuity and a step forward in consistent effort from Towns and Andrew Wiggins, the Wolves may actually be able to take a step forward if Jeff Teague, Robert Covington, Josh Okogie, Culver, Bell and Vonleh can emerge as a solid two-way supporting cast and they play hard for Saunders every night. That said, depth will be an issue and they would fall apart if Towns or Teague misses significant time, which is why a 50-loss season is the likelier scenario. Grade:C

New Orleans Pelicans
Projected win total/Recommendation: 39.5 

 OVER 

In: Zion Williamson (R), F/G Brandon Ingram, G Lonzo Ball, F Derrick Favors, G Josh Hart, G J.J. Redick, C Jaxson Hayes (R), G Nickeil Alexander-Walker (R), F Nicolo Melli (R)
Out: F Anthony Davis, F/C Julius Randle, G Elfrid Payton, F Solomon Hill, F Stanley Johnson

Analysis: The Pels’ projected win total has been trimmed by six from ’18-’19 but the 38.5 was bet up a victory by those expecting a diverse group of newcomers to mesh effectively. Jrue Holiday will be the key and has to be the team’s best player and primary catalyst for everyone else to fall in line without feeling like they have to do too much. There’s no question that Alvin Gentry will encourage a fast pace and that his guys will leave it all out there for him. If Williamson can improve as the season goes along and Ingram joins Ball in playing at least 70 games, there’s too much talent in place for this not to be a .500 team. Grade: A

Oklahoma City Thunder
Projected win total/Recommendation: 31 

 OVER 

In: G Chris Paul, G Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, F Danilo Gallinari, F Mike Muscala, G Alec Burks, F Darius Bazley (R)
Out: G Russell Westbrook, F/G Paul George, F Jerami Grant, F Markieff Morris

Analysis: The Thunder’s projected win total was trimmed by a full 20 games after dealing away both All-Stars. Presumably, they’ll also move Paul and could deal Steven Adams, so it’s risky to try and back the high side despite such low-hanging fruit. Don’t act on this suggestion. If Paul and Adams hang around until at least the trade deadline, there’s certainly more than enough talent in place to easily avoid 50 losses since Paul will be playing with an enormous chip on his shoulder and the team will have shooting they lacked outside of George last season. Considering they regained some financial flexibility and an immense stockpile of draft picks to aid their rebuild, OKC’s summer wasn’t a loss at all. They’re taking a step back after closing out an era but can’t be written off as a 60-loss team just yet. We’ll see what happens next. Grade: B-

Phoenix Suns
Projected win total/Recommendation: 29.5 

 UNDER 

In: G Ricky Rubio, F/G Cameron Johnson (R), F Dario Saric, C Aron Baynes, F Frank Kaminsky, F/C Cheick Diallo, G Ty Jerome (R)
Out: F T.J. Warren, G/F Josh Jackson, F/C Richaun Holmes, G Troy Daniels, G De’Anthony Melton

Analysis: The Suns’ projected win total has been bumped up by a single game, which seems trap-ish when you consider that they won only 19 games and gave away productive pieces like Warren and Jackson in addition to losing their top reserve in Holmes. Rubio arrives to take some pressure off Devin Booker and 2018 top pick Deandre Ayton should be better, but this is a group that still looks like it can use one more top-five pick just to have enough quality depth in place to be competitive out West. Expect them to finish at the bottom of the conference, either last or next-to-last, for the fifth straight season. Grade: C-

Portland Trail Blazers
Projected win total/Recommendation: 45.5 

 UNDER 

In: C Hassan Whiteside, F/C Pau Gasol, G Kent Bazemore, G/F Mario Hezonja, F Anthony Tolliver, Nassir Little (R)
Out: C Enes Kanter, F Al-Farouq Aminu, F Mo Harkless, G/F Evan Turner, F/C Meyers Leonard, F Jake Layman

Analysis: The Blazers’ projected win total has been bumped up by four, a nod to the continued emergence of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum and last season’s 53-win run. There will be a different dynamic in play considering how many members of the team’s frontcourt rotation now find themselves elsewhere, which doesn’t even include center Jusuf Nurkic, who isn’t expected to return until sometime in 2020. The improvement of Zach Collins in addition to a successful immersion by Whiteside will dictate how successful this group will be. Those question marks could knock them back to third in the Northwest behind Denver and Utah, so Portland looks like fade material since they could slip back towards .500 given the improvement of so many other Western Conference teams. Grade: C

Sacramento Kings
Projected win total/Recommendation: 37.5 

 OVER 

In: F Trevor Ariza, C Dewayne Dedmon, F/C Richaun Holmes, G Cory Joseph
Out: F/C Willie Cauley-Stein, G Alec Burks, G Frank Mason

Analysis: The Kings’ projected win total has been bumped up by 12 after they nearly finished at .500 last season, posting the most single-season victories (39) the franchise had put together since last making the playoffs in 2006. Despite the improvement, Dave Joerger was replaced by Luke Walton, which means that guys won’t have the option of tuning out since messages will be fresh and playing time will be up for grabs. DeAaron Fox and Marvin Bagley are physically gifted enough to become All-Stars if their games continue to mature, while Buddy Hield, Harrison Barnes, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Nemanja Bjelica can all fill it up. The role players Vlade Divac has brought in this season, highlighted by Ariza, should really upgrade the bench. They’ll win more than they lose this season. Grade: A-

San Antonio Spurs
Projected win total/Recommendation: 46.5 

 OVER 

In: F Trey Lyles, F DeMarre Carroll, F/G Keldon Johnson (R), F Luka Samanic (R)
Out: G/F Quincy Pondexter, F/C Donatas Motiejunas

Analysis: The Spurs’ projected win total has been bumped up by three after overachieving last season in making the playoffs for the 22nd consecutive season in going 48-34. With essentially the same lineup back and defensive catalyst Dejounte Murray returning to the mix after missing all of last season with an ACL tear, Gregg Popovich will have plenty of depth to work with. DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge should again lead a lineup that will compete on a nightly basis and should again be in the mix to land among the West’s top eight. This number looks awfully sharp, but given the talent level in place, the expected improvement of guys like Derrick White, Lonnie Walker and Bryn Forbes and the return of Murray to help set a better tone on defense, we should see this group flirt with 50 wins again if Aldridge and DeRozan again miss only five games combined. Grade: C

Utah Jazz
Projected win total/Recommendation: 54.5 

 UNDER 

In: G Mike Conley, F/G Bojan Bogdanovic, F/C Ed Davis, F Jeff Green, G Emmanuel Mudiay
Out: F Derrick Favors, G Ricky Rubio, F Jae Crowder, G Kyle Korver, G Grayson Allen

Analysis: The Jazz’s projected win total has been bumped up by six, putting them in the mix among the Western Conference’s elite following the addition of Conley and Bogdanovic, who each served as a primary catalyst on their teams last season. Each will take the pressure off Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles, who had too much to chew as playmakers when Rubio was sidelined last season. Losing Favors and Crowder hurts, but the front office did a great job adding Davis and Green to try and help keep the drop-off from being drastic. Utah won 50 games last season for the second time in three years but haven’t won 55 games since 2000. The number is simply too high even though the Jazz should again be a top-five team out West for the fourth straight year. Grade: B

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