TrueHoop 2019-2020 NBA West Preview

David Thorpe's brain + machine learning = this preview

We put David Thorpe’s special basketball brain to work assessing the upcoming NBA season for all 30 teams. With help from machine learning experts at Kensho, and the good people at Axios, there’s also a sophisticated, interactive projection of every NBA player. Here are our Western Conference team-by-team previews, in order of predicted finish.

WEST #1: LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
Projected record: 59-23

BY DAVID THORPE

Superstars! Hollywood! There’s a lot of glitz in this team. But they’ll win games by being about as glitzy as a sledgehammer. The defense will be incredible. Combine that with outstanding starter talent and one of the best bench units in the league, and you get the favorite to be the West’s top seed.

On court, there shouldn’t be any problems with how Kawhi Leonard and Paul George play, once George returns from shoulder surgery. Each enters this season already expecting to carry a little less of the load than last season. That’s part of the attraction. Their usage rates can fall, happily—if the win totals rise. 

Importantly, Kawhi is a significantly improved passer--and George has long been able to excel next to high-usage talents (like Westbrook and Monta Ellis). Leonard will be George’s best offensive NBA teammate ever, and they are both elite defenders. Like the Lakers, it’s the surrounding pieces that have to fit. Unlike the Lakers, I don’t foresee holes.


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BY DILLON SHAIN

Despite the fact he figures to lead an exciting new powerhouse in the West, Kawhi is still the enemy in a heavily pro-Lakers town, as demonstrated by the fact that he was booed in one of his first public appearances as a Clipper, at a Rams game.


THE NUMBERS

BY HENRY ABBOTT

Lessons from TrueHoop’s Box Plus-Minus projections, as published by Axios.

  • We have written about it before, but the numbers reiterate: the Clippers paid a STEEP price for Paul George. It’s hard to second-guess a transaction that brings along Kawhi Leonard. But for the record, BPM projects George to be at 2.47 this year. That’s Kyle Lowry (2.5)/Al Horford (2.4) territory, not Russell Westbrook (5.3)/Damian Lillard (5.2) territory. George is 29. Players typically peak, by this measure, around 25. 

  • The Clippers do have an unusual number of players projected to be positive in BPM. Kawhi Leonard 4.76, Montrezl Harrell 3.2, George at 2.47, Patrick Beverley 1.18, Maurice Harkless 0.89. 

  • If these three players blossom from being on a well-constructed team, the Clippers will be really tough: Lou Williams is projected to be -.72, Ivica Zubac -.86, and Landry Shamet -1.02. 

WEST #2: DENVER NUGGETS
Projected record: 58-24

BY DAVID THORPE

Nikola Jokic is so good that, if he’s healthy, the team is almost guaranteed to be as good last year, no matter what happened with superstars hopping teams in the offseason. They might have the best center in the world, they return with most of last year’s team, plus they added an excellent forward in Jerami Grant. Jamal Murray is ascending. Michael Porter Jr. is back from injury. The Nuggets have a fair chance at the Finals.

Last year, Denver and Jokic were playing with house money. By January 5, the Nuggets already had five winning streaks of at least four games, and were 26-11, exceeding expectations and playing fast with young players in key roles. But as they neared the postseason, the team was in a slog, limping to the playoffs with a 12-11 record in their final 23 games and winning just four of their final 15 road games against playoff teams. One possible solution: Jokic could lose 30 or more pounds. He’d still be the best offensive center in the league, and the mobility would help him on defense. 


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BY DILLON SHAIN

Nikola Jokic reminds you that his skills got him here, not his athleticism.


THE NUMBERS

BY HENRY ABBOTT

Lessons from TrueHoop’s Box Plus-Minus projections, as published by Axios.

  • Nikola Jokic projects to have a BPM of 7.15, which is better than LeBron James’s projection, and fourth overall in the NBA. So, no problems there. 

  • No other Nuggets are true standouts of projected BPM. Mason Plumlee is 2.4 and Paul Millsap 0.68.

  • However, here’s a reason to fear the Nuggets. Longtime Spur Patty Mills is a rock solid NBA player, right? We can agree on that? He projects to have a solid, above average BPM of -1.39. Would you believe that the Nuggets have SIX young guards or wings who project, this season, to be better than Patty Mills? Jamal Murray, projected at 0.21 is only 22. Monte Morris, who is 24, is projected at 0.15. Torrey Craig (28 years old), Jerami Grant (25), Gary Harris (25), and Malik Beasley (22) all have projections that are better than Mills. I don’t know which Nuggets will completely defy these projections in a good way, but with so many candidates, it won’t be none of them.

WEST #3: LOS ANGELES LAKERS
Projected record: 57-25

BY DAVID THORPE

LeBron James and Anthony Davis are the league’s best duo, and they can play brilliantly together. Anthony Davis will have no problem adjusting to LeBron. None. Without knowing anything else about the roster it’s easy to predict 50 wins from a team that hasn’t won 40 in a long time. Danny Green is a solid contributor and a nice fit. The problem is with the rest of the roster. 

A giant problem: Anthony Davis has long been clear that he does not enjoy playing center. Not long ago, that didn’t seem like such a big deal. Then DeMarcus Cousins got hurt. Think about how much the Lakers have given up for Davis--almost all of the young assets and picks that have resulted from six years in the lottery--and how long they have worked to get him. The fruits of that labor will, to a large extent, hinge on how well Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee play. That’s not optimal at all. You can see why coach Frank Vogel might be tempted to lean on Davis to play long minutes at center. But talking Davis into something he doesn’t like comes with its own perils: If he isn’t happy, he could leave in free agency next summer.


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BY DILLON SHAIN

LeBron is LeBron, one of the NBA’s biggest players, with the grace and fluidity of a flashy point guard.


THE NUMBERS

BY HENRY ABBOTT

Lessons from TrueHoop’s Box Plus-Minus projections, as published by Axios.

  • Anthony Davis (7.6) projects to have the league’s third-best BPM, and LeBron the fifth, at 6.7. Some perspective on how incredible those numbers are: If you add the projected BPMs of the Clippers’ two best players, Kawhi Leonard (4.76) and Paul George (2.47), you only get 7.23--or a little less production than Davis alone. Wow. 

  • Tougher, though, will be putting together quality line-ups. JaVale McGee (1.01) and Danny Green (0.68) are the only Laker veterans projected to be in positive territory, with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (-1.01), Kyle Kuzma (-1.4), and Alex Caruso (-1.7) projected as merely solid performers.

  • Meanwhile, the projections for Jared Dudley (-2.24), Quinn Cook (-2.7) Rajon Rondo (-2.52), Avery Bradley (-3.67), and Troy Daniels (-4.34) are so bad you have to worry this will become a team that’s elite when LeBron and AD are on the floor, and abysmal otherwise. Looks like it will be tough for the Lakers to win at “load management.”

WEST #4: HOUSTON ROCKETS
Projected record: 56-26

BY DAVID THORPE

Team Experiment is what we have to consider this group as of today. Notoriously high usage rate players James Harden and Russell Westbrook are reunited, but are now in far different places in their careers than they were the first time around, on the Thunder. Add in ongoing suspense of Daryl Morey and China, and the culture is sure to be tested. There will be awkward moments. Also, the bench is not great. But this team can still be effective.  

The bad news is that Harden and Westbrook’s skillsets are not natural fits. At. All. At least based on how they have played for their teams the last few years. If Westbrook says early on, “I’m enjoying letting James carry us more now and finding my spots to help us along the way,” or even if he makes a joke about how he did all the work in Oklahoma back in the day and now it’s James’ turn, consider the trade a success. 

If it goes the other way, and Westbrook is brooding and testy, win or lose—it won’t end well. The strength of the West, with at least eight contenders, gives the Rockets duo very little time to get this right.


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BY DILLON SHAIN

Westbrook shows willingness to move off the ball for his new team. 


THE NUMBERS

BY HENRY ABBOTT

Lessons from TrueHoop’s Box Plus-Minus projections, as published by Axios.

  • Daryl Morey loves the numbers and the numbers love Daryl Morey. James Harden is projected to have the league’s best BPM at 9.12, and Russell Westbrook is not far behind at 5.34! 24 teams don’t have a single player projected that high.

  • Surprisingly, Eric Gordon’s projection is a pedestrian -2.81. 

  • Morey has often used roster spots reclaiming former blue-chip prospects. BPM pans this year’s crop: the injured Gerald Green (-3.73) and Ben McLemore (-4.46). 

WEST #5: UTAH JAZZ
Projected record: 53-29

BY DAVID THORPE

Serious contenders. Adding Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic should be seamless. Both Conley and Bogdanovic bring strengths the Jazz sorely needed: most importantly shooting, without ego or baggage. Bogdanovic is coming from the Pacers, who are like the Jazz of the East—hard-nosed and defensively focused. Conley now gets to see if he can do what his old partner Marc Gasol did in Toronto: leave a Memphis mess for the ring at the next stop. Donovan Mitchell was the best Jazz player on a surging team that finished the season 32-13, trailing only the Bucks in regular-season wins in 2019.

Donovan Mitchell combines creative shotmaking with elite athleticism in a powerful body. Improved shooting weaponizes him everywhere on the court. Now playing alongside Conley, he has a talented playmaker AND scorer to work with for the first time. The Jazz could be one of the top NBA defensive units in the modern era.

On paper they are terrific, but the pressure to perform as a favorite is new.


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BY DILLON SHAIN

The amazing Spidaman, Donovan Mitchell. 


THE NUMBERS

BY HENRY ABBOTT

Lessons from TrueHoop’s Box Plus-Minus projections, as published by Axios.

  • If the Jazz are real contenders, credit Thorpe’s eye for putting rosters together. Because the sheer numbers project only Rudy Gobert as elite, at 5.12.

  • Mike Conley is the player to watch. If he’s good, this team could be great. He’s at an age when a lot of guards fall off, and BPM projects this’ll be his year to tumble, from a career high of 5.7 to a pedestrian 0.65.

  • BPM also doesn’t really see Donovan Mitchell as a star, projecting 1.27. Joe Ingles is also projected to slip a bit, to 0.73.

WEST #6: SAN ANTONIO SPURS
Projected record: 49-33

BY DAVID THORPE

The Spurs have earned respect by consistently exceeding expectations. And they have done it their own way. While the league has fully embraced taking more 3s, the Spurs focus on earning open shots, period. And they finished seventh overall in offensive efficiency doing so. Dejounte Murray is back running the team. His backup last year, Derrick White, can play alongside him or behind him, ensuring the Spurs will once again have very steady guard play on both sides of the court. 

Their roster mixes still-effective veterans like DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge with exciting young players like White, Murray, and Lonnie Walker IV. People talk about the “Spurs way” without always knowing what that means. It means 32-year-old wings like Rudy Gay have an excellent season there, and late first round picks like White and Murray outpace players drafted higher than them. The Spurs are a sneaky good choice for where Andre Iguodala might end up (if he looked for fit and impact). If so, they will become a scary team come springtime.


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BY DILLON SHAIN

Here are the Spurs playing Starcraft between games of the 1999 NBA Finals. 


THE NUMBERS

BY HENRY ABBOTT

Lessons from TrueHoop’s Box Plus-Minus projections, as published by Axios.

  • Remember Jakob Poeltl? He was a throw-in when the Spurs traded Kawhi Leonard to the Raptors for DeMar DeRozan a year ago. BPM would like to point out that Poeltl is excellent, projected to perform at 3.27 this year. That’s way better than DeRozan (0.69) and sniffing Kawhi’s projected 4.76.

  • As a young player who has been injured, Dejounte Murray is a very tough player to project. But for the record, this projection expects him to be merely average, at -1.99. 

  • Lonnie Walker IV has turned a lot of heads and has star potential, but BPM is unimpressed, projecting him at -3.88. 

  • Another Spurs disappointment: LeMarcus Aldridge’s projection of 1.05. 

WEST #7: GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
Projected record: 49-33

BY DAVID THORPE

There is no upside to Klay Thompson’s being out for much of the year with a torn ACL. Except perhaps: It lets newcomer D’Angelo Russell have extra time and touches to find his way in the Warriors’ offense. There will be pressure to win. The Warriors will absolutely want to prove that Kevin Durant messed up by leaving. They have earned a ton of pride in San Francisco. 

Russell will now be a playmaker in the offense that TrueHoop coined “Cuisinart” last season. He’ll use ball screens to create shots for himself or his teammates, with Curry on the other side of the court. Few players used more ballscreens last season than Russell. 


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BY DILLON SHAIN
40 points from 19 shots; Stephen Curry in the preseason. 

THE NUMBERS

BY HENRY ABBOTT

Lessons from TrueHoop’s Box Plus-Minus projections, as published by Axios.

  • Stephen Curry is projected at a solid BPM of 5.42. Rock solid, in fact. But it’s also well behind James Harden (9.12), Giannis Antetokounmpo (9.06), and Anthony Davis (7.6). That might not be enough if this team--minus Kevin Durant and most of Klay Thompson--is going to be elite.

  • Last year David Thorpe watched a ton of Kevon Looney video and promptly became president of the forward’s fan club. BPM might be the vice president: Looney is projected to have the team’s second-best BPM, at 2.48. That’s the great news. 

  • The bad news is that means a step back for Draymond Green (2.31--well off his career high of 5.4) and, when he’s back, Klay Thompson (-0.74). 

  • D’Angelo Russell at 1.82 can be important, but no savior.

WEST #8: PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
Projected record: 46-36

BY DAVID THORPE

The Blazers were such a feel-good story as they made the Western Finals without injured center Jusuf Nurkic. Now they still don’t have Nurkic back, and they face a stronger conference with the enigmatic Hassan Whiteside in Nurkic’s role. Luckily the Blazers have Damian Lillard, a clear superstar in his prime who is also a universally beloved team leader, as well as CJ McCollum, who played his best in last year’s playoffs. 

The Blazers lost a number of rotation players from last year’s team--Moe Harkless is a Clipper, Al Farouq-Aminu is in Orlando, Seth Curry is a Maverick. They are replaced by the likes of Kent Bazemore and Anthony Tolliver. Tougher to measure: Young players Anfernee Simons and Zach Collins have incredible potential, and could emerge to make a difference.  


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BY DILLON SHAIN

About a year ago, a military veteran being honored at a Blazers game protested the team’s partnership with a rifle supplier to the Israeli army. It took a while, but the team recently ended that partnership.


THE NUMBERS

BY HENRY ABBOTT

Lessons from TrueHoop’s Box Plus-Minus projections, as published by Axios.

  • Damian Lillard is projected to be majestic at 5.13. Jusuf Nurkic, whenever he returns, is projected to be incredible at 3.19. And nobody else on this roster moves our BPM projections.

  • One of the most surprising numbers in the whole database: CJ McCollum projected at -0.49.

  • Offseason assessments usually focus on changes in the roster. Blazer fans are focused on improvements from players like Anfernee Simons, Gary Trent Jr., and Zach Collins. The bad news for Blazer fans is that Simons projects to improve a lot, and still be -3.53. Trent: -6.73! And Collins wasn’t bad a year ago, but projects not to improve, at 0.03. 

WEST #9: DALLAS MAVERICKS
Projected record: 41-41

BY DAVID THORPE

With the Dirk Nowitzki era now put to bed, the “Luka and Kristaps Show” will be the main story in Dallas. Kristaps Porzingis looks ready to reassert the dominance he had when he was healthy (and far skinnier) as a Knick. Luka Doncic proved he has All-Star potential as a do-it-all guard in his rookie season. Both could be top-30 NBA players this year.

The trick is not to rush the development of Doncic and Porzingis. They will be sharing the court for the first time, and it would be enormously beneficial for this proud franchise to let them take their time before heaping expectations and timetables on them. Porzingis will need time to play his way back to full strength from the ACL he tore in early 2018.


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BY DILLON SHAIN

Luka Doncic demonstrating some of his brilliance.


THE NUMBERS

BY HENRY ABBOTT

Lessons from TrueHoop’s Box Plus-Minus projections, as published by Axios.

  • Luka Doncic is 20 years old and has a projected BPM of 3.94, higher than Joel Embiid (3.78) or Blake Griffin (3.17), and just a hair behind Kawhi Leonard (4.76). 

  • More great news: a bit like the Nuggets, the Mavericks also just have a lot of productive players hanging around. The projections: Dwight Powell (2.62), Delon Wright (1.11), Boban Marjanovic (0.75), Maxi Kleber (0.72), and Dorian Finney-Smith (-0.66). Unlike the Nuggets, though, those players aren’t that young. Powell is 28, Wright 27, Marjanovic 31, Kleber 27, and Finney-Smith is 26. Who is going to be here and productive when Luka is 25?

  • Kristaps Porzingis is only 24. As with the Spurs and Dejounte Murray--the projections are hard when the player is both young and has missed a lot of games due to injury. But for the record, BPM projects that Porzingis will be barely better than average this year, at -1.46.

  • Relevant: The team evidently does not have the knack of adding the right veterans. The older crew of Courtney Lee (-2.67), J.J. Barea (-2.66), and Seth Curry (-2.33) are all projected to be below average.

WEST #10: NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
Projected record: 37-45

BY DAVID THORPE

The Pelicans had a perfect run of good news. They hired David Griffin. They won the lottery and drafted Zion Williamson. They traded Anthony Davis for very good veterans to play alongside Zion. And now, some bad news: Zion’s knee needed surgery, and he will be out for two months. 

Still, the beauty of the roster is that it isn’t Zion-dependent. The veteran Pelicans that Griffin has assembled are winners and total professionals. They will help Zion deal with the enormous expectations. Griffin announced this summer that this was “Jrue Holiday’s team.” He said that for a reason: to relax Zion Williamson and let him just focus on getting better. This is a deep team with very little postseason buzz attached to it, which sets up beautifully. Whatever the external expectations, in-house they expect greatness. They will be dangerous. 


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BY DILLON SHAIN

Zion challenges the Stifle Tower at the rim, and wins.


THE NUMBERS

BY HENRY ABBOTT

Lessons from TrueHoop’s Box Plus-Minus projections, as published by Axios.

  • An early season Zion Williamson knee injury raises real questions about how this team can play when he’s on the bench. There are plenty of trusted veterans. But can they play? The answer is yes if you’re Derrick Favors (projected with a BPM of 2.61), and to a lesser degree Jrue Holiday (1.01) and Lonzo Ball (0.55). 

  • E’Twaun Moore has started close to 200 NBA games. His BPM projection of -3.15 suggests that at age 30 he shouldn’t start any more. 

  • There’s hope this will be a breakout season for Brandon Ingram. If it happens, it will be despite a BPM projection as an average player, at -1.92.

WEST #11: SACRAMENTO KINGS
Projected record: 37-45

BY DAVID THORPE

This has been the NBA’s worst franchise of the past 15 seasons. The Kings have missed the playoffs annually since 2005-2006. Buddy Hield, De’Aaron Fox, and Marvin Bagley III, though, have a chance to change all that. They are already exciting, and everyone’s must-watch NBA League Pass team. They should improve this year, but enough to tread water in an improved West? 

There can be no arguing against the talent here, from Buddy Hield’s being one of the league’s best shooters to De’Aaron Fox’s being the scariest pace pusher since young Russell Westbrook. Marvin Bagley is headed for stardom too, and Harry Giles looks like the quickest big man in basketball. What’s not to love? If Luke Walton proves he can really coach (there are arguments for and against), this team could slide into the playoffs. If things don’t come together, they have desirable young players who could star in a high-impact trade.


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BY DILLON SHAIN

An amazing statistic shows De’Aaron Fox’s growth from his first to second season.


THE NUMBERS

BY HENRY ABBOTT

Lessons from TrueHoop’s Box Plus-Minus projections, as published by Axios.

  • Marvin Bagley III is 20 years old, 6-foot-11, loaded with potential, and projected to have a BPM that improves .76 to end the season … still in negative territory, at -1.03.

  • The only other projected BPM improvement on the team is from Caleb Swanigan, who is still slated for a miserable BPM of -4.3.

  • De’Aaron Fox is Thorpe’s pick to be the most improved of the league’s good players this year. And these BPM projections expect him to be good at 0.88. Interesting, though, is that unheralded Richuan Holmes (0.8), Dewayne Dedmon (0.38), and Nemanja Bjelica (0.22) are right behind Fox. Buddy Hield’s projection is a little worse than last year, at -0.01.

WEST #12: OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
Projected record: 31-51

BY DAVID THORPE

The future is about the team’s incredible haul of draft picks, and young talents like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The present, though, includes Chris Paul, Steven Adams, and Danilo Gallinari. They are are all borderline All-Stars and can bring huge value to another contender--so expect OKC to press the full reset button at some point this season. Until then, the Thunder have a good starting five, but it’s hard to see a real effort at cohesiveness when the trade deadline is due to blow this roster apart.


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BY DILLON SHAIN

THE NUMBERS

BY HENRY ABBOTT

Lessons from TrueHoop’s Box Plus-Minus projections, as published by Axios.

  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has massive potential. But going back to the early days of Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant, young high-volume players seldom look great in plus/minus stats. Gilgeous-Alexander is projected to slide a little to -0.75.

  • Most of the roster projects to be bad.

  • Three Thunder players project to be truly good. Chris Paul (2.57), Nerlens Noel (2.47), and Steven Adams (2.32). Danilo Gallinari is at 0.76. In other words, if things don’t come together quickly for this roster, it would be a cinch to go into tank mode--it would only take some trades that have already been rumored. 

WEST #13: MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES
Projected record: 31-51

BY DAVID THORPE

Under new management and with their interim coach, Ryan Saunders, now promoted to a permanent spot, things seem to be looking more stable.

The good news is Karl-Anthony Towns is only 23 and appears to be an all-NBA player for years to come. Robert Covington is one of the best perimeter defenders/shooters in the league. And … well, that’s just it. After those two, there is not a lot of reason for optimism. Until Andrew Wiggins becomes a good player, not even a great one, this franchise will tread water as a just-below-average team. Wiggins turns 25 in February, so is still young-ish, but players who have underachieved for so long rarely suddenly figure it out. This will be his final chance to do so in Minnesota. Another bad year and something will have to be done, though moving underperforming players owed $90 million dollars more after this season is not simple. Far better: figure out a way to turn his career around.


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BY DILLON SHAIN

Timberwolves players getting really hyped for each other during a recent practice.


THE NUMBERS

BY HENRY ABBOTT

Lessons from TrueHoop’s Box Plus-Minus projections, as published by Axios.

  • Andrew Wiggins projects to improve .45 to become, essentially, a league average player at -2.05. Improvement is good. This level of production at age 24 from a former top pick in the whole league is not.

  • Karl Anthony Towns is a beast of projected BPM. 5.39 on a middling team. Like a lot of players from “The Process” in Philadelphia, Robert Covington is also good in BPM, projected to be +0.9. 

  • Last year Jeff Teague was pretty good by BPM, but age hits hard in the backcourt--he is expected to take a giant tumble to -1.99.

WEST #14: PHOENIX SUNS
Projected record: 28-54

BY DAVID THORPE

The Suns have been one of the worst franchises in any sport for nearly a decade, so it’s hard to envision things may be turning around for them. They do have some significant talent, though. Last year’s top overall pick Deandre Ayton and star scoring guard Devin Booker both have All-Star potential. New point guard Ricky Rubio is well suited to help Ayton have a monster second season, which should help the Suns enjoy their best season since they won 39 in 2014-2015. 

The Pelicans surrounded Zion Williamson with emerging talent and very solid veterans to better help him learn how to win and play. The Suns did something less helpful long-term, but interesting: they signed Ricky Rubio. He’s a very gifted passer who is going to find Ayton for a ton of dunks and And 1s. If I were Ayton, I’d be buying Rubio’s dinner, because Rubio is gonna be feeding Ayton big time. He leads his big men to can’t-miss buckets by driving and delivering inventive passes that catch defenders off guard

Rubio’s presence also allows Devin Booker to play off the ball on offense--saving some energy because he will score more now without having to dribble as much. 


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BY DILLON SHAIN

The team approach to picking up Dario Saric.


THE NUMBERS

BY HENRY ABBOTT

Lessons from TrueHoop’s Box Plus-Minus projections, as published by Axios.

  • When salaries went crazy in the NBA in 2016, the craziest of them all was $50 million for Tyler Johnson. That big deal is wrapping up as we are learning that Johnson has not become super reliable in health or shooting. Our BPM projections suggest he’ll finish this year at -1.32.

  • The pairing of Ricky Rubio and Deandre Ayton may be magical for both. Ayton is projected to improve to 0.98. But without considering context, Rubio is projected to fall 2.32 to a BPM of -0.62.

  • Not a lot of good players from last season were projected to improve this season. Devin Booker is an exception. BPM doesn’t exactly want to put Booker on hoops Mt. Rushmore, but at 0.85, he’s expected to be one of the league’s best players to actually improve.

WEST #15: MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES
Projected record: 25-57

BY DAVID THORPE

Some stars need a solid franchise around them to reach their elite status, others could shine anywhere. The Grizzlies may well have an example of each starting for them this year. Ja Morant seems so naturally gifted that no matter how dysfunctional the franchise ends up, he will be highly regarded. 

Jaren Jackson Jr. is the other kind of prospect, who can flourish in the right conditions. He was a teenager until a few weeks ago. He played 58 games last year as a rookie, and to my eyes looked like he could be a top-five NBA player. But not anytime soon. He still has a lot to learn.  Those two, plus rookie Brandon Clarke give Grizzlies fans a fair reason to be optimistic.

The West is so loaded that 20 wins is no certainty. The Grizzlies do have decent veterans that could provide depth to contenders or would-be contenders, but how long before Jonas Valanciunas and Kyle Anderson ask to leave?


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BY DILLON SHAIN

One of the wildest uniform designs in NBA history will make its long-awaited return in 2020.


THE NUMBERS

BY HENRY ABBOTT

Lessons from TrueHoop’s Box Plus-Minus projections, as published by Axios.

  • Jaren Jackson Jr.’s incredibly young age and +0.42 in projected Box Plus-Minus count as bright spots on this roster. 

  • Grayson Allen is projected to improve a lot, and still be a horrid -4.37.

  • A surprising number of Grizzlies are slated to fall off a cliff this season. Maybe it’s no surprise that in his 15th season Andre Iguodala is slated to tumble, to -3.2. But 26-year-old Kyle Anderson’s slipping to -3.5, as well as declines from Tyus Jones (-1.19), Jae Crowder (-1.28), and Solomon Hill (-3.49), could add up to a nightmare.