As we enter the dog days of the NBA calendar, ESPN is once again rolling out its annual Summer Forecast, predicting standings, awards, champions, and more for the upcoming season. They released their Western Conference predictions on Tuesday, putting the LA Clippers 3rd behind the Warriors and Spurs.
|1. Golden State Warriors||67-15||9. Dallas Mavericks||40-42|
|2. San Antonio Spurs||57-25||10. Minnesota Timberwolves||39-43|
|3. Los Angeles Clippers||52-30||11. New Orleans Pelicans||35-47|
|4. Portland Trail Blazers||46-36||12. Denver Nuggets||34-48|
|5. Utah Jazz||45-37||13. Sacramento Kings||30-52|
|6. Oklahoma City Thunder||44-38||14. Phoenix Suns||26-56|
|7. Memphis Grizzlies||43-39||15. Los Angeles Lakers||25-57|
|8. Houston Rockets||41-41|
On the surface, it might seem a little ridiculous and maybe even outrageous that the Clippers would be tapped to win fewer games than last season. Although they slipped a little bit compared to the previous three seasons, you might assume that with less roster turnover and a healthier Blake Griffin a bounceback would be in the cards. The loss of Jeff Green and Cole Aldrich couldn’t be that meaningful, right?
The dip in differential — a more reliable predictor of future team performance than win-loss record — from previous years goes away once you exclude the first fifteen games of the season, before LRMAM entered the starting lineup. They had a +5.5 net rating on the year, down from +6.9 last year and +7.3 the year before, but that rose to +6.7 after Thanksgiving and +7.4 after Christmas.
Remember that these projections are the averaged consensus of a large panel of voters (upwards of 50 to 100, if memory serves right), so team records cluster together and suggest more parity than is actually the case. Most of the voters would probably agree that there’ll be more than three 50-win teams in the West this year, or that the worst team in the conference will win less than 25 games; they just won’t agree on which teams will take those spots.
That being said, we can probably all agree on the Lakers finishing dead last (again).