NBA

NBA 2023-24 Western Conference Preview: Can Suns Top the Nuggets?

October 11, 2023

The 2023-24 NBA season will tip off Oct. 24. The playoff picture in the Western Conference could change substantially after a busy offseason in the NBA, which included splashy moves from a couple of the top teams. Here are the projected regular season records and finishes for every Western Conference team, as well as their win total over/unders from Tipico Sportsbook.

Also, check out our Eastern Conference preview and click here to place NBA futures bets!

Phoenix Suns – Projected record: 52-30 (1st in West)

Tipico over/under: 51.5 wins

2022-23 Finish: 45-37 (4th)

Depth isn’t a strong point for the Suns, but if Devin Booker, Kevin Durant and offseason acquisition Bradley Beal are available, Phoenix should win plenty of games. The Suns lost Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton during the summer but added capable veterans such as Eric Gordon and Jusuf Nurkic to bolster their rotation.

After finishing second in the West in 2020-21, first in 2021-22 and fourth in 2022-23, Phoenix should remain among the cream of the crop in 2023-24, and a first-place regular season finish would hardly be surprising.

Denver Nuggets – Projected record: 51-31 (2nd in West)

Tipico over/under: 54.5 wins

2022-23 Finish: 53-29 (1st)

After capturing the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference in 2022-23 and subsequently winning the NBA Championship, the Nuggets could take a modest step back. Denver will have a target on its back and will likely have no qualms about resting two-time NBA MVP and 2023 NBA Finals MVP Nikola Jokic down the stretch to prepare for another deep playoff run, but he should still carry this team north of the 50-win threshold.

Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr. and Aaron Gordon are among pieces from the championship team returning around Jokic, but Bruce Brown left in free agency.

Golden State Warriors – Projected record: 48-34 (3rd in West)

Tipico over/under: 48.5 wins

2022-23 Finish: 44-38 (6th)

Golden State should remain competitive as long as Stephen Curry’s healthy, and the Warriors are hoping to lighten the 35-year-old guard’s load with the addition of 38-year-old Chris Paul. Injuries are obviously a concern for a veteran team that also starts 33-year-olds Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, but four championships and six NBA Finals appearances in the last nine years are evidence of the superb chemistry and talent that coach Steve Kerr’s sharpshooting team possesses.

Oklahoma City Thunder – Projected record: 47-35 (4th in West)

Tipico over/under: 43.5 wins

2022-23 Finish: 40-42 (10th)

The Thunder have the talent to make a leap after sneaking into the play-in with 40 wins last season. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey comprise one of the NBA’s most talented backcourts, and OKC could get a major boost in the frontcourt with 2022 second-overall pick Chet Holmgren set to join the team after missing his entire rookie season due to a Lisfranc injury.

It’s too early to make comparisons to the Thunder teams that featured young Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden, but such a conversation could sound much less far-fetched after this season.

Los Angeles Lakers – Projected record: 46-36 (5th in West)

Tipico over/under: 47.5 wins

2022-23 Finish: 43-39 (7th)

The Lakers finished the season with a 17-9 stretch after their roster makeover at the trade deadline. Sustaining that pace for a full season could be difficult with LeBron James’ body starting to act up every now and again at nearly 39 years old, plus the perpetual uncertainty over Anthony Davis’ health. On the other hand, there’s enough talent, leadership and experience here to secure a spot in the postseason without needing to win a play-in game like last year.

Minnesota Timberwolves – Projected record: 45-37 (6th in West)

Tipico over/under: 44.5 wins

2022-23 Finish: 42-40 (8th)

Like the Thunder and Gilgeous-Alexander, Minnesota’s a team that’s primed to take a step forward under the leadership of a budding young star. Anthony Edwards established himself as the face of the franchise by averaging 24.6 PPG in the regular season and 31.6 PPG in the playoffs last season.

Hitting the over with a three-win improvement certainly seems feasible for the Timberwolves considering three-time All Star Karl-Anthony Towns missed 53 games due to injuries in 2022-23. Three-time DPOY Rudy Gobert could also be more comfortable with his role in the offense in his second season with the team.

Los Angeles Clippers – Projected record: 44-38 (7th in West)

Tipico over/under: 46.5 wins

2022-23 Finish: 44-38 (5th)

The Clippers finished fifth in the bunched-up West with 44 wins last season, but they could find themselves in the play-in with the same total this year if the teams that finished in the middle of the pack last season experience marginal improvement.

The last time Kawhi Leonard played more than 60 games was 2016-17, and Paul George hasn’t done so since 2018-19. With lengthy absences from the two veteran stars essentially baked in at this point, and Russell Westbrook far more capable of filling the box score than helping win games at this stage of his career, the Clippers likely won’t be good enough to earn home-court advantage in the first round.

New Orleans Pelicans – Projected record: 42-40 (8th in West)

Tipico over/under: 44.5 wins

2022-23 Finish: 42-40 (9th)

New Orleans won 42 games while getting only 29 appearances out of Zion Williamson last season. A mostly healthy season from Williamson, CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram could lead to a top-six finish and direct playoff berth, but counting on that happening is unrealistic considering Williamson has averaged just 28.5 appearances per season since being drafted first overall out of Duke in 2019.

Dallas Mavericks – Projected record: 41-41 (9th in West)

Tipico over/under: 45.5 wins

2022-23 Finish: 38-44 (11th)

The Mavericks didn’t even reach the play-in last season after making the Western Conference Finals in 2022, so splitting the difference with a .500 finish and play-in appearance seems fair. Luka Doncic has an MVP ceiling, but Dallas hasn’t surrounded the 24-year-old star with much help outside of enigmatic PG Kyrie Irving, who’s currently recovering from a groin injury and has been liable to miss games due to myriad off-court reasons even when fully healthy.

Memphis Grizzlies – Projected record: 40-42 (10th in West)

Tipico over/under: 45.5 wins

2022-23 Finish: 51-31 (2nd)

The Grizzlies will hope to tread water while star point guard Ja Morant serves a 25-game suspension for flashing a gun on social media. The offseason trade that brought in Marcus Smart and shipped out Tyus Jones could help that cause, but Memphis also let Dillon Brooks walk, and 14.3 PPG scorers don’t grow on trees.

Smart’s perimeter defense coupled with reigning DPOY Jaren Jackson Jr. on the interior will make Memphis tough to score against, but finding enough offense to get by without Morant won’t be easy. Neither will digging out of an early hole in the deep Western Conference, though the Grizzlies should still compete for a spot in the play-in at minimum.

Sacramento Kings – Projected record: 39-43 (11th in West)

Tipico over/under: 44.5 wins

2022-23 Finish: 48-34 (3rd)

The Kings won’t be sneaking up on anybody in 2023-24 after breaking a 16-season playoff drought with 48 wins last season. That total was good enough for third in the West, but Sacramento finished only six games ahead of the ninth-place Pelicans.

With all the star power in the West, it’s possible that a core led by De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis simply won’t produce sustained success year after year. A play-in berth isn’t guaranteed in the deep Western Conference, though this projection is far closer to the Kings’ floor than their ceiling.

San Antonio Spurs – Projected record: 32-50 (12th in West)

Tipico over/under: 29.5 wins

2022-23 Finish: 22-60 (15th)

After drafting David Robinson first overall in 1987 and Tim Duncan with the first pick in 1997, the Spurs may have found their next franchise-altering big man at the top of the 2023 NBA Draft in Victor Wembanyama. The 7-foot-4 Frenchman has been billed as arguably the best NBA prospect ever, and if that’s even close to true, his addition alone should help carry San Antonio over its modest over/under of 29.5 wins.

San Antonio didn’t add much veteran talent though, so coach Gregg Popovich’s squad is likely another year or two from postseason contention.

Utah Jazz – Projected record: 30-52 (13th in West)

Tipico over/under: 35.5 wins

2022-23 Finish: 37-45 (12th)

Utah managed to hang around the outskirts of the playoff picture for most of last season thanks to a leap from Lauri Markkanen, who was voted the NBA’s Most Improved Player. Even if Markkanen replicates his 2022-23 output of 25.6 PPG, he still has a pedestrian supporting cast around him, so the Jazz are likely to experience more losing basketball after going 6-14 in their final 20 games.

Houston Rockets – Projected record: 27-55 (14th in West)

Tipico over/under: 31.5 wins

2022-23 Finish: 22-60 (14th)

Houston’s hoping to be more competitive after signing Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks in the offseason, but the Rockets will need leaps from some of their young players to even enter the play-in conversation after winning 22 or fewer games in each of the past three seasons. The veteran additions should help the Rockets surpass last year’s 22 wins, but getting to 30 won’t be easy.

Portland Trail Blazers – Projected record: 17-65 (15th in West)

Tipico over/under: Not listed

2022-23 Finish: 33-49 (13th)

Portland went 6-18 without Damian Lillard last season and traded him in the offseason. The Trail Blazers have a new guard to build around in rookie third-overall pick Scoot Henderson, but unless Henderson plays like a star from the get-go, or Deandre Ayton suddenly starts to justify his first-overall draft slot in 2018 after being acquired in the Lillard trade, this figures to be one of the worst teams in the NBA. The lowest win total in the league last year was Detroit’s 17, and a similar fate could await Portland as the post-Lillard rebuild begins.

Sasha Yodashkin has been contributing NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB and Tennis content to RotoWire since 2015, with an emphasis on DFS. He is a huge New York sports fan who has been playing fantasy sports since middle school.

Sasha Yodashkin
Sasha Yodashkin has been contributing NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB and Tennis content to RotoWire since 2015, with an emphasis on DFS. He is a huge New York sports fan who has been playing fantasy sports since middle school.
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