The Spurs and Warriors are tops on the odds board to lead the West in 2015-16, so lets examine some sleepers picks heading into the regular season that may provide value with your NBA Picks.
Portland Trail Blazers: Sleepers To Be…: Be A .500 Team
Everyone is expecting a huge drop-off from the Trail Blazers after they lost four starters in the offseason. While it’s true that LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews, Robin Lopez and Nicolas Batum contributed a lot to last year’s team, the truth is that the Trail Blazers had to make changes and did a good job reloading. The NBA odds show that they’ll be one of the worst teams in the West but I don’t see them falling quite that far. They’re no longer a playoff team but they still have Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum emerged in the playoffs, Meyers Leonard is a capable power forward, Mason Plumlee is a quality center and the Blazers took a bunch of fliers on talented players. Maybe Noah Vonleh breaks out? Maybe Mo Harkless proves to be a nice piece? Maybe Ed Davis or Gerald Henderson turn out to be serviceable? This team is going to fall down the ranks but don’t be surprised if they’re about .500. They’re no longer a playoff team but the cupboard is not bare here.
Dallas Mavericks: Sleepers To Be…: The Worst Team In The West
While many expect the Mavericks to stumble, not many are thinking that this team falls to the bottom of the totem pole. However, I could see it happening. They have Zaza Pachulia as their starting center. Dirk Nowitzki is 38 years old and is in his twilight, but he’s going to have to play big minutes. Devin Harris is the team’s starting shooting guard (until Matthews is healthy). Deron Williams is the team’s starting point guard. In terms of depth, this team is relying on guys like Charlie Villanueva, JaVale McGee, John Jenkins, J.J. Barea and Raymond Felton. They’re a complete mess and you can see it in the exhibition action.
The Mavericks finished the preseason 0-7 and that could be a very telling sign of what’s to come.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Sleeper To Be…: A Fringe Playoff Contestant
We’ve seen some people include the T-Wolves in their NBA picks to make the playoffs but I’m not sure that this team gets that far. However, I do see them in contention – if everything goes right. To start, Ricky Rubio has to stay healthy. If he does, this is a very different team. Secondly, they are loaded with talent. Up front, they have Karl-Anthony Towns, Gorgui Dieng, Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Garnett. Hopefully Towns and Dieng emerge/continue to emerge, but at any rate, this is a very deep frontcourt. On the wing, they have reigning Rookie Of The Year Andrew Wiggins along with Zach LaVine, Kevin Martin and Shabazz Muhammad. They need some consistency out of those guys but that’s still a solid rotation. Lastly, the unfortunate passing of Flip Saunders may be something that brings this young team closer.
If all of those things go right, this will be a much improved team – one that possibly challenges for the playoffs.
Sacramento Kings: Sleepers To Be…: A Playoff Team
A lot of people have Utah as their sleeper team but I think the Kings get it together. They’ve had a very good preseason (5-1) and seem to be coming together nicely. Are they combustible? Yes. However, I think coach George Karl will actually get this team on the right track. He’s an offensive-minded coach and this team has plenty of weapons. Rajon Rondo should be the right fit at point guard here because he’s a facilitator, not a scorer. This team already has plenty of me-first guys like Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins, so Rondo slots in quite well. They also have Darren Collison and an improved Seth Curry should the Rondo situation fail. Beyond that, the Kings did a good job to build some depth. Marco Belinelli will backup Ben McLemore but if he falters, Belinelli is capable of playing bigger minutes. Same goes up front where the Kings picked up Kosta Koufos and Willie Cauley-Stein. They have more options to either provide depth or to step up should the frontline guys falter. Karl has worked his magic many times before. I expect the Kings to be decent and to be the eighth and final playoff team in the West this season.