Full Court Digress: Your Official 2018 Western Conference Preview

Full Court Digress returns with the second of a two-part preview for the NBA's 2018-2019 season.
By    October 17, 2018

Art by Jose Garcia

Mike Dupar has a special advance pre-pre-order for the Curry 6s.

More like the Bestern Conference amiright?

The best aspect of this season may very well be watching the middle of the pack Western Conference teams bludgeoning each other over the opportunity to get baptized repeatedly by the Warriors in the first round.

While the Warriors have made it a little too convenient to be an NBA fatalist, the West’s reputation as the better conference is only going to get stronger this year thanks in large part to the Suns, Mavs and Clippers looking like they may only be a year or two away from competing on a nightly basis. As the NBA’s talent pool continues to grow exponentially and teams get smarter, we appear to be only a year or so away from the NBA being the most competitive sports league in the world. So as the season begins take extra stock in those moments of absurdity from the likes of young players like Devin Booker, Doncic, and Jamal Murray because the next wave of talent is already here and before you know it we may be talking about one of them instead of the fucking Warriors.

Golden State Warriors – 1 Seed

At this point the last thing anyone wants to hear is how great the Warriors are and how the league has no answer for them. So rather than rehashing the same shit for the third straight year lets take a look at how exactly we can finely rid ourselves of this fucking team.

The answer is getting Kevin Durant off the team. Given what we know about Durant- that he cares way too much about what people think of him and is very defensive- the last thing we should be rooting for is the Warriors losing out on another title.

As much as that sucks to admit I have a difficult time convincing myself that Durant would surely leave the Warriors in any other situation. If the Warriors do indeed win another title then the likelihood of Durant being able to convince himself that he’s achieved all that he can in Golden State would multiply. If the Warriors lose then what is stopping Durant from re-upping for yet another year?

Given Durant’s infatuation with LeBron nothing can be truly certain, as he may already have his sights on a larger market (NY?) and the next chapter of his career. But with that said, I’m not comfortable assuming that much this early into the season and for that very reason I will be rooting for the Warriors to smoke the entire league once more.


In a somewhat but not totally unexpected turn of events the Keebler Elf Sessions and the Federal Government begin cracking down on marijuana dispensaries, leaving Klay Thompson to face life as millionaire celebrity sober for the first time ever. Thompson becomes emotional and unpredictable and reports from within the Warriors facility start to leak that Thompson is convinced that he is Andy Kauffman trapped inside a Truman Show type scenario. Demarcus Cousins tries to tell Thompson one day during practice that he’s mixing up his Jim Carey films but this proves to be the final straw.

Thompson eviscerates Durant in an all-too personal rap battle and sits out the remainder of the season after presenting Draymond Green with an obviously forged doctor’s note that reads “Klay no play…capeesh?”

The Warriors lose in 7 to the Celtics and Klay Thompson signs for the veteran minimum in Sacremento. Durant leaves for New York and Draymond retires early and receives rave reviews for his portrayal as Shrek in Shrek on Ice!.

Houston Rockets – 2 Seed

You live by the 3 and you die by the 3. Last year the Rockets nearly pulled off the unthinkable and while their brand of basketball is repugnant to many of my sensibilities I have to give them a round of applause for making things at least somewhat interesting last season.

Last year was Houston’s best shot at catching the Warriors but that being said I still won’t be surprised if they make the Western Finals. While something about Harden’s demeanor makes me feel like he isn’t the type to win an MVP and show up for the next season even more motivated, I do think that the rest of the team and salty-ass Chris Paul will play with enough venom to get them back to the Western Finals.

While the Lakers have the meme-team title locked down, it will be awesome to check in on the Rockets periodically to watch the look on Chris Paul’s face when Melo has a 1-19 shooting night.

I expect the Rockets to be extremely aggressive on the buy-out market and will really just be holding my tongue this season until that deadline passes. What moves they are able to make then may truly dictate their ceiling.


The Rockets acquire Jeremy Lin, DeMarre Carroll and Trevor Ariza on the buy-out market and proceed to go undefeated in the regular season thereafter. In a tender moment Chris Paul is caught on camera being taught how to Floss by Harden. Enraged that he’s been outed as a “fun guy” Paul responds by playing all 48-minutes in a meaningless game against the Grizzlies. Paul records the league’s first Sextuple-Double and sprains both his eyes in the process.

Paul’s vision is unable to be saved and against the wishes of his doctors he takes the court the next night with two eye-patches. Paul is pulled in the first 3-minutes after shooting on the wrong basket.

Jeremy Lin injures himself shortly thereafter and the Rockets begin the playoffs with Michael Carter Williams as their starting point guard.

You know how it goes from here.

Utah Jazz – 3 Seed

Nearly everything imaginable went well for the Jazz last year. Donovan Mitchell leap-frogged nearly half the league’s upcoming talent with his savant-like knack for nearly everything a modern NBA franchise could ask for out of their 1-2 guard.

The other- less often noted- surprise for the Jazz was Royce O’Neale. Seemingly unknown coming out of Baylor, O’Neale materialized out of thin air to claim the mantle as the team’s lock-down wing defender.

Of all NBA players last year who played more than 30 games and averaged more than 15 minutes/game, Royce O’Neale ranked behind only Andre Roberson and Aron Baynes in Defensive Rating.

Out of all players within those same parameters, O’Neale ranked 16th Overall in Net Rating.

This year the question will be whether O’Neale can continue to play at such a high level and if Dante Exum can stay healthy and push for the starting job over Rubio.


Exum’s defense on James Harden in last year’s playoffs was truly something to behold, but regardless of whether or not Exum finally actualizes his potential over the course of the season I like the Jazz to make a small leap in the standings thanks to their collective abilities and Mitchell’s penchant for scoring.

While the Jazz may very well be the best in the league this season at imposing their will on teams defensively, to truly compete with the likes of Golden State and Houston they will need to find a reliable secondary scorer. Truth be told I don’t quite see it happening but despite that this team looks poised to find themselves at the top of conference and to be incredibly fun to watch all year long.

Oklahoma City Thunder – 4 Seed

The Thunder enter the season with two of their starters injured, yet despite the untimely surgery for Russell “the Will to Power” Westbrook and Andre Roberson‘s continued healing I really like the Thunder this year.

That is largely due to their off-season moves and their added wing-depth.  In letting Melo go the Thunder have opened the door for Jerami Grant to take on a larger role. The Thunder gave Grant a 3-year deal worth $27 Million and thus far this preseason he’s looked to be worth every penny.

With Paul George and Grant resigned and the additions of Dennis Schroder, Nerlens Noel, Hamidou Diallo (sleeper!) and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot the Thunder can finally put out respectable small ball lineups to combat the more versatile rosters atop the Conference. The thought of watching the Thunder roll out a line-up of RWB-PG13-Roberson-Grant and Noel against the likes of Houston and Golden State is enough to make me consider adjusting my pants.

I won’t hold my breathe but if the Will to Power can finally find it within himself to play off ball then this team may truly surprise the league this year.


If it weren’t for the injuries to RWB and Roberson I’d have the Thunder slotted in as the 3 seed, but ultimately the 4th seed may be better than we could ever hope for if the next team ends up where I expect them.

Nerlens Noel enters Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating contest and dethrones Cody Chesnutt. Russell Westbrook finally enters RuPaul’s Drag Race but finds himself superficially fixated on all the wrong components of Drag.

LA Lakers – 5 Seed

LeBron leaves the Cavs for the Lakers and gets hair plugs that resemble Anderson Varejao’s signature curls”- Me in last year’s East Preview.  

If you’ve ever read anything about LeBron you had to have known that he was headed to LA, I mean the guy is at the forefront of biometric witchcraft and has done more for athlete brand autonomy than Kanye has for the leather jogging pant and Ye’s done a lot for the leather jogging pant. Considering Cleveland just discovered yoga and smoothies last week it really isn’t all that surprising. Now we get to watch LeBron carry a bunch of Muppets and a few spring chickens improbably deep into the Playoffs for what feels like the 100th time.

All jokes aside, this Lakers roster isn’t getting enough credit. LeBron has dragged much worse than Ingram, Hart, Kuzma, Rondo, Lonzo and the Fraggle Rock house band to the Finals before- does the name Sasha Pavlovic mean anything to you? But that’s the beauty of LeBron, he controls the narrative better than any athlete ever has.

So here we are on the eve of another season and the narrative is conveniently centered on the illusory jism that is the Lakers bench, not two of the three second overall picks of the last three drafts. The truth is that most of us are complicit in the con because deep down we all want humanity to be proven to be of intrinsic value.

If you’re anything like me and the notion of a Biblical, bearded Jeff Bridges in the sky doesn’t quite make sense, then I implore you to suspend your disbelief for 9 months a year and to allow LeBron James to be your existential champion; the one who creates meaning out of the inherently meaningless; the one who unapologetically affirms his own existence and ignores any and every pang of conscience suggesting otherwise. Or would you rather your basketball hero have the throne handed to him every year? Is Sissyphus not meant to eternally push the ball up a titled hardwood-court? Come on in, the water is warm.


Now that I’m toweled off let’s cut the shit, unless the Lakers make a mid-season acquisition of Anthony Davis they aren’t winning the finals, let alone making it. As much as I’d love to see an NBA arms race between the Lakers and Celtics, the Pelicans likely aren’t going to cash in on Davis this season, even though it is the right thing to do (more on this later).

I’ll be waiting for LeBron to get that same itch he always seems to get around the all-star break, the itch to reconstruct his roster midseason like he’s Dr. Dre and every season is just another mix of Detox.

Inevitably all-star talent becomes available via trade and the gates of the buy-out market open a few hours earlier for LeBron than they do anyone else. There will be moves regardless of how good the Lakers look early on and while I expect those to be largely on the fringe for a guy like Kyle Korver, I do kind of suspect that they could be the one team goofy enough to sign Joakim Noah.

Please LeBron, please let Noah join the circus.

The Nugs – 6 Seed

I’m not quite ready to turn the lights down low and to put on my finest silks for this team. The Nugs looked flaccid for much of last year on the defensive end and while Millsap shouldn’t be expected to miss 40-plus games again this year, I still want to use protection with this team.

The Nugs are intriguing thanks to their young talent and the prospect of Isaiah Thomas and Michael Porter Jr. coming off the bench to flamethrower all other bench mobs, but unless one expects this team to be an offensive supernova like the Warriors or Rockets (which I don’t) then their defensive woes seem unlikely to recede.

In head coach Mike Malone’s 5 seasons as an NBA head coach, everyone of his teams have failed to climb out of the bottom 8 in Defensive Rating and while a few of those seasons were in Sacramento, at a certain point you are what you are. Looking at this roster one doesn’t exactly get the feeling that this team will break that mold thanks to their commitment to Jokic this offseason ($$$) and their lack of wing-depth, but
with that said I do think that the Nuggets will somewhat easily make the playoffs and in large part due to Millsap’s health.


The Nuggets boast the best Offensive Rating and the worst Defensive Rating in the league. Jokic takes the mantle from Russ as the NBA’s lead style-icon after he attends a Halloween Party dressed as the love child of Brian Colangelo’s collars and Count Chocula.

The Nugs square off against the Utah Jazz in the first round of the playoffs in what is marketed as the greatest example of the irresistible force paradox since Larry David came face-to-face with a jar of pickles.

The Jazz win in 5 games and Malone is fired.

San Antonio Spurs – 7 Seed

What can I say I can’t quit the Spurs. While the Spurs have been pegged by many to finally fall off this season due to the injury to Dejounte Murray and their aging infrastructure, I see a team that is over-stocked with mid-range assassins and the only coach brilliant enough to successfully stanky-leg through the regular season unnoticed as the rest of the league worries about perfecting the Shoot.

There are plenty reasons for concern but at the end of the day Pop has overcome worse and consistently finds a way to game the regular season. The post season may be a whole other story but I think way too many are overlooking the fact that the greatest basketball coach of all time has two All-NBA players on this roster and a huge chip on his shoulder.


Shea Serrano begins the season as the Spurs starting point guard and finds himself targeted mercilessly by Gerald Green in their first matchup against the Rockets. Serrano breaks Green’s ankles late in the game and Twitter closes permanently. Serrano smartly retires in his post game press conference and walks off into the sunset .The Spurs trade a package of future picks to the 76ers for a healthy ACL to insert into Dejounte Murray just before the playoffs. The Spurs surprise the Rockets and take them to 7 games but ultimately lose on a Nene half-court buzzer-beater.

New Orleans Pelicans – 8 Seed

Anthony Davis is the sole reason this team will be relevant this season but that may be as much about the Pelican’s roster construction as it is Davis.

Last year the Pelicans pulled off a particularly component and un-Pelicansy run after the injury to Boogie. Davis vaulted to the top of everyone’s best player lists and the Pelicans pantsed the Trailblazers in the first round.

Davis is a giant space worm with the blocking ability of Mutumbo, the mechanics of a young Tim Duncan and the athletic “Don’t Fuck with Me” of Shaq, yet I’m going to focus on Rajon Rondo and his impact last season on Jrue Holiday.

Last year Jrue Holiday was exceptional on the defensive end of the court and earned himself a spot on the NBA 1st Team All-Defense, the first All NBA honor of his career. What changed for Holiday last year? Well, it was the first time in his career that he’d not been required to be the primary ball-handler on offense. In the years prior, both the Pelicans and 76ers had used Holiday as their lead ball-handler, largely due to those teams featuring other point guards by the names of Austin Rivers, Tyreke Evans, Antonio Daniels and Norris Cole.

Last year that all changed with Rondo, the savvy curmudgeon who finally allowed Holiday to play the 2 on offense and as a result, allowed Holiday the freedom to further focus on the defensive end.

Pelicans Last Year w/Jrue Holiday & Rondo On and Cousins Off-

EFG – 54.8%
OFF Rtg – 111.5
DEF Rtg – 102.5

Pelicans Last Year w/ Jrue Holiday On and Rondo and Cousins Off-

EFG – 53.1%
OFF Rtg – 111.2
DEF Rtg – 108.3

Now these numbers on first blush don’t seem all that different, but while the Pelican’s Effective Field Goal % and Offense remained nearly identical, their Defense was dramatically worse when Holiday was on the court without Rondo as opposed to when they were on the court together.

For context a 102.5 Defensive rating (Holiday and Rondo On) if sustained for the entire season would’ve been the best Defensive Rating in the entire league last season (Boston was #1 with a DEF RTG of 102.9).  A 108.3 Def Rtg (Holiday On and Rondo Off) if sustained for the entire season would’ve been 17th in the NBA just behind the Mavericks.


The strange additions of Julius Randal, Jahlil Okafor and Elfrid Payton off the NBA reclamation scrap-heap make very little sense to me and with the added loss of Rondo I feel that not even Anthony Davis can drag this strange concoction of a team past the 8 seed.

In an ideal world where the Pelicans are not burdened by their small market and the financial imperatives that dictate their decision making process they would cash in on Davis before the trade deadline. With players like Jayson Tatum and Brandon Ingram potentially available the Pelicans could avoid Davis’ inevitable move and get a jump on their rebuild. Sadly the Pelicans will likely forsake themselves to eternal mediocrity and potential franchise relocation after waiting too long to deal Davis.

Warriors sweep the Pelicans in the 1st round and we all weep into our gumbo.

Portland Trailblazers – 9th in the West

This is the portion of the preview where feelings are going to be hurt and I’ll start with non-other than the Trailblazers, a team in financial purgatory and with no choice but to start anew. While a first round sweep at the hand of the Pelicans last year doesn’t bode well it had very little to do with my feeling about the Blazers- as they’ve remained unchanged from last year.

The Blazers are essentially living in an NBA Groundhog Day. It feels like every year they barely make the playoffs only to get their asses smacked. This year should be no different, as the team is largely unchanged and will once again be hamstrung by their own stupidity. The best mive the Blazers can make is to trade McCollum for Zach Randolph and to allow the Jail Blazers team to reunite and take the league by storm. If you can’t beat ‘em, beat the shit out of them.” – Me in Last year’s preview

If any of that seems wrong to you feel free to email me at [email protected] until then read, rinse, repeat.


One of McCollum or Lillard gets traded and the Blazers find themselves a top the scrap heap in the West thanks to early season functionality thanks to said backcourt and Terry Stotts.

Terry Stotts is fired mid-season and Bill Walton is hired as GM/Coach. Walton makes Nurkic try LSD during halftime of what was until that moment a forgettable game. Nurkic eats a child and posts the seasons second sextuple-double.

LA Clippers – 10th in the West

The Clippers have three paths before them: 1. Fire sale 2. Allow your roster of grumpy bastards to drag your sorry ass  fans to the 8th seed or 3.  A combination of the first two.

I’m inclined to think that a team comprised of bonafide motherfuckers like Pat Beverly, Montrezl Harrell, Lou Williams, Marcin Gortat and Boban won’t allow their team to be anything short of violently competitive. As such Jerry West will have a tough choice to make regarding the best method to woo star free agents next season- one either banks on their competitive roster of excellent role players to convince said star that the makings of a contender are already in place with their addition, or that you will sell any and everything you have to bring said star player in and that you will allow him or her (ever seen that documentary Juwanna Mann?) to construct a roster to their liking a la LeBron James.

Personally I feel that every player here will be trying out before the dark lord Jerry West for a spot on next years team.


West finds a way to unload Gallinari, Bradely, Gortat and about 72 ball boys. In a particularly tumultuous scene West trades Boban at the final seconds of the trade deadline, severing him from best friend Tobias Harris. In an act of idiotic heroism Harris bites a cyanide capsule in the team locker room and recites a monologue from Romeo and Juliet as he dies (Boban and him had previously been to seven renditions of the play at a local theatre).

Boban wears number 34 for the remainder of his career and averages a triple-double for the next eight seasons.

Dallas Mavericks – 11th in the West

In a righteous world this team would no longer belong to Mark Cuban and they’re next 5 years of revenue would be donated directly to women’s rights organizations, but this is 2018 in the United States and morally bankrupt businesses are still allowed to prosper and fleece teams from Atlanta for the best prospect in the draft.

The Mavs finally got DeAndre Jordan, which in itself is an indictment into how this franchise is run, and are now anchored by two young guards- Dennis Smith Jr and Luka Doncic. Smith struggled last year but with Doncic now available to take on the brunt of the play-making on offense the Mavs will be able to allow Smith to play to his more natural skills- cutting and off-ball fuckery that leads to big dick energy dunks (shout outs Pete Davidson).

As Rick Carlisle is still their coach, I imagine that the Mavs will be almost as frisky as Pants DJ and fall a bit shy of the playoffs.


In a moment of karmic harmony Mark Cuban finds himself in a literal shark tank on national TV. The sharks eat both of Cuban’s pinkies and somehow manage to make his cellphone transfer the entirety of his net worth to various humanitarian aid charities. The Mavs look frisky enough to maybe steal the 8th seed but ultimately pump the brakes and begin to covertly tank in hopes of attaining another top draft pick.

Minnesota Timberwolves – 12th in the West

In the history of the sports the Timberwolves past few weeks have got to be pretty close to the top in the all time Fuckiest Fuck-Fest rankings. At this point Jimmy Butler would probably fight Prince, which is why tonight’s matchup against the Spurs is appointment TV- remember that League Pass is free this week.

Ultimately Butler won’t be on this team within a week or two and Thibs’ will be right behind him. While things weren’t particularly rosy in Minnesota before the Butler supernova landed, considering that Kat looks like the husky poster boy for the Cheesecake Factory and that Wiggins has been deemed Poutine Rickey Davis, this team did seem destined to nab a playoff spot off of sheer talent.

Now with Butler having gone Rambo on the entire team and Thibs devoting more time trying to conceal his rage-loving erection than coaching, the Timberwolves look destined to play out the year with an interim coach, two castrated wannabe stars and a roster comprised of a no-kneed-rapist, a power-bald, the remains of Luol Deng, an underwhelming back court and Jeff Teague.

The question by the end of the year will be whether or not Kat can show up to work despite what may end up being the worst documented case of PTSD in workplace history.

The solution is for someone to punch Butler in the face and while Butler probably wants that to happen as well, everyone on the team is too afraid to do it. Fuck, for a 10 day contract and a team duffel bag I’ll do it- shit I’ll even hit Derrick Rose for free as a bonus.


Jimmy shoots 45 times in the opening game against the Spurs tonight and sets an NBA record by making every single shot. Butler holds the team hostage during halftime but hiss demands are unclear and he refuses to speak with anyone but Benny the Bull. After an hour-long delay the Timberwolves jog back onto the court but every player except Butler and Taj Gibson has been replaced. Woj parachutes through a hole in the stadium’s roof to deliver a bomb that details an unprecedented trade that has brought Rasheed Wallace, Damon Stoudamire, Ron Artest, Zach Randolph, Gilbert Arenas, Andre Bogut and Bobby Portis to the Wolves.

Jeff Van Gundy has a stroke on air and Mark Jackson comes out of the announcer’s booth to coach the newly minted Bout It Bout It Wolves. The Bout It Bout It Wolves elect Birdman as their new GM and Owner and eat Glenn Taylor during the 3rd quarter intermission.

The Bout It Bout It Wolves don’t recognize Adam Silver or any clique he claims and function out of the traditional framework of the league. They travel the world looking for soft opponents to embarrass on the court and are said to subsist only on the blood of the soft. Kat’s bloodied face is their logo.

Memphis Grizzlies – 13th in the West

While Memphis may have had the best draft of any team when the season is said and done, this team remains in limbo thanks to Marc Gasol being a bloated asshole and the eternal uncertainty that is Mike Conley’s body. With the additions of Jaren Jackson Jr, Javon Carter and Kyle Anderson have what could be an interesting developmental trio to usher in a new era, but considering the fact that Memphis may be one of the worst professional sports markets in the country (their words not mine) it seems unlikely that ownership will do the right thing and begin the rebuild now. Rather I imagine that they’ll wait until Conley suffers another serious injury.


Marc Gasol enters into a Doritos eating contest during half-time and explodes before the 25 fans in the arena. Chandler Parsons contract syphilis for the 58th time and retires from the NBA. JB Bickerstaff, coach weed carrier du jour, is a surprisingly good coach considering nearly every team in the league passed on him. Bickerstaff and Jackson develop a lifelong bond over Yahtzee.

Phoenix Suns – 14th in the West

And with the Sacramento Kings having been relegated to the G-League (well done Mr. Silver) we have reached the end of the Western Conference Preview.

A tinkering man named Robert Sarver owns the Suns. Sarver fired his GM a few days before the season began despite having a somewhat promising team for the first time in years. Sarver is notorious around the league for being far too involved in the daily operations of the team and as such is being held largely responsible for their recent shittiness. While Sarver may indeed suck he also hasn’t run an organization that condoned and turned a blind eye to rampant sexual abuse -so lets just be sure we all are applying our slander appropriately-ahem.

I personally am very excited by what the Suns may do on the court this season. Their new coach Igor Kokoskov has had his hands in some very impressive teams (the ’04 Pistons and last year’s Jazz) and may quietly be one of the most qualified first year head coaches in the league. With the addition of Ayton, Trevor Ariza, Mikal Bridges and Ryan Anderson the Suns managed to solidify their roster with the proper balance of veteran savvy and young potential.


Don’t get me wrong the Suns are going to suck ass but they should be pretty damn fun to watch when everyone is healthy. In an effort to tank once again I expect the Suns to buy-out a few of their superfluous veterans- as they should- which may be their biggest contribution to the league when it is all said and done.

Ariza gets bought out and heads right back to Houston.



Coach of the Year – Mike Budenholzer

Rookie of the Year – Doncic

Defensive Player of the Year – Anthony Davis

Most Improved – Brandon Ingram

Sixth Man – Dennis Schroder

Executive of the Year – Sam Presti


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