|Lin and Rockets should be most giving.|
There are 15 teams in the Western Conference. We feel certain that three teams could sustain significant injuries and still make the playoffs. The Lakers, San Antonio, and Oklahoma City are safe. On the next tier below that trio - we would put the Clippers, and Denver. The ten that follow gets tricky. Two recent mainstays, Memphis and Dallas seem primed to take a step backward at the same time that Golden State, Utah, Sacramento, and Minnesota are getting better.
Two teams have pieces that should allow them to go down fighting. The Phoenix Suns have a roster that could produce a win on any given night in the NBA yet nobody really stands out as a superstar or even potential superstar. I like their solid international trio of Marcin Gortat, Goran Dragic, and Luis Scola. Maybe Dragic becomes a special point guard in the NBA. But "maybe" teamed with "solid" equals more losses than wins.
It is hard to look at Portland, with LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum and say with certainty that their team will stink. The smell emanates from the lack of depth and the fact that the Blazers have five NBA rookies.
Which leaves us with two teams that, even though they don't believe it, must be in-line to battle for last. New Orleans has Anthony Davis so surely they are better. But can the number one pick make the Hornets one of the top 20 teams in the NBA? It seems doubtful, even with the addition of Ryan Anderson and the possibility of Eric Gordon actually playing games (as of this writing, Gordon had missed his third consecutive day of practice with a lingering knee injury).
Houston has an abundance of young talent but the key word is "young". Too young, in my opinion, to win with any consistency in the NBA. The best possible scenario for the Rockets would be if Jeremy Lin is as good as he showed he could be in the "Linsanity" stage of last season. That seems doubtful. As much we like Terrence Jones, he is just a rookie. While each player has their individual merits, a front line of Chandler Parsons, Patrick Patterson, and Omer Asik hardly strikes fear into an NBA opponent.
So there it is. Someone has to be last. And I think it will be the Houston Rockets.