NBA Western Conference Preview

The two-time defending Western Conference champion Golden State Warriors enter this season even more loaded than before. Coming off a 73-win season with a disappointing finish, the Warriors went out and added Kevin Durant in free agency. Meanwhile, the Spurs should again be at the top half of the West, but this time will be without Tim Duncan. There are other teams, such as the Trail Blazers and Clippers, who could contend, but it will be difficult to top the Warriors.

  1. Golden State Warriors- The Warriors are coming off of a historic regular season, winning a total of 73 games. But they fell short in the NBA Finals, blowing a 3-1 series lead to the Cavaliers. The Warriors then went out and improved even more when they signed small forward Kevin Durant in free agency. Outside of that, they return nearly the same team with point guard Stephen Curry, shooting guard Klay Thompson, and power forward Draymond Green all leading the way. The Warriors enter this season as clear favorites to once again win the Western Conference.
  2. San Antonio Spurs- The Spurs have a similar team as last year, but there will be one noticeable difference. Tim Duncan called it a career after last season, and to replace him the Spurs went out and signed center Pau Gasol. Point guard Tony Parker and shooting guard Manu Ginobili, two long time Spurs, are still with the team. While two younger guys, small forward Kawhi Leonard and power forward LaMarcus Aldridge are there to lead the way. Look for the Spurs to once again be one of the best teams in the West.
  3. Portland Trail Blazers- The Trail Blazers are led by one of the best backcourts in the entire league. Point guard Damian Lillard and shooting guard C.J. McCollum might only be behind the Warriors duo of Curry and Thompson. The Blazers were able to retain shooting guard Allen Crabbe in free agency while also signing small forward Evan Turner to a four year, $70 million contract. With those pieces along with power forwards Al-Farouq Aminu and Meyers Leonard and center Mason Plumlee, the Trail Blazers should take another step into being one of the top teams in the West.
  4. Los Angeles Clippers- The Clippers are coming off of a frustrating, injury plagued season. Point guard Chris Paul and power forward Blake Griffin both missed the playoffs due to injuries. The Clippers were then bounced in the first round by the Trail Blazers. There is a lot of pressure entering this season for the Clippers to finally do something come playoff time. This could be the final year the big three of Paul, Griffin, and center DeAndre Jordan are all together due to Griffin’s upcoming free agency. The Clippers need to show that they could be a team that can win to keep Griffin beyond this season.
  5. Utah Jazz- The Jazz are a good young team who have the ability to take a big step this season. After just missing out on the playoffs last season, the Jazz went out and traded for point guard George Hill. They also signed small forward Joe Johnson to add depth to the team. But this is a team led by young talent such as small forward Gordon Hayward, shooting guard Rodney Hood, and center Rudy Gobert. They also have other young talent such as power forward Derrick Favors and point guard Dante Exum. Look for the Jazz to make the jump this year into being a pretty good basketball team.
  6. Oklahoma City Thunder- The Thunder are a team everyone will be interested in seeing. The big news with them is that Kevin Durant left in free agency this offseason. But the Thunder also made a notable move. On draft night they traded power forward Serge Ibaka to the Orlando Magic for shooting guard Victor Oladipo, power forward Ersan Illyasova, and rookie power forward Domantas Sabonis. Now point guard Russell Westbrook and Oladipo have the ability to become a very good backcourt. And without Durant, Westbrook might be able to put up an MVP season. The Thunder will take a step back this year, but they will still be a good team, led by one of the better players in the league, in Westbrook.
  7. Memphis Grizzlies- The Grizzlies re-signed point guard Mike Conley to a huge five year, $153 million contract this offseason, the biggest contract in NBA history. It is definitely a lot of money for Conley, but he’s the Grizzlies best player and they felt they needed to do everything possible to keep him. The Grizzlies also went and signed small forward Chandler Parsons during the offseason. Marc Gasol will be returning to the lineup after missing the end of last season with a foot injury. Led by those three guys, and other players such as shooting guard Tony Allen and power forwards JaMychal Green and Zach Randolph, the Grizzlies should be good enough to make another appearance in the playoffs.
  8. Houston Rockets- The Dwight Howard experiment is over in Houston. The Rockets made the Western Conference Finals two years ago, but things seemed to fall apart last season. Center Clint Capela will replace Howard this season. The Rockets brought in power forward Ryan Anderson and shooting guard Eric Gordon during the offseason. Still led by shooting guard James Harden, the Rockets should be a team who is in playoff contention all year long.
  9. Dallas Mavericks- When the Warriors signed Kevin Durant, it left small forward Harrison Barnes on the outs. The Mavericks were able to sign him on a four year, $95 million deal. Now playing without the talented Warriors team, we will find out more about Barnes and if he can grow into a solid player, and someone the Mavericks can possibly build around. The Mavericks also brought in former Warriors center Andrew Bogut. Point guard Deron Williams re-signed with the Mavericks this offseason. Face of the franchise Dirk Nowitzki also re-signed this offseason on a two year, $50 million deal. The Mavericks should be able to contend for a playoff this season.
  10.  Minnesota Timberwolves- The Timberwolves are one of the most intriguing teams in the entire league. Already led by center Karl-Anthony Towns and small forward Andrew Wiggins, the Timberwolves drafted point guard Kris Dunn in this past draft. Ask many people around the league and they would tell you that Towns is the guy that many people would choose to build their team around right now. Wiggins also has the ability to become one of the best players in the entire league. The Timberwolves aren’t there yet, but they’re growing and very soon could be one of the best teams in the league.
  11.  Denver Nuggets- The Nuggets also have some promising young talent. After drafting point guard Emmanuel Mudiay last year, this year the Nuggets drafted shooting guard Jamal Murray. If those two develop, they can become a very good backcourt. The Nuggets also have a lot of veteran presence with power forwards Nikola Jokic, and Kenneth Faried, small forwards Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler, and point guard Jameer Nelson.
  12.  Sacramento Kings- Center DeMarcus Cousins continues to be on a bad team as his great career is seemingly going to waste right now. The Kings have two players this year who could easily be traded in small forward Rudy Gay and shooting guard Ben McLemore. There has been trade talk surrounding Gay and McLemore, and the Kings likely won’t agree on a long term deal, making him someone they will look into trading. Point guard Rajon Rondo left in the offseason but the Kings should have no problem replacing him with point guards Darren Collison and Ty Lawson. This will just be another year of the Kings not being a very good team.
  13.  New Orleans Pelicans- The only reason the Pelicans are not last in the West is because of Anthony Davis. He will carry them in points and get them wins. But outside of him, right now this is not a very good team. Jrue Holiday will miss time this season to be with his wife who just underwent brain surgery, and Tyreke Evans will also miss time due to an injury. The Pelicans have to hope that rookie shooting guard Buddy Hield can develop into a good player.
  14.  Los Angeles Lakers- The post Kobe Bryant era begins this year with the Lakers, and they definitely have the pieces in place to build back up into a good team. The Lakers already had point guard D’Angelo Russell, shooting guard Jordan Clarkson, and power forward Julius Randle. And now they drafted small forward Brandon Ingram, who has gotten Kevin Durant comparisons. The Lakers did have a head-scratching move this offseason when they gave center Timofey Mozgov a four year, $64 million deal. The Lakers should be a fun and intriguing team to watch now with all the young talent they have in place.
  15.  Phoenix Suns- Outside of shooting guard Devin Booker, and three point guards they have, Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, and rookie Tyler Ulis, this probably won’t be a very good team. Right now they are starting Jared Dudley at power forward and Tyson Chandler at center. Shooting guard Leandro Barbosa was a reliable player for the Warriors, but who knows how he will be on a bad Suns team. Definitely expect the Suns to be one of the worst teams in the league.