NBA Western Conference Preview
Cue the tumbleweeds and showdown music, it is time to preview the Western Conference. Last year 10 teams finished with 50 or more wins in the league, 7 of those came out of the West. The Thunder and Pelicans fought for the 8th seed with 45-37 records, only for the Pelicans to win the tie-breaker. If those teams are in the East, they take the 5 and 6 seeds. The West looks to provide very similar excitement and competition this season.
Tier 3: Les Miserables- These teams are not from France, however they will more than likely suffer this season and could always take an early vacation.
15. Los Angeles Lakers- One of the greatest franchises in NBA history with one of the greatest players ever in Kobe Bryant, will continue to struggle this season. The addition of Carlos Boozer and Roy Hibbert should boost their rebounding, but with Kobe and Nick Young, there may not be enough touches for everyone to contribute effectively.
14. Phoenix Suns- Phoenix was just below .500 last year, but this year does not look to provide a better year. In fact it may get worse for this team. Between a relatively shoddy roster and the Markieff Morris issues there is too much for this team to overcome. On the bright side, they got new uniforms and court design.
13. Utah Jazz- This is a low spot for the Jazz, but they are here because it will be unclear as to how they will perform without Dante Exum. However, if the defense can stay on top of how they played last season, they could definitely jump up to the next level.
12. Denver Nuggets- The Nuggets will continue stay on the outside looking in this season. This is mainly due to the lack of a well rounded roster. However, they do have a potentially bright future with the emergence of Emmanuel Mudiay. Also, Danilo Gallinari has had a great offseason in EuroBasket 2015 that the Nuggets hope will carry over (See Kayla Osby’s Article)
Tier 2: Middle of the Road- These teams will look to fight and shuffle around for those 6, 7, and 8 seeds.
11. Portland Trailblazers- It is impossible to count this team out as long as Damian Lillard is on the roster. However, with LaMarcus Aldridge and Wesley Matthews gone, it is too much too ask for this team to be the same.
10. Minnesota Timberwolves- This team has the talent and the youth to become a great team. Just not quite this year. They may be able to fight for the 8 seed. One thing is for sure, with Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Zach Lavine, and Ricky Rubio on the roster… there may be a new Lob City.
9. Sacramento Kings- If Sacramento can build team chemistry early in the season, they will be a force to be reckoned with. With Willie Cauley-Stein added with DeMarcus Cousins the post will be secure. If Rajon Rondo can return to the form he is capable of, he can recharge his career and silence the critics of both himself and this team.
8. Dallas Mavericks- After the DeAndre Jordan betrayal, the Mavericks were left in awe. However, this team is always able to make a push no matter how much they seem counted out. It will be hard to replace Monta Ellis, but Wesley Matthews and Deron Williams could provide the production needed to keep Dallas relevant.
7. New Orleans Pelicans- It is difficult to count a team with Anthony Davis this far down, but unless the guards can provide an extra edge, that is just too much pressure for one player. They will look to have Jrue Holiday fully healthy and have a decent 1-2 punch with Tyreke Evans.
6. Memphis Grizzlies- Memphis has been a staple of a staple of the playoffs for the last few years. They look to jump to that next level this season with the addition of defensive minded Matt Barnes. They will also get a first full season with Jeff Green and Courtney Lee. This could be a team on the rise.
Tier 1- Leaders of the Pack- These teams are all elite caliber and should be able to contend to keep the NBA championship in the West.
5. Oklahoma City Thunder- This is the start of tough choices. The Thunder clearly have the talent to be the number 1 seed. The real question is how well will they mesh with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook fully healthy. They are both practically unguardable. Their post play is drastically improved as well. The weak link is still at Shooting Guard. If they improve that spot, they could win over 60 games.
4. San Antonio Spurs- The addition of David West and LaMarcus Aldridge give the Spurs an even better roster than usual. However, with the age of this team still relatively high, they will probably still sit some guys multiple times this season. That choice will affect their record and seeding, but come playoffs… don’t forget about this team.
3. Los Angeles Clippers- The additions of Lance Stephenson, Paul Pierce and Josh Smith coupled with the resigning of DeAndre Jordan give the Clippers a new hope to finally conquer the West.
2. Golden State Warriors- With practically the same team returning for the reigning NBA champions, it is hard to think they couldn’t make the same run this season.
1. Houston Rockets- The addition of Ty Lawson boosts the point play for this team. If the rookies, Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell, can contribute a decent amount in their respective skill sets, there will be minutes for them. Now the main struggle is for James Harden to play defense consistently.
Malachi David covers the NBA and NFL for MFST, you can follow him on Twitter @malachee89