Pre season has started tipping off, and no better time to breakdown the Western Conference after doing the Eastern Conference here.
The top teams are just as studded, but some of the fringe sides have retooled well. Denver getting Afflalo with healthy guys coming back, Memphis adding offense and Phoenix, well, they kept Eric. The West is near impossible to predict, but here's a stab at it.
15] Utah Jazz They kept Gordon Hayward, added Dante Exum, but still, Utah is lightyears away from being a playoff contender in a conference that is ridiculously stacked. If they can top off at 30 wins, I'd personally be impressed, though, they have some nice talent. Alec Burks, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter are legitimate NBA players.
14] Minnesota Timberwolves Yes, they added Andrew Wiggins for a guy that gave them empty stats, not to mention Thaddues Young and Anthony Bennett. That still won't be enough to get Minnesota within a marathon of the eight seed, or even contention for it. One more year of suckage, and the Wolves can end up being a surprise team for 2015-16.
13] Sacramento Kings While I believe the Kings might be a darkhorse for the 8th seed, let's be realistic. One more year, of a high pick, to go along with DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay, Nik Stauskas and Ben McLemore can pay major dividends for the Northern California side. Allow the young guys to improve, get experience and filter out who you want to keep for the long term should be Mike Malone's game plan.
12] Los Angeles Lakers Going from the top, to the bottom, in almost no time. It wasn't very long ago when the fans thought a dynasty would begin with the additions of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, but, did things not work out. Kobe Bryant will be returning, and Nash seems to be healthy as well, plus the additions of Carlos Boozer, Jeremy Lin and Julius Randle, some believe the Lakers may sneak in, though, I just don't see it. Worst part is, Phoenix receives the Lakers first if it isn't top five.
11] New Orleans Pelicans This is where the predictions become near impossible to predict, as any team from now, to the fifth seed can, arguably, be interchanged. Pelicans do have the league's best power forward, in Anthony Davis, and getting Eric Gordon, Jrue Holiday and Ryan Anderson back healthy is going to be huge. Though, I just don't view that as being enough, as the Pelicans will need one more year to add the right amount of experience to the youth to take the next step. Even with Omer Asik. 10] Phoenix Suns
Keeping Bledsoe around was huge in the Valley of the Sun, and I loved the draft selection of TJ Warren. Tyler Ennis and Zoran Dragic will also provide some more bolster off the bench, and locking up the Morris twins was a great move. A real solid offseason for the Arizona team, though, I view the lack of size up front being the costing factor from making the playoffs in 2015.
9] Denver Nuggets Adding Arron Afflalo for Evan Fournier and the 56th overall selection, was just huge for the Colorado side. Don't ignore the fact that Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari are expected to be back fully healthy, and you have the perfect pieces, to go with Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried, to make a playoff push. Unfortunately, I see Denver just falling short and missing the post-season, yet again.
8] Houston Rockets Dropping from the 4th seed to the 8th seed seems to be a bit steep, but the West is the West. Houston lost Chandler Parsons to the Dallas Mavericks, but the signing of Trevor Ariza is pretty big, as Ariza teamed with Patrick Beverly will provide the wing defense to cover for the fact that James Harden is a ghost on that end of the hardwood.
7] Dallas Mavericks Bringing back Tyson Chandler, signing Chandler Parsons and Jameer Nelson was Mark Cuban's coup of the summer. Good additions to go with the aging, but ever effective, Dirk Nowitzki and the slashing Monta Ellis. Many have Dallas as a top four seed in the West, though, I can't see that, even though the Mavericks will be a deadly team to face in the playoffs.
6] Portland Trail Blazers Bolstering the second unit with the additions of Chris Kaman and Steve Blake will help Portland out, along with an additional year of experience for Damian Lillard to grow with LaMarcus Aldridge, and you have a recipe of success. Taking the Rockets out in the first round, in seven games, last year, was big, though, losing to the eventual champs in the second round was nothing to hang their heads on.
5] Memphis Grizzlies Yes, Memphis deserves to be this high. They were a force to be reckoned with when Marc Gasol was healthy, and they bolstered their biggest weakness, offense, with the additions of Vince Carter and Jordan Adams, via free agency and draft respectively. Zach Randolph and Mike Conley will continue to be themselves, and if the Grizzlies don't run into one sided officiating and bias from the NBA's front office, they'll be built for the post season.
4] Golden State Warriors Another year of experience with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, adding Shaun Livingston, getting Andrew Bogut back and healthy, that is all perfect for the Warriors, who were ousted in seven by the Clippers during the 2014 campaign. Swapping coaches from Mark Jackson to Steve Kerr can pay dividends, or it can cause the Dubs to freefall and possibly miss the playoffs. I believe it'll be the former.
3] Los Angeles Clippers A great off season, adding Spencer Hawes, Ekpe Udoh, Joe Ingles and Chris Douglas-Roberts to a front court that was featuring Byron Mullens, Ryan Hollins, Jared Dudley and Antawn Jamison last season Teamed with the virtual even swap of Darren Collison to Jordan Farmar behind Chris Paul, the Clippers may have their best unit yet to make a championship push.
2] Oklahoma City Thunder The Thunder had a very quiet summer, highlighted with the signing of Anthony Morrow to be the team's, expected, starting shooting guard. Neither Kevin Durant nor Russell Westbrook competed in the 2014 FIBA World Cup, and Kendrick Perkins, much to the dismay of fans, is still on the team. If they can continue to get the benefit of the doubt from Adam Silver and the officials, it'll be championship or bust, which it should be regardless.
1] San Antonio Spurs There is no better coach in the association than Pop. Every year, we hear that San Antonio is done, they are too old, they won't compete. Repeated broken record, that, well, keeps being proven to be false. Tim Duncan, Emmanuel Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard and company are back to protect their championship, a task that won't be easy due to the conference.