It’s nearly here, the moment we have been waiting for. The National Basketball Association has returned. More stacked on the top, the West will be fun to watch, even though the clear favorites remain to be the Golden State Warriors.
Here’s how I see the Western standings looking at the end of the year. You can see the Eastern one here
1] Golden State Warriors
Defending champions ended up getting better, a sign the rest of the league doesn’t want to see. Acquiring Jordan Bell on draft night and signing Chris Boucher, Bell’s Oregon mate, to a two way deal was spectacular. To boot, Golden State gets to keep Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston while adding Nick Young. Will be interesting to see if they wish to keep the top seed.
2] Oklahoma City Thunder
If you would’ve told me a year ago that the Thunder would be able to acquire Paul George AND Carmelo Anthony for Serge Ibaka and Domantas Sabonis, I would’ve called you nuts and said you belong in an insane asylum. Well, that’s precisely what Sam Presti, the General Manager, was able to do after losing Kevin Durant (who left in cowardly fashion). With the reigning MVP, the Thunder have built a squad that can withstand the regular season and the playoffs.
3] San Antonio Spurs
Kawhi Leonard may be the league’s best two-way player, and Gregg Popovich is still Gregg Popovich. Rudy Gay was a nice add for the league’s most consistent team of the century, while experience for DeJounte Murray will pay dividends. Pop needs to let go of Tony Parker’s playing time, however.
4] Houston Rockets
Despite missing out on the services of Carmelo Anthony, the Rockets had one of the league’s best offseasons, adding Chris Paul for non-guaranteed contracts and the rights to a late first. Combined with James Harden, the MVP Runner-Up, the Rockets could have the league’s best ball movement.
5] Denver Nuggets
Count me on the quick-filling Nikola Jokic train here, as the Nuggets seem poised to make a surge into the playoffs after nearly missing out a year ago. Along with Jokic’s continued improvement, the Nuggets have a good amount of youth with Jamal Murray, Emmanuel Mudiay and Gary Harris. Round out the roster with the newly acquired Paul Millsap, Wilson Chandler and Will Barton, you have a recipe for success.
6] Los Angeles Clippers
After dealing Paul, one would assume the Clippers are moving on from the Lob City days. The acquisition of Milos Teodosic notes otherwise as the European star has already made himself a name in Los Angeles. Along with Teodosic, the Clippers are boasting eight other new players from Patrick Beverly to Danilo Gallinari, the depth may be the best in the entire history of the franchise. Oh and Blake Griffin seems excited to go.
7] Minnesota Timberwolves
Jimmy Butler was an exceptional addition to a young Wolves squad, giving Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony-Towns the much needed help to end the playoff drought dating back to 2003-04, where they made the Western Conference Finals.
8] New Orleans Pelicans
In an era where emphasis is put on pace, the Pelicans front court duo of Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins seems to be dated. With the proper coaching, the Pelicans could, and should, use their size to a dominating advantage. However, Alvin Gentry isn’t that man and the Pelicans should sneak into the 8th seed.
9] Portland Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard is committed to remaining in Portland as opposed to pulling a Durant/LeBron and jumping ship. His loyalty could cost him a chance at a title, though, the Blazers have a solid squad around him with C.J. McCollum, Al Farouq-Aminu, Caleb Swannigan and Jusuf Nurkic.
10] Memphis Grizzlies
Memphis needs to retool and stop cutting first round picks during their sophomore campaign, with the expected cutting of Wade Baldin IV, a year after cutting Jordan Adams. Mike Conley Jr. and Marc Gasol are still near the top of their games, but outside of that, the cupboard is relatively bare. Unless Chandler Parsons has an amazing comeback season.
11] Sacramento Kings
George Hill, Vince Carter and Zach Randolph were amazing additions for a young team that is oozing with potential. The future in Sacramento is bright with Buddy Hield, Skal, PapaG, Harry Giles and so forth.
12] Los Angeles Lakers
LaVar Ball thinks the Lakers are a playoff team, which is a long-shot in the deep Western Conference. Along with Lonzo, the Lakers have a good amount of youth in Kyle Kuzma, Larry Nance Jr. and Julius Randle, though, that won’t be enough to prevent giving up a lottery pick.
13] Utah Jazz
Losing Gordon Hayward hurts the Jazz, as does George Hill sneaking out to Sacramento. With Rudy Gobert still around, the Jazz won’t be an easy team to defeat and could give a run for the 8th seed.
14] Phoenix Suns
Josh Jackson falling to Phoenix with the fourth pick couldn’t have went better for the fans in the Valley of the Sun. Devin Booker and Marquesee Chriss are the perfect compliments to Jackson, or is it the other way around?
15] Dallas Mavericks
Dirk Nowitzki might be in his last year, and that won’t help Dallas from climbing out of the basement in the West. Good news? Dennis Smith Jr. can have a year to fully hone his skills without the pressures of winning.