Western Conference Preview

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Dallas Mavericks

The Mavericks are a completely different team than the team that won the NBA Championship two years ago. Gone are Tyson Chandler, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, and J.J. Barea; in their places are Chris Kaman, Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo, and Brandon Wright. The Mavericks will probably not contend for the Western Conference Championship, but expect Dirk Nowitzki, who is still one of the top five scorers in the NBA, to carry them to the playoffs.

Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets received one of the most underrated players in the league in Andre Igoudala from the four-team blockbuster trade that also sent Dwight Howard to the Lakers and Andrew Bynum to the 76ers. The Nuggets’ start Ty Lawson, Igoudala, Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried, and Kasta Koufos and have Andre Miller, JaVale McGee, and rookie Evan Fournier coming off the bench. Scoring points should not be a problem for the Nuggets, one of the fastest teams in the NBA, and Igoudala, Faried, and McGee should help the defense that has hurt the Nuggets in the past. Expect the Nuggets to earn a top five playoff seed and maybe even win a playoff series, but the Nuggets lack the superstar that is need to make a run to the conference finals.

Golden State Warriors

The Warriors have not made the playoffs since 2007 when they upset the number one seed Mavericks. This year, the Warriors’ starting lineup of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, David Lee, and Andrew Bogut seems talented enough to make the playoffs, but Curry and Bogut are very injury-prone, and Harrison Barnes is only a rookie. However, if the Warriors an stay healthy, they could surprise some people and make the playoffs.

Houston Rockets

The Houston Rockets may finally have gotten the superstar they have been trying so hard to get in James Harden, who they traded for before this season. They have also added Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik, who is a solid player, but is extremely overpaid at $25.1 million over three years. The Rockets are still a year or two and a scoring big-man away from really contending, but expect them to compete for a playoff spot.

Los Angeles Clippers

The historically terrible Clippers are finally catching up to the team they share an arena with, the Lakers. They have one of the best point guards in the game, Chris Paul, and an athletic frontline in Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. They also have a very good backcourt tandem coming off the bench in Eric Bledsoe and Jamal Crawford. This should be enough for them to nab a top four playoff seed and make a deep run in the playoffs.

Los Angeles Lakers

After back-to-back second round exits from the playoffs, the Lakers reloaded by acquiring Steve Nash and Dwight Howard. The Lakers have a star-studded starting five in Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, and Howard. But, there is concern about whether these players can stay healthy. Their bench is also a cause for concern, but expect them to contend for a title none the less.

Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies have two All-Star caliber players in Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay, but they are both players that have to have the ball in their hands, and they do not complement each other well. Both players also have problems staying healthy. If both players can stay healthy and learn to play well together, the Grizzlies could contend for a spot in the conference finals, but if they cannot, the Grizzlies seem destined for another first or second round playoff defeat.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Minnesota has a promising, young core in Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love. They brought in two solid bench players in Andrei Kirilenko and Brandon Roy, whom they signed out of retirement. On paper, they seem good enough to make run at the playoffs, but injuries are a concern here. Rubio is coming off a torn ACL, and Brandon Roy’s knees forced him to retire before he turned thirty.

New Orleans Hornets

The Hornets struggled mightily last season after trading superstar point guard Chris Paul to the Clippers. However, they got lucky in the offseason, winning the lottery to get the number one overall pick in the NBA draft, which they used to pick F/C Anthony Davis. They also drafted combo guard Austin Rivers out of Duke, traded for power forward Ryan Anderson, and re-signed guard Eric Gordon. Although they are talented, the Hornets lack the experience needed to make a run at the playoffs, and Gordon is not a sure thing due to knee problems. Nonetheless, they should compete in most games and get near forty wins on the season.

Oklahoma City Thunder                                                                                                                          

The Thunder shocked a lot of people by trading away James Harden, one of the top three players on the team that made it to the Finals last year. However, the Thunder still have one of the best scorers in the game (Kevin Durant), one of the most athletic point guards in the game (Russell Westbrook), one of the best perimeter defenders in the game (Thabo Sefolosha), and one of the best shot blockers in the game (Serge Ibaka). They should still contend for a title.

Phoenix Suns

The Suns traded away their best player,  Steve Nash, and seem to be in rebuilding mode with Goran Dragic, Michael Beasley, and Luis Scola. The Suns just made the playoffs last year with Nash, and they seem to have about the same amount of talent this year.

Portland Trailblazers                               

The Trailblazers appear ready to return from the playoffs after a one-year hiatus. They have an all-star forward in LaMarcus Aldridge, and they now have a stud point guard to pair with him, rookie Damian Lilliard. Just a few years ago, the Trailblazers’ future looked extremely bright, but bad luck with injuries (Brandon Roy, Greg Oden) never allowed that team to reach its potential. Their future looks bright now with Lilliard and Aldridge.

Sacramento Kings                                                                                                                       

The Kings have a talented team in Aaron Brooks, DeMarcus Cousins, Tyreke Evans, Jimmer Fridette, Thomas Robinson, Isaiah Thomas, Jason Thompson, and Marcus Thorton. They have talent, but it does not mesh well together; most of these players need the ball in their hands. There are also concerns about Cousins’ maturity, or lack thereof. The Kings seem to be headed to the lottery again.

Utah Jazz                                                                                                                                             

The Jazz seem to have a team good enough to get to the playoffs but seem to lack the star to make a deep run in the playoffs, much like the Nuggets. The Jazz have a young, promising frontline with Enes Kanter and Derrick Favours, but their backcourt is average with Mo Williams, Randy Roye, and Gordan Heyward.

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