NBA season is back!
It never really ends, but regular season basketball is back. This offseason shook up the landscape of who could be representing the Western Conference in the NBA Finals next June.
It's time for our Western Conference team rankings!
1. Portland Trail Blazers (Projected Record 58-24)
We're very high on the Blazers this season. So high in fact that we think they'll be the best team in the Western Conference.
Damian Lillard finally got a taste of a Conference Finals last year, but he couldn't lead his team to a single victory in that series. The constant hunger for more will drive him and the Blazers to give it everything they got for 82 games.
Barring any setbacks in the Jusuf Nurkic recovery process, the Blazers will return with stability and a chance to solidify themselves as a consistent winner in the Western Conference.
2. Denver Nuggets (56-22)
Nikola Jokic was in the MVP conversation last season, but was still not quite on the level of the highest individual honor in the NBA. His constant improvement will only continue to trend upwards. Especially with this roster.
Their depth at every position is all a matter of whether or not this young squad can continue to live up to their potential. The team will only go as far as Jamal Murray and Jokic take them. But guys like Gary Harris, Will Barton, Paul Millsap, Torey Craig, Jerami Grant and Monte Morris make them the team with the most options.
And everyone is waiting to see what they can get from rookies Michael Porter Jr. and Bol Bol. *Insert Mile High expectations pun here*
3. Los Angeles Clippers (55-27)
The Clippers have easily put themselves in position to be the NBA Champions after its all said and done. However, the Paul George shoulder injury still leaves us questioning when he'll return. And will they use load management on both him and Kawhi even when they're healthy?
Even if both of those guys only play 60 games together, that'll still be enough to put them in the top half of the Western Conference.
4. Utah Jazz (54-28)
The Jazz have been on the brink of a breakthrough in the last couple of seasons, but there has been something they've been lacking. It turns out that Mike Conley was exactly what they were missing.
Donovan Mitchell successfully avoided a sophomore slump. If the Jazz want to advance in the playoffs, he will have to live up to his constant comparison to Dwyane Wade.
5. Houston Rockets (51-31)
Daryl Morey said that he wasn't going to trade Chris Paul, and then exactly one week later he did just that. So maybe don't take this guy's words so seriously.
The backcourt of Russel Westbrook and James Harden is probably the most passionate duo in the NBA. A lot of swagger, a lot of dancing, and a lot of forceful offense. This is either going to be a reunion for the ages, or it's going to blow up in their face like a bad tweet.
6. Los Angeles Lakers (51-31)
The addition of Anthony Davis will lift the Lakers to their first playoff berth in the Lebron James era. But it may take them a while to find their stride.
Their lack of depth at the point guard and center positions are going to make it a tough task for new head coach Frank Vogel. But their top end talent alone will help them get to the playoffs.
7. Golden State Warriors (48-34)
Losing Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson is definitely going to make Steph Curry and Draymond Green's job a lot more difficult. But if there's any franchise in the NBA that can win in any situation, it's the Warriors.
The addition of D'Angelo Russel is somehow an underrated move. They were able to salvage losing Durant by replacing him with an All-Star caliber shooting guard, who should fit right into the Warriors fast pace of play.
8. San Antonio Spurs (46-36)
Until Greg Poppovich and the Spurs don't make the playoffs, I am just going to automatically assume they will make the playoffs every year.
They will bring back a healthy Lamarcus Aldridge and Demar Derozan as their leaders. Plus, they will be getting big minutes from Dejounte Murray and Lonnie Walker. This team will bore the hell out of you and mid-range their opponents to death. But they will find a way to make it into the playoffs once again.
- New Orleans Pelicans
JJ Redick has never missed the playoffs in his entire career, so adding him should be a good omen for the Pelicans. With so much youth, it is going to be tough for them to make such a huge leap in Zion's first season. However, this may be the best team to watch on League Pass.
- Dallas Mavericks
Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis are a match made in overseas basketball heaven. As long as Kristaps can stay healthy, they will be a team with a winning record. But without a third guy to lean on, this duo will have far too much weight on their shoulders.
Middle of the Pack
- Oklahoma City Thunder
Regardless of how his contract is structured, Chris Paul is still a very good basketball player. In the Eastern Conference, he would be the third best point guard. Unfortunately for him and the Thunder, they are in a loaded Western Conference. Going .500 would be a successful season and would keep them in the playoff hunt for most of it.
- Sacramento Kings
We are big believers in Buddy Hield, De'Aaron Fox, and Bogdan Bogdanovic. Luke Walton may not be the guy for the job, but just a big name they felt they needed. The Kings front office will find a way to screw this roster up halfway through the season. Buddy Hield has already said if he doesn't get his contract extension soon, he's gone.
- Minnesota Timberwolves
Not only have they had the worst attendance in the league for the past two seasons, but they've been quite possibly the most disappointing. They've wasted Karl-Anthony Towns' prime years by trying to make Andrew Wiggins his sidekick. Here's to another losing record.
- Memphis Grizzlies
A young team with a seemingly bright future. Jaren Jackson Jr. has already shown that he can play, but we'll still have to wait and see with Ja Morant. With the flattened odds in the Lottery, they will be able to play hard all season, and still have a chance to land a top pick.
- Phoenix Suns
The Phoenix Suns will be the worst team in the Western Conference, what else is new?
This loaded Western Conference is going to be a fun watch all season. Teams will be moving up and down drastically with every win and loss because of how tight the race will be at the top.
If there's one thing we know for sure, it's that no matter how much basketball we watch, we'll probably still be wrong.
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