Now that we got the Eastern Conference Out of the way, let’s head out to the west. Everything starts out with the 2-time defending champs, the Golden State Warriors. They come into the season trying to make it four titles in five years. There’s a lot of talk about the future of this franchise lately. Kevin Durant has been rumored to be leaving after this year and now we hear that Klay Thompson won’t take a discount to stay. LeBron James left Cleveland and signed with the Los Angeles Lakers. Carmelo Anthony signed with the Rockets and Paul George opted to remain in Oklahoma City. Jimmy Butler is still a Timberwolve for now, but that could change any day now. Rumors are running rampant that Anthony Davis will most likely to be the next free agent to leave for a chance to be a part of a winning franchise. Russell Westbrook will miss some time after having knee surgery. Either way, this should be another great season in the NBA. Let’s see who’ll the top 8 teams be coming out of the Western Conference.
Golden State Warriors
Of course, we have to start with the defending champions. The only thing that can stop this team is themselves. With the signing of DeMarcus Cousins, the Warriors will have one of the best centers in the league. This all depend on how the recovery to his torn Achilles goes as the Warriors will slowly work him into things. Golden State will be the favorites, but they will have stiff competition so them winning the title isn’t a forgone conclusion. The futures of Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green will be a hot topic throughout the season. Either way, Golden State is the best in the west and I’d bet on them being in the NBA Finals again.
Last year, many thought the Houston Rockets could’ve beat the Warriors if Chris Paul didn’t go down with an injury. Most of them returned, but Trevor Ariza signed with the Phoenix Suns. Carmelo Anthony signed with the Rockets to replace Ariza. Clint Capela also resigned with the Rockets after a long discussion. To me, Clint Capela is a key piece to this team and definitely the anchor for this defense. By adding Carmelo Anthony though, it adds more scoring to an already great offense. Houston is definitely the biggest threat to the Warriors in the west and I wouldn’t be surprised if they beat them. If Houston goes into the playoffs this coming season as the top seed, it wouldn’t be shocking either.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Russell Westbrook is currently out after having surgery on his knee. Paul George re-signing with the Thunder surprised many people, but the pairing with Westbrook can do remarkable things. When Westbrook returns, these two will show the chemistry. When these two were on the court together without Carmelo Anthony, they thrived. The addition of Dennis Schroder will be huge for the Thunder as he’ll start when Westbrook is out. Schroder will come off the bench when Westbrook returns and give the second team a boost. Oklahoma City will start out slow, but they will get momentum when Westbrook return and should finish third.
Los Angeles Lakers
This is probably the most talked about team in the entire league. We all know that LeBron James signed with the Lakers this offseason, but they made many other moves. Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, Javale McGee and Michael Beasley all signed with the Lakers. Los Angeles is still home to some great, young talent in Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart. Many people are pointing towards 2019 for the Lakers to make some noise. Adding veterans to these young guys will be great for the team and the Lakers will be better than what many thinks. Los Angeles will deal with growing pains during the year, but I’m thinking they can host a playoff series.
The Denver Nuggets will finish 5th in the Western Conference but could end up as high as third. The Nuggets drafted Michael Porter Jr, who could end up being the steal of the NBA Draft. We don’t know if he’ll actually play this season, but Denver has plenty of talent to cause problems in the West. Jamal Murray and Gary Harris form one of the better backcourts in the NBA. Nikola Jokic was rewarded with a huge contract in the offseason because he’s one of the more underrated big men in the league. Anytime he steps on the floor, he’s capable of getting a double-double to go along with a few assists. Paul Millsap and his health will be key to the Nuggets success as his veteran leadership will be vital. In a year he’s hoping to prove he’s still an elite player, Denver signed Isiah Thomas to a one-year deal.
New Orleans Pelicans
The New Orleans Pelicans will be without DeMarcus Cousins this season as he signed with the Warriors. Anthony Davis has been brought up in many discussions when talking about his future with the Pelicans. They recently traded for Wesley Johnson and acquired Jahlil Okafor, who’s trying to prove he’s not a bust. Adding Okafor could be beneficial to Anthony Davis and Davis could help him with his game. Another big addition to this team is Julius Randle as I’ve been high on him since his Kentucky days. Seeing Randle will get great minutes, this could possibly be a steal for the Pelicans. New Orleans is slated to finish 6th in m predictions, but I would be surprised if they finished a little higher.
The Utah Jazz run from a year ago wasn’t a fluke and they will prove it. Donovan Mitchell reminds me of a young Dwyane Wade and he’ll continue to be a leader on this Jazz team. Ricky Rubio is in a contract year, so expect him to continue his great play. Rudy Gobert will continue to be the dominant presence in the middle and could win the Defensive Player of the Year. Utah added Grayson Allen in the NBA Draft and I think he’ll be a solid player coming off the bench for the Jazz. Joe Ingles can light it up with the best of them in the league and don’t be surprised if the Jazz finished higher like they did a year ago.
This came down between the Portland Trailblazers and the Minnesota Timberwolves. Damian Lilard and C.J. McCollum still form one of the best backcourts in the NBA and I’m sure they’ll have a lot to prove. C.J. McCollum has talked a lot of shit throughout the offseason and he will be targeted. Damian Lilard will have a chip on his shoulder after his awful playoff run last year. For me, this is a make or break year for Portland because if they don’t do anything significant, we could see this team get blown up. With the passing of their owner, Paul Allen they will have a lot to play for in that regards. Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins will need to come up huge in the frontcourt for them to achieve any success.
If Jimmy Butler isn’t traded, he could help them make the playoffs, but it seems like management is content on shipping him off. I’m still up in the air when it comes to San Antonio because the injury to Dejaun Murray, Manu Ginobli retiring and Tony Parker in Charlotte. How do you see the Western Conference shaping up this season? In what order do you see these teams finishing? Leave a comment below.