NBA Western Conference Preview

It’s time for the Western Conference breakdown of The Sports Script NBA preview. If you didn’t read the eastern conference part of this two-part series than shame on you! GO READ IT NOW! The Western Conference is completely loaded with teams ready to compete and it’s going take all season to see which ones emerge as the best. I’m going to jump right into it now though as we get started on the Western Conference.

Dallas MavericksThe Mavericks come off last season where they missed the playoffs for the first time in 12 years. They made some major changes to the roster adding Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis to the roster while losing the likes of OJ Mayo and Darren Collison. The addition of a point guard in Calderon should help the Mavericks improve from last season, but the biggest help will be if Dirk comes into the year healthy unlike last year. The Mavericks are good enough to finish as high as a 5 seed, but I’m looking at them to finish more around a 7.

Denver Nuggets – The Nuggets are without Andre Iguodala after he chose to leave in free agency, but the Nuggets were able to make a few moves and add to their roster. I like the addition of JJ Hickson as I think he can be a solid player in Denver alongside Faried. The Nuggets will need above average play from point guard Ty Lawson as they will be without their best offensive player in Danilo Gallinari until the end of November as he recovers from injury. The one guy on this team I love to watch is Kenneth Faried as he has a motor that does not stop and should be able to post a double double for them this season on average. I think the Nuggets will make the playoffs, but they are going to take a step back from there 57 wins last season.

Golden State WarriorsThe Warriors are coming off a year in which they made conference semifinals, and made moves during the off-season to get back to that point this year. The Warriors locked Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack, but picked up Andre Iguodala from the Nuggets in free agency. Iggy will bring to the team a lock down type defender and can also step in and add another scorer to go with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. This season could come down to one thing, can Andrew Bogut stay healthy? If he does that and can score inside the floor opens up for the shooters outside. I think this year Golden State gets back to the playoffs and again make some noise. I don’t know if they can make the finals, but they sure are going to be fun to watch.

Houston Rockets – We all know they are the winners of the Dwight Howard sweepstakes which leads to the question are they going to be the winners of the western conference? The Rockets were a good team last year and the missing piece was insider which they addressed obviously. They only lost Carlos Delfino which hurts in the shooting area. They should improve off the 8th seed they were last year and in fact I believe compete for a 1 seed in the western conference. The biggest question mark on this team will be Jeremy Lin and how he is able to run the point with Harden and Howard. If the Rockets get solid play from Lin, then look out for them in the playoffs.

L.A. ClippersThe Clippers probably had the 2nd most interesting off-season to only the Rockets and Dwight Howard. The Clippers made a trade for Doc Rivers which may turn out to be one of the best moves of the offseason. Doc has dealt with the big ego guys before and should be able to lead the likes of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. The one loss that I think hurts the Clippers is Eric Bledsoe as he is young guard who could score and step in if Paul misses any time and be productive. That being said though I like what they added in JJ Reddick who can help with the outside shooting which they lacked last year. The Clippers were also able to add a couple of guy to give their bench some depth which helps in a deep western conference. The Clippers are going to be very good this year and should make the Western Conference Finals unless they have a complete meltdown.

L.A. LakersThis is going to be a tough season for Lakers fans as Dwight Howard, Metta World Peace, Antawn Jamison, and Earl Clark are all gone. The Lakers brought in Nick Young and Chris Kaman to replace them which don’t really turn any heads as spectacular moves. This doesn’t even sum up the biggest of problems for the Lakers which would be how Kobe fairs in his return from an Achilles injury. The Lakers have talented guys, but they don’t have the depth to compete in the western conference. If Kobe can come back quickly and healthy maybe the Lakers are able to fight their way into an 8th seed, but I wouldn’t be expecting it.

Memphis GrizzliesWas last season a fluke for the Memphis Grizzlies? That is the question many people will be asking as they come into the 2013-14 season with a new head coach. The Grizzlies chose not to renew the contract of Lionel Hollins and now have Dave Joerger as their head coach. The biggest issue for the Grizzlies has been lack of big man depth behind Marc Gasol which they addressed with the addition of Kosta Koufos. The Grizzlies are going to be about the same team you saw last year give or take a few bench players. The sky is the limit for the Grizzlies they could finish in the finals with the inside play and defense they’ve termed “Grit n  Grind”, but on the flip side the lack of long-range shooting could hurt them and knock them out of the playoffs early.

Minnesota TimberwolvesRicky Rubio, Kevin Love, and Nikola Pekovic how does that sound for a big three? The Timberwolves are probably the deepest team in the league and can go 3 deep at just about every position. The Twolves lost Kirilenko, but added Kevin Martin while drafting Shabazz Muhammed which I’ve talked about in the past as a steal in the draft. The minority feeling is probably going to be that Minnesota is a serious contender to do some damage in the playoffs; well if that’s the case I’m in the minority. This team is loaded with talent and depth, so if they can stay healthy there is a good chance they will shock a few people over the season.

New Orleans Pelicans – I can’t imagine anyone having to cheer for the Pelicans that don’t even sound right, but whatever the name is what it is. The Pelicans made two big moves over the offseason signing free-agent Tyreke Evans and trading for Jrue Holiday. When you look at those two moves you can tell the future is now for the Pelicans and they are ready to go after the playoffs. There are two factors that will determine how this season goes for the Pelicans with one being can Eric Gordon stay healthy and can Anthony Davis be the monster on defense they drafted him to be. The Pelicans need Gordon on the floor for his shooting ability to win ball games and if they can get him all year, then the Pelicans have a shot at playing just above .500 and getting into the playoffs this year.

Oklahoma City ThunderThe Thunder are already down Russell Westbrook for 4 to 6 week and lost shooter Kevin Martin to free agency over the summer. If you look at those two factors for any other team you could probably write them off for the year, but not one with Kevin Durant. Durant is going to have to play his best basketball to carry the load while Westbrook is out if the Thunder are going to finish in the top 4 of the west. Reggie Jackson needs to step up and play basketball the way he did in last year’s playoffs for the Thunder to have any shot at taking the title. I can see Kevin Durant ending Lebron James MVP run this year, but in the end I just don’t think they have the talent around him to carry them to a Western Conference championship.

Phoenix Suns – The Suns have a new head coach in Jeff Hornacek and roster loaded with young guys. They were able to acquire Eric Bledsoe from the Clippers and will take a hard look at him this year as he has 1 year left on his contract. The Suns want to see how he reacts to being a starter than just a 6th man. If they see what they like they will probably sign him to a nice contract to go with the other young guys on the roster. The Suns are going to finish near the bottom of the Western Conference which seems like it would be fine to them this year as they could use a lottery pick next year to continue to build on this youthful roster. The Suns still have Dragic and Morris on the roster and will look for them to step up even more this year to get the Suns in the win column this year.

Portland Trailblazers – The Trailblazers start the season with big man LaMarcus Aldridge as the focus point of the offense and will look to get even better on their outside shooting where they finished 6th last year. They added Thomas Robinson to replace JJ Hickson on the inside and Dorell Wright who can flat-out shoots from the outside which should help them on the three-point line. The Trailblazers also drafted CJ McCollum, who has a ton of potential, but he’s already requiring surgery in training camp and at this point no one can be sure on what we will see out of him this year. Damian Lillard hopes to avoid any kind of sophomore slump and if he can do that and Aldridge continues to improve there will be no worry for the Trailblazers improving on their 33 wins last year. There are a ton of questions around this team going into the year and a ton of question mark players, but I’m anxious to see how this team plays out over the year.

Sacramento Kings – Demarcus Cousins got paid and regardless of what people say about his attitude, if he ever gets mature and focuses on just basketball he has a chance to be the best big man in the game right now. The Kings added Grevious Vasquez to play point guard which is a much underrated move as a lot of NBA fans don’t realize how good he can be at times. Vasquez will run the offense and make the players on the floor making sure that Cousins gets his looks under the basket. The team was able to draft Ben McElmore who will show flashes of being one of the best rookies this year, but like any rookie he will also struggle at times. The Kings are going to be a much better squad going forward, but will still miss out on the playoffs this year. I would encourage all Kings fans to trust the new leaders of this organization as they are headed in the right direction now.

San Antonio Spurs – The Spurs enter the year with one goal and won’t be happy of anything other than another title. The Spurs biggest question going into this year will be will Tim Duncan’s age catch up to him or does he have another year like last year? The emergence of Kawhi Leonard will be important for this year, and he is clearly going to be the future of the Spurs. I don’t think you could find one person to say anything bad about Leonard as he’s putting in a lot of hard worker to be the best. The Spurs are going to be good there is no denying that, but I’m not sold on them repeating as they showed a sign of being old last year and that only gets worse this year.

Utah Jazz – I want everyone reading this to write the name Enes Kanter down and thank me at the end of your NBA fantasy season when you take him. That’s a little off topic, but he’s not going to get all the minutes he wants with the likes of Paul Milsap and Al Jefferson gone. The Jazz have Kanter and Derek Favors to take over on the inside and drafted Trey Burke to build for the future. The three players I just named to go with Gordon Hayward will give a very solid core for a future run by the Jazz, but that future will not come out in the win column this year. The Jazz have a roster full of guys with something to prove which could lead them to beat some teams they normally shouldn’t this year, but in the end they just don’t have the experience to win enough to get to the playoffs this year.

My Playoff Predictions

1) Clippers

2) Spurs

3) Grizzlies

4) Thunder

5) Rockets

6) Warriors

7) Timberwolves

8) Nuggets

My Western Conference Champions will be the Los Angeles Clippers


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