Western Conference Preview

Saúl Berríos-Thomas | Layout Editor

There are so many competitive teams in the Western Conference that last year, the No. 3 seed in the East Toronto Raptors would not have made the playoffs in the West.

There’s room for debate at the bottom of the postseason bracket, but at the top, the Spurs are alone. They are the best team in their division, conference, league and even decade. They didn’t lose any key pieces and they have Becky Hammon. Hammon is the first woman to work the benches of an NBA team. She will work as an assistant to Greg Popovich and sooner or later she will become the first woman to be hired as a head coach in the NBA. Not only are the Spurs the best team, but they are also breaking barriers in humanity.

The Clippers are going to take second place easily. Their bench is outrageous, and if you can believe it Blake Griffin is getting even better. Their two offseason moves could be big. Spencer Hawes is one of the most efficient big men at shooting the top of the arc three and Chris Douglas-Roberts is a good piece that should fit into their scheme nicely.

The Thunder might take third place, but Kevin Durant’s extended absence could hurt their chances in the deadly West. That could open the door for the Rockets. While Trevor “Contract Year” Ariza is not an upgrade over Chandler Parsons, the talent on that roster is still good enough to get to the top half of the playoffs.

The Warriors are going to be better with maybe the sneakiest upgrade of the offseason. Shaun Livingston is a great point guard who can fill in for Steph Curry while he’s on the bench. Also Brandon Rush is healthy and could be a contributor off the bench.

That is the top half of the bracket is pretty solid, but the bottom half becomes more of a toss-up. There are teams like the Portland Blazers and the Phoenix Suns who have good teams and had success last year, but probably didn’t improve in the offseason enough to push them past the teams that are getting better around league. It will be fun to see the Suns use three point guards in the same lineup and watch Damian Lillard develop with the Blazers.

Dallas looks legit with the additions of Tyson Chandler, Chandler Parsons and Chandler Bing. Memphis is still pretty good and Zach Randolph is still “Z-Bo,” captain of the “people you don’t want to fight” team.

Denver will be interesting to watch because they have some good pieces, but this year will indicate whether they are serious contenders or damned to low seed mediocrity.

I have to say all of that first because those predictions are more likely to be correct, but these next two teams are the ones I will watch on League Pass all year. The New Orleans Pelicans are going to be fun. Anthony Davis is going to be the next big star of the NBA so get used to that uni-brow. They have some good pieces around him this year too. Omer Asik is an interesting piece that should allow “the Brow” to do more fun things and less low-post banging.

The Minnesota Timberwolves may not be good this year, but they are going to be fun to watch as well. Andrew Wiggins is going to be near elite, especially when he adds some muscle and grows into his frame. Nikola Pekovic is one of the best old-school style centers in the league. Zach LaVine could be a key contributor off the bench. But perhaps the most interesting piece they have is Gorgui Dieng he has a mix of size and athleticism that makes him the perfect pair with Pekovic.