As we all know by now the landscape in the West has changed somewhat. Gone is Kawhi Leonard to Toronto and arriving is the King himself Lebron James. Those are the two big names changing conferences as we get ready for an interesting Western Conference. Several teams have added little pieces that I think improve their rosters greatly, while a team like Memphis welcomes back their best player from injury. So as of right now this is how I see the west heading into the preseason.

  1. Golden State  The Warriors are essentially bringing back their main core. They actually upgraded at center where DeMarcus Cousins will be once he returns from his Achilles injury. Gone id David West and in is Jonas Jerebko. So this is essentially the same Warriors team. There was a little adversity last season gaining the number 2 seed and need to win games 6 and 7 in the Western Conference Finals to eventually sweep Cleveland. There is really no indication this team will not do it again next season as Golden State remains the best and most talented team.
  2. Houston  While the Rockets did take a huge step forward last season, they are still second fiddle to the Warriors. We know they can score, but the defense is what was able to get them where they did last season. Well they lost two cogs in that defense in Richard Mbah a Moute and Trevor Ariza and replaced them with James Ennis and Carmelo Anthony. Ennis can be a good defender, but Anthony is not even close. He will help the scoring department, but that did not seem to be the problem. I do not think they are remotely close to dethroning the Champs are  likely stuck at number 2 for a while.
  3. L.A. Lakers  The Lakers are the big winners in free agency getting Lebron James to sign. However the pieces put around him are a little strange. I believe the Lakers front office is counting on the youngsters to take big leaps with James on board and the weird pieces can be moved if they do not work out. I’ve heard some feel the Lakers may not make the playoffs, but I find it difficult to think he cannot lead a team into the playoffs after leading that garbage last season to the Finals. This may be too high for some, but that is hoe much faith I put into a roster with LeBron James. I think they can improve 15 games from the Lakers record last year. That would put them in the three hole.
  4. Utah  Quite the surprise team last season with rookie phenom Donovan Mitchell and I expect them to grow as a team. Mitchell is the go to guy and point guard Ricky Rubio was fantastic last year. You add in Defensive Player of the Year and this team could climb into the top four where I currently rank them.
  5. Oklahoma City Well Oklahoma City was successful in retaining Paul George and unloading Carmelo Anthony this offseason. In the Anthony deal, they acquired point guard Dennis Schroder who can help run the second unit and score off the bench. Anthony did not have a great year and getting him and his monster salary off the books was a major priority since free agency started. I think they are capable of getting a top 3 seed, but I am going to be honest Russell Westbrook seems to hold them back. I know he is a stat getter, but I am not sure he makes those around him better. I hope I am wrong but losing to Utah in last seasons playoffs have keeping Utah ahead of them.
  6. Denver I really like the Nuggets roster and think they may be ready to make a move. They are not the greatest defensively, but can fill it up on offense. I think point guard Jamal Murray takes the next step and center Nikola Jokic just seems to get better every game. They have shooting, rebound well and play at a nice fast pace. I think they jump into the mix in the West.
  7. Portland The Blazers overachieved last season. Other than their phenomenal back court of Damion Lillard and CJ McCullum I am not a big fan of this roster. I do not like the three and four spots and neither do they as they can’t set on a consistent rotation there. Center Jusuuf Nurkic is nice but I think the Portland front court is so weak it will hold them back. The back court however is still good enough to get them into the playoffs.
  8. San Antonio So the Spurs have had an interesting summer.  They dealt Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to Toronto for Demar DeRozan and Jacob Poeltl. I do not really think the Spurs will make the playoffs, but they are the Spurs coached by Greg Popovich. So squeaking in is a very likely scenario. They do not have any three point threats and there biggest strength will be the mid range game. In today’s NBA, that isn’t going to cut it. It seems the Spurs will still be relevant, but not a really threat to compete with top 2 or 3 teams in West.
  9. Minnesota  We keep waiting for the Wolves to click and put it together. Not there seems to be some dissention among the top players on this roster and Jimmy Butler may be playing his last year in Minnesota. This seems to be a trend everywhere coach Thibodeau goes.  Andrew Wiggins appears to be playing in quicksand and hasn’t elevated his game where I think he should be at this point. Karl Anthony-Towns is their best player and should be featured more than he is, but the wings do not feed him enough. I think this carries into next season, with uncertainty of Butler and possible trade rumors with Wiggins enough where they cannot get into the playoffs.
  10. New Orleans I have been really skeptical of the roster makeup in New Orleans for several years now. Yes Anthony Davis carries them, but Jrue Holiday had a great season last year which propelled them into the playoffs where they dismantled Portland. They seem to have too many fours and point guards and not enough of everything else. So Anthony Davis is more comfortable playing center so that works out. But they moved Jrue Holiday off the ball to make room for Rajon Rondo last season and will apparently do the same this season for Elfrid Payton. They still lack shooters and outside of David, zero true scorers. They need a solid number 2 so Holiday can be the third option. Hopefully Julius Randle can be that guy.
  11. Memphis  I think the Grizzlies are expecting to be in the playoffs next season. Injuries derailed them last season, but Mike Conley is back for this season. Outside of Conley or Marc Gasol, I am not really sold on this team. I like second year player Dillon Brooks and believe he should remain a starter. Adding Kyle Anderson from San Antonio is eh. I think the West in too tough for the Grizzlies to get back to the playoffs.
  12. Dallas The Mavs did get what some feel is the prize of the rookie class in Luka Doncic. He will team with Dennis Smith Jr and form what could be a lethel back court for many years. This is likely Dirk Nowitski’s final season and I expect him to see his minutes cut somewhat as well. They will continue to feature Hrrison Barnes as the go to guy with newcomer DeAndre Jordan manning the middle spot. This team is going to be a lot of fun to watch.
  13. Phoenix I like the direction Phoenix is going. The have a stud in shooting guard Devin Booker and rookie DeAndre Ayton is looking the part. They did not go and get a point guard, but are hoping Brandon Knight can return from injury to claim that spot. They are wing heavy especially at the three, but I could see the Suns phase out Marquess Chriss and Dragan Bender to play more small ball at the forward spots. I believe we see a big improvement for the Suns.
  14. L.A. Clippers  It seems the Clippers still want to compete. They made moves that looks like they are going to try and win some games this season. They did however draft their back court of the future in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome Robinson. But with that said, it seems like it will be a transition year for the Clippers and come February I can see them trading and gaining picks in the potential full rebuild that appears to be looming in front of them.
  15. Sacramento Oh the Kings! Stuck in Western Conference mediocrity for what seems like an eternity. I do like the Marvin Bagley pick, but they are loaded with young front court players and desperately need wing help. free agency has not helped improve this team and another year near the bottom is what’s ahead for the Kings.

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