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Western Conference Preview

The Western Conference is more wide open than it's ever been. With the Oklahoma City

Thunder losing Kevin Martin, Golden State getting better and adding complimentary talent,

San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter's development hoping to offset the aging of

Duncan and Ginobili, Houston adding Dwight Howard, and the Clippers improving on floor

spacing, and so on the West has no clear cut favorite this upcoming season. Even the

Memphis Grizzlies, New Orleans Pelicans, and Dallas Mavericks aren't to be slept on and it

should be a close race come playoff time and as competitive as ever.

Oklahoma City

If Oklahoma City hadn't lost Russell Westbrook to an meniscus tear, it is likely they would

have seen another Finals appearence last season. But this Oklahoma City which seemed to be

full of potential just two years ago is heavily lacking scoring going into next season. The

loss of Kevin Martin is going to be crlipping for the offense which will now have to be

based even more around Westbrook and Durant. While it doesn't take them out of the

discussion, it hinders them from being the clear cut favorites unless a player steps up for

them next season. Westbrook and Durant can only do so much on the offensive end and it will

slowly wear them out throughout the regular season having to shoulder most of the load for

almost the entire season.

Golden State

Golden State was a suprise team last year, and this season shouldn't fly as much under the

radar. The improvement of the younger perimeter players and the addition of Iguodala on top

of Andrew Bogut being in his contract year should make this season great for them. While it

remains to be seen if the team has the overall talent and depth to make a finals run, they

certainly have the roster to be in consideration with the best teams in the Western

Conference this upcoming season. Look for Curry or Klay Thompson to step up next season and

the team to seem much improved.

San Antonio

While even the most casual NBA fans understand not to sleep on San Antonio no matter how

much the odds seem against them. It is another year of Ginobili and Duncan aging. However,

Parker is coming off of a great year and was one of the best point guards in the league

last season and shouldn't see any regression. Along with Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter

having a full season with the team to feel much more comfortable. Losing Gary Neal isn't

likely to be a problem with the addition of Marco Bellineli and San Antonio is another team

in the convorsation for coming out of the Western Conference.

Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers did a solid job this offseason. Adding Redick and Dudley should fix any floor

spacing issues along with improving greatly in terms of coaching moving from argueable a

bottom 5 coach in the NBA to gaining a top 5 coach. The team should improve but it remains

to be seen if the duo of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin is enough to win against the other

teams in the West after the continuous playoff shortcoming Paul has seen. Griffin should

see his best statistical season of his career next year and Redick and Dudley's percentages

from 3 should be near any career highs. with Chris Paul setting them up.

Houston

Dwight coming off of a bad year might be the biggest redflag for the Rockets. However, once

Houston can come together with some kind of solution for what to do with Omir Asik the

Rockets should have a fantastic season next year. Any team with James Harden and Dwight

Howard is going to be a threat, so if Lin can benefit from Dwight Howard as a pick and roll

partner similarly to how him and Tyson Chandler were able to play well together the Rockets

should be and good shape. If Dwight comes out next season looking more like he did with the

Orlando Magic than the Los Angeles Lakers, it's likely Houston emerges as a frontrunner to

leave the Western Conference.

Memphis, New Orleans, Dallas, and Minnesota

While Memphis hasn't done much this offseason, it's never a good idea to ignore the size in

the frontcourt from this team and Mike Conley's elite point guard play despite being

underrated. Any team come playoff time is going to struggle against Zach and Marc and

Memphis flying under the radar is nothing new for them. New Orleans adding quality young

talent around Anthony Davis may land them a playoff spot. Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, and

Tyreke Evans are all fantastic perimeter players in their own right and if Tyreke uses the

new scenery to his advantage and Gordon is healthy they'll be a tough team to defend. With

the Dallas Mavericks, while the offseason may have not gone great, Dirk and Monta Ellis is

a fantastic offensive duo and if they both play with each other well could sneak into the

playoffs next season after missing them last year. The Minnesota Timberwolves should see

everything come together for them, with a lineup of Rubio-Martin-Budinger-Love-Pekovic they

will be nearly impossible to guard and the floor spacing should be incredable. The defense

on the Timberwolves needs much improvement though for them to make any real noise come

playoff time, basketball is played on two sides.

Review

The Western Conference is easily a 5 man race, with the last four teams mentioned also

being threats. It's unlikely the Thunder are a clear frontrunner anymore and no other teams

made the kinds of moves that would put them in that light without atleast being on the 

floor first together. The Warriors need to show they can mesh and stay healthy and Dwight

does need to redeem himself. The West may come down to “X” team is better than “Y” because

of matchups and “Y” is better than “Z” but “Z” is better than “X”. (X>Y Y>Z Z>X) Playoff

positioning, matchups, and home court advantage will be as important as ever going into

next April.


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