Compared to the East there really wasn't all that much improvement in the West this offseason. Sure Greg Oden and Kevin Durant (maybe you've heard of them?) winded up in the Northwest, but both the Blazers and Sonics took big steps back by trading away Zach Randolph, Ray Allen, and Rashard Lewis (sign and trade) for pennies on the dollar. The Wests' big 3 the Spurs, Mavs, and Suns really didn't do all that much to change their personnel. You could say the Suns actually took a big step back by moving Kurt Thomas, their best one on one defender against Tim (never be) Dunkin', to save some dough.
The West is still wild!
But there's a reason why they call it the Wild, Wild, West. The West's top 8 could take on the East's top 8 any day.
Make jump for this year's GSoM Western Conference Preview.
This is how the West will be won this season:
|1||This is the year. This has to be the year. If not, it's time to say That's All Folks! to this cast of Sunny Delight.|
|2||This is the year. This has to be the year. If not, it's time to say That's All Folks! to this cast of mavericks. (The Suns and Mavs are pretty much in the same boat.)|
|3||They've never won it all in consecutive years, so that means one unfortunate thing for NBA junkies. These are your 2009 NBA Champs.|
|4||They're going to strike gold in Denver this season. If Kenyon Martin can give them 20 minutes of solid defense, rebounding, and finish a few fast breaks on most nights, this team is going to be very dangerous. They might even surpass one of the West's big 3.|
|I don't doubt that they'll be better than last season and Yao's offense will soar to new heights under Rick Adelman. Let's give some credit to Jeff Van Gundy for instilling that tough defensive mindset in this team as well. But I also don't doubt that they'll be knocked out in the first round of the playoffs... again.|
|6||I have a hard time believing they'll stay as injury-free as they did last season. But let's give respect where respect is due. Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer are arguably the second best PG-PF tandem in the league behind Tony Parker and Tim Duncan.|
|7||The Lakers with Kobe aren't bad, they're just painfully mediocre. Minus Kobe it's just going to be painful in La-La land. I just don't see how they can trade him and get anything in return that even approaches his on court and box office value.|
|8||Do I think the Warriors as presently constituted will return to the Western Conference Playoffs? Hellnaw. Do I think the Dubs will make another in season trade that will propel them to the West's elite 8 for another unBELIEVEable Springtime in the Bay? Like San Quinn, HELLYEAH.|
|9||If they can stay healthy, the Lakers and Warriors better watch out. The Hornets are coming for that #7 or #8 spot. On paper when healthy they're arguably fielding a better roster than the Lakers or Warriors.|
|10||They've never won a playoff game. Expect that streak to continue, but Mike Conley, Hakim Warrick, Rudy Gay, Darko Milicic, Mike Miller, and Pau Gasol are a solid core to build upon. Maybe next year, but barring injuries it looks like there's 9 teams better than them in the West.|
|11||Brad Miller with cornrows? Mike Bibby didn't get traded to Cleveland? Ron Artest still on the Kings? Reggie Theus is really their head coach? The playoff drought in Northern California has already moved northward.|
|12||It'll take a few years and I'm not sold on Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge being anything more than very good to solid starters in this league, but minus Greg Oden this season there's no better time to find out for our friends in Portland. Two other players and former lottery picks to keep an eye on are Martell Webster and Channing Frye. Travis Outlaw is also intriguing. This whole season is one big tryout party for them.|
|13||This season will be a true test of how good Al Jefferson is. Can he put up those same gaudy numbers he posted in the second half of last season in the East in the much tougher and big man heavy West? Is he a Zach Randolph type or a legit 4 to build around? Also, I swear I'm just waiting for this to happen any day now.|
|14||Kevin Durant and Jeff Green will certainly put on a show this year, but will that show be playing in Oklahoma next season?|
|15||I don't think this is the Brand of hoops Clips fans were envisioning. Maybe the Clips can keep OJ Mayo in LA though next season.|
For a much more detailed look at the Western Conference make sure to check out:
- 2007-2008 NBA Blog Previews: Southwest Division
- 2007-2008 NBA Blog Previews: Northwest Division
- 2007-2008 NBA Blog Previews: Pacific Division (coming soon!)
How do you think the Western Conference will play out this year? Post your picks in the comments section and we'll see who had the best picks after the Western Conference finals in late May.
GSoM 2006-2007 NBA Preview
- Eastern Conference Power Picks
- NBA Hardware Picks (Sunday)