by MATT GORDON Editor-in-chief
The season is under way and the Western Conference is shaping up to be a highly competitive race to the playoffs. With big names on the move during the offseason and many evenly-matched teams to start the season, expect a highly entertaining and surprising season. Here is my ranking of the Western Conference teams:
1. Oklahoma City Thunder- This Thunder team should be able to coast into the playoffs, but making it any farther than that is going to be a challenge without their bearded hero James Harden. Luckily, this team has the league’s leading point scorer, Kevin Durant, and a flexible point guard, Russel Westbrook. Along with their stars, this team has one of the best benches in the league with Serge Ibaka and newcomer Kevin Martin.
2. Los Angeles Lakers- Although they are off to a historically slow start, the Lakers are still the most talented team in the conference. With new coach Mike D’Antoni and his fast paced offense, the Lakers’ scoring problems should be fixed, and new acquisition Dwight Howard should be able to show his presence of defense as the fearless shot blocker that he is.
3. San Antonio Spurs- This aging team is running out of time to make a run to the Finals, and this could be their last year as the dynasty they have built over the last decade. With Tony Parker and Tim Duncan at the helm, this team should be able to have the same consistent season they have had the past couple of years. The time is now for the Spurs.
4. Los Angeles Clippers- The most improved team a year before, the Clippers aim to show the rest of the league that they are a force to be reckoned with in the conference. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are a dynamic duo, and future sixth man of the year Jamal Crawford has proved himself as a prolific scorer for this emerging team.
5. Memphis Grizzlies- Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph are the core of this team that ranks in the top ten for all offensive and defensive categories. Although this team may not have a superstar, they have every important part of a playoff team, and one that could possibly make a run to the Finals.
6. Dallas Mavericks- Dirk Nowitzki is still one of the league’s most prominent superstars and could lead this desperate team to the playoffs and beyond. With new pick up O.J. Mayo, this team will not have any problems scoring, but will their defense be enough to stop the high-powered Western offenses?
7. Denver Nuggets- With last season’s departure of Carmelo Anthony, this team no longer has a star. That does not seem to phase this team as they have added defensive all-star Andre Iguodala and still have super sophomore Kenneth Faried.
8. Houston Rockets- With the additions of Jeremy Lin and James Harden, the Rockets have suddenly become a force to be reckoned with in the conference.
9. Utah Jazz- Led by Mo Williams, this team should be able to make a run to the playoffs at the end of season.
10. Minnesota Timberwolves- Kevin Love is the centerpiece of this prolific offense, but with his injury keeping him out of the beginning of the season, expect this team to get off to a slow start.
11. Golden State Warriors- With Andrew Bogut and Stephen Curry, this team could be surprising, but their tough division could hold them back.
12. New Orleans Hornets- Rookie Anthony Davis could lead this team to a surprising start, but no veteran leadership may spell a horrible end for this team.
13. Portland Trailblazers- LaMarcus Aldridge may be able to lead this team to the playoffs, but he cannot do it alone. Someone will need to step up.
14. Sacramento Kings- DeMarcus Cousins is making the wrong kind of headlines and Tyreke Evans is off to his worst start of his short career.
15. Phoenix Suns- The departure of Steve Nash will ultimately lead to offensive inefficiency and no one to pass the ball to the outside shooters. This team will struggle to score 80 points every game.
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