There was another crazy trade since my Eastern Conference write up, but here we go on the West side. This will be outdated once Chris Paul is moved.
1. Utah Jazz
Key Additions: PG Mike Conley, SF/PF Bojan Bogdanovic, PF/C Ed Davis, PG Emmanuel Mudiay, SF/PF Jeff Green
Key Losses: PG Ricky Rubio, PF/C Derrick Favors
Draft Picks: PF Jarrell Brantley, PG Justin Wright-Foreman, SG/SF Miye Oni
In my opinion, no team in the NBA improved as much as the Utah Jazz. Coming off a 50 win season, this could be a special season. Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic are huge upgrades over the previous two starters on the roster. Conley is the perfect veteran leader for this deep, talented squad. Davis and Green will be key contributors off the bench. I do not think this will be the best team in the playoffs, but could have the West’s best record as the other teams look so different and might take a while to work themselves into shape.
2. Los Angeles Clippers
Key Additions: SF Kawhi Leonard, SF/PF Paul George, SF/PF Moe Harkless
Key Losses: PG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, SF Danilo Gallinari, SF/PF Wilson Chandler, SG Garrett Temple
Draft Picks: PF/C Mfiondu Kabengele, SG/SF Terance Mann
Within two hours on July 5, 2019, the Clippers went from probable lottery team to NBA Title contender. A whirlwind 120 minutes brought the team Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, two MVP candidates. Leonard makes any team an instant title contender, and George is coming off his best NBA season. They are the best duo in the NBA. Resigning Patrick Beverley ended up being huge; this team will be stifling defensively. Depth is lacking a bit, and with Leonard’s load management, the team might not have the best record in the West, but they will be very tough to beat come playoff time.
3. Houston Rockets
Key Additions: PG Russell Westbrook, C Tyson Chandler
Key Losses: PG Chris Paul
Draft Picks: None
It was a rare quiet off-season in Houston. That is until Russell Westbrook became available. Houston decided to end the Chris Paul experiment, dealing him to the Thunder for mercurial guard Russell Westbrook. Nobody knows how Westbrook will gel with James Harden, but the Rockets will probably win 50+ games again, especially with the Southwest Division on a down year.
4. Los Angeles Lakers
Key Additions: PF/C Anthony Davis, SG Danny Green, C DeMarcus Cousins, SG Avery Bradley, PG Quinn Cook, SG Troy Daniels, PF Jared Dudley
Key Losses: SG/SF Brandon Ingram, PG Lonzo Ball, SG Josh Hart, C Tyson Chandler, SG/SF Reggie Bullock
Draft Picks: SG Talen Horton-Tucker
Drama. Welcome back to Los Angeles. The off-season started with a front office bang, continued with the Anthony Davis trade and resolved with the Kawhi Leonard decision. Once the smoke cleared, the Lakers had a more balanced, veteran team that could compete for a title, though may fall a bit short. For the second straight year, LeBron James will have almost an entirely new group of teammates. This group should work better with his game though. It starts with Davis up front, but also includes ex-All Stars Cousins and Bradley and a plethora of shooters. Davis is always injury prone, but this team looks like they should have 50 wins on lock.
5. Denver Nuggets
Key Additions: PF Jerami Grant
Key Losses: PF/C Trey Lyles
Draft Picks: C Bol Bol
Instead of dipping it’s toes into the free agent market, Denver chose to exercise Paul Millsap’s $30 million option. The team also signed Jamal Murray to a huge extension. Taking advantage of the Thunder’s sudden rebuild plan, the Nuggets poached excellent backup power forward Jerami Grant for a first round pick. He is the only newcomer (unless you count Michael Porter Jr.) but should have a huge role as an energy type behind Millsap, and will probably end up playing more minutes. Denver will count on continued development from the young players, but will struggle to duplicate the 2 seed from last year, as the West is vastly improved this year.
6. Golden State Warriors
Key Additions: PG/SG D’Angelo Russell, C Willie Cauley-Stein, SG Alec Burks, PF/C Omari Spellman
Key Losses: SF/PF Kevin Durant, C DeMarcus Cousins, PG Quinn Cook, PG/SG Shawn Livingston, SG/SF Andre Iguodala
Draft Picks: SG Jordan Poole, SF/PF Alen Smailagic, PF Eric Paschall
The Warriors will be one of the seasons greatest story lines. Stephen Curry will have his toughest test yet, as fellow All Stars Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant will not be around. Russell should deliver 20 points per game as Curry’s sidekick, and Cauley-Stein is probably a better fit up front than Cousins. The Warriors are still definitely a playoff team, but this will be Steve Kerr and companies biggest challenge thus far.
7. San Antonio Spurs
Key Additions: PF/C Trey Lyles, SF/PF DeMarre Carroll
Key Losses: PF Davis Bertans
Draft Picks: PF Luka Samanic, SG/SF Keldon Johnson, SG Quinndary Weatherspoon
The Spurs are no longer championship contenders, but the goal in San Antonio these days is to keep the playoff streak alive, and that goal should be met. Trey Lyles and DeMarre Carroll are typical Spurs additions, and will shore up the bench. The biggest addition is the return of Dejounte Murray. With Murray, Bryn Forbes and Derrick White, San Antonio has quite a bit of young talent at the point guard position.
8. Portland Trail Blazers
Key Additions: C Hassan Whiteside, SG Kent Bazemore, SG/SF Mario Hezonja
Key Losses: SG/SF Evan Turner, SF/PF Moe Harkless, C Enes Kanter, PF/C Meyers Leonard
Draft Picks: SF Nassir Little
It seems unfair to have the Western Conference finalist Trail Blazers at 8, but this could be another year where all of the West playoff teams win 50+ games. I love the addition of Hassan Whiteside. He should be a great fit as a defensive first big man who can catch lobs from Portland’s great back court. The bench lost some key pieces but resigning Rodney Hood was key. He looked like a perfect fit during Portland’s playoff run.
9. New Orleans Pelicans
Key Additions: SG/SF Brandon Ingram, PG Lonzo Ball, SG Josh Hart, PF/C Derrick Favors, SG JJ Redick, SF/PF Nicolo Melli
Key Losses: PF/C Anthony Davis, PG Elfrid Payton, PF/C Julius Randle, SF Solomon Hill, PG Tim Frazier
Draft Picks: PF Zion Williamson, PF/C Jaxson Hayes, SG Nickeil Alexander-Walker
Trading a franchise cornerstone is never easy, but this off season has been the absolute best case scenario for the New Orleans Pelicans. This roster was a G League wasteland the past couple of seasons, but is now one of the deepest young teams in the league. The trio of Lakers all have starting potential. Redick and Favors were key veteran additions. And, of course, Zion Williamson is the new face of the franchise. Throw in two other first round picks, and this should be a very fun team. I cannot put them over any of the top eight teams, but if any suffer injuries, the Pelicans could pounce.
10. Sacramento Kings
Key Additions: SG/SF Trevor Ariza, C Dewayne Dedmon, PG Cory Joseph, PF/C Richaun Holmes
Key Losses: C Willie Cauley-Stein, PG Frank Mason, C Kosta Koufos
Draft Picks: SG/SF Justin James, SG Kyle Guy
I am not sure what to think about the Kings. They overachieved last year but the front office remains aloof and I do not see a Harrison Barnes team ever being that good. They did add a couple solid veterans in Dewayne Dedmon and Trevor Ariza, but the key will be the continued development of guys like Marvin Bagley and De’Aaron Fox. Sacramento could flirt with .500 but the playoffs will be a tough sell with so many dominant teams out West.
11. Memphis Grizzlies
Key Additions: PG Tyus Jones, SF/PF Jae Crowder, SG/SF Josh Jackson, PG De’Anthony Melton
Key Losses: PG Mike Conley Jr., SG Avery Bradley, SF Chandler Parsons, PG Jevon Carter
Draft Picks: PG Ja Morant, PF Brandon Clarke
It is always hard to admit when it is time to rebuild, but the Grizzlies have done a fantastic job so far. The front office has been wheeling and dealing, acquiring draft picks and hoping to squeeze value out of veterans. On the court, this team could surprise. Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson are the future, but adding guys like Jackson, Crowder and Clarke, along with retaining Jonas Valanciunas will help deliver wins this year. The division is the weakest in the West, so they could rack up 35 wins or so.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder
Key Additions: PG Chris Paul, PF/C Mike Muscala, SF Danilo Gallinari, PG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Key Losses: PG Russell Westbrook, SF Paul George, PF Markieff Morris
Draft Picks: SF Darius Bazley
And just like that, the potential Oklahoma City Thunder dynasty is completely over. Once upon a time, this squad was a potential juggernaut, with three future MVP’s on the roster. With the Russell Westbrook trade, all pieces of that “what if dynasty” is gone. The future of this team will be Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and a huge boatload of picks. Things will be tough for a while, and hopefully for Thunder fans the front office can better manage the next wave of talent.
13. Dallas Mavericks
Key Additions: PG Delon Wright, SG Seth Curry, C Boban Marjanovic
Key Losses: PF/C Dirk Nowitzki
Draft Picks: SF/PF Isaiah Roby
You could say that Kristaps Porzingis is the biggest key addition. Despite not playing for almost two years, the Mavericks maxed him out in hopes that he and Luka Doncic will form the NBA’s next great duo. There is also a chance that Porzingis could never be fully healthy and the contract could hinder the team for years. Delon Wright was also brought in to start at point guard, but he is more of a backup option. There is a lot to work on before the Mavericks can get back to the playoffs, but there is a decent core to build around.
14. Phoenix Suns
Key Additions: PF Dario Saric, PG Ricky Rubio, PF Frank Kaminsky
Key Losses: SG/SF Josh Jackson, SF TJ Warren, PF/C Dario Saric, PG D’Anthony Melton
Draft Picks: SF Cameron Johnson, PG Ty Jerome
The Suns continue to be the worst drafting team in the NBA, but I do not hate adding Saric to move down a few spots in a terrible draft. The decision to draft Johnson in the lottery was puzzling, but he should be a ready made three point shooter. With the addition of Ricky Rubio the roster finally has some balance. The Suns would not be the Suns without a strange move, and completely giving away TJ Warren was just that. They might not be 20 win bad, but they are still bad.
15. Minnesota Timberwolves
Key Additions: SF/PF Jake Layman, PF/C Noah Vonleh, PF/C Jordan Bell
Key Losses: PF Dario Saric, PG Derrick Rose, PG Tyus Jones, PF Anthony Tolliver
Draft Picks: SG Jarrett Culver, SG Jaylen Nowell
There is not a lot to like here. Letting Tyus Jones walk was a curious decision, and none of the big men the team added will move the needle. The team also traded Dario Saric to move up a few spots to draft a shooting guard, after Josh Okogie was a recent first round pick who showed promise. Karl-Anthony Towns is a franchise talent, but he may not reach his potential until he can escape Minnesota’s losing culture.