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- Video preview: Utah State Aggies at Washington Huskies
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- Pac-12 preview: Oregon Ducks at Michigan State Spartans
Power Rankings: The Western Conference Top-5
- Updated: July 31, 2014
The big mess that is the NBA offseason is still in effect, but it’s never too early to speculate and rank the best teams for each conference.
The deepest and strongest conference, the Western Conference, should be as difficult as years’ past. Several teams improved, but many took risks and fell flat because of them. In the end, the top-five teams of the Western Conference look similar to last season’s final-five western playoff teams.
First, honorable mentions:
New Orleans Pelicans
Golden State Warriors
Portland Trail Blazers
5. Dallas Mavericks
This may be the surprise pick of the Western Conference, given how deep it truly is, but the offseason was kind to the Mavs. First, the big trade to get both Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler was a step forward. The Mavericks were brilliant offensively with the fluid transition of Monta Ellis with Dirk Nowitzki, but the team played awful defense (re: none). The acquisition of a former Defensive Player of the Year should drastically improve the interior for the Mavericks. Felton just adds added depth to the fragile Devin Harris. The best (albeit expensive) pick-up of the offseason, Chandler Parsons, immediately makes this team into a deep and competitive team. Parsons was underutilized on a high-powered Houston Rockets’ team, but should find plenty more looks on a team that needed no help putting points up. A starting lineup of Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis, Chandler Parsons, Devin Harris, and Tyson Chandler looks great on paper.
4. Memphis Grizzlies
They lose Ed Davis (big blow), but get a potential full season with former Defensive Player of the Year, Marc Gasol. This is a win-now team. Both Tony Allen and Zach Randolph are creeping into the mid-30s and every team in the NBA knows the style of play the Grizzlies deploy. With the return of Gasol and another year of maturation for one of the best point guards, Mike Conley Jr. the Grizzlies are a sneaky pick for a top seed in the Western Conference.
3. Los Angeles Clippers
The cream of the Pacific Division, the Clippers need to prove that the new culture in Los Angeles includes playoff victories. There will be no tolerance for another second round ousting for a city with no patience and a team with little success in its history. Darren Collison is gone, but enter Spencer Hawes. For a team that needed front court presence and depth, Hawes is a saving grace. But, the warning signs are scattered for the Clippers. Jamal Crawford isn’t getting younger, JJ Redick is 30, and the defense still needs help, but the talent is there. Can the Clippers finally take the their long-awaited step forward and into championship legitimacy?
2. Oklahoma City Thunder
1. San Antonio Spurs
These two teams were the best last season (by marginal amounts) and should be considered the best again. Both teams experienced little to no turnover and the rosters remain intact. The NBA Champions are a year older, but that’s an argument as old as Tim Duncan. The Thunder need to step forward soon, but is Steven Adams really the answer?
Photo Credit: Chris Covatta/Getty Images
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