For the past five years, the Warriors reigned supreme. Now it is anyone’s game.
The Warriors have won the past five Western Conference Finals, and have won three of the last five NBA championships. However, with the departure of Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins, Andre Iguodala and with Klay Thompson being sidelined until at least the All-Star period, their chances of a repeat NBA Finals appearance are slim.
While the Warriors have weakened, the rest of the conference has strengthened with strong trade moves and free agency periods. This list will feature my predictions with how the standings will shape out in the Western Conference come the end of the 2019-20 regular season.
1. Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers are the obvious pick to take out the first seed in the Western Conference. They had the best free agency period out of any other team in the NBA, managing to add the current Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and a top three MVP candidate in Paul George.
They managed this while keeping Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell and Patrick Beverly. They will be the team to beat in the West.
2. Los Angeles Lakers
What a Free Agency it was for the city of Los Angeles. Not only did the Clippers have a great free agency, but so did the Lakers. The front office managed to pull off the trade for Anthony Davis, while making solid signings such as DeMarcus Cousins and Danny Green.
The Lakers also managed to keep Kyle Kuzma, Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – not to mention a certain LeBron James. This team is a strong team, but still lost some solid players in Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart. However, I expect them to be fighting the Clippers for the spot in the NBA Finals.
3. Denver Nuggets
This is where the rest of the standings become a little trickier, especially with the top eight. However, I had to give the third spot to the Denver Nuggets. While having a disappointing playoff run last season, the team is still young and developing.
They have many young stars in the making with Gary Harris, Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr Nikola Jokic is a superstar in this league, and Paul Millsap provides the team with a strong veteran presence.
4. Portland Trail Blazers
This spot was also difficult to pick, as I had to pick between the Rockets, Blazers and Jazz. However, I went with the Trail Blazers purely because they had a strong playoff run last season, and have had a strong offseason.
Hassan Whiteside is a reasonable replacement until Jusuf Nurkic recovers from injury, and Kent Bazemore and Pau Gasol were solid pick ups to round out this already terrific roster. Damian Lillard will be superb once again, and CJ McCollum will produce at a high level to help this team be a contender in this strong Western Conference.
5. Houston Rockets
This pick was difficult to make, and I really wanted to give the spot to the Utah Jazz. However, if the team manages to work out the chemistry between James Harden and Russell Westbrook, the pure star power of that pair of former MVPs alone hands the Rockets the fifth spot in the West.
6. Utah Jazz
The Jazz could arguably finish anywhere from third to seventh, but I believe the sixth spot suits them best. While the team is very talented, and has had a strong offseason with the additions of Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic, the team is still very young.
I expect Donovan Mitchell to have a major improvement this season, especially with his shot selection. I also expect Rudy Gobert to have another strong season, however this team is a couple of seasons away from being a championship contender.
7. Golden State Warriors
Having the defending Western Conference finalists this low in the standings may seem like an insult, but this is the right place to have the Warriors. The team will experience some chemistry issues to begin with, trying to work a system with both Steph Curry and D’Angelo Russell, who I believe will be traded by the time the All-Star break comes around.
They will also be without Klay Thompson, a lack of bench depth and no longer have the star power of Kevin Durant. However, I still believe this team will be a threat during the playoffs due to their experience and the fact that Steph Curry is still the same Steph Curry who is the only unanimous MVP winner.
8. San Antonio Spurs
I gave the eighth seed to the Spurs, simply because of their history. They have not missed the playoffs in over twenty years, and I do expect them to this season. They have solid players in DeMar DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gay and Derrick White. While they will not make it past the first round, they will be a playoff team once more.
9. Sacramento Kings
The Kings will be one of the talented teams who manage to just miss the playoffs based on the strength of the other teams in their conference. The Kings will be a solid team, with DeAaron Fox continuing his improvement and becoming one of the elite point guards in the game.
10. New Orleans Pelicans
Some individuals have the Pelicans scrapping into the playoffs, others have them closer to the bottom of the standings. However, I believe this is the perfect spot for them. Zion Williamson will obviously be a big impact player.
As long as his body holds up, Zion will be a superstar and arguably the best player in the league one day. Jrue Holiday is a good player, and the team made some solid additions with Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Derrick Favours and JJ Redick. However, I believe the Pelicans are a couple of seasons away from returning to the post season.
11. Dallas Mavericks
The Mavericks placement will all factor in on how well Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis work together, and how healthy Porzingis can remain during the regular season. They could go as high as ninth, or as low as fourteenth.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder
The rebuild begins for the Thunder. After losing Paul George and Russel Westbrook, the team will look towards the future and drafting talent to develop. Playoffs are not on their radar, and I expect Chris Paul to be traded or bought out before the end of December.
13. Phoenix Suns
While Phoenix has a few years of development ahead of them before they can even begin to think of the playoffs, they will be nowhere near as bad as last season. Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton will both continue to develop, and the team also added a quality point guard in Ricky Rubio which they desperately needed.
14. Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies rebuild will continue, as they will look towards the future and developing Jaren Jackson Jr and Ja Morant.
15. Minnesota Timberwolves
This is a team that has fallen. When the team added Jimmy Butler a couple of seasons ago, they had a lot of promise. A team that was playoffs bound and ready to break the drought of bad basketball from the Timberwolves franchise.
However, now with Butler and Rose gone, the team is left exposed and with two talented players who seem unwilling to put in the extra work. I fully expect either Andrew Wiggins or Karl Anthony-Towns to be wearing a different uniform before the end of the season, as the team looks for another fresh start.
The Western Conference is shaping up to be a fierce battle this season, with the talent being spread out throughout numerous teams for the first time since the beginning of the Warriors dynasty. It is almost impossible to predict. Eastern Conference predictions will be posted in the coming days.
What do you guys think? Do you agree with my predictions or disagree? Leave a comment below.