The Battle for the Western Conference

Expet the Western Conference to represent when it comes playoff time.
Photo Courtesy: Shea Huening

By Jared Macduff

The mighty Western Conference got better this off-season. Teams drafted players, players switched teams, and players returned to their current teams in order to contend for a championship. It’s going to be a slugfest for the eight playoff spots this year.

Last season, the NBA was robbed of what was supposed to be an exciting and intense playoffs in the Western Conference when injuries occurred and took star players and rotation players out. This gave the Golden State Warriors a relatively easy path to the Finals.

Let’s start with the San Antonio Spurs. They landed one of the big fish in free agency in LaMarcus Aldridge. They signed Kawhi Leonard to a max contract, resigned Danny Green, resigned Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili on discount contracts, and singed David West to a veterans minimum contract. They certainly got better in the offseason.

Next is the Los Angeles Clippers. They bolstered their lineup and added depth. They stole DeAndre Jordan from the Mavericks. They also traded away some of their bench players in Matt Barnes, Spencer Hawes, Glen Davis and Hedo Turkoglu and got Paul Pierce, Josh Smith, Lance Stephenson, and Cole Aldrich.

The Rockets are another team that improved in the offseason. They traded for point guard Ty Lawson, which adds another playmaker and shooter alongside James Harden. Lawson is dealing with a second DUI. If Lawson can keep himself out of trouble, he adds more talent to a roster that took the Golden State Warriors to five games in the Western Conference Finals.

The Oklahoma City Thunder brought back all of their players. If Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, and Russell Westbrook can stay healthy, this team will be dangerous and will make some noise in the Western Conference, and even the playoffs.

The Warriors resigned their only free agent in Draymond Green. They will continue to be dangerous in the Western conference as long as they retain their core.

Besides those teams, the rest of the Western Conference improved such as the Grizzlies, the Suns, the New Orleans Pelicans, and the Utah Jazz, but none of these teams will do much in the playoffs. The Grizzlies resigned Marc Gasol, but lost Kosta Koufos, but they acquired a good perimeter defender in Matt Barnes through a trade with the Clippers. The Suns added Tyson Chandler and Brandon Wright. They also traded away half of their bench to make room for LaMarcus Aldridge, which didn’t happen. The Pelicans resigned their superstar in Anthony Davis to a massive max contract. These teams will make some noise and will improve from last year, but they won’t be contenders.

The Dallas Mavericks for the most part, stayed the same. They lost Tyson Chandler and Monta Ellis and were spurned by DeAndre at the last minute. They also made little improvements. They added Wesley Matthews, added Zaza Pachulia, added Jeremy Evans, added Deron Williams, resigned J.J. Barea, and are still signing free agents to make up for not landing DeAndre Jordan.

There will be war at the top of the Western Conference for the top spots and certainly for the number one seed and home-court advantage. Each of the top teams have superstars and are loaded with talent as well as a deep bench. The deciding factor that will determine how well teams do will be health. After all, injuries were what robbed fans of some great playoff basketball last year.