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NBA Western Conference Preview

After previewing the Eastern Conference last week, we’ll move onto the Western Conference with the season within reach. The race to the playoffs will be even more exciting in the West, thanks to the level of talent in the conference. With that said, the very top of the conference is much more predictable.

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Tier One

1. Golden State Warriors

There isn’t a whole lot to say here. I know they’re the best team in the NBA. You know they’re the best team in the NBA. I’ve mentioned before that Nick Young is someone to monitor in fantasy. Outside of that, you know what you’re getting here. Now on to the real fun in the conference.

Tier Two

2. Houston Rockets

3. Oklahoma City Thunder

4. Minnesota Timberwolves

5. San Antonio Spurs

Honestly, these four teams could finish in any order and I wouldn’t be surprised. The race for the two seed is going to be ridiculous. The Rockets’ addition of Chris Paul puts them at the top of the conference for me. Adding Paul will alleviate some of the workload that James Harden had to carry last year. This team is going to run and shoot, and it’s going to be incredibly fun to watch. The Thunder may have had the best offseason in the NBA, adding Paul George and Carmelo Anthony at an incredibly cheap price for each. It may take some time for those two and Russell Westbrook to mesh, but once they get going this team is going to be very good. Anthony will finally transition to playing the four, which should make for some fantastic spacing, even with Andre Roberson on the floor.

Minnesota has been a team that I’ve been hyping since their acquisition of Jimmy Butler for peanuts. They would come in even higher if they would’ve added a shooter at the four instead of Taj Gibson. Either way, this team is going to grind you out defensively and make you hate playing them. Watch for Jamal Crawford in fantasy leagues as a nice source of scoring off the bench. Finally, the San Antonio Spurs are my fifth seed. This feels low, but I just can’t put them ahead of the top four in the conference right now. With Kawhi Leonard’s injury issues and a lackluster offseason, we may see San Antonio take a step back this year. Of course, a step back means they’re still a top-five seed in a loaded conference. I’m fairly high on Patty Mills, and with Tony Parker out, we could see Mills have a real breakout fantasy season.

Tier Three

6. Denver Nuggets

7. Portland Trail Blazers

8. Utah Jazz

9. Los Angeles Clippers

10. Memphis Grizzlies

11. New Orleans Pelicans

This was not easy. Three of these teams are going to miss the playoffs. In the East, they’d be fighting for a three seed, but in the West, they’re in for a very difficult time. Denver is the best offensive team in this group, and the addition of Paul Millsap should improve their defense. Jamal Murray will be the key to their success, and I expect him to have a breakout year and emerge as their second offensive option. Not to mention Gary Harris, who is a fantastic player and a perfect fit for a team led by Nikola Jokic.

This next pick may be a surprise to some, but I think Portland is going to have a fantastic year. Adding Jusuf Nurkic last year gave them an inside presence that they desperately needed. They’ve got two of the best scorers in the league in Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, and they’ve surrounded them with shooters and defenders. They’re built to succeed and could be in for a very exciting season. Of course, in the West that gets you a seven seed.

These last four teams are going to be grinding it out to make the playoffs. Utah will be looking to overcome the loss of Gordon Hayward, and now Dante Exum could miss the season due to a shoulder injury. Rodney Hood will have to take a big step to ensure this team makes the playoffs. Hood is my pick to take up most of Hayward’s scoring and have a fantasy breakout. He should do that, and Rudy Gobert will still strike fear into the hearts of opponents.

The Clippers are a much different team this year. With Chris Paul gone, they’ve added actual depth for the first time in years. Milos Teodosic will be a fantasy stud this year with high percentages and assist rates. He should be able to find DeAndre Jordan on lobs and share the ball-handling duties with Blake Griffin. I’d say this team would be in the playoffs if I could guarantee Danilo Gallinari’s health, but I can’t.

The Memphis Grizzlies lost Zach Randolph and Tony Allen, but they still have Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, and that should keep them in the playoff conversation. I’m keeping my eye on Chandler Parsons, who could emerge as a quality fantasy option if he stays healthy. He will be their third offensive option by default this year. Finally, we have the New Orleans Pelicans, who will likely blow it up if they finish as the 11th best team in the West. I love DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, and Jrue Holiday, but this team is a mess. They’ll really need to gel quickly with guys like Tony Allen and Rajon Rondo, who is expected to miss some time to start the season. At the very least, this team is a must-watch thanks to Boogie and the complete disaster they could turn into.

Tier Four

12. Dallas Mavericks

13. Los Angeles Lakers

14. Sacramento Kings

15. Phoenix Suns

And here we have our bottom four. This group is fairly underwhelming, and I don’t give any of them a chance at the playoffs. For the Mavericks, Dennis Smith Jr. looks like a stud and is a must-draft in the first five or six rounds in fantasy. The same applies to Lonzo Ball of the Lakers. Those two should be shining lights in what could be pretty dark seasons for those two teams. The Lakers could also see a breakout from Brandon Ingram in his sophomore campaign.

These last two are interchangeable, and I imagine it’s a consensus bottom two. While the Kings added some serious talent in George Hill, they added him to a team that already had De’Aaron Fox. Those two aren’t an ideal pairing on the floor together, and I’ve always been low on Fox as it is. Coach Dave Joerger loves to play vets, which could turn in some lineups featuring Hill, Vince Carter, and Zach Randolph. That’s quite the throwback. The Suns will be fighting to add another piece in the draft this year, although their future is brighter than the Mavericks’ or the Kings’ future. Josh Jackson will be fun to watch alongside Devin Booker, and if Marquese Chriss ever figures it out, they will at least be an exciting trio. This team will have some growing pains, but Jackson is still an elite talent and could have a massive rookie season.

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