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Just like the last couple of seasons, the Western Conference looks wide open and there are more than a few teams with high hopes of playing in the NBA Finals. The early season results provide us with a bit of a preview on how the playoff picture in the West might look like, but there’s a long way to go before the postseason. You can also check our early analysis of the Eastern Conference favorites.
So, let’s take a closer look at some of the best teams in the West and their chances of reaching the NBA Finals:
The Suns surprised many last season when they won the Western Conference and the team is once again not considered as one of the main candidates for winning the championship. However, the Suns have kept the core of their team and they started the new season in good rhythm as well, with 11 wins and 3 losses.
The biggest question probably for the Suns is the health of Chris Paul, who started the new season in great shape and already broke a couple of records. If the experienced playmaker can stay healthy and ready for the playoffs, the Suns could repeat their success of last year, or even go a step further.
Another franchise that had a great last season is the Utah Jazz, when they reached the Western Conference Finals. And while they lost to the Suns in that series, the Jazz have shown that they will be one of the teams to consider in the upcoming years when it comes to the potential NBA champions.
Like the Suns, the Jazz entered the new season with mostly the same roster, led by Donovan Mitchel and Rudy Gobert. The team traded Derick Favors and signed Hasan Whiteside and Rudy Gay in the free agency. Overall, they are a good team and they started the new season with 9 wins and 5 losses.
Golden State Warriors
While the Warriors missed the playoffs last season, they seem to be in great form at the start of the new one, despite the fact that they are still waiting on Klay Thompson to start playing after his second major injury. So, obviously, Thompson’s health when the playoffs arrive will hugely impact the chances of the Warriors, but the team started the season with twelve wins and two losses without him, led by the amazing Steph Curry.
The team did make some changes in the offseason as well, trading Eric Paschall to the Jazz and letting Kent Bazemore and Kelly Oubre Jr. leave as free agents. Meanwhile, the brought back Andre Igouadala and signed Nemanja Bjelica and Otto Porter Jr, along with their two draft picks Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody.
Los Angeles Lakers
The early exit in the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs last season shook the Lakers and the team made many changes before the start of this season. Dennis Schroeder, Montrezl Harrell, Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Calldwell-Pope, Alex Caruso, Markeiff Morris, Andre Drummond – they all left the team, along with a few others.
Meanwhile, the Lakers brought in Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, Kendrick Nunn, Rajon Rondo, Malik Monk, and a few other names. But regardless of the changes, the biggest obstacle to a successful campaign are the potential health problems of their two superstars, LeBron James and Anthony Davis. If they are healthy in the playoffs, the Lakers have to be seen as one of the favourites to win it all.
Other Challengers in the Western Conference
In addition to these four franchises, there are a few other teams that will hunt the glory from the shadows:
- Denver Nuggets – The Nuggets suffered a huge blow to their campaign last season when Jamal Murray tore his ACL before the playoffs. Murray is still out, but he could be back in form for the postseason, depending on this progress. Still, the Nuggets have the reigning MVP Nikola Jokic to guide them and they are a true dark horse in the West this season.
- Portland Trail Blazers – The Blazers kept their core of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum intact and they will try once again to at least repeat the best result of this generation, which is reaching the Western Conference Finals.
- Dallas Mavericks – Led by the magical Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks have high hopes for this season. If Kristaps Porzingis stays healthy and the rest of the team rises to the challenge, the Mavs could be the most pleasant surprise of the season.
- Los Angeles Clippers – According to most reports, Kawhi Leonard will miss the entire season with a partial ACL tear. That will most likely Clippers’ chances in the playoffs, but with Paul George playing at an MVP level, anything is possible.