The NBA’s Western Conference already was deeper and more talented than the Eastern Conference going into the offseason, and the gap between the two now is much wider after some wild trades and free-agent moves.
Jimmy Butler, Paul George, Paul Millsap and several other top players have gone from the East to the West since the end of the 2016-17 campaign. Remember, this is the conference that already had the historically dominant Golden State Warriors, who have won two of the last three NBA Finals.
Here are our post-free agent frenzy NBA power rankings for the Western Conference. Click here for our Eastern Conference rankings.
1. Golden State Warriors
The Warriors kept almost all of their championship-winning core intact and also added Nick Young, Omri Casspi and talented second-round pick Jordan Bell to the fold. It was a very good offseason for the league’s best and deepest team.
2. Houston Rockets
The Rockets made a bold trade for superstar point guard Chris Paul, which moves James Harden back to shooting guard after he became an MVP runner-up last season as a point guard. Houston also seems to be the frontrunner to acquire Carmelo Anthony from the New York Knicks. That would give them three very ball-dominant scorers, which is far from ideal. So is a weak bench and an average defensive structure.
The Rockets should score plenty of points, though.
3. San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs are among the few Western Conference contenders that haven’t made a substantial addition, but this well-coached, fundamentally strong group should be able to win 50-plus games once again. Superstar forward Kawhi Leonard’s return from injury is an interesting story to watch. He needs to be healthy for this team to have any shot at making a deep playoff run.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Paul George trade gives OKC another superstar alongside reigning MVP winner Russell Westbrook. Re-signing Andre Roberson was crucial for the team’s defensive ability, and the Thunder have other assets to make an impactful move before the trade deadline.
5. Utah Jazz
Losing star forward Gordon Hayward in free agency is a huge blow, but the Jazz still have an elite defender in center Rudy Gobert, an excellent coach in Quin Snyder and potentially the steal of the 2017 draft in guard Donovan Mitchell. Utah should remain a tough team to beat even without Hayward’s scoring.
6. Denver Nuggets
The addition of All-Star power forward Paul Millsap via free agency and the continued development of breakout star Nikola Jokic should help the Nuggets return to the playoffs next season.
7. Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers lost Chris Paul, but they re-signed All-Star forward Blake Griffin, traded for Danilo Gallinari and signed legendary European point guard Milos Teodosic. There’s more than enough talent on this roster for Los Angeles to remain a playoff-caliber team.
8. Portland Trail Blazers
The Trail Blazers didn’t make any major additions, but the backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum is as talented as any other in the league.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves
The Timberwolves won the Jimmy Butler trade and added talented point guard Jeff Teague in free agency, but it still isn’t likely to be enough for a playoff berth in a loaded conference. Minnesota’s bench and defense must improve for this team to make the playoffs.
10. New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans have the two best centers in the league in Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, but in today’s outside shooting-heavy league, that’s not a winning roster formula. There’s not much talent on this Pelicans team outside of Davis, Cousins and oft-injured point guard Jrue Holiday.
11. Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies still have a top-tier point guard in Mike Conley Jr., but losing Zach Randolph in free agency and not addressing the team’s poor outside shooting should keep Memphis out of the playoffs.
12. Dallas Mavericks
Drafting athletic point guard Dennis Smith Jr. with the No. 9 overall pick could prove to be a huge steal, but there’s still not enough talent on this roster to make the playoffs. Franchise icon Dirk Nowitzki re-signing is a nice story, though.
13. Sacramento Kings
The Kings did very well at the draft and added some nice pieces in free agency, including veteran guard Vince Carter, but this team still is a long ways away from competing for a playoff berth. The rebuild rolls on in Sacramento.
14. Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers don’t have their first-round pick this season, so there’s no incentive for them to tank. They should have one of the league’s worst records, but the season will be successful if talented young players such as Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle and rookie Lonzo Ball play to their potential and develop at both ends of the floor.
15. Phoenix Suns
The Suns were really bad last season, and even with a talented young core of Devin Booker, Marquese Chriss and 2017 No. 4 overall draft pick Josh Jackson, they still should find it difficult to consistently win games. That said, Phoenix should be a really fun team to watch with all of its athletic, offensively skilled players, most notably Booker.
Thumbnail photo via Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports Images
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