Throughout the 2013-14 NBA season, co-editor Chris Manning will be ranking the 15 Western Conference teams on a week-by-week basis every Sunday. After each team’s ranking, Manning will give a brief description of why he chose the team at that specific spot and will provide the week’s previous ranking (PR) and the MVP for each team on that specific week.
This week is a special edition of the 2013-14 Western Conference Power Rankings. Co-editor Zak Kolesar put together the Eastern Conference offseason rankings last week, and now I’m here to take a look at the other conferences. And with the several Western Conference teams making big splashes through free agency, it’s a good time to see how the West stacks up. So, without further adieu, let’s get on to the rankings.
1. San Antonio Spurs – 2012-13 Record: 58-24
As long as the Spurs have their core intact, this team is the favorite out West. Throw in young talent like Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard and you get a recipe for a real contender for the NBA Title. This team is battle tested, deep and just happens to have Gregg Popovich on the bench. One day, the Spurs Big Three of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli will be no more and the Spurs will fall back to pack. But for now, they are the top dogs out West.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder – 2012-13 Record: 60-22
The Thunder worry me, maybe more then they should. Just two years ago, they had the best young core in the game and appeared poised to be contenders for years. After trading James Harden, they still have a strong core of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, but the supporting cast is lacking. It’s a mix of unknowns, average bigs and Serge Ibaka. They’ll be very good, but I don’t think they’ll be good enough to win the title.
3. Los Angeles Clippers – 2012-13 Record: 56-26
Not only did the Clippers keep Chris Paul, but they replaced Vinny del Negro with Doc Rivers and added deadeye shooters in J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley. As it stands, they have the best offense on paper in the West and maybe the entire NBA. I remain skeptical of their frontcourt, but I’m enamored with the offensive potential. However, the West is so deep that the Clippers could win 50+ games and possibly be a fourth seed.
4. Memphis Grizzlies – 2012-2013 Record: 56-26
This team is built to play a long, physical playoff series and is a team in the truest sense of the word. They brought back the Grindfather (Tony Allen) and made a sneaky good signing in Mike Miller. They preformed admirably in the playoffs, and the trio of Mike Conley/Marc Gasol/Zach Randolph is very, very good. We’ll see about the scoring, though.
5. Houston Rockets – 2012-2013 Record: 45-37
This is a guestimate of the impact Dwight Howard will have on this team, which was an eight seed last season. With Omer Asik as his backup, he won’t have to shoulder the load himself, and maybe that helps him improve. However, a potential lineup of Jeremy Lin/James Harden/Chandler Parsons/Asik/Howard could be tough to battle. It has size, scoring and two bona fide stars. If everything clicks, Houston could be set for liftoff – even if Howard is 85 percent of the player he was in Orlando.
6. Golden State Warriors – 2012-2013 Record: 47-35
The league’s peskiest team got better this offseason in adding Andre Iguodala and still have a dang good backcourt in Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. With Iguodala likely starting that likely means Harrison Barnes will move to the bench, making an already solid bench deeper. We’ll see how they respond to not having Jarrett Jack to spell Curry, but this team
could will be one of the most fun teams in the NBA next season.
7. New Orleans Pelicans – 2012-2013 Record: 27-55
The Pellies made major upgrades this offseason. They acquired a young star point guard with a good contract (Jrue Holiday) and also signed Tyreke Evans to a $44 million that gives them the wing scorer they need. If the change of scenery helps Evans as much as I think it will, the New Orleans will win far more games than the 27 they did last year.
8. Denver Nuggets – 57-25 – 2012-2013 Record: 57-25
The Nuggets are set for a solid drop off next season. Iguodala leaving was a big loss, and while J.J. Hickson is a nice offensive piece, he provides next to nothing defensively. With Ty Lawson still at the point, they can still contend for a playoff spot. They just won’t be as good as they were last season – no shame in that.
9. Dallas Mavericks – 2012-2013 Record – 41-41
Dallas might score a lot more this offseason with the additions of Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon, but there will be gaping holes defensively. Not landing Howard – or even Andrew Bynum – ultimately resulted in a pretty wild Plan B. I don’t see playoffs in the future for this squad.
10. Minnesota Timberwolves – 2012-2013 – 31-51
If Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love are both healthy, the T-Wolves could be fun to watch. They’d have a top 10 point and one of the best bigs in the NBA. Throw in young talent like Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng and things are actually starting to move in the right direction up north. That’s not such a bad thing considering they once drafted three point guards in one draft.
11. Los Angeles Lakers – 2012-2013 Record – 45-37
The Los Angeles Lakers are going to be simply horrible next season. Kobe Bryant won’t be back right away, and even when he comes back, I’ll be surprised if the Black Mamba is even close to the level of player he was pre-Achilles injury. Couple that with a fairly weak roster, and a dreadful season is looming for the Lakers.
13. Utah Jazz – 2012-2013 Record – 43-39
While I liked what the Jazz did in the draft, they’ll be taking a step back next season. Losing Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Mo Williams in one offseason surely takes Utah out of playoff contention next season. Anything close to a .500 season would be a surprise to me.
14. Sacramento Kings – 2012-2013 – 28-54
Sacramento should be interesting to watch, as questions exist everywhere. How much will Ben McLemore play? Is DeMarcus Cousins going to be a King for the whole season? And if he is, will he explode? The Kings are absolutely lottery bound next season, sans a miracle.
15. Phoenix Suns – 2012-2013 Record – 25-57
While setting themselves up well for tanking, the Suns did improve this offseason. Despite the criticism, they added Eric Bledsoe as their starting point guard, and despite the concerns, Alex Len has potential at the center spot. Maybe a year from now we’ll be talking about a Suns team ready to starting climbing the ladder once again.