The NBA’s superior conference has gotten even stronger this offseason.
Last year, the NBA world was robbed of what was supposed to be an intense, entertaining playoff duel in the Western Conference when injuries took out star players and rotation players alike, giving the Golden State Warriors a fairly uncontested path to the Finals.
Last season, the Warriors were always the favourites in the West, but the San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets, and even the Portland Trail Blazers and Memphis Grizzlies were second-tier competitors. The Oklahoma City Thunder were removed from the conversation when they were decimated by injuries.
This summer, however, several of those teams in contention have gotten even stronger, leaving no clear title favourite.
Now, here’s a look at how many of those teams have improved:
- The Spurs landed the biggest free agent of the summer in LaMarcus Aldridge. They re-signed Kawhi Leonard to a max. contract, brought back Danny Green, Tim Duncan, and Manu Ginobili on discounts, and signed power forward David West to a minimum contract. They’re loaded with talent.
- The Clippers fixed their biggest weakness by bolstering their depth. They stole back DeAndre Jordan and took last year’s supporting cast of Matt Barnes, Spencer Hawes, Glen Davis, and Hedo Turkoglu and turned them into Paul Pierce, Josh Smith, Lance Stephenson, and Cole Aldrich.
- The Houston Rockets traded for point guard Ty Lawson on Sunday, adding an extra playmaker and shooter next to James Harden. Though Lawson is currently dealing with the aftermath of a second DUI, if he’s available, he adds and extra dose of talent to a core that took the Warriors to five games (and nearly six) in the Conference Finals.
- The Oklahoma City Thunder brought back all of the pieces they traded for last season. If Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, and Russell Westbrook all stay healthy, this could be their deepest, most talented team of the Durant era.
- The Warriors took care of their biggest offseason business — re-signing Draymond Green. They bring back the entire core of a team that basically ran through the NBA.
Below those five, the rest of the conference isn’t quite as intimidating. The Grizzlies will be solid, as usual, and the New Orleans Pelicans, Phoenix Suns, and Utah Jazz seem primed to take the next step, but they won’t be contenders.
The top of the Western Conference will be the real bloodbath. Each of those teams are armed with several superstars and deep supporting casts with benches that go at least three players deep with little drop-off. Health and luck, of course, will play factors, and teams like the Spurs and Clippers might have trouble integrating new pieces.
Nonetheless, if all goes right, basketball fans could be treated to some must-watch TV when any of these teams face each other.
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