Western Conference

By Kurt Zimmer, Columbian Sports Reporter

Published:

 

Western Conference

Teams are listed in the predicted order of finish.

Northwest Division

  1. Denver Nuggets. Key additions: PG Ty Lawson, Arron Afflalo. Key subtractions: G Dahntay Jones, F Linas Kleiza. Outlook: Adding Chauncey Billups last season pushed the Nuggets from playoff hopeful to title contender. A return to the conference finals is the goal. It will not be easy keeping pace with the champion Lakers and reloaded Spurs.

  2. Portland Trail Blazers. Key additions: PG Andre Miller, PF Juwan Howard. Key subtractions: PG Sergio Rodriguez, F/C Channing Frye. Outlook: The talent is good enough. The roster is deep enough. But two questions must be answered as the Blazers seek a second consecutive playoff trip: Will there be enough minutes to keep everyone happy? And can they stay healthy?

  3. Utah Jazz. Key additions: G Eric Maynor. Key subtraction: None. Outlook: Carlos Boozer didn’t get traded — yet. But the Jazz is ready to move on with or without the All-Star forward after committing to his backup, Paul Millsap. Deron Williams should guide the team through any unrest and into the playoffs.

  4. Oklahoma City Thunder. Key additions: G Robert Harden, C Etan Thomas. Key subtractions: SG Damien Wilkins, PG Chucky Atkins, SF Desmond Mason. Outlook: The Thunder is thinking playoffs. While that seems a bit of a stretch, there is no question Kevin Durant has elevated his game to an All-Star level. OKC is on the rise, but is still a year away from flirting with the postseason.

  5. Minnesota Timberwolves. Key additions: PG Jonny Flynn, G Ramon Sessions, SF Sasha Pavlovic. Key subtractions: PG Sebastian Telfair, SG Randy Foye, SF Mike Miller. Outlook: Even with “Big Al” Jefferson’s return to health, a lengthy rebuilding process continues. It did not help that the Ricky Rubio gamble backfired. Figure on a long season for coach Kurt Rambis and the kids.

Pacific Division

  1. Los Angeles Lakers. Key additions: SF Ron Artest. Key subtraction: SF Trevor Ariza. Outlook: The defending NBA champions seem to have gotten even better — on paper, at least. The arrival of volatile forward Artest is certain to keep Kobe Bryant, who averaged a Western-Conference best 26.8 points a game last season, and the crew’s title defense from growing stale.

  2. Phoenix Suns. Key additions: C Channing Frye, PF Earl Clark. Key subtractions: C Shaquille O’Neal, SF Matt Barnes. Outlook: The Suns are hoping for addition by subtraction after shipping out Shaq. The Big Experiment was a colossal failure with Phoenix missing the playoffs last season. Give GM Steve Kerr a big mulligan as the Suns regroup.

  3. Los Angeles Clippers. Key additions: PF Blake Griffin, PG Sebastian Telfair. Key subtraction: PF Zach Randolph. Outlook: Few rosters can match the potential and promise of this squad. Performance? Well, that’s always another issue. If they can stay healthy and hungry early, this is a playoff team. But those are big “ifs.”

  4. Golden State Warriors. Key additions: SG Stephen Curry, SF Devean George. Key subtraction: SG Jamal Crawford. Outlook: Chaos is a way of life here. Training camp was no exception, with Stephen Jackson and Monta Ellis griping every day. This is far from the fun-and-gun bunch that made the playoffs two years ago.

  5. Sacramento Kings. Key additions: PG Tyreke Evans, SF Desmond Mason. Key subtraction: Ike Diogu. Outlook: There is plenty of potential for progress. But that is not much of a reach, considering last season’s dreadful finish. Evans is the real deal at the point, and Jason Thompson is a quality big man in the making.

Southwest Division

  1. San Antonio Spurs. Key additions: SF Richard Jefferson, PF Antonio McDyess, PF DeJuan Blair. Key subtraction: SF Bruce Bowen, Kurt Thomas. Outlook: The Spurs have gone all out in an effort to unseat the Lakers. No team has done more to upgrade its supporting cast. Do not be surprised if Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker are fitted for rings again.

  2. Dallas Mavericks: Key additions: SF Shawn Marion, PF/C Drew Gooden. Key subtractions: PF Brandon Bass, SF Devean George. Outlook: Marion detoured through Miami and Toronto on the way to hooking back up with point guard Jason Kidd in Dallas. The former Suns teammates are at the tail end of their careers, and looking for one more deep playoff push.

  3. New Orleans Hornets. Key additions: C Emeka Okafor, PG Darren Collison. Key subtraction: SF Rasual Butler, C Tyson Chandler. Outlook: Injuries and inconsistent play forced the Hornets to take a step back last season after a solid playoff run the season before. Has Chris Paul taken this group from the bayou as far as it can go? It looks that way.

  4. Memphis Grizzlies. Key additions: G Allen Iverson, PF Zach Randolph, C Hasheem Thabeet. Key subtraction: C Darko Milicic, PF Hakim Warrick. Outlook: The Grizzlies picked up plenty of firepower in Iverson and Randolph, but they arrive with plenty of baggage and questionable work ethics. Still, Memphis matters again in the NBA and will be entertaining to watch.

  5. Houston. Key additions: SF Trevor Ariza, C David Anderson. Key subtraction: SF Ron Artest. Outlook: With Yao Ming out for the season and Tracy McGrady’s return still in doubt, there’s not much to like about the Rockets’ chances. A lottery pick might be the best thing to come out of the season.

— The Miami Herald