So this was a little bit harder to do than the one I did for the Eastern Conference last week since the West is very deep and much more competitive, but I am going to give it my best shot. The tier levels don’t mean as much in the West either because even the lower tier playoff teams in the West are still Championship Contenders.
The Top Tier:
1.Golden State Warriors: The defending Champions automatically get this spot. They not only cruised through the regular season, but they cruised through the NBA playoffs and beat the Cleveland Cavaliers by a wide margin. The West was historically good this year, but Golden State was a cut above and they have retained their entire rotation, and even added Jason Thompson of the Sacramento Kings. They are the team to beat out West.
2.San Antonio Spurs: The Spurs made a bold move this offseason in signing LaMarcus Aldridge. The Spurs were already considered a title contender and top tier team last season and played a tough seven game series against the Clippers, who eventually came out victorious. With Tim Duncan and Tony Parker slowing down the Spurs now have their young core in Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard, who will help them win now and in the future.
3. Los Angeles Clippers: The Clippers defied all odds and re-signed DeAndre Jordan even after he had verbally committed to signing with Dallas. It involved an emergency meeting with owner Steve Ballmer and team president and coach Doc Rivers flying out to Jordan’s offseason home in Houston in order to convince him to switch back. Aside from this, they added Paul Pierce, who should help them significantly in closing out games and brought in Lance Stephenson, Wesley Johnson and Josh Smith.
The Second Tier:
4. Houston Rockets: The Rockets had a great season this past year making it all the way to the Western Conference Finals. James Harden had a great season and post-season that included an incredible performance against the Clippers. However, I cannot call them a top tier team because they really didn’t do much this offseason. In the West if you are not constantly upgrading your roster you are falling behind and they failed to make any significant moves.
5. Oklahoma City Thunder: The Thunder should be in the mix this season if Durant and Westbrook can both stay healthy. That is something that has not happened these past few years. They upgraded their roster at the deadline last year when they got Enes Kanter and a few other nice pieces. Look for them to make some noise come playoff time and possibly knock off one of these higher seeded teams.
6. New Orleans Pelicans: The Pelicans finally took the step of making it into the postseason as an 8th seed last season and were led by an amazing performance by Anthony Davis. However, that all ended when they got swept in the first round by Golden State. I think that with the addition of coach Alvin Gentry this offseason, they will be taking a significant step forward. Davis and the young core will only improve. With a very strong offensive coach in Gentry, I see the Pelicans among the league leaders this season in points scored. If they can stay healthy, they will be among the Western Conference elite.
The Third Tier:
7. Memphis Grizzlies: They have been in the playoff mix the past four or five years, but never seem to make it out of the second round of the playoffs. They did retain Marc Gasol, which is something to point out, although no one expected that he was going to leave. They were a bit inconsistent the second half of last season so I am a little reluctant to give them a higher ranking, but they have both the talent and depth to knock off some of these teams I have ranked higher than them in the playoffs.
8. Phoenix Suns/Dallas Mavericks: So this one was tough because I do feel that these teams are fairly equal when it comes to talent. The Suns have been an up and coming team the past few seasons mostly because of Eric Bledsoe. The Suns have a dynamic backcourt with Bledsoe and Brandon Knight. They also added Tyson Chandler to man the middle and picked up Kentucky SG Devin Booker in the draft. They will be in the mix for the playoffs.
With Dallas, they lost out on DeAndre Jordan and that really hurt them. The time when they thought they had him locked down, most other significant centers had been signed and now they are left with only Zaza Pachulia on their roster at Center. However, they did get Deron Williams in a buyout scenario with the Nets. He is not what he used to be, but certainly will help the Mavs wins some games. All in all it really could come down to a game or two between these last two teams. I personally think the Suns may get the spot, but it is completely up in the air.
By Spencer Roush @El_Spence_Man