Earlier this week we broke down the Eastern Conference. Now it’s the Western Conference’s turn. Last year the Oklahoma City Thunder surprised many and made it to the NBA Finals. Can they do it again? Here is our predictions.
Like with the East, let’s start with the non-playoff teams.
The Rockets tried very hard to get Dwight Howard, but never got a package together. When it was all said and done, they were able to bring in Jeremy Lin from New York. That will be enough to get this young team into playoff contention. There is some good young talent they picked up in the draft: Jeremy Lamb, Royce White, and Terrence Jones. Still, they are years away from being a playoff team.
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Everybody is picking the Timberwolves to be a playoff team this year. There is plenty of talent there with players such as Ricky Rubio, Brandon Roy, Andrei Kirilenko, and Kevin Love. They have solid pieces around them. The problem is seeing them stay healthy all year. Rubio is coming off a torn ACL and Roy has had problems with his knees. They will get close to the playoffs, but are still one year away.
New Orleans Hornets
The fortune of New Orleans changed during the 2012 Draft when they selected Anthony Davis & Austin Rivers. Then they resigned Eric Gordon and signed free agent Ryan Anderson from the Magic. The major question will be who will run the offense for the Hornets. They will be a much improved team in ‘12-13, but will still be towards the bottom of the Western Conference.
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The major headline for the Suns this offseason was that Steve Nash left for Los Angeles. Now it seems the Suns are caught in the middle. They have good enough talent to compete nightly. Goran Dragic and Michael Beasley will become the faces of the franchise and the focal points on offense. They will probably be in the playoff hunt, but will fall short.
Portland Trail Blazers
There is plenty to like about the Trail Blazers. They have one of the best power forwards in basketball with LaMarcus Aldridge. There is also plenty of hype surrounding their 2012 first round pick Damian Lillard. The problem with the Blazers is all their best players are young and will have to learn how to win in the NBA.
The talent to win is there for the Kings, but when will they start to win? With DeMarcus Cousins, Tyreke Evans, and Marcus Thornton they have a solid trio to build around. Still this group has not proven that it is mature enough to handle the ups and downs of a full season. Once they learn how to win when the pressure is on late in the season, they will become a dangerous team.
Last year the Jazz claimed the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoffs. Then they were swept by the top seeded San Antonio Spurs. The strength of the Jazz is in the post. They have a strong trio in Derrick Favors, Paul Millsap, and AL Jefferson. The loss of Devon Harris at point guard will hurt them and take them out of playoff contention.