1. L.A. Clippers- The Clippers were, in my opinion, the winners of the off season after the Nets. They traded Caron Butler and Eric Bledsoe for J.J. Reddick and Jared Dudley as well as trading a 2015 fist round draft pick for coach Doc Rivers. They signed Darren Collison, Byron Mullens, and Antawn Jamison while losing Grant Hill, Ronny Turiaf, Lamar Odom, and Chauncey Billups. The biggest move they made was the re-signing of Chris Paul. They also re-signed Matt Barnes and Ryan Hollins. They upgraded their team while Oklahoma City downgraded theirs. This puts them atop my 2013-14 Western Conference standings as I believe they have finally surpassed the Thunder's great prowess atop the West.
2. O.K.C.- The Thunder re-signed Derek Fisher, signed Ryan Gomes, and drafted Steven Adams with the twelfth pick. They also traded Kevin Martin (their replacement James Harden.) Russell Westbrook will be coming off an injury to his right meniscus and will likely need Kevin Durant to pick up his slack. Not only will Kevin Durant have to pick up for Westbrook's slack, but he'll have to fill the void left behind by Kevin Martin.
3. San Antonio- The Spurs are coming off their first trip to the finals in six years. The Spurs lost Gary Neal as well as DeJuan Blair who had started to become a non-factor anyway. They signed Marco Belinelli and Jeff Pendergraph to replace the losses. Last year they had the second best record in the West just over the Nuggets and Clippers. This year they'll drop by 3 or 4 wins, but they'll still be a top team.
4. Golden State- The Warriors added Andre Iguodala over the summer which puts them into true contention for the title for the first time in... ever. They got Andris Biedrins and Richard Jefferson off the books and even though they lost Brandon Rush, Carl Landry, and Jarret Jack, they added Toney Douglas, Jermaine O'Neal, and Marreese Speights.
5. Houston- Let me begin by saying that the Houston Rockets, even with the additions of Omri Casspi, Marcus Camby, Dwight Howard, and Ronnie Brewer as well as the re-acquisitions of Francisco Garcia and Aaron Brooks are still not, in my opinion, better than the Warriors, Clippers, Thunder, and the Spurs. They are certainly a good team on paper, but it may take a year or two before they're ready to compete with the big boys.
6. Memphis- The Grizzlies are headed in the right direction, but it seems like they can't get over the hump. Charles Barkley keeps predicting big things for them year after year, but what's the best they give us; a loss by sweep in the Western Conference Semifinals. Their biggest move was reacquiring franchise favorite Mike Miller. They also traded for Kosta Koufos. They will return to the playoffs and likely have an impact on the first round, possibly making it to the second, but that will be the extent of what they can make out of this year.
7. Denver- The Nuggets came off with two big-name contributors, but at what cost. They signed J.J. Hickson and Nate Robinson, but they lost Andre Iguodala to the Warriors. They also acquired Darrell Arthur and Randy Foye. They lost Kosta Koufos and Corey Brewer through a trade and free agency respectively. They are coming off their best season in franchise history, but they just lost the closest thing to an all-star that their team had.
8. Minnesota- This is the third straight year I've predicted the Timberwolves would make the playoffs, the second straight as the eighth seed. Last year, I truly believe the Timberwolves would have made the playoffs had they not been hindered by injuries. The 'Wolves were 9-9 with Kevin Love in the lineup and he only played while still being affected by injury. The 'Wolves traded for Kevin Martin and rookies Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad. They also added free agents Corey Brewer and Ronny Turiaf. They lost Andrei Kirilenko, Luke Ridnour, Greg Stiemsma, Brandon Roy, and Malcolm Lee. The Timberwolves have the makings of a playoff basketball team: a great bench, a star player, and players who can ball when it counts.
9. L.A. Lakers- The biggest headline of the summer for the Lakers was the loss of Dwight Howard. The Lakers signed Chris Kaman, Nick Young, Wesley Johnson, and ex-Laker Jordan Farmar. They lost Antawn Jamison Earl Clark, Chris Duhon, and Metta World Peace. Overall, I think the Lakers' chemistry will be better. Steve Nash will be able to mesh with the team while Kobe is out and once Kobe returns he will be better integrated with the team. With that being said, the Lakers are still not a playoff team.
10. Dallas- That free agency splash the Mavericks have been looking for, well they finally got it. If you consider jumping in a small puddle a splash, that is. The Mavericks got significantly worse defensively in adding a frontcourt made up of Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon. They also added Samuel Dalembert, Devin Harris, Wayne Ellington, and Dejuan Blair. They lost O.J. Mayo, Elton Brand, Chris Kaman, Darren Collison, Rodrigue Beaubois, Anthony Morrow and Jared Cunningham.
11. Portland- Despite adding possible Rookie of the Year candidate C.J. McCollum as well as Robin Lopez, Mo Williams, Dorell Wright, and Thomas Robinson, the Blazers are not ready to be a playoff team. They need more growth from key young players like Damian Lillard and Thomas Robinson first.
12. New Orleans- The newly renamed Pelicans had quite the offseason, adding all-star Jrue Holiday, former Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans, defensive presence Greg Stiemsma, and 3-point specialist Anthony Morrow. They lost Greivis Vasquez, Robin Lopez and Louis Amundson. Even with these great additions, I don't see the Hornets as a top ten team in the West.
13. Utah- I happen to love what the Jazz are doing, they have collected an array of young talent in Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Alec Burks, Gordon Hayward, Rudy Gobert, and Trey Burke; and with the exception of Hayward, they haven't received much playing time (Burke and Gobert are rookies.) They have trade chips in Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins whose contracts are up after this season. They have Brandon Rush and Marvin Williams who are both great players off the bench. They let Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap walk, both mediocre defensive players. They also let Mo Williams go and traded Randy Foye. The Jazz have created an environment where their young studs can grow and develop into great players, it may take a few years, but the Jazz will be a force to be reckoned with.
14. Sacramento- The Kings drafted Ben McLemore and Ray McCallum with the seventh and thirty-sixth picks respectively. They traded inconsistent SF Tyreke Evans for steady PG Greivis Vasquez and signed free agents Carl Landry and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. Toney Douglas left the team to join the Warriors. Even with the massive amount of talent they have, the Sacramento Kings have set the precedent that a team with great talent can be consistently horrible year after year.
15. Phoenix- The Suns, possibly the most boring team in the league right now, added Eric Bledsoe, Gerald Green, rookie Alex Len, and Malcolm Lee. They lost Jared Dudley, Luis Scola, Jermaine O'Neal, Michael Beasley, and Wesley Johnson.
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