NBA Western Conference: 2017/18 team predictions

With superstars Jimmy Butler and Paul George leaving the East to join an already stacked Western Conference, and with Kyrie Irving potentially following suit, competition for playoff spots out West has never been more fierce.

Let's take a look at how these moves will alter team standings come April.

1. Golden State Warriors

No surprises here. After finishing last season with a 67-15 record, the Warriors dominated the postseason, going 20-1 on their way to a second NBA Championship in three years. Even more satisfying for Warriors fans, however, is how they have kept the core intact. Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Andre Iguodala, David West and Zaza Pauchila all re-signed and the team added some nice veterans in Nick "Swaggy P" Young and Omri Casspi.

2. Houston Rockets

Chris Paul. Need I say more? After acquiring the 9x All-Star via a sign-and-trade, the Rockets will create one of the best backcourt duos in the NBA when they pair Paul with James Harden. Re-signing Nene, and adding P. J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute adds some nice depth to a team that lost seven players and a draft pick in the Paul deal, including Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams and Sam Dekker. And with Carmelo Anthony's name being linked with Houston incessantly, the Rockets might not be done.

3. San Antonio Spurs

Coach Pop is expecting yet another season of consistency from his Spurs side. Aside from a legitimate superstar in Kawhi Leonard, the team seems to lack the kind of players needed to compete with the Warriors for the Western Conference crown, though. A move for Kyrie Irving would go a long way to closing the gap. In Pop we continue to trust, but signing Pau Gasol to a three-year, $48 million deal seems odd, to say the least.

4. Oklahoma City Thunder

When will these superstar names stop cropping up in the Western Conference? Not content with just having the incumbent MVP Russell Westbrook on their roster, the Thunder went ahead and added Paul George in a deal which saw them give up Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis (yes; you read that right, no draft picks). If Westbrook and George can complement each other on the court, OKC fans will have a lot to look forward to this season.

5. Minnesota Timberwolves

The T-Wolves were perhaps the team with the biggest turnaround this offseason. After acquiring Jimmy Butler from the Bulls on draft night, Minnesota weren't done there and proceeded to add free-agent guard Jeff Teague to a three-year, $57-million deal, before signing Taj Gibson and Jamal Crawford for two years apiece. Throw these names into a lineup already consisting of superstar in the making, Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins, and the Timberwolves will expect to see vast improvements on their 31-51 record from a year ago.

6. Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers endured a rather stressful offseason. After losing Chris Paul to the Rockets, many thought 2009 top pick Blake Griffin could also be on his way out. After scheduling meetings with both Phoenix and Denver, Griffin made a U-Turn and re-signed with 'Lob City' on a five-year, $173-million deal. Making a sign-and-trade deal with the Nuggets for Danilo Gallinari went a way to hiding the cracks over what has been a difficult offseason for Clippers fans, and we will likely see a decline on the court as a result.

7. Denver Nuggets

One of the more confusing cases of the 2017 offseason has to be the Nuggets. Are they in a rebuild? Or are they challenging for a playoff spot? Denver has some nice young pieces in the shape of Nikola Jokic, Trey Lyles,  Emmanuel Mudiay, Juan Hernangomez, Gary Harris and Tyler Lydon, who are all 22 years old and younger. The team then added veteran Paul Millsap on a three-year, $90-million deal, whilst shipping out Gallinari in moves which send conflicting signals. Millsap will no doubt make the Nuggets a better basketball team this season, but at 32 years old, whether he fits into their timeline is another matter.

8. Utah Jazz

You've got to feel sorry for the Jazz. They draft and develop Gordon Hayward into a league superstar, only for the 27-year-old to abandon ship to join the Boston Celtics in the East. The Jazz had a good thing going until Hayward's exit. Rudy Gobert is going to be a top five center in the league one day, and along with Hayward, could have taken the Jazz to new heights. Hayward is gone, though, and this is Gobert's team now. Along with Joe Ingles and the newly signed Ricky Rubio, this team will have some nice moments but will struggle to reach the heights of last season's sixth-place finish.

9. New Orleans Pelicans

When the Pelicans traded for DeMarcus Cousins to play alongside Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday, everyone was talking about the 'Big 3' in NOLA. The 17-game experiment didn't bring instant results for the team, but with a whole offseason under their belt, big things are expected from this group. Adding Rajon Rondo and Ian Clark are nice moves for this team, and if everything gels, they will end up higher than I have them on this list. I just have my reservations.

10. Portland Trail Blazers

I don't think I'm alone when I say Portland might struggle this year. They made a nice selection in the draft by adding Zach Collins, but have been non-existent in any trade or free agency discussions all summer. In today's money-mad NBA you just have to spend and make moves in order to stay competitive. Portland haven't done this, and I will be surprised if they are playing postseason basketball this season.

11. Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies are another team who have had a quiet offseason. Having let Zach Randolph and Vince Carter join the Kings in free agency, Memphis brought Ben McLemore and Tyreke Evans the other way. Obviously, the Grizzlies have top talent in Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, but questions will be asked of the supporting cast, namely Chandler Parsons and Mario Chalmers, about whether they are enough to propel Memphis towards the playoffs.

12. Sacramento Kings

If you want an example of a team with a mix between new and old, then look no further than the Sacramento Kings. The Kings had a great draft and picked up some high-ceiling talent in De'Aaron Fox, Justin Jackson, Harry Giles and Frank Mason III. Add them to a roster already containing Skal Labissiere, Buddy Hield and Willie Cauley-Stein and you have a bright future. On the flip side, the Kings management added veterans Vince Carter, Zach Randolph and George Hill. These guys will be a great presence for the younger guys, but it waits to be seen if they can gel on the court.

13. Dallas Mavericks

If the NBA Summer League was anything to go by, then Dennis Smith Jr was an absolute steal with the number nine pick in the recent draft. The 2017 ACC Rookie of the Year is expected to take the primary PG minutes for the Mavs, slotting into a starting rotation alongside Wesley Matthews, Harrison Barnes, Dirk Nowitzki and Nerlens Noel. That's not a bad group, but the problem for the Mavs will be their depth. They simply don't have a strong enough bench to compete late in games, and outside of Seth Curry and J.J. Barea options look thin.

14. Los Angeles Lakers

You already know where this is going. Lonzo Ball. The Lakers got their man with the number two pick in this year's draft, and in Ball they have their point guard for the future. Magic Johnson will be hoping Ball can make a smooth transition into the NBA and be part of a new era for the Lakers alongside Brandon Ingram. Trading away D'Angelo Russell as part of a salary-dump move was questionable if you ask me, but if it helps to acquire Paul George next offseason, you simply can't argue with it.

15. Phoenix Suns

The Phoenix Suns will be good one day. Unfortunately, that day is not anytime soon. The team has a bundle of young talent and are in a great position to be a force in the West for years to come. A core led by Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender and Tyler Ulis is an exciting prospect for Suns fans, and with plenty more lottery-picks to be added in the coming years, all I can say is watch this space.

Who do you see making the playoffs from the NBA Western Conference next season? Comment below!

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