The 2013 NBA offseason was one of the most exciting in recent memory. The 2013-2014 season is shaping up to be a great one. Last season the Oklahoma City Thunder(60-22) finished with the best regular season record in the Western Conference, but it was the San Antonio Spurs that came seconds away from winning the NBA Championship. The west is stacked once again in 2013-2014. Here is my preview of the Western Conference.
15. Phoenix Suns
2012-2013 Record: 25-57
Head Coach: Jeff Hornacek(0 Seasons)
Projected Starters: PG-Goran Dragic, SG-Eric Bledsoe, SF-Gerald Green, PF-Marcus Morris, C-Marcin Gortat
Second Team: PG-Kendall Marshall, SG-Shannon Brown, SF-P.J. Tucker, PF-Markieff Morris, C-Alex Len
The Rest: PG-Ish Smith, SG-Archie Goodwin, PF-Channing Frye, C-Miles Plumlee, PG-Malcolm Lee
With a lot of young players and no leader, I expect the Suns to be bringing up the rear in the west once again this season. First year coach Jeff Hornacek is in for a very long season
14. Utah Jazz
2012-2013 Record: 43-39
Head Coach: Tyrone Corbin(3 Seasons)
Projected Starters: PG-Trey Burke, SG- Alec Burks, SF-Gordon Hayward, PF-Derrick Favors, C-Enes Kanter
Second Team: PG-John Lucas III, SG-Brandon Rush, SF-Richard Jefferson, SF-Marvin Williams, C-Andris Biedrens
The Rest: SF-Jeremy Evans, PG-Jerel McNeal, C-Rudy Gobert
The Jazz barely missed out on the final playoff spot in the west last season. This season they won’t come close to a playoff spot. They have good young talent in Burke, Hayward, and Favors but have no go-to player. Expect Utah to be battling for a high lottery pick.
13. Sacramento Kings
2012-2013 Record: 28-54
Head Coach: Mike Malone(0 Seasons)
Projected Starters: PG-Greivis Vasquez, SG-Ben McLemore, SF- Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, PF-Jason Thompson, C-DeMarcus Cousins
Second Team: PG-Isaiah Thomas, SG-Marcus Thornton, SF-John Salmons, PF-Carl Landry, C-Chuck Hayes
The Rest: PG-Jimmer Fredette, SF-Travis Outlaw, PF-Patrick Patterson, PG-Ray McCallum
This may be a little low for this talented team on the rise. Cousins is a future all-star, and McLemore will be a Rookie of the Year candidate. I still believe the Kings will struggle rookie coach in Mike Malone, but this is team that may exceed my expectations.
12. Minnesota Timberwolves
2012-2013 Record: 31-51
Head Coach: Rick Adelman(23 Seasons)
Projected Starters: PG-Ricky Rubio, SG-Kevin Martin, SF-Chase Budinger, PF-Kevin Love, C-Nikola Pekovic
Second Team: PG-J.J. Barea, SG-Alexey Shved, SF-Corey Brewer, PF-Derrick Williams, C-Ronny Turiaf
The Rest: SF-Shabazz Muhammad, PF-Dante Cunningham, C-Gorgui Dieng, PF-Chris Johnson
The Wolves are another team that I may have too low but the west is loaded and some teams are going to finish lower than expected. The Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio duo will continue to blossom, while the addition of Kevin Martin will add a scoring punch. Somewhat of a sneaky pickup was Corey Brewer. Brewer adds veteran leadership as well as defensive intensity and three-point shooting. Young guys like Pekovic and Williams will need to continue to improve their game to give Minnesota a shot at the postseason.
11. New Orleans Pelicans
2012-2013 Record: 27-55
Head Coach: Monty Williams(3 Seasons)
Projected Starters: PG-Jrue Holiday, SG-Eric Gordon, SF-Al-Farouq Aminu, PF-Anthony Davis, C-Jason Smith
Second Team: PG-Brian Roberts, SG-Austin Rivers, SF-Tyreke Evans, PF-Ryan Anderson, C-Greg Stiemsma
The Rest: SG-Anthony Morrow, SF-Darius Miller, C-Jeff Withey
The Pelicans will be one of the most improved teams in the west. The addition of all-star point Jrue Holiday will open up Anthony Davis for more scoring. A healthy Eric Gordon can make this a high scoring offense. New Orleans will also have a solid bench with Evans, Anderson, and Rivers. Watch out for the Pelicans this season!
10. Los Angeles Lakers
2012-2013 Record: 45-37
Head Coach: Mike D’Antoni(11 Seasons)
Projected Starters: PG-Steve Nash, SG-Kobe Bryant, SF-Nick Young, PF-Pau Gasol, C-Chris Kaman
Second Team: PG-Steve Blake, SG-Jodie Meeks, SF-Wesley Johnson, PF-Elias Harris, C-Jordan Hill
The Rest: PG-Jordan Farmar, SF-Shawne Williams, PF-Ryan Kelly, C-Robert Sacre
With Kobe Bryant’s return from a ruptured Achilles tendon uncertain coupled with Nash and Gasol aging, I don’t see the Lakers making the playoffs. They’ll put up a good fight when the mamba returns but it may be too little too late.
9. Portland Trail Blazers
2012-2013 Record: 33-49
Head Coach: Terry Stotts(5 Seasons)
Projected Starters: PG-Damian Lillard, SG-Wesley Matthews, SF-Nicolas Batum, PF-LaMarcus Aldridge, C-Robin Lopez
Second Team: PG-Mo Williams, SG-C.J. McCollum, SF-Dorell Wright, PF-Thomas Robinson, C-Meyers Leonard
The Rest: PG-Earl Watson, SG-Allen Crabbe, SF-Victor Claver, SF-Will Barton, C-Joel Freeland
Portland will be a much better team this season, but I have them just missing out on the playoffs. Aldridge and Lillard will have them competing for the final playoff spot. If the Blazers can get consistent play from their bench they may indeed grab a playoff spot.