Normally filled with 50-win teams, the Western Conference had a few “haves” and way more “have nots” last season. The Warriors and Spurs separated themselves from the pack quickly, while the Thunder and Clippers cruised to the third and fourth spots. No other team won more than 44 regular-season games and spots 5-9 were separated by a mere four games.
That suggests we could see some upheaval in terms of the playoff picture this season. The Thunder will struggle to match, or even come close, to the 55 wins they collected last season with Kevin Durant now wearing a Golden State uniform. The teams in the bottom half of last season’s playoff bracket could be in danger of falling into the lottery, as most of the non-playoff teams appear to be on the upswing.
The Jazz just missed out on the playoffs and have fortified their young core with playoff-tested veterans, including George Hill, Joe Johnson and Boris Diaw. The Nuggets have a deep team led by point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, who could be poised for a breakout season after getting a trial by fire in his rookie season.
The Pelicans were a colossal disappointment a year ago after making the 2014/15 playoffs but any team anchored by Anthony Davis has to be respected. If rookie guard Buddy Hield makes an immediate impact as a scorer, New Orleans could be poised for a turnaround.
Perhaps no team in the league has more young talent than the Timberwolves. Led by franchise player Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, the club could take a big jump with defensive-minded coach Tom Thibodeau at the helm.
The Kings made some curious off-season moves but they still have arguably the league’s top center in DeMarcus Cousins. The Lakers did some roster tinkering, including the addition of veteran forward Luol Deng, but their biggest hope is that lottery pick Brandon Ingram develops into a franchise player.
This leads us to our question of the day: Which Western Conference team that missed last season’s playoffs will make the postseason in the upcoming season and what will put that team over the top?
Take to the comments section below to share your thoughts and opinions on the topic. We look forward to what you have to say.