Previewing the NBA's Western Conference from top to bottom

Tuesday, 17 October 2017, 11:55:32 PM. A look at the NBA's Western Conference.

1. GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

2016-17 finish: 67-15, first

Coming: (rookie), , .

Going: , Ian Clark.

Most of the ’ losses last season came when they were at less than full strength so let the 70-win watch begin again. The defending champions re-signed free agents and brought in more three-point shooting. After a smooth transition year, could outscore this season.

2. HOUSTON ROCKETS

2016-17 finish: 55-27, third

Coming: , , P.J. Tucker.

Going: Patrick Beverley, , Montrezl Harrell.

The scored and shot amazingly well last season with at point guard. Now what will they do with Chris Paul, the ’s best pure point guard? Mike D’Antoni is a genius with elite playmakers and will manage the ball-sharing. More importantly, the defense improves with Paul, P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute added.

3. SAN ANTONIO SPURS

2016-17 finish: 61-21, second

Coming: , Joffrey Lauvergne, Derrick White (rookie).

Going: Dewayne Dedmon, , Jonathon Simmons.

Here is the annual reminder to not sleep on the , who won 61 games and were crushing Golden State on the road in Game 1 until was sidelined because of an ankle injury. They will be without until about the All-Star break and are hoping Rudy Gay can regain form after a torn Achilles tendon. usually finds a way.

4. OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER

2016-17 finish: 47-35, sixth

Coming: , , , .

Going: , , .

The stayed relevant with the shocking acquisitions of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, although the team will have to be successful to keep them from leaving next summer. George and Anthony have to adjust from leading-men roles but the Thunder now have options beyond creating everything offensively.

5. CLIPPERS

2016-17 finish: 51-31, fourth.

Coming: Patrick Beverley, Sam Dekker, , Milos Teodosic, Lou Williams.

Going: , Luc Mbah a Moute, Chris Paul, . Marreese Speights.

Many unproven teams are leap-frogging the in preseason prognostications, some speculating that the Clippers could miss the playoffs for the first time since 2011. That is hard to fathom with Blake Griffin and in their NBA primes and Danilo Gallinari joining them in the frontcourt.

6. MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES

2016-17 finish: 31-51, 13th

Coming: , Jamal Crawford, Taj Gibson, .

Going: Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, .

The Western Conference is brutal but the still could jump from 13th to even higher than this. Adding Jimmy Butler’s two-way play in his prime to budding superstar Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins will do that. Minnesota has a more seasoned roster to end a 13-year playoff drought.

7. PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS

2016-17 finish: 41-41, eighth

Coming: Zach Collins (rookie), Anthony Morrow, Caleb Swanigan (rookie).

Going: .

The are a blast offensively with 50 points a game from the backcourt of and . Jusuf Nurkic showed what an inside presence he can add in 20 games before an injury last season. Portland must get better defensively and that could be accomplished by fouling less and better protecting the three-point line.

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