NBA – Los Angeles Lakers at the top, the Mavericks ready to spring: our ranking of franchises in the West

1. Los Angeles Lakers

In the space of a year, almost to the day, the Lakers will have known the joy of a title, the disappointment of a first-round loss and the excitement of a new NBA season. The madness of a schedule disrupted by COVID-19 summed up in one sentence. To regain the throne after this last failure, the Californians went all out by bringing in Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, DeAndre Jordan, Rajon Rondo, Wayne Ellington, Trevor Ariza, Malik Monk and Kendrick Nunn or even Avery Bradley. Prestigious names to support LeBron James and Anthony Davis. LA may not finish first in the Western Conference, because the players will first have to find their feet and develop chemistry, but hard not to put this formation a little notch above the others before the start of the hostilities.

The question : Can Westbrook and James live together on the pitch? A question that ultimately leads to many others. Who will have to sacrifice? Can Westbrook really sacrifice himself elsewhere? Is this workforce too old? Not well enough balanced? And maybe just incompatible? Casually, that’s a lot of questions for a declared favorite in the title…

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Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James are highly anticipated with the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA.

Credit: Getty Images

2. Dallas Mavericks

Our bet! The Mavericks haven’t really gotten stronger this offseason. But almost it doesn’t matter. They have a rather special asset: Luka Doncic, arguably the best player in the Western Conference. And often, that’s enough to make the difference! Jason Kidd isn’t the sharpest of tacticians but he should inspire confidence in this squad – especially Kristaps Porzingis. For everything else, there’s a Slovenian prodigy well-positioned to claim his first MVP after just four seasons in the league.

The question : Can Kristaps Porzingis regain his All-Star status? The Mavericks’ chances also depend heavily on his ability to fit into the system and shine. But above all to stay healthy! If his body takes the shock – it’s a big if – Dallas could create an upset.

3. Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets are one player away from really going for the title. Nikola Jokic is a unique maestro in the NBA and he is better and better surrounded. But the Serb is not Kevin Durant or Giannis Antetokounmpo either. It needs the perfect cast around. With Aaron Gordon, the leaders have found him a very good partner in the racket. Mike Malone is an excellent coach and the squad is one of the deepest in the league. In other words, we will still have to rely on Denver.

The question : Can Michael Porter Jr become the other superstar who would tip the Nuggets into another dimension? The young winger continues to progress and he will have an even more important role in the absence of Jamal Murray. It wouldn’t be surprising if he finished as the team’s top scorer.

Nikola Jokic – avril 2021

Credit: Getty Images

4. Utah Jazz

It’s almost always the same story for the Jazz: a superb regular season then a disappointment in the playoffs. Even being first in the West, the Salt Lake City players were eliminated in the second round. By Clippers deprived of their best player over the last two meetings, moreover. The franchise could have been tempted to upset its workforce, but the leaders finally decided to keep the same structure and bet on continuity.

The question : Does Jazz still have significant room for improvement? Unless a new milestone is reached by Donovan Mitchell or Rudy Gobert, it’s hard to imagine Utah going all the way.

Rudy Gobert during the Utah Jazz – Toronto Raptors match, Sunday May 1, 2021

Credit: Getty Images

5. Phoenix Suns

The Suns shocked almost everyone by advancing to the finals following the arrival of Chris Paul. Phoenix finally lost after leading 2-0 but the leaders logically decided to renew the same group. It was even a priority for the franchise. CP3 therefore remained in Arizona. But this time, the Suns will no longer be able to take advantage of the element of surprise.

The question : Did the Suns burn their best cartridge by losing in the finals? Repeating the feat of going out to the West seems really complicated.

Chris Paul and Cameron Payne should play together again in the Suns jersey next season

Credit: Getty Images

6. Golden State Warriors

Without Klay Thompson until Christmas (at best), it seems unlikely that the Warriors will be able to snag the top four in the Western Conference. But Stephen Curry and his comrades still have the arguments to do better than last year and slowly approach the top of the table. The idea is to ramp up to the playoffs. And there, on a series, with so many talents, they can shake almost any team.

The question : When will Klay Thompson return and at what level? The Warriors’ chances will depend in particular on his ability to quickly get back into the swing of things when he returns.

Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)

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7. Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers should theoretically start first. They were the strongest in the West last season – no offense to the runners-up Suns. In any case, they were until Kawhi Leonard’s injury. And as the All-Star winger will be absent for several months, their level over the coming season remains difficult to assess. They have strengths in all positions. They can defend, play small, play big, shoot from long range. But everything ultimately depends on one man.

The question : Will Kawhi Leonard return this season? Assure him that he will try. But he partially tore his ligaments – the franchise gives few details on the subject – in the heart of summer. A return at the time of the playoffs still seems very fair and risky…

8. Portland Trail Blazers

The Blazers will enter the new season with a big threat hanging over their heads. Indeed, after having sworn loyalty to Portland, Damian Lillard was more evasive during his last positions on his possible departure, right when the rumors of his transfer were increasing in intensity. Chauncey Billups therefore arrives on the bench – his very first position at this level – with pressure. All in a formidable Conference…

The question : What transfer to significantly improve the team and convince Damian Lillard to still believe in the Blazers project?

9. New Orleans Pelicans

The Pelicans are in a race against time. Two years after losing Anthony Davis, the franchise is already worried about not being able to keep its (super) compensation lot Zion Williamson, the first choice of the 2019 draft. As a result, New Orleans is trying somehow to weigh in the Western Conference. But not sure that the recruitment – ​​and the departure of Lonzo Ball – really goes in this direction.

The question : How long before Zion Williamson cracks and makes it clear that he does not consider his future at the Pelicans?

10. Memphis Grizzlies

Quietly, the Grizzlies continue to do a good job. The arrival of Steven Adams will in particular really densify their racket. For the rest, the franchise is counting on the progress of Ja Morant and his other young players to pass a new course. The playoffs are obviously within reach.

The question : Will Jaren Jackson Jr confirm his contract (105 million over four years)? Often injured, the fourth choice of the 2018 draft has very interesting potential on both sides of the floor.

Memphis point guard Ja Morant.

Credit: Getty Images

11. Minnesota Timberwolves

With Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell and Anthony Edwards, Wolves look set to rise again. Finished rebuilding. And maybe finally a real takeoff for a franchise that has been multiplying the galleys for years.

The question : Will the Wolves try everything to bring in Ben Simmons, even if it means sacrificing Russell?

12. Sacramento Kings

The Kings have not played in the playoffs since 2006. Fifteen years already. This is obviously the longest running streak in the NBA. And the worst thing is that there is no indication that Sacramento will return to the top-eight in the Western Conference this season. The workforce is not bad, far from it, but it lacks a player to pass this course. The leaders also hoped to bring Ben Simmons…

The question : Can De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton be enough to lift the franchise? The two young fullbacks form a very exciting duo capable of great things. But it would take a good young promising more to join the project. Except that the Kings no longer lose enough games to recover one on draft night without winning enough to reach the playoffs.

De’ Aaron Fox

Credit: Eurosport

13.San Antonio Spurs

The rejuvenation operation begins in San Antonio. For the first time, the Spurs do not even really plan to play the playoffs, which they have missed in the last two seasons anyway. Place therefore Dejounte Murray, Keldon Johnson and other Lonnie Walker IV. The group is interesting but too limited to shine this season.

The question : Is this one season too many for Gregg Popovich?

14. Houston Rockets

We smash everything and start over in Houston. Now that James Harden has been traded, the Rockets are looking to the future. This is the first real post-MVP season. With Jalen Green (second pick of the draft) and Kevin Porter Jr to ensure the helms with Christian Wood. The trio can prove to be very, very prolific in attack. Even if, on the ground, it risks being a series of isolations. As at the time of the bearded finally.

The question : Do the Rockets have any chance of transferring John Wall? The former All-Star and his franchise have reached an agreement to leave him out of the group pending his departure. But no franchise is going to bet on a losing point guard who makes more than $40 million a season. And given the astronomical amount of his salary, the Texans are not going to release him without accepting a very large financial sacrifice.

Christian Wood – Houston Rockets

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15. Oklahoma City Thunder

The Thunder are unlikely to win many matches this season. But the priority is the development of young people around rising star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Josh Giddey is expected, Aleksej Pokusevski will be followed very closely and Theo Maledon can also turn a corner. The rest will have to wait.

The question : How soon will the Thunder be out of its rebuilding process? The franchise still seems far from being able to weigh in the NBA.

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