Summer Rankings: Western Conference
1. San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs have to realize that their window is closing and that this could be their last big push. Manu is 31 and Tim Duncan is 32 and the odds of them getting through seasons in one piece are getting slimmer and slimmer. They need to fill out the roster a little but as of now, I see this season as the Spurs Last Stand.
2. Los Angeles Lakers
One reason I think the Spurs need to focus on this year is because of the Lakers. A healthy Andrew Bynum alongside Pau Gasol and a healthy Trevor Ariza gives Kobe a great supporting cast. The Spurs may be the team to beat but the Lakers are the team that may beat them.
3. New Orleans Hornets
I've long been a fan of Chris Paul and Tyson Chandler and have finally admitted that I underrated David West but even with those things being true, and even with James Posey now in the fold, I just can't see the Hornets taking out the Spurs or Lakers in a playoff series. The sale of the 27th pick before the draft came back to bite the Hornets in the ass as they could have had Donte Green to replace Peja Stojakovic in the near future. Still, I think the Hornets need a find a way to upgrade at the swingspots if they really want a shot at seeing the Finals.
4. Houston Rockets
Ron Artest may be crazy but if there's a team that needed a little bit of crazy, it's the Rockets. They still have a hole at the point guard spot but the rest of the squad seems built for a nice playoff run. This may be Tracy McGrady's team but they are operating in Ron Artest's world now. If people can come to grips with that, T-Mac might finally get to see what the second round looks like.
5. Utah Jazz
This team just seems unhappy. Andrei Kirilenko always seems like he wants out, Carlos Boozer is rumored to be looking to leave next year, Jerry Sloan is Jerry Sloan. Rookie Kosta Koufos should fit in nicely but I don't see him being much of a difference maker (and possibly not even as good as Mehmet Okur). Like the Hornets, the Jazz also still have to better fill the SG and SF spots if they want to get past the Spurs and Lakers.
6. Phoenix Suns
The Suns are too good to not make the playoffs but they also aren't good enough to make too much noise in them anymore. The Robin Lopez selection was a safe one but it's not going to make them all that much better. The Matt Barnes signing is equally neutral. After this year, the Suns could find themselves in a position in which they are looking to move two former MVP's, Steve Nash and Shaq (both of whom will be expiring deals). Honestly, I would probably have started looking at those deals this off-season.
7. Dallas Mavericks
I still think the best move for everyone would be swapping Jason Kidd for Allen Iverson but that looks like it will never happen. Dallas hasn't made any real moves this offseason and I really don't think a full pre-season with Jason Kidd is the cure to what ails them. In fact, one of the things that will ail them is watching Kidd get blown by by the likes of CP3, Deron, Nash, Parker, etc. Josh Howard is a nice player but they need to move him to get a couple of players to better complement Dirk and Kidd's weaknesses.
8. Denver Nuggets
I really want to put the Blazers in the 8th playoff spot but I hate betting against Iverson and 'Melo. Losing Marcus Camby hurts but if Nene could finally be healthy, he could help out a bit. Even better, perhaps not having Camby's help defense around might make the rest of the team a little more focused on defense. Yeah, that might be wishful thinking.
9. Portland Trailblazers
I love how the Blazers have rebuilt their roster but I am concerned that so much rests on the weary bodies of Brandon Roy and Greg Oden. Of course, having LaMarcus Aldridge and Jerryd Bayless as your plan B isn't too shabby. The Blazers have too many people on their roster right now and need to make some moves but so far, they are headed in the right direction. Whether that direction leads them to the playoffs will depend on how Oden and Roy hold up this season.
10. Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers are what the Clippers have always been; a team of great individual talents that don't necessarily make for a great team. The Chris Kaman and Marcus Camby frontcourt doesn't exactly impress me and I'd really rather not have to watch a Baron Davis, Ricky Davis, Al Thornton frontcourt. I like Eric Gordon but think he has definite bust potential and isn't a better option than Jerryd Bayless. Elgin Baylor did a nice job with the bench, adding Brian Skinner and Jason Williams but I just don't see this team gelling under Mike Dunleavy or being consistent enough to make the playoffs.
11. Golden State Warriors
The Warriors have amassed a nice lineup for the future. Their young talent of Monta Ellis, Brandan Wright, Anthony Randolph, Andris Biedrins, Marcus Williams, and Kelenna Azubuike is impressive. As for the present, I'm not sure what to make of this team. Monta Ellis isn't a point guard and I'm not sure if Marcus Williams is the right guy to team with him in the backcourt. Randolph and Wright are similar players and both beyond skinny. How Corey Maggette fits into all of this is also beyond me. Honestly, Steven Jackson, even with his craziness, is a better option than Maggs at the SF. Ronny Turiaf is the kind of signing that a team looking to add that one last piece makes. The Warriors still aren't sure if any of their pieces fit yet.
Chris Mullin could be set to make some huge trades in the near future but until then, this seems like a team that will supply some great highlights and a lot of losses.
12. Sacramento Kings
While I liked that the Kings were able to Donte Green for Ron Artest, his talent is pretty similar to Kevin Martin and neither of them are all that great on defense (or even, all that good). On top of that, Jason Thompson, their reach of a draft pick, is also a perimeter based player with suspect defensive prowess. Anthony Randolph seemed like a better risk to take. The rest of the roster is about as average as you can get. Right now, the Kings are a team that is going nowhere fast.
13. Oklahoma City Thunder
Seattle has had a solid off-season. While I'm not a huge fan of the Sergei Ibaka selection, they still added a solid young PG in Russell Westbrook and were able to dump a year off of Ridnour's contract AND bring back a better player (Desmond Mason). The core of the new squad is slowly taking shape and the salary situation is getting better. I still think dealing Chris Wilcox makes more sense than keeping him but so far so good for Sam Presti.
14. Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies need to make some more moves but, on the bright side, they have the assets to make moves. I'm not a huge fan of Mike Conley/OJ Mayo sharing the backcourt but I'm not sure they can get legit value for Conley right now so they'll have to deal with it for a half season, at least. They have 17 million in expiring contracts with Antoine Walker and Darko Milcic so they could shake things up a bit. The key, however, is that they brought in a potential star in OJ Mayo and netted another solid player in Darrell Arthur with their late first rounder. Chris Wallace has his work cut out for him but he should be able to make moves to get this team back into the playoff picture in a couple of years.
15. Minnesota Timberwolves
I absolutely hated the Kevin Love for OJ Mayo trade. The Love/Jefferson frontcourt seems a bit problematic and none of their guards were good enough to give up on OJ Mayo, who could be a superstar. Mike Miller is a nice trade asset but he's not going to make the team much better. In fact, their defense might have gotten worse overall. Randy Foye, Rashad McCants, and Corey Brewer are going to have to be a lot better than most people expect them to be for this team to amount to much.