NBA Western Conference Preview: Everyone's looking up at the Warriors
It's the Golden State Warriors and everyone else. Several teams may have narrowed the gap, but there is still no team in the NBA that matches the combination of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson.
What is scarier is that this is the team's second year together, which means only good things. They'll be even better this year than the last but not as good as the next.
However, knowing that, the Western Conference is incredibly watchable this year. Good teams got better while bad teams added big pieces. Even the less-fancied franchises are more interesting this season. All that said, here is your 2017 NBA Western Conference Preview.
Oklahoma City Thunder: OKC added Paul George and Carmelo Anthony to 2017 MVP Russell Westbrook. Need we say more? The only question is how three players who historically have been called ball-dominant can work together. Despite that, it will be interesting to see how this team meshes as the playoffs get closer.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Adding Jimmy Butler to a team with Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns doesn't seem fair. It may not fully click this season, as Wiggins and Towns still have improvements to make, but one thing is for certain: This team is winning far more than 31 games this season.
San Antonio Spurs: This one is more because other teams added pieces, and San Antonio just keep getting older. The Spurs will be well-coached and will remain good, but they are a step behind some other teams at this point both in skill and age. Gregg Popovich's coaching can take an athletically mismatched team only so far.
Los Angeles Clippers: Losing Chris Paul and J.J. Redick cost the Clippers 33 points per game and tons of veteran leadership. This could be a quick turn in the wrong direction.
Western Conference MVP
With the addition of Butler, T-Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau has his leader to complement his young stars Towns and Wiggins. The Timberwolves will see the biggest improvement in wins in the West this season and Jimmy Butler will be the biggest reason.
Conference Rookie of the Year
De'Aaron Fox is a leader and a future star in this league. Assuming he's healthy, he could lead the Sacramento Kings in points, assists, steals and the stats that don't show up on the scoresheet, like calling a timeout while diving out of bounds, or simply pure leadership.
Don't be surprised when...
The Clippers win fewer than 40 games. The losses of Paul and Redick have already been mentioned, but every other team in the West is getting better with the exception of the Utah Jazz. The Clippers got worse after winning 51 games last season. Their over/under in Vegas is 43.5 wins. They will go under that number.
Western Conference Champion (predicted)
Has there ever been a more obvious choice? It's the Warriors. They have the best starting line-up, the most depth and they're in their second year together. They're not just winning the West, they're winning it all. Houston may close the gap a bit while the Thunder could present some matchup problems, but this conference and league is the Warriors' to lose.