OKC or MN in the division? Look at the reshaped, loaded Western Conference - Bring Me The News

OKC or MN in the division? Look at the reshaped, loaded Western Conference

Think again if you think the Wolves will march from 31 wins to a top four seed in the loaded West.

A starting five of Karl-Anthony Towns, Jimmy Butler, Andrew Wiggins, Jeff Teague and Taj Gibson should guarantee a playoff spot.

But if you think the Timberwolves will march their way from 31 wins to a top-four seed in the Western Conference, you haven't paid attention to NBA free agency.

I'd rank Western Conference starting fives like this (new additions in bold).

  1. Warriors: Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Zaza Pachulia
  2. Thunder: Russell Westbrook, Andre Roberson, Paul George, Patrick Patterson, Steven Adams
  3. Timberwolves: Jeff Teague, Andrew Wiggins, Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, Karl-Anthony Towns
  4. Spurs: Patty Mills, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol
  5. RocketsChris Paul, James Harden, Trevor Ariza, P.J. Tucker, Clint Capela
  6. ClippersPatrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Danilo Gallinari, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan
  7. Pelicans: Jrue Holiday, E'Twaun Moore, Solomon Hill, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins
  8. Nuggets: Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Wilson Chandler, Paul Millsap, Nikola Jokic
  9. JazzRicky Rubio, Rodney Hood, Joe Ingles, Derek Favors, Rudy Gobert
  10. Mavericks: Dennis Smith Jr., Wesley Matthews, Harrison Barnes, Dirk Nowitzki, Nerlens Noel

Portland, the Lakers, Memphis, Phoenix and Sacramento would round out the list.

But look at that depth. The Pelicans have a big three and I've got them at No. 7, and I'm probably disrespecting the Spurs at No. 4.

Northwest Division

In the Wolves' division, the Jazz lost Gordon Hayward and traded for Ricky Rubio, so they've gotten worse. Oklahoma City added Paul George and Patrick Patterson to a roster that already had MVP Russell Westbrook, an All-Defensive First Team guard in Andre Roberson and a pair of good big men, Steven Adams and Enes Kanter.

Portland hasn't done anything to help Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Denver signed All-Star Paul Millsap and lost Danilo Gallinari in a trade with the Clippers, so they're talented but likely very reliant on the maturation of second-year guard Jamal Murray and another big year from center Nikola Jokic.

Here's how the teams finished last year:

I bet Minnesota jumps from fifth to second behind Oklahoma City.

Pacific Division

Golden State still rules the Pacific Division, but just because the Clippers lost Chris Paul doesn't mean they'll be worse. Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams form a decent backcourt to go along with a nice frontcourt of Danilo Gallinari, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.

Phoenix, Sacramento and the Lakers are likely non-factors, although L.A. has a promising youth movement going on and two solid bigs in Julius Randle and Brook Lopez.

Here's how the teams finished last year:

I can't see a major move one way or another for any of these teams.

Southwest Division

The Southwest is interesting because reigning division champion San Antonio hasn't made a big move. One possibility to watch is LaMarcus Aldridge, whose name has been in the trade rumor mill for weeks.

Houston suddenly has a decent defensive lineup with Chris Paul, P.J. Tucker and Trevor Ariza. Those three next to James Harden could be very good, especially if Clint Capela can stay healthy at center.

New Orleans has a big three in Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins and Jrue Holiday, but they're thin after that.

It's not even worth digging into the Memphis Grizzlies because their only guaranteed returning starters are Mike Conley and Marc Gasol. The rest of their core players – Vince Carter, Tony Allen, JaMychal Green – could be moving as free agents, and Zach Randolph is already gone, reportedly inking a two-year deal with the Sacramento Kings.

Here's how the teams finished last year:

Memphis and Dallas will be bottom feeders and New Orleans looks like a good bet to finish third while the Spurs and Rockets fight for first.

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