NBA Preview: 2018–19 Western Conference Predicted Top 8: (Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Utah Jazz, Denver Nuggets, OKC Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Lakers, New Orleans Pelicans)

From top to bottom, the NBA’s Western Conference got stronger and deeper this summer. Here’s a team-by-team recap of what happened and what’s in store for next year and my guess at the top 8 in the West.

1. Golden State Warriors

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  • DeMarcus Cousins (1 year, $5.3m)

2. Houston Rockets

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  • Clint Capela (5 years, $80m guaranteed, $90m with incentives)
  • James Ennis (2 years, min)
  • Carmelo Anthony (1 year, min)
  • Gerald Green (1 year, min)
  • Michael Carter-Williams (1 year, min)

Seeds 3–7 are all likely to finish with win totals in the low 50s and high 40s. The glut will be even thicker than last year.

3. Utah Jazz

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  • Dante Exum (3 years, $33m)
  • Raul Neto (2 years, min)
  • Georges Niang (3 years, min)

4. Denver Nuggets

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  • Will Barton (4 years, $54m)
  • Traded Wilson Chandler and 2nd Rd picks to Philadelphia (cap relief)
  • Traded Kenneth Faried, Darrell Arthur, 2019 1st Rd pick to Brooklyn for Isaiah Whitehead (cap relief)

5. Oklahoma City Thunder

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  • Jerami Grant (3 years, $27m)
  • Dennis Schroder and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot acquired from ATL for Carmelo Anthony, Justin Anderson and 2022 1st Rd pick

6. San Antonio Spurs

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  • Davis Bertans (2 years, $14m)
  • Marco Belinelli (2 years, $12m)
  • Rudy Gay (1 year, $10m)
  • Bryn Forbes (2 years, min)
  • Dante Cunningham (1 year, min)

7. Los Angeles Lakers

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  • Rajon Rondo (1 year, $12m)
  • Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (1 year, $9m)
  • Lance Stephenson (1 year, $4.5m)
  • JaVale McGee (1 year, min)

8. New Orleans Pelicans

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  • Elfrid Payton (1 year, $2.7m)
  • Ian Clark (1 year, min)

The West will be a bloodbath/nightmare/impossibly tough.

The West is a nightmare. I hate leaving the Grizzlies, Blazers, Wolves, and Mavs out of the playoffs. Of those four, two might finish with better records than the Pelicans or Lakers. An injury to a star player on anyone other than Golden State will certainly shift the balance of the West slightly. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Memphis in the 7th or 8th spot. Marc Gasol and Mike Conley are still young enough and Kyle Anderson slow-motion craftiness fits well. Jaren Jackson’s gigantic wingspan will keep opponents on edge. Smart defense wins a team many regular season games.

Writing. Poetry. Personal Essays. On the NBA, MLB, media, journalism, culture, teaching and humor.

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