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HomeBasketballNBAWhat teams sit behind the champion Nuggets in the NBA west rankings?

What teams sit behind the champion Nuggets in the NBA west rankings?

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Some pretty seismic changes have taken place in the NBA’s western conference since the Denver Nuggets captured the 2023 NBA championship.

Hall of famers changed teams (again). An eastern conference standout joined up with one of the best duos in the league. One of the most productive players in the league switched conferences to join up with one of the very best players in the game.

It’s going to be a very interesting season as far as the west goes. The Nuggets remain the best in the west. Continuity has to count for something, right? 

The east is a two-team race. The west is wide open. Twelve of the 15 teams in the conference have realistic shots at the playoffs. I wouldn’t be surprised if any of a group of about five teams won the west.

The conference has to shake out in some way, though, right? 

  1. Denver: The Nuggets lose some depth with Bruce Brown signing a big deal with Indiana. But the defending champs still have the best player in league. Guard Jamal Murray is poised to join the group of the best players in the league. If Michael Porter Jr. is the team’s fourth-most important player, Denver is in pretty good shape.
  2. Phoenix: The Suns will be deadly on offense. In Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Brad Beal, Phoenix has three guys who can get you 40 on a given night. The DeAndre Ayton move is addition by subtraction. The Suns depth isn’t as bad as people think. Scheme and effort on defense will make it break their season.
  3. Lakers: LA is one of the best defensive teams in league when healthy. West Finals were close despite the sweep. I’m still surprised no team with cap space offered guard Austin Reaves a max offer sheet to screw Lakers over. It’s now or never for Anthony Davis to make this his team.
  4. Warriors: I refuse to count them out. The Jordan Poole trade was addition by subtraction. It’s interesting, though, that Poole is the young guy Golden State dealt considering he’s been most productive of the group. The Chris Paul fit is interesting. I want to see how he fits offensively with how Warriors move the ball.
  5. Clippers: L.A.’s other team might be higher if we knew they’d get 65-70 games each from wings Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. The interest in James Harden is weird to me. The Clippers got good play from guard Russell Westbrook after signing him last season. Harden may be more productive, but we know Russ won’t quit on a team.
  6. Kings: Sacramento last year was the healthiest team in the league, which is a big reason why they got the 3 seed. Second-year forward Keegan Murray has to take a step forward. The Kings as a whole have to be better on defense. All-star big man Domantas Sabonis has to rebound from a subpar playoff showing.
  7. Memphis: The Grizzlies play hard every night. They’ll be competitive with Ja Morant out 25 games. Marcus Smart and Derrick Rose will give Memphis a bit of a jolt. Memphis has finished near top of the west each of last two years. The group may have peaked unless Jaren Jackson develops more as a scorer and rebounder.
  1. Oklahoma City: The Thunder have the pieces in place to become a playoff team. OKC is set in the backcourt with Josh Giddey and first-team all-league Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. If “rookie” Chet Holmgren can anchor the defense and be a factor on offense, OKC could skip the play-in altogether.
  2. New Orleans: A healthy Pelicans roster last season sat atop the West two months into the season. Then (potential) superstar forward Zion Williamson shortly after the new year suffered a hamstring injury that kept him out the rest of the season, and New Orleans fell off a cliff. The Pelicans have a solid roster 1-9, but there always seems to be some outside things at work that keep New Orleans from reaching its full potential. 
  3. Minnesota: This team belongs to Anthony Edwards now. I wish there were better pieces around him. Karl Anthony-Towns has been very productive over the course of his eight-year career, but his numbers always feel like empty calories to me. Rudy Gobert’s raw and advanced numbers continue to decline each year, making that 2022 trade look worse every day. Minnesota has been a play-in each team of the last two seasons. There’s no real reason to think that’ll change in 2024.
  4. Dallas: The Luka Doncic/Kyrie Irving backcourt over the course of their first full season together is going to be a nightmare for opposing defenses. The two of them together on the defensive end is going to be a nightmare for the Dallas Mavericks. Dallas last season went 5-11 in games the duo played together. Three of the wins came over lottery-bound squads, and the other came against Philadelphia and Sacramento. Adding forward Grant Williams should give the Mavericks some added toughness. The other two starting frontcourt spots are predicted to go to rookies Derek Lively II and Olivier-Maxence Prosper. The duo has potential, particularly on the defensive end. The Dallas roster outside of Doncic and Irving just isn’t good enough to be taken seriously.
  5. Utah: The Jazz played really hard all of last season. That shouldn’t change, but Utah is destined for the lottery again. Adding forward John Collins gives the Jazz some more offensive firepower and another big who can stretch the floor alongside all star Lauri Markkanen, but Utah will finish as a lottery team for the second straight year.
  6. Houston: The Rockets brought in some adults after what amounted to Romper Room last season. Guard Fred VanVleet is steady, not spectacular. Wing Dillon Brooks, despite his reputation, is a hard-nosed vet who gives maximum effort. New coach Ime Udoka will command respect from one of the three youngest teams in the league. Houston won’t win a lot of games, but the Rockets will be competitive and much more buttoned up than the last couple of years.
  7. San Antonio: No. 1 pick Victor Wembanyama instantly makes the Spurs must-watch. The San Antonio roster after Slick Vic leaves a lot to be desired. Wing Keldon Johnson is a nice piece, but would be a bench player on the title contender. The same goes for guard Devin Vassell. The Spurs in 2024 will have a shot at another No. 1 pick.
  8. Portland: The Blazers over the last couple of years were average with Dame Lillard. Without him, Portland will be the worst team in the west. That’s not to say the Blazers won’t compete. No. 3 pick Scoot Henderson has the demeanor of a seasoned vet who won’t let his team go down without a fight. Wings Shaedon Sharpe and Anfernee Simons should grow into solid running mates for Henderson. New Portland center DeAndre Ayton should be in “prove it” mode after being shipped out of Phoenix despite a productive tenure.
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