Top Five Western Conference Teams to Watch
Possibly the deepest the conference has been in quite some time, the race for both playoff positioning and a postseason berth in general in the Western Conference is going to be interesting to watch in 2012-2013.
Obviously all eyes are going to be on teams like the Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder to start the 2012-13 NBA season, but there are plenty of other teams worth keeping an eye on as well. There’s an abundance of teams hovering under the radar and several prospective postseason squads ready to make a move.
Especially considering the number eight seed in the conference may be up for grabs this year, there are some notable teams to keep track of heading into the new season.
Each of these teams haven’t quite received their due this offseason and may be primed to make some noise in the upcoming season:
#5 – San Antonio Spurs – Every year it seems like the NBA-watching public forget about the Spurs. Season after season, San Antonio continually produces a championship-level product on the court. Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan and, now, Kawhi Leonard represent one of the more formative foursomes in the NBA today.
Even though Ginobili (35 years old) and Duncan (36) aren’t getting any younger, the Spurs’ brass has rejuvenated it’s veteran core with the likes of Leonard (21) and stellar bench play from Gary Neal. Compounding the talent of the starting five is underrated big man DeJuan Blair along with veterans Stephen Jackson and Boris Diaw, making them one of the best reserve cores in the NBA.
San Antonio doesn’t want and won’t ever get many of the headlines, but this is a team every West contender will have its eyes on throughout this season – they’re simply that dangerous.
#4 – Minnesota Timberwolves – Seemingly overnight, the T-Wolves transformed a young and inexperienced group into a veteran-laden team heading into this season. Andrei Kirilenko’s entrance into the starting lineup and, if healthy, Brandon Roy’s return to grace looks to give Minnesota a legit chance of a postseason appearance in 2013.
With arguably the best power forward in basketball already in place in Kevin Love, the Timberwolves have high expectations heading into the season. While a playoff berth may not necessarily be on the horizon, there’s little doubt that Minnesota will be right in the thick of things come April.
Possessing as good of a shot as anyone in the race for eighth in the West, the T-Wolves are a team to keep track of throughout the 2012-13 NBA season.
#3 – Dallas Mavericks – Missing out on the superstar sweepstakes this summer didn’t help the media perception of the Mavs. Per usual, Dallas isn’t a trendy pick to do much in the stacked Western Conference heading into the season but the talent assembled on this team would beg to differ.
Chris Kaman, O.J. Mayo, Darren Collison and Elton Brand represent a significant talent upgrade from last season to 2013 with each of these players hungry to prove pundits wrong entering the season. Kaman and Mayo especially project the type of substantial productivity at both the center and shooting guard positions – particularly offensively – that this Mavs team has seldom possessed through its history.
Predicted by most to sneak into the playoffs yet again this season, Dallas just might possess the firepower that vaults this team into a top-five squad in the West and a deep playoff run in 2013.
#2 – Portland Trail Blazers – Although seemingly on an island with this opinion, it’s hard to see the Blazers not making some serious noise in the NBA this season. LaMarcus Aldridge – a proven scorer who finished in the top-10 in the NBA in that category last season- appears primed and ready to lead a young and talented Portland squad in 2012-13.
There’s no doubt that Portland has a wealth of young players that need seasoning heading into next season, but the talent already in place should curve that learning process and could generate postseason returns as early as 2013. Both Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews are primed for breakout seasons in the starting lineup and, combined with key rookies Meyers Leonard and Damian Lillard, could signal the Blazers’ return to prominence.
Whether you want to hop on the bandwagon or not, it’s hard to imagine the talent assembled on this Portland team not making a serious run in 2013 – even in a cut-throat Western Conference.
#1 – Denver Nuggets – Packed to the brim with exceptional NBA-level talent, the Nuggets might be the most slept-on team in the NBA heading into this season. Undeniably two-deep at every position, George Karl and the Nuggets will be dead-set on disproving the current NBA ideology of only superstar-ridden NBA teams winning titles.
Denver, just as much as any other team in this league, has a legitimate shot at capturing an NBA title when the curtain closes on the 2012-13 NBA season. The addition of former Philadelphia 76ers swingman Andre Iguodala adds a stout perimeter defensive dimension that this Denver team – tied for next to last in the NBA last season in points allowed – has sorely lacked. The Nuggets offense, which was a clear number one in the league in points scored in 2012, will finally produce a competent defense helped by the addition of a clear-cut, top-tier defender in Iguodala.
Arron Afflalo and Al Harrington will be missed, but the stacked Nuggets look ready to be a force in the brutal Western Conference next season.
Who is your team to watch heading into the upcoming season? Let your voice be heard in the comment section below!