The NBA season is set to start in 4 days and with the exception of Dwight Howard all the big name potential free agents have found a home. The Western conference has been dominated by the Los Angeles Lakers and the San Antonio Spurs for the last decade, but that's about to change. Player movement and old age are factors that have the west looking quite different than in years past. Here is how the west will shake out.
8. San Antonio Spurs. Tim Duncan has had an illustrious career, but the sun is about to set. The Spurs didn't get any younger and the compressed season will take its toll on them physically. They will not be a factor come playoff time.
7. Portland Trailblazers. Even with the sudden departure of Brandon Roy and another season without Greg Oden the Trailblazers have one of the best front courts in basketball in Gerald Wallace, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Marcus Camby. Look for Nate McMillan to to do another masterful coaching job and Jamal Crawford to provide veteran leadership.
6. Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets have a lot of great pieces, but the sum of their parts still lacks that killer instinct. George Karl will have fun tinkering with his new toy, but in typical George Karl fashion he'll find a way to put the square peg in the round hole.
5. Los Angeles Lakers. Kobe is starting to show his age (16 years in the league) and the Lakers didn't get him any help this season. The loss of Lamar Odom is significant because Andrew Bynum is incapable of playing an entire season. Right now the Lakers are a sinking ship.
4. Memphis Grizzlies. The return of Rudy Gay and the maturation process of Zach Randolph has the Grizzlies looking good on paper. Lets see if they can follow up the success of last year's playoff run.
3. Los Angeles Clippers. The addition of Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups makes the Clippers a dangerous team. With DeAndre Jordan, Caron Butler, and Blake "The Barbarian" Griffin on the front line the Clippers will cause match up problems for most teams. Living up to the new found expectations is easier said than done though.
2. Dallas Mavericks. The defending champs picked up Lamar Odom, but they lost Tyson Chandler, JJ Barea, and Caron Butler. The season is too short for them to develop good chemistry, but Dirk Nowitzki is Dirk Nowitzki. The Mavericks will be in the conference finals once the dust settles.
1. Oklahoma City Thunder. As much as it pains me to say it the Oklahoma City Thunder are ready to take the next step. With no elite teams out west and a young team that can get through the lockout shortened season it's their time to put up or shut up. The unguardable Kevin Durant is the key.