By Jeremy Rucker @JeremyR327 on July 23, 2014
As the 2014 NBA offseason comes to a close, it's time to look forward to the 2014-15 season. Last year's Western Conference was extremely competitive, with only five games separating the bottom five seeds. This year, the competition seems equally intense as some retooled squads look to elevate themselves into the thick of the playoff hunt.
The New Orleans Pelicans are looking to bounce back from an injury-riddled campaign that fell short of all expectations. Anthony Davis is improving every year and is steadily showing just how terrifying he can be on an NBA court. If the other pieces can stay on the floor, this team could be going places.
It hasn’t been a great summer for the Houston Rockets, who lost Chandler Parsons and narrowly missed out on landing Chris Bosh. The addition of Trevor Ariza doesn’t come close to matching Parsons' production on offense, but his defensive prowess on the perimeter is a vast improvement over last year’s squad. There are a lot of remaining question marks, but the duo of James Harden and Dwight Howard will help Houston stay competitive.
The Golden State Warriors are one of the few teams left with major offseason moves pending, but assuming Kevin Love doesn’t end up coming to the bay, this team’s core group remains a formidable force. If Andrew Bogut and David Lee can stay relatively healthy — which is anything but assured — the Warriors still have the firepower to compete, although their ceiling may be somewhat lower than last year.
The additions of Chandler Parsons and Tyson Chandler overshadowed the key departures of role players Vince Carter, Jose Calderon and DeJuan Blair. Nonetheless, the Dallas Mavericks' starting lineup is looking pretty good. If age doesn’t dramatically limit Dirk Nowitzki and Chandler, this team is poised to make some noise.
This offseason was less dynamic for the Los Angeles Clippers than the year prior, but Lob City still finds itself in a great position to succeed. Even with some key departures, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin remain a terrifying forces in the West. What remains to be seen is how effective their supporting cast will be throughout the season.
The Portland Trail Blazers narrowly missed out on a top-4 seed last season, and although they didn’t radically improve their roster, Damian Lillard’s meteoric rise to “Top 5 Point Guard” status has things looking promising in Rip City. As long as the rest of their starters can remain relatively healthy, Portland can reach that next step in the Western Conference, especially if Lamarcus Aldridge continues his elite play.
The Oklahoma City Thunder didn’t make a lot of moves simply because they didn’t have to. If Serge Ibaka and Russell Westbrook can stay on the floor, this team will be right back in the thick of things come playoff time, especially if the addition of Anthony Morrow can bolster their supporting cast. The way Westbrook and Kevin Durant played during last season's playoffs, the Thunder might be close to realizing their full potential.
At this point, it seems foolish to ever doubt the San Antonio Spurs. What did they do during the offseason? Not much. What did they need to do? Not much. Gregg Popovich has a contract extension and all the core players are looking good for next year. No team plays the game of basketball as well as these guys. Unless age finally catches up to Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili in a big way, the Western Conference is theirs for the taking.
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