Last week this space started throwing its take on the upcoming 2018-19 season of the National Basketball Association, which is seemingly heading to another interesting run following landscape-altering moves across varying levels in the offseason.
This writer began with who thinks would make it to the top eight in the Eastern Conference and this time around it is time for the Western side.
Like in the past years, the Western Conference is once again loaded and going to be competitive but the two-time defending NBA champions Golden State Warriors should continue ruling the bracket.
Their four All-Stars of Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green are back to help their team go for a rare three-peat and they are bringing along another star in big man DeMarcus Cousins along with them.
Now, five All-Stars in one team, backstopped by a champion supporting cast, it is hard not to like their chances, right?
Houston comes in second on the strength of continuity with its core pretty much intact.
The Rockets have added firepower in Carmelo Anthony which should lessen some of the workload off league most valuable player James Harden while giving point guard Chris Paul another good target to set up play for.
The loss of Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute though should take some toll early in the season by I see the team adjusting as the season progresses and be a handful for the rest of the league.
Utah continues to improve this season and figures in at number three.
Roster depth is a key for the Jazz, led by last year’s breakthrough star Donovan Mitchell, who exploded in his rookie season to help his team fast-track its journey back to league respectability.
The Jazz have steady play on both ends of the court, allowing them to put up a sustained fight even in such a tough conference.
San Antonio, meanwhile, has undergone much change in the offseason but I still see it figuring in the mix come the postseason as the fourth seed.
The Spurs undoubtedly would have their struggles in the early goings of the season as new additions like DeMar DeRozan figure their way.
Eventually though San Antonio and coach Gregg Popovich’s system would take hold and steady the ship.
Denver missed the playoffs last year on the final play date of the regular season but should have no problem making it this year.
Their young crew, led by potential All-Star Nikola Jokic, is a season older and more determined to prove their worth, which is not a bad motor to start the season with. The Nuggets have veteran players as well who can make things happen for the team.
After missing the postseason in the last few years, the Los Angeles Lakers would return to the playoffs thanks to LeBron James who have decided to bring his talent to the Western Conference.
With someone like “The King” leading them now, the Lakers, who boast of a mix of young players and veterans, should start making waves anew and be good for sixth, or even higher if a potential deal for All-Star Jimmy Butler pushes through.
Coming in at seventh are the Oklahoma City Thunder who are welcoming back Paul George to play in tandem with long-time resident star Russell Westbrook.
The team has added some good pieces to help their Big Two but Westbrook is expected to miss some time at the beginning of the season because of knee surgery and the Thunder might lose some ground because of that.
At eighth spot this space is in a quandary among the Portland Trail Blazers, Minnesota Timberwolves, and New Orleans Pelicans.
I would give the seed though to the Blazers for the better collective “stability” they present on the lead of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.
Minnesota with the Butler issue may have a hard time taking flight at the onset. The Timberwolves are better served resolving it the soonest but not necessarily letting go of the All-Star guard with little in return.
The Pelicans, for their part, lost some valuable pieces in Cousins and Rajon Rondo in the offseason and while they have gotten some serviceable pieces here and there I do not see them being enough to help All-Star Anthony Davis carry New Orleans to another playoff appearance this season.
The new-look Los Angeles Clippers, rebuilding Dallas Mavericks, regrouping Phoenix Suns, and Sacramento Kings I see filling the remaining slots in the Western Conference in that order.
To be continued next week
Michael Angelo S. Murillo has been a columnist since 2003. He is a BusinessWorld reporter covering the Sports beat.