The NBA preseason as begun and that means you should be starting to look at the futures odds for the season. Today’s look comes from the Western Conference, which is generally regarded as the tougher of the two conferences, but they’re aiming to bring the title back to the West after the Miami Heat took it last season. It’s considered a two-horse race as the Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder stand above the crowd.
Let’s have a look at the favorites and sleepers in the West:
Los Angeles Lakers: Of course the Lakers are going to be favored after landing not only Dwight Howard, but Steve Nash as well and the latter may be more important to their chances this season. Nash runs an offense as well as anyone in the league, which means Kobe Bryant can shoot even more. The only issue that could be a problem for the Lakers is depth and age, especially with Bryant and Nash.
Oklahoma City: The Thunder will have the James Harden saga hanging over them all season as he is a free agent at the end of the year and OKC is saying they can’t afford him with the rest of their lineup. The thing is, the Thunder may not have a choice but to re-sign. Do they risk messing up the chemistry formed by Harden, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, among others? Trading him in midseason would be a massive mistake, because the Thunder is looking to put last year’s Finals disappointment behind them.
Los Angeles Clippers: The Clippers have the talent with the likes of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, and they’ll have Chauncey Billups back and healthy. Losing Billups was a huge blow for the Clippers as he added a veteran element to a young team, and they now also have Grant Hill as well. If the Clippers are going to really compete in the Western Conference, they have to improve their defense, specifically on the interior. Griffin and DeAndre Jordan are wildly talented, but their basketball IQ on the defensive end leaves a lot to be desired as Griffin can’t seem to stop anyone from driving or even getting rebounds, while Jordan looks to block everything into Row Z and that gets him in foul trouble. This will be crucial to their chances this season.
Denver Nuggets: The Nuggets are even worse defensively, but at least they can score; no team scored more points in the NBA than Denver did last season. Ty Lawson runs the show, Andre Miller still has something left in the tank and Danilo Gallinari, when healthy, can score in a number of ways. The Nuggets are insanely athletic inside with JaVale McGee and Kenneth Faried and they should improve on the defensive end as they get more experience and remember, McGee just came over in a midseason trade from Washington, so he should be used to his new teammates by now. San Antonio has to slow down at some point, right? Look for the Nuggets to take their place as a contender in the West.