Ill-Advised NBA Western Conference Preview.

Yes, I waited too damn long to do this, and now it’s opening night tonight of the Association. Regardless of timing, I can at least make some semi-educated guesses, and tel you that there will likely be a recap feature for the NBA that I haven’t named yet. Playoff teams have asterisks by their names.

Northwest Division:

  1. Utah Jazz* – Williams to Boozer is nothing short of solid, and that almost makes you forget about Okur and his ability to work it inside and out.
  2. Denver Nuggets* – I’d like to think that both Iverson and Melo will figure out how to play together, and maybe Kenyon Martin might just be healthy enough to do something. But I have to see it first before I put them above Utah.
  3. Portland Trail Blazers – I’m not sure they were going to the playoffs even with a healthy Greg Oden able to contribute. LaMarcus Aldredge will develop and Brandon Roy will be Roy-like (hopefully barring injury), but the Blazers will be waiting a bit longer.
  4. Seattle Supersonics – Plenty of young talent in Kevin Durant and Jeff Green, not quite enough around them after that.
  5. Minnesota Timberwolves – Glen Taylor is still blaming Flip Saunders for Kevin McHale’s fuck-ups. This will not end well in the team’s first KG-less season since the mid-90s.

Pacific Division:

  1. Phoenix Suns* – No one else in this division plays a whole lot of lockdown defense, so look for Nash, Stoudemire, Marion, et al to rip it up in the regular season like they always do.
  2. Golden State Warriors* – Losing Jason Richardson hurts a bit, but the nucleus is still there and still pumped up enough to do better next year.
  3. Los Angeles Lakers* – As long as Kobe is on this team, they make the playoffs through his will alone. Won’t get them further than the first round, though.
  4. Los Angeles Clippers – Elton Brand getting hurt dioesn’t help a team that’s fallen apart after their playoff run a couple years ago.
  5. Sacramento Kings – No Bibby, a restless Artest, and a brand new coach. The off-court stuff should be entertaining in Arco Arena — the product on the floor won’t be.

Southwest Division:

  1. San Antonio Spurs* – This’ll be a good start on the road to solidifying a dynasty (you have to win back-to-back to get that distinction.) As long as Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili are on the team, they’re a danger to everyone because they can play every style that they face.
  2. Dallas Mavericks* – Does Dirk step up and get Dallas over the hump? The Mavericks are one of my favorite choices to take it all if Nowitzki can find that inner badass, but that’s a big if. Having the usual suspects in Jason Terry, Josh Howard, and Jerry Stackhouse off the bench helps.
  3. Houston Rockets* – Well, here’s your dark horse if you like. Haven’t seen Luis Scola play; am fascinated by the possibilities. Yao is one of the last Western big men standing along with Duncan, and T-Mac is still T-Mac, if his back cooperates.
  4. New Orleans Hornets – Like this starting team a lot with Chris Paul, Peja Stojakovic, and role guys like Tyson Chandler there. But I just don’t think they can nab that #8 spot yet.
  5. Memphis Grizzlies – Perenially rebuilding. Like the drafting of Mike Conley, think Darko can do well alongside Pau Gasol, but can’t expect results too soon.

Photo: NBAE/Getty/Michael Martin

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