- San Antonio Spurs*
- Memphis Grizzlies*
- New Orleans Hornets*
- Dallas Mavericks*
- Houston Rockets
Analysis: The Spurs are still the class of the division, though the Grizzlies are closing in quickly. Memphis is really a younger, more athletic version of San Antonio. That said, both are deep and tough. I also expect both to advance deep into the playoffs.
The team to keep an eye on is New Orleans. The Hornets drafted well the past two seasons, including this years’ draft that netted Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers. They are now well-coached by Monty Williams and have a good GM in Will Demps. It’s funny how things improve once George Shinn skipped town eh?
Poor Dallas and Houston. They are two teams who would compete in a lesser division like, say the Southeast Division? But as the saying goes, it is what it is. Mavs owner Mark Cuban is not going to be making too much noise anytime soon. Then again…
- Oklahoma City Thunder*
- Denver Nuggets*
- Minnesota Timberwolves
- Utah Jazz
- Portland Trailblazers
Analysis: This is OKC’s division, and the rest of the crew are looking for scraps. Denver is talented and good enough to earn a playoff spot, but let’s be real about something: the Nuggets are NO WHERE CLOSE to the Thunder’s level.
If Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio are 100% healthy, the Wolves will contend for a playoff spot. Otherwise, brand new year, same old shit.
The rest of the division stinks. Hey Jazz fans: Karl Malone and John Stockton are not walking through that door. And while you’re at it, GIVE NEW ORLEANS THE JAZZ NAME BACK!!! There is nothing Jazzy about Salt Lake City.
- Los Angeles Lakers*
- Los Angeles Clippers*
- Golden State Warriors
- Phoenix Suns
- Sacramento Kings
Analysis: The Lakers-Clippers battles are going to be REALLY fun to watch. As much as I despise the Lakers – especially Kobe Bryant – I have to give them props on upgrading the roster. Sure they are older with Steve Nash in the fold, but that Dwight Howard acquisition was epic. While I am still unsure that he will stay in LA long-term, Howard gives the Lakers a defensive presence they lacked with Andrew Bynum last year.
Here’s another thing I never thought I’d see myself type: the Clippers are going to make some major noise this season. Once you give Chris Paul and Blake Griffin a full offseason together, you gotta look the hell out. One thing I really admire about the Clippers is that they are not afraid of the Lakers. This race will come down to the last week of the season.
The rest of the division is D-League level. Here’s hoping the coaching staffs of the Warriors, Suns and especially the Kings are renting and not buying. Speaking of the Kings, just go ahead and move to Las Vegas already.
Note: * denotes playoff teams