1. Los Angeles Lakers – The Lakers have to be number one here. They are the best team on paper in the league and without any games played that is what you have to go by. Steve Nash improves the Lakers as point guard was their weakest position, and Dwight Howard is well, Dwight Howard. With Kobe Bryant hungry for his sixth ring and the Lakers window opening up again, they have to be the best team in the Western Conference to start the year.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder – Kevin Durant is the best pure scorer in the universe. He isn’t even in his prime and he can average 30 points a game this season. Russell Westbrook is a freak athlete at the point guard position and maybe a summer with Team USA helped him become a better point guard. The Thunder are an elite team and will be one of the best all year.
3. Los Angeles Clippers – The second team in LA will be a force this season. Chris Paul is now in his prime has an awesome team around him. If Blake Griffin stays healthy, Paul will make him into an elite big man. The Clippers are no longer a laughing stock.
4. San Antonio Spurs – You would be foolish to count out the Spurs this year. Gregg Popovich is the best coach in the league and the Spurs will not let the Lakers and Thunder just run away with the West.
5. Denver Nuggets – The Nuggets are loaded with young talent at every position this season. If George Karl can get this team to play together and maximize their potential, the Nuggets will be a threat in the West.
6. Memphis Grizzlies – The Grizzlies will always be consistent and win games in the West. They have a great starting five that is very balanced. They have a scorer in Rudy Gay, defender in Tony Allen, floor general in Mike Conley, and two great post players in Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. Memphis is no joke.
7. Dallas Mavericks – Two years removed from their championship season, the Mavericks are a different team. They still have Dirk Nowitzki so they won’t be a pushover and he won’t have that championship hangover like last season. They have new faces in Darren Collison and o=O.J. Mayo in the backcourt that give them speed. The Mavs are different but are still good.
8. Minnesota Timberwolves – The Timberwolves are loaded with young, but inexperienced talent. Ricky Rubio showed when healthy he is a playmaker while Kevin Love is one of the league’s best players. With Brandon Roy and Andrei Kirilenko added to the roster, this team will take the next step this season.
9. Sacramento Kings – Like the T’wolves, the Kings have a lot of young talent. That might have reached with their Jimmer Fredette pick a year ago but they are still a very talented team. DeMarcus Cousins seems to be growing up and he and Thomas Robinson can be the next big dominant duo down low. Tyreke Evans will have to step it up if the Kings have playoff dreams.
10. Golden State Warriors – Do the Warriors get over the hump or are they still the Warriors? They finally have a solid nucleus of players in Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, David Lee and Andrew Bogut. Can Mack Jackson really coach? The Warriors will have an interesting season.
11. Portland Trailblazers – Portland is a sleeper team this year. LaMarcus Aldridge is having himself quite a career up there in Portland and is heavily underrated. Damian Lillard is apparently the real deal at point guard. I still think this team will take a few years to compete.
12. Utah Jazz – The Jazz will be quiet this season. They lack star power and big playmakers. Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson are great but can they put this Jazz team on their back? I don’t see it at all.
13. New Orleans Hornets – Rebuilding begins now in NOLA but it might be sooner rather than later when the Hornets play in some serious ball games. They got lucky with landing Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers. They still have Eric Gordon and when he is healthy, he is one of the best shooting guards in the league. The Hornets will grow together.
14. Phoenix Suns – The post-Steve Nash era begins now for the Suns, and it might be a little rough. Goran Dragic will have to show he can handle the starting role as point guard and Michael Beasley will finally have the main scorer title for the first time in his career. The Suns will not be the Suns of the past we are used to watching.
15. Houston Rockets – Sorry Jeremy, I had to do it to you. I can’t see the Rockets being very good this year. Linsanity will stop, Omir Asik is the most overpaid player in history, and I just feel bad for Kevin Martin. Sorry Houston, there is going to be a lot of problems this year.