Western Con­fer­ence

Team out­looks in pre­dicted or­der of fin­ish

Baltimore Sun - - NBA - By Jesse Dougherty

1. Golden State War­riors

2015-16: 73-9. Com­ing: Kevin Du­rant, David West, Zaza Pachu­lia, Damian Jones. Go­ing: Har­ri­son Barnes, An­drew Bogut, Fes­tus Ezeli, Mar­reese Speights, Le­an­dro Bar­bosa Bran­don Rush.

After sign­ing Du­rant to join All-Stars Stephen Curry, Klay Thomp­son and Dray­mond Green, the War­riors could threaten the NBA record for reg­u­lar-sea­son wins they set last sea­son. It will be con­sid­ered a huge fail­ure if all this tal­ent doesn’t lead to a cham­pi­onship.

2. San An­to­nio Spurs

2015-16: 67-15. Com­ing: Pau Ga­sol, Joel An­thony, David Lee. Go­ing: Tim Duncan, Boris Diaw, David West, Matt Bon­ner, Boban Mar­janovic, Kevin Martin.

Life after Duncan be­gins. Kawhi Leonard is one of the league’s top play­ers, LaMar­cus Aldridge a tier be­low. Tony Parker and Manu Gi­no­bili have many miles on their legs but will be re­lied on again. Ga­sol, 36, will feel the heat to help make up for Duncan’s ab­sence.

3. Los An­ge­les Clip­pers

2015-16: 53-29. Com­ing: Mar­reese Speights, Bran­don Bass, Alan An­der­son, Ray­mond Fel­ton, Brice John­son. Go­ing: Jeff Green, Pablo Pri­gioni, Cole Aldrich.

The Clip­pers are among a small group of teams that can chal­lenge the War­riors on a given night. Their vet­eran core re­turns healthy — Blake Grif­fin and Chris Paul were in­jured in last spring’s first-round play­off exit — and DeAn­dre Jor­dan looked strong in the Olympics.

4. Port­land Trail Blaz­ers

2015-16: 44-38. Com­ing: Fes­tus Ezeli, Shabazz Napier, Evan Turner. Go­ing: Gerald Hen­der­son.

The Blaz­ers made solid moves to build around their tal­ented back­court of Damian Lil­lard and C.J. McCol­lum. Ezeli’s de­fen­sive pres­ence at cen­ter was a big part of the War­riors’ 73-win sea­son. Turner pro­vides a big ball­han­dler who can free Lil­lard to play more off the ball.

5. Mem­phis Griz­zlies

2015-16: 42-40. Com­ing: Coach David Fiz­dale, Chan­dler Par­sons, Wade Bald­win IV, Troy Daniels. Go­ing: Lance Stephen­son, Matt Barnes, Beno Udrih.

It all de­pends on how Marc Ga­sol (bro­ken foot) and Mike Con­ley Jr. (Achilles) re­cover from last sea­son’s in­juries. Par­sons also missed the pre­sea­son after knee surgery. Fiz­dale moved Zach Ran­dolph to the sec­ond unit to let him work against in­fe­rior post de­fend­ers.

6. Ok­la­homa City Thun­der

2015-16: 55-27. Com­ing: Vic­tor Oladipo, Er­san Ilyasova, Do­man­tas Sabo­nis, Ron­nie Price. Go­ing: Kevin Du­rant, Serge Ibaka, Dion Wait­ers.

Rus­sell West­brook can say this sea­son isn’t about re­venge, but Du­rant left the Thun­der for a team they nearly beat in the West fi­nals. West­brook wel­comes Oladipo, 24, as his new back­court mate and rookie Sabo­nis as a sound pick-and-roll op­tion.

7. Utah Jazz

2015-16: 40-42. Com­ing: Ge­orge Hill, Joe John­son, Boris Diaw. Go­ing: Trevor Booker, Trey Burke.

Gor­don Hay­ward is out un­til mid-Novem­ber with a frac­tured left ring fin­ger. French­man Rudy Gobert, aka “The Sti­fle Tower,” will con­tinue to de­fend the rim. Hill fi­nally gives the Jazz a sta­ble point guard, and John­son and Diaw add ex­pe­ri­ence.

8. Hous­ton Rock­ets

2015-16: 41-41. Com­ing: Coach Mike D’An­toni, Ryan An­der­son, Eric Gor­don, Nene, Tyler En­nis. Go­ing: Dwight Howard, Ter­rence Jones, Ja­son Terry, Josh Smith, Michael Beasley.

D’An­toni moved James Har­den to point guard, and who knows what this of­fense will be ca­pa­ble of. It’s pos­si­ble the Rock­ets will set the all-time record for 3-point at­tempts in a sea­son. With Howard gone, though, any thought of rim de­fense will be a dim mem­ory.

9. Dal­las Mav­er­icks

2015-16: 42-40. Com­ing: Har­ri­son Barnes, An­drew Bogut, Seth Curry, Quincy Acy, A.J. Ham­mons. Go­ing: Chan­dler Par­sons, Zaza Pachu­lia, Ray­mond Fel­ton, Char­lie Vil­lanueva.

In Barnes and Bogut, the Mavs wel­come two play­ers who started for the War­riors last sea­son. Dirk Now­itzki av­er­aged 18.3 points last sea­son and shows few signs he’ll slow down in his 19th sea­son. Barnes will be asked to be a de­pend­able scorer for the first time in his ca­reer.

10. Min­nesota Tim­ber­wolves

2015-16: 29-53. Com­ing: Coach Tom Thi­bodeau, Kris Dunn, Jor­dan Hill, Bran­don Rush, Cole Aldrich. Go­ing: Kevin Gar­nett, Tayshaun Prince.

The Tim­ber­wolves added Dunn, con­sid­ered the best point guard of the rookie class, to their young nu­cleus. If his devel­op­ment is speedy, they should see in­creased production from for­mer No. 1 picks Karl-An­thony Towns and An­drew Wig­gins.

11. Den­ver Nuggets

2015-16: 33-49. Com­ing: Ja­mal Mur­ray, Juan­cho Her­nan­gomez, Ma­lik Beasley, Nate Wolters. Go­ing: D.J. Au­gustin.

The Nuggets plan to play cen­ters Nikola Jo­kic and Jusuf Nur­kic to­gether. Both can go off the drib­ble and are re­li­able rim pro­tec­tors. A more ma­ture Em­manuel Mu­diay at point guard should keep them mov­ing in a pos­i­tive di­rec­tion.

12. New Or­leans Pel­i­cans

2015-16: 30-52. Com­ing: Ter­rence Jones, Lance Stephen­son, Buddy Hield, Solomon Hill, Langston Gal­loway. Go­ing: Ryan An­der­son, Eric Gor­don, Toney Dou­glas, Luke Bab­bitt, Ken­drick Perkins.

An­thony Davis av­er­aged 24.3 points and 10.3 re­bounds in 61 games last sea­son, but the Pel­i­cans were 14th in scor­ing. Adding Stephen­son and Jones doesn’t form the sup­port­ing cast Davis needs.

13. Phoenix Suns

2015-16: 23-59. Com­ing: Dra­gan Ben­der, Le­an­dro Bar­bosa, Jared Dud­ley, Mar­quese Chriss, Tyler Ulis. Go­ing: Mirza Tele­tovic, Chase Budinger, Ron­nie Price.

The Suns used lot­tery picks on Ben­der and Chriss to shore up the front­court. There is tal­ent in the back­court with Devin Booker, Eric Bled­soe and Bran­don Knight, but coach Earl Wat­son needs to fig­ure out their min­utes.

14. Los An­ge­les Lak­ers

2015-16: 17-65. Com­ing: Coach Luke Wal­ton, Bran­don In­gram, Luol Deng, Ti­mofey Moz­gov, Jose Calderon. Go­ing: Kobe Bryant, Bran­don Bass, Roy Hib­bert.

Com­ing off a fran­chise-low win to­tal, the Lak­ers should be bet­ter, even with Wal­ton ready to ac­cept the draw­backs of a re­build. The nu­cleus of D’An­gelo Rus­sell, Jor­dan Clark­son, Julius Ran­dle and In­gram of­fers a chance to grow to­gether.

15. Sacra­mento Kings

2015-16: 33-49. Com­ing: Ar­ron Af­flalo, Ge­or­gios Pa­pa­gian­nis, Matt Barnes, Jor­dan Far­mar, An­thony Tol­liver, Ty Law­son. Go­ing: Ra­jon Rondo, Marco Be­linelli, Seth Curry.

Point guard Dar­ren Col­li­son will miss eight games after plead­ing guilty to do­mes­tic bat­tery; Law­son and Far­mar will help fill the void. It’s nearly im­pos­si­ble to keep DeMar­cus Cousins happy for a whole sea­son — or a whole game — and this ros­ter won’t change that.

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