regular-season record a year ago and has reigning MVP James Harden. Utah has a budding superstar in Donovan Mitchell, and certainly got the league’s attention with its playoff run last season.
But in the West, until further notice, it’s still the Warriors and then everybody else.
“It’s a marathon,” Warriors guard Stephen Curry said. “There’s a lot of time between now and April and May and June, but if we go about it the right way to start the season, it can feed on itself in terms of the expectation we have night in, night out.”
A look at the West, in predicted order of finish:
PLAYOFF BOUND 1. GOLDEN STATE — Warriors aiming for their third consecutive NBA championship, something only the Lakers, Celtics and Bulls franchises have done.
2. UTAH — Donovan Mitchell is a legitimate star, coach Quin Snyder has been underrated for far too long, and the Jazz went 29-6 to finish last season.
3. HOUSTON — The Rockets have the MVP in James Harden, a leader in Chris Paul and added Carmelo Anthony, but expecting another 67-15 season is a lot.
4. L.A. LAKERS — Lebron James is still the best player in the game and shows no signs of slowing down, so doubting his chances seems less than brilliant.
CITY — This is a sign of how loaded the West remains: The Thunder are really good, and that won’t assure them home-court for Round 1.
6. DENVER — Losing Game 82 last season to Minnesota and missing the playoffs because of that outcome should serve as a massive motivator for Denver.
7. NEW ORLEANS
— Demarcus Cousins is gone, Rajon Rondo is gone, but Anthony Davis is still there and that should be enough for a Pelicans playoff run.
8. SAN ANTONIO
— Dejounte Murray’s ACL tear is a disaster, but any team with Lamarcus Aldridge, Demar Derozan and Gregg Popovich still has a lot.