The Golden State Warriors will have their hands full next season as the Western Conference is looking absolutely loaded.
The Western Conference is undoubtedly the stronger conference in the NBA and that will once again reign true in 2020-21. Hope is still in the air for the Golden State Warriors but next season will definitely be a challenge.
Despite the quality on offer, it shouldn’t impact Golden State, who will have Steph Curry and Klay Thompson at full health once again and will likely be in championship contention. They will face stern competition if they’re to reclaim their crown though.
This was shown already in 2019-20 with the Phoenix Suns, San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies all missing the postseason by a whisker.
Add in the Golden State Warriors, a more experienced New Orleans Pelicans and the Minnesota Timberwolves, who have the 1st overall pick in the draft to add to D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns the West stands to be fiercely competitive.
As for the three that just missed the playoffs, their fortunes aren’t yet certain either.
The Suns pleasantly surprised the entire NBA community as they powered to a shocking 8-0 finish in the bubble, and their young core led by Devin Booker will look to improve further as they look to make the playoffs for the first time since 2012.
More from Blue Man Hoop
- 3x champion may come to regret forgoing Golden State Warriors reunion
- Golden State Warriors: History shows USA may need Stephen Curry for more than the Olympics
- 7 players Golden State Warriors might replace Klay Thompson with by the trade deadline
- Golden State Warriors villain pours on more pain to end USA’s World Cup
- Golden State Warriors: Stephen Curry continues philanthropic efforts off the court
Whether they can perform when legitimate stakes are on the line and if they can rise to the occasion when the opposition treats them like a legitimate threat and aren’t able to sneak up on teams remains to be seen.
Although San Antonio will still have the legendary Gregg Popovich at the helm, but could potentially be transitioning into a rebuild.
Derrick White, Lonnie Walker, Dejointe Murray, Keldon Johnson and Jakob Poeltl are a solid future foundation for the Spurs to build on, but will need to add to that core before they can once again return to the postseason.
As for Memphis to put it simply, they overachieved in 2019-20. Taylor Jenkins did a sterling job to get the Grizzlies punching above their weight, but their rebuild is far from finished.
Ja Morant enjoyed an All-Star caliber campaign, Jaren Jackson Jr continued his impressive development and the likes of Brandon Clarke, Dillon Brooks, DeAnthony Melton and Justice Winslow are all under the age of 25, setting the Grizzlies up for a promising future.
Memphis might’ve been better than expected, but it’s still a group that has its focus firmly set toward the future.
In the end, the West will likely break down into these categories.
Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors, Denver Nuggets
Probable Playoff locks:
Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, Oklahoma City Thunder
Fringe playoff teams:
Utah Jazz, Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, Phoenix Suns, Memphis Grizzlies
On the outside looking in:
Minnesota Timberwolves, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs
Any team with LeBron James and Anthony Davis is a genuine contender, the same applies to Paul George and Kawhi Leonard with the Clippers. Both Los Angeles teams will likely be the Warriors’ biggest rivals next year. Denver has been a top-three seed for the past two years and continue to improve.
As for the probable playoff locks, Dallas is led by arguably the best young player in the league and a future MVP in Luka Doncic.
Houston found their style of play after trading Clint Capela to adapt to a small ball system and have two All-NBA guards in the backcourt in James Harden and Russell Westbrook. However, they have little clarity in regards to the future of head coach Mike D’Antoni.
The Thunder as it stands will be a probable playoff lock, but their short-term future will likely depend on whether they keep Chris Paul and Steven Adams next season.
Lastly, Portland and Utah. Both teams have franchise stars in the mold of Damian Lillard and Donovan Mitchell that can carry the team and have a few decent complimentary stars namely CJ McCollum, Carmelo Anthony, Rudy Gobert and Bojan Bogdanovic.
However, further down the roster both struggle to find scoring and may struggle in the event of injuries.
With a number of talented teams in the West, the Warriors can ill afford to rest on their laurels if they’re to return to title contention. Nevertheless, when looking at their own squad they shouldn’t be overly worried about the competition.