NBA

NBA: Are the Warriors Still a Favorite in the Western Conference?

The Golden State Warriors will enter the 2019-20 season with a lot to prove to the rest of the NBA. Kevin Durant left for a new opportunity in Brooklyn, Klay Thompson is out with a torn ACL, and key veterans such as Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston departed the team.

Are the Warriors still the favorites to win the West? Let’s look at that question as well as the moves the other major players in the West have made during the offseason.

Are the Warriors automatic to make the NBA Finals?

The Warriors’ roster will look a lot different next season. Shaun Livingston, Andre Iguodala, DeMarcus Cousins, and Kevin Durant are all key pieces that won’t be on the team next season. The big acquisition was All-Star D’Angelo Russell, who should slot in nicely at the shooting guard spot while Klay Thompson rehabs a torn ACL.

Thompson should be back by the time the playoffs start, and we think the Warriors should still be a top-three seed in the West.

The Clippers: best defense in the NBA?

When the Clippers landed Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, it sent shock waves through the NBA. Not only did it allow last season’s No. 8 seed to acquire two of the game’s top players, but it also hurt another Western Conference foe in the Oklahoma City Thunder. Pairing Leonard and George together gives the Clippers arguably the two best wing defenders in the league. 

When you add in Patrick Beverley, the Clippers could have the best defense in the entire NBA. They kept most of their core roster intact when trading for George, and it wouldn’t surprise us to see them finish with the best record in the West. 

Do the Lakers have the best starting five?

LeBron James’ first season in L.A. didn’t go as planned. He fought injuries and poor coaching, and the younger players on the roster had to deal with constant trade rumors. Those rumors turned out to be true when the offseason started, as the Lakers landed Anthony Davis in a blockbuster trade.

Adding Davis to a lineup that now includes Rajon Rondo (who re-signed on a two-year deal) and DeMarcus Cousins should make the Lakers a dangerous offense. The Lakers roster depth might be the best in the NBA, and certainly enough to take the depleted Warriors out of the playoffs.

Can the Rockets overcome their playoff woes?

After trading Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers, former MVP Russell Westbrook requested a trade out of Oklahoma City. They granted his request as another stunning trade saw Westbrook and Houston’s Chris Paul swap jerseys. 

This trade reunites Westbrook and James Harden, and the Rockets boast two former MVPs in their backcourt. The duo have always played great together, and they are very good friends, so we don’t expect any chemistry issues between the two.

The issue is neither has historically delivered in the playoffs, and we don’t think they have enough to win a seven-game series against the Warriors or either L.A. team.

How much of an impact will Mike Conley have in Utah?

The Utah Jazz could be one of the NBA teams that ends the Golden State Warriors' Western Conference dominance in 2020.
Rudy Gobert and the Jazz want to end the Warriors Western Conference reign. | Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images

When Utah traded for Mike Conley Jr., they showed that they were serious about winning now. Conley brings toughness, consistency, and leadership to a young Jazz squad in need of someone who can make an impact in the backcourt.

Combining Conley with Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert could make Utah a tough matchup in the first round.

Who is your pick to win the West?

After taking a look at all the roster moves made by the powerhouses in the West, we don’t think the Warriors are the favorite to come out of the conference. They have talent, but the competition improved so much that it’s going to be tough to make it to the NBA Finals a sixth straight time.

Our money is on the Los Angeles Clippers to win the West and make it to the NBA Finals, giving Kawhi Leonard the opportunity to win his third NBA Finals MVP award with a different team, putting him among the game’s greatest players.