The battle in the NBA Western Conferencelooks set to be an extremely intriguing one this season with a number of teams having the opportunity to make a deep run in the Playoffs.
Last season, the Phoenix Suns were crowned Western Conference Champions after defeating the Los Angeles Clippers in the Conference Finals in six games before eventually losing to the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA Finals.
Once again, the Suns will be one of the main contenders coming into this season after retaining all of their key pieces and adding depth to their squad. Injuries have played their part to key players on a number of contenders including the Clippers and Denver Nuggets, while players will need to become acclimated with each other on the Los Angeles Lakers.
It will be a fascinating battle and the anticipated return of the Golden State Warriors as a serious contender adds yet another layer to this NBA season. No team in the Western Conference is favoured to win the NBA Finals more than the Brooklyn Nets, who are the oddsmakers overall favourite to win it all this upcoming season.
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Below, we will be taking a look at the top contenders in the Western Conference in the NBA this season.
1. Los Angeles Lakers – 9/5
The Los Angeles Lakers are the oddsmakers favourites to win the Western Conference this season following a summer packed full of moves reshaping their roster. They made the biggest move of the offseason after trading for Russell Westbrook, creating a big three in the process alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis. While the fit may not be ideal on paper, it gives the Lakers the talent level required to win the Western Conference. The Lakers were eliminated in the first round of the Playoffs last year following injuries to James and Davis that prevented the team from reaching its full potential and successfully defend their title. If healthy, they will certainly be the favourites once again here after adding some solid veteran talent around their all-star trio.
2. Golden State Warriors – 11/2
Having the Golden State Warriors back as a contender in the Western Conference is a welcome sight to many NBA fans. The Warriors have had a solid offseason, drafting two lottery picks in Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody, alongside bringing in Otto Porter and Andre Iguodala on veteran minimum deals. However, it is the return of Klay Thompson from injury that could really be the factor that puts this team over the top. Thompson’s lethal shooting touch should remain despite being injured for the last two seasons and he will provide a big boost to Steph Curry and co. The Warriors also have the potential to make a big mid-season trade if any significant players are made available.
3. Los Angeles Clippers – 6/1
Despite the likelihood that Kawhi Leonard won’t play any part this season after suffering an ACL injury, the Los Angeles Clippers are still third favourites to win the Western Conference this season. The Clippers’ offseason saw them bring back Reggie Jackson and Nicolas Batum, as well as taking flyers on Eric Bledsoe and Justise Winslow. Paul George was outstanding throughout the 2021 Playoffs and will need to perform on that level once again if they are to have any chance of making the NBA Finals this season. They also have one of the best coaches in the NBA in Tyronn Lue sat on their bench and a roster that is now arguably the most well balanced that it has been since the Leonard-George era began. There is always radio silence surrounding Leonard and his situation but if he were to return to play a part in the Playoffs then 6/1 could be incredible value.
4. Utah Jazz – 13/2
The achievements of the Utah Jazz throughout the upcoming regular season will likely count for little for most as they look to prove that they can replicate their performance in the Playoffs. Quin Snyder’s team were top of the Western Conference after 72 regular season games in 2020/21 but were eliminated by a Kawhi Leonard-less Clippers squad in the second round of the Playoffs. The Jazz’s major offseason move saw them extend point guard Mike Conley and added to their depth with the signings of Rudy Gay, Hassan Whiteside and Eric Paschall. Utah will again be relying on Donovan Mitchell as the focal point of their offense after he averaged 26.4 points per game throughout the regular season and 32.3 in the Playoffs.
5. Phoenix Suns – 15/2
Chris Paul’s addition took the Phoenix Suns to new heights last season as he, Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton led the franchise to the NBA Finals. The Suns were then overpowered and beaten by the Milwaukee Bucks in six games but Monty Williams’ team are sure to come again after re-signing Paul to a new three-year deal. Additionally, they have signed JaVale McGee, Landry Shamet and Elfrid Payton to add to their bench and both Booker and Ayton in particular should benefit greatly from their Finals run. The Suns have one of the most balanced and well put together rosters in the NBA and the continuity of last season should give them an advantage over the Lakers who will need the regular season to find chemistry.
6. Denver Nuggets – 9/1
Jamal Murray’s injury prevents the Denver Nuggets from really being one of the major contenders at the top of this list, but the presence of MVP Nikola Jokic will always give them a puncher’s chance. Even without Murray the Nuggets made it to the second round of the Playoffs last season and they are expected to have the point guard back just before the postseason. Michael Porter Jr. took a big leap last season and should take yet another one this time around after being established as the team’s second option on offense in Murray’s absence. The offensive firepower of Jokic and Porter Jr. should give them more than enough to get into the Playoffs at the very least before welcoming back their starting point guard.