NBA 2014-15 Western Conference preview

In the NBA’s power Western Conference, one shouldn’t expect the same sort of upheaval the East is sure to experience in the 2014-15 season. The defending champion Spurs stand relatively unchanged from June, when they topped the Heat in the NBA Finals, and their competition is just as stiff.

Here’s a look at how the West should be expected to look once the postseason rolls around.

1. Los Angeles Clippers
The Clips are ready. They have the best mix of young-but-experienced stars with Blake Griffin and Chris Paul leading the way, plus a great coach in Doc Rivers.

2. San Antonio Spurs
If Kawhi Leonard plays the way he did during the Finals for a full season, the Spurs will be tough to beat. Expect Tim Duncan and the elder statesmen to get plenty of regular season rest.

3. Oklahoma City Thunder
Once they get Kevin Durant (foot injury) back in roughly a month, they’ll be just fine. They’ve still got Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka to hold the fort.

4. Portland Trail Blazers
LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard make Portland a viable threat to go on a postseason tear, especially given their excellent supporting cast.

5. Golden State Warriors
A coaching change shouldn’t hold this team back. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson can shoot the lights out of any arena, and the hybrid triangle offense should benefit both.

6. Houston Rockets
James Harden and Dwight Howard can take this team far on their own, but they’ll need offseason acquisition Trevor Ariza to pitch in and play as well as he did last season.

7. Memphis Grizzlies
Marc Gasol is playing for a contract, so expect big things from him. Zach Randolph and Mike Conley help to form an underrated big three.

8. New Orleans Pelicans
Anthony Davis is too good not to force his way into the postseason. He’s got more help than he did a year ago with the addition of Omer Asik in the post.

9. Phoenix Suns
There’s reason to believe the Suns will sneak into the playoffs. Expect the re-signed Eric Bledsoe to emerge as the face of this franchise.

10. Dallas Mavericks
The Mavs are a playoff team in the East, but the West ain’t big enough for them. Dirk Nowitzki will carry the load, but point guard issues will hold them back.

11. Denver Nuggets
There are no star-level players here. That’s often a death knell in the current NBA.

12. Minnesota Timberwolves
Top pick Andrew Wiggins won’t have to carry the load right away, but he may be doing so by the spring.

13. Los Angeles Lakers
Kobe Bryant can only take this team so far on his own. And yes, he’s on his own in L.A.

14. Sacramento Kings
Until DeMarcus Cousins settles down and matures, the Kings will need other players to step up and lead.

15. Utah Jazz
An abundance of youth makes this team bottom-feeders once again.