NBA Western Conference Power Rankings: Defending Champs Hold Down Top Spot
The NBA season is underway. The hype and anticipation of what is to come is over and it’s time to play. KSL Sports lists the Western Conference Power Rankings for week one of the 2018-19 season:
1. Golden State Warriors
Season opener: vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
The two-time defending Champions are the favorites to complete the three-peat with returning starters Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green. Sometime in 2019, DeMarcus Cousins will join the squad and will make them even more dangerous. The depth of their bench remains to be seen and will tell by how much the starters play.
— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) October 17, 2018
2. Houston Rockets
Season opener: vs. New Orleans Pelicans
Re-signing Chris Paul and Clint Capela were the biggest moves of the offseason. They did add Carmelo Anthony, but is he really willing to come off the bench? Houston was very good defensively last season but lost two key defenders in Trevor Ariza and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, giving others the opportunity to step up. Question is, will it be enough to knock off the Warriors in a seven game series?
3. Utah Jazz
Season opener: at Sacramento Kings
Everyone from last season minus Jonas Jerebko is back for the Jazz but the emergence of Donovan Mitchell isn’t a surprise to teams anymore. It will be interesting to see how the young star reacts to being center stage. Rudy Gobert is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year and will set his eyes on another, but his ultimate goal is an NBA Championship.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder
Season opener: at Golden State Warriors
The departure of Carmelo Anthony could bode well for the Thunder, leaving the spotlight solely on Paul George and Russell Westbrook. New additions, Dennis Schroder and Nerlens Noel could play a factor on how good the Thunder can be this season.
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) October 17, 2018
5. Portland Trail Blazers
Season opener: vs. Los Angeles Lakers
The Trail Blazers didn’t do themselves any favors in the offseason as far as improving their frontcourt. They do have one of the best backcourts in the NBA in Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Jusuf Nurkic is developing into an elite center, but who will help him? Look for Zach Collins and Al Farouq Aminu to step up and contribute.
6. Denver Nuggets
Season opener: at Los Angeles Clippers
Nikola Jokic has some help as long as they can stay healthy. Paul Millsap played 38 games last season and Isaiah Thomas was coming off of a major hip injury. Both should be big time assets to the Nuggets and help push them into the playoffs. It gives them time to help develop rookie forward Michael Porter Jr. who only played three games at Missouri last season. Tackling 82 games will be a tall task early on for him.
7. Los Angeles Lakers
Season opener: at Portland Trail Blazers
LeBron James is the ultimate franchise changer. Alone, he will be able to carry the Lakers into the postseason. He does have some young talent alongside him in Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball that will make his transition out west faster. Kuzma isn’t the surprise pick in the draft anymore and opponents know what he can do, expect an even better season from the former Ute.
8. New Orleans Pelicans
Season opener: at Houston Rockets
Anthony Davis is back as the star in the big easy. He has some help in the frontcourt with Julius Randle and Nikola Mirotic, also guard Jrue Holiday returns and looks to keep improving. The Pelicans reached the second round of the playoffs last season as a six-seed, sweeping the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round.
9. San Antonio Spurs
Season opener: vs. Minnesota Timberwolves
No more Kawhi Leonard but DeMar DeRozan is a very good replacement. It will be a very different team now that Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are no longer on the roster and they lost starting point guard Dejounte Murray for the season with an ACL tear. Some say that they may not reach the playoffs. If that’s the case, it would snap a streak of 21 consecutive seasons reaching the postseason.
10. Minnesota Timberwolves
Season opener: at San Antonio Spurs
It’s only matter of time when they won’t have Jimmy Butler playing for them. The question is, will it be a trade or lose him in free agency in July? The plus side, the Timberwolves still have Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins.
11. Los Angeles Clippers
Season opener: vs. Denver Nuggets
Lob City is officially gone, with the departure of DeAndre Jordan being the last piece to leave the Clippers. It’s about Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley and Lou Williams that will lead the way with some young pieces in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome Robinson.
12. Memphis Grizzlies
Season opener: at Indiana Pacers
Mike Conley is back and healthy, hopefully it stays that way. Rookie forward Jaren Jackson Jr. will see a lot of minutes in his first season in the NBA with Marc Gasol in the frontcourt. That tandem could be create headaches for opposing offenses.
13. Dallas Mavericks
Season opener: at Phoenix Suns
This could be the final season of Dirk Nowitzki’s career, but it will be an exciting one. The potential of the Mavericks for years to come will be fun to watch. With rookie Luka Doncic holding a lot of hype, can the 19-year old live up to it? Plus, DeAndre Jordan looks to be a huge presence for the team in the middle.
14. Phoenix Suns
Season opener: vs. Dallas Mavericks
New head coach Igor Kokoskov will be the catalyst of the rebuild in Phoenix. Surrounding Devin Booker and No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 Draft, DeAndre Ayton. It will help to have the veteran presence of Trevor Ariza and Jamal Crawford.
15. Sacramento Kings
Season opener: vs. Utah Jazz
This has seemed like a decade of rebuilding in Sacramento. Hoping to have found their cornerstone in Marvin Bagley III to help De’Aaron Fox. It still looks like another three years before the Kings are competing for a spot in the playoffs.