As you look back, the 2021-2022 season saw the Golden State Warriors cement themselves as one of the great teams over the last 20 years. Steph Curry led the Warriors over the Mavericks en route to another NBA Championship. However, as the Warriors look to hold on to the Western Conference Crown, teams like the Mavericks, Grizzlies, Suns, and Lakers look to knock them off the top of the mountain. The 2022-2023 Western Conference season is stacked and should provide some outstanding regular and post-season matchups.
Let’s take a look at this NBA Western Conference preview to see what you should expect from each of the teams in the West.
Golden State Warriors
Prior to the start of the 2021-22 NBA season, there weren’t too many NBA analysts picking the Golden State Warriors to win yet another NBA title on Steph Curry’s watch. There was still a lot of speculation surrounding how effective Klay Thompson would be when he returned from a torn Achilles tendon that he suffered during the 2019 NBA Finals.
Thompson struggled at times, but it didn’t matter much. The Warriors were at or near the top of the NBA Western Conference standings all season long. And they took things to the next level once the 2022 NBA Finals started, which helped them coast to an NBA title by knocking off the Boston Celtics in the Finals.
Repeating this feat will be a tall task. But if any team can do it, it’s the Warriors.
While the Phoenix Suns 2021-22 season did not finish the way they had hoped, they entered the ’22-23 season with high expectations as one of the favorites in the Western Conference.
The Suns did get some good news over the summer, though, when they were able to re-sign star center Deandre Ayton after he initially inked a deal with the Indiana Pacers. So they shouldn’t have too much trouble getting the bad taste out of their mouth following last season. As long as they’ve got Ayton, Devin Booker, and Chris Paul on their team, they’re going to be in a position to contend.
With their star guard Jamal Murray sidelined for the entire 2021-22 NBA campaign while recovering from an ACL injury that he suffered in April 2021, the Denver Nuggets didn’t stand much of a chance last season. They made the postseason, but the Golden State Warriors unceremoniously dismissed them in five games.
Fortunately for Denver, Murray will be back in the mix this season. And while it’s going to take him some time to return to his previous form, he and two-time MVP Nikola Jokic should give the Nuggets what they need to get back to their winning ways.
When the 2021-22 NBA season tipped off, few people expected the Memphis Grizzlies to be true NBA Western Conference contenders. Although NBA fans were very familiar with Ja Morant, the rest of their roster was filled with players most people outside of Memphis hadn’t heard all that much about.
But the Grizzlies turned lots of heads when they finished with the second-best record in the NBA Western Conference. They would eventually lose to the Golden State Warriors in the second round of the playoffs, but the experience they gained was invaluable, and they should be able to lean on it this season.
Los Angeles Clippers
Will the Los Angeles Clippers get Kawhi Leonard back at the start of this season following the ACL tear he sustained in June 2021?
No one seems to know right now, which is why it’s difficult to predict how the Clippers will do during the upcoming NBA season. If Leonard makes his return and is even just a shell of his former self, the Clippers should be a playoff team and possibly even an NBA Western Conference contender. But if he’s forced to miss a bunch of time, it could be another long season for Clippers fans.
The Dallas Mavericks got their first real taste of postseason success during the Luka Doncic era last season. They beat the Utah Jazz and the Phoenix Suns before eventually succumbing to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Western Conference Finals.
It isn’t going to be easy for the Mavs to make their way back to the NBA Western Conference Finals again, but we wouldn’t bet against Doncic.
Los Angeles Lakers
After missing the NBA playoffs altogether last season, the Los Angeles Lakers are on a mission this year. They’ve tinkered with their lineup in an attempt to get back into the thick of things in the NBA Western Conference by adding Lonnie Walker IV, Patrick Beverley, and Dennis Schroder.
Unfortunately, the Lakers are always going to be one LeBron James and/or Anthony Davis injury away from their season slipping away from them. But they should be way better this season than they were last year.
The Minnesota Timberwolves mortgaged the future of their franchise this summer in an effort to keep up with the rest of the teams in the NBA Western Conference. They sent a handful of players and four first-round draft picks to the Utah Jazz in exchange for Rudy Gobert.
It remains to be seen how Gobert will fit in with Karl-Anthony Towns. But if nothing else, the T’Wolves are showing their fans that they’re not afraid to go for it.
New Orleans Pelicans
As long as Zion Williamson isn’t sidelined with another injury to start the 2022-23 season, New Orleans Pelicans fans will be thrilled. They’ve had to endure one Zion injury after another in recent years.
As of right now, it looks like his return is inevitable. It also appears as though the Pelicans could have a sneaky good team with Zion in the lineup. He’ll join Brandon Ingram and C.J. McCollum on the floor.
Portland Trail Blazers
It’s not 100% clear which path the Portland Trail Blazers are on right now. On the one hand, they signed Damian Lillard to a massive extension this summer to keep him around until at least 2027. On the other, they haven’t done a great job of surrounding him with talent.
Lillard will always be the main attraction in Portland, giving people a reason to watch Trail Blazers games. But that might not translate to team success for the Trail Blazers this season.
The Sacramento Kings haven’t been to the NBA playoffs since the first Apple iPhone came out. It’s been a decade and a half now since the Kings sniffed any postseason success.
Could that change this season? Maybe! De’Aaron Fox, Domantas Sabonis, and rookie Keegan Murray should, at the very least, give Kings fans some hope. But don’t expect to see the Kings shoot up the NBA Western Conference standings.
It’s going to be a while before the Houston Rockets are able to start making the NBA playoffs every season again like they did when James Harden was on the team. But they’ve got some young players, like Jalen Green and rookie Jabari Smith Jr., who will be fun to watch if nothing else.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Rookie Chet Holmgren was probably not going to be able to lead the Oklahoma City Thunder to the NBA playoffs this season. But he was expected to inject some life back into a franchise that has been a bottom-dweller for a few seasons now.
The No. 2 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft hurt his foot this summer, though, and had to undergo season-ending surgery, so he’ll no longer be in the mix. It’s going to result in OKC finishing near the bottom of the NBA Western Conference for another year.
The good news is that the Utah Jazz got a boatload of players and draft picks by trading Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell this summer. But the bad news is that Jazz fans will now need to sit patiently as their team goes through a lengthy rebuilding process.
San Antonio Spurs
The only NBA Western Conference team that might be looking at a longer rebuild than the Utah Jazz right now is the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs were already slipping last season — and this season, they’ll be playing without Dejounte Murray, who they traded to the Atlanta Hawks over the summer.
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