NBA Preview Pt. 2 – Western Conference


Daeshaun Williams, Staff Writer

With the NBA’s first week of games coming to an end, The Stagline is here to finish the NBA preview with pt.2. This time, the Stagline will head to the West and make predictions on who the top 5 teams are in this year’s Western Conference.

5. Dallas Mavericks– The Dallas Mavericks finished 4th in the Western Conference a season ago, but this year the Stagline has the Mavericks dropping down to the 5th seed in the West. The Mavericks lost breakout star Jalen Brunson to the Big Apple in New York, but just as fans started counting the Mavericks out, they made a huge offseason move to acquire forward Christian Wood in a deal with the Houston Rockets (Rockets acquire Wendell Moore, the 26th pick in the NBA draft, Boban Marjanovic, Sterling Brown, Trey Burke, and Marquese Chriss). Luka Doncic did usual Luka Doncic things, averaging 28 points, 8 assists, and 9 rebounds. Luka looks even better this year as he played basketball all summer with Slovenia in the FIBA world Cup this offseason, where he averaged 24 points, 6 assists, and 8 rebounds in  13 games with Slovenia. After Slovenia’s loss to Germany in the qualifiers, Doncic came back to the US looking in shape and focused. He seems poised for an MVP season, like many other players. The Stagline can’t predict Luka’s averages, but we can tell you why the Mavericks will be the 5th seed in the Western Conference this year. The supporting cast around Donic this year is okay at best. Christian Wood is no doubt the best second option that Luka has had, but that’s it; the Mavericks have nothing else. A lot will come down to Spencer Dinwiddie and Tim Hardaway Jr., mostly because Christian Wood isn’t even starting. On opening night the Mavericks lost to the Suns (another team on this list) after leading by 22 points. When the game was on the line, Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd benched Christian Wood, after he put up 15 straight points for the Mavericks. The Mavericks still have work to do, but they can’t rely on Luka to take them to the Finals all by himself, he needs a team around him.

4. Golden State Warriors–  Surprise surprise; the Golden State Warriors are on this list, but you’re probably asking, why are they ranked #4? The Golden State Warriors shocked the world by finishing 3rd in the West and winning the Finals last year. How on earth do you go from Finals to being the 4th best team in the West? That’s complicated. The easy answer (and the one I will stick with) is that the Warriors are too young to win the West. Last year the Warriors had a balanced mix of young players and veteran players. Most of those vets are gone now. GPII (Gary Payton II) signed with Portland this offseason, JTA (Juan Toscano-Anderson) signed with division rivals The Los Angeles Lakers, Damion Lee signed with the Phoenix Suns, Otto Porter, Jr. signed with the Toronto Raptors, and Nemanja Bjelica left the Warriors to play in the Euro league.  The Warriors lost a lot, but gained a lot, too. Forward Jamychal Green adds nice efficiency for the Warriors and played really nice defense on opening night against the Lakers. Donte DiVincenzo, who is coming off of average years in Milwaukee and Sacramento, will add great depth and 3-point shooting (averaging 35% over the last 2 years). The Warriors are poised to make the playoffs and repeat, all they need to do is stay healthy and continue to develop their young core of Jordan Poole, Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody and James Wiseman).

3. Denver Nuggets– Last season the Denver Nuggets finished 6th in the West. That all changes this year because of 2 key players, Jamal Murray and Michael Porter, Jr. Last year Jamal Murray missed the whole 2021-22 season with an ACL injury. This left 2 time MVP Nikola Jokic to fend for himself in the West, though he still put up amazing numbers. Michael Porter, Jr. was just coming into his own before his own injury playing only 9 games that season after dealing with a back injury that would sideline him all year. When healthy, Porter and Murray add so much to the team that can take a load off the shoulders of the 2X MVP. Murray adds scoring, defense, and efficiency.  Porter Jr. adds all of that and more, when he’s healthy.  The biggest thing holding this trio back from topping the West is keeping all 3 on the court. Michael Porter, Jr. has had chronic back issues ever since he came into the league, and Nuggets fans everywhere are just hoping that he plays at least 70 games.

2. Los Angeles Clippers– Last year the Los Angeles Lakers…, oh my bad, wrong LA squad. Let’s start over. The Los Angeles Clippers were disappointing; not by their own fault, though. The season-ending injury to Kawhi Leonard put this team down very early. The team bounced back to make the newly established NBA Play-in Tournament. Obviously Paul George led the way with his play, but George also only played 31 games last year. So who helped this LA team make it to the Play-in?  Reggie Jackson and Ivica Zubac. Both men had the best efficiency on a team that seemed doomed after losing both stars. This year though, hopefully, they won’t have to be the leaders of this year’s Clippers. The Clippers will have both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George back and healthy, but they will also have John Wall, an offseason signing, who adds more playmaking and leadership to, arguably, the most well-rounded team in the NBA this year. So why second in the conference and not first? They’re the Clippers. The Clippers are just the kind of franchise that can never win the big one. Baron Davis and Lob City all failed because the Clippers can’t finish, and injuries. This will be a fun year in LA for the Clippers, but don’t go crowning them the kings of LA yet.

1. Phoenix Suns–  Yeah that’s right, the Suns are back here again. After winning the West back to back years, I thought, “Hey, why not go for the three-peat?” The Suns are an interesting breed of team. They are a rare species that we call the regular season team.  They are a team that can only win in the regular season, but do absolutely nothing in the playoffs. The first year for this Suns squad probably was the best thing that they could’ve possibly hoped for, making the Finals but losing in 6 games to eventual champion Milwaukee Bucks. The Suns struggled in the offseason with drama from Deandre Ayton’s contract issues, though Ayton came into this season ready to work and put the offseason behind him. There are 2 main questions surrounding the Suns this year, Chris Paul’s age (37 now, will turn 38 this year), and the collapse in the playoffs.