NBA Preview: Western Conference

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The Golden State Warriors will be aiming for a three-peat of NBA Championships. 

By PARTH SONECHA

The NBA’s western conference is already shaping to be a tight battle for spots in the playoffs.

While the Warriors look to have built one of the greatest teams ever assembled, the rest of the conference looks wide open.

How many all-stars do the Warriors actually need?

The Warriors are possibly the best iteration of a modern NBA team.

They have arguably the best shooting  duo ever of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson to go along with the unguardable Kevin Durant and one of the best defensive players in the league, Draymond Green.

However, after being just one Chris Paul injury away from missing the finals altogether, they decided they needed another all-star.

The Warriors added DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins who, before tearing his ACL, was arguably the best centre in the league.

Now, he plays for a team that can afford to give him time with his comeback and then optimize his production even more.

In New Orleans, Cousins could do everything from run the ball to jack up threes at a respectable rate.

Even if he’s only 70 per cent of the player he was there after his injury, how scary does that make the Warriors?

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Letting Trevor Ariza go was a mistake. 

The Rockets try to solve the Melo conundrum

After falling agonisingly short of winning the west, most expected the Rockets to pay all their free agents except for Luc Mbah a Moute.

The Cameroonian’s shoulder problems meant Houston had one less weapon in its arsenal to throw at the team from the Bay area in what was the most thrilling series of the playoffs.

However, bringing in Carmelo Anthony instead of re-signing its free agents might have seen the side take a step back.

 Letting Trevor Ariza go was a mistake.

The former Laker can guard positions one through four while holding his own on offence.

Melo’s defence might not even be as good as Ryan Anderson’s, who the Rockets traded away to get Marquese Chriss, while his tendencies to shoot low efficiency mid-rangers might come back to bite the rockets.

They have signed James Ennis and Michael Carter-Williams, both of whom should be excellent defenders, but Ennis has always flourished in a low minutes role while Carter-Williams simply cannot shoot.

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Getting ready for the season. LeBron James and Justin Bieber at New York fashion week last month. 

Will LeBron make the Lakers great again?

The best player in the NBA joins the most storied franchise in hopes of restoring its past glories.

It almost sounds too Hollywood, even for the Lakers. Unfortunately, this is where the free agency good news ended for Laker nation.

Their other free agency signings have only brought out more answers than questions.

Paying $9 million to Rajon Rondo to be second-choice point guard seems like a massive overpay, while Lance Stephenson is an eccentric playmaker who might only show up once in 10 games.

Malik Beasley does possess strong shooting power, however sometimes falls short on defence.

JaVale McGee’s signing is even more questionable, considering he can neither shoot threes nor be relied on as a post scorer.

The Lakers have bet on their young core taking leaps in their development while putting together a starting five that might be too cramped for everyone.

LeBron might have a running mate if Brandon Ingram improves on last year, however ultimately it looks like the Lakers are destined for yet another mediocre season.

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Jimmy Butler’s desire to move on has been the talk of the NBA in recent weeks. 

No more buckets from Jimmy in Minnesota

Tom Thibodeau, Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, Luol Deng and Derrick Rose all together in the same team.

Wait, doesn’t that sound like something that has been done before?

The Timberwolves tried their best to be the 2015-16 Bulls but that plan might have failed. 

Jimmy Butler wants out.

Reported tension between Jimmy and Karl Anthony Towns has to led the former Bull training on his own during preseason. Without Butler, this Minnesota team is unlikely to make the playoffs again.

As seen towards the end of last season when the 29-year-old missed time with injury, the Wolves are just another mediocre team.

Sure, they have Towns who is a legitimate offensive, but he has nowhere close to the impact on defence that Butler does.

While the hierarchy pulled the plug on a Jimmy to Miami trade, they hope that the 203cm small forward reconsiders his decision.

However, with Butler in the last year of his contract, the Wolves will only lose more leverage as the season begins.

Stuck between a rock and hard place, Minnesota must make a tough decision because it’s clear Jimmy “Buckets” has had enough.

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Luka Doncic is a once-in-a-decade player. 

The wild west is getting even wilder.

The west was wild last season.

Portland overachieved last season with many expecting them to just squeeze into the playoffs.

However, a strong regular season saw them clench the third seed placing.

The Pelicans lost  Boogie halfway through the season but managed to get in the playoffs and then sweep the Blazers in the first round on the back of Anthony Davis’s MVP Play.

The Jazz were led offensively by rookie Donovan Mitchell, but still managed to finish with home court advantage and win in the first round against the Thunder.

The Spurs traded Kawhi Leonard, a player who no longer wanted to play for them for all-star DeMar DeRozan

The Mavericks finally got their man when they signed DeAndre Jordan and then followed it up by drafting a one-in-a-decade player in Luka Doncic.

The Nuggets should have Paul Millsap for the entirety of the season and somehow managed to get Isaiah Thomas.

Oklahoma City became better by adding Dennis Schroeder to their point guard depth and by sending Carmelo Anthony to the Rockets.

But the off season recruit that stole all the headlines was LeBron James’ move to the Lakers. 

This season’s race to the playoffs is going to be epic. Teams will fall apart and rivalries will be made as the wild west gets even wilder.