Every year, there are questions about the NBA’s Western Conference, mainly about who plays where because there inevitably are new addresses for a lot of players.
After a rapid-fire, condensed offseason, the player movement has been harder than ever to keep track of.
But we’re here to help. In this infostory, we’ll take a quick look at the comings and goings of the offseason and what they might mean to the 15 teams in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.
And by the way, one thing that there is no question about is just how tough life will be in the West. The rule that if you stand still, you’ll get stampeded by teams passing you has never been truer.
“The Western Conference may be the toughest it’s ever been this year,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “You look at who Minnesota has added, You look at Golden State getting Steph Curry back and adding pieces. You just go right down the list. Lakers have added more weapons. Clippers have added more weapons. Phoenix now has Chris Paul.
“So a lot of very difficult games, night in and night out. The challenge will be a big one and we got to attack it step by step. Big challenges are solved in small steps. And it’s going to start with defense and how we play together.”
Only the next five-to-seven months will determine just how ready the Mavericks are to keep pace or make steps up the ladder in the West.
In the meantime, here’s the key additions and subtractions to look for this season. For the sake of neutrality, we’ll go alphabetically.
Who’s new: G Josh Richardson, C James Johnson, G Josh Green, G Wes Iwundu, Tyrell Terry.
Who’s gone: G Seth Curry, G Delon Wright, F Justin Jackson, G J.J. Barea.
Impact: The Mavericks made a pledge to get better defensively, as they hope to move up from the No. 7 seed they occupied in last season’s playoffs. To that end, they brought in some staunch defensive players in Richardson and Johnson. They also hope the rookie Green, No. 18 overall in the draft, can be a contributor in his first season. But they also sacrificed a great shooter in Curry, a versatile contributor in Wright and the locker-room greatness of Barea.
Who’s new: F JaMychal Green, G Facundo Campazzo, G R.J. Hampton, C Isaiah Hartenstein.
Who’s gone: F Torrey Craig, F Jerami Grant, C Mason Plumlee.
Impact: The Nuggets were in the West finals last season as Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic became one of the best one-two punches in the league. They brought in Campazzo as a 29-year-old rookie from Argentina. He’s a nifty ballhandler at only 5-11. They are hoping Green, Hartenstein and the rookie Hampton can make up for the loss of Grant, who was really solid for them last season, and Craig. Gradual progression is key for the Nuggets.
Who’s new: F Kelly Oubre, G Brad Wanamaker, G Kent Bazemore, C James Wiseman.
Who’s gone: C Dragan Bender.
Impact: Two of their key acquisitions were done late last season – Andrew Wiggins and Marquese Chriss. They came when D’Angelo Russell and others were jettisoned before the trade deadline. The Warriors won’t be the same with Klay Thompson (Achilles) likely to miss all of this season after missing all of last season because of knee surgery. The Warriors are learning how fragile success is, but any team with Steph Curry is going to be a threat to make the playoffs.
Who’s new: F Christian Wood, G John Wall, C DeMarcus Cousins, G Sterling Brown, coach Stephen Silas.
Who’s gone: G Russell Westbrook, F Robert Covington, G Austin Rivers, C Isaiah Hartenstein, coach Mike D’Antoni.
Impact: Nobody made splashier moves in the offseason. The question is whether Wall can stay healthy at some point and how big of a stride Wood can make. And, of course, the elephant in the room is James Harden and what the Rockets ultimately elect to do with him. They have a new, first-time head coach in Silas and nobody really knows what to expect from this team. But there’s enough talent on board to be a playoff contender.
Who’s new: C-F Serge Ibaka, F Patrick Patterson, G-F Nic Batum, G Luke Kennard, coach Tyronn Lue.
Who’s gone: F Montrezl Harrell, G Landry Shamet, coach Doc Rivers.
Impact: Ibaka seems to go on forever and Patterson on paper seems to be a good fit for this squad. We don’t know what kind of impact the hiring of Lue will have, but with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, that’s a pretty decent starting point for a new coach. Harrell became a fixture for them last season and he will be missed, but this team remains loaded with talent, if they can build the necessary chemistry. Leonard remains perhaps the most dangerous two-way player in the league.
Who’s new: G Dennis Schroder, G Wesley Matthews, F-C Montrezl Harrell, C Marc Gasol.
Who’s gone: G Avery Bradley, G Danny Green, C Dwight Howard, G Rajon Rondo, C JaVale McGee.
Impact: When you win the NBA title, it’s harder to improve than it is for a garden-variety team. But the Lakers appear to have gotten a lot better with the acquisitions of Schroder and Harrell. And Matthews should get plenty of open looks from 3-point range, which makes him a great fit. And who wouldn’t like to see Gasol join brother Pau as Gasols that have won a ring with the Lakers? OK, nobody outside LA would want that, but it would still be a cool story.
Who’s new: G Desmond Bane.
Who’s gone: F Josh Jackson.
Impact: The Grizzlies did most of their maneuvering before the trade deadline last season when they got Justise Winslow and Gorgui Dieng in the trade that shipped out Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder. They are building through the draft around Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. They also have talented young players in Brandon Clarke and Dillon Brooks, plus a wily vet in Jonas Valanciunas. Their time may come down the road, but it’s a tough climb in the Western Conference.
Who’s new: G Ricky Rubio, G Anthony Edwards, F Ed Davis.
Who’s gone: Noah Vonleh, Andrew Wiggins, Gorgui Dieng.
Impact: Wiggins and Dieng were dealt away before the trade deadline, but they were fixtures in Minnesota. Now it’s D’Angelo Russell and Rubio, who proves that everything old is new again since he played his first six NBA seasons with the Wolves. They have made the playoffs just once since 2004 and it’s going to be difficult to do so this season as the new talent tries to build some traction. Doesn’t hurt having Karl-Anthony Towns to build around, but meshing everything else will be challenging.
Who’s new: C Steven Adams, G Eric Bledsoe,
Who’s gone: G Jrue Holiday, C Derrick Favors, G E’Twaun Moore, C Jahlil Okafor.
Impact: The Pelicans have amassed lots of talent, most of it young, and collected a passel of draft picks in the Holiday trade. They are set up nicely for the future and their present might not be too bad. Zion Williams had a solid rookie season after he healed up from injury. He and Adams are physical beasts that are going to pose many challenges for defenders. Clearly a rising team, even in the ultra-difficult West.
Who’s new: C Al Horford, F Justin Jackson, G George Hill, F Kenrich Williams, G Theo Maledon.
Who’s gone: F Danilo Gallinari, C Steven Adams, Dennis Schroder, Chris Paul.
Impact: This franchise is starting over after methodically dismantling the Kevin Durant-Russell Westbrook-James Harden era. They have a slew of draft picks in the next several seasons and that will be the foundation for their future. For now, guys like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Loguentz Dort and Darius Bazley are going to have to get them through what could be a lean year. Hill and Horford will give them some veteran toughness to keep young players focused.
Who’s new: G Chris Paul, G-F E’Twaun Moore, F Jae Crowder.
Who’s gone: C Aron Baynes, C Frank Kaminsky, F Kelly Oubre, G Ricky Rubio.
Impact: They swapped out Paul for Rubio and added to solid potential starters in Crowder and Moore. This is a team that has not yet become the sum of its parts. Devin Booker is a big-time scorer and Deandre Ayton has been tantalizing with his talent level. But the pair has not been able to blossom as a feared duo. That’s why Paul was brought in, to get this franchise over the playoff hump and he’s been able to do that pretty much everywhere he’s ever been. Actually, not pretty much. Everywhere.
Who’s new: F Robert Covington, C Harry Giles, F Derrick Jones, C Enes Kanter.
Who’s gone: C Hassan Whiteside, F Trevor Ariza, F Kent Bazemore.
Impact: With one of the most dynamic backcourts in the league with Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, the Blazers fortified their big men, bringing back Kanter after a year in Boston and adding a promising big man in Giles, plus a couple of rock-tough forwards in Covington and Jones. The Blazers are only a year removed from having made the NBA finals in 2019. This is a team that seems poised to make a major step forward from missing the playoffs last season.
Who’s new: C Hassan Whiteside, F Frank Kaminsky, G Tyrese Haliburton.
Who’s gone: F Bogdan Bogdanovic, C Harry Giles, C Alex Len, G Yogi Ferrell.
Impact: The Kings have been up-and-coming for too long now. It’s time for them to become ready-and-able. They need players like De’Aaron Fox, Marvin Bagley and Buddy Hield to take the next step in their careers. It would help if they could hit on Haliburton, who was the 12th pick in the draft. Whiteside, if he stays healthy, should be an asset. The Kings have missed the playoffs for 14 consecutive seasons. Luke Walton is the ninth coach for them since Rick Adelman made the postseason in 2006.
Who’s new: G Devin Vassell.
Who’s gone: G Bryn Forbes, G Marco Bellineli,
Impact: They had 21 years of winning records and playoff appearances snapped last season. They weren’t in the mood to make sweeping changes, so they added a rookie guard out of Florida State who’s name rhymes with another Seminoles product (bonus points if you get it). The Spurs appear to be biding their time for a run at the big free agent class of 2021, when they have a zillion dollars to spend. And with LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMar DeRozan and Dejounte Murray, they aren’t totally devoid of weapons this season.
Who’s new: F-C Derrick Favors, C Udoka Azubuike.
Who’s gone: C Ed Davis, F Jeff Green, C Tony Bradley.
Impact: The Jazz have reached a plateau in some respects with Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell. But it’s not a bad plateau to be on. They have reached the playoffs four years in a row, although they have been first-round casualties the past two seasons. Bringing back Favors, who had his most productive seasons with the Jazz before going to New Orleans last year, should help. And with the big rookie Azubuike, the Jazz have the potential to go really, really big.