This NBA offseason has been one for the books, as some of the league's best players have moved to new destinations, and supporting cast members have filled in the blanks in record numbers. Essentially, the 2019-20 season will look completely different than years past. The Western Conference has been the main side to feel the effects of this offseason, and end-of-season playoff seeding will definitely reflect that. Here's a look at what the West could look like at the beginning of the 2020 NBA Playoffs.
NOTE: The Portland Trail Blazers are not here. At some point, the magic of high-volume scoring without a dominant center has to evaporate, Nassir Little did very little to distinguish himself at UNC, and besides, someone always shocks us by struggling each and every season. Expect the CJ McCollum rumors to ramp up by January.
1. Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers have had one of the busiest and most productive offseasons this year. After a period of trade negotiations that can be traced back to before the beginning of the 2019 NBA Playoffs, the Lakers were finally able to acquire superstar Anthony Davis. After Davis, their focus went to Kawhi Leonard, who decided to take his talents to the other side of LA. After the free agency loss, the Lakers were able to pick up a team full of successful and respected role players to fill in around LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Kyle Kuzma. Some of these names include DeMarcus Cousins, Quinn Cook, Danny Green, Jared Dudley, and Avery Bradley. With the addition of Davis and crew to complete the roster alongside James and Kuzma, there's no question that the Lakers will find their way to the top of next season's Western Conference playoff seeding after missing the mark altogether last season. While the Clippers prepare for the postseason and manage Kawhi's load, the Lakers will likely go full bore, giving them a better shot at accruing wins in the regular season.
2. Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers just barely made the cut last season, but are sure to be much more comfortable this time around with the additions of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Kawhi shocked the world by taking his talents to this side of LA, and shocked us even more by bringing along fellow superstar George from OKC. These two are added to a roster with guys like Patrick Beverley, Montrezl Harrell and Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams. Not only will the Clippers be dangerous on offense, but they will be lethal on defense. It's obvious that this cast full of low-ego, team-first, elite players led by Doc Rivers is a definitely a title-contending team next season.
3. Houston Rockets
The gang is back together in Houston! The Rockets suffered from dysfunction between their two top players, James Harden and Chris Paul, last season and went into free agency with the knowledge that Paul wanted out. Well, he got his wish and they seemed to get something great in return. By trading Chris Paul to the Thunder, along with a few future first-round picks, the Rockets were able to obtain Harden's former OKC teammate Russell Westbrook. With Westbrook in place of Paul, there are some obvious questions about on-court chemistry between two score-first, MVP-level players. But if the dynamic works, we will be looking at probably the highest-scoring combo in the league next season. The Rockets also add veteran big man Tyson Chandler to the roster for next season for a quality backup to Clint Capela.
4. Denver Nuggets
The Denver Nuggets are what can be described as heavily slept on. While the focus was on superstar-heavy teams, the Nuggets slipped all the way up to the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference standings. This offseason has been no different. In an underrated move, they added forward Jerami Grant to the roster after a season of double-digit scoring for the Thunder. They are also preparing to bring 2018 No. 14 overall pick Michael Porter Jr. into the rotation after a season of recovering from back injuries. These guys will be joining the impressive duo of an improving Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic, who led the Nuggets to the Western Conference Semis. With the new additions, Denver stays in strong standing in the West.
5. Golden State Warriors
Golden State has taken the biggest hits in the league this offseason, hands down. Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson go down with devastating injuries in the NBA Finals, Durant takes sign-and-trade deal to Brooklyn, and Andre Iguodala is traded to free up cap space for Durant's sign-and-trade, and now we're here. What keeps them in the Western Conference playoffs after all of the losses is the elite play of Steph Curry, the constant intensity from Draymond Green, and the addition of D'Angelo Russell, who will fill in the scoring gap until Klay Thompson's return (presuming he isn't traded). They've also added big man Willie Cauley-Stein to add post-production on both ends of the court. Coupled with head coach Steve Kerr's innate coaching and winning ability, the Warriors should sneak into the playoffs once more, though they won't be atop the West barring a miracle.
6. Utah Jazz
The Jazz finished the regular season in the middle of the pack last year, and their offseason moves will keep them there. Donovan Mitchell will no longer be carrying the load of offensive production by himself with the addition of Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic. The scoring outpuit will definitely rise, but what makes Utah strong contenders is that they can be equally dangerous on defense. Two-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert will be in charge of the defensive stability of the team, putting them in a strong position coming into this season. These additions to the roster add a great deal of talent as well as depth, allowing Utah to stay steady if anything changes within the starting the lineup. We're not quite as bullish on them as a few other outlets, though.
7. Dallas Mavericks
The Dallas Mavericks did not make the cut last season, but could definitely slip in the top eight by the beginning of the Western Conference playoffs. Despite the retirement of future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavericks are looking at the start of a bright future that includes Rookie of the Year Luka Doncic and rising star Kristaps Porzingis. The Mavs were also able to sign 7-3 center Boban Marjanovic, giving them the two tallest players in the league and a strong inside presence. But with almost $30 million available in cap space, the Mavs were unable to secure a higher-level star. Instead, they acquired respected backups Seth Curry and Delon Wright, who will add an element of depth to the roster's guard position. It may be a close one, but the young talent can can definitely allow the Mavs to slip in at the back end of playoff seeding.
8. New Orleans Pelicans
New Orleans is definitely one of the youngest teams in the league, but they also rank among the highest in talent and potential. With the departure of Anthony Davis to the Lakers, the Pelicans were able to acquire rising stars Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram, along with role player Josh Hart. The Pelicans were also able to secure the No. 1 overall pick of this year's draft with Zion Williamson, who has definite superstar potential and will be played up as the franchise player in New Orleans. They are also excited about rookies Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Jaxson Hayes, who earned All-NBA Summer League first and second-team honors. Big man Derrick Favors and knock-down shooter JJ Redick were also added to the roster, giving the Pelicans added production and veteran experience. There's no question that this New Orleans team is young, but their talent level gives them a strong chance of making it into the Western Conference Playoffs as one of the lower seeds.