The Western Conference has had a better cumulative record than the Eastern Conference in 19 of the last 20 seasons, winning 57 percent of inter-conference games during that span. Things like this are supposed to be cyclical, but its hard to see the West not making it 20 of 21 this coming season.
Once again, this conference is deep, with 12 teams that look like they would be sure things to make the playoffs in the East.
It should be noted (for those clamoring for a 1-16 playoff format) that, though the West has had the better overall record, the eighth-place team in the East has had a better record than the ninth-place team in the West in three of the last four seasons (after the ninth-place team in the West had a better record in 11 of the previous 13).
The LA Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers and Utah Jazz all made major upgrades. The Denver Nuggets are returning a young core that won 54 games last season, while the Portland Trail Blazers have the two best players back from a team that went to the conference finals. The Houston Rockets still have James Harden, the San Antonio Spurs still have coach Gregg Popovich, and the New Orleans Pelicans did not go into a full rebuild when they were forced to trade their best player.
The Golden State Warriors lost Kevin Durant and will be without Klay Thompson for at least most of the season. But the five-time (Five Time!) defending Western Conference champs still have the league's most dangerous offensive weapon and (when engaged) its best defender.
Here's how we see the West stacking up with a wild summer of player movement having calmed down.
For these mid-Summer rankings, we're looking at each conference separately. The Eastern Conference rankings were published last week and the "Last Week" rankings below are based on how West teams did in the playoffs and regular season.
- April 8: Warriors remain favorites ... and East remains wide open
- This time last year: James' arrival adds intrigue to Western Conference -- LeBron James joined the Lakers, who surrounded him with some square pegs. The Warriors added DeMarcus Cousins and the Thunder secured Paul George's commitment for at least three more years. Kawhi Leonard was sent to the Eastern Conference and Jimmy Butler had yet to make a big fuss in Minnesota. So the Wolves were ranked way too high and it was hard to see the Kings' improvement coming.
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Pace: Possessions per 48 minutes (League Rank)
OffRtg: Points scored per 100 possessions (League Rank)
DefRtg: Points allowed per 100 possessions (League Rank)
NetRtg: Point differential per 100 possessions (League Rank)
The league averaged 100.7 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 109.7 points scored per 100 possessions this season.
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NBA.com's Power Rankings, released every Monday during the season, are just one man's opinion. If you have an issue with the rankings, or have a question or comment for John Schuhmann, send him an e-mail or contact him via Twitter.
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