The Golden State Warriors are still the overwhelming favorites to win the 2019 NBA championship. If anything, their chances have increased with the addition of DeMarcus Cousins and with Trevor Ariza's departure from Houston.
But LeBron James' arrival in L.A. makes the Western Conference all the more interesting, given how many other West teams are built to win now and some particularly intriguing urgency in places like Denver, Minnesota, New Orleans and Portland.
The biggest question is whether James' arrival makes the Lakers a lock to reach the playoffs. His teams have been no worse than a No. 4 seed in each of the last 13 seasons, but all of those teams were in the East (which has had a losing record vs. the West in 18 of the last 19 years). James isn't getting any younger, and the Lakers' roster isn't an ideal fit given the youth of the pieces that were already there and lack of shooting with the pieces that were added after James made his decision.
Throw in all the personalities involved and the Lakers are the biggest story in the league. But there's intrigue up and down the Western Conference. Here's how we see the West stacking up with this summer's player movement having slowed to a crawl.
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 9: Cavs and Warriors look vulnerable as regular season closes
- This time last year: West makes power moves to increase conference imbalance -- The Rockets, Thunder, Wolves and Nuggets all added stars in the offseason (though OKC had yet to trade for Carmelo Anthony). Blake Griffin re-signed with the Clippers after a free agency pitch that included t-shirts with Griffin as part of a group that included Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela. And we ranked the Spurs a little too high (3) and the Blazers a little too low (17).
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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 99.6 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 106.2 points scored per 100 possessions last 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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