Jerry Zgoda's Western Conference preview

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 25, 2011 - 1:25 PM

Blake Griffin and the Clippers figure to be a major factor this season.

Photo: Chris Young, Associated Press - Ap

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1 OKLAHOMA CITY Compared to changes elsewhere, this team is a pillar of stability. Biggest questions about youthful Thunder are Russell Westbrook's mindset and maturity.

2 L.A. CLIPPERS WHAT? A CP3-Blake Griffin duo counters the Thunder's Durant-Westbrook combo, and their Chauncey Billups pickup for a mere $2M will prove invaluable.

3 DALLAS Mark Cuban cobbled pretty good by adding Lamar Odom and Vince Carter, but Mavs will miss Tyson Chandler.

4 MEMPHIS Rudy Gay returns healthy and the Grizzlies keep getting better. They'll miss Shane Battier in the playoffs.

5 L.A. LAKERS Let's put it this way: Phil Jackson always has known when to get out. Give me a rewrite, though, if the Lakers swing a deal for Dwight Howard.

6 PORTLAND No Brandon Roy, but they still love L.A. (LaMarcus Aldridge) and a deep, long, athletic team in Rip City.

7 DENVER Late signings of Nene and Arron Afflalo save the season in which half of Nuggets' roster seems to be in China.

8 SAN ANTONIO Youth movement begins out of necessity in this condensed, grueling season. Duncan, Ginobili, Parker ... someone's going to break down.

9 TIMBERWOLVES How can you add the draft's No. 2 pick, a real pass-first point guard and a proven coach to last year's disaster and NOT get significantly better?

10 GOLDEN STATE Mark Jackson has moved from the TV mic to the coach's bench, but these Warriors largely are the same after failing to land Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan.

11 SACRAMENTO Tyreke Evans-DeMarcus Cousins pairing in time can be great; for now new black unis are better. "Can't scare nobody with purple," DC says.

12 HOUSTON Samuel Dalembert isn't quite the star big man Rockets sought for new coach Kevin McHale after chasing both Gasols and Nene.

13 UTAH Rock-solid franchise for so long, Jazz now is starting over. And Derrick Favors ain't a bad place to start.

14 PHOENIX It's time for the Suns to do the right thing and rebuild by trading Steve Nash away.

15 NEW ORLEANS David Stern won't win NBA Executive of the Year this time around, not yet anyway.

 

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