Western Conference power rankings
1. Golden State
2015-16: 73-9, 1st (.890 pct.)
Before you hand the Warriors the trophy, remember even the Heat with LeBron James needed two seasons to win the title. Kevin Durant’s arrival makes the Warriors even more lethal but there will be an adjustment finding his place and replacing center Andrew Bogut’s defense.
2. L.A. Clippers
2015-16: 53-29, 4th (.646)
It’s getting near now-or-never time for Doc Rivers’ bunch, which hasn’t advanced past the second round the past five years. Clippers are aging and injury-prone, and Blake Griffin and Chris Paul can become free agents next summer.
2015-16: 44-38, 5th (.537)
The Blazers spent lavishly last summer — they own league’s second-highest payroll ($119.5 million), behind Cleveland — and added players while keeping their own. They could regress after last season’s unexpected rise, but with Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, it’s not likely.
4. San Antonio
2015-16: 67-15, 2nd (.817)
Life goes on without Tim Duncan, for the first time since 1997. Pau Gasol arrives to replace him, at least offensively, and LaMarcus Aldridge should be more comfortable in his second season back in Texas. But the Spurs are Kawhi Leonard’s team now.
5. Oklahoma City
2015-16: 55-27, 3rd (.671)
Russell Westbrook again must (and will) do everything without Kevin Durant, just as he did two seasons ago. The Thunder missed the playoffs then, but won’t now if he stays healthy, not with Victor Oladipo and Steven Adams beside him. But team also will miss Serge Ibaka.
2015-16: 29-53, 13th (.354)
No NBA team has gone longer without making the playoffs since the Wolves, who last made them in 2004. But these don’t look like the Wolves you know; even Ricky Rubio sounds awed by new coach Tom Thibodeau’s defensive concepts and intensity.
2015-16: 41-41, 8th (.500)
New coach Mike D’Antoni’s ideas aren’t as revolutionary as they once were, but still the Rockets – with James Harden now as point guard and shooters Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon arrived from New Orleans – will score and score. They’ll be Must-See TV, as long as you don’t value defense.
2015-16: 40-42, 9th (.488)
The Jazz is the trendy preseason pick to make a leap. Gordon Hayward’s season-starting injury won’t help, but newly added veterans Joe Johnson, Boris Diaw and George Hill will. Promising young guard Dante Exum is back, but the Jazz might go as Rudy Gobert goes.
2015-16: 42-40, 7th (.512)
Underrated Mike Conley finally is getting paid his worth, Marc Gasol is back from foot surgery and Chandler Parsons arrives as a rich free agent. But new coach David Fizdale is getting a team that is as aging and injury-prone as it is talented .
2015-16: 42-40, 6th (.512)
Coach Rick Carlisle is as good as they get and Dirk Nowitzki just keeps going, but can the Mavericks keep up in a West that’s getting younger and better? The Mavs paid Harrison Barnes like a superstar, but will he play like one? They also picked up Bogut from Golden State.
11. New Orleans
2015-16: 30-52, 12th (.366)
Remember when the Pelicans were the NBA’s team of the future and Anthony Davis its next superstar? That was just two seasons ago, but Davis hasn’t played 70 games in any of his four seasons.
2015-16: 33-49, 11th (.402)
It’s a guard’s game now and the Nuggets have collected them by the fistful, including 2016 lottery pick Jamal Murray. How fast they rise will depend upon young point guard Emanuel Mudiay.
2015-16: 23-59, 14th (.280)
With Eric Bledsoe coming back from a season lost to injury, the Suns have the kind of roster disparity between veterans and youth that the Wolves had a couple seasons ago. But make no mistake: Their future is 19-year-old shooter Devin Booker.
2015-16: 33-49, 10th (.402)
Minnesota’s own Dave Joerger got his payday, moving from Memphis’ sideline to Sacramento and a franchise that puts the fun in dysfunctional. Everybody could be on the trading block, including star DeMarcus Cousins if things go south.
15. L.A. Lakers
2015-16: 17-65, 15th (.207)
The Kobe Bryant era is over after 20 years and five titles, creating room for D’Angelo Russell to grow up and play like the second pick from the 2015 draft. Expect Brandon Ingram, another No. 2 overall pick, to be in Rookie of the Year discussions.