While the Golden States Warriors will once again be favourites to win the NBA Western Conference, LeBron James' arrival with the Los Angeles Lakers suggests a new champion could be on the horizon.
That new champion may not emerge this season as James is surrounded by young players along with several journeymen, but if the four-time MVP can get a player like Kawhi Leonard to join him next season, there could be a power shift coming in the West.
That being said, until a team proves it can beat the Warriors, this is Golden State's conference.
We take a look at the Western Conference in 2018-19.
Team rising: Los Angeles Lakers
With the addition of LeBron, Los Angeles are projected by bookmakers to win 13 more games than they did last season (48.5). While that may be a little bit optimistic considering the depth of the West, the Lakers are bound to get much better simply with the addition of 'The King'.
Team falling: Minnesota Timberwolves
After acquiring former Chicago Bulls guard Jimmy Butler during the offseason in 2017, the Timberwolves went from 14th in the West with 31 wins to eighth with 47. Now Butler wants out, and until Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins prove they can lead this team to greener pastures, it would be far too optimistic to say they will win more than 40 games. Minnesota was 10-13 without Butler in their line-up last season.
Under-the-radar team: Dallas Mavericks
The Mavericks may not make the playoffs, but with the addition of DeAndre Jordan, a second year for Dennis Smith Jr., a stud rookie in Luka Doncic and added talent around Harrison Barnes, it is not unrealistic to say Dallas, 24-58 in 2017-18, could win another 10 games this season and possibly even more than that.
Under-the-radar player: New Orleans Pelicans G Jrue Holiday
The New Orleans guard had a coming-out party of sorts in the first round of the playoffs, when the Pelicans swept the Portland Trail Blazers. Holiday averaged 23.9 points, 6.3 assists and 5.7 rebounds in the postseason and 19 points per game in the regular season. He dominated Portland's backcourt defensively and he may now have the attention to earn a second All-Star selection.
Northwest: Oklahoma City Thunder
OKC struggled all last season to incorporate Carmelo Anthony into their offense and it cost the team wins throughout the season. Now it is the Russell Westbrook and Paul George show and with an entire season focusing on that, the Thunder should win the Northwest.
Pacific: Golden State Warriors
This is perhaps the most clear-cut division in the NBA.
Southwest: Houston Rockets
Houston lost two big defensive pieces in Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute, but their biggest threat in the division, the Pelicans, lost DeMarcus Cousins, a huge reason for New Orleans' success against the Rockets. Add that to a division with the Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies and a recently injury-riddled San Antonio Spurs team, and Houston should win the Southwest again.
1. Golden State Warriors
2. Houston Rockets
3. Los Angeles Lakers
4. New Orleans Pelicans
5. Oklahoma City Thunder
6. Utah Jazz
7. Portland Trail Blazers
8. Denver Nuggets
Conference champions: Golden State Warriors
Golden State are the four-time defending champions in the Western Conference and the two-time reigning NBA champions, and they added one of the best centers in the game in Cousins. They also lost virtually nothing from their core.
The Warriors still have Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala. They lost JaVale McGee and Nick Young, and are still trying to figure out Patrick McCaw's contract, but Quinn Cook, Jordan Bell and Kevon Looney all got valuable postseason experience last season. And Shaun Livingston is back too.
This team is stacked and might be even better than they were last year.
24 de enero 2019
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|De Jong: I spoke to PSG and City before signing for Barca|
|Guardiola wants finals habit at Man City|
|Lakers star LeBron won´t face Timberwolves|
|Valverde doesn´t regret resting Messi despite Barcelona loss|
|In my heart and in my prayers - Ben Yedder pays tribute to missing Sala|
|Real Madrid reclaim world´s highest-earning club title from Manchester United|
|Messi absence no excuse for Barcelona loss, says Suarez|
|Humble Higuain excited by Sarri reunion|
|He must not come and cry after – Goncalves unapologetic over Neymar injury|
|Serie A record-breaker under Sarri - the Opta numbers behind new Chelsea striker Higuain|
|PSG boss Tuchel ´worried´ after Neymar sent to hospital with another foot injury|
|Coles commits to New Zealand and Hurricanes until 2021|
23 de enero 2019
|Guardiola praises City mentality on ´dangerous´ Burton pitch|
|England won ´attritional´ battle, says Anderson after latest landmark|
|AEK, Brose Bamberg secure last-16 spots|
|Sevilla 2 Barcelona 0: Resting Messi backfires for Copa del Rey holders|
|Sarri: Chelsea players agree with me on motivation comments|
|Morata asked to leave Chelsea a month ago, says Sarri|
|Paris Saint-Germain 2 Strasbourg 0: Neymar suffers injury scare in Coupe victory|
|Anderson´s four-wicket haul rocks Windies|
|Burton Albion 0 Manchester City 1 (0-10 agg): Holders coast through to clinch Wembley return|
|PSG´s Neymar hobbles off in Coupe de France clash|
|De Ligt bored of Ajax departure rumours|
|Piatek completes AC Milan move after Higuain exit|
|Super Bowl LIII: Rams RBs v Patriots RBs|
|Chelsea seal Higuain loan|
|Ismaily kicked out of CAF Champions League after fans throw stones, bottles|
|England star Itoje pens new Saracens deal|
|Palace keeper Hennessey charged over Instagram post|
|Chelsea warn supporters over anti-Semitic chanting ahead of Tottenham EFL Cup tie|
|Joshua primed to make call on next opponent|
|Super Bowl LIII: Brady v Goff|
|Sala search suspended as Cardiff chairman confirms club wanted different travel arrangements|
|Cruyff, Koeman, Kluivert - De Jong following pantheon of Dutch Barca greats|
|Sarfraz apologises for comments picked up by stump mic|
|Djokovic: Pouille deserves top-10 spot|
|Hazard must be more demanding if he wants to leave Chelsea, says Ballack|
|Celtics´ Kyrie Irving to sit out Cavs game with flu-like symptoms|
|Barcelona seal €86m De Jong deal|
|Vietnam v Japan: Moriyasu happy to keep doing just enough|
|Hendricks, De Kock and Steyn join up with Proteas squad|
|Lorenzo excited for ´new level´ at Repsol Honda|
|Fernando replaces injured Pradeep in Sri Lanka squad|
|China v Iran: Queiroz wants to exorcise 2015 quarter-final|
|Balotelli joins Marseille until the end of the season|
|Emery gives Monchi ringing endorsement amid Arsenal sporting director links|
|Larry Fitzgerald returning to Cardinals on one-year deal|
|Watson absence ´an opportunity´ for Scotland hopefuls, says Townsend|
|Pochettino open to new signings but Janssen to remain a Spurs outcast|
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|Pochettino will not judge Sarri for criticising Chelsea players|
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|Solari praises Marcelo amid exit rumours|