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A far too early Western Conference playoff picture

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The Western Conference, as always, is going to be fiercely competitive next season. While the Golden State Warriors are expected to occupy the one spot, there will be a heated battle to finish in the top eight with so many teams in with a chance.

Top three

The Oklahoma City Thunder have lost Kevin Durant and, despite re-signing Russell Westbrook, will struggle to reach the heights they achieved in past years.

The top three is pretty straight forward and should see Golden State, the San Antonio Spurs and L.A. Clippers finish in that order.

It could be L.A.'s last chance to get something out of their 'big three' and a full season with a fit Blake Griffin should see them move into the top three and guarantee home advantage in the first round of playoffs.

Los Angeles Clippers v Portland Trail Blazers - Game Three

4-6

The Portland Trail Blazers can expect another steady improvement next season after C.J. McCollum's breakthrough year, and can even sneak the final home-court advantage in the playoffs, but they will face a lot of competition for that spot.

Having struggled last season, Mike D'Antoni has been tasked with improving the Houston Rockets' fortunes, and a top six finish is about their ceiling. Superstar guard James Harden will carry them through some tight spots. They have added shooters, Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon, while also bringing in Nene and Pablo Prigioni.

Houston Rockets v Golden State Warriors - Game Five

Without Mike Conley and Marc Gasol for extended periods of last season and riddled by injuries throughout the campaign, the Memphis Grizzlies will be a threat in the mid-level playoff picture. They have added Chandler Parsons in free agency and possess another All-Star calibre player in Zach Randolph.

The Utah Jazz have been flirting with a spot in the playoffs for some time and their offseason additions should see them finally make the leap and finish in the top eight. Adding veterans George Hill and Joe Johnson could be the x-factor they needed to compliment the play of Gordon Hayward and Trey Lyles.

Utah Jazz v Dallas Mavericks

7-8

Without Durant, the Thunder will slide somewhat but can still reach the playoffs. Westbrook is tipped to have a MVP season and Victor Oladipo and Steven Adams offer support in the starting five. Their rotation includes the likes of Andre Roberson, Enes Kanter and Cameron Payne and they should have enough.

Oklahoma will face tight competition to squeeze into the final eight from the Mavericks, who have made big changes to their roster. A lot will depend on how Harrison Barnes performs with the ball in his hands but Andrew Bogut is one of the best rim protectors in the league. Dirk Nowitzki always finds a way to pull them through, but it will be tougher this season.

Dallas Mavericks v Oklahoma City Thunder - Game Five

The hype train is well and truly in full motion for the Minnesota Timberwolves, but they need a big leap just be in contention and it may prove too much for them in one year. Coach Thibs brings a new dynamic to the team and Karl-Anthony Towns will continue his development into a future MVP, however, in a stacked Western Conference it may prove too much, only time will tell.

Topics:
San Antonio Spurs
Southwest Division
Western Conference
NBA
Dallas Mavericks
Minnesota Timberwolves
Northwest Division
Houston Rockets
Oklahoma City Thunder
LA Clippers
Pacific Division
Utah Jazz
Portland Trail Blazers
Golden State Warriors
Memphis Grizzlies

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