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2017-2018 NBA Western Conference Preview

The 72nd NBA season tips off tonight with a prime time doubleheader on TNT featuring four teams with some of the league’s most captivating storylines.

In the opener, Boston will visit Cleveland as 2017 All-Stars Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving make their Celtics debut and 2010-11 MVP Derrick Rose and 12-time All-Star Dwyane Wade play their first game with the Cavaliers.

In the second game, defending champion Golden State will receive its championship rings before facing Houston in nine-time All-Star Chris Pauls first regular-season appearance with the Rockets. 

In case you need a quick preview of what to look out for around the league, here’s our breakdown of what’s new, different and worth paying attention to for each team. You can check our Eastern Conference preview here.

PACIFIC DIVISION

Golden State Warriors – If Kevin Durant does not succumb to injury that forces him to miss the playoffs, the Warriors will win their third title in four years. Yes, we’re looking at a dynasty folks. 

Is there any other squad that can match their synergy when Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year and NBA steals leader, are operating at their optimal efficiency and ball-swinging best? The answer is a resounding no, no matter who made what moves this offseason to compete with them. 

Kevin Durant 2017 Finals MVP FULL SERIES HIGHLIGHTS

Kevin Durant dominated across five games in NBA Finals 2017, leading the Golden State Warriors over the Cleveland Cavaliers with the second-highest point total in a five-game Finals series in NBA History…after only Allen Iverson. Which players owned the night? Catch up on all the top individual performances around the league in the Top Performers series.

For all of the Jordan-riders getting their sphincters tight about LeBron being mentioned as having a chance to go down as the GOAT, perhaps the better question is will Golden State usurp the Bulls as the most vicious basketball machine in the modern age. The Warriors have won an NBA-record 207 regular-season games over the last three seasons, surpassing the previous mark of 203 victories set by Chicago from 1995-96 to 1997-98.

If you’ve watched them play over that span, there really isn’t much to say but enjoy the ride. As good as Cleveland, San Antonio, Houston and OKC will be this year, the Warriors are in a league of their own.

Los Angeles Lakers –  DAngelo Russell, Nick Young and Timofey Mozgov are gone, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was signed as a free agent and the draft yielded an outstanding return in Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart.

The Lakers will be fun to watch, but if you’ve been watching the Ball Or Nothing Reality series, that will probably be more entertaining, from a wins vs losses perspective, than anything that goes down in the Staples Center this year.

Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma Leads Rookies In NBA Preseason Debuts

Kyle Kuzma’s 19 points and Lonzo Ball’s 8 assists for the Los Angeles Lakers paced the way for the rookies in action on the first day of the 2017 NBA Preseason. Meanwhile, Jordan Bell shined for the Golden State Warriors, while new names like Thomas Bryant and Antonio Cleveland each had highlight-reel plays in their first NBA action.

With such a talented and young nucleus that includes Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram, along with the veteran presence of Brook Lopez in the paint, the Lakers have a promising foundation to build upon. Lopez, the Nets all-time leading scorer, led Brooklyn with 134 three-pointers last season after making a total of three in his first eight seasons combined. Go figure.

Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. off the bench are energetic contributors and second-year big man Ivica Zubac has shown some flashes as well.

Head coach Luke Walton, GM Rob Pelinka and President of Basketball Operations will use this year to build a new culture and create an environment that will entice top-tier free agents to join the franchise next summer.

The squad will produce some fun highlights, but things will be more ugly than pretty this year. The one reason to make sure you watch the Lakers every chance you get is to see if Lonzo Ball can cash those checks against the best point guards in the world that his daddy has been writing for the better part of a year.

Los Angeles Clippers – The Chris Paul era is over and the Blake Griffin era has now begun. Danilo Gallinari has come over from the Nuggets to play alongside Griffin and DeAndre Jordan on a very talented and experienced frontline. 

Jordan has averaged at least 13 rebounds a game for four consecutive years and has led the NBA in field goal percentage for five consecutive seasons, matching a league record also shared by Wilt Chamberlain (1964-65 through 1968-69) and Shaquille ONeal (1997-98 through 2001-02). 

Griffin, who averaged 21.6 points, 8.1 boards and 4.9 dimes per game, is a marvel when healthy and Gallinari, who averaged 18.2 points and 5.2 rebounds, will be an undeniable and certifiable force to be reckoned with.

Blake Griffin Full Highlights 2017.02.26 vs Hornets – 43 Pts, 10 Rebs, 5 Ast, CLUTCH!

Take your ball handling to the next level with the BALL HOG GLOVES – http://tiny.cc/DawkGloves –Become a monster. THE WORLD’S MOST ELITE JUMP PROGRAM, TRY LIMITED EDITION: http://goo.gl/BhhT9J –Like And Subscribe For More! Follow me on Twitter – https://twitter.com/DawkinsMTA Boxscore – DISCLAIMER – All clips property of the NBA.

Paul’s loss cannot be overstated, but Patrick Beverly’s toughness and rookie Milos Teodosic’s exceptional vision and passing will hold the Clippers down rather well at the point guard position. They’ll probably fill Paul’s shoes better than Austin Rivers will fill JJ Redick’s in the starting lineup.  

Jamal Crawford’s instant offense is gone, but Lou Williams is a gunner who should fill the role admirably. The Clippers are not a threat to the Warriors, but they’ll be very good playoff team once again.

Sacramento Kings – If you haven’t seen them in a while, you won’t recognize this version of the Kings.They added three first round picks in rookies DeAaron Fox, Justin Jackson and Harry Giles, got a steal in the send round with solid floor general Frank Mason III, imported the impactful shooting of Bogdan Bogdanovic from Europe and added a microwaveable veteran present with the free agent acquisitions of George Hill, Zach Randolph and Vince Carter.

De’Aaron Fox 16 Points in Preseason Debut

The Kings rookie point guard goes for 16 points on 7-of-8 from the field in his preseason debut with the Kings.

Carters first season with the Kings is his 20th in the NBA. Carter and Dallas Dirk Nowitzki are joining Robert Parish (21), Kevin Willis (21), Kevin Garnett (21), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (20) and Kobe Bryant (20) as the only players to play at least 20 NBA seasons.

While Malcom Brogdon, Joel Embiid and Dario Saric got all of the headlines in the race to the wire for Rookie of the Year, Sacramento’s Buddy Hield and Skal Labissiere were among the league’s top rookies of the second half of last season.  

Giles will be out until at least January in an effort to make sure that his knees are healthy before taking the court in an NBA game. He tore both of his ACL’ s in high school and had another procedure on his left knee that kept him out of the first 11 games of his freshman season at Duke. Before his second ACL injury, which occurred in the first game of his senior season at Oak Hill Academy in Virginia, multiple NBA executives had him at No. 1 on their draft boards. 

Training Camp Day 7 – Zach Randolph

Kings forward Zach Randolph speaks with media following Day 7 of Kings Training Camp.

The reliable and steady Hill should be an excellent mentor to the mercurial Fox, who some experts believe is a better overall point guard prospect than the more hyped Lonzo Ball.

The Kings will be fun to watch as they build towards something bigger down the road.

Phoenix Suns – This year will be all about developing their young prospects. Devin Booker has gone from being the sixth man on a loaded Kentucky roster in college to being a reasonable facsimile of Klay Thompson and Steph Curry when it comes to scoring the rock from the perimeter. He put up a 70-point scoring game last year and is considered by many, in a league that values perimeter scoring, spacing and ball movement, to be one of the world’s top players under the age of 21.

At only 20 years old, there’s no better young shooter in the league today. How good is he? When the Cavs approached the Suns about trading him straight up for Kyrie Irving, Phoenix said, “Aw hell to the naw!” Booker has scored more points before his 21st birthday (2,774) than all but three players in NBA history: LeBron James (4,649), Kevin Durant (3,495) and Carmelo Anthony (3,283). That’s some pretty select company.

DEVIN BOOKER SCORES 70 POINTS YOUNGEST IN NBA HISTORY! | March 24, 2017

The Suns’ Devin Booker scored a franchise-record and NBA season-high 70 points as the Celtics defeated the Suns 130-120. Booker’s 70 points is the most ever against the Celtics, breaking Elgin Baylor’s previous record of 64 points (11/8/1959). Booker also is the youngest player to ever score 60+ points in a game.

Lottery pick Josh Jackson has been compared to a young Scottie Pippen due to his fluidity in transition and ready-made defensive game. His athleticism and hops, and how well he moves without the ball on both ends of the floor, especially in chasing down blocked shots will earn him immediate minutes. He’ll have to improve his faulty jump shot moving forward, but his potential is through the roof. 

The Suns won’t make the playoffs, but they’ll be fun to watch. Eric Bledsoe averaged 21.1 points, 4.8 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game, and he’s one of the better combo guards around.He’s averaged at least 20 points and six assists two seasons in a row.

Tyson Chandler is still getting it down on the glass, despite the fact that he’s 157 years old. Keep your eyes on second-year forward Marquese Chriss. His dynamic athleticism and ability to run the floor should bode well for more minutes. I also love what the diminutive wonder Tyler Ulis brings to the table as a facilitator and floor general.

NORTHWEST DIVISION

Oklahoma City Thunder – Russell Westbrook’s remarkable Triple-Double season was even more incredible in that he almost led the depleted Thunder to a 50-win campaign last year. But his one-man show wasn’t built for a sustained playoff run and OKC bowed out of the postseason in the first round. This season, he’ll have much more help with the new additions of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, who instantly make the Thunder a title contender. 

Anthony is entering the twilight of what has been a fantastic individual career. But team success in the postseason has eluded him during both of his prior stops with the Nuggets and the Knicks. For people that doubt his ability to thrive as a second or third option, they obviously never paid attention to his all-around brilliance while playing for Team USA in the Olympics.

Best Of Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony & Paul George From The 2017 NBA Preseason

Check out the best plays from Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, and Paul George from the 2017 preseason! Subscribe to the NBA: http://bit.ly/2rCglzY For news, stories, highlights and more, go to our official website at http://www.nba.com Get NBA LEAGUE PASS: http://www.nba.com/leaguepass

George is a supreme talent on both sides of the ball, Melo can spontaneously combust at any moment and Russell Westbrook is the most explosive point guard the league has ever seen. Andre Roberson is a very good defender, but his offensive game leaves a lot to be desired. On this team, he won’t need to score, though, and Steven Adams in the post is as rugged as they come.

OKC will be better than they were last year, but as good as Paul George and Melo are, they ain’t no Kevin Durant. They’ll provide a stiff challenge to any and everyone during the regular season, but their lack of a bench could prove to be their undoing in the playoffs.

Minnesota Timberwolves – If you’re looking for something new and sexy about the NBA that doesn’t include the usual suspects, the Timberwolves are where it’s at.

The franchise has not been this primed to enjoy a sustained level of success in the future since the days of Kevin Garnett. They have two, young, emerging talents that should be cornerstones for years to come in Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns if they don’t fall prey to the Shaq-Kobe, Shaq-Penny and LeBron-Kyrie disease of “I wanna be the man!

Karl-Anthony Towns’ Best Plays of the Year

After Karl-Anthony Towns became the first player with 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 100 3’s in one season, here are his best plays of the 2016-17 season!

Last season, Towns averaged 25.1 points and 12.3 rebounds per game, becoming the first player to average at least 25.0 points and 12.0 rebounds in his second season since Shaq did it when he averaged 29.3 points and 13.2 boards in 1993-94. That’s some Shaqnificent stuff right there.

One of the biggest offseason surprises was Jimmy Butler, a rugged offensive and defensive talent in his prime, being traded to the Wolves by the Chicago Bulls. Ricky Rubio, Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn have moved on, but the team improved tremendously. 

Tom Thibodeau is one of the best defensive coaches and with Butler aboard to set the tone for Wiggins and Towns, Minnesota has stepped up their game significantly. Gorgui Dieng and Jeff Teague are very solid complements in the starting unit, and Jamal Crawford, Shabazz Muhammad and Taj Gibson give them some good help off the bench. 

Andrew Wiggins’ Top 10 Plays of the 2016-2017 NBA Season

Check out the high flying, Andrew Wiggins, as we count down his top 10 plays from this past season! Subscribe to the NBA: http://bit.ly/2rCglzY For news, stories, highlights and more, go to our official website at http://www.nba.com Get NBA LEAGUE PASS: http://www.nba.com/leaguepass

The Wolves haven’t won a playoff game since 2004 and they advanced beyond the first round only once in team history. That changes this year.

Utah Jazz – The Jazz won 51 games last year, had a solid playoff run and were one of the league’s most fun teams to watch if you value defense and ball movement. Gordon Hayward has taken his talents to Boston, but fans in Utah should not despair. Losing Hayward hurt, but they still have one of the most remarkable talents in the league as their anchor in center Rudy Gobert.

Utah has improved from 25 to 38 to 40 to 51 victories in the last four seasons, making the Jazz one of five teams in NBA history to record a win total in the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and 50’s in four consecutive seasons. 

Rudy Gobert’s Best of the 2016-2017 Regular Season

Rudy Gobert was a force to be reckoned with in the paint on both ends of the court, averaging 14 points, 12.8 boards and 2.6 blocks for the playoffs-bound Jazz. Enjoy his best highlights from the regular season!

Rudy Gobert was a force to be reckoned with in the paint on both ends of the court, averaging 14 points, 12.8 boards and 2.6 blocks for the playoffs-bound Jazz. Enjoy his best highlights from the regular season!

One of the new faces will be Ricky Rubio running the point. He’ll never be a prolific scorer, but that’s not what his game is about. Rubio is not only an exceptional passer, he owns a great set of quick hands that wreak havoc on defense. And wait til you see the delightful lobs he throws in Gobert’s direction. 

Looking for a dark horse Rookie of the Year candidate? Look no further than Donovan Mitchell, who turned heads in the NBA Summer League. Despite the loss of Hayward, there’s still plenty of talent with Joe Johnson, Rodney Hood, Dante Exum and Derrick Favors.

Portland Trail Blazers – The Blazers, after getting off to a putrid start, finished the season strong with  13-3 run over the final 16 games, enabling them to qualify for a playoff spot in the ultra-competitive West. They perpetually boast one of the league’s best backcourts in Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. The two combined, with Lillard scoring 27 and McCollum pouring in 23, to average 50.0 points per game last year, the most by two Portland teammates in franchise history.

Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum Combine for 75 in Game 1

CJ McCollum dropped a career-high of 41 points and Damian Lillard scored 34 points for the Blazers against the Warriors in Game 1 of the Western Conference Playoffs.

CJ McCollum dropped a career-high of 41 points and Damian Lillard scored 34 points for the Blazers against the Warriors in Game 1 of the Western Conference Playoffs.

Noah Vonleh grabbed 19 rebounds in one game last year and the team is depending on his improvement, along with a big contribution from center Jusuf Nurkic, who altered the team’s trajectory last year with the 15.2 points and 10.4 rebounds he averaged in the 20 games he played for them. If Maurice Harkless can develop some consistency, the Blazers should do more than just fight for the conference’s last playoff spot.

Denver Nuggets – The Nuggets haven’t played a playoff game in almost five years. But that could now change with the emergence of gifted center Nikola Jokic and the addition of Paul Millsap. Jokic could quite honestly be the best center in the NBA today when you factor in his scoring and elite passing ability. If not, he’s a very close second to Karl-Anthony Towns.

With Jokic on the floor as a starter, the Nuggets scored nearly 118.0 points per 100 possessions, far beyond Golden States league leading numbers.

Nikola Jokic Career High 40 Points Full Highlights (2/10/2017)

Nikola Jokic walked back to the visitor’s locker room with his teammates. All his teammates except one: in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter, Jusuf Nurkic had claimed he felt ill and had run down the tunnel.

Point guard Emmanuel Mudiay came into the league with plenty of hype, but the returns thus far have been underwhelming.

Gary Harris flies under the radar, but he can ball. The same can be said for veteran Wilson Chandler. Kenneth Faried remains a ferocious rebounder, Will Barton is on the cusp of stardom as one of the league’s best sixth men and Jamal Murray can flat-out shoot the rock. 

The Nuggets are trending up and should end the franchise’s recent postseason drought.

SOUTHWEST DIVISION

San Antonio Spurs – Lost in the Warriors championship run last year was the fact that they were down to a 61-win Spurs team by 23 points in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals before the otherworldly Kawhi Leonard went down with a severe ankle injury.

San Antonio has been to the playoffs in 20 straight years and they’re also in the midst of a remarkable run of 18 straight seasons of winning 50 or more games. 

Kawhi Leonard BEST PLAY from EVERY GAME | 2016-2017 San Antonio Spurs

Kawhi Leonard took his game to another level this past season, averaging 25.5 points , 5.8 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game. Check out the BEST PLAY from EVERY GAME from The Claw!!!

No other player on an elite squad carries a bigger burden on both ends of the floor than Leonard, and he’ll need LaMarcus Aldridge to elevate his game in lieu of Tony Parker still recuperating from quadriceps surgery.

One of the offseason’s underrated moves was the acquisition of Rudy Gay, who averaged 18.7 points, 6.3 boards and 2.8 assists per game last year with Sacramento. Ever since Tim Duncan retired, people have been waiting for the wheels to fall off. But with Gregg Popovich, the best coach in the NBA, at the helm, the Spurs continue to be an elite team with a shot at a title every year.

Houston Rockets – On paper, the Rockets have the best shot of upending Golden State out west. After winning 55 games in a year that saw James Harden, who is first player ever (EVER!!!) to average 29 points, 11 assists, eight rebounds to become widely recognized as one of the best guards of this generation, Houston upped the ante by adding Chris Paul. 

CP3, who is still the best floor general and pure facilitator in the league, adds a mid-range dimension that head coach Mike D’Antoni’s fast-paced offense lacked.

Best Of Chris Paul & James Harden From The 2017 NBA Preseason

Check out the best plays from Chris Paul and James Harden from the 2017 preseason! Subscribe to the NBA: http://bit.ly/2rCglzY For news, stories, highlights and more, go to our official website at http://www.nba.com Get NBA LEAGUE PASS: http://www.nba.com/leaguepass

With the Paul signing, most didn’t pay any attention to the defensive upgrades they made in adding P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah A Moute to the roster. Clint Capela, Trevor Ariza, Eric Gordon, Nene and Ryan Anderson are outstanding role players and key contributors. 

With Paul and Harden forming the NBA’s most lethal backcourt, depth and a system that lends itself to giving Golden State a run, the Rockets have a shot to make the Finals.

Memphis Grizzlies – Rugged vets Zach Randolph and Tony Allen  are no longer in Memphis, and the franchise is now moving towards a faster paced offensive attack.

Mike Conley, who averaged 20.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 6.3 assists, is one of the best and most underappreciated point guards around and Marc Gasol is legit. Other than that, question marks abound. 

Mike Conley Full Highlights 2017 WCR1 Game 4 vs Spurs – 35 Pts, 8 Assists, CLUTCH!

Take your ball handling to the next level with the BALL HOG GLOVES – http://tiny.cc/DawkGloves –Become a monster. THE WORLD’S MOST ELITE JUMP PROGRAM, TRY LIMITED EDITION: http://goo.gl/BhhT9J –Like And Subscribe For More! Follow me on Twitter – https://twitter.com/DawkinsMTA Boxscore – http://www.espn.com/nba/boxscore?gameId=400950397 DISCLAIMER – All clips property of the NBA.

Keep an eye on the development of rookie forward Ivan Rabb as the season progresses. the Grizzlies will take a step back this year in order to move forward in the future.

New Orleans Pelicans – Rumors abound that DeMarcus Cousins will soon be traded to the Cavaliers. So the entire complexion of this summary could change if that comes to fruition. For now, we’ll assume that Boogie stays in New Orleans. He came into training camp in the best shape of his career thus far, and his pairing with fellow former Kentucky stud Anthony Davis remains one of the NBA’s most intriguing.

Speaking of former UK Wildcats, Rajon Rondo is also in New Orleans now to help out at point guard. While his attitude has always been in question, his skills, vision and intelligence have never been a concern. Rondo is on his fifth team in four years, and must take this chance to salvage his standing of someone worth investing in.

Anthony Davis & DeMarcus Cousins Full Highlights 2017.10.08 At Bulls – 59 Pts, 24 Rebs Combined!

Take your ball handling to the next level with the BALL HOG GLOVES – http://tiny.cc/DawkGloves –Like And Subscribe For More! Follow me on Twitter – https://twitter.com/DawkinsMTA Boxscore – http://www.espn.com/nba/boxscore?gameId=400978769 DISCLAIMER – All clips property of the NBA. No copyright infringement is intended, all videos are edited to follow the “Free Use” guideline of YouTube.

Casual fans might not recognize it, but Jrue Holiday is a stone-cold baller. Tony Allen will add some grit and determination on the defensive end, Ian Clark brings his championship experience over from his tenure in Golden State and ETwaun Moore is better than most people think. 

If the Twin Towers combo of Cousins and Davis, perhaps the most physically gifted big man in the league, New Orleans might have a few surprises up their sleeve this year.

Dallas Mavericks – This year will be the Dirk Nowitzki appreciation tour. The German wonder is winding up his remarkable 20-year career, but other than that and seeing if point guard Dennis Smith Jr. can win Rookie of the Year honors, there won’t be much to see in Dallas this year.

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In Honor Of Dirk Nowitzki joining the illustrious 30,000 Point club check out the Top 50 Plays of his legendary career.

The Mavs are in a definite rebuild, but Dirk, Harrison Barnes, Nerlens Noel, Wesley Matthews and Seth Curry will try to hold things together until Cuban can spread some cash around during next year’s free agency frenzy.

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