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Clippings: The state of the Western Conference

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How have the rest of the West’s contenders attacked the offseason?

Los Angeles Clippers v Dallas Mavericks - Game Six Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The offseason barely began in earnest last week, and already, 89 percent of the available roster spots in the league have been filled. The remaining 11 percent will inevitably tilt the balance of the NBA in a different direction, but even so, we still have a good idea of where each team stands heading into the 2020-21 season.

Given the rapid pace of change across the league over the last seven days, here is the week in review for each Western Conference contender to get up to date and to see how the Clippers stack up with each of them. We’ll go in order of the standings from the 2019-20 season.

Los Angeles Lakers: The Lakers still have LeBron James and are expected to retain Anthony Davis (easily the most impactful of that 11 percent mentioned earlier), making them a title contender no matter what else happens. They swapped out Rajon Rondo and Danny Green for Dennis Schröder and Wesley Matthews Jr. They also exchanged their center rotation of Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee for Marc Gasol and former Clipper Montrezl Harrell. Their team got a little younger but a little less battle-tested.

LA Clippers: Everything you need to know is here! We’ll go more in depth on the team’s additions on the site this week.

Denver Nuggets: Last year’s Western Conference finalists lost Jerami Grant to the Pistons in free agency but replaced him with another former Clipper in JaMychal Green. They also bid farewell to Torrey Craig but added R.J Hampton in the draft, a young prospect who has a wild range of outcomes. On balance, it appears the Nuggets got worse, but they should expect internal improvement from Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, who are 25 and 23, respectively.

Houston Rockets: The Rockets still have James Harden and Russell Westbrook despite rumors that one or both of the former MVPs could be on their way out. They lost Robert Covington, a key piece of their switch-everything defense, and could be going more conventional by nabbing one of the best young centers on the market in Christian Wood. They’ll welcome back David Nwaba from an achilles injury and just signed Sterling Brown for guard depth. The potential remains for this entire situation to blow up, but for now, Houston still has a good collection of talent to be a second-tier contender in this conference.

Oklahoma City: Last year, the Thunder went into asset-collection mode when it became clear their two stars weren’t enough to lead the team to a title. Now, they’re full-on tanking and somehow extracting first-round picks out of every team in the league. This playoff spot will open up in the 2019-20 season.

Utah Jazz: The Jazz are basically running it back with the team that lost in seven to Denver in the first round last year, except they’ll have a healthy Bojan Bogdanovic and they brought back former Jazzman Derrick Favors as a backup center and sometimes power forward. Utah has also extended Donovan Mitchell for another five years beyond this one, keeping one of the brightest stars in the game — and a perennial thorn in the Clippers’ side — in Salt Lake City for the foreseeable future.

Dallas Mavericks: The Mavericks exchanged some of their offensive firepower for defensive toughness by trading Seth Curry for Josh Richardson, uniting Doc Rivers with his son-in-law in Philadelphia in the process. They should still have an epic offense after scoring points at a higher rate than any NBA history last year, especially with Luka Doncic poised to build off his breakout playoff performance, but now they might have a prayer of stopping their opponents. Trey Burke is also back after dazzling in the bubble, and Dallas took a flier on Wes Iwundu as another wing stopper. Their main issue is that Kristaps Porzingis will miss the start of the season while recovering from a knee injury that cost him half of the first-round series against the Clippers. Willie Cauley-Stein will eat up center minutes in his place until he comes back. If Porzingis is healthy, this team can be a contender. It all comes down to his knees.

Portland Trail Blazers: The Blazers also added a bit of defensive integrity to their flammable offense, picking up Covington as a starting forward. Derrick Jones Jr. is also on his way to Portland from Miami as another potential stopper. The Blazers additionally picked up some backup center depth in Enes Kanter and Harry Giles. It was a thorough offseason for Portland, and it should vault the team into the top half of the West playoff bracket, or at least the top six.

Phoenix Suns: The Suns made the first big splash of the offseason, picking up Chris Paul in a trade with OKC. They sacrificed some depth, but the Point God should be able to bring Phoenix back to the postseason for the first time since 2010. If Devin Booker improves off his first All-Star season and Deandre Ayton continues to progress in year three, this is a team that could win a playoff series. The Suns took two games from the Clippers last season, and they’re flying high after an exciting run in the bubble.

Golden State Warriors: The Warriors were poised to rejoin the ranks of the NBA elite after a one-year hiatus, but Klay Thompson’s injury likely put the kibosh on those hopes. Stephen Curry + Draymond Green may very well make a playoff team, and Kent Bazemore, Brad Wannamaker, and Kelly Oubre Jr. are perfectly serviceable rotation players, but this group is no longer a contender. If Curry can regain his pre-injury form, this is still a team that will be able to light it up on occasion. They just don’t have enough to compete for the ultimate prize.

Which team in the West do you think improved the most? Who will be the Clippers’ biggest challenger to win the conference? Let us know in the comments.

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