NBA team-by-team guide: Western Conference

Jay Asser 20:56 28/10/2014
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Mr. Consistency: Tim Duncan will be playing in his 18th straight NBA season for San Antonio Spurs.

With the new NBA season upon us we have the lowdown on each and every team aiming to compete for honours in the Western Conference.

From the key ins and outs over the course of the summer to our predictions for this year's NBA, we have you covered.

Dallas Mavericks

Coach: Rick Carlisle

2013 record: 49-33
Star man: Dirk Nowitzki
Young player to watch: Al-Faroq Aminu
Key Ins: Tyson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Chandler Parsons, Al-Faroq Aminu, Richard Jefferson, Jameer Nelson, Charlie Villanueva
Key Outs: Vince Carter, Shawn Marion, DeJuan Blair, Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert, Shane Larkin
Strengths: Efficient offence.
Weaknesses: Paint presence.
Verdict: As long as Dirk is around, they'll have a chance in the playoffs.

Houston Rockets

Coach: Kevin McHale
2013 record: 54-28
Star man: James Harden
Young player to watch: Donatas Motiejunas
Key Ins: Clint Capela, Ish Smith, Trevor Ariza, Jason Terry
Key Outs: Omri Casspi, Chandler Parsons, Jordan Hamilton, Omer Asik, Jeremy Lin
Strengths: Elite, fast-paced offence.
Weaknesses: Isolation heavy and reliant on Harden’s playmaking.
Verdict: They'll likely take a small step back after losing key players in the offseason, but still playoff bound. 

Memphis Grizzlies

Coach: David Joerger
2013 record: 50-32
Star man: Marc Gasol
Young player to watch: Jordan Adams
Key Ins: Vince Carter, Jordan Adams
Key Outs: Mike MIller, Ed Davis
Strengths: Grind out games with defence and built around duo of Gasol and Zach Randolph.
Weaknesses: Lack of outside shooting has been their bugaboo.
Verdict: Always underrated and their defence can dictate games and frustrate opponents, making them a threat.

New Orleans Pelicans

Coach: Monty Williams
2013 record: 34-48
Star man: Anthony Davis
Young player to watch: Austin Rivers
Key Ins: Jimmer Fredette, John Salmons, Omer Asik, Russ Smith, Patric Young
Key Outs: Al-Faroq Aminu, Anthony Morrow, Jason Smith, Greg Stiemsma
Strengths: Plenty of offensive talent.
Weaknesses: Team defence was off last year but should improve.
Verdict: If Davis can make another jump and the team can stay healthy, they have a chance to surprise. 

San Antonio Spurs

Coach: Gregg Popovich
2013 record: 62-20
Star man: Tony Parker
Young player to watch: Kyle Anderson
Key Ins: Kyle Anderson
Key Outs: NA
Strengths: Team continuity, coaching and machine-like offence.
Weaknesses: Age and eventual decline.
Verdict: They don't have the same motivation as they did last year but that won't slow down their veteran core. Popovich will have them ready to defend the title and the road for the West goes through them. 

Denver Nuggets

Coach: Brian Shaw
2013 record: 36-46
Star man: Ty Lawson
Young player to watch: Gary Harris
Key Ins: Nikola Jokic, Jusuf Nurkic, Gary Harris, Arron Afflalo
Key Outs: Aaron Brooks, Evan Fournier, Anthony Randolph
Strengths: Fast-paced offence and wing depth.
Weaknesses: Perimeter defence is always suspect.
Verdict: Their core needs to stay healthy, but they have the talent to get back in the playoffs and be a tough out. 

Minnesota Timberwolves

Coach: Flip Saunders
2013 record: 40-42
Star man: Nikola Pekovic
Young player to watch: Andrew Wiggins
Key Ins: Mo Williams, Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, Thaddeus Young
Key Outs: Kevin Love, Luc Mhah A Moute, Alexey Shved 
Strengths: Uber athletic, young players who can run the floor.
Weaknesses: Love's departure leaves a massive hole.
Verdict: Mediocre enough to miss the playoffs and not land a top pick.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Coach: Scott Brooks
2013 record: 59-23
Star man: Kevin Durant
Young player to watch: Reggie Jackson
Key Ins: Anthony Morrow, Mitch McGary, Sebastian Telfair
Key Outs: Caron Butler, Thabo Sefolosha, Derek Fisher
Strengths: Trio of Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka.
Weaknesses: Top heavy and reliant on their stars, especially on offence.
Verdict: Durant's early absence will slow them down but they'll be in the mix at the end as always. 

Portland Trail Blazers

Coach: Terry Stotts
2013 record: 54-28
Star man: LaMarcusAldridge
Young player to watch: CJ McCollum
Key Ins: Steve Blake, Chris Kaman
Key Outs: Mo Williams
Strengths: Elite offence and outside shooting.
Weaknesses: Lack of depth on the bench.
Verdict: They're starting five is up there with any team in the league, but they're in a crowded conference and will have a hard time repeating last year's success.

Utah Jazz 

Coach: Quin Snyder
2013 record: 25-57
Star man: Gordon Hayward
Young player to watch: Dante Exum
Key Ins: Trevor Booker, Dante Exum, Rodney Hood, Steve Novak
Key Outs: Brandon Rush, Marvin Williams, Richard Jefferson
Strengths: Young talent throughout roster.
Weaknesses: Had one of the worst defences last year.
Verdict: Another season of playing the blues for the Jazz, but it's all about improving. 

Golden State Warriors

Coach: Steve Kerr
2013 record: 51-31
Star man: Stephen Curry
Young player to watch: Harrison Barnes
Key Ins: Leandro Barbosa, Shaun Livingston, Brandon Rush
Key Outs: Steve Blake
Strengths: Boasts one of the best backcourts in the league.
Weaknesses: Need more from their bench.
Verdict: Curry can win games all by himself, but Klay Thompson's development will be key to their ceiling and if they can make the next step. 

Sacramento Kings

Coach: Michael Malone
2013 record: 28-54
Star man: DeMarcus Cousins
Young player to watch: Nik Stauskas
Key Ins: Omri Casspi, Darren Collison, Ryan Hollins, Ramon Sessions, Nik Stauskas
Key Outs: Travis Outlaw, Isaiah Thomas
Strengths: Crash the boards for rebounds.
Weaknesses: Lack of overall cohesion.
Verdict: This isn’t the season where they climb out of the bottom.

Phoenix Suns

Coach: Jeff Hornacek
2013 record: 48-34
Star man: Goran Dragic
Young player to watch: TJ Warren
Key Ins: Isaiah Thomas, Anthony Tolliver, TJ Warren, Tyler Ennis, Bogdan Bogdanovic
Key Outs: Channing Frye
Strengths: Dragic-Eric Bledsoe backcourt is electric.
Weaknesses: Rebounding is a concern.
Verdict: Won’t fly under the radar anymore and need continued growth from Bledsoe to reach playoffs.

Los Angeles Lakers

Coach: Byron Scott
2013 record: 27-55
Star man: Kobe Bryant
Young player to watch: Julius Randle
Key Ins: Carlos Boozer, Ed Davis, Jeremy Lin, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson
Key Outs: Kent Bazemore, Jordan Farmar, Pau Gasol, Chris Kaman, Jodie Meeks, Kendall Marshall
Strengths: Scoring should improve with Kobe back.
Weaknesses: Defence will have a hard time stopping opponents.
Verdict: Kobe can’t vault this team to anything more than below average.

Los Angeles Clippers

Coach: Doc Rivers
2013 record: 57-25
Star man: Chris Paul
Young player to watch: CJ Wilcox
Key Ins: Chris Douglas-Roberts,Jordan Farmar, Spencer Hawes, Ekpe Udoh, CJ Wilcox 
Key Outs: Darren Collison, Danny Granger, Ray Hollins, Jared Dudley
Strengths: Deadly offence led by league's top point guard in Paul.
Weaknesses: Wing position remains thin.
Verdict: Will be one of the final teams left in the West. 

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