NBA 2012/13: Western Conference preview

Dwight Howard will boost the Lakers this season
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The much anticipated 2012-13 NBA season is finally upon us. Nick Shiambouros assesses the teams in the Western Conference and explains who he thinks will be in contention this year...

Oklahoma City Thunder [5.4]
The Thunder were comprehensively beaten 4-1 by Miami in last year’s NBA Finals, but they remain the team to beat in the west.

Los Angeles Lakers [4.3]
The new-look Lakers have plenty to look forward to this season. After months of procrastination, Dwight Howard finally made the move to
Tinseltown from Orlando. There's no doubt that he is the best center in the game and he will be a major force inside the painted area.
Veteran point-guard Steve Nash made the move from Phoenix and is a welcome addition to the lineup. He has outstanding court vision and
should provide plenty of easy scoring opportunities for Kobe Bryant. The Lakers have the squad to make a big run for the championship, provided that they come together as a team.

Oklahoma City Thunder [5.4]
The Thunder were comprehensively beaten 4-1 by Miami in last year's NBA Finals, but they remain the team to beat in the west. This young rotation played some outstanding basketball last season but came up short against a stellar Miami team. Few changes were made during the off-season, which is good news for Oklahoma City. Kevin Durant and company are bound to make a bold bid for the title. I think the price on offer is more than fair.

San Antonio Spurs [22.0]
Veteran center Tim Duncan returns with a three-year contract under his belt. At 36-years-old, Duncan will finish his career in San
Antonio. He would dearly love to win another title before he retires, but I think it is a tall order. This is a team with plenty of experience, but it lacks an explosive guard who can score heavily.

Los Angeles Clippers [27.0]
Blake Griffin and Chris Paul are the backbone of this talented rotation. The Clippers should have a decent year. They signed Lamar
Odum from Dallas during the off-season, which should give them another dimension at power forward. The Clippers have underachieved for the past 20 years, but this rotation should make plenty of noise. All the pressure will be on coach Vinny Del Negro to deliver.

Denver Nuggets [60.0]
The Nuggets are fun to watch but have yet to really break through in the west. They will almost certainly make the playoffs but lack the consistency to win overall. Point-guard Ty Lawson is the most talented player in the rotation.

Memphis Grizzlies [80.0]
The Grizzlies upset San Antonio in the opening round of the playoffs last year. This was by no means a fluke, and Zach Randolph and company should have another productive year.

Minnesota Timberwolves [140.00]
Power forward Kevin Love is the cornerstone of this improving team. The Timberwolves are hoping to make the post-season, at the very
least. Point-guard Ricky Rubio is back from injury, along with Brandon Roy, who has come out of retirement to play in the Twin Cities.

Dallas Mavericks [150.00]
Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion are the only two starters to return. Point-guard Darren Collison was signed during the summer and will need a little time to adjust to his new surroundings. I think the Mavs will really struggle this season.

New Orleans Hornets [190.00]
The one bright light in New Orleans is rookie Anthony Davis, who is a huge talent. He is a star in the making and well worth the price of admission.

Golden State Warriors [210.00]
Coach Mark Jackson will be under close scrutiny this year. He needs to have a winning year, at the very least, to keep his job.

Utah Jazz [250.00]
This one is tough to fancy at any price.

Sacramento Kings [330.00]
Another losing year is on the cards, despite the presence of Tyreke Evans.

Phoenix Suns [420.00]
The Suns will struggle as a result of the departure of Steve Nash to the Lakers.

Portland Trailblazers [570.00]
This is a team in rebuilding mode.

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