Can Kevin Durant and the Thunder take down Kobe Bryant and the Lakers?
NBA Primetime’s Brandon Ribak breaks down the 2010 NBA Power Rankings into two parts. This article focuses on the top eight teams that will make the playoffs out of the Western Conference.
For a look at the top eight teams that will make the playoffs out of the Eastern Conference, please click here.
Western Conference Power Rankings
1. Los Angeles Lakers - Regular Season Record 57-25, .695 PCT
The back-to-back champions signed defender Matt Barnes this offseason, in addition to their new starting point-guard Steve Blake. Blake is a solid overall player that will fill in well at the one-spot for LA. With the East emerging as the new West, expect the Lakers to win well over 50 games and fulfill the one seed yet again.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder - Regular Season Record 51-31, .622 PCT
The Thunder have surely come a long way from their inaugural 23-win season back in 2008-09. With Kevin Durant rising as the league's most dominant scorer, Oklahoma City has become one of the biggest threats in the NBA. And with teammates such as Russell Westbrook, Jeff Green, and James Harden surrounding KD, you can expect big things from this young and upcoming squad this season.
3. Dallas Mavericks - Regular Season Record 50-32, .610 PCT
The Mavs head into the upcoming season looking indestructible, that is, on paper. The Mavs acquired Tyson Chandler from the Bobcats, amping their roster to a league best four seven-footers. The Mavericks definitely have the talent to bring home a title; the only question is whether or not they have the championship mentality to actually win one.
4. Denver Nuggets - Regular Season Record 48-34, .585 PCT
With head coach George Karl back in action, the Nuggets core still intact, and the signing of Al Harrington this offseason, Denver will have an opportunity to once again pull off an upset during the postseason. If the team's big men can remain healthy for the playoffs, this is one team not to be reckoned with.
5. Portland Trail Blazers - Regular Season Record 48-34, .585 PCT
Portland fired General Manager Kevin Pritchard and signed Wesley Matthews this offseason. With Greg Oden reportedly on track to return for the start of the 2010-11 season and the rest of the roster healthy, the Blazers certainly have the ability to make a strong push for a top seed in the West. After a disappointing season last year, Portland can really start to turn things around during the upcoming season.
6. Utah Jazz - Regular Season Record 47-35, .573 PCT
While Utah lost one of their core pieces in Carlos Boozer, they definitely made up for it when they acquired Al Jefferson from the Minnesota Timberwolves this offseason. With Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson teaming up in the frontcourt and Mehmet Okur coming off the bench, the Jazz, led by point-guard Deron Williams, have a great chance to dominate in the West (especially with Raja Bell defending every team's best player).
7. San Antonio Spurs - Regular Season Record 45-37, .550 PCT
The Spurs re-signed Richard Jefferson and signed Tiago Splitter this offseason. Splitter is a superb talent who has great potential to excel in the NBA, but the Spurs' biggest focus is on Mr. Duncan. How much gas is left in this guy's tank? Last season, Duncan posted career lows in MPG, PPG, and RPG. It hurts to say that, at the age of 34, Mr. Nice Guy could be on the verge of a major decline, putting the Spurs in big trouble.
8. Houston Rockets - Regular Season Record 43-39, .525. PCT
The Rockets have a good chance to make the playoffs this season as long as Yao is on the court. With last season's Most Improved Player Aaron Brooks leading the way for Houston and the support of Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, and Brad Miller, the squad should be back on track to contending for a playoff seed this year.