Nuggets, Blazers Highlight Future of Western Conference

Yama Hazheer@Yama_HazheerCorrespondent IIDecember 20, 2008

The NBA's Western Conference has been great, especially as of late. For any one who thinks that these might be the final years of the success because of players like Tim Duncan or Steve Nash getting older, think again. The conference is stacked with talent and potential.

Here are some teams that you should be turning your attention to in a few years.


Denver Nuggets

Denver has one of the best players from the 2003 draft class, a draft that is considered the best my many. Carmelo Anthony has the potential to go down as one of the greatest scorers to ever play in the NBA. He was playing second fiddle to Allen Iverson, but ever since the Iverson/Billups swap, Anthony has been on a rage now that he is the primary option on offense.

The trade opened an opportunity for J.R. Smith as well. He's averaging 13 points coming off the bench and is now the best shooting guard on the squad. He has deep range from beyond the arc and is a great scorer. Once he starts, the Nuggets will be even better.

Linas Kleiza will be a good player coming off the bench to be the team's sixth man. He too possesses deep range and will spread the floor for Carmelo to go to work.


Golden State Warriors

If Monta Ellis comes back from injury to be as good as he was before, or as he says "even better", the Warriors will be a tough team to beat. They are currently the youngest team in the league with only three players over the age of 25.

Andris Biedrins has played great this season and is a nominee for the most improved player award. He is one of the top rebounders in the league. Once he improves his offensive game and gets stronger, he will be a top center in the league without a question.

When they get minutes, Marco Belinelli and Brandan Wright show strides of greatness. They will be the starters along with Ellis and Biedrins in the future. Anthony Morrow can spread the floor and will be a sixth man.

Los Angeles Lakers

Kobe Bryant is 30-years-old and Pau Gasol is 28. Both have a few more years left before they go downhill. Bryant may not be the best player in the league, but he will be among the top.

Andrew Bynum has the potential to be a top center in the league. He was playing like a star for a month before his injury last season, but has yet to play highly at that level. He is slowly progressing and is inconsistent, but given some time, he will be a top center in the league soon.

Underrated by Laker fans is Jordan Farmar, and he will soon overtake Derek Fisher as the starting floor general for the Lakers. Trevor Ariza's defense along with Sasha Vujacic's shooting ability will play key parts from the bench.


Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies are winless in the playoffs, but that will end soon. Memphis will have one of the best duos in the league.

O.J. Mayo has great work ethic and loads of potential. He will go down as the best player from the 2008 draft class and evolve into the Grizzlies' leader. Rudy Gay will not be a bad second option with his explosive scoring and rebounding.

Marc Gasol has shown that he can be a good center in this league. Hakim Warrick and Darrell Arthur will be a good tandem for the frontcourt. Mike Conley and Kyle Lowry will be fighting for who runs the point guard spot, but you can’t go wrong either way.

Minnesota Timberwolves

One of the most underrated players in the league, Al Jefferson will be one of the best big men in the league. He is already averaging 20 and 10 on any given night and yet to be 24-years-of-age.

Randy Foye is a good scorer for a point guard, but will need to improve his playmaking abilities. UNC star Rashad McCants will have to score like he did in college once he starts over Mike Miller. If he is able to do that, this team will be even more lethal.

The Mayo/Kevin Love trade didn’t work out for the Wolves, and it doesn’t look like it will. Despite that, Love is still a good player. He compliments Jefferson well. He is averaging eight points and eight rebounds off the bench. He will be a double double guy in his career.


Oklahoma City Thunder

Oklahoma City may be the worst team in the league today, but in a few years it will turn around. Kevin Durant averages more points than his age (20). He is a true scorer and is shooting nearly 50 percent from beyond the arc. Once he gains more strength, his overall game will improve.

Jeff Green is also a good player in his own right. He averages 15 points a game and is often overlooked. Russell Westbrook is proving to be a good pick for the Thunder and will grow with Durant and Green to lead this franchise.

Portland Trail Blazers

Portland may be the most stacked team for the future. Brandon Roy is a top two-guard already. He is a great scorer, playmaker, defender, and leader. He will have tons of help.

Greg Oden has been labeled a bust by many, but he will prove them all wrong. He is a phenomenal defender and will only get better. His offensive game at the NBA level is still raw, but it will improve. Injuries are a concern, but we’ll have to wait and see how that affects him.

LaMarcus Aldridge is a player that will get ever better with time. Rudy Fernandez is one of the better rookies from the draft and is a great shooter. Nicolas Batum and Travis Outlaw are both good players with bright futures at the small forward position.