Earlier this week here at ATB Network, we previewed and ranked the championship contenders in the Eastern Conference. The Western Conference, on the other hand, looks stacked with contenders as we head into the 2023 season. Let’s take a look.
Tier 1: True Western Conference Championship Contenders
Warriors, Nuggets, Suns
The defending champions being on this tier is no surprise. At this point, the Warriors have justified their ranking on this list for many years. The Nuggets, however, are trying to finally take the next step.
Denver has their MVP in Nikola Jokic, and they have plenty of talent surrounding him. Denver has been a contender for a couple years now, but have yet to cement themselves as a true championship threat. They made it to the conference finals during the COVID bubble, but haven’t showed the same success since. With a healthy roster this year, though, the Nuggets find themselves with no better opportunity.
The Suns have had a rough offseason both on and off the court. As Phoenix attempts to hold their core group together amidst front office issues, they still have a real shot at the championship. They made the finals just two years ago, and still possess the same core group. It may be now or never for the Suns.
Tier 2: Fringe Western Conference Championship Contenders
Grizzlies, Mavericks, Timberwolves, Clippers
This list is still filled with a ton of talent. Memphis put up a decent fight against the would-be champions last year, and if Ja Morant can stay healthy, they should be a scary team to meet in April. So will the Mavericks, who made it all the way to the conference finals last season after throttling the Suns in a do-or-die game seven. They’ll keep the same squad around this year.
The Timberwolves made the playoffs last year, and really should have won their first round series against Memphis. Minnesota went ahead and added one of the best defensive players in the game in Rudy Gobert this summer as well. Their four-headed monster should bode well next season.
Finally, the Clippers. It’s been a long time since the Clippers had both of their stars healthy, but they’ll finally be back this year. Los Angeles also added John Wall, who should pair very well with Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. The Clips are a team to watch out for this season.
Tier 3: Playoff Contenders
Lakers, Pelicans, Kings
Finally, rounding out this list we’ve got these three squads. The Lakers won the championship in 2020, but since then they’ve shown little success. Los Angeles’ trio of Lebron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook hasn’t panned out like they thought it would. At the moment, the Lakers don’t show a threat as a true championship contender.
Rounding out this group, we have the Pelicans and Kings. New Orleans found a way into the playoffs last year thanks to some stellar play from CJ McCollum. He’ll remain in NOLA for the next two years, and there’s no reason the Pelicans shouldn’t find themselves in a good position next year.
Finally, Sacramento. Ranking the Kings as a playoff contender is always a hot take, but with their roster it might not be a long-shot this time around. De’Aaron Fox and Domanas Sabonis worked well together last season, and they’ll be adding Keegan Murray and Kevin Heurter to the fray this season. Sacramento has a decent chance at ending their long playoff drought in 2022.