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For better or worse? An early primer on NBA's Western Conference

July 24, 2012|By Ben Bolch
  • New acquisitions -- like Grant Hill of the Clippers and Steve Nash of the Lakers -- should help L.A.'s teams improve their Western Conference standings next season.
New acquisitions -- like Grant Hill of the Clippers and Steve Nash of the… (Damian Dovarganes / Associated…)

NBA free agency is slowing to a crawl. So where does that leave the Western Conference roughly three months before the season opener? The Lakers and Clippers made moves to improve themselves, but will they be enough to eclipse the potential dynasty of the Oklahoma City Thunder?

Here's an early look at moves made by last season's playoff teams and whether they set them up to be better or worse in 2012-13:

San Antonio Spurs

Key additions: Nando de Colo.
Key losses: None.
Better or worse? Worse. This franchise may be built to finish near the top of the conference standings, but it's clearly not constructed to challenge the likes of the dynamic Thunder. Or did the four consecutive losses to end the season after 20 consecutive victories not strike anyone else as problematic?

Oklahoma City Thunder

Key additions: Hasheem Thabeet.
Key losses: Nazr Mohammed.
Better or worse? About the same. And that's good enough to win the conference for the foreseeable future.

Lakers

Key additions: Steve Nash, Antawn Jamison.
Key losses: Matt Barnes, Troy Murphy.
Better or worse? Better. Nash provides a Hall of Famer at point guard, a position long lacking in star power for the franchise, and Jamison should significantly fortify a punchless bench. A trip to the conference finals suddenly seems within reach after two consecutive flameouts in the conference semifinals.

Memphis

Key additions: Jerryd Bayless.
Key losses: O.J. Mayo.
Better or worse? About the same. Having Zach Randolph and Darrell Arthur back from significant injuries will be a plus, but the Grizzlies' roster has not been significantly upgraded.

Clippers

Key additions: Lamar Odom, Jamal Crawford, Grant Hill, Ryan Hollins.
Key losses: General Manager Neil Olshey, Randy Foye, Nick Young, Reggie Evans, Ryan Gomes.
Better or worse? Way better. Back in the more comfortable environs of Southern California, Odom is poised to put a forgettable season behind him. Crawford and Hill should be big pluses off the bench and in the locker room, where the Clippers could have one of the best cultures in the league.

Denver

Key additions: None (Anthony Randolph doesn't count).
Key losses: None (Chris Andersen doesn't count).
Better or worse? About the same. The roster is pretty much an exact replica of last season's, which means the young and improving Nuggets should make the playoffs but won't contend.

Dallas

Key additions: Elton Brand, Chris Kaman, Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo, Dahntay Jones.
Key losses: Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Brendan Haywood, Lamar Odom.
Better or worse? Worse. The story of the off-season for the Mavericks wasn't so much about who was coming or going but who never made a stopover: Dwight Howard or Deron Williams. Having struck out on big-ticket acquisitions, the Mavericks became the Clippers Lite by acquiring Brand and Kaman. They also are left to hope that Mayo pans out after never becoming the star many had envisioned in Memphis. Collison should be a serviceable point guard but the Mavericks will miss Kidd's veteran savvy.

Utah

Key additions: Mo Williams, Marvin Williams.
Key losses: Devin Harris, Raja Bell.
Better or worse? About the same. The Jazz has some potential but lacks the dynamic pieces to challenge the conference's upper echelon. It will be tough enough for the franchise to hold off playoff pushes from up-and-comers such as Golden State and Minnesota, which are poised for breakthroughs.

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