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Slowly but surely, the NBA offseason is winding down.
Kevin Durant will remain with the Brooklyn Nets. Donovan Mitchell just might stay with the Utah Jazz. Patrick Beverley is … a Laker?
With the summer drama behind us (for now), it’s time to list the different tiers in the Western Conference, from the basement all the way up to guaranteed contenders.
Even with 10 of 15 teams making at least the play-in tournament, there is little room for error in the West.
Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs

/>If this is Gregg Popovich’s swan song on the bench, it’s not going to boost the winning percentage on his eventual Hall of Fame plaque. The Spurs are in full rebuild mode after trading Dejounte Murray to the Atlanta Hawks for a trio of first-round picks.
Like most bottom-tier teams, Houston’s highlight of the offseason was the draft, where they selected Jabari Smith Jr. with the third pick. The Rockets can spend most of their season hoping the Durant-Nets reconciliation doesn’t last long as owners of Brooklyn’s first-round picks til 2027.
Oklahoma City was handed devastating news Thursday morning, as ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that No. 2 overall pick Chet Holmgren would miss the entire 2022-23 season.
We’ll have to wait a whole year before watching the “Slim Towers” of Holmgren and Aleksej Pokusevski in action.
Utah Jazz
Insert your Brian Windhorst memes here. Utah is in a strange position heading into the season.
The Jazz parted ways with half of their 1-2 punch of Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, sending the 7-foot-1 big man to the Minnesota Timberwolves in the biggest trade of the offseason.
New York Knicks fans believe they will land just about every star who hints at his availability (remember Kevin Durant?). And for a while, it appeared Mitchell was destined for the Empire State. But The Athletic’s Tony Jones
reported Thursday that the Knicks and Jazz are not close to reaching a deal.
We’ll see if that lasts past the trade deadline.
Sacramento Kings, Portland Trail Blazers
The Kings infamously have missed the playoffs for 16 years. Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers fell short of the 2021-22 postseason for the first time in eight years.
Both teams are desperate to make the bracket.
Lillard will be healthy again. The Trail Blazers re-upped Anfernee Simons and Jusuf Nurkic, traded for Jerami Grant and signed Gary Payton II
— a big part of the Warriors’ defensive effort in their latest championship run.
Sacramento has doubled and tripled down on its mission to win now, surrounding De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis with a young core that includes No. 4 overall pick Keegan Murray, the reigning Las Vegas Summer League MVP.
The Kings have talent. So does Portland. The biggest problem for both is that they happen to play in the loaded West.
Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Pelicans, Los Angeles Lakers
It speaks volumes that former Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly departed two-time MVP Nikola Jokić to lead the Wolves’ front office. Soon after, Connelly paid a boatload of picks and role players to acquire Gobert.
How will that frontcourt look with Gobert playing alongside fellow center Karl-Anthony Towns ? It might be the biggest mystery heading into the regular season.
Regardless of what unfolds there, Anthony Edwards announced his arrival in the playoff series against the Memphis Grizzlies (and when he starred as Kermit Wilts in Adam Sandler’s “Hustle” movie). He’s coming.
In New Orleans, a healthy Zion Williamson teaming up with C.J. McCollum and Brandon Ingram just might be appointment television. But the Pelicans’ success lingers on a 22-year-old who missed all of last year and has only 85 games on his NBA resume.
And how about the Lakers?
It’s strange to call a team with veteran superstars Anthony Davis and LeBron James an unknown, but that’s how poorly last season went at Arena. On Wednesday night, the Lakers traded for Russell Westbrook’s longtime nemesis Patrick Beverley.
It’s either going to be fascinating to watch Beverley and Westbrook share the court — Beverley appeared to call him “trash” last season – or the Lakers will trade “Brodie” away.
Buckle up.
Denver Nuggets, Dallas Mavericks
Jokić and Luka Dončić deserve their own tier.
Both are superstars — Jokić as the league’s reigning back-to-back MVP and Dončić as one of the top scorers in basketball.
However, the Mavericks took a step back this offseason by losing Jalen Brunson to the New York Knicks. Although Dončić already has proven he can simply outscore teams himself, the Mavs’ surprise run to the Western Conference finals feels like their peak unless owner Mark Cuban is pitched a quick defensive fix on the next season of “Shark Tank.”
The Nuggets will be getting Jamal Murray back to pair with Jokić. That’s exciting. Will it be enough for a deep playoff run, though?
Phoenix Suns, Memphis Grizzlies
The self-proclaimed Memphis dynasty spent last year’s playoffs and much of the offseason announcing that they’ve got next. Ja Morant and company probably are right, it just might be another year or two before they seize the throne.
Phoenix, led by Chris Paul and Devin Booker, is running out of time. One year after wasting a two-games-to-none lead in the 2021 NBA Finals, the Suns were one win away from the conference finals before running out of gas.
Paul, at age 37, will once again begin the quest to win a championship and rewrite the biggest narrative still staining his Hall of Fame resume.
Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers
The Warriors lost a few key pieces this offseason in Gary Payton II and Otto Porter Jr., but they gained the likes of Donte DiVincenzo and JaMychal Green to fill the void around their core of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green.
Golden State will be looking for its fifth championship in the last nine years. Who could stop them?
The Clippers — yes, that other team who plays at Arena — might be the Warriors’ top challenger. Kawhi Leonard returns to a Clippers team loaded with veteran talent around he and Paul George.
Gone are the days of the NBA having two or three championship contenders, at most. Parity is the name of the game in 2022-23.
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