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NBA Western Conference rankings as 2015-16 season begins

San Antonio Spurs' Tony Parker celebrates following an

San Antonio Spurs' Tony Parker celebrates following an NBA basketball game against the Dallas Mavericks, Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014, in San Antonio. Credit: AP / Eric Gay

1. SPURS Adding the biggest free-agent prize in LaMarcus Aldridge to that future Hall of Fame core of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili almost seems unfair.

2. WARRIORS The defending champions return largely intact, and their prolific backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson seems extremely motivated to repeat.

3. THUNDER This could be the final chance for Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook to get it done together, with Durant a free agent next summer. If it happens, it will be under the guidance of new coach Billy Donovan.

4. GRIZZLIES Always lurking under the radar, Memphis boasts a top front-line duo with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. Mike Conley's steady play at the point is key.

5. ROCKETS James Harden put up some ridiculous numbers last season, and his scoring ability makes Houston a threat. But just how well Dwight Howard's back holds up also will go a long way toward determining that.

6. CLIPPERS DeAndre Jordan's free agency was the talk of the offseason. It made people forget about them blow- ing a 3-1 playoff series lead vs. the Rockets. The pressure is on for Doc Rivers & Co. to make a deep playoff run.

7. PELICANS Though rising star Anthony Davis is soaring in a class by himself, the problem for New Orleans is it plays in the ultracompetitive Southwest Division..

8. MAVERICKS Losing out on Jordan may have been a good thing. Dallas still has an effective Dirk Nowitzki, 37, but is Deron Williams the answer at point guard?

9. KINGS Rajon Rondo and DeMarcus Cousins being coached by George Karl? Should be fascinating.

10. JAZZ Overcoming the loss of Dante Exum [torn ACL], and finding an answer at point guard is the key.

11. NUGGETS Denver could surprise under coach Michael Malone. Danilo Gallinari finally might be healthy and people rave about first-round pick Emmanuel Mudiay.

12. SUNS Phoenix shook up things after going 10-18 after the All-Star beak. The Suns hope adding Tyson Chandler and subtracting Marcus Morris will make things right.

13. LAKERS Kobe Bryant is back and lottery pick D'Angelo Russell has some promise. Other than that, there won't be much for Jack Nicholson to cheer about.

14. TIMBERWOLVES They added nice pieces in Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, but are also dealing with the recent death of coach Flip Saunders.

15. TRAIL BLAZERS It's going to be a long season for Damian Lillard after they lost Aldridge to San Antonio and Robin Lopez to the Knicks.


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