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Preview 09: Sizing up the Western Conference

1. Los Angeles Lakers: They are the reigning NBA champs and until some team can show they have what it takes to knock them off, they are the favorites heading into the new NBA season.  So what did the champs do in the offseason?  Nothing much aside from adding Ron Artest and re-signing Lamar Odom.  They did lose Trevor Ariza to the Houston Rockets in the process.  But does the addition of Artest guarantee a return trip to the Finals?  No.  The question heading into the new season is their backcourt.  Fisher is older which leaves Farmar and Brown at the guard position.  If they pan out then the Lakers are the team to beat in the West.

2. San Antonio Spurs: Reloaded is an understatement.  They “stole” Richard Jefferson from the Bucks in the offseason for a bunch of old guys, drafted DeJuan Blair, and recently added Keith Bogans as a hopeful replacement for the recently retired perimeter defender Bruce Bowen.  Add to the fact Tony Parker is coming off a great season, Manu Ginobili recovered from injuries, George Hill’s tremendous showing in the 2009 Vegas Summer League, and Duncan losing 15 lbs., the Spurs seem ready to go and can be seen as the biggest threat to the Lakers in the Western Conference.  However keep an eye out on Tony Parker.  He played for the French National team this summer and did suffer a minor injury.  Expect Coach Pop to rest him early on in the new season.

3. Denver Nuggets: Heading into this new season, the Nuggets remain basically the same as last year.  No major movements were made.  They did draft Ty Lawson and added Aaron Affalo as a replacement for the loss of Dahanty Jones.  Standing pat seems to be the best for this team.  They made it all the way to the 2009 Western Conference Finals, so why fix something that isn’t broke.

4. Dallas Mavericks:  They added Shawn Marion, resigned Jason Kidd (though for too long of a contract), signed Drew Gooden, and Tim Thomas.  Basically the Mavs added solid veteran leadership to the squad to compliment Nowitzki, Howard and Terry.  Also keep an eye out for Rodrigue Beaubois.  This guy opened lots of eyes in the 2009 Vegas Summer League.

5. Portland Trailblazers: The young, hungry Blazers added veteran leadership at the point guard position with Andre Miller and return their young nucleus. Roy and Aldridge are budding stars and with Martell Webster coming back, things are looking good for the Blazers this season.  Remember this team won 54 games last year.

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