The start to the 2019-20 NBA season is right around the corner!
You've heard about how balanced the league is and how many different teams have a legitimate shot at winning the NBA title. We've already broken down how each Eastern Conference contender can reach the NBA Finals, but there's even more Western Conference contenders that have a shot at getting to that stage.
In an NBA Finals run, a lot of things have to fall in your favour. It takes breakout performances from stars, dark horse players stepping up and, of course, a little bit of luck.
What will it take for each of the projected top-eight teams in the Western Conference to reach the Finals in pursuit of a championship?
All odds to win the NBA Finals are from the Westgate Las Vegas Sportsbook.
1. LA Clippers
Odds to win NBA Finals: +350
The Clippers are the favourites to win the NBA title entering the 2019-20 season. It makes sense.
This team of junkyard dogs took two games off of the Golden State Warriors in the playoffs last year without an All-Star on their roster. The majority of that same roster returns, except this time around they've added two of the most talented two-way players in the world.
Paul George is coming off of the best season of his career, finishing top-three in voting for MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. Kawhi Leonard just put together one of the most dominant postseason runs the NBA has ever seen en route to bringing the Toronto Raptors their first-ever NBA title.
MORE: Kawhi and PG are the new Jordan and Pippen
Supersub Lou Williams and his pick-and-roll partner Montrezl Harrell are back to terrorize opposing second units again. Patrick Beverley and his beach workouts in Timberland boots have him ready to make a push at becoming the first guard to win Defensive Player of the Year since Gary Payton in 1996.
Landry Shamet shot a blistering 45.0% from 3-point land with the Clippers last year. He'll get even more open looks this season. Their big man depth is a little concerning, but if Ivica Zubac can prove he's a sufficient starting centre in the league, they'll have no problem. And that's all he has to be - sufficient.
This should be the best defensive team in the league and the scariest part is they barely have to give up any offensive firepower to put their best defensive unit on the floor.
The Clippers are a juggernaut and anything less than a Finals appearance with a roster like this would be a letdown.
2. Los Angeles Lakers
Odds to win NBA Finals: +400
The Lakers are the second-favourite in the league to win the NBA Finals just behind their Los Angeles counterpart.
It was easy enough to see why after just one preseason game.
Anthony Davis has a legitimate shot at winning both MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. His Lakers debut proved LeBron James wasn't lying when he said he wanted the offence to run through AD, and how could you blame him? Davis dunked everything. He grabbed every rebound and blocked shots. He was an unstoppable force that very few teams in the league have an answer for.
Anthony Davis made it a debut to remember with 22 points and 10 boards in only one half of action. #LakeShow- Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) October 6, 2019
(📺: @SpectrumSN & TNT) pic.twitter.com/zdF8u2mixZ
LeBron, meanwhile, made it look like he could flirt with averaging a triple-double this season - a feat that would typically earn him an MVP trophy, except there's a good chance it'll be stolen from him by his own teammate. Kyle Kuzma will have less attention on him than ever before in his young career, and the budding star forward's efficiency will increase because of it.
Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley are there to turn back the clocks to their Boston days, giving the Lakers another floor general and a feisty defender, respectively. Danny Green, Troy Daniels and Quinn Cook will get so many open looks from playing alongside LeBron and Davis that real-life games will feel like shooting in an open gym in July.
With JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard as their centres, you never know what you're going to get. But I can tell you this much, it'll be entertaining as ever and it just might work.
MORE: How does Howard fit with the Lakers?
Can Alex Caruso's per 36 numbers qualify him for the Basketball Hall of Fame?
The Lakers have the potential to be the most dangerous and entertaining team in the NBA, and are without a doubt a title contender that is poised to make a deep run in June.
3. Houston Rockets
Odds to win NBA Finals: +800
The Rockets will make the Finals for one reason and one reason only: James Harden and Russell Westbrook are fed up with everybody talking down on them.
This backcourt is a nightmare for opposing teams. Harden is unguardable. Westbrook players harder than anyone in the league over the course of 82 games. Neither player is a "load management" candidate. Does it drain some energy for the playoffs? Sure. But these two are ready to prove everyone wrong that says they can't perform in the postseason.
Eric Gordon got paid this offseason and he's going to back it up, draining 3-pointers at the highest percentage of his career because of the amount of open looks Harden and Westbrook will serve to him on a silver platter. P.J. Tucker might shoot over 50% on those right corner 3s for that very same reason.
MORE: Why the Harden-Westbrook partnership will and won't work
Injuries got in the way for Clint Capela last season but he still posted nearly 17 points and 13 rebounds per game. He'll again be one of the best lob targets in the league and his defence against guys like Anthony Davis and Nikola Jokic could be the difference between an NBA title and falling in the second round.
Their bench isn't as thin as it has been in the past. Austin Rivers will likely be the team's sixth man, getting the job done on both ends of the floor now. Danuel House has the potential to become a household name among NBA fans if he can step up as one of Houston's key players.
The Rockets have the pieces. It just comes down to the Harden-Westbrook duo performing in the playoffs.
4. Golden State Warriors
Odds to win NBA Finals: +1200
After making five-straight NBA Finals appearances, all of a sudden the Warriors are the team people are picking to potentially fall out of the playoffs in the West?
Do we all remember what happened the last time Stephen Curry played without Kevin Durant? The league's first-ever unanimous MVP. A scoring title averaging 30.1 points per game, shooting 50-40-90. His team went 73-9 (!) for the best record in NBA history. Yes, the role players are different and Klay Thompson is set to miss nearly the entire regular season, but we can't count out Steph.
He averaged 30 points per game without KD last regular season. He then averaged 33 points per game once Durant went down in the postseason. Curry will be ready to retain his role as the team's leading scorer and sole go-to guy, and that's bad news for the rest of the league.
MORE: Will Curry win MVP this season?
Draymond Green will anchor the defence as he makes a push for Defensive Player of the Year. Golden State needs D'Angelo Russell to be exactly the player he was last year - nothing more, nothing less.
Rookie Jordan Poole is emerging as the team's lead bench scorer to give the offensive burst the second unit lacks. They'll need Alfonzo McKinnie to be Andre Iguodala lite, which is a lot to ask, but he played big minutes last season. Even more importantly, they need the frontcourt duo of Kevon Looney and Willie Cauley-Stein to provide a defensive and rebounding presence, but among all things, stay healthy.
Oh, and if they do make the playoffs, there's a chance Thompson will return, setting this team up for a postseason run we've seen five times in a row now.
Do not sleep on the Warriors.
5. Utah Jazz
Odds to win NBA Finals: +1600
The Jazz have become everyone's favourite sleeper as the best team in the West - and rightfully so. This roster is deep and loaded with the talent to matchup against any team in the league.
Rudy Gobert is looking to become the second player in NBA history to win three consecutive Defensive Player of the Year awards (shout out to Dwight Howard). The league should let him and Mike Conley play rock-paper-scissors, best two-out-of-three, and the winner gets to play in their first-career All-Star Game.
But in all seriousness, Conley adds a dimension to this team that they've never had before as a lockdown perimeter defender and scorer at the point guard position, and he will be a fringe All-Star as he's been almost every season of his career.
MORE: Why the Jazz will have the league's best record this season
Who's that player that we love comparing Donovan Mitchell to? Dwyane Wade. After a solid rookie and sophomore campaign, what did Wade do in Year 3? Lead the Miami Heat to an NBA championship.
I'm just saying, history repeats itself.
They've added another solid scorer in Bojan Bogdanovic to give them an offensive boost and perhaps the best thing that could happen to the Jazz this season is Joe Ingles being willing to take on a role as the team's sixth man. With Conley and Mitchell, Ingles' playmaking abilities would go to waste with the first unit. Point forward Ingles will keep the ball moving on that second unit and he'll still work plenty with the talented scorers on the first unit on his way to becoming the best role player in the NBA.
The Jazz are ready to play tough enough to overcome the more glamorous teams in the league all the way to the Finals.
6. Denver Nuggets
Odds to win NBA Finals: +1600
Everything's tougher with expectations, but when you have the deepest team in the league, it may not be as much of an issue.
And this isn't 2018-19-Boston-Celtics-deep where there's a bunch of players trying to play above their role - this roster plays team basketball, due in large part to their superstar who enjoys passing more than scoring.
Nikola Jokic is an MVP candidate again and he'll continue to defy all logic as one of the best players in the NBA without being able to put a sheet of paper under his feet when he jumps. He'll be whipping wizardly passes all over the floor to their endless supply of shooters and cutters that make this team so good and so fun to watch.
MORE: How Jokic can win MVP this season
Jamal Murray's ready to make a push for his first All-Star appearance after a great postseason that nearly brought this team to the Western Conference Finals. Head coach Mike Malone could blindfold himself and point to any player on the bench and they'd be able to play meaningful minutes on the wing.
And they might just have the biggest wild card in the league in redshirt rookie Michael Porter Jr., who was a projected No. 1 overall pick before a back injury tanked his draft stock and kept him out his entire first year in the NBA. He has returned to the court in the preseason and looks ready to go for the upcoming regular season.
MPJ scores his first points on an NBA floor!!- Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) October 9, 2019
(and that step-back too 👀)#MileHighBasketball pic.twitter.com/WTPT52OstZ
The Nuggets aren't a surprise pick anymore. They're becoming one of the favourites to win the West and they've earned that respect.
7. Portland Trail Blazers
Odds to win NBA Finals: +3000
It's become an annual offseason tradition to count out the Trail Blazers, and guess what? Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum don't care.
They silenced the haters last season by reaching the Western Conference Finals and even though they were swept, the Blazers were in every game. Lillard will lead this team to the playoffs again - you can book that right now. He'll be in the MVP conversation and will make another All-NBA team.
McCollum made huge strides in the postseason last year and after receiving a contract extension this offseason, he'll be ready to pick up where he left off and prove he's worth that money.
MORE: Five burning questions for Lillard and McCollum
There's a lot relying on big man Hassan Whiteside, who Portland traded for this offseason to hold things down until Jusuf Nurkic returns from his leg injury. Whiteside is a former All-Defensive team member who has led the league in blocks and rebounds before. If the Blazers get any resemblance of that, they'll be in good shape.
Zach Collins is stepping into a huge role as the team's starting power forward and he's shown flashes of being ready for this promotion. He can flirt with the league's Most Improved Player award just from his situation alone. When Portland makes the playoffs, that case will be even stronger.
If Kent Bazemore, Rodney Hood and Mario Hezonja can consistently perform on both ends of the floor, you will not want your favourite team to face the Blazers in the playoffs.
Keep betting against Portland - it only motivates Lillard, one of the best closers in the game, to take this season one step further than last year and reach the Finals.
8. San Antonio Spurs
Odds to win NBA Finals: +5000
The Spurs haven't missed the playoffs since 1997 - 22 consecutive postseason appearances. What makes you think this season will be any different?
The league is extremely balanced and the Western Conference is loaded, but head coach Gregg Popovich and his Spurs teams have been through two decades of turnover in the league and they're still there every season.
LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan will gun the most midrange jumpers in the league, laughing in the face of analytics all the way to the postseason. DeRozan missed the All-Star Game for the first time in three seasons last year and he'll be ready to return to it this year. Aldridge will continue to be one of the most overlooked stars in the league, making his eighth All-Star appearance in nine years.
MORE: Drafting the best all-time Spurs
All of a sudden, this team that struggled with guard depth at the start of last season due to injuries has more talented guards than they know what to do with. Dejounte Murray is back, Bryn Forbes was groomed into a legitimate starter in the NBA last season and Derrick White put his name on the map with a couple playoff explosions.
Rudy Gay became one of the more solid role players in the league last season and would anybody be surprised if Trey Lyles works out better than Marcus Morris would have?
Patty Mills just torched the world at the FIBA Basketball World Cup this past summer and is set to bring those scoring habits over to the NBA in a shot at winning Sixth Man of the Year.
No one ever wants to play the Spurs in a seven-game series. Just ask last year's Nuggets team. Once Popovich gets to the postseason, no matter what seed they are, he's capable of getting the most out of his players to reach the Finals.
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