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updated: 10/27/2013 9:42 PM

Mike McGraw's Western Conference preview

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1. Los Angeles Clippers

Coach: Doc Rivers (1st season); Last year: 56-26

Outlook: Credit the Clippers for recognizing that maybe the talent wasn't holding the team back. The big splash this summer was pulling coach Doc Rivers away from the Celtics. Rivers' primary task is building some chemistry between Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.

2. San Antonio Spurs

Coach: Gregg Popovich (18th season); Last year: 58-24

Outlook: Same old, same old. People keep writing off Tim Duncan and the Spurs as being over the hill, but the fade hasn't happened yet. Now Kawhi Leonard is stepping up as a new star to replace Manu Ginobili.

3. Oklahoma City Thunder

Coach: Scott Brooks (6th season); Last year: 60-22

Outlook: First, the Thunder traded James Harden, then let his replacement, Kevin Martin, walk as a free agent. Any lineup with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will be good, but it's not clear when Westbrook will be back from his playoff knee injury.

4. Memphis Grizzlies

Coach: Dave Joerger (1st season); Last year: 56-26

Outlook: Reaching the conference finals was a step forward for the Grizzlies. Now they'll continue with the same basic cast, plus SG Mike Miller and an unproven coach to replace Lionel Hollins.

5. Houston Rockets

Coach: Kevin McHale (3rd season); Last year: 45-37

Outlook: This should be interesting. Dwight Howard tried playing injured last year and failed with the Lakers. Does he have it in him to bounce back and carry a franchise? Meanwhile, Jeremy Lin needs to prove he's a playoff-caliber point guard, and the Rockets must figure out what to do with C Omer Asik, now an expensive backup.

6. Golden State Warriors

Coach: Mark Jackson (3rd season); Last year: 47-35

Outlook: The Warriors figure to be on the rise as long as they keep riding Stephen Curry. Andre Iguodala might be a nice backcourt complement. But Golden State's investment in injury-prone Andrew Bogut seems shaky, and there's no real point guard on the roster.

7. Minnesota Timberwolves

Coach: Rick Adelman (3rd season); Last year: 31-51

Outlook: Adelman has a long tradition of getting teams into the playoffs. Maybe if he finally gets a chance to play PG Ricky Rubio and PF Kevin Love together for a full season it will happen. There's a lot of average on the Timberwolves' roster, though.

8. Denver Nuggets

Coach: Brian Shaw (1st season), Last year: 57-25

Outlook: Shaw set a cautious tone for the season in Chicago on Friday by saying he thinks the Nuggets overachieved last year. Now Andre Iguodala is gone and Danilo Gallinari is recovering from ACL surgery, so don't expect repeat success.

9. Dallas Mavericks

Coach: Rick Carlisle (6th season); Last year: 41-41

Outlook: Dirk Nowitzki's golden years aren't going so well. Now the Mavs will try a new backcourt featuring Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon and Devin Harris. Maybe it will work.

10. Los Angeles Lakers

Coach: Mike D'Antoni (2nd season); Last year: 45-37

Outlook: Ignore the myths. Kobe Bryant is not coming back from a torn Achilles tendon in time to start the season. He probably should sit out the season and allow the Lakers to have both cap room and a high draft pick a year from now.

11. New Orleans Pelicans

Coach: Monty Williams (4th season); Last year: 27-55

Outlook: There are some mismatched pieces with a combination of Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans and Austin Rivers manning the one, two and three spots. But second-year PF Anthony Davis looked good in preseason, so the Pelicans may fly.

12. Portland Trail Blazers

Coach: Terry Stotts (2nd season), Last year: 33-49

Outlook: LaMarcus Aldridge wants out but has two years left on his contract. The Blazers pulled in some minor additions last summer and return rookie of the year Damien Lillard, while rookie guard C.J. McCollum (broken foot) will start the season on the injured list.

13. Utah Jazz

Coach: Tyrone Corbin (4th season); Last year: 43-39

Outlook: Utah is clearly looking further into the future than this season. The Jazz let both Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap walk, but building around Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter will take some patience. Rookie PG Trey Burke is out with a broken finger.

14. Phoenix Suns

Coach: Jeff Hornacek (1st season); Last year: 25-57

Outlook: Last year's lineup of mediocrity turned in predictable results, so the Suns seem to be aiming for rock bottom this time. But at least twins Markieff and Marcus Morris are back on the same team.

15. Sacramento Kings

Coach: Mike Malone (1st season); Last year: 28-54

Outlook: Someone in the Kings' front office thought it was a good idea to give DeMarcus Cousins a $62 million extension. We'll see how that turns out. Elsewhere on this roster, PF Carl Landry might be the second-best player. The Kings are keepers, Sacramento.

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