While the 2021 NBA offseason may not have been as active as it has been in previous seasons, it certainly shook up the playoff picture in both conferences for the upcoming season. The 2021 NBA Western Conference standings could look very different to last season’s with a combination of fresh faces being added to championship-caliber teams, young stars taking substantial leaps to the next tier, and in specific cases, certain players returning after long absences. Here are the NBA Western Conference Standings predictions for the 2021 season.
2021 NBA Western Conference Standings Predictions
1. Utah Jazz
Sitting at the top of the 2021 NBA Western Conference standings is the Utah Jazz. The Jazz held the best record in the NBA a season ago, but once again came up short in the postseason. They combated this issue by bringing in veterans like Hassan Whiteside to back up Rudy Gobert, as well as signing Rudy Gay to provide some additional scoring off the second unit. The Jazz also acquired Eric Paschall from the Golden State Warriors for dirt cheap, adding another level of productivity off the bench.
The Jazz are one of, if not the deepest team in the NBA. They have two franchise stars in Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, an All-Star point guard in Mike Conley, and plenty of volume, versatility, and two-way prowess in their supporting cast. As constructed, this team is a great regular-season club, one that will give fits to any opponent on a nightly basis. While they have improved greatly on paper, the next step is assuring a lengthy postseason run before the window closes in Utah, however soon that could be.
2. Golden State Warriors
After two long seasons away from basketball, the other half of the Splash Bros will rejoin Stephen Curry as Klay Thompson finally returns to play after rehabbing both a torn Achilles and a torn ACL in subsequent seasons. While the Golden State Warriors made plenty of moves around the margins, bringing back Andre Iguodala, signing Otto Porter Jr, and drafting rookie upstart Jonathan Kuminga, Klay Thompson’s return is going to direct this team whatever avenue they go.
Looking at Klay’s game, he does not rely on his speed or athleticism too heavily. He does not have to dribble much, and he is not getting up to dunk over near seven-footers all that often. As one of the best shooters in league history, his shooting stroke is something that should not have left him during his absence. If he can return to even 80% of his former self, along with replicated play by Stephen Curry that we saw from last season, then the Warriors may be able to regain that level of aura that we saw from their 2015-16 run.
3. Phoenix Suns
After coming up short in the 2021 NBA Finals, the Phoenix Suns find themselves in a position to fall victim to a championship hangover, despite not actually hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy. Chris Paul will enter the 2021 season at 36 years of age, and he is coming off the deepest, most grueling championship pursuit of his career, and he fell just short. While he can say how hungry he is to return to the championship picture, realistically, was last season his best shot?
The Phoenix Suns have plenty of talent, both young and experienced, that is certainly capable of playing at a championship level. Devin Booker showed off his high offensive volume when the spotlight was brightest, and DeAndre Ayton displayed why he is one of the best young centers in the NBA and one that you can have a shot to win big with. If Phoenix is going to get serious about another run, then its supporting cast is going to have to shoulder a bigger load for them.
4. Los Angeles Lakers
No team this offseason has been more active on the open market than the Los Angeles Lakers were. After executing the blockbuster trade to acquire Russell Westbrook from the Washington Wizards, players came crawling to LA while asking for the bare minimum to link up with the three-headed snake that is LeBron-AD-Russ. The Lakers added Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Malik Monk, Kendrick Nunn, Wayne Ellington, Trevor Ariza, and also look to be bringing back Rajon Rondo once he clears waivers from being bought out by the Memphis Grizzlies. If it was too difficult to tell, aside from Monk and Nunn, the Lakers are going to be very long in the tooth this season.
Sure, they have several eye-catching names on their roster this season but do they have enough reassurance for when their Big Three is sitting out for extended periods at a time. When those players are sitting out, they are replaced with a handful of players on the wrong side of 30, who are not quite the same player they once were. However, this is a star-powered bunch that is clearly built for postseason success, no matter how they may look in the regular season. Any team with LeBron James has a fighting chance, but as for these predictions, the LA Lakers come in at fourth in the 2021 NBA Western Conference standings.
5. Dallas Mavericks
Very few players in the NBA have the ability to outright carry a team in today’s game. With how skilled the league has become, and how unique and versatile players are becoming with each draft class, it is truly amazing the level of talent that exists in the NBA. That all being said, Luka Doncic falls into that special category of elite talent. The Dallas Mavericks roster from top to bottom is nothing special. Some good talent, but all look up to Doncic and his game.
Thanks to Doncic, Dallas enjoyed one of the most efficient offensive seasons that any team in NBA history has ever put forth. The team managed to score 115.8 points per 100 possessions, and it is not hard to translate that right back to Luka. While he is not the quickest, strongest, or most athletic player, Doncic has no wasted movements on the floor and does everything with intent. If Doncic is bound to take another substantial leap entering his fourth season, then it can only elevate the Mavericks roster as a whole, and while they just miss out on home-court advantage, the fifth seed is not too shabby for this bunch.
6. Denver Nuggets
The Denver Nuggets are going to be running it back with almost an identical roster that they had last season. However, the team has a few narratives that are going to dictate how their season will go. The first being the status of Jamal Murray. Murray tore his ACL back in April, while his team looked like one of the West’s biggest powerhouses primed for a lengthy postseason run. That was not the case, as, despite Nikola Jokic’s best efforts, the team did not go very far in their pursuit. Without Murray, the reigning MVP is going to be more heavily relied on than he was prior.
Jokic is not the only Nugget expected to deliver. Michael Porter Jr holds great promise as a young talent in this league. Without Murray in the lineup, Porter is going to be counted on to produce at a high volume. If he can perform at a level that allows them to remain a legitimate threat during Murray’s absence, he could see himself in consideration for Most Improved honors. The Denver Nuggets are a scrappy, fundamentally sound club that will find a way to make things work when a valuable piece is removed from the equation.
7. Los Angeles Clippers
First things first, this is assuming that the Los Angeles Clippers are without Kawhi Leonard for most, if not all, of the 2021-22 NBA season. Leonard is a wild factor that can heavily sway where the LA Clippers fall in the 2021 NBA Western Conference standings. After signing a massive four-year extension worth more than $176 million, Leonard stated where his loyalty lays as he looks to return to the championship picture in Los Angeles. However, this season may just be another tale of shortcomings for the Clippers.
With Leonard out with no real timetable, it makes it a bit difficult to measure where this Clippers roster led by Paul George stacks up amongst the titans of the Western Conference. While “Playoff P” was able to silence most of his doubters in the playoffs, the regular season is a marathon in itself. Leonard is going to be dearly missed for this team, but if he is able to return by the postseason, then it may not matter where they fall in the 2021 NBA Western Conference standings.
8. Portland Trail Blazers
While many questions circled around Damian Lillard’s future in Portland, and still do, the former Weber State Wildcat has stated that he wishes to remain at Blazer for as long as they will have him, and by that train of thought, Portland is likely headed for the all too familiar bottom tier of the playoff picture. With the playoff play-in tournament now made official by the NBA, Portland may not even make it to the final cut.
Damian Lillard is one of the best offensive players in the NBA, and while he continues to show loyalty to the organization that gave him a chance in the first place, it has been holding his career back for years now. It is relatively clear that the Blazers are not a championship-level organization, and while that is no fault to Lillard, or CJ McCollum for that matter, it is simply the truth of the matter. Still, the Blazers are a competitive bunch that will make any team work any night of the week. Dame has a big enough chip on his shoulder to silence the doubters that continue to bash his shortcomings.
9th seed (play-in) Memphis Grizzlies
10th seed (play-in) Sacramento Kings