A significant amount of futures wagers pours in on the two Los Angeles teams, the LA Clippers and LA Lakers, to win the 2020 NBA Championship. However, the Western Conference crown will be determined at the cusp of the Rocky Mountains because if either LeBron James or Kawhi Leonard expect to take their teams to the NBA Finals, they will have to beat Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets.

Nikola Jokic Denver Nuggets Western Conference NBA Preview
The Denver Nuggets, led by center Nikola Jokic (15), will be one of the teams to beat in the Western Conference in 2019-20. (Image: Isaiah J. Downing/USA Today Sports)

You do not need another NBA preview to tell you that the Western Conference is stacked once again after the addition of Anthony Davis and Kawhi Leonard, which will instantly boost both LA-based teams.

Kevin Durant headed East to Brooklyn and the Golden State Warriors will have a bumpy season without KD and Klay Thompson (ACL), but the Denver Nuggets have the best claim to the Western Conference title. And while everyone is focused on the Clippers, Lakers, and Nuggets, the Portland Trail Blazers once again fly under the radar.

LA Clippers 11/5
LA Lakers 5/2
Houston Rockets 5/1
Golden State Warriors 8/1
Denver Nuggets 10/1
Utah Jazz 10/1
Portland Trail Blazers 20/1
San Antonio Spurs 30/1
Dallas Mavericks 60/1
New Orleans Pelicans 60/1
Sacramento Kings 120/1
Minnesota Timberwolves 600/1
Memphis Grizzlies 600/1
Oklahoma City Thunder 600/1
Phoenix Suns 600/1

If you ignore the hype surrounding the Clippers and Lakers and Russell Westbrook joining the Houston Rockets, the West will come down to the Nuggets and Trailblazers once again. It will be another daring battle between the Nugs’ Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray versus the Blazers’ dynamic backcourt with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollom.

Denver Nuggets

Last Season: 54-26
Projected Wins: 53

The Nuggets were the #2 seed in the West last season with 54 wins, including an NBA best 34-7 home record in Denver. The thin air of Colorado makes it difficult to keep up with the Nuggets and they’re not shy to take advantage of winded visiting teams.

Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray are the best pick-n-roll partners in the NBA. It’s almost impossible to stop when they get rolling. Jokic emerged as one of the best versatile big men in the west. The Nuggets unicorn won a FIBA World Cup for Serbia this summer, but he’d like to add an NBA title to his growing list of accolades.

Don’t sleep on the Nuggets. They offer up amazing value at 10/1 odds to win the Western Conference.

LA Clippers

Last Season: 48-34
Projected Wins: 54

Kawhi Leonard put the Raptors on his back in the playoffs to win the 2019 NBA title, but he had a ton of help during the regular season as the Raptors contended for the best record in the Eastern Conference. Now that he’s back in his hometown, the LA Clippers have become the most popular pick to win the 2020 NBA Championship. The Clippers won 48 games last year, but only secured a #8 seed in a stacked Western Conference.

Leonard has to wait until Paul George returns from shoulder surgery. He’s estimated to miss the first 10 games of the season, but it could be longer. If they do not have George for more then 10 games, it might be hard to win 50-plus games. It’s not that Kawhi cannot put another team on his back, it’s just the West is so deep that they cannot expect to win as many games as the public thinks they’ll win.

How can a team that has yet to play a game be the favorite to win the NBA Western Conference? If you want to back Kawhi Leonard to win a title again, save your money and wait until next season.

Portland Trail Blazers

Last Season: 53-29
Projected Wins: 46

The Portland Trail Blazers were the #3 seed last year. They knocked the Nuggets out of the playoffs last year in the Western Semifinals. After winning a sensational seven-game series, the Blazers ran out of gas and were sept by the Golden State Warriors in the Western Finals.

If the Lakers/Clippers rise to the top, one of last year’s front runners must take a step back. Experts think that’s going to be the Blazers. They continuously do not get any respect, so this sleight is no surprise. The Blazers are always underachievers and they boast the best backcourt in the NBA with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. They added big man Hassan Whiteside in the offseason to provide additional scoring.

Houston Rockets

Last Season: 53-29
Projected Wins: 53

The Rockets locked up the #4 seed, but could not beat the Warriors in the Western Conference Semifinals. Same old story, eh? James Harden went on an amazing scoring streak last season, but he ran out of steam in the playoffs. Chris Paul wanted Harden to pass more in the playoffs, but all that did was create friction between the two alphas.

The Rockets shipped out CP3 to OKC and swapped him out for Russell Westbrook. Now it’s Harden and Westbrook back together as teammates. Westbrook said he doesn’t care about triple doubles and only wants an NBA title. The way this Rockets team is set up, their title hopes are slim to none. So, it looks like he’ll be fishing for triple doubles all season, eh?

LA Lakers

Last Season: 37-45
Projected Wins: 51

It’s not like the Lakers are adding an awesome player like Anthony Davis to an NBA contender that fell short in their pursuit of a title. The Lakers did not even qualify for the playoffs last season. AD will help turn the Lakers around, but they’re still long off from contending with the Top 5 teams in the Western Conference.

AD is better than LeBron James right now, but he’s cool with playing the role of Kareem to AD’s Magic. Their skills are not the issue. It’s the circus of playing for the Lakers and the Buss family has the potential to derail this season or future seasons. You never know what kind of drama will creep into the psyche of the team. The sports media cycle is utterly rabid in Hollywood, so you can only imagine how the most minor issues and non-stories will be magnified into click-bait headlines.

Golden State Warriors

Last Season: 57-25
Projected Wins: 48

The Warriors locked up the #1 seed last year. If Kevin Durant did not injury his calf (and later Achilles), the Warriors would have coasted to a third consecutive NBA title. The KD injury opened the door for the Toronto Raptors.

KD is gone and Klay Thompson is dunzo for the season while recovering from knee surgery. But the Warriors still have Steph Curry and Draymond Green. We’ll see how good of a coach Steve Kerr can be during an obvious down year.

Utah Jazz

Last Season: 50-32
Projected Wins: 54

In a conference that does not play any defense, the Jazz bucked that trend. Rudy Gobert is the best defender in the NBA.

The Jazz are projected to win 54 games, but they’re sixth-best in overall odds to win the Western Conference at 10/1. The Jazz are in a three-way fight to win the Northwest, which is known as the hardest division in the NBA with Portland and Denver.

The Jazz added Mike Conley to provide a veteran presence in the back court alongside their budding superstars Donovan Mitchell.

San Antonio Spurs

Last Season: 48-34
Projected Wins: 47

The Spurs secured the #7 seed last year but failed to make it out of the first round of the playoffs. If Dejounte Murray stays healthy, then the Spurs can overachieve this season. LaMarcus Aldridge is still San Antonio’s best player and DeMar DeRozan emerged as a consistent scorer. Greg Popovich gets the most out his team that looks barely above average on paper this season.

Dallas Mavericks

Last Season: 33-49
Projected Wins: 41

Luka Doncic and the Unicorn should make the Mavs fun to watch. But they’re still a project in development. They’ll hover around 40-41 win games and flirt with a .500 record, but that will not be enough to secure a playoff spot.

New Orleans Pelicans

Last Season: 33-49
Projected Wins: 37

The Pelicans start the season with Zion Williamson out of the lineup. He’s expected to miss at least 20 games and maybe more. With the Zion’s NBA debut delayed by 6-8 weeks, the Pelicans will struggle to win games in the Western Conference. The Pelicans still have Jrue Holiday, who posted career numbers last season.

Sacramento Kings

Last Season: 39-43
Projected Wins: 38

The Kings are an exciting young team to watch with Buddy Hield, Marvin Bagley, and De’Aaron Fox. New head coach Luke Walton should be able to help elevate them to a playoff caliber team. Still a work in progress.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Last Season: 36-46
Projected Wins: 36

Karl-Anthony Townes can finally thrive without Jimmy Butler or Tom Thibodeau bullying him. But even with KAT putting up huge numbers, their season win total hinges upon Andrew Wiggins finally coming into his own as a consistent player. The Wolves also drafted Jarret Culver, who can bring intensity on both ends of the court.

Memphis Grizzlies

Last Season: 33-49
Projected Wins: 27

The Grizzlies traded away beloved point guard Mike Conley in order to make room for their top draft pick Ja Morant. The Grizzlies are in rebuilding mode as per usual. It’s expected to be another long season. At this point, the Memphis Tigers and coach Penny Hardaway are the best basketball show in town.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Last Season: 49-33
Projected Wins: 32

What a difference a year makes eh? Just when you thought Russell Westbrook and Paul George were going to ride off into the sunset together as OKC Thunder players for life, the Thunder were sideswiped. George demanded out of town and fled to LA to join Kawhi Leonard with the Clippers. The Thunder shipped out Westbrook to the Rockets for CP3 and picks. It’s rebuilding mode for the Thunder as they spend the next few months trying to unload CP3. Many NBA experts listed the Thunder to finish dead last in the Western Conference.

Phoenix Suns

Last Season: 19-63
Projected Wins: 28

The Suns have one of the best players in the NBA with Devin Booker. Too bad the scoring prodigy is playing in exile with the Suns. What did he deserve to get banished to the desert? Deandre Ayton had a strong rookie season and the big man’s numbers are expected to increase. Are the Suns still tanking? If so, then they won’t win more than 25 games while competing with the OKC Thunder for the NBA Western Conference basement.

For more 2019-20 NBA previews, check out NBA East Preview: Bucks and Sixers in Two-Thoroughbred Race.

Similar Guides On This Topic