Preseason rankings: Western Conference

As teams prepare for the new season, there are some familiar storylines to follow. However, there is also some new intrigue – perhaps enough to surprise us in June when the league champs are crowned.

My preseason rankings reflect potential playoff seeding, but some teams are better built for the regular season (like Dallas). Depth, age and experience all play a part on who dominates the regular season. Here's how I see the West with preseason play getting under way.

San Antonio
San Antonio

1.San Antonio Spurs – They really didn't add much to their team. Why? Because the foreign legion team of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan is still the best. (Yes, Duncan is from the Virgin Islands, but they're foreign to me!) Depth, youth and experience makes them the blueprint franchise.

Phoenix
Phoenix

2.Phoenix Suns – I know Amare Stoudemire is out for the preseason, but that's no concern. The Suns are primed this year, and here are two things to watch for: 120 points per game (which means championship dreams) or Stoudemire, Grant Hill and Raja Bell in street clothes (that'd mean a lottery nightmare).

Dallas
Dallas

3.Dallas Mavericks – Avery Johnson has the challenge of getting rid of the Ghost of Playoff Failures Past. The inability to defend off the dribble and to have a true post-up scorer was exposed for the world to see in the postseason. Personnel changes are in their future.

Utah
Utah

4.Utah Jazz – They are for real. Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams aren't Malone and Stockton, but they're more like Malone and the new Jason Kidd. These two should take off where they left off in the playoffs.

Houston
Houston

5.Houston Rockets – The Rockets' biggest problem is chemistry. The questions are as follows: Is Steve Francis healthy or is he a head case? Is Rafer Alston streetball or street? And can Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady coexist?


Denver
Denver

6.Denver Nuggets – Having Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony for a full season should make Denver the most dangerous team in basketball. If basketball is the only story throughout the year, then look out.


L.A. Lakers
L.A. Lakers

7.Los Angeles Lakers – Kobe will be … well, Kobe. However, this is the year Lamar Odom plays like an All-Star all season and the Lakers take a step closer.


Golden State
Golden State

8.Golden State Warriors – The bodyguard Baron Davis and the upstart Warriors are great for the playoffs. But without depth in a lot of areas, they're looking like the eighth-best club in the West.


Memphis
Memphis

9.Memphis Grizzlies – They improved their team by adding Mike Conley Jr. However, the best improvement comes from just being healthy. Pau Gasol is arguably the second-best power forward in the West behind Duncan, and don't underestimate Damon Stoudamire's value.


New Orleans
New Orleans

10.New Orleans Hornets – CP3 (aka Chris Paul) needs three more studs to go with him. Tyson Chandler is a beast, but it ends there. The rest of the starters would be better served as being second-unit players.


Portland
Portland

11.Portland Trail Blazers – No Greg Oden. No playoffs.


L.A. Clippers
L.A. Clippers

12.Los Angeles Clippers – They're baaaaaaaack … to losing, finger pointing and empty seats. With no Elton Brand or Shaun Livingston, the Clippers' future is in street clothes.


Sacramento
Sacramento

13.Sacramento Kings – New coach Reggie Theus has inherited a glimpse of the Sacramento glory days. The Kings will be in dismantling mode by the All-Star break.


Minnesota
Minnesota

14.Minnesota Timberwolves – The words that will become common place are "youthful," "patience" and "next year."


Seattle
Seattle

15.Seattle SuperSonics – Too young for success. Kevin Durant will be fun to watch, but it will be difficult to find more than 25 wins.