The New West Order

The NBA Western Conference is getting better, even if Dallas and Phoenix aren't.

Denver, the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State have credentials to take advantage of any misstep among the top teams. The Clippers have a solid starting lineup but little in the way of a bench, a big factor in the NBA since reserves typically play 30-35 percent of the minutes. After five straight first round exits, Denver may be leaning toward trying a rapid rebuilding rather than another brief visit to the postseason. Golden State will miss guard Monta Ellis, who is out until January, but will be formidable after his return.

The rest of the Western Conference is full of teams that are starting to move in the right direction. The Memphis Grizzlies and Minnesota Timberwolves have rosters full of talented young players. The Oklahoma City Thunder have a future all star in Kevin Durant to build around. The Sacramento Kings would have made the playoffs last season if they were in the Eastern Conference, but that’s how tough life is on the left side of the NBA. It doesn’t look like it will get any easier soon.

Martin Johnson is a regular contributor to The Root.