With NBA training camps open, let’s get right to it. Here’s a quick rundown and ranking of Western Conference teams heading into the 2007-08 season:
1. SAN ANTONIO: The defending champion Spurs aren’t getting older, they’re getting better. Their second-to-none core — Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili — returns, and in typical Spurs’ fashion, they made a nice under-the-radar signing: Ime Udoka.
2. PHOENIX: The Suns were a Robert Horry hip-check away from advancing to the Western Conference finals last season. They didn’t tinker much, adding only veteran Grant Hill. The big concerns in the Valley of the Sun are Amare Stoudemire’s third surgery in the past two seasons and Shawn Marion’s mindset.
3. DALLAS: Make no mistake, the Mavericks are still a really good team, but it says here they’ll never return to their pre-Warriors level. The additions of Eddie Jones and Trenton Hassell aren’t likely to make much of a difference.
4. DENVER: Carmelo Anthony seems poised to have an MVP-type season. He’s virtually unguardable on the perimeter. If Allen Iverson can effectively be a No. 2 option, the Nuggets are looking at homecourt advantage.
5. UTAH: Most have the Jazz on the rise, but it says here that there will be negative fallout from the Andrei Kirilenko-Jerry Sloan situation.
6. HOUSTON: Rick Adelman takes over for Jeff Van Gundy, which means the Rockets will play more up-tempo and score more points. The only problem is that Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady aren’t really suited to anything but a slowdown style.
7. WARRIORS: I’m not convinced the Warriors are better than they were at the end of last season, but at the moment, Baron Davis and Don Nelson seem content. And that twosome can push you a long way. The Warriors will also benefit from the fact that no team beneath them in the standings improved enough to leapfrog.
8. NEW ORLEANS: Injuries decimated the Hornets a season ago, but they hung around the playoff race till the final week of the season. With betterhealth, the Hornets should be there.
9. MEMPHIS: Pau Gasol is healthy, and the Grizzlies’ athletic players — Rudy Gay and Hakim Warrick — are improving. The Grizzlies might not be ready quite yet, but they’re getting there.
10. L.A. LAKERS: The Lakers have two problems: Kobe Bryant is unhappy and the organization didn’t get discernibly better in the offseason.
11. L.A. CLIPPERS: Elton Brand and Shaun Livingston will miss significant portions of the season. Enough said.
12. SACRAMENTO: Reggie Theus is probably an upgrade over Eric Musselman, but the same old problem exists: A mismatched roster with an abundance of run-of-the-mill players.
13. PORTLAND: The season-ending injury to top overall pick Greg Oden is going to have a psychological effect on the Blazers.
14. SEATTLE: Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen are gone. Kevin Durant, however, is here. It still isn’t going to happen right away for the Sonics.
15. MINNESOTA: Let’s go ahead and start the Kevin McHale Watch.
Matt Steinmetz is the NBA insider for Warriors telecasts on Fox Sports Net.