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Has power shifted away from Golden State Warriors in Western Conference?

Friday 12 July 2019 15:49, UK

James Harden and Russell Westbrook in opposition at the 2019 All-Star Game 2:27
Following a frenzied period of player movement, has the power in the Western Conference shifted away from the Golden State Warriors?

Following a frenzied period of player movement punctuating by the Houston Rockets' acquisition of Russell Westbrook, has the power in the Western Conference shifted away from the Golden State Warriors?

Superstar players Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis, Paul George, Mike Conley, D'Angelo Russell and Westbrook have all joined new teams over the past month, leaving the Western Conference more open than it has been in some time.

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The West has been the Warriors' personal playground for half a decade in which they have reeled off five successive Conference titles. But after losing All-Stars Kevin Durant (free agency) and Klay Thompson (long-term injury), they face long odds of overcoming their biggest conference rivals in the 2019-20 season.

NBA TV analyst Rex Chapman believes the Warriors' dominance is under serious threat from the souped-up squads of the Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers.

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"It's amazing how fast the landscape can change," Chapman said. "Just a month ago, we all thought the Warriors were about to win another title. Then Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson went down with injuries. [Durant has decamped to Brooklyn and] they know they are not going to see Klay back for almost a year. D'Angelo Russell comes in.

"I like what Steve Kerr and Bob Myers have done to try to 'hold serve' while Klay is returning from injury, but it's going to be difficult for them.

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"But I don't discount them, those guys have championship pedigree and I wouldn't be surprised to see Stephen Curry lead the league in scoring in the 2019-20 season, which would be fun."

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The Los Angeles Clippers look to be the early favourites in the Western Conference after signing Kawhi Leonard in free agency and pairing him with fellow two-way star Paul George, acquired via a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

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However, that assumption was challenged when the Houston Rockets swung a trade with the Thunder for former MVP Russell Westbrook on Thursday night. The eight-time All-Star will reunite with James Harden, himself a former MVP, in the Rockets backcourt.

Asked for his thoughts on the new pecking order in the West, Chapman, a 12-year NBA veteran, leaned towards to the new-look Clippers over the Rockets.

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"I take a little bit of exception to the idea that the league's best backcourt is [Harden and Westbrook] in Houston," he said. "I could argue that the best backcourt is there in Los Angeles with the Clippers. You give me Paul George and Kawhi Leonard to match up against Russ and James in the West any day.

"The Lakers are going to be pretty good too. I hope LeBron comes back with those 'young legs' after having a good summer off. I saw [DeMarcus] 'Boogie' [Cousins] in Vegas earlier this week. He's thin, he looks good. If he starts the season in shape, they've got a heck of a team with a heck of a center."

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