Brief profiles of Western Conference teams

Thu Oct 25, 2012 10:52am EDT

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(Reuters) - Following are brief profiles of the 15 teams in the National Basketball Association's (NBA) Western Conference ahead of the 2012-13 season.

NORTHWEST DIVISION

DENVER NUGGETS

Founded: 1967

NBA titles: None

Head coach: George Karl

2011-12 record: 38-28; Finished second in division, lost to Los Angeles Lakers in first round of playoffs.

The Nuggets are still missing a superstar but have enough athleticism to make the playoffs again. The acquisition of versatile swingman Andre Iguodala should be a big help.

Playmaker Ty Lawson is the top returning scorer but the Nuggets need shooters. Center JaVale McGee, who came to Denver from Washington in March, must deliver inside. The Nuggets also hope for a strong return by forward Danilo Gallinari, who had a productive early season last year before being injured.

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MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES

Founded: 1989

NBA titles: None

Head coach: Rick Adelman

2011-12 record: 26-40; Finished last in division, did not make playoffs

The Timberwolves looked like a possible playoff contender in 2011-12 before a season-ending injury to Spanish rookie point guard Ricky Rubio. Rubio's return in December should rekindle those hopes.

All-Star forward-center Kevin Love, who averaged 26 points and 13.3 rebounds last season, and center Nikola Pekovic lead the frontcourt again and the T-Wolves have added forward Andrei Kirilenko and shooting guard Brandon Roy, both of whom are expected to be starters.

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OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER

Founded: 1967

NBA titles: 1 (1979 as Seattle SuperSonics)

Head coach: Scott Brooks

2011-12 record: 47-19; Won division, swept Dallas in first round of playoffs, beat Los Angeles Lakers in second round and San Antonio in Western Conference finals, lost to Miami Heat in NBA finals.

With a lineup that brought them the Western Conference title, the Thunder will aim for another trip to the NBA finals. But the road may be a little stiffer this time with the Lakers' improvements.

League scoring leader Kevin Durant, point guard Russell Westbrook, sixth man James Harden and key defender Serge Ibaka all won Olympic medals in London. Add center Kendrick Perkins and guard Thabo Sefolosha to the returning starting lineup and the Thunder should make a lot of noise again this season.

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PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS

Founded: 1970

NBA titles: 1 (1977)

Head coach: Terry Stotts

2011-12 record: 28-38; Finished fourth in division, did not make playoffs.

Another tough season appears in store for a once promising franchise. All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge is the biggest asset as the Trail Blazers rebuild, including the hiring of Terry Stotts as the new coach. Rookie point guard Damian Lillard may be the most promising of the newcomers.

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UTAH JAZZ

Founded: 1974

NBA titles: None

Head coach: Tyrone Corbin

2011-12 record: 36-30; Finished third in division, swept by San Antonio in first round of playoffs.

Point guard Mo Williams is back with the Jazz after eight years of playing with the Bucks, Cavaliers and Clippers, and Utah could be back in the playoffs. The addition of forward Marvin Williams from Atlanta also will help. The Jazz also have had a year to adjust to second-year head coach Tyrone Corbin, but still need a superstar to be a factor.

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PACIFIC DIVISION

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

Founded: 1946

NBA titles: 2 (1975, 1956 as Philadelphia Warriors)

Head coach: Mark Jackson

2011-12 record: 23-43; Finished fourth in division, did not make playoffs.

The health of center Andrew Bogut and guard Stephen Curry will be the key to whether the Warriors have a playoff shot. Injuries to both led to a difficult year for Golden State last season. The Warriors were active off the court, re-signing Brandon Rush and adding guard Jarrett Jack and forwards Carl Landry and Harrison Barnes. Also keep an eye on returning guard Klay Thompson.

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LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS

Founded: 1970

NBA titles: None

Head coach: Vinny Del Negro

2011-12 record: 40-26; Finished second in division; beat Memphis in first round of playoffs before being swept by San Antonio in second round.

The Clippers made big strides last season with the addition of guard Chris Paul to team with fellow All-Star Blake Griffin. Offseason acquisitions by the Los Angles Lakers silenced any talk that the Clippers were on their way to becoming Los Angeles' best team.

The Clippers are likely to hold down the number two spot in the Pacific Division again, though, as they added Jamal Crawford, Lamar Odom and Grant Hill, all players with name recognition.

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LOS ANGELES LAKERS

Founded: 1947

NBA titles: 16 (2010, 2009, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1988, 1987, 1985, 1982, 1980, 1972, 1954, 1953, 1952, 1950, 1949)

Head coach: Mike Brown

2011-12 record: 41-25; Won division, beat Denver in first round of playoffs before losing to Oklahoma City in second round.

Can the Lakers live up to the hype? The addition of All-Stars Dwight Howard and Steve Nash make this most anticipated season since the Lakers won back-to-back NBA titles in 2009-10. With Howard at center, Nash at point guard, All-Star Kobe Bryant at shooting guard and Metta World Peace and Pau Gasol at the forwards, this Los Angeles team should challenge Oklahoma City for the Western title and likely will make a run at Miami for the league crown.

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PHOENIX SUNS

Founded: 1968

NBA titles: None

Head coach: Alvin Gentry

2011-12 record: 33-33; Finished third in division, did not make playoffs.

The Suns are not getting much attention now that Steve Nash has headed to Los Angeles. His absence will make it difficult for Phoenix to finish higher than fourth in the Pacific, meaning another year out of the playoffs.

The point guard likely will be Goran Dragic, but he is more of a shooter than playmaker and overall the starting lineup is not one to impress.

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SACRAMENTO KINGS

Founded: 1945

NBA titles: 1 (1951 as Rochester Royals)

Head coach: Keith Smart

2011-12 record: 22-44; Finished last in division, did not make playoffs.

The Kings appear headed for the depths of the Pacific Division again this season while talk swirls about where the franchise will be located next year. Center DeMarcus Cousins has the ability to be a good one but the Kings need more production from him and guards Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton if they are going to see improvement this season.

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SOUTHWEST DIVISION

DALLAS MAVERICKS

Founded: 1980

NBA titles: 1 (2011)

Head coach: Rick Carlisle

2011-12 record: 36-30; Finished third in division, swept by Oklahoma City in first round of playoffs.

Remake time has arrived for a Mavericks franchise that won the NBA title two seasons ago. Only All-Star Dirk Nowitzki and fellow forward Shawn Marion remain in the starting lineup from the championship squad. Gone are guards Jason Terry and Jason Kidd and center Tyson Chandler. The Mavericks hope newcomers and likely starters Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo and Chris Kaman fill the void. Another playoff appearance appears possible but the Mavericks will not go afar.

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HOUSTON ROCKETS

Founded: 1967

NBA titles: 2 (1995, 1994)

Head coach: Kevin McHale

2011-12 record: 34-32; Finished fourth in division; did not make playoffs.

Jeremy Lin's arrival was the biggest splash for the Rockets, but the starting guard no means was the only addition. Houston loaded up with new players including likely starting center Omer Asik. The result could be a long season for Houston.

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MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES

Founded: 1995

NBA titles: None

Head coach: Lionel Hollins

2011-12 record: 41-25; Finished second in division, lost to Los Angeles Clippers in first round of playoffs.

The Grizzlies could be one of the best teams in the division with a cast that includes All-Star center Marc Gasol and talented forwards Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph. The trick will be to keep Gay, the key to the team, and Randolph healthy.

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NEW ORLEANS HORNETS

Founded: 1988

NBA titles: None

Head coach: Monty Williams

2011-12 record: 21-45; Finished last in division, did not make playoffs.

The talent-short Hornets may not win many more games in the upcoming full season than they did during the abbreviated 2011-12. They landed top draft pick Anthony Davis, who will start at forward, but a lot more help is needed. Shooting guard Eric Gordon's play will be a key with newcomers Ryan Anderson and Robin Lopez starting at forward and center.

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SAN ANTONIO SPURS

Founded: 1967

NBA titles: 4 (2007, 2005, 2003, 1999)

Head coach: Gregg Popovich

2011-12 record: 50-16; Won division, swept Utah in first round of playoffs and Los Angeles Clippers in second round, lost to Oklahoma City in Western Conference finals.

The same starting five returns for the Spurs with All-Star Tony Parker and Danny Green at the guards and 13-time All-Star Tim Duncan up front with Boris Diaw and Kawhi Leonard.

That, plus a solid bench, should make the Spurs the division favorite and a team that could go deep into the playoffs. They do not appear strong enough, however, to challenge the Lakers or Thunder for the conference title.

(Compiled by Gene Cherry in Salvo, North Carolina; Editing by Frank Pingue)

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