1. San Antonio Spurs: After the Kawhi-less Spurs fell short in the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors, they acquired Rudy Gay in the off-season. They won the season series against the Warriors 3-1 but, they got swept in the WC Finals. When Kawhi got injured during Game 1, the Spurs had a twenty-three point lead, the Warriors went on to win that game after Kawhi went down. They eventually swept the Spurs and went on to beat the Cavs 4-1 in the 2017 NBA Finals.
2. Houston Rockets: Houston had a disappointing end to their season, losing to the Spurs in six games. In game six Kawhi Leonard did not play, Rockets should have been able to win that game and at least force it to a game 7. But, James Harden did not step up in that game and they lost in one of the most important games of the season. They acquired Chris Paul and are close to acquiring Carmelo Anthony. They can really challenge the Warriors with Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony joining James Harden and forming a big 3.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder: OKC lost Kevin Durant last year. However, Russell Westbrook carried this team to the playoffs as a six seed and had a historic season leading to him winning 2017 NBA MVP. OKC recently acquired Paul George, which is a huge add-on to Russell Westbrook and the Thunder. Now they can compete in the Western Conference and possibly make the WCF, if not the Finals.
4. Minnesota Timberwolves: The Timberwolves have been in a rebuilding mode for a couple of years. But, this offseason they made a lot of big moves. Trading Ricky Rubio, Zach Lavine, Kris Dunn, and released Nikola Pekovic. They added Jimmy Butler, Jeff Teague, and Taj Gibson. That adds a lot of depth and now have a solid starting unit. It also looks like Jamal Crawford could sign with the Timberwolves. They can challenge the Warriors if they meet up in the first-round.
5. Los Angeles Clippers: This may be a surprise to some people, especially because Chris Paul left the Clippers to join the Rockets. However, the Clippers acquired Lou Williams, Patrick Beverly, Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell, and a 2018 draft pick. They did not stop there, short after, they signed Danilo Gallinari. Now looking to add veteran guard Tony Allen who will help the team out a lot on the defensive end. Re-signing Blake Griffin, adding a “professional” scorer in Louis Williams, and an interior defender in Patrick Beverley, and who wouldn’t want to have Patrick Beverley on their team guarding a Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving, John Wall, Stephen Curry, etc. Clippers should still be a threat in the Western Conference.