So what do I think about when it comes to the Western Conference? Here we go.
Los Angeles Sparks
Best Case Scenario - The Sparks will not miss a beat from last year even with Delisha Milton Jones' departure and Lindsey Harding's arrival. The Sparks become the #1 team in the west, make the Finals, and then win the whole thing for their first championship since 2002, and third overall.
Worst Case Scenario - The Sparks just barely make the playoffs and then become a one and done team. What would also happen is that Lindsey Harding and Kristi Toliver can't coexist on the court together which also hurts the team more. Alana Beard also faces her foot problems again...
Best Case Scenario - A lot of teams here end up having similar lines, especially in the West. The Lynx would retain their #1 spot in the West in the regular season, get to the Finals, and then win it all. Janel McCarville ends up being a great basketball fit for the Lynx, and rekindles the chemistry she had with Lindsay Whalen when they were in college. Maya Moore continues to improve her game as an all around forward, and Seimone Augustus continues to display herself as one of the best scorers in the league.
Worst Case Scenario - The Lynx ends up third place in the West and loses in the first round, probably to either Phoenix or LA. I think this team will be the first place team in the West, but if they're second place, it's going to be a battle to get to the Western Conference Finals in my opinion.
Best Case Scenario - Again, best case scenario is that the Mercury is the #1 seed in the West, wins the conference playoffs, and the Finals. Also, we'd see that Diana Taurasi comes back with a vengeance and be a serious MVP contender (not like she ever wasn't) and wins the award. Penny Taylor and Candice Dupree come back and don't miss a beat. DeWanna Bonner gets back to her "natural" sixth man role and wins another Sixth Woman of the Year award. Sammy Prahalis becomes more efficient at ball handling and still improves as a scorer. And Brittney Griner's low post defense and mid range game is nothing short of spectacular and perhaps she'll posterize some poor souls too. That gets her the 2013 Rookie of the Year award.
Worst Case Scenario - I think this team makes the playoffs either way but is a one and done opponent. Also, Taylor and Dupree in particular here don't play like they did back in 2011 before their injury riddled 2012 seasons. Griner in particular gets a rude awakening while facing other stronger low post players.
San Antonio Silver Stars
Best Case Scenario - The Stars earn one more playoff appearance and sneak in as a #3 seed with Becky Hammon being a serious MVP contender if not winning it outright. Danielle Adams improves her rebounding with more minutes. Kayla Alexander plays sufficient meaningful minutes and becomes a starting center for the future.
Worst Case Scenario - The Stars miss the playoffs though they certainly can use a high draft pick. Alexander plays only limited minutes. Hammon declines considerably due to her age.
Best Case Scenario - The Storm sees Shekinna Stricklen play significant minutes as its number one perimeter option and she wins Most Improved Player of the year. In addition, Tianna Hawkins plays significant minutes, if not being a starting post player outright, and perhaps she plays next to Camille Little. Temeka Johnson and Tanisha Wright hold their own as the team's floor generals. Seattle ends up missing the playoffs, but fights its way to being the 5th place team in the conference (hopefully between 10-15 wins and plays competitively). Tina Thompson remains an effective player and mentor to Hawkins and Stricklen and doesn't complain about playing off the bench if that's what she's asked to do.
Finally for the 2014 Draft Lottery, Seattle gets the number 1 pick. Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson come back healthy and see that there are legitimate young pieces who can be part of a contending Storm team for years to come after they retire with those young pieces being Stricklen, Hawkins, and the number one pick.
Worst Case Scenario - I don't see any scenario where Shekinna Stricklen isn't starting, but for Hawkins, she ends up being the 2012 version of Natalie Novosel for the Storm even if Nakia Sanford, Camille Little, and Tina Thompson aren't playing well at all and if the Storm ends up winning games at a sub 25% rate.
The Storm ends up with a 5 to 8 win record and even in a situation like this when the playoffs are out of reach with half the season left to go, in the worst case scenario, we continue to see younger players who make this team, in particular Hawkins not playing considering that she does come to the pros as a great rebounder... Brian Agler may even lose his job in the process if this happens.
Best Case Scenario - The Shock gets to the playoffs, as the number 3 seed and winning around 20 games for the regular season. Even I don't see a top two seed being realistic for the team despite the fact that I am high on the Shock for 2013. In addition, Skylar Diggins is the Rookie of the Year. Candice Wiggins gets to rekindle the same energy she had for the Lynx in her first season when she was the Sixth Woman of the Year. That earns her a Most Improved Player Award. Riquna Williams and Glory Johnson remain playing at a high level like they did last year. Williams in particular improves her FG%age toward 40%. Kayla Pedersen also finally begins to either score more or rebound more, hopefully the latter because this team needs rebounding.
In the playoffs, we see the Shock shocking the #2 seed (likely LA/Minny/Phoenix) and going to the Western Conference Finals with Lil' Wayne giving a pregame concert at BOK Center before the Shock's first game in that round, but they will lose in that round of the playoffs. BOK Center also has big crowds every night to see Diggins and her team play. Either way, Skylar Diggins becomes the RGIII for their team.
And oh yeah, Coach Klop wins Coach of the Year. No question about it.
Worst Case Scenario - There are many guys who must have read that best case scenario and thought that came out of a fairy tale. Now we'll hit the other side. The Shock ends up as the last place team in the West.
Here, we'd see Candice Wiggins not be able to play at a high level like her first season in Minnesota. Also Riquna Williams and Glory Johnson regress from last year, and for Williams, let's say she has a sub 30% shooting season like Matee Ajavon did for the Mystics in 2012. Kayla Pedersen doesn't play at a high level. And Skylar Diggins does put up numbers, but becomes easily frustrated with the team's performance, not unlike how John Wall did his first two years with the Washington Wizards. The Shock wins less than 10 games, and heads to the lottery where they can use another high draft pick, but considering that they have Diggins, another sub 10 win season isn't ideal.