Pacific Division Preview

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LOS ANGELES LAKERS

Offseason Summary – Mitch Kupchak managed to keep Lamar Odom and add Ron Artest, and the only significant loss the team suffered was starting SF, Trevor Ariza, the player Artest was nabbed to replace. Did I mention that the Lakers won the title last year and would have been fine to simply keep last year’s team together, so upgrading a starter is just, as the kids say, bananas? I’m pretty sure that I did. The Lakers even managed to pick up one of the Kardashian girls, and you know they were built with the junk in the trunk that helps with those tough boxouts.

Probable Starters

PG Derek Fisher
SG Kobe Bryant
SF Ron Artest
PF Pau Gasol
C Andrew Bynum

Key Reserves

PF Lamar Odom
PG Jordan Farmar
SG Shannon Brown
SF Luke Walton
SG Sasha Vujacic

The defending champs got better. Kobe went and studied post moves with Hakeem. Ron Artest, who shot 40% from 3 last year, is going to be wide open game after game, and make no mistake, on the court he’s better than Ariza. Bynum projects to be much better than last year, which could lead to a rested Gasol in big moments. Be afraid. There are 4 or 5 teams with legitimate title aspirations, but the hated LA Lakers remain the favorites to take it all in the first title repeat in the NBA since they did it on the broad shoulders of Shaquille O’Neal in 2002.

PHOENIX SUNS

Offseason Summary – GM Steve Kerr traded away 2008 prize catch and their best player by PER last season, Shaquille O’Neal. They also lost Matt Barnes. The draft brought them 6′ 10″ forward Earl Clark out of Louisville. The good news is that Amare Stoudemire is back from his eye surgery, and he and his sweet new goggles have apparently been performing at a very high level. In interviews STAT is even claiming to be more committed to dominating the glass. Kerr also signed Channing Frye, a perimeter big originally drafted by Isiah Thomas.

Probable Starters

PG Steve Nash
SG Jason Richardson
SF Grant Hill
PF Amare Stoudemire
C Robin Lopez

Key Reserves

SG Leandro Barbosa
F/C Channing Frye
PF Earl Clark
PG Dan Dickau
PF Louis Amundson

The Suns may be a classic case of addition by subtraction this year. Terry Porter was a favorite player of mine, and I don’t think he’s been a bad coach, but his system did not fit the Phoenix mentality or personnel. Alvin Gentry will bring the team back to the Nash-driven uptempo style that made them contenders and fan-favorites. Their season success will rest on how well Amare comes back from his injury and how well Nash and Hill hold at their ages. I don’t see contenders here anymore, but they could win in the mid 50s and push LA or San Antonio pretty hard in the playoffs.

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS

Offseason Summary – With the #1 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, the Los Angeles Clippers select, Blake Griffin out of Oklahoma. LA’s other team had a nice summer. The first overall pick that they used on a can’t miss power forward with great rebounding skills and a ton of scoring ability. They also managed to open up playing time for Griffin by trading away Zack Randolph. Adding RasuAl Butler as a floor spacer is a good thing, and getting back motivated, healthy BaRon Davis and Marcus Camby will be big.

Probable Starters

PG BaRon Davis
SG Eric Gordon
SF Al Thornton
PF Blake Griffin
C Marcus Camby

Key Reserves

C Chris Kaman
PF Craig Smith
SG RasuAl Butler
PG Sebastian Telfair
G/F Ricky Davis
SG Kareem Rush

The Clips weren’t as bad as they played last year. They had poor chemistry and a lack of motivation in among their best players. With the addition of Blake Griffin and the natural progression of young guns Al Thornton and Eric Gordon, they stand to make major strides. I’d be very surprised to see the red and blue in the playoffs this year, but it’s not out of the question. Coach Dunleavy is going to need to create chemistry and keep these players involved and giving maximum effort at both ends. Hey! It could happen!

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

Offseason Summary – Since the Warriors were stacked with undersized gunner two guards masquerading as point guards, they went ahead and drafted Stephen Curry, an undersized gunner two guard who masquerades as a point guard. The team captain, Stephen Jackson, requested a trade. Their most explosive scorer, Monta Ellis, refuses to share the back court with Stephen Curry. Wow. Oh they also picked up C.J. Watson, Devean George, Mikki Moore, Acie Law, and Speedy Claxton.

Probable Starters

PG Stephen Curry
SG Monta Ellis
SF Stephen Jackson
PF Anthony Randolph
C Andris Biedrins

Key Reserves

SF Corey Maggette
SG Anthony Morrow
PF Ronnie Turiaf
PG Acie Law
SG Kelenna Azubuike

This team seems to be in a bad, bad way. They have no defensive guards, and their pure PGs don’t project to get any minutes. Their SGs are undersized, and so are their Cs. If Stephen Jackson is not committed, they have no leader, and it seems like Don Nelson checked out a long time ago. They have a slew of raw fire power, and Biedrins, Randolph, and Turiaf hunt rebounds voraciously enough to keep them in a lot of games. Still the playoffs seem to have left with Baron, and until they get a PG with enough size and command of the team to effectively play with all those shooters, they are unlikely to make it back.

SACRAMENTO KINGS

Offseason Summary – The Kings were not very good last year, and they did not get a whole heck of a lot better this summer. I do have good memories of new coach, Paul Westphal, guiding the 1993 Suns to the NBA Finals. I also remember Charles Barkley being on that team. And Kevin Johnson. And Dan Majerle. OK. So here’s what happened this summer – added: Sean May, Melvin Ely, Desmond Mason, Lanny Smith, Jon Brockman, Omri Casspi, Tyreke Evans, Sergio Rodriguez.

Probable Starters

PG Fransisco Garcia
SG Kevin Martin
SF Andres Nocioni
PF Jason Thompson
C Spencer Hawes

Key Reserves

SF Omni Casspri
PF Sean May
PG Beno Udrih
SG Tyreke Evans
C Melvin Ely

I actually do like the young talent on this team. Martin, Garcia, Thompson, and Hawes are all terrific. I’ve read some good things about Casspri and Evans. This year is going to be another learning experience for the young guys. Hopefully Sean May has a nice year and adds some real depth up front for them for the first time since Hedo Turkoglu, Bobby Jackson, Scott Pollard, and Gerald Wallace were all riding the pine for the Kings. Those were the days. Maybe we should all just watch some Jason Williams highlights and wait for 2011.

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