NBA Preview: Pacific Division
Los Angeles Lakers: Obviously, there has been quite a bit of drama in Hollywood over the last few days. First, it was reported that Chris Paul was on his way to join the Lakers in a proposed deal three-team deal that among other things, would have sent picks, Luis Scola and Lamar Odom to New Orleans and Pau Gasol to Houston in return for Paul. Then came greater drama when David Stern apparently put his foot down to stop the deal. After attempting to get the Paul deal done again, the Lakers pulled out. Lamar Odom has been traded to Dallas for a trade exception which now they will likely use in a deal for Dwight Howard. I, and non-Laker fans everywhere won’t be able to comprehend how much damage they will do should the Howard deal go through. Age and point guard play are there two biggest weaknesses, especially in their core group, aside from Bynum, who might as well be an old man considering he misses 20+ games a year. Kobe Bryant is past his prime, although he still has good basketball left. Derek Fisher and Steve Blake will rarely win their match-ups on a nightly basis. Also, small forward is weak point in their roster. Their frontcourt, even after losing Odom and Kobe Bryant’s closing ability are still their strengths. Although Gasol got ripped after last year’s Dallas series, he still has plenty of good basketball left in him and Bynum, when healthy, is one of the leagues best centers.
Los Angeles Clippers: Last year, the Clippers made a splash and watching the other LA team was fun for the first time since Elton Brand and Chris Kaman led the Clips to the Playoffs in 2006. This offseason, they made possibly the biggest splash in acquiring Chris Paul from the New Orleans Hornets, although they gave up a lot in Eric Gordon, Al-Farouq Aminu, Chris Kaman and Minnesota’s first round pick as well as additional picks. Also, the acquisition of Caron Butler, a proven, veteran scorer (when healthy), will certainly improve their chances. The Clippers may not be the best team in LA yet but they will surely be the most fun team to watch in tinsel-town. They also have a glut of point-guards in Eric Bledsoe, Mo Williams and Chauncey Billups to go along with Paul. They will surely need to take that depth, most likely either Williams or Bledsoe (since Billups cannot be traded), will be traded for another big-man to add depth or a two-guard. However, that will not stop LA from quickly being known as “Lob City”.
Golden State Warriors: The Warriors can fill it up with anyone. They drafted a very capable scoring wing-player and great shooter in Klay Thompson to go along with their already dynamic backcourt of Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis. David Lee brought stability to the power forward position while Andris Biedrins still struggles to find consistency and good health. Defense is still Golden State’s biggest problem. They lack the ability to stop people in the half-court game and their big-men on their current roster are not the best defenders. Turnovers are also a major concern. Their backcourt is their major strength. Curry and Ellis are one of the best backcourt combos in the league and both have the ability to go for 30 points on any given night. Their three-point shooting is also very strong. Their frontcourt, whether they add Jordan or not, has lots of upside and could become a strength.
Phoenix Suns: The Suns have a very interesting team that should be able to put up a good fight night-in and night-out. Steve Nash is still one of the league’s best playmakers and their open court style will surely get outside shooters like Jared Dudley, Channing Frye open looks. Josh Childress, Dudley and free-agent acquisition Shannon Brown will all thrive around Nash for another year. Also, Marcin Gortat and Robin Lopez are both good defensive big-men who can rebound. They also added Markieff Morris in the draft. Morris is not as gifted a scorer as his brother Marcus but he is a banger at power-forward and is completely different type of four than Channing Frye. Getting points in the paint will be a problem. Their big men are serviceable but not the most offensively capable. Also, aside from Nash, they don’t really have anybody that can create their own shot in a half-court set. Also, opposing point-guards getting points will be fairly easy. They will again lean on their ability to fast break to win games. Nash in a pick-n-roll set is as un-guardable as they come, even at his age. Also, they have a pretty capable defensive unit, aside from Nash.
Sacramento Kings: Last season, I mistakenly saw the Kings making a step forward in their rebuilding process. However, I was sorely mistaken. Tyreke Evans was nowhere near the same player he was in his rookie campaign, problems with DaMarcus Cousins and injuries stunted their growth. They made a lot of changes during the offseason during the draft and in the first week of free-agency. They re-signed Marcus Thornton and they added a great rebounder in Chuck Hayes to go along with their draft day moves, which resulted in John Salmons, J.J. Hickson and last year’s Naismith Award Winner, Jimmer Fredette bringing their talents to the “City of Trees.”Although, they are talented in scoring, their team defense hasn’t proven they can stop anyone from doing it on them.
The Kings should be able to rebound and score with most of their opponents. They have players that can create their own shots like Salmons and Evans. We know Jimmer Fredette can stroke it but there are doubts that he can score off the dribble, while Cousins and Hickson are fairly skilled down-low.