Wednesday, November 5, 2008

2008-09 NBA Season Preview: Pacific

1. Los Angeles Lakers: This division is not the powerhouse that it's been in years past. The Lakers will win the division easily. They have a ton of talent, a good coach, and a very deep roster. They play an efficient offense game, and are underrated defensively. While Kobe is this team's best player, their MVP will be Andrew Bynum. He will be the difference maker with respect to whether the Lakers win the NBA championship or not. How will he handle all of the pressure? They have basically the same roster as last year, switch out Turiaf for Bynum, so they will have high expectations. If Kobe does not lead this team to the promised land, it will be just another blemish on his resume. Gasol, Bynum and Odom gives the Lakers a talented 3-headed PF/C platoon. It will be interesting to see how Odom reacts to playing off of the bench. He's known to be a bit of a space cadet. This finally might be the year that Farmar wins the starting spot from Fisher; or at least, plays more minutes than him. Vujacic and Radmanovic provide some outside shooting for this team. Ariza and Walton will provide sporadic value for this team off of the bench; Ariza with better defense and Walton with better offense. I give this team a slight edge over the Celtics due to their younger age and their superior inside play. It's title or bust for this Los Angeles team.

2. Phoenix Suns: It'll be fun to follow this team throughout the season, as they try to change their team philosophy, after the addition of Shaq. They are a much deeper team than last year, and I think Barnes and the rookies: Lopez and Dragic will provide solid production for this team. Hill off of the bench is great, and should help their second unit. He provides them some leadership, another ball-handler, and a guy who can create his own shots when needed. Limiting Hill's minutes will hopefully keep him healthy all year long. Amare and Shaq will beast in the middle. If Shaq can stay out of foul trouble, stay healthy, they will be tough to beat. Nash will continue to be a stud; I don't foresee any slowdown, despite his increased age. Raja Bell and Barnes form an interesting dynamic duo; they stretch the offense with their shooting and are tough, rugged defenders on the opposite side. Barbosa and Diaw may be the X-Factors. They need solid production from both reserves players in order for them to be competitive. This team needs to prove that they can get defensive stops in the clutch and win games with a slower pace; this favors Nash in the long-run, who could use the extra rest.

3. Los Angeles Clippers: I'd be surprised to see any of the below teams make the playoffs. They have too many questions marks and just not enough talent. This Clippers team in particular will be hit or miss; most likely miss. They have a ton of new faces compared to the last year, and are relying on two injury-prone players: Camby and Baron Davis to lead their team. Theoretically, they form a potent duo. But let's see how many games they end up playing together. That will be a barometer for this team's success. Kaman needs to prove that last year was not a fluke. Also it's not clear how he will jive with Camby in the middle. It seems like they will hurt each other's production. Thornton needs to build off of his promising rookie season. SG will be a rotating mess. Who do you start? Mobley, Rickey Davis or Eric Gordon? All are talented, but flawed players. It's too bad Jason Williams had to retire. It would have been fun to watch him and Baron Davis play together at times. Tim Thomas will provide some erratic play off of the bench. The departure of Elton Brand, and to a lesser extent Maggette, is a big step back for this team.

4. Golden State Warriors: The Warriors will struggle to match their win total from the previous year. Losing Baron is a big hit; he was the face of their franchise. Maggette can match Baron's scoring, but doesn't provide the same intangibles and leadership. Stephen Jackson will have to step up and earn his contract extension. The lose of Baron Davis and the injury to Monta Ellis leaves a huge hole on this team at the PG spot. Until they can find some stability at this position, they are going to struggle to win games. Marus Williams, DeMarcus Nelson, CJ Watson... that might be the worst trio of PG in the league. I hope that Nelson stays true to his word to play their young players. They have nothing to lose at this point, and I'm sure that fans want to see what Bellinelli, Randolph, Wright are capable of doing. Azubuike off of the bench should be solid and will be one of the few bright spots of the team. This team will desperately miss the versatility and hustle of bench players: Pietrus and Barnes, who have moved on to greener pastures. They were key to Nelson's crazy player rotations. Biedrins should hopefully get a boost in minutes and a chance to justify this huge contract. He should be a double-double machine. Harrington needs to be traded so that Randolph and Wright can get more playing time. Turiaf will be a solid reserve, though his minutes will be sporadic.

5. Sacramento Kings: I'll be watching this team closely. They are another rebuiding team with some interesting pieces. Kevin Martin looks to take the next step to all-star, while Salmons/Garcia will try to fill the void by Artest. Both have an excellent chance to flourish on this team. I'm not sold on Udrih being a rock at the PG position, but he should be adequate in the short-term. With Brad Miller suspended for drug use, Hawes and Thompson should get some extra burn. These two young players are the future of this team. I would trade Brad Miller to get them more playing time. Also Mikki Moore is a bum. They need to bench him or trade him. He might be the worst starting PF in the league. Shelden Williams should be the first big man off of the bench. This team is lottery-bound, so they should start looking towards the future and playing their young guys as much as possible. Playing Bobby Jackson heavy minutes, for example, is doing no one any favor's. I'm not sure where Donte Greene fits into this picture but he can score points in a hurry. Also either Quincy Douby or Bobby Brown (LOL) needs to solidify themselves as the backup PG.

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