features the Pacific Division, or as I like to call it, home of the best team in the NBA.
This division only has one legit contender, down from years past, but in my book they are THE contender. After the jump we'll break it down team by team. Check out all of the
1. Los Angeles Lakers (64-18)
I've tried to find a weakness with this team, and unfortunately I don't think it exists.
- Lock-down defenders on the wing
- Perimeter shooting
- Veteran leadership
The Lakers are the most complete team in the league. Don't let the Finals from last year fool you, they're a superior team to the Celtics, when healthy. That's going to be the defining factor of the season. People forget how dominant Andrew Bynum was before his injury last season. If he's healthy, stays that way the entire season, and puts up the kind of numbers he did last year, this team won't be stopped. They can't. When you're thinking about bringing Lamar Odom off the bench, you've got some serious talent on your team.
Imagine that, I just did a full preview of the Lakers, picked them as the best team in the league, and didn't mention
the sex offender
Kobe once.Team blog worth checking out: Forum Blue and Gold
2. Phoenix Suns (52-30)
With one absurd trade the Suns changed the direction of their team last year. They gambled that Shaq's slow-motion body could keep up with their frenetic offense and/or he'd allow them to play a slower, tougher pace in the playoffs. Neither really happened, and that move was probably a not-so-subtly way of showing Mike D'Antoni the door.
Now you're looking at an aging roster with two cornerstones nearing the end of their runs (Shaq more so than Nash, but still). The one saving grace is that they have the best offensive big man in the game, and this is now turning into his team. While Shaq isn't much of a weapon in his own right at this stage of his career, he does clear space for Amare to work. The Suns won't be running as much, and that's probably a good thing. Their offense needs to run through Amare, I think it will and I think the formula will work. They'll see a drop off from their recent run of great success, but still, they'll be right there when it's playoff time.
It'll be interesting to see how if this slower-bigger version of the Suns with new leadership can carry that success into the postseason.Team blog worth checking out: Bright Side Of The Sun
3. Los Angeles Clippers (39-43)
Yup, I'm predicting a 15-game improvement for a team that lost it's two best players in free agency. In a nutshell, the Clippers lost Brand, Maggette and Brevin Knight, gained Marcus Camby, Baron Davis and Ricky Davis. All things being equal, they're losers. When you're comparing this year's team to last year's 23-59 squad, though, they're better. Much better.
Last year, they playe without Elton Brand for all but 8 games. This season, they'll have a front line of Camby, Kaman and Al Thornton, Baron running the point with Ricky Davis and/or Eric Gordon beside him. The team lacks depth and most of their scoring is going to come from chuckers, they're going to be a much better defensive team. Kaman and Camby will probably be the best shot-blocking PF/C combo in the league, which will make up for a lot of mistakes on the perimeter.
There's no statistical foundation for this theory, but I've always felt that teams who can defend need a guy who can hit a dagger. Games are going to be close, so they need the guy to hit deciding shots down the stretch. Baron Davis is one of the best in that role. They won't make the playoffs, but I see the Clippers bouncing back in a big way. Their future isn't bright at all, but they're definitely better than they were last year.Team blog worth checking out: Clipper Blog
4. Golden State Warriors (37-45)
Losing Baron Davis unexpectedly this offseason was quite a blow. They quickly tried to fill the void by signing Maggette away from the Clippers. An even swap? Well, not really. Maggette is a more-efficient scorer than Davis, but scoring is literally the only thing he does. He'll probably fit in pretty well with Nellie-ball, but I think 9 out of 10 gms would rather have Baron.
Forget the offseason moves, even if you consider them a wash they aren't the biggest factor in Golden State's season. A friggin' moped is. Monta Ellis was basically handed the keys to this team. He was primed to take over the point guard position, he was set to step out of Baron's shadow and ascend to stardom. Then he decided it would be fun to ride a moped. The rest is history. Monta will miss months of this season and the Warriors really don't have another answer at point guard. In fact, Ellis isn't really a point, but now they're in even worse shape. 37 wins may be generous for this team.Team blog worth checking out: Golden State Of Mind
5. Sacramento Kings (28-54)
The Kings are what they were last year, minus Ron Artest. If that doesn't inspire you, well, it shouldn't.
Martin is a prolific scorer with an ugly jump shot. Beno Udrih has one of the coolest names in the league, but isn't really much more than an average point guard. Brad Miller is about 60 years old. Spencer Hawes runs like me. Sherif-Adbur Rahim retired.
The do have a guy who could be a bright spot going forward, the pride of Rider, Jason Thompson. They may have reached for him a bit in the draft, but he should see solid minutes. I just can't figure out what direction this team is trying to take. Team blog worth checking out: Sactown Royalty
Up next, the Southwest Division. Check out all the previews here