2010-11 Pacific Division Preview
The Pacific Division has long been about the Lakers and everybody else. This year is no different. Still, things are set to be shaken up a little bit.
1. Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers a gunning for their second threepeat since the turn of the century and there is no reason to think that they won’t have a legitimate shot at achieving that goal. Kobe Bryant is still one of the top two players in the game. Pau Gasol could have been chosen as Finals MVP last year if those awards were ever based purely on numbers. There is length, depth, and some old guy sitting on the bench who is supposed to be pretty good at coaching. All of the offseason’s attention centered on the big-name moves made in the East, but the Lakers’ addition of Steve Blake and Matt Barnes to a championship team deserves more credit. The team is legitimately 12-deep, which eases the pain of Andrew Bynum’s perpetual state of injury. They’ll be ready to defend their title come playoff time.
2. Los Angeles Clippers
Every year I say that the Clippers will be an improved team. And every year they find some way to prove me wrong. This season will either be the year that my belief in them pays off or further evidence of my prognosticative ineptitude. Baron Davis is a legit point guard when his mind and body are where they need to be. Chris Kaman is an All-Star offering nightly double doubles. Eric Gordon is a quality young player. Blake Griffin is athletically ridiculous and will raise eyebrows and few times a night, assuming he finds a way to stay healthy. They aren’t going to win any rings any time soon, but this could be the year the Clippers are competitive. Or it could be a year just like every other. Time will tell.
3. Phoenix Suns
There are circles of fans who argue that Steve Nash should be considered for MVP every year because of his value to the Suns and the uptempo system they employ. If he manages to take this squad– sans Amare Stoudemire, who now calls New York home– to the playoffs, I may just listen to those MVP arguments. Nash is inching closer to 40 every day and is slowing down, though still one of the league’s best. Jason Richardson is a pretty good scorer unless you ask him to dribble. Hedo Turkoglu might be the player who ran the show for a Finals team two years ago or he could be the disappointment he was last season. Behind those guys are role players who aren’t terrible, but who aren’t capable to the explosive performances Stoudemire gave us in the Playoffs and throughout the season when his motivation was there. I don’t think they’ll be a bad team, but it might be too much to ask Nash to carry this team into the postseason.
4. Sacramento Kings
DeMarcus Cousins was the second best player in the draft, due respect to Evan Turner and Derrick Favors. He will spend this season proving it to everyone and hopefully not being too much of an on-court knucklehead. Cousins and Tyreke Evans are the big and little combo of the future. Carl Landry, Jason Thompson and Omri Casspi are all nice pieces. But come opening day, no one on the roster will be over the age of 30. Inexperience will keep the Kings from being as good as their talent dictates, but the building blocks for the future are in place.
5. Golden State Warriors
New owner. New coach. New system. New players. Same old stuff on the floor. There is plenty of talent to be found on the Warriors’ roster, but that talent will probably not come together in a way that will equal wins. Under Don Nelson, the team would pretty much try to outscore their opponents every night. Nelson has been forced out and Keith Smart takes over, bringing in a new style of play and (gasp) asking the team to play defense. Monta Ellis, David Lee and Stephen Curry are as talented a threesome you’ll find in the league but– oh wait, there are more talented groups of three players in the NBA? How did I miss that?