Moving right along with our season previews here at The Chase Down Block, we come to the Pacific Division, which is home to absolutely no interesting story lines. None at all. Not a single interesting thing going on here. What’s that you’re saying about Dwight Howard and Steve Nash going to the Lakers? That would certainly be interesting if it happened. But it didn’t. IT DIDN’T HAPPEN.
In all seriousness, I can’t write this entire preview ignoring the fact that the Lakers have put together a team full of a stupid amount of talent. Believe me, I can’t. I’ve thrown away four drafts trying. But to say that is the only interesting thing going on in this division is certainly not true. We have Year Two of the Chris Paul- Blake Griffin experiment, the new look Warriors, and a team that I am dubbing the Black Hole Suns. That’s now even mentioning the Kings, a team that if they realized even half their talent, could be a playoff squad.
So once again kids, here we go with the Pacific Division Preview, presented as always in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly format.
Also, for your viewing pleasure, my previous previews:
The Good: Chris Paul is still your point guard. There is literally almost no underestimating Chris Paul’s importance to this team after he and Blake Griffin have single handedly changes the taste in your mouth when someone says the word “Clipper.” The team made it to the second round of the playoffs last year, and were then defeated by a the Spurs, which many people at the time thought were poised to make a return to the Finals. After what can only be considered a successful season by Clipper standards, the other LA team brought in reinforcements this year, adding Jamal Crawford, Grant Hill, and Lamar Odom, not to mention Matt Barnes, Ryan Hollins, and Ronny Turiaf. Some of those names dazzle, some don’t, but other than Grant Hill, none have played with a point guard of Paul’s caliber. Make no mistake. The Clippers will be a dangerous adversary this year, even moreso than last. If Griffin and DeAndre Jordan improve at all, this team becomes a real and viable contender for the title. Think of this: is there anyone’s legs Paul can’t pass under, or Griffin dunk over?
The Bad: Try to picture this: you’re down two with ten seconds left in overtime in the Western Conference Finals, you go into the huddle and Coach hands you an awesome play. What coach did you just picture? I don’t know, but it wasn’t Vinny Del Negro. He is nobody’s mental picture of an NBA champion coach. Also, I feel as if Blake Griffin can’t have made the necessary adjustments to his game to become a truly elite player when he spent most of the offseason injured after having some bad luck with Team USA practice. DeAndre has also not progressed to the Tyson Chandler level that everyone who threw giant money at him last year were hoping he would.
The Ugly: Is the Khloe and Lamar Show still a thing? Will we get to see Lamar Odom awkwardly explain why he turned into a giant, uncoordinated infant when he was traded to Dallas last year? Will being moved back to LA inspire him to return to form as the matchup nightmare matchup he once was with the Lakers? If the Clippers meet the Lakers in the playoffs, can we expect the fans in LA to steal the greatest free throw chant ever from the Boston fans, this being the immortal “Ugly Sister” chant?
Season Prediction: 55-27
Hit the jump for the rest of Jordan’s preview…
The Good: Without seeming too unbiased, I want to take this opportunity to say I’m not the biggest Laker fan in the world. That being said, I think they are trying to motivate me to commit suicide. For real. When you trade for Steve Nash, one of the league’s best point guards, and Dwight Howard, unquestionably the league’s best center, I’m left with no other conclusion to draw. This Lakers team will field a starting five of Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, and Dwight Howard. If that doesn’t have the stuff legends are made of, I don’t know what does. Howard is a top five defense just touching the court. Nash and Kobe together has to be magic. I figure that put in the right position, Gasol can still be a major factor. Metta is crazy like a fox. This team could in theory keep a future Hall of Famer on the court at all times, and they should. I’m literally on the verge of crapping myself just thinking about it. Oh yeah, and Antawn Jamison is their sixth man. It’s a good thing Mark already took all the sharp objects away from me.
The Bad: Nash is old. Like stupid old. I don’t care how much fiber and protein is in your diet, that has to catch up eventually. And while Kobe was great last year, he did have to fly to Germany and get an experimental operation that was invented by Nazi witches in order to remain so effective. This has the potential to mean that these two miss time due to injury this season. I’m inclined to think that Dwight’s back injury may not have been (read: wasn’t at all, in any way) as serious as thought, but if that becomes a problem, then there is the three best players on this team, all flagged as potential injury risks. Yes, I do know I’m reaching here.
The Ugly: Me if this team is even half as good as I’m scared they will be. The only team I think has the personnel to challenge them at full strength is the Thunder. If the Lakers win the title this year, look for me to move to Kentucky and start helping the Turtleman catch wild animals with my bare hands as a guest star on the Animal Channel’s hit show, The Call of the Wildman. The scary thing is, I’m half serious right now.
Season Prediction: 62-20
The Good: Well, um, given the long spiel I just wrote about the Lakers, this is kind of awkward. So let’s try to focus on the positives, Suns fans. Goran Dragic is back, and after his season in Houston last year, that is definitely something to be excited about. Kyle Lowry may not be a household name, but his talent is undeniable, and Dragic filled his shoes more than admirably. You still have Marcin Gortat, who has been a bright spot for the Suns for the last couple of seasons. He is more than capable of being a starting center in this league, and gives an advantage over most teams in the league at that position. You picked up Luis Scola from Houston as well, a player that efficiency mavens have been raving about for years. Combined with Gortat, you guys have put together a starting front line that, while they may be severely underrated, could compete with almost any in the league. Then you add in players like Shannon Brown, Jared Dudley, and Michael Beasley. Brown is a veteran with championship experience, Dudley is an excellent utility player, and Beasley, who, for everything else he is, does have tremendous talent. So chin up Phoenix. It’s not all that bad.
The Bad: But let’s be honest. It’s not all that good, either. Goran Dragic is a great player. But let’s not kid ourselves: he’s no Steve Nash. I know, it isn’t fair to ask anyone to come into Phoenix and replace one of the best point guards of the last decade. But that is what Phoenix needs. Even though the play failed, I applaud them for trying to get Eric Gordon, because I think this team really needs another playmaker on the outside. So I do think that this is likely to be a long season. The team isn’t bad, but they aren’t that good either.
The Ugly: Did I mention that you guys signed Michael Beasley? Granted, I’ve never been a weed dealer in the greater Phoenix area, but I would spike my prices if I were. Also, allow me to remind you that this is the same gentleman who pictures a Gremlin on top of the backboard before free throws. I love Beasley for reasons that have nothing to do with basketball, but were I a GM, I would not exactly be asking him to play major minutes on my team.
Season Prediction: 32-50
The Good: While all the major changes may have actually happened last year for Golden State, it won’t be until this season starts that we actually get to see what this warriors team will look like. I think management made the right call in keeping Stephen Curry over Monta Ellis. While both are talented wings, Curry has the better playmaking skills and leadership abilities. And while one has to think back a few years to remember it, there was a time when Andrew Bogut’s defensive prowess had the Bucks looking like a contender. Pairing him with David Lee’s offensive skills gives you a frontcourt that can potentially contend with anyone. Those three make a good core, and role players like Jarrett Jack, Brandon Rush, Richard Jefferson, and Klay Thompson will be a group of professionals able to contribute plenty on a nightly basis. While the owner and coach generated the majority of this team’s headlines last year, this team is potentially good enough to generate a few of their own.
The Bad: The team is only potentially good enough because as much as I want to talk myself into thinking that they can stay healthy, I just have to see it before I can believe it. Bogut has been off the court far more than on for the past three seasons, and any type of hard cut seems to kill Curry’s ankle and have him immediately in street clothes. Talent is not at all the issue here, and I know that trying to win a title as a small market team involves some dice rolls. But when two thirds of your core is chronically injured, that is definitely a concern.
The Ugly: Last May owner Joe Lacob announced that the Warriors will be leaving Oracle Arena in Oakland for greener pastures and new arenas in San Francisco. While the move can hardly be called such, since it is literally just over a bridge, it does mark the end of an era or Warriors history. Oracle was home to the amazing “We Believe” team, and while it is the oldest arena in the league, the Warriors played a ton of great games there. Sad to see it happen.
Season Prediction: 43-41
The Good: So here we are writing a preview for another season and here I am raving about how much promise this team has. DeMarcus Cousins has the potential to be better than Andrew Bynum someday, and that day may come sooner than you think. Tyreke Evans has had a hard couple of seasons, but his talent could blossom into something elite as well. Isaiah Thomas packs a lot of ability into his 5’ 9” frame. Marcus Thornton gets buckets. Then you got your veterans, guys like Aaron Brooks, John Salmons, Travis Outlaw. Not to mention Chuck Hayes. Bards will one day write epic songs of his amazing post defense as the league’s only six foot six center. Keith Smart has a lot of raw potential here. I know I said it in the intro, but I’ll say it again: If this team could manage to realize even half of their potential, they could be dangerous to anyone. I don’t feel like I’m exaggerating when I say that.
The Bad: Too young. I stupidly thought that last year the Kings would be the fun league pass team that everyone rallied around. I was wrong. While most teams like the Lakers, Celtics, and Miami are wishing for a Way-Back machine, the Kings need a Way-Forward device. This team has so many talented youngsters that you can’t help but root for them, but I get the feeling that these guys may not “get it” until they have a change of scenery. Which is truly a shame.
The Ugly: There have been reports claiming that the Kings will be moved everywhere from Anaheim to Virginia Beach, largely because it seems the idiot Maloof brothers just want them moved. Which could be understood if they would just come out and say it, but instead the insistently claim they have no plans for any relocation, all while scuttling any attempt the City of Sacramento makes to try to keep its team. Absolutely repugnant.
Season Prediction: 27-55
If the Maloofs are so broke, Jordan Akin will give them ten bucks for the Kings, and an additional five for every one of their balls they let him kick. You can reach him on Twitter @jakin1013, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.