Monday, 30 October 2006

2006 NBA Preview: Pacific Division

And at last, the final division of these previews before I do my final preseason preview. I know you've all been waiting.

Golden State Warriors - With Nellie Ball in effect, they should at least be more interesting to watch. Everything about this team depends on Baron Davis staying healthy, which as you know is no guarantee. There is no decent backup to Baron. But if he can stay healthy, they might have a playoff chance with Nellie. Jason Richardson is very good on one wing, and Mickael Pietrus has shown flashes at the small forward spot. Mike Dunleavy will start at the 4, and that will cause matchup problems (both for Dunleavy and whoever he's guarding). If Baron can stay healthy and the young guys keep improving, they'll contend for the 8 seed.

LA Clippers - Coming off the playoff berth, expectations are high. Maybe a little too high. Cassell and Mobley are a year older, and I'm not sure Elton Brand can be quite that good again. Though things aren't all bad. Corey Maggette was hurt for a large portion of last year, and having him healthy is a huge help. Also a wildcard is the development of Shaun Livingston... as John Hollinger wrote, "As for Livingston, he's a wild card -- a 15-minute-a-night curiosity if he doesn't learn how to shoot; a frighteningly talented player if he does." All told, I expect a return trip to the playoffs for the Clips, but it won't be easy.

LA Lakers - They've got on guy who I've heard is pretty good named Kobe Bryant. But they also have a little more depth this year, with the additions of Vlad Radmanovic, Shammond Williams, Mo Evans, and Jordan Farmar. Tack on the improvements of guys like Kwame Brown and Andrew Bynum, and there's no reason why these guys can't be right back in the playoffs. As long as they have Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant, they have a chance.

Phoenix Suns - These guys are hands-down the most fun team in the NBA to watch, and if Amare Stoudemire comes back they could be the most talented as well. They're athetic, great shooters, and obviously they can get up and down the floor. With Kurt Thomas in there, they're also half-decent defensively, and even better if Amare can be healthy. They're title contenders regardless.

Sacramento Kings - I'm not very optimistic about the Kings chances of returning to the playoffs. When healthy, the starters are decent enough. But the bench? Not so much. Their top bench players are Kenny Thomas, John Salmons, and Francisco Garcia. These guys just simply aren't talented enough in the deep Western conference, and that's before even considering the seemingly inevitable Ron Artest blowup.

Predicted Order of Finish
1. Phoenix Suns
2. LA Lakers
3. LA Clippers
4. Golden State Warriors
5. Sacramento Kings