Tag:Pacific Division Preview
Posted on: October 13, 2010 12:46 am

kmvenne's comprehensive Pacific Division Preview

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2010-2011 K.M. Venne Pacific Division Preview

The Pacific was a lame conference last year. The Lakers emerged as the West’s #1 seed, the Suns came out like a house of fire, stumbled, then got hot late and made it to the West Finals, and the Clippers, Warriors, and Kings played pretty terrible basketball. The Pacific is set up to be an even lamer conference this year if you listen to the national media. The Lakers are expected to be even better, last year they were a 57 win team treated as a 65 win team, there is no reason to expect that to not just grow this year. The Suns are all but written off due to the loss of STAT. The Warriors might get some play early on due to the David Lee trade and having Stephen Curry, but that will fade away quickly if the Warriors play typical awful Warrior basketball. The Clippers will remain a media joke unless they win some games, and Sacramento will only be interesting as people debate what city they will soon call home, unless they win some games.

I don’t buy into the negative and boring perception of the Pacific heading into this year. What was lame last year may be really interesting this year. I see some surprises, some failures, and some interesting subplots developing, and while the winner of the Pacific can be etched in stone right now, there is more to the Pacific then the top team (unless you are a L.A. fan, of course. They exist in a 2 team NBA).

Of note, I wrote an overall rock solid prediction of the Pacific last season as the only division I previewed, I about 18% more accurate with my season win predictions then Vegas was, so if you are going to take any of my predictions to the pay window, this may be the one.

1.) Los Angeles Lakers

Youtube Song for their 2010-2011 season:
Ace of Spades - Motorhead

Offseason moves:

NBA Draft: Devin Ebanks, Derrick Caracter
Free Agents - in: G Steve Blake, G Derek Fisher, C Theo Ratliff, G Matt Barnes
Free Agents - out: G Jordan Farmar, F Josh Powell

Training Camp Roster:

F Ron Artest, G Kobe Bryant, C Andrew Bynum, F Pau Gasol, F Lamar Odom, G Sasha Vujacic, F Luke Walton, G Derek Fisher, G Shannon Brown, G Steve Blake, G Derek Fisher, C Theo Ratliff, G Matt Barnes, F Devin Ebanks, F Derrick Caracter, G-F Trey Jonson, C-F Drew Naymick


Pushing up the ante, I know you’ve got to see me, Read ‘em and weep, the dead man’s hand again…

Far too much is being made of the Lakers offseason, and the first thing that comes to mind, is why? Not “Why?” as in “Why the hell is the media interested in these players?”, more as in “Why the hell is the media rightly interested in these players?”. The NBA Champions lost nothing, and are the defending champions. Therefore, why the hell were they really looking to add this many pieces? They got Steve Blake to help spell the aging and re-signed Derek Fisher, which is an important move. They also got Matt Barnes, Theo Ratliff, and drafted Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter, all of which seem on their face to be pointless, where are the minutes for these guys, who may be ok, but have much better people in front of them?

The answer as to why the Lakers additions are being made a lot of is also the answer to what about the Lakers is being made far too little of. And that is the fact that this is Phil Jackson’s last year, a year after he got pushed to 7 games by the Boston Celtics in last year’s Finals, and now faces a Heat team that could be the same kind of favorite over his Lakers as his Lakers were over the Celtics.
Phil only cares about winning the title this season, and believe it or not, I think Phil learned a lesson from Doc Rivers (yes, it felt just as stupid to type that the Zen Master learned something from average at best X’s and O’s coach Doc Rivers as you felt stupid reading that).
And that is, the regular season is worthless. Take your aging team, get healthy, and make a run at the title.

Kobe recently said his knee was about 60%. Well, he’s not going to be doing much playing until he feels 100%. Bynum has had his timetable pushed back on his return. I would be surprised honestly if it’s not pushed back yet again before he wears a uniform. Pau will probably miss some games, Fisher will see another reduction in his minutes, and overall, the Lakers are going to be taking it easy this season. This would seem to be a recipe for a low seed, given how last year the Lakers honestly only made the playoffs by 7 games. Lose a couple extra games, and who knows how far you fall?

But I’m still going to say they get the #1 seed in the West. I think the West is weaker, the Lakers are still a team that has star talent on the court even if they are without one of their key players, and also the Lakers made the moves they made, meaning that at any time, Steve Blake, Matt Barnes, or Lamar Odom can be the replacement that gives a starter some rest. The Lakers are deep for a reason, they are going to use that depth to ensure they get to the playoffs in 1 piece. They won’t come close to the record of the Heat or perhaps a couple other East teams, and are highly unlikely to make a possible Finals with home court, but they are going to put themselves in the best position to make the finals, and that is with rest, with depth, and with a short memory. And still, that depth is so good, I predict 58 wins and the #1 seed.

Oh, you want a key to this season? Well, the media and the fans talk LA enough, but I’ll bring up one point, and that is Ron Artest. The playoff hero was still by and large a regular season and beginning of the playoffs zero, he needs to speed up his learning curve in the triangle offense and either regain his 3 point stroke or lose it, because that thing is not reliable, one shot does not a shooter become born again with. For all the gambles L.A. will make this year, how they treat Artest will be the biggest. Will they keep pushing up the ante and ask more and more of him as the season goes on? Will Artest show up as the winning hand when it counts again? Or will the Lakers and Artest continue to be more of a failure then a success overall? In the grand picture, the easiest way the Lakers can compete with anyone in the East is to get the old Artest back, and this regular season, his play will be every big as big a factor in determining the Lakers post-season success as anyone else. You want to see how the Lakers are looking? Watch Ron-Ron, L.A. will go this year as he goes. He is truly the dead man's hand, again.

Prediction: 1st in the Pacific, 1st in the West, 58-24 record.

2) Phoenix Suns

Youtube Song for their 2010-2011 season:
Godsmack – I Stand Alone

Offseason moves:

NBA Draft: Gani Lawal, Dwayne Collins
Free Agents - in: F Grant Hill, F Hakim Warrick, C Channing Frye, G Matt Janning
Trades - in: G/F Josh Childress, F Hedo Turkoglu
Free Agents - out: F Amar'e Stoudemire, F Louis Amundson
Trades – out: Leandro Barbosa

Training Camp Roster:

F Earl Clark, G Goran Dragic, F Jared Dudley, C Robin Lopez, G Steve Nash, G Jason Richardson, F Grant Hill, C Channing Frye, F Grant Hill, F Hakim Warrick, C Channing Frye, G Matt Janning, G/F Josh Childress, F Hedo Turkoglu, G Chucky Atkins, G Zabian Dowdell, F-C Dwayne Jones, C Garret Siler


I’ll never rest until I can make my own way, I’m not afraid of fading, I stand alone…

You gotta be a cold hearted scumbag not to have felt for Steve Nash last season, as he had another chance at seeing the NBA Finals slip away from him despite his inhuman efforts. Finally, years of Suns front office penny-pinching, the same penny-pinching that has prevented the Suns from adding that one piece for years with draft picks, has disassembled the team that Nash took to the WCF, refusing to pay Amar’e the top dollar a second team All-NBA performer deserves and losing the key partner in Nash’s game.

Thankfully for Suns fans, this season will not go like last year, but not be a complete disappointment, either. The best thing the Suns have going for them is two fold, firstly, the inability of many non-playoff teams from last year to make the moves necessary to rise up to a level above fringe contender, and partly due to that, secondly, the ability of Steve Nash to will a group of competent, if not exceptional, players to a playoff birth.

The major place where the talents of Steve Nash are able to effectively raise the collective level of his team into the playoffs, unlike, say, a Chris Paul, is the fact the Suns retain their most notable strength from last season, depth. The Suns depth in the 2009-2010 season was unparalleled in the entire NBA, and their second units’ advantage over the bench of other teams was more important to them then the abilities of the first unit to match up with other starting 5’s. The Suns won games not just in the fourth quarter, but at the start of the second, the middle of the third, and the end of the first, when teams rest their talent and bring in the reserves. Players like Goran Dragic, Channing Frye/Robin Lopez, Jared Dudley, and now Josh Childress and Hakim Warrick will have to play above the level of the competition they will face, but all except Warrick have proven the ability to do well against second unit players.

Overall, people like Alvin Gentry and some Suns bloggers think the Suns could be even better this season. I call those people high as hell. The Suns are a playoff team due to Steve Nash and a second unit, perhaps better then I think due to the fact that Hedo’s ball handling can allow Nash to prove to the doubters that he is, bar none, the greatest shooting point guard to ever play the game, and excel in a half court role, but most of all, due to the fact this team gives other teams fits during the regular season due to the depth factor, you never really catch a break any night the Suns are on the schedule. The Suns will lose more game and more bad games, they will not put together the amazing stretches of playing great ball over 2-3 week periods they did last season, but they will benefit from the decreased level of competition in the West, and they will see the playoffs. I wasn’t surprised they made the playoffs last year, but I did have them as the 8 seed, I was very surprised to see them as the 3 seed. This year I’m going to drop them in the 6 seed, higher then last year, but I’ll actually be MORE surprised if they reach a top 4 seed, if that makes sense. Because the greater dreams of the Suns are dead, because when it comes down to the big moments of big games, for the first time in a long time, Nash stands alone.

Prediction: 2nd in the Southwest, 6th in the West, 47-35 record.

3) Sacramento Kings

Youtube Song for their 2010-2011 season:
The Smashing Pumpkins - Zero

Offseason Moves:

NBA Draft: DeMarcus Cousins, Hassan Whiteside
Free Agents - in: F Antoine Wright
Trades - in: C Samuel Dalembert, F Darnell Jackson
Free Agents - out: F Sean May
Trades - out: F-C Spencer Hawes, G-F Andres Nocioni, F Jon Brockman

Training Camp Roster:

F Omri Casspi, C Samuel Dalembert, G Tyreke Evans, F Francisco Garcia, F Donte Greene, F Carl Landry, F Jason Thompson, G Beno Udrih, F-C DeMarcus Cousins, F-C Hassan Whiteside, C Samuel Dalembert, F Darnell Jackson, C Connor Atchley, G Joe Crawford, G Luther Head, F Darnell Jackson, G Eugene Jeter, F Marcus Landry, F Antonie Wright


You blame yourself for what you can’t ignore, you blame yourself for wanting more.

The coolest video from the band with the coolest hot guitar chick, playing the coolest song about the coolest illegal drug on the face of the earth perfectly sums up my thoughts of the Kings this year. The Kings are awesome as hell, and it’s important that people figure this out now before the season starts. The best thing you can do for yourself is to start talking about the Kings a lot, get in on the ground floor of the Sacto pyramid scheme, and reap all the rewards when the scheme takes off and you can claim “I was on them first!”

I think a lot about how sweet this season is going to be for the Kings, and that makes me an NBA junkie loser, yes, but it also makes me aware of what is going on right now in Sacramento. And what they have going on is special, exciting, and going to surprise a lot of people this year. The Kings best starting 5 right now is Tyreke Evans, Beno Udrih, Omri Casspi, Carl Landry, and DeMarcus Cousins. Does that sound impressive to you? It sounds solid to me.

It’s at this point that I should probably point out that I am actually being dead serious. That is a great lineup. Evans and Landry have the ability to be top 7 players at their position. DeMarcus Cousins floor right now is the seventh best center in the NBA; he could become the clear second best center in the league by the time this season is over, that’s the ceiling for Big Cuz. He’s the one for me; he’s all I really need, oh yea, as the song above goes. He’s got what could be the best low post offense in the entire NBA right now, without playing game one in the league. His natural ability, impressive handles, and ugly but effective game is, to me, a near lock to produce big numbers this season. 15/14 is on the table.

Getting the rock to Boogie, as he is known, is the rightful and defending rookie of the year, Tyreke Evans. Putting up a 20/5/5 statline last year as a near one man show, he will only make Cousins better, and vice versa. His major knock is his distribution, but in a guard duo with Udrih, a decent player who actually compliments Evans game very well, Evans can spend year two doing more of what he does well and having to do less of what he does not do well. I was amazed at how good “Reke Havoc” was in year one, I do not intend on being surprised if/when he makes another leap this year.

Two men don’t make a team, but Carl Landry is a quality NBA player. A beast last year in Houston, he did not fit in well with the Kings when he was acquired in the Kevin Martin deal. This bodes in the Kings favor, as he is too good to perform at the slightly above average level he did for the Kings, he is likely to get back to near his Houston level of great NBA player. Toss in any production from the SF spot, and consider the Kings have Jason Thompson and Samuel Dalembert as backup bigs, who are pretty good for backups, and this is a quality team. They are a bit too young to make the playoffs, but they will shock the hell out of the entire league if they can go .500. I’ll actually give them a bit more credit then that, and call 42 wins and the surprise team of the year. And I’ll probably watch a lot of them, this team I can’t ignore, and I’ll blame myself for wanting more.

Prediction: 3rd in the Pacific, no playoffs, 42-40

4) Los Angeles Clippers

Youtube Song for their 2010-2011 season:
System Of A Down – Lonely Day

Offseason Moves:

NBA Draft: Al-Farouq Aminu, Eric Bledsoe, Willie Warren
Free Agents - in: F Ryan Gomes, G Randy Foye, F Brian Cook, F Craig Smith
Free Agents - out: F Drew Gooden, G Steve Blake, F Travis Outlaw

Training Camp Roster:

G Baron Davis, G Eric Gordon, F Blake Griffin, C DeAndre Jordan, C Chris Kaman, F Craig Smith, F Rasual Butler, F Ryan Gomes, G Randy Foye, F Brian Cook, F Craig Smith, F Marqus Blakely, F Al-Farouq Aminu, G Eric Bledsoe, C Jarron Collins, G Stephen Dennis, G Jon Scheyer, C Jake Voskuhl, G Willie Warren


Such a lonely day, and it's mine. It's a day that I'm glad I survived...

The Clippers offseason was one lonely day after another, as efforts to land any big time free agent, from LeBron to Pierce to Dirk, didn’t give the Clippers any more then lip service before bolting elsewhere. Clipper fans are used to bad things happening, players being injured, draft picks becoming busts, and any sort of failure one can imagine, but most of all, they are used to having a team that is just incapable of winning enough basketball games to be any sort of relevant don their uniforms, and the attempts to change that this offseason were met with results that were beyond predictable, closer to predestined.

Do the Clippers have some talent? Sure. Chris Kaman is a decent center, plays ok defense, scores the ball fairly well, a player who can get you 20 on any given night, but never 30 (oddly, Kaman has had 79 20+ point games, but 0 30+ point games). Baron Davis is still a decent point guard, his 8 apg is actually really solid in today’s day and age, only a handful of point guard came close to his assist numbers, and he can score the ball when he gets hot. Eric Gordon brought his sharpshooting to Team USA this summer and did well for himself, and Blake Griffin, barring another fluke injury, will make his debut this season as the #1 overall pick of the 2009 draft, after losing his entire season last year to injury.

But, knowing the Clippers, it won’t matter. Blake Griffin is almost destined to be a decent player, then have lost his rookie year to injury, lose a year to a lockout, and never get the chance to do anything of note for the franchise. Baron Davis is on the cusp of starting the late career freefall, and if the Clippers start to get any momentum, it almost seems a given his play will start to drop to ensure the Clippers don’t succeed. Offseason moves and draft picks brought in Eric Bledsoe, a Nate Robinson type instant offense chucker, who won’t really fit in on a team that has no problems taking bad shots on it’s own, and F Al-Farouq Aminu is the answer the Clippers made for their lack of a small forward, but he’s a project that will struggle to produce meaningful points.

Am I being overly pessimistic about the way the Clippers season will go? You could argue that, after all, on paper, the roster looks like a 30-33 win team. But, when you compare the roster to the roster of last year, how are the Clippers that much different? Sure, coaching changes have occurred, but even before game on, Vinny Del Negro has heard the rumblings about a coaching shake-up. Marc Iavaroni is viewed in some as the future head coach for the Clips, and it’s said to just be a matter of time. This is indicative of the reason you never predict the Clippers for any kind of real success. They will continue to go unnoticed, be irreverent, and enjoy a lot of lonely days in Staples, just being glad to survive.

Prediction: 4th in the Pacific, no playoffs, 28-52 record

5) Golden State Warriors

Youtube Song for their 2010-2011 season:
Metallica – King Nothing

Offseason Moves:

NBA Draft: Ekpe Udoh
Free Agents - in: G Jeremy Lin, F Dorell Wright, G/F Rodney Carney, F Louis Amundson
Trades - in: G Charlie Bell, C Dan Gadzuric, C David Lee
Free Agents - out: G C.J. Watson, F Anthony Tolliver
Trades - out: F Corey Maggette, F Kelenna Azubuike, F Anthony Randolph, C Ronny Turiaf, G Anthony Morrow

Training Camp Roster:

G Charlie Bell, C Andris Biedrins, G Stephen Curry, G Monta Ellis, C Dan Gadzuric, F Reggie Williams, F Brandan Wright, F Ekep Udoh, G Jeremy Lin, F Dorell Wright, G-F Rodney Carney, F Louis Amundson, G Charlie Bell, C Dan Gadzuric, C David Lee, F Jeff Adrien, F Vernon Goodridge, G Aaron Miles,


Careful what you wish, you may regret it. Careful what you wish, you just might get it…

The kings are dead. Long live the kings.

Don Nelson has been the king of apathy on the sidelines for the Warriors for the last few years. His calling cards of laziness were crazy lineups, minute distribution that makes no sense, and a sense that he just didn’t care. Meanwhile, Chris Cohan, bad owner, finally sold the team to billionaire Larry Ellison. No wait, Ellison bid more money, but didn’t get the team, instead they sold it to Joe Lacob, who talks a big game, but will he back it up?

It seems pointless to judge Lacob on this season, because the former terrible kings of Oakland basketball, Nelson and Cohan, still have their stink all over this team. Keith Smart got the new head coaching job for Golden State, and is expected to try to bring a defensive mentality to the squad. However, this team still has a Nellieball cast, with Ellis and big time acquisition All-Star F/C David Lee not exactly knowledgeable about what a defense is or how to do it. The Warriors drafted defensive forward Ekpe Udoh, but he injured himself and will miss about all of 2010. The Warriors seem like what would happen if Mike Singletary took over the Indianapolis Colts and tried to instill a power running game, the lack of personnel capable to do the things coach Smart wants to do is going to produce some hilarious results, unless you are a Warriors fans, then it will produce the same level of winning you have become mostly accustom to.

This is not to say the Warriors are without any future hope. David Lee is locked up, and he is a fantastic pick and roll player with a great jumper, who has got better every year on the offensive end. Stephen Curry is a big star in the making, and Curry/Lee will be an offensive force for the near future. Monte Ellis still knows how to score the basketball, and he will be more important then ever with the losses of quality players like Corey Maggette, Anthony Randolph, and Kelenna Azubuike, the latter two players that would have been a great fit for Keith Smart’s new plans, but instead were traded for David Lee, who will have to adjust to the way Smart says he wants to coach.

In the end, the more things change in Golden State, the more they seem to stay the same. Many people figure the rash of injuries the Warriors suffered last year means that the Warriors have no choice but to be better this season, more so when you consider they added an All-Star player. But the Warriors injuries last year pretty much resulted in a garbage in, garbage out scenario where scrubs were replacing scrubs, and the roster lost more then it gained when you consider depth, scoring, and defense lost. Are the Warriors on the right path? Time will tell. But it won’t be any time soon. This team is still full of the 2009 makeup, but lacks the 2009 talent or the 2009 staff that at least tried stylistically to get the most out of the roster. Golden State is in for hard times this year, Warrior fans may be best served finding an Eastern Team, because until the Warriors finish revamping their roster to fit their new style, this will be a mismatch made in basketball hell, and not pleasant to watch. Warrior fans have wanted to see wholesale changes for a while, but careful what you wish, because you got it, and in the short term, it might just be uglier then it was back when you were praying for someone to do something different.

Prediction: 5th in the Pacific, no playoffs, 24-58 record

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com