What's in store for NBA West
Posted: Sun Aug 16, 2009 12:05 am
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.c ... 193A7R.DTL
[/quote]If Shaquille O'Neal can wind up in Cleveland and Ron Artest can team up with Kobe Bryant, anything is possible in the coming NBA season - even the Warriors making the playoffs. Here's a rundown of the Western Conference as it stands after the major free-agent signings:
The Lakers will benefit both from Lamar Odom's play and f...The Spurs made a wise acquisition in trading for Richard ...Hedo Turkoglu would have helped the Blazers, but he signed with the raptors.
1. Lakers: Who ever thought the league's power rankings would depend on a decision by Lamar Odom? He's back, after considerable muttering, and he goes back to his youth (in Queens) with Artest. Odom and Bryant should keep the wild man in line, while a large and deep frontcourt rules the landscape.
2. San Antonio: Solid pickups in Richard Jefferson (career 18 points per game) and Antonio McDyess. As Cleveland frittered with a first-round draft pick who won't play in this country for at least a year (Christian Eyenga, staying in Africa), the Spurs stole DeJuan Blair, Pitt's 6-foot-7 rebounding machine in the second round. "They're right back to where they were two years ago," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said, "if not better."
3. Portland: Lost out on Hedo Turkoglu and Paul Millsap, but in the wake of Steve Blake's shaky playoff performance at point guard, Andre Miller is a welcome addition. Stand back if Greg Oden stops brooding and asserts himself.
4. Denver: Returning with essentially the same high-energy cast, including Chris (Birdman) Andersen, who wisely bypassed the free-agent market to stick with the Nuggets. Lost Dahntay Jones, a defensive pest, and will need to replace that element. Scored in the draft by trading for point guard Ty Lawson.
5. Dallas: The lineup you'll face with five minutes left in a close game: Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry and Josh Howard. Very nice options.
6. Utah: Likely to trade Carlos Boozer, but kept the brutish Millsap in the fold. Perhaps not as strong as last season, but with Deron Williams running the show, rookie Eric Maynor a promising backup and coach Jerry Sloan forever orchestrating a sensible approach on both ends of the floor, the Jazz remain rock-solid.
7. Here's where it gets interesting. The Warriors can earn this slot, or No. 8, if coach Don Nelson really believes in his team. Naturally, there are other factors - lack of a true distributor, not enough rebounding, no backcourt defense against the league's best guards - but more than anything, Nelson needs a change of mind-set.
Granted, that's a lot to ask of a 69-year-old man so set in his ways, but he can't be grumbling in December about the team having no shot at the postseason. He needs to see in Anthony Randolph what everyone else saw this summer: a potentially great forward who demands 40 minutes a game. He needs to abandon his bury-the-rookies mentality and keep Stephen Curry on the floor with Monta Ellis for long stretches at a time. Brandan Wright will be the key forward off the bench; make him feel as if he matters.
What's to lose? Why not have fun, instead of keeping half the roster in fear of reprisal? Analyzing a starting lineup of Curry, Ellis, Randolph, Stephen Jackson and Andris Biedrins, people around the league are forecasting a return to the Warriors' fun-loving, dangerous-as-hell ways. The players are more than ready to make it happen. But if discontent rules the day, the Warriors will be left in the cold by two of these teams:
Phoenix: Grant Hill passed up a chance to play with Boston so he could stay in Phoenix with Steve Nash, Jason Richardson and Amare Stoudemire. It's not a scary team by any stretch, but with Shaq and coach Terry Porter departed, the Suns plan to run like crazy and roll the dice.
New Orleans: One look at point guard Chris Paul and you realize (a) what the Warriors are missing and (b) how influential this position can be. But Paul is upset over the team's financial constraints, and Emeka Okafor (acquired for Tyson Chandler) is only a mild improvement.
Oklahoma City: No more jokes about the pitiful Thunder. This team has the fabulous Kevin Durant, fast-rising guard Russell Westbrook and a solid draft pick in James Harden (Arizona State), wisely chosen over the conflicted Ricky Rubio.
Clippers: OK, you can start laughing again, but if Blake Griffin is all that (the summer reports were off the charts), Eric Gordon continues his development and Baron Davis devotes full attention to the cause, the Clips might have something. Unloading the troubled Zach Randolph was huge.
Houston: A complete revamping is in order with Artest gone and Yao Ming probably out for the season. Not a bad team, though, if Tracy McGrady makes good on his promise to return (from knee surgery) at some point. Chase Budinger is an intriguing draft pick, and the playoffs showed Shane Battier, Trevor Ariza, Luis Scola, Carl Landry and Aaron Brooks at their best.
Eastern time: A rundown on the Eastern Conference can be found in the 3Dot Blog at sfgate.com/sports.
Warriors: Golden State opens the season against Houston on Oct. 28. For the full schedule, B3