Friday, November 19th, 2010

NBA Season Preview: West

NBA Season Preview

The NBA season is in full swing.

Picking up where he left off, STUDY Magazine’s hoop head, Nick Faris gives you his thoughts on the NBA’s west.

1) Los Angeles Lakers
Forget the starting five. The bench has the freakishly athletic Shannon Brown, former Kobe Bryant-foil Matt Barnes and playoff-tested Sasha Vujacic, Luke Walton and Steve Blake. That’s without mentioning Andrew Bynum (out till December following knee surgery), who is one of the league’s top centres when he is healthy. The Lakers could easily rotate eleven players, keeping their stars healthy as they fight for a fourth consecutive Western Conference title.

2) Oklahoma City Thunder
You can’t say enough about this team. They came within a game of toppling the Lakers last year. Kevin Durant won a scoring title with 30.1 points, carried Team USA to a gold and will make a legitimate case for the MVP this year. Two years removed from a 23-win season, Oklahoma City is on the cusp of a Western Conference title.

3) Dallas Mavericks
The Mavs haven’t truly threatened to win the title since 2007, when they won 67 games and promptly fell to Golden State in the first round of the playoffs. That trend shouldn’t change even though Dirk Nowitzki continues to perform at an All-Star level. Waterbug guards Jose Barea and Rodrigue Beaubois will provide some entertainment off the bench.

4) Utah Jazz
The Jazz’s present-day version of Stockton-to-Malone was broken up when Carlos Boozer signed with Chicago. Utah hopes the void at power forward will be filled by Al Jefferson, who toiled for six seasons on abysmal teams in Boston and Minnesota.

5) Phoenix Suns
The Suns have Steve Nash and approximately 23 small forwards! Last year’s outfit came within a Ron Artest put-back of pushing the Lakers to seven games. As long as Steve Nash continues to defy the aging process (he’ll be 37 in February), the Suns should win 50 games.

6) San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs are still championship contenders, despite being unceremoniously dumped in the playoffs for the past three seasons. While Duncan is still playing at an All-Star level, sidekicks Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have combined to miss 81 games in the last two years. Gregg Popovich will rest his Big Three all he can, but relatively fresh legs won’t make a difference in the postseason.

7) Portland Trail Blazers
Imagine what Kevin Durant, Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge could do in the Western Conference. Alas, Portland failed to heed the lessons of Sam Bowie, and drafted Greg Oden over Durant in 2007. This year’s Blazers will make the playoffs, where they’ll be dispatched by Durant’s Thunder.

8) Sacramento Kings
The Kings will make their triumphant return to the postseason on the backs of Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins. The duo needs time to develop, but if GM Geoff Petrie can bolster the rest of the rotation, the Kings will crack the West’s upper echelon sometime soon.

9) Los Angeles Clippers
Blake Griffin is entering his rookie season after sitting out last year with a stress fracture in his left knee. Griffin has been beastly in the preseason and forms a fabulous foursome with Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman and Baron Davis. They have no bench whatsoever and if the team struggles early, Davis may check out mentally.

10) Houston Rockets
To keep Yao Ming out of street clothes, the Rockets decided to limit their gargantuan centre to 24 minutes a game this year. The offense will revolve around shooting guard Kevin Martin, a sneakily effective scorer, with injury problems of his own.

11) Memphis Grizzlies
All five starters scored in double figures last year. The front office chose not to meddle with a lineup that barely missed the playoffs in a stacked Western Conference last year. However, there’s still a lack of a bench, with disappointing youngsters Hasheem Thabeet and Hamed Haddadi. Besides, can you really trust Zach Randolph?

12) Golden State Warriors
Golden State’s quest to be the most exciting team in the NBA nearly reached new heights last season, when they allowed the most points in the league and scored the second-most (trailing only Phoenix). The addition of David Lee should help the team reach their goals on both ends of the court.

13) Denver Nuggets
The Carmelo Anthony trade saga will cripple the Nuggets. Anthony’s demands present a catch-22 for general manager Masai Ujiri – either trade his star and suffer through the unhappiest of seasons, or risk an unhappy ‘Melo dragging the team down.

14) New Orleans Hornets
The Nuggets of the Southwest. All-world point guard Chris Paul missed 37 games last year with a torn meniscus, then spent the summer publicly venting his desire to be traded. Co-captain David West slipped last year after being a two-time All-Star.

15) Minnesota Timberwolves
Kevin Love shone on team USA at the World Championships this summer. Makes you wonder what he could do if he played for a good team.

Check out how Nick Farris sees the Eastern Conference.

Nick Faris
Author: Nick Faris
Nick currently works as an intern at Ottawa Life Magazine. After completing university, Nick hopes to pursue his dream of working in sports, either in the media or for a professional team.
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