By Erik Ong (@FantasyHoopla)
This NBA preview for the Pacific Division was written before the season, but unfortunately, Hurricane Sandy affected its timely publication. Regardless, the NBA season is still young enough to delve into some previews outlining the important questions for each NBA team. Besides, we all love the NBA, consuming as much information as possible comes naturally!
Golden State Warriors: Will the Warriors be able to shed it’s no-defense image this year?
The answer to this question is heavily predicated on how newly acquired center Andrew Bogut can be and remain healthy. He’s a solid rebounder and shot blocker but has been plagued by freaky injuries throughout his career. Even though Mark Jackson has shifted towards a more defensive mindset for the team, they need Bogut to be active in the paint to clog it up and alter shots. The team is laden with talented scorers. That’s where their strengths lay. So as much as the coach would prefer the team to be more tenacious on the defensive end, lighting up the scoreboard on the opposite end will just come more naturally. Even with Bogut healthy, the Warriors still will be known for trying to outscore its opponents as opposed to preventing the other team from executing their offense.
Los Angeles Clippers: Will the Clippers be able to sign Chris Paul to a long-term deal?
Chris Paul is a necessary and integral part of the Los Angeles Clippers’ future, or at least the team would like him to be. Paul took up the player option in his contract after being traded to LA from the New Orleans Hornets. Now he’s on the last year of said contract and the Clips need to show him, or rather prove to him, that this is where he will be able to win an NBA championship. He has built a strong on-court rapport with power forward Blake Griffin and the duo are just looking for a third legitimate scoring threat to take the team over the top. Meanwhile the franchise has surrounded Paul with a bus load of veteran role-players who will hopefully be enough to take them deeper into the playoffs this season. The team has a solid core and simply needs fine-tuning in order to get even better, and Chris Paul likely sees it as well. The Clippers should be able to sign him to a maximum contract and remain competitive playoff contenders for years to come.
Los Angeles Lakers: Is Steve Nash truly the missing link for a Laker renaissance?
It has long been debated that the only thing the Los Angeles Lakers, and Kobe Bryant, need to get even better is a true point guard. Now they have one. Not just any point guard, but a two-time MVP-award winning point guard in Steve Nash. He’s 38-years-old, but he has thankfully managed to keep back problems and general wear and tear issues at bay over the years. He’s simply the best point guard the Lakers have had since Magic Johnson. As a playmaking savant who has led the NBA in assists a couple of times, Nash will get the ball to the right teammate at the right time. Since the Lakers are now employing the Princeton offense which focuses on motion, back-door cuts, and teamwork, Nash’s pinpoint passing will be key to its effective execution. His addition to the team serves to only make them better, more competitive, and that much harder to defend against. How will Kobe react to the offense flowing through someone else’s capable hands? It won’t be a problem. Kobe is a champion and a true competitor, and will do whatever it takes to win another championship. As long as Nash stays healthy, the Lakers are well deserving as being penciled in as the team to beat this season.
Phoenix Suns: Can the Suns make the playoffs without Steve Nash?
The Phoenix Suns have an almost fully revamped starting lineup due to several free agent signings this summer. Luis Scola and Michael Beasley will hopefully be able to bring additional scoring punch to the table. Point guard Goran Dragic, who spent two seasons playing for the Houston Rockets will be a focal point of the team’s success or failure this season. For years the team has operated on a point guard-centric offense and it will be up to Steve Nash’s former understudy and back-up to keep that continuity going without missing a beat. While clearly Nash is a one-of-a-kind point guard, Dragic is familiar enough with the Suns’ system to be a close enough facsimile of Nash on the court. The team, however, still has to go through a getting to know you process as it integrates its new pieces into the mix; and will likely miss making it into the postseason once again this year.
Sacramento Kings: Should the Kings trade Tyreke Evans?
Before DeMarcus Cousins and Marcus Thornton came onto the scene, the Sacramento Kings had Tyreke Evans as its cornerstone. Clearly things have changed. Cousins, who is a developing talented big man has now become the focal point of the team’s offense. Thornton, a true scoring shooting guard, has shown that he can at times end up being more effective than combo-guard Evans. Firstly, the team and coach Keith Smart have to finally establish a direction for the team. Smart has been notorious for tinkering, at times too much, with his starting five and rotations. Secondly, Evans has to learn to operate within the flow of the team’s offense and not just dribble the ball too much, hoping to beat his opponent one-on-one. Given their pieces, the Kings should find a taker for Evans and develop its frontcourt more, especially now that they were able to draft an uber-athletic forward in Thomas Robinson in this year’s draft.