Division Preview 2010 - Pacific
The Los Angeles Lakers surprised no one as they won the Pacific division easily last year, finishing 19 games ahead of Phoenix. The Pacific division in 2009 was the weakest in the NBA because it only produced one playoff team (Lakers), the lowest of any division. I expect the same result to occur in 2010, as none of the teams other than the Lakers made major acquisitions.
The Kings are years away, maybe more than an entire decade, from being the team they were in 2002 (Western Conference runner-up). They have some nice young players like Kevin Martin and Jason Thompson. The addition of rookie Tyreke Evans is a high risk/high reward player. While he was solid for Memphis last year, Evans is a raw talent and would have surely benefited from another year in college.
The Clippers have us excited every year that this year will be the season they get more attention in Los Angeles. But the aqcuisition of Baron Davis failed miserably, and Davis seemed uninterested and bored the entire year. Rookie Eric Gordon played well, and will be a player to watch for LAC in 2010. But until they come together as a team and start playing defense, they will be in the lottery once again.
The Warriors have a potential star in lottery pick Stephen Curry from Davidson, but lack a true center, and players who love playing defense. Veteran coach Don Nelson has plenty of scoring to work with, Stephen Jackson and Corey Maggetie can score 20 any night. Undersized center/power forward Andris Biedrins is a double double machine, but struggles defensively guarding taller, more physical post players. Golden State can make the playoffs, but only if they improve their defense, because their are plenty of teams in the west with great offenses, and to win you must slow them down.
The Suns are in shambles, after multiple coaching changes and trades messed up the team chemistry. With Amare Studemire returning from an eye injury that caused him to miss most of the second half of the season, the Suns will have a player who demands double teams. Steve Nash is still a good player, but his defense is awful and he cannot guard players like Chris Paul and Deron Williams consistently. The Suns will need to see what they have and then make personnel decisions when the 2010 free agent mega-class is up for bidding.
The Lakers traded youth for experience when Trevor Ariza signed with Houston and Ron Artest signed with the Lakers. Artest is an excellent defender and will take some defensive pressure of Kobe Bryant. But the attitude of Artest can cause problems, and him and Kobe have had their differences on the court. The Lakers easily win the division, and the west, but will not beat the Celtics, Cavaliers, or Magic if they meet any of them in the NBA FInals.
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