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Here's my thoughts on the West teams. I just really wanted to put it out there this early. It's always fun to look back and see how we did with our predictions, so let's do this!

1. Dallas Mavericks - It sucked what happened to them last year, so you have to wonder how they'll respond. Or more appropriately, how Dirk will respond. He's never been known to have that tough mentality, so you have to be worried about him. Other than that, it's more of the same for them. They won't dominate the League like last year, but they will still be in the Top 4. The X-factor here is Devin Harris. He just signed a contract extension and looks to breakout in a big way this year. I have a feeling he will, although the Mavs really could use Darrell Armstrong's steady presence.

2. Phoenix Suns - This will be the team to watch in the West. So many underground stories that could possibly surface during the course of the season. I fully expect Marion to remain in Phoenix, though. Amare's little injury scare last week will probably not matter much, and will continue to be the best center in the West. It's been years now and the Suns' playing style still hasn't netted them a title, but last year's was theirs. This year, they should take the next step. But Kurt Thomas will be greatly missed, and they need another veteran big man (Charles Oakley or PJ Brown). But Skinner is more than capable, and will end up a great signing. Nash will be his usual excellent self, while Barbosa could improve a lot. They're my early pick to win the Championship.

3. GS Warriors - I not only expect them to make the Playoffs again, but I expect them to improve in their regular season record. Whether that will translate to higher playoff seed is unknown. But I'm liking this team by the minute. They are quietly stocking up on very effective players (Ellis, Biedrins, Belinelli) and have one of the best PGs in the game in Baron. Though I somehow think that this "teamwork" they seem to have now will disappear once the going gets tough, I still half-expect them to overcome the odds when it all comes down to it. Belinelli is looking like the perfect fit in Golden State. Losing J-Rich was a blow, but not something they can't recover from.

4. San Antonio Spurs - Still the same old Spurs. What I write here now may very well be applicable next year. But the only concern is that the team doesnt seem to get any younger. They recently waived James White and traded Luis Scola (who could've made a HUGE impact), so I dont really know what they have planned for the future. It's not wise to doubt the Spurs, though... Tiago Splitter could be a Pau Gasol-type when he eventually comes to the NBA, and that is just another problem solved. Still, this current team has at least three more good years on it, so that's plenty of time to make the necessary roster adjustements. Solid all the way.

5. Houston Rockets - I dont really think this team will make it past the 2nd round (injuries will still kill them, like they do every year). But during the regular season, they will be a tough matchup. It all depends on Tracy and Yao, though. Although, to be honest, they have more capable role players this year. And also, I believe Rick Adelman will be a very good coach. They stole one in Luis Scola, and the returning Steve Francis should be a good fit. Bonzi Wells will also return, and they have Chuck Hayes as their backup PF. Not bad. There's a logjam at the PG slot, and that's where they have to really get better. With so many offensive options, they really need a pass-first PG. Getting Steve Blake would've been nice, but oh well... Right now, the best PG on their team is an SF (Battier), and that will be a problem. But I trust Rick to do the right thing.

6. Memphis Grizzlies - A very promising team. Pau Gasol is constantly improving, and now he has his running buddy JC Navarro with him. It's hard to see them getting to the playoffs with a lineup of mostly young players (Conley, Lowry, Darko, Navarro, Gay, Warrick) and no legit banger to take the load off Pau. But they will be fun to watch. Rudy Gay should improve, but not by much. He has a lot to competition. Damon is the odd man out and will probably be waived, bought out, or traded soon. Mike Miller should still be a sharpshooter, but his looks will probably decrease now. The Darko signing seems smart, but I'll take a wait-and-see approach on him.

7. LA Lakers - The Lakers are going nowhere. If Phil Jackson wasn't the coach, it would be very tough to say that they will make the Playoffs. Good thing Kwame's contract is expiring. I dont know how low his trade value has gotten, but if the Lakers can still find a good trade partner, they should pull the trigger. Otherwise, it's not so bad to let his contract run out. Lamar Odom has been the subject of many rumors, but I doubt they can get anything of equal value in return. Derek Fisher doesnt really do much for them. Remember when Fisher played for the Warriors a few years back? He was labelled a bust then. The minute he went to Utah, he suddenly was a "big" piece of the puzzle. Therefore, I'll conclude that Fisher is ony good on good teams. And this Laker team isn't. It's nice that he'll be reuniting with Kobe, but I doubt that means a hell of a lot of Ws. Next season, Kobe will pull a KG and get traded to the Bulls after both teams realize that they ain't going nowhere.

8. LA Clippers - Assuming the role of last year's Grizzlies will be the Clippers. Think about it... All-Star Forward goes down and is expected to return after the Break. Therefore, I expect the same results. No team will be as bad as the Clippers, and that may not be such a bad thing. They could land the top pick next year, and are in a good position to draft a top PG. They need that what with the current state of the position. Knight and Cassell are both injury-prone and approaching retirement ages, and Livingston's knee was completely destroyed last season. Tim Thomas still wont amount to much, and we dont know if Ruben Patterson will play the same way he did last year. I expect Kaman to improve, though. He will be the # 1 low-post scorer, and he was just really battling through injuries last year. Cat Mobley and Maggette will provide the offense, but in the West, that's not much.

9. Portland T'Blazers - We all know Oden's story. And I discussed (in-depth, actually) what positives that might entail. But focusing on this season, they will be really bad. Not as bad as the Clips, but they will be right there. Unless Aldridge makes people forget about Zach Randolph, expect even worse numbers than last year. Roy's already considering surgery this early in the season, which is never good. But still, this is a franchise that is clearly in the right direction. Let's just hope Lady Luck permits it to stay that way.

10. Denver Nuggets - Fun team to watch, looks great on paper, but very, very delicate. One (or two or all) injuries to their frontcourt will instantly keep them out of the Playoffs. And knowing Camby, Nene, and Kenyon, that is a very real possibility. Camby played tons of games last year, but you have to wonder whether he can repeat that this year. Nene came on strong last year, and should increase those numbers even more. However, he already has some little injury concerns in training camp. Getting Chucky Atkins was good, but he's not a true PG. Steve Blake was a true PG for them, and it's a shame they didn't, couldnt or wouldn't sign him. His loss will be felt. J.R. Smith has quietly regressed into a designated shooter. I cant believe how that happened, but it's a shame. He's very talented and could be a true spark off the bench if he improves his all-around game. Anthony and Iverson proved they can co-exist, let's hope it stays that way. As long as they dont meet the Spurs in the 1st round again, they should make it to the 2nd round.

11. Utah Jazz - For now, the Andrei Kirilenko fiasco has cooled down. I dont really know how the Jazz can trade him and his enormous contract, so I guess he'll stay. Deron and Boozer will continue to improve, and will lead the Jazz to several victories. Okur is a center only in height, so they will need another low-post presence. Not really to score, but to just bring the pain. I think Millsap is up to the ask, and people consistently forget his offensive skills. The Jazz are a well-oiled machine, and will get to where they got last year. The West is wide open this year (especially due to the Spurs' dislike for consecutive titles), so they can realistically beat any team. The only problem is the guard position, a spot that could've been filled nicely by Mo Pete. As it is, it will be a rotation of Almond, Giricek and Brewer. Losing Dee Brown is not big, but he had the potential to be great and seemed to have that "cold" demeanor. Losing Fisher was big, though. He's very effective in solid teams like the Jazz, so they will have to look for that championship experience elsewhere.

12. Seattle Supersonics - Looks like Kevin Durant will run away with the ROY this year. Some might question his strength, and that really is a concern, but he should be fine. All young players who entered the League once looked like sticks (KG, T-Mac, etc.), so KD has the time to bulk up. Who I'm excited about is Jeff Green. I never saw him play in college, but I like what I've heard about him. I expect him to start after awhile, and he will be a great complement to Durant. It's nice when you can team up your foundation this early in their careers, and it will be fun to see them lose (and win) together. The center position is still a question mark, though. Everybody's raving about Robert Swift (must be the tattoos), but he doesnt seem special. Long story short, they will be one of the worst in the league, but Durant should single-handedly win them quite a few games.

13. Sacramento Kings - Kevin Martin looks ready to take the next step to stardom. The Mike Bibby we saw in the C-Webb era looks gone, as he has turned into a near-chucker. He also doesnt hand out to many assists and seems to have lost that intensity he had years ago. He will still be good, though, and will probably be traded as the Kings clean house. Ron Artest is as crazy as ever, and he should provide the same numbers as last year. I dont really see this team improving that much, as they mostly kept the same roster. Spencer Hawes is done for the season, so that's not good. Another Lottery appearance seems about the right prediction.

14. New Orleans Hornets - This will be a surprisingly good team. Last year, injuries ruined their playoff hopes, but I'm not too worried because they're still young. So the main thing this year is to avoid injuries like hell. Not really promising when you're fielding David West, Peja Stojakovic, Bobby Jackson and Chris Paul. Peja's signing seems like a big mistake in hindsight, but he should still provide about 15 ppg. The signing of Mo Pete is really big, because he is a very good team player. Paul will improve as expected, and Tyson Chandler's run with Team USA will only help him. I like this team. They're due for some good luck after all.

15. Minnesota T'Wolves - If the Boston Celtics (with Paul Pierce) had a horrible record in the East, how worse would they be in the Land of the Giants? This is a very, very young team. It's too early to tell who really got the better end of the deal, but the Wolves got some pretty good prospects. Al Jefferson seems like a sure thing, so it will be up to Ryan Gomes and Gerald Green to determine the result of the trade. Foye is expected to be the starting PG, and I hope he succeeds. Ricky Davis will play the vet (until he gets traded) and Juwan Howard should be gone soon. This team will struggle this year, as I dont think Al Jeff will dominate the way people think he will. They still have some bad contracts (Ratliff, Jaric, Blount) but it's a start. KG will be missed, though.

So there you have it, my thoughts for every Western team. Here's my playoff predictions (record-wise):

1. Phoenix
2. San Antonio
3. Dallas
4. Houston
5. Utah
6. Denver
7. Golden State
8. New Orleans Hornets

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  1. white hot eboy  

    That's a pretty nice preview. Although the lack of Laker love won't sit nicely with a bunch of the SLAM posters and writers. Good work. I'll check you out regularly.

  2. ASPOV  

    Nice job, Robbi.

  3. Robbi  

    Thanks, dudes. I really hate the Lakers as a franchise (and used to hate Kobe), but I just dont see them making any noise this year. Almost every team in the West improved in some way, and the Lakers' passivenes will be their undoing. It's not really Laker-Hate, just that they play in the freakishly strong West.

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