NBA Western Conference Outlook (No. 12-10)


NBA

I previewed the Phoenix SunsUtah Jazz and Sacramento Kings the other day. Today, I’m continuing my countdown with teams 12 through 10.

12. New Orléans Pelicans – Not only do I not understand their new nickname (Pelicans), but I also don’t understand why they loaded decided to load up their roster at two positions this offseason: point guard and shooting guard. Their frontcourt depth is rather embarrassing and thin, literally, and the backcourt is stacked with shooting guards and point guards. The Pelicans have four shooting guards: Eric Gordon, Austin Rivers, Anthony Morrow, and Tyreke Evans; and three point guards: Jrue Holiday, Brian Roberts and Evans (he can play both positions). Meanwhile, they let Robin Lopez, their only reliable center on the roster, walk away. They signed Greg Stiemsma and drafted Jeff Withey. Are they seriously depending on those two players to make an impact up front? Al-Farouq Aminu is a solid rebounder, but has shown he isn’t a great defender, can’t shoot threes and can’t play more than 30 minutes per game. They must think Anthony Davis is going to drastically improve from his rookie season. A guy, everyone thought was going to win the ROY of the year, disappointed a lot of people by missing 18 games and blocking 1.8 shots per game. He still can’t shoot either, so hopefully he has worked on that this offseason. Not to mention, the Pelicans are paying Evans $11 million this season and Gordon an astounding $14 million and change. Hopefully those two players stay healthy because they have missed a lot of time due to injury over the past few seasons.

Additions: Tyreke Evans (trade), Greg Stiemsma (free agency), Jeff Withey (draft), Jrue Holiday (trade), Anthony Morrow (free agency).

Subtractions: Robin Lopez (trade), Greivis Vasquez (trade).

What to look for: With the multitude of guards the Pelicans have on their roster, look for some of them to be on the trading block, most notably Austin Rivers.

Prediction: 32-50. A lot of people like the moves they made this offseason. I don’t. Their frontcourt is soft. Sorry, I only see a five-game improvement.

11. Los Angeles Lakers

Don't expect to be doing that too much this season, Kobe. (I don't take credit for this photo
Don’t expect to be doing that too much this season, Kobe. (I don’t take credit for this photo

I don’t know where to even begin with this team. I feel like it’s a team of misfits: wrong coach and old players. Also, when your best players is making $30 million this next season while recovering from a torn Achilles at the age of 34 (Kobe Bryant), as a fan, you can’t be too optimistic. Management failed to keep Dwight Howard, a centerpiece now for the Houston Rockets. Steve Nash has kept busy this offseason by trying out for professional soccer teams, not a bad idea I suppose, since they probably have a better chance at putting the ball in the net than the rest of the players on this roster. This team barely made the playoffs last season. I know Bryant got hurt, and surprisingly, they started to win games, but to think this team is going to be a playoff team this season is stupid. Pau Gasol is slated to make $19 million and he is 33 years old. I could see the Lakers trading him by the February deadline. They already amnestied Metta World Peace (Bryant’s favorite teammate) and signed Nick Young and Wesley Johnson to replace him. Chris Kaman is the player they brought in to replace Howard, a move I don’t mind actually. But to think this team is going anywhere would be silly. Their best bet is to tell Bryant to take his time recovering, lose a lot of games this season, and hope to sign LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony next offseason. Hollywood attracts all the stars, right? Well, just ask Howard.

Additions: Nick Young (free agency), Wesley Johnson (free agency), Jordan Farmar (free agency), Chris Kaman (free agency).

Subtractions: Dwight Howard (free agency), Metta World Peace (amnesty), Earl Clark (free agency), Jodie Meeks (free agency).

What to look for: This might be obvious: the return of Kobe Bryant. Doctors say he is ahead in his recovery, but at 34 years of age, will he still be the same player?

Prediction: 34-48.  This team has a ceiling of 35 wins, and keep in mind this team won 45 games last season. Without Howard, permanently, and Bryant, temporarily, this team will be far worse than last season.

10. Dallas Mavericks – Mark Cuban missed on Deron Williams last offseason and Dwight Howard this offseason. So what was his plan for this offseason? Well, let’s just say it was an interesting plan. Cuban brought in gunner Monta Ellis, passing point guard Jose Calderon, and an under-sized power forward in DeJuan Blair. Devin Harris is back for, what looks to be, his last go-around in the NBA. This was a team that gave up over 101 points per game last season (27th in the league) and the only remedy Cuban could muster up was signing Samuel Dalembert. Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion and Vince Carter are all 35 years or older, but Cuban is convinced the Mavericks can make another title run. You know, I don’t know why I have the Mavericks as high as No. 10 in my rankings. Maybe I’m giving their head coach, Rick Carlisle too much credit for what he accomplished back in 2011 when he won a championship with a much more well-fitted roster. I expected first-round draft pick Shane Larkin to make a contribution right away, but he broke his ankle and is still a few more months away from even practicing basketball-related activities. (You like that professionalism right there? “Basketball-related activities”?) The little success this team could achieve all depends on Nowitzki’s health.

Additions: Jose Calderon (free agency), Devin Harris (free agency), Shane Larkin (draft), Samuel Dalembert (free agency), Monta Ellis (free agency).

Subtractions: Chris Kaman (free agency), Darren Collison (free agency), Elton Brand (free agency), O.J. Mayo (free agency).

What to look for: With Marion getting older every day, look for the emergence of Jae Crowder. As he enters his second season in the NBA, I expect Crowder to be a much-improved player and contributor.

Prediction: 36-46. They went 41-41 last season, despite Nowitzki missing a good part of the season. However, everyone is a year older and they failed to add a big-named free agent. I could see them winning 39 games, but I’ll settle for 36.

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