Tag:Golden State Warriors
Posted on: December 27, 2011 1:58 am
Edited on: December 27, 2011 2:02 am
By Matt Moore
The first full night of games and it was a doozy. Rookie debuts, buzzer-beaters, and some vomit. The NBA is back in all its glory. Here are your grades for Monday, December 26th, 2011.
A: Denver Nuggets: Yeah, it was against the same team the Heat ran out of the building Sunday, this time on the second night of a back to back. But the Mavericks are still the defending champs and the Nuggets ran them out of their own building. It wasn't just the offense, either, though they were en fuego (49 percent from the field, 56 percent effective field goal percentage). Denver was also dialed in defensively. The best wins are those in which your offense allows you to set your defense to attack, which creates opportunities for your offense and it becomes a vicious cycle for your opponent. The Nuggets were like a race car wheel roaring down the track. They forced 19 turnovers, creating 20 percent more opportunities for themselves, and they took full advantage. Ty Lawson was a speed demon and when the Mavs did get in front, he smoked them from the perimeter (3-6 from the arc, 27 points). Al Harrington not only provided a huge offensive lift off the bench, he was engaged defensively. At one point he created a steal which bounced to Danilo Gallinari, who ran the floor then stopped and shoveled it back to a sprinting Harrington for the dunk. The Nuggets played so wel they could mess around on fast breaks. Dominant performance in their first season opener since 2003 without Carmelo Anthony.
B: San Antono Spurs: A little bit of revenge after the Grizzlies eliminated them from the playoffs last spring. The Spurs, six months removed from a season where they were an offensive juggernaut but couldn't stop anyone, especially down low, got back to their roots. They held the Grizzlies to an 86 offensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions),which is elite status. They got back to defending, rebounding, and grinding their opponent to dust. Throw in a surprising performace from Richard Jefferson and an impressive debut for Kawhi Leonard, and all of a sudden, the "past their prime" Spurs look like they might be getting back to what made them great.
C: New Jersey Nets: Well, they were down 21 points at one point to the Washington Wizards who were playing without the fifth pick in the draft, Jan Vesely. The Nets looked lost, inept, ridiculous. And then they turned it on. Outscoring the Wizards 53-39 in the second half, they fought their way back into it and watched Flip Saunders' team self-destruct. Deron Williams was the exerienced All-Star. And Kris Humphries, man of the hour. 21 points and 16 rebounds, cleaning up misses and killing the Wizards down low. This was a game that's hard for either team to feel good about because of the opponent, and being down 21 to the Wizards is madness. But they won, and they'll take it.
D: Kobe Bryant: Here's what is working for the Lakers right now, without Andrew Bynum, and why they fell apart in a loss to the Kings. Ball movement, hustle and intelligent, efficient play. And the Lakers, after a lackadaisical game had them out of reach, fought their way back with that exact kind of play. And once again, Kobe Bryant went hero mode and once again, an opportunity to win was squandered by the Hall of Famer. The entire Lakers get a "D" here for failing to play any on the perimeter. (Seriously, Mike Brown, what's it going to take for Derek Fisher to get yanked? How many times must Tyreke Evans blow past him or block him?) But the Lakers keep getting within range through team play, and then Bryant attempts to take the team on his shoulders like he used to. That Kobe is gone, at least until the wrist heals. 24 field goal attempts for Bryant, who leads the league by a mile in usage percentage (percent of possessions used -- tricky stat that), and two turnovers, including an offensive foul late. A bad month for the Black Mamba gets worse.
F: Dallas Mavericks: You have GOT to be kidding us.
Other notable grades:
Incomplete: Chicago Bulls: Are they as bad as they have looked in the first two games after a loss to the Warriors on the road to open the season? No. But they do look bad. Really bad. But with a 1-1 mark, considering the schedule (two West coast road games to start the season on consecutive nights) and the opponent (a Warriors team with confidence after nearly nailing the Clips, even if they were on their own second game of a back to back). The Bulls fought back in and made it a game late, but if they don't make up their homework to the teacher, bad grades are coming.
E for Effort: Minnesota Timberwolves. Open the season with a narrow loss to the Thunder? Rubio looks great. Derrick Williams looks promising. Kevin Love is an All-Star. The effort was there for the Wolves, and they're only going to get better.
Gold stars: Eric Gordon (CLUTCH). Alonzo Gee. Ed Davis. Danilo Gallinari. Sean Williams. Roy Hibbert. Manu Ginobili. Marcus Thornton. Stephen Curry. Tristan Thompson. Tyreke Evans. LaMarcus Aldridge.
Posted on: December 24, 2011 1:19 pm
Edited on: December 24, 2011 10:03 pm
by Matt Moore
GAMES. Sweet merciful games.
The wait is over. Ol' Saint Nick has shimmied down the Christmas tree and that means the NBA has returned to our lives, kicking off with five games Sunday and a righteous quintuple it is. Boston tests an unsteady bench against the new-look Knicks (same old Knicks, except for a good rookie and one big exception down low). The Heat must watch the Mavericks' banner raised and then go toe-to-toe with the team that ousted them in the Finals. The Lakers will try to prove that Lamar Odom wasn't the whole team, Kobe Bryant's wrist is fine, and they are still the most dominant franchise in the West against the MVP Derek Rose and the league's best defense. The Magic try to pretend everything's fine while polishing silverware on the Titanic against a Western Conference favorite, the Oklahoma City Thunder. And finally Lob City premiers against the Golden State Warriors, who are looking for something new under Mark Jackson.
It's going to be fun. So on the night before Christmas, we're hear to stuff the stockings with what you need to know for each game. Here are 12 Things of NBA Christmas.
1. "Later on we'll conspire, while we lay by the fire..."
The Heat failed. And everyone pointed and laughed. After all the pomp and circumstance, the unbelievably arrogant approach to their formation and celebration thereof, followed by a somehow more outrageous backlash against three basketball players who decided to play for the same team through free agency, the Heat were left broken and tarnished by a Mavericks team which lacked neither star power nor confidence. Not that you'd know it by the storylines drawn out. Still, the Heat took a nasty fall. But during the summer and all the way through the lockout, we hardly heard a thing from them. A few appearances from Dwyane Wade. Some exhibition appearances by LeBron James. Chris Bosh went to ESPN for a day. That was it. Nothing outrageous, no outlandish proclamations or denials of the fact they had their tails kicked. Now they return to the scene of the crime, where everything started to turn for them on a warm June night in Dallas, when the series shifted on the back of their inability to stop Dirk Nowitzki.
When the Heat stumbled last season, the idea was that James, Wade, and Bosh needed more time together, and with their teammates. That chemistry couldn't be built in a day, and that even if they struggled early, it would come. Yet even in advancing to the Finals, there were so many moments where the Heat never looked like they truly belonged together, like they were thrust together without a core concept. We're still waiting for a Heat team that, for lack of a better term, makes sense. A mega-scoring, high-rebound-rate, gamble-defending shooting guard. A prolific do-it-all and rarely do enough, lock-down defender, brilliant vision in a Hummer-like body small forward. And a whisper-thin, mid-range joltin', defensively adequate power forward. It's just an odd combination. They had their trial season, and they fell only two games short of a title. But still short. This is their chance to show the world they've learned from their mistakes and that it was a rare combination of factors that led to their demise against the Mavs. With Tyson Chandler and J.J. Barea gone, this isn't the same Dallas team that had the formula to stop what no one else could. The Heat can make a statement Sunday.
But we've heard that before.
2. "He's making a list and checking it twice, gonna find out who's naughty and nice..."
All this Lakers drama. You know what's lost in the talk of the Odom trade, of Kobe's wrist, of the Chris Paul trade that wasn't (and should never have been)? Derrick Rose is coming to Los Angeles and he's bringing all the fury a dissed MVP can bring. None of us have him repeating. Very few experts do. But Rose is consistently the most devastating single player in professional basketball and he's going up against a team still starting Derek Fisher, with Steve Blake backing him up. Blake defended Chris Paul admirably in two preseason games against the Clippers. But Rose's explosiveness is the stuff of legend. Plus, once he gets past his primary defender, there will be no Andrew Bynum, serving five games for being naughty in the worst (clubbing J.J. Barae in last year's playoffs in an all-time disgusting move). Rose instead will face Pau Gasol and Josh McRoberts at the rim. McBob is a good player and will pay well or the Lakers. But he ain't Bynum.
Rose sees no reason why he can't repeat as MVP. And after an offseason hearing about everyone else and how LeBron left coal in his ECF stocking by shutting him down, Rose likely has some motivation. I'm reminded of a line from "The Dark Knight." "Turn it off. He doesn't want to talk to us. God help whoever he does want to talk to."
3. "Deck the halls with boughs of holly, fa la la la LOB, la la la la"
Tis the season to be jolly in ... Clipper-land? When has that ever been the case? But Sunday means the debut of Lob City (pause for collective groan for people who quickly tire of memes and/or Lakers fans) against the Warriors. Is the pressure too high? Will they be trolled by Yuletide carols? I don't know what that means but it fits with the song; roll with it. The Clippers are facing a team that has been one of the worst defensively over the past decade or so. Mark Jackson is furiously trying to instill a new attitude, but this isn't a great place to start. Kwame Brown is a better interior defender than Andris Biedrins, but isn't good enough to defend two places at once. With Stephen Curry on a bum kneee, the Oop Outlet could be open on Christmas Day. All eyes will be on the Clippers to see if the newest superteam will live up to the billing or disappoint like so many others have. No pressure, there, Blake.
4. "I'll have a Blue Christmas without you..."
The Lakers need Andrew Bnyum. This is the first time you can really say that. They won the title in 2009 without him. They could have won the title in 2010 without him. He was the only thing really keeping them afloat for much of the last half of 2011. And now with Kobe Bryant injured for their opener vs. Chicago, Bynum's injury is even more in focus. It's his overwhelming presence on both ends that makes the Lakers more nasty and tougher to stop. Kobe Bryant can pull this game out, even with a torn ligament in his wrist. He's done it before, he'll do it again. But the Lakers are going to be sorely missing the young stud that holds the key to their future ... one way or another.
5. "All of the other reindeer, used to laugh and call him names, (LIKE PINOCHIO!)..."
I know, I know, I should have spit that one out for the Clippers. But this is also can refer to the Knicks, who for years have been dismissed first as a team terrible in every phase but recently because of their defense. But then one foggy (I don't know if it'll be foggy Saturday night in New York or not), Christmas Eve, Mike D'Antoni came to say, "Tyson Chandler, with your defense so bright, won't you dominate inside against a Celtics team which is paper thin inside tonight?"
The questions are going to continue about the Knicks. Chandler has been with the Knicks for a whole ... week. It may not work at all. But he's got a chance to help redefine what defense for the Knicks means, alongside Mike Woodson. And if things go right, the Knicks could go down in history. OK, let's just start with beating the Celtics in the opener.
6. "Please come home for Christmas."
So say Magic fans to Dwight Howard.
7. "And so this is Christmas, I hope you have fun, the near and the dear one, the old and the young"
The Celtics still have the talent, right? I mean, this is a league where older teams win. Dominate, even. Most of the champions are veteran groups. Yes, the Celtics are ... old. But Rajon Rondo's not. Brandon Bass isn't. They have some legs left. And it's not as many months. So on Sunday against the Knicks, it's not like the Celtics are going to be able to compete with the Knicks. In fact, in most of their games against the Knicks under Mike D'Antoni, the Celtics have used the same tactic employed by the Spurs against the Suns for years: They ran them out of the building. The Celtics actually are a great fast-break team, with Allen sprinting to the corner, Rondo running the break and Pierce a brilliant cherry picker.
So even if they're old, this is still likely a better overall team than the Knicks. But this first game could be relevant in showing us how big a hill both teams have to climb, and maybe who'll take early control of the division.
8. "The fire is slowly dying, and my dear, we're still, goodbye-ing. But as long as you love me so, let it snow..."
The Mavericks are going to fade off into the sunset. This is not a young team. Dirk Nowitkzi's game and condition should allow him to play until he's, oh, 60. But think about Petyon Manning. How quickly did this guy, who should have played at a high level into his 40s, see his career change? Granted, different sort of contact sport and all, my point is just that we never know when things change. And if Dirk does suffer any sort of decline because of age, the Mavericks dip too. Jason Kidd is nearly middle-aged, Jason Terry has a lot of frequent flier miles on him and Lamar Odom's no spring chicken. But on Sunday, they get to watch the banner raised in American Airlines, legitimizing Dirk's career and establishing the franchise as world champs. Yeah, it's getting cold, but the world will still love this team for their run last year and they've got enough in them to make another crack at it. Let it snow.
9. "Dashing through the snow, in a one-horse open sleigh."
Are the Bulls going to be a one-horse open sleigh, or do they have some help? Will Rip Hamilton help the Bulls space the floor against the Lakers? Can Carlos Bozer score on Josh McRoberts after struggling against McBob's Indiana Pacers last season? Can the Bulls score consistently? We know the defense will be there, but the Bulls wanted a scoring upgrade this season. The Lakers, even without Bynum and Odom, are going to be a great test of how far they've come. The Lakers will score. How much the Bulls score will determine if they start the season in a rush or a slide.
10. "Me, I want a hula-hoop..."
In this scenario, Mark Jackson is Alvin and the hula-hoop is a healthy-enough-to-play Stephen Curry. And a defense. And some consistent shooting. And smart basketball. It's a big hula-hoop.
11. "All I want for Christmas is you..."
Blake Griffin got the best Christmas gift possible. The Dunk-o-meter may get broken this season. The Clippers get to test out their new toy Sunday night. Chris Paul will make Blake Griffin the best player he can be. And that is terrifying for the rest of the league.
12. "And the boys of the NYPD choir were singing "Galway Bay," and the bells were ringing out for Christmas Day."
That's from a song about crushed dreams but sticking together because you've built your lives around one another. And after a vicious lockout that divided players, owners, fans and media, games are back. We're stuck with each other. Let's tip it off. Happy Holidays.
Posted on: December 23, 2011 10:40 am
Posted by Royce Young
Stephen Curry's ankle roll in the second game of the Warriors' preseason looked harmless enough. But then you remember it was on his surgically repaired right ankle and that helps explain why he was left crawling on the floor and needing help off the court.
It ended up being more of a tweak than anything else, which is why Curry is sounding pretty optimistic about playing in Golden State's opener on Sunday against the Clippers. Via CSN Bay Area:
“It’s hard to say. Today I was able to walk, to move around, and it’s only Thursday, so we’ll see where I get to before Sunday,” Curry said. “I’d like to practice before Sunday.”
I'm sure with the right amount of tape and maybe a shot or something Curry could play, but the season is long and there's not a big reason to risk re-injury. Still, if the Warriors want to have a shot at Lob City, they're going to need Curry's help.
He's listed officially as day to day and obviously wants to play. He probably will be able to, but he might should just sit this one out and let everything get completely healed.
Posted on: December 20, 2011 11:57 pm
Edited on: December 21, 2011 8:10 pm
Posted by Ben Golliver.
Update (8:09 p.m. Wednesday): The Contra Costa Times reports that an MRI on Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry's ankle revealed "no structural damage." Curry is listed as day-to-day.
Oh no, not again.
Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry suffered a right ankle injury during the second quarter of a Tuesday night preseason game against the Sacramento Kings at Power Balance Pavilion. The Warriors announced that, after an X-ray, Curry's injury is being called a "sprain."
He will be "re-examined" on Wednesday and his availability is currently unknown. The Warriors host the Los Angeles Clippers for their season opener on Christmas Day.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports the gory details.
Curry was trying to defend Jimmer Fredette’s crossover at the top of the key when his ankle gave way. He crawled toward the sidline at midcourt in agony and put little pressure on the troublesome ankle as teammates Charles Jenkins and Tommy Mitchell acted as his crutches to the locker room.Curry left the game after tallying 7 points, 5 assists, 2 rebounds and 3 steals in 14 minutes. Just 23, has fought a seemingless endless battle with ankle injuries as a pro, and he underwent surgery to repair ligaments in his right ankle last May.
Back in November, Curry told CBSSports.com that he was confident and felt "unlimited" following the surgery but that he would need to use training camp to be sure it could hold up to game conditions.
“I don’t know what it’s going to feel like,” Curry admitted in November. “The first week of training camp will be able to tell me exactly where I’m at with the rehab and physically speaking. When the actual games start, I don’t want to be limited [minutes-wise], so hopefully the week of training camp that we have will allow me to just get out and play and help my ankle respond when I’m out there competing.”
Curry scored 22 points, grabbed six rebounds, dished six assists and had three steals in Golden State's first preseason game against the Kings on Saturday. The Warriors won, 107-96, at Oracle Arena.
Posted on: December 20, 2011 8:08 pm
Edited on: December 21, 2011 5:59 pm
By Matt Moore and Ben Golliver.
An explosive lawsuit involving indecent text messages has been filed against an NBA star.
The Contra Costa Times reports that a former Golden State Warriors employee has sued the team and guard Monta Ellis for sexual harrassment. The lawsuit also alleges that the Warriors terminated her employment in an effort to cover up the scandal.
According to an email from the Law Offices of Burton F. Boltuch, the plaintiff will file the suit Wednesday morning in Oakland at the Superior Court of Alameda County. Afterward, a press conference will be held to discuss the allegations.The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Ellis sent "dozens" of text messages, including one of a "graphic photo of [his] genitalia."
Erika Ross Smith said in a lawsuit filed in Alameda County Superior Court Tuesday that Ellis began sending her explicit messages in November 2010 while she worked in the team's community relations department.The San Jose Mercury-News reports that Warriors president Rick Welts issued a statement on Wednesday, insinuating that this lawsuit was a money grab and fighting back against the claim that the organization had professionally punished the plaintiff because of the relationship.
When we were made aware of a consensual relationship between Mr. Ellis and the Plaintiff, we did what an organization should do. We told both to stop – promptly, directly and fairly. The Warriors have never taken any action against the Plaintiff for any inappropriate reason, and we deny the allegations she is making.Ellis, 26, is married and has one son.
He averaged a team-high 24.1 points per game for the Warriors last season.
Posted on: December 18, 2011 1:44 pm
Posted by Royce Young
The Pacers just lost Josh McRoberts in free agency to the Lakers, so they've located a value replacement. According to CSN Bay Area, the Pacers will acquire big man Lou Amundson in exchange for Brandon Rush.
The Warriors were looking for a bit more guard depth after watching Reggie Williams sign with the Bobcats, but to give up a "little things" type of player like Amundson seems a bit odd. Especially when the Warriors are pretty thin inside. Remember: They just gave Kwame Brown $7 million to be their starting center.
Rush is a nice spot-up shooter, but not necessarily anything to get excited over. He'll play behind Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis, and it's honestly a little tough to see him beating out rookie Klay Thompson for many minutes either.
Amundson though fills a pretty big need for the Pacers who need extra size inside. David West could be pushed a bit coming off his knee injury, so a little added insurance is a good thing.
Posted on: December 16, 2011 3:26 pm
Posted by Royce Young
Fall is here, hear the yell, back to school, ring the bell ... Wait, we're almost to winter. What happened? Who cares, there's a season! The NBA season is right around the corner, and NBA training camp starts in just a couple weeks. To get you ready for the season, we've put together some pop quizzes. Pencils ready? We continue our Pop Quizzes with this question...
Who gets the last two seeds in the West?The Western Conference is wide, wide open. And I don't just mean at the top. There are a pretty set top six teams in the West -- Oklahoma City, Memphis, Dallas, San Antonio, the Clippers and the Lakers. Nobody's really going to argue too much with that.
But my question is, what is going to happen with spots seven and eight? Here are the remaining teams: Minnesota, Denver, Phoenix, Portland, Utah, New Orleans, Houston, Golden State and Sacramento. Two of those have to go to the playoffs (assuming of course the top six go as planned). Who, I mean who, has the edge there?
Let's start with teams that were there last postseason. That includes Portland, New Orleans and Denver. Obviously you can cross the Hornets right off, but of those nine teams vying for the two spots, you'd have to think Denver and Portland have the best shot. The Blazers took a massive hit with Brandon Roy's retirement, but that team made the playoffs pretty much without him anyway last year. And with Jamal Crawford coming in, Craig Smith beefing them up a little inside, Ray Felton running the show (as long as he's not 300 pounds), Gerald Wallace doing all the little things and a legit star in LaMarcus Aldridge, I'd say Portland will probably punch one of those spots.
The Nuggets? That's iffy. Bringing back Nene to go team with Danilo Gallinari and Ty Lawson gives Denver a solid core, but this team was ravaged by the lockout. J.R. Smith -- gone. Wilson Chandler -- gone. Kenyon Martin -- gone. It wasn't a guarantee those guys were coming back anyway, but Rudy Fernandez and Corey Brewer aren't really ideal replacements. Plus, this team is breaking in a lot of new stuff and with just 66 games, there's not a lot of time to get it sorted out. But among the contenders for No. 8, Denver will definitely be in the mix.
The Middle Class
The teams that are consistently solid, have a star or at least a quality roster and can compete with pretty much anyone on a night-to-night basis. I'd put Phoenix, Houston and Golden State in this group. Steve Nash gives Phoenix a chance every night, Houston went 43-39 last season and if the Rockets can add a big man -- granted, only Samuel Dalembert is really left -- they could be a solid seven or eight-seed and Golden State has too much offense to ignore.
It's a question with the Suns whether or not Nash can hold up in this schedule, if the Rockets will in fact get that big body they need and if the Warriors will just be themselevs and only play on one side of the floor. But any of these three could make a run one of those two spots and it wouldn't surprise me.
The Hornets are intentionally lowering their bar, despite getting a decent haul of talent from the Clippers. Really, Jarrett Jack, Eric Gordon, Al-Farouq Aminu, Emeka Okafor and Chris Kaman isn't a horrible core. But not being horrible doesn't mean you won't still struggle against the depth of the West. Because the Hornets currently have six or seven D-Leaguers on the roster, all with a pretty good shot at the final team. That's not good.
The Jazz just aren't there yet either. They need a scorer badly. Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors give them a nice frontcourt, but Devin Harris, C.J. Miles and Gordon Hayward aren't really going to light it up.
I like what the Jazz are doing, but they are built entirely around four frontcourt players. They need to dump Mehmet Okur and maybe even Millsap or Jefferson to get a scorer (Danny Granger?) unless they aren't sold on their lottery pick Enes Kanter. It's a rebuild post-Sloan and post-Deron and they're likely to be a whipping boy this season.
By process of elimination, you can figure out who are leftover and I'm even scaring myself with this. But the Kings and Timberwolves could both be set up for a quiet playoff push this year.
Start with the Kings. Tyreke Evans is finally healthy. He's finally in a real position playing shooting guard. Who knows what Jimmer will bring, but if all that fails, Evans can take over handling duties and bring Marcus Thornton in, who is instant offense. DeMarcus Cousins could be dominant if he keeps his head straight, Chuck Hayes is a classic scrapper, Jason Thompson and J.J. Hickson give them some depth. Who knows, in a 66-game schedule where crazy things happen, maybe the Kings start hot taking advantage of teams that didn't get a full camp together and use their youth to stay fresh through the crammed season. I could see it happening.
The Wolves? It's time for them to show some sign of improvement. It has to happen. Rick Adelman is a major addition because he's going to get these young players at least focused on a system and structure. David Kahn has built a mess of a roster but give him credit for one thing: It's got talent. There's a big if in Ricky Rubio and how much of a contributor Derrick Williams will be, but Kevin Love, Anthony Randolph, Wesley Johnson, Michael Beasley -- I can't believe I'm saying it, but I don't completely hate this roster.
It's all about Adelman though. I'm really believing that he makes a difference in figuring out how the pieces fit. Because if not, the Wolves could win 15 games. But if things click a bit and Rubio and Luke Ridnour run the Adelman offense well, could this team win 30 games? And with the back end of the West looking so iffy, could it be enough to sneak in? I'm not saying I believe it, but I could see it.
Posted on: December 14, 2011 1:20 pm
Edited on: December 15, 2011 1:54 am
By Matt Moore
We're less than two weeks away from the start of the 2011-2012 NBA season. After an interminable lockout and a rushed free agency period, here's a first look division-by-division preview at how the league is shaping up. We begin with the Pacific Division.
Los Angeles Lakers, 57-25, lost 4-0 to Dallas Mavericks in 2nd round of Western Conference Playoffs
Phoenix Suns, 42-42, NBA Draft lottery
Golden State Warriors,36-46, NBA Draft lottery
Los Angeles Clippers, 32-50, NBA Draft lottery
Sacramento Kings, 24-58, NBA Draft lottery
Best team: Well, see, the thing is... Chris Paul (UPDATE: TIE- LOS ANGELES LAKERS AND LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS)
Chris Paul was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers Tuesday night. Even with the Lakers unable to obtain Paul, the combination of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum is probably enough to take the honors here. But with Paul joining Blake Griffin, even without Eric Gordon, the additions of Caron Butler, Chauncey Billups and re-signing DeAndre Jordan make as tough of a team to face as any. Griffin's impact next to Chris Paul is nearly incalculable.
The Lakers may still have the edge, but after the loss of Odom, everything is up in the air as far as who runs Staples now. The reality is that Paul landing in the city of L.A. will shift the division in one direction or another for the next half-decade at least.
Worst team: Sacramento Kings
The Kings are tricky. They have a convoluted backcourt. Tyreke Evans took a step back last season and it remains to be seen if it was all injury-related or not. There's no telling how Jimmer Fredette will adjust to the pro level. Marcus Thornton will struggle for minutes despite his all-around ability. John Salmons is floating around. There were huge chemistry questions last season and the players struggled against coach Paul Westphal at times.
If things don't improve, if DeMarcus Cousins doesn't mature, if Chuck Hayes can't protect the rim enough with his diminutive stature, things could get bad. And yet...
Biggest surprise: Sacramento Kings
There's so much firepower in that backcourt. Untangling it is complicated but they have everything. Shooting, athleticism, size, range, explosiveness, savvy, handle, everything. They have too much ability to not be effective in some ways. Cousins was a beast last season and even a small amount of maturity and development means he could be a near-All-Star (in the East, the West is too stacked). They have young talented bigs and Hayes who provides savvy and veteran knowledge.
The pieces are there. They're going to be exciting, even if they're struggling with an identity.
Three Best Players: Kobe Bryant, Blake Griffin, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash, Chris Paul
Update: With Paul joining the division, he instantly becomes one of the three best players. The best pure point guard in the league, with excellent shooting touch, terrific defense, and a supreme will to win? He leap-frogs both Pau and Nash.
Kobe Bryant needs no explanation, even at his age. The end.
Blake Griffin is the most explosive player in the league and the first player in a few years for people to say he could legitimately be the best player in the league at one point. His explosiveness and rebounding is unmatched, his mid-range jumper isn't lightyears away and his defense will get there. Already, Griffin is a force to be reckoned with. What happens when he gets better?
Gasol vs. Nash? Gasol was an early season MVP candidate. He is arguably the most skilled big man in the league (as opposed to Dwight Howard, the most dominant and most talented). And yet his collapse in the 2011 playoffs is the stuff of legend. It was such a complete failure at both ends, when the Lakers needed him most, it's damning. Gasol could very well be the second best player in this division this year. He could also slide back with age.
Nash? Ho-hum, another 50-40-90 season (got to round up for once, but still). His weighted assists, factoring three-pointers assisted on, left him at 13, which means combined with his 15 points per game, he contributed 41 points per game to the Suns. That's absurd. It's also not the highest in the league for a point guard, but it's still an example of how good Nash is. He's flat-out old in relative terms of the league, and yet is in the best shape he possibly could be thanks to conditioning. Nash is still elite, an therefore neither he nor Gasol can be exempted.
Biggest Question: Can Golden State change its stripes?
Mark Jackson has to completely turn what the Warriors know as their identity inside out. They have to commit to defensive principles. David Lee, Monta Ellis, Stephen Curry, these players are not known for this, at all. It's going to take a miracle. If Jackson can get them to buy in and if his system is good enough, the Warriors could make a jump. Kwame Brown helps down low (don't laugh, he's become a quality defender). But there's so much to be done in terms of changing this team's indentity, the Warriors could be in for rocky seas.
2012 Projected Standings:
1. Los Angeles Lakers
2. Los Angeles Clippers
3. Golden State Warriors
4. Phoenix Suns
5. Sacramento Kings
Tags: 2011-2012 Division Previews, Andrew Bynum, Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, David Lee, DeAndre Jordan, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Gordon, Golden State Warriors, Jimmer Fredette, John Salmons, Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Marcus Thornton, Mark Jackson, Matt Moore, Monta Ellis, Pau Gasol, Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings, Tyreke Evans