Thriller’s NBA Season Preview: the West

Northwest Division:

Utah Jazz

Projected Starters: Devin Harris, Raja Bell, Gordon Hayward, Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson
Rotation players: Earl Watson, Alec Burks, CJ Miles, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter

Key Additions: Alec Burks, Enes Kanter

OUTLOOK:

The Jazz are in a rebuilding year with many good young pieces. I expect them to continue their rebuilding by trading Jefferson for a few more pieces, and possibly Millsap as well to free up minutes for their young bigs. I’m very interested to see if Hayward takes a big step in to becoming a solid starting SF after a very good 2nd half of the year, and how Alec Burks plays in his rookie year as a 6′3 SG.

Denver Nuggets

Projected Starters: Ty Lawson, Rudy Fernandez, Danilo Gallinari, Nene, Timofey Mozgov
Rotation players: Andre Miller, Corey Brewer, Al Harrington, Chris Anderson

Key Additions:Rudy Fernandez, Corey Brewer

OUTLOOK:

They’re still waiting on Afflalo to re sign still, but this looks to be a year of transition for the Nuggets due to losing 3 main pieces to China. I think they’ll still compete for a playoff spot with the improvement of Lawson/Gallo, but their overall team just doesn’t look good enough to make it as of right now. Unless of course Mozgov turns in to Mozgod.

Portland Trail Blazers

Projected Starters: Raymond Felton, Wes Matthews, Gerald Wallace, LaMarcus Aldridge, Marcus Camby
Rotation players: Jamal Crawford, Nicolas Batum, Kurt Thomas

Key Additions: Jamal Crawford, Kurt Thomas

OUTLOOK:

Should be another year like last year for Portland, 1 and done. They do have a lot of good players, but they don’t have a 2nd big impact player anymore to put them over the top. The addition of Crawford will make them more dangerous, but they remain a solid team with little prospect of reaching the 2nd round.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Projected Starters: Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins
Rotation players: Eric Maynor, James Harden, Daequan Cook, Nick Collison

Key Additions: None

OUTLOOK:

The Thunder stood pat this offseason because of their team make up. The one thing I dont like is the probability that Harden will come off the bench again, which may be ok for the regular season, but come postseason they cannot continue to get off to bad offensive starts in the 1st/3rd quarters due to them playing 4 on 5(much like CHI). If OKC wants to become a TITLE contender this year, they should start Harden and think about getting one more guard for scoring punch off of the bench. Either way, they may come out of the West due to the Lakers downgrade this offseason.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Projected Starters: Ricky Rubio, Wes Johnson, Michael Beasley, Kevin Love, Darko Milicic
Rotation players: JJ Barea, Luke Ridnour, Derrick Williams, Anthony Randolph

Key Additions:Ricky Rubio, JJ Barea, Derrick Williams

OUTLOOK:

Minnesota has acquired some nice young players in the past few years, and they look like they’ll be an exciting team to watch this year with Adelmans offence combined with the talent they have. Their starting lineup is still in question as there’s rumblings that JJ Barea may start, they may go small etc. It’ll be a transition year for the TWolves, in which they hope Williams shows himself to be worthy of the 2nd pick, and Rubio shows that hes NBA ready and improves as the season wears on. They do have trading chips if those 2 guys turn out to be as good as advertised, so MIN wont be too far away from competing for a playoff spot, next year.

Pacific Division:

Los Angeles Lakers

Projected Starters: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Rotation players: Steve Blake, Matt Barnes, Josh McRoberts

Key Additions: Josh McRoberts, Jason Kapono(just so people see that Kapono is on the Lakers now)

OUTLOOK:

The Lakers come back with the same starting 5, but 1 year older. Fisher and World Peace didnt look great last year to begin with, and now theyre essentially going to be forced to force feed them or Blake and Barnes minutes. Unless the Lakers spruce up their bench or make a big splash with a trade, its possible this year they may be knocked out in the 1st round even with a top seed. But the Lakers are the Lakers and theyll pick up some players to improve the roster, I cant see them standing pat.

Los Angeles Clippers

Projected Starters: Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, Caron Butler, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan
Rotation players: Eric Bledsoe, Mo Williams, Randy Foye, Ryan Gomes, Ike Diogu, Reggie Evans

Key Additions: Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, Reggie Evans

OUTLOOK:

The most anticipated team to watch for the 2012 NBA season. Theres obviously still question marks as to their bench, where theyre actually going to play Chauncey and for how many minutes, and the Mo Williams situation, but really, all that matters right now is they put together what possibly is right now the most devastating 1-2 combination in the NBA. If CP3 can get the crap filled Hornets to 56 wins, he should be able to work wonders with a much more talented roster. The Clippers do need to shore up their bench, and figure out the SG and Williams situation quickly though. Maybe Billups will play the SG role on defence like Kidd has and become that spot up shooter that Kidd has as well, if he does, then the Clippers could be contenders this year. That or if they get Afflalo, look out.

Phoenix Suns

Projected Starters: Steve Nash, Jared Dudley, Grant Hill, Channing Frye, Marcin Gortat
Rotation players:Sebastien Telfair, Shannon Brown, Hakim Warrick, Robin Lopez

Key Additions: Sebastien Telfair, Shannon Brown

OUTLOOK:

The Suns are stuck in a bad place right now with no prospects of the playoffs and an old team with no really good or potentially really good prospects. They should really look in to trading Nash at the deadline and trying to get a good lottery pick in this upcoming draft, and start the rebuilding process immediately.

Golden State Warriors

Projected Starters: Stephen Curry, Monta Ellis, Dorrell Wright, David Lee, Epke Udoh
Rotation players: Klay Thompson, Kwame Brown, Andris Biedrins

Key Additions: Klay Thompson, Kwame Brown

OUTLOOK:

The Warriors, much like the Suns, are stuck in a bad situation of having no chance to make the playoffs, but the Warriors at least have the young talent and pieces to get better. They should really look in to a blockbuster deal involving Ellis this year to not only balance out their lineup, but hand the keys over to Curry who looks to be ready to be a premier PG in the NBA. But I expect the Warriors to stand pat and have another underwhelming year where theyll be exciting to watch and score a lot, but get killed inside and on the boards as usual. Expect Marc Jacksons head to explode from too many hand down man down situations.

Sacramento Kings

Projected Starters: Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton, John Salmons, Chuck Hayes, DeMarcus Cousins
Rotation players: Jimmer Fredette, Francisco Garcia, JJ Hickson, Jason Thompson

Key Additions: Chuck Hayes, Jimmer Fredette

OUTLOOK:

The Kings have many nice young players, but the make up of their team is not good. They have 4 guys in the starting lineup who get most of their points off of isolation and holding the ball(although Thornton didnt do that nearly as much after he came to the Kings), and their bench is too inexperienced to make up for the likely early leads theyre going to give up. I have no idea why they acquired Salmons back in the first place. Itll be a transition year for the Kings, who hopefully will figure out their arena and city situation, as well as who theyre going to look to keep in the future. This is a huge year for Tyreke to prove hes either a top level prospect, or another stat padder on a bad team.

Southwest Division:

Dallas Mavericks

Projected Starters: Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki, Brendan Haywood
Rotation players: Rodrigue Beaubois, Jason Terry, Lamar Odom

Key Additions:Vince Carter, Lamar Odom

OUTLOOK:

The Mavericks definitely he upgraded in terms of offensive firepower, but have downgraded in terms of defence. Theyre probably going to be the 2nd most fun team to watch after the Clippers, but can they really come out of the West with only Haywood really protecting the basket? I think they need to get another solid center to really have a chance at a repeat. The Kidd Terry Marion Dirk Odom lineup is going to be a ton of fun to watch.

San Antonio Spurs

Projected Starters: Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Richard Jefferson(not yet amnestied apparently), Tim Duncan, DaJuan Blair
Rotation players: TJ Ford, Gary Neal, James Anderson, Kawhi Leonard, Tiago Splitter

Key Additions:TJ Ford, Kawhi Leonard

OUTLOOK:

The Spurs have fallen in to the ATL no mans land as of this year. Their 3 stars are aging and they have no one really to step up and take the reigns. I think theyll still be a playoff team, but one and done unless they make big changes.

Houston Rockets

Projected Starters: Kyle Lowry, Kevin Martin, Chase Budinger, Luis Scola, Jordan Hill

Rotation players: Goran Dragic, Courtney Lee, Patrick Patterson, Donatas Motiejunas

Key Additions: Donatas Motiejunas

OUTLOOK:

Houston is stuck in mediocrity as they have a bunch of very solid 2nd tier type players but no real stars and no star prospects. By process of elimination, itll either be DEN or HOU making the playoffs now that Ive looked at the standings. Its a tough call, but I guess I’ll backtrack and take the Nuggets.

New Orleans Hornets

Projected Starters: Jarrett Jack, Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza, Emeka Okafor, Chris Kaman
Rotation players: Grievis Vasquez, Marco Belinelli, Al Farouq Aminu, Carl Landry

Key Additions: Eric Gordon, Al Farouq Aminu, Chris Kaman

OUTLOOK:

It’ll be a year of losing for the Hornets, but they got a great deal for Paul and hopefully have a new owner by early 2012. The future in terms of their roster looks bright, so long as they move out of New Orleans soon. Expect them to win the lottery.

Memphis Grizzlies

Projected Starters: Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol
Rotation players: Greivas Vacquez, OJ Mayo, Sam Young, Darrell Arthur(injured) Quincy Pondexter
Key Additions: Dante Cunningham

OUTLOOK:

The Grizzlies were possibly a Rudy Gay injury away from advancing to the conference Finals and potentially the NBA finals due to them matching up well with the Mavs. This year they have Rudy back, and as many Grizz fans alluded to, MEM was playing great with the now starting lineup with Allen and Gay before Gay was injured. If Gay can fit in seemlessly and the bench continues to produce and get better, the Grizzlies are easily going to be a top seed and an extremely tough out come this years playoffs.

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