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The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    NBA Western Conference Preview

    NBA Western Conference Preview

    1. Los Angeles Lakers

    2. New Orleans Hornets

    3. Houston Rockets

    4. Utah Jazz

    5. Dallas Mavericks

    6. Phoenix Suns

    7. San Antonio Spurs

    8. Portland Trail Blazers

    9. Denver Nuggets

    10. Golden State Warriors

    11. Los Angeles Clippers

    12. Minnesota Timberwolves

    13. Sacramento Kings

    14. Memphis Grizzlies

    15. Oklahoma City Thunder

    Picking the Lakers to be a top the Western Conference at the end of the year is an easy decision. They have the same team that made it the finals, plus Andrew Bynum. If the team can stay relatively healthy, they’ll breeze through the season and playoffs. Their depth and star power is truly amazing, but too bad it won’t last past this season after Lamar Odom will be forced out of town.

    The New Orleans Hornets are also bringing back a very strong team, plus James Posey. With a starting lineup of Chris Paul, Mo Peterson, Peja Stojakovic, David West, and Tyson Chandler, they should be able to coast through the season and easily win the Southwest division. I do have concerns, however, because a huge part of their success was Peja staying healthy. He played 77 games last season, which is 7 games less than the total amount of games he played in the three seasons before that. They do have Posey to plug in if Peja does get hurt, but that will take away from their depth. Ultimately I think they’ll reach the conference finals.

    The Houston Rockets made a major move this offseason acquiring Ron Artest, which definitely made them a top-tier team. Their starting lineup of Rafer Alston, Tracy McGrady, Artest, Shane Battier/Luis Scola, and Yao Ming will definitely give the rest of the league problems on both ends of the court. But injury problems for them are inevitable, which will ultimately lead to their downfall. McGrady and Yao are a lock to miss to miss at least 15 games each; McGrady with back spasms, Yao with foot problems. They just better hope these injury problems don’t occur in March or April. If they are healthy, McGrady should finally break his first round curse.

    The Utah Jazz didn’t change during their offseason, but since the Northwest division is still relatively weak, they shouldn’t have a problem winning the division and taking the fourth seed in the playoffs. Deron Williams, Ronnie Brewer, Andrei Kirilenko, Carlos Boozer, and Mehmet Okur make for a solid starting lineup, while Kyle Korver, Matt Harpring, and Paul Millsap give them a decent bench. But if it wasn’t for their weak division, they’ll probably be more like a six or seven seed team which is why they won’t make it past the first round.

    The Dallas Mavericks were somewhat of a mess last season. When they traded away Devin Harris and DeSagana Diop, they traded away their defense, and they were never able to mesh together in time to be able to make that championship run Mark Cuban desperately wanted. This season should be different; Jason Kidd will be on the team for the entire season, and they have DeSagana Diop back who will be able to guard guys like Tim Duncan, Shaquille O’Neal, and Yao Ming. They have a great starting lineup, with a deep bench, the only question is whether or not they’ll choke in the playoffs like they usually do.

    The Phoenix Suns are slowly getting worse and worse, and their window of opportunity is shrinking by the day. Shaq, who turns 37 in March, already made it known that he’s less than 2 years away from retirement, while Steve Nash will be 35 in February, and Grant Hill is 36. They also have a new coach in Terry Porter who has little coaching experience. When the playoffs are done, Steve Kerr will be fired, and the Suns will only be one year away from re-building mode.

    Unlike past seasons, the Spurs will actually have to play hard in all 82 games if they want to make the playoffs. Manu Ginobili is going to miss a lot of time, and their division rivals New Orleans, Dallas, and Houston aren’t going to take it easy on them. They will make the playoffs, but their streak of winning the championship every-other-season will be snapped.

    After the top seven teams, the next four spots are really a toss-up. The Trail Blazers, Warriors, Clippers, and Nuggets all have an equal shot of taking the eighth seed in my opinion. I chose the Trail Blazers because of the amount of talent they have at their disposal: Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Fernandez, Jerryd Bayless, Greg Oden, Travis Outlaw, Martell Webster, and Sergio Rodriguez. In a couple years, this team could be championship bound, but for now they’re going to go through their growing pains.

    To round up the Western Conference, the only player who actually played defense on Denver is gone, and Allen Iverson will probably be gone before the trade dead-line.

    Golden State, like Portland, has a lot of young talent, but their point guard play is going to be their downfall. Baron Davis is gone, while Monta Ellis is more concerned with popping a wheelie.

    The Clippers have a great core in Baron Davis, Cuttino Mobley, Al Thornton, Marcus Camby, and Chris Kaman, and a potential star in Eric Gordon. However they’re depth is pretty weak from there and Baron Davis should go back to his injured ways now that he got paid.

    The Timberwolves are rebounding nicely and should win 10 more games this season, but the Western Conference is too tough and the team is still a couple seasons away from playoff contention.

    The Kings, Grizzlies, and Thunder will finish at the bottom of the conference and will be major competitors on the night of the draft lottery. Even if you took the best 15 players from the three, they still would not make the playoffs.

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