NBA Pacific Division Preview
The NBA's Pacific Division has one championship contender in the Phoenix Suns, and four other squads who will have to fight and claw their way to qualifying for the playoffs. The Pacific features the thrilling Suns, the undersized and exciting Golden State Warriors, the easy-to-root-for Los Angeles Clippers, the Kobe-led Los Angeles Lakers, and soon-to-be-in-reconstruction Sacramento Kings.
BEST PACIFIC DIVISION PLAYERS
Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Shawn Marion, Amare Stoudemire, Baron Davis, Ron Artest, Elton Brand, Lamar Odom, Corey Maggette, Grant Hill, Kevin Martin, Sam Cassell, Mike Bibby, Boris Diaw, Al Harrington, Leandro Barbosa, Raja Bell, Monta Ellis, Stephen Jackson, Ruben Patterson, Cuttino Mobley, Chris Kaman, Brad Miller, Andris Biedrins
INSIDEHOOPS.COM'S ALL-PACIFIC TEAMS
Players may be used slightly of of position (within reason) to make the best possible teams:
ALL-PACIFIC FIRST TEAM: PG: Steve Nash, SG: Kobe Bryant, SF: Ron Artest, PF: Shawn Marion, C: Amare Stoudemire
ALL-PACIFIC SECOND TEAM: PG: Baron Davis, SG: Corey Maggette, SF: Grant Hill, PF: Elton Brand, C: Lamar Odom
ALL-PACIFIC THIRD TEAM: PG: Sam Cassell, SG: Kevin Martin, SF: Boris Diaw, PF: Al Harrington, C: Brad Miller
PACIFIC TEAM ONE-LINERS
Golden State Warriors: Smallball is exciting and fun. But can it get the Warriors into the playoffs again?
Los Angeles Clippers: Once Elton Brand returns, he and Corey Maggette must lead. And Chris Kaman must step up.
Los Angeles Lakers: Management hasn't given Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom the help they need.
Phoenix Suns: Awesomely fun team gets even smaller with Kurt Thomas gone and Grant Hill on board.
Sacramento Kings: Mike Bibby and Ron Artest have been on trading block forever. Can they along with Kevin Martin step up? And will Brad Miller be good again?
THE PACIFIC TEAMS TO WATCH
The Suns are the team to watch in the division, as they're the only championship contender of the bunch. Kurt Thomas was an undersized yet rugged big man who is gone now. Phoenix welcomes a probable new starter at small forward, Grant Hill, who in preseason looks like he can still ball. Aside from Phoenix, the Warriors are worth watching due to thrilling Baron Davis, who has trimmed down, and his wild band of teammates. Jason Richardson is gone from Golden State but they should have enough scoring swingmen to replace him. The Lakers are worth watching because Kobe Bryant is a master. But management did virtually nothing to improve the Lakers roster this off-season. The Clippers will be worth watching once Elton Brand returns, but until then see if Corey Maggette can carry them. And the Kings have a solid threesome in Bibby, Martin and Artest, but they need help up front and production from the bench.
MORE PACIFIC DIVISION STORYLINES
Will Baron Davis stay healthy this season? ... Will Davis and the Warriors have contract extension discussions? So far it appears they haven't... Will the trade of Jason Richardson away from the Warriors hurt them? ... Golden State rookie shooting guard Marco Belinelli appears ready to contribute. How about Brandan Wright? ... Will Kelenna Azubuike become a key Warrior? ... Will Sam Cassell act his age and become old this season? ... Will Shaun Livingston ever fully recover? ... Can Corey Maggette carry the Clippers until Elton Brand returns? ... Will Chris Kaman improve or did he stop getting better since getting a good contract? ... Will Kobe Bryant explode publically on management or ownership this season? ... Will Andrew Bynum improve quickly enough to be worthy of major minutes? Or will he remain a project? ... Will the Lakers make the playoffs? ... Will the Suns keep Shawn Marion or trade him? ... Will Marion publically back off his request to be traded? ... Will Grant Hill be a prime Suns contributor all season, and stay healthy? ... Will the Suns add any additional big men? They need some... Will Mike Bibby or Ron Artest be traded? ... Will Kevin Martin earn the big contract Sacramento gave him? ... Will Brad Miller be versatile and terrific again like he once was? ... Can Kenny Thomas, Shareef Abdur-Rahim or rookie Spencer Hawes rise up and grab primary hold of the Kings power forward spot?
PREDICTED ORDER OF PACIFIC DIVISION FINISH
Phoenix Suns: One of the best teams in the league, despite lack of size.
Los Angeles Lakers: Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, and Phil Jackson's great coaching keeps these guys competitive.
Golden State Warriors: A crazy run got the Warriors into last season's playoffs. They're not a lock to return there.
Sacramento Kings: Some chemistry should finally develop and add a few wins to the Kings record. If the Kings have a better record than the Clippers it may only be by a few games.
Los Angeles Clippers: They can survive being without Shaun Livingston but need Elton Brand back as quickly as possible.