Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Western Conference Preview

Pacific Division

Phoenix Suns
Outlook: The Suns will have to overcome the loss of Amare Stoudemire and they are counting on Raja Bell and Kurt Thomas to help them do that for the next four months until Stoudemire returns. Mike D'Antoni believes his team can still score 110 points a night, even without Stoudemire. With Steve Nash leading the charge along with Shawn Marion the Suns should still be able to run the ball up and down the court. Defense will be an issue but it didn’t stop them from winning the division last season

Los Angeles Lakers
Outlook: The Lakers will be much improved over last season, if Kwame Brown can be a force in the front court that the Wizards wanted him to be. Lamar Odom is the wild card for this team. He could be a very solid #2 guy for Kobe Bryant.

Sacramento Kings
Outlook: This will have to be Mike Bibby’s finest season, as he becomes the sole leader, and Peja Stojakovic will need to return to the level of play from a few seasons ago. The Kings will be in a dogfight with the Lakers for second place but they still should be a play-off contender.

Golden State Warriors
Outlook: Golden State has a very good chance of making a play-off run if Baron Davis stays healthy. However, if they don’t get him any help they will be a one man show like Seattle was last year with Ray Allen.

Los Angeles Clippers
Outlook: The Clippers have not been to the play-offs since 1997. Elton Brand and company will have to wait at least one more season to make that run.

Southwest Division

San Antonio Spurs
Outlook: And your Western Conference Champions are … Spurs fans will not only be hearing that they will be celebrating back to back world championships. The additions of Nick Van Exel and Michael Finley made this year’s team even better than last year’s

Houston Rockets
Outlook: With Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady clicking and strong support from Stromile Swift the Rockets are going to have a great season. To bad they play in the same division as the Spurs.

Dallas Mavericks
Outlook: The Mavericks window of opportunity may have closed. Dirk Nowitzki no longer has Steve Nash and Michael Finley to help him out and it will take a while for chemistry to develop between him and Doug Christie. The Mavs will still be a good team but not to the level of year’s past.

New Orleans/OKC Hornets
Outlook: The Hornets are already winners this season. They have found a new home in Oklahoma City (trust me it’s not temporary) and a trade with the Milwaukee Bucks lands them not only Desmond Mason but also another first round draft pick.

Chris Paul and J.R. Smith seem to be working well together and the addition on Desmond Mason gives them a legitimate scorer. I think the Hornets will be the surprise on the league this year as they try to out run their opponents. Look for Paul to build a case for rookie of the year.

Memphis Grizzlies
Outlook: Who is the star of this team? Is it rookie Hakim Warrick? Seasoned veteran Bobby Jackson? I’m not quite sure but it might just be next year’s lottery pick.

Northwest Division

Denver Nuggets
Outlook: George Karl had the Nuggets playing very well at the end of last season and that should continue into this season. Look for Carmelo Anthony and Kenyon Martin to be lethal and a small back court of Earl Boykins, Andre Miller and Earl Watson to apply lots of pressure on opponents with their speed.

Seattle SuperSonics
Outlook: The Sonics will follow last year’s blueprint to the play-offs. Spread the floor on offense and shoot from outside. Play tough defense. Ray Allen should have another amazing season.

Utah Jazz
Outlook: I think the Jazz could return to the play-offs this year as long as they are not decimated by injuries again. Deron Williams should be the answer for the Jazz at the point and I think the pick and roll can still be effective.

Minnesota Timberwolves
Outlook: Minnesota needed to make some big moves in the off-season and they didn’t. Kevin Garnett is as athletic as they come but his body is beginning to show wear and tear and he stands alone on the team in athleticism.

Portland Trail Blazers
Outlook: Nate McMillan is an excellent coach, but there is way too much youth on this team for it to go anywhere. They will win some games but not many. Sebastian Telfair and Darius Miles have a great future with the Trailblazers but there will be growing pains first.

Western Conference Final Standings
1. San Antonio
2. Houston
3. Phoenix
4. Denver
5. Dallas
6. L.A. Lakers
7. Seattle
8. Sacramento
9. Utah
10. Minnesota
11. Golden State
12. New Orleans
13. L.A. Clippers
14. Portland
15. Memphis