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Pacific Division Preview

Los Angeles Lakers

The Good News: The Orlando Magic won a lot of games and even went to the Finals with one-dimensional shooters who don’t play a lot of defense around Dwight Howard. He’s the most athletic big man in the NBA, a one man defense who draws crowds in the lane. He’s made a lot of guys -- Hedo Turkoglu, JJ Redick, Ryan Anderson, Jameer Nelson -- a lot of money over his career; imagine what he can do with Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.

The Bad News: Nash is a 39-year-old with a history of back problems who is leaving the best medical staff in the NBA. Kobe is an incredibly old 34; he’s already played in more games than Michael Jordan ever did. Howard is coming off back surgery. That’s a whole lot of things that could go wrong over an 82-game season.

Real Talk: Metta World Peace hasn’t had a PER over 12 since 2009. He’s a 34-year-old perimeter player losing footspeed coming off the lowest field goal percentage and three-point percentage seasons of his career. If he can’t find his stroke, they’re better off with Devin Ebanks, an athletic 6’9, 215, 24-year-old forward who has the length and footspeed to match up with Kevin Durant.

Los Angeles Clippers

The Good News: How much room Blake Griffin has to grow shouldn’t detract from how good he already is. As a 22-year-old, he put up 21 points, 11 rebounds and three assists on 55% shooting. DeAndre Jordan is only entering his fifth year; the same year the light turned on for Tyson Chandler. Their future is still bright.

The Bad News: Lob City may be the best show in the NBA, but as a whole, the Clippers aren’t very athletic. After Chris Paul, Griffin and Jordan, their most important players are Grant Hill (39), Chauncey Billups (36), Caron Butler (32), Jamal Crawford (32), Matt Barnes (32) and Lamar Odom (32). That’s an old roster without a lot of consistent three-point shooting.

Real Talk: Am I the only one who noticed Paul averaging 12.5 points on 37% shooting in their series loss to the Spurs? The same defense that was shredded to pieces by the Thunder? Nor was he able to do anything defensively to slow down Ginobili and Parker. There’s only so much an unathletic 6’0 guard can do in late May and June.

Golden State Warriors

The Good News: A starting five of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, David Lee and Andrew Bogut has the chance to play some scintillating offensive basketball. A team with that much passing and shooting at every position is going to be brutal to defend, especially if they can establish Bogut on the low block. Draymond Green and Festus Ezeli may be able to give them a boost as rookies off the bench.

The Bad News: Bogut is the only player on the roster who can command a double team and their only chance to be even respectable defensively. Bogut has never fully recovered from a gruesome elbow injury he suffered three years ago and he’s missed two of the last four seasons with injuries to other parts of his body. Hard to believe Milwaukee would have made the deal with Golden State if they thought he could stay healthy going forward.

Real Talk: Curry, Thompson and Barnes all have a lot of polish for young players, but that also means they have less room to improve as they get older. Barnes tested out great athletically at the combine, but he wasn’t a great slasher or defender at North Carolina, the same holes that are in Curry and Thompson’s games. I’d be surprised if any of the three ever made an All-Star team.

Phoenix Suns

The Good News: Marcin Gortat’s defensive versatility at 6’11, 240 will allow Phoenix to hide weaker defenders upfront like Luis Scola and Michael Beasley. Goran Dragic put up excellent per-36 numbers in 2012 -- 16 points, 7 assists and 3.5 rebounds on 46% shooting -- despite having a low usage rating of 21.6. Dragic will have every opportunity to dominate the ball on a team without many other shot-creators.

The Bad News: Where to even begin? If Beasley plays at power forward, where he’s been most effective in his NBA career, they may have the least productive group of wings -- Wes Johnson, Shannon Brown, Jared Dudley -- in the NBA. They’ll be just good enough to avoid a top-5 pick, which is the exactly the position smart franchises try to avoid.

Real Talk: Kendall Marshall is the basketball version of an Alabama QB: a facilitator surrounded by top-tier players at UNC. A lot of guys could look good setting up six future first-round picks. He has the size and savvy to be a 10-year NBA veteran, but if he had played at Wake Forest, he wouldn’t have been the No. 13 overall pick.

Sacramento Kings

The Good News: DeMarcus Cousins is incredibly inconsistent, but he showed flashes with games of 38/14, 41/12, 25/18, 29/10, 23/19 in the last month of last season. He’s still only 22 years old, and at the very least, he’ll be a very entertaining player both on and off the floor this year.

The Bad News: Letting Terrence Williams go while holding on to Travis Outlaw and John Salmons is a sign of a franchise that doesn’t take itself too seriously. They’ve got a great fan base and a GM once regarded as one of the best in the game; the problem starts with an ownership group that doesn’t have enough money to run a successful NBA franchise.

Real Talk: Cousins is a big man who can’t block shots or stretch the floor. Unfortunately, those are also the two biggest holes in Thomas Robinson’s game. There hasn’t been a plan in Sacramento in some time and it shows in the haphazard way they’ve been accumulating talent over the last few years.

 

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