2011-2012 NBA Preview: Pacific Division

The season is right around the corner, so this will be my first of six NBA divisional previews. Predicted order of finish below along with some other goodies, then when all six write ups are posted I will do my predictions and second 2012 NBA Mock Draft. Enjoy!

2010-2011 Standings

Los Angeles Lakers, 57-25
Phoenix Suns, 40-42
Golden St. Warriors, 36-46
Los Angeles Clippers, 32-50
Sacramento Kings, 24-58

Past Champions

2010-2011: Los Angeles Lakers, 57-25
2009-2010: Los Angeles Lakers, 57-25
2008-2009: Los Angeles Lakers, 65-17
2007-2008: Los Angeles Lakers, 57-25
2006-2007: Phoenix Suns, 61-21
2005-2006: Phoenix Suns, 54-28
2004-2005: Phoenix Suns, 62-20

The great Suns teams of the middle part of this decade ran the new Pacific division during it's outset. This was when the Lakers were going through their short rebuilding period before Jerry West handed his former team Pau Gasol. Since then, it has been all Lakers, all the time. The team has won the division's only two championships. The Warriors, Clippers and Kings have hardly challenged the throne.

All Pacific First Team

C - Andrew Bynum, Lakers
PF - Blake Griffin, Clippers
SF - John Salmons, Kings
SG - Kobe Bryant, Lakers
PG - Chris Paul, Clippers

All Pacific Second Team

C - Marcin Gortat, Suns
PF - Pau Gasol, Lakers
SF - Dorrell Wright, Warriors
SG - Tyreke Evans, Kings
PG - Steve Nash, Suns

1. Los Angeles Lakers

Projected Rotation

C - Andrew Bynum
PF - Pau Gasol
SF - Matt Barnes
SG - Kobe Bryant
PG - Derek Fisher

SG, SF Ron Artest
PG Steve Blake
PF, C Josh McDaniels
SG, SF Jason Kapono
PF, C Troy Murphy
SF, PF Devin Ebanks

The Lakers are worse then last year. Perhaps a lot worse. Gone is Phil Jackson and the triangle offense. In place is Mike Brown and his 23 seconds or more plodding game plan. Also gone is Lamar Odom, thanks to a failed trade for Chris Paul. Odom was so distraught that he was almost traded he went home and watched 16 Candles and ate a whole gallon of ice cream with rainbow sprinkles on it. The Lakers had to end up giving him away, to the Western Conference champs of all teams. And a few days later Derrick Caracter suffered a season ending injury. This team still has Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, so they will be a threat. But they just have gaping holes at small forward and point guard, and pretty much no bench to speak of. If (when) Bynum goes down this team will be in a world of trouble. Kobe has a chip on his shoulder like always, this time thanks to his divorce and the failed Paul trade, that he should muster up enough to carry this team to the playoffs again, as probably a top four seed. But I just don't think they have the depth and the proper point guard to lead this type of offense to get past the young guns like the Thunder and Grizzlies. Unless some GM tries to give the Lakers a superstar for free again.

2. Los Angeles Clippers

Projected Rotation

C - DeAndre Jordan
PF - Blake Griffin
SF - Caron Butler
SG - Chauncey Billups
PG - Chris Paul

PG, SG Mo Williams
PG, SG Randy Foye
SF, PF Ryan Gomes
PF, C Brian Cook
PG, SG Eric Bledsoe
PF, C Trey Thompkins

Are the Clippers now the best team in Los Angeles? Perhaps. The Clippers now have two of the biggest stars in the NBA. Probably their two most popular players....ever? As good as Chris Paul has been, I think he is a bit underrated. He carried some truly terrible talent to the playoffs the last couple years. He should feel re energized now that he gets to throw lobs to Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan all day long. Speaking of Griffin, he was spectacular in his rookie year. He looks like he is trying to throw a baseball through a brick wall every time he dunks. That duo might possibly be the best inside outside combination in the NBA. The surrounding pieces are good as well. Caron Butler and Chauncey Billups are two veterans who will fit right in. Billups especially should definitely have a chip on his shoulder with how he was thrown to the side by the Knicks, and I think he will flourish at shooting guard. The team has great back court depth as well with Mo Williams, Randy Foye and Eric Bledsoe. Two thing worry me about the Clippers. A complete lack of front court depth, and Vinny Del Negro, who has not shown that he can be a competent head coach. With Blake Griffin wowing the NBA world, the Clippers still only won 32 games last year. The pieces are here to make a deep playoff run if the team can gel quickly enough and Del Negro can show anything as a head coach.

3. Golden St. Warriors

Projected Rotation

C - Andris Biedrins
PF - David Lee
SF - Dorrell Wright
SG - Monta Ellis
PG - Stephen Curry

PF, C Kwame Brown
SG, SF Klay Thompson
SF, PF Brandon Rush
PF, C Ekpe Udoh
SG, SF Dominic McGuire
PG Charles Jenkins

Mark Jackson is now the man who will try to turn around the down trodden Warriors. This team has the offensive talent to make a playoff push. Monta Ellis, David Lee, Stephen Curry and Dorrell Wright can all give you 20 points on any given night. The key to the Warriors will be, as always, if they can play any defense whatsoever. The back court will most likely be abused on a daily basis once again. The team at least attempted to shore up some front court defense by signing Kwame Brown to an outrageous 7 million dollars for one year. If Ekpe Udoh can continue to develop those two guys will at least be able to protect the rim. And maybe, just maybe, Andris Biedrins can stop his baffling decline in play. Golden St. has the young legs to keep up pace during the shortened season, and that could help them grab that wide open eighth seed.

4. Phoenix Suns

Projected Rotation

C - Marcin Gortat
PF - Channing Frye
SF - Grant Hill
SG - Jared Dudley
PG - Steve Nash

SG Shannon Brown
PF, C Robin Lopez
SF, PF Hakim Warrick
PG Sebastian Telfair
SG, SF Josh Childress
PF, C Markieff Morris

I don't know what to think of the Suns. I hate their roster so much. They have a collection of extremely overpaid role players. But Steve Nash carried this sorry sack of players to 40 wins last year and could very well finish around .500 this year. First, there is some good. Marcin Gortat was a nice mid season pickup. In fact, Otis Smith got molested in a trade once again. He averaged 13 points and 9 rebounds per game once he arrived in Phoenix and was a massive upgrade over Robin Lopez. And of course we cannot forget about Steve Nash. Somehow he keeps playing at a very high level despite nearing his late thirties. Last year he led the league in assists for the fifth time, and his percentages across the board were fantastic. He is a great fit for the Suns offense, and he should be a solid starter in this league for another few years. Hopefully for him, it will be on a title contender after this season. This team has some solid role players, but no one else you would really want to build around. Channing Frye, Jared Dudley and Grant Hill round out the starting five. All three are pretty good players, but none is all that great. On paper, the Suns look like a clear last place team. If you take out Nash you could have a 2011 Indianapolis Colts without Peyton Manning situation. But with him, this team will win more games then you would expect.

5. Sacramento Kings

Projected Rotation

C - DeMarcus Cousins
PF - Chuck Hayes
SF - John Salmons
SG - Marcus Thornton
PG - Tyreke Evans

PF, C JJ Hickson
PG, SG Jimmer Fredette
PF, C Jason Thompson
SG, SF Francisco Garcia
SF Donte Greene
SF, PF Travis Outlaw

There is a lot to like about this young Kings squad. They have a boatload of offensive talent. Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins will be a handful once they learn how to play more disciplined offense. The addition of Chuck Hayes gives this team some real toughness. He was one of the most underrated players in the league last year. He held down the middle for the Houston Rockets as a 6'6 big man. Few teams have the luxury of big men the caliber of JJ Hickson and Jason Thompson coming off the bench behind them. John Salmons was never a real fit in Milwaukee. He got his career on track his first go around with the Kings and should bring some solid veteran leadership. Sacramento also got a steal when they traded for Marcus Thornton last season. He is a legit 20 points per game scorer. Rookies Jimmer Fredette and Isaiah Thomas can both score some major points. I like the team to score some points, but I think they are still too young and too weak defensively to make a playoff push this year.

Update: Chuck Hayes contract had to be voided due to heart problems. I think this will have a significant impact on the team as he would have been their best defensive player.

Jonathan Carrano

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