One Question for Each NBA Team: West
Dallas Mavericks – Will they trade Shawn Marion/Vince Carter?
I think the Mavericks will end trading both of them. Each player is entering a contract year, which is a very enticing asset. Marion has turned back the clock this preseason and has averaged 9.7 points and 6.9 rebounds. He is expected to start this season and could benefit from Jose Calderon’s penetration. Vince Carter is another that will see an increase in 3’s from Calderon’s passing. He averaged 2 3-pointers a game last year. I would expect a team like the Wizards to trade for one of these players. Eventually, they’ll realize that Otto Porter Jr. isn’t quite ready and could use some leadership from these guys.
Denver Nuggets – Can Brian Shaw keep the playoff streak alive?
I don’t see the Nuggets competing in the Western Conference. Losing Andre Igudala in free agency was a big blow to the team. Not only was he the defensive leader, but he was a triple double threat every night. Not having Danilo Gallinari for much of the season is not a recipe for success. Shaw comes from a winning background, being an assistant coach under Phil Jackson. The hire was a very solid one for the organization, and it was a long time coming for Shaw. Nugget fans need to be patient this season and for the future. Perhaps if Nate Robinson could play like this every game, they could surprise people!
Golden State Warriors – Will Andre Igudala stunt the growth of Harrison Barnes?
I don’t think so at all. When you can bring in a player like Igudala who is willing to teach players is only going to help the team grow. Barnes has a shoot first mentality and struggles with defense. Coming off the bench as a 6th man, he will have less pressure on him. Harrison has the game of Lou Williams. Remember, Williams was the 6th man when Igudala was in Philly. As the attention began going towards “Iggy,” Williams was able to evolve his game as well. Yes, there is a big difference in height, but I believe that Harrison will thrive as well.
Houston Rockets – Who is going to be the starting PG?
In my mind, Patrick Beverley should start at PG. Though he is smaller, Beverley is the better distributor. In this preseason, he has a 3:1 assist to turnover ratio. Lin has averaged a 3:2 ratio. Lin does possess a better offensive game, but teams have begun trapping him once he begins to drive to the hole. This is where he gets into trouble and turns the ball over. Beverley has also averaged more steals in the preseason with 1.9 steals to Lin’s 1.3. The Rockets have a lot of fire power with Harden, Parsons, and Dwight. The PG position on this team needs to be a facilitator, not a scorer first.
L.A. Clippers – Will this team be cohesive?
It seems very easy to put the Clippers into the Western Conference Finals based on their offseason moves. Signing a hall of fame coach, re-signing arguably the best PG in the league, and a bevy of free agent signings would constitute this thinking. But, the question is, will they develop the continuity? This isn’t Rivers’ first rodeo where stars come together for a run at a championship. One of the most impressive thing Doc Rivers has done is to let Chris Paul know he has not accomplished one thing yet. No, the stars aren’t to the magnitude of the Celtics, but they are still very solid players. Each of these players must understand that it is team first and the object is for everyone to be healthy for a long playoff run. I think Rivers will bring a championship attitude to L.A. and take this team to a place they’ve never been.
L.A. Lakers – Should the Lakers build through free agency or the Draft?
The Lakers will probably endure a long, long season this year. There is a bright side, Laker Nation. The team only has $10M in guaranteed contracts for the 2014-2015 season. But, will the team look to build their team through youth or experience? I’m not sure that the fans/management will be patient enough to build through the draft. The Lakers can sign 2 max players this summer. Carmelo has a house close to L.A., Kobe and Pau will have to be re-signed, and there’s this guy named LeBron that can opt out of his current contract. I think a big part of it will depend on where their 1st round pick ends up. A top 5 pick could alter their free agent plans. Perhaps, Mr. Stern will work his magic and bring the Lakers some luck this summer! It’s only been a few years, right? Jim Rome agrees with us that it could be fixed.
Memphis Grizzlies – Do they have enough scoring?
The Grizzlies ranked 27th in offense last year, averaging only 93.8 points per game. They did sign Mike Miller, but he isn’t exactly the healthiest/youngest shooter. At some point, this team needs to acquire an outside threat. Rudy Gay was that answer, but they traded him away. A cheap option could be MarShon Brooks. He possesses the offensive arsenal to help this team, but he does lack the defensive mind that is the back bone of this team. Look for the Grizzlies to trade for a wing player to spark the team.
Minnesota Timberwolves – Another building year? Or is this a breakthrough year?
Unfortunately, this will be another building year. The team signed serviceable Kevin Martin and drafted controversial Shabazz Muhammad. The big mistake this franchise made is when they drafted Derrick Williams. This put them one year back of their development. Ricky Rubio is a great passer and a developing shooter, Nikola Pekovic is a nice big down low, and Kevin Love is a down right stud. I think if the team can land one of the top wings either through the draft or free agency, they can take the next step into the playoffs.
New Orleans Pelicans – Is this the year they return to the playoffs?
On paper, this team has improved dramatically. Anthony Davis is primed to be one of the best forward/center in fantasy basketball. Jrue Holiday was a major acquisition because there wasn’t really anyone in the draft that could develop into the talent that he is. Eric Gordon is healthy, as of right now. Tyreke Evans is the biggest question mark. He is expected to begin the season as the 6th man, something he is looking forward to. His minutes per game and his scoring average have declined each year since his rookie season. If he can keep healthy and provide that spark off the bench, this team will make the playoffs.
Oklahoma City Thunder – Who will be the 6th man?
The Thunder have had a hard time replacing James Harden. They thought that Kevin Martin could’ve been the answer but he lacked the defense that Harden brought with the 2nd unit. It seems that Jeremy Lamb is in the lead at the moment. He averaged 11.6 points and 4.4 rebounds this preseason. He is, also, surprisingly averaging 1.8 steals and .7 blocks. Lamb isn’t known for his defense. If he can show that he is a capable defender, the Thunder will need his offense until Russell Westbrook returns.
Phoenix Suns – How many 1st round picks will they end up with?
The Suns recently sent Marcin Gortat to the Wizards for Emeka Okafor and a 1st round pick. With that, they have 4 1st round picks. I think they could end up with at least 1 more. Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe are currently projected to start in the backcourt, but Dragic is owed $23M over the next 3 seasons and Bledsoe is slated to become a restricted free agent. Bledsoe has the bigger upside. I would expect the Suns to showcase Dragic to other teams. An early guess on his landing spot would be the Raptors.
Portland Trail Blazers – What will CJ McCollum bring to the Trail Blazers?
McCollum went to high school about 25 minutes from me, so I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him play. He will pull up from anywhere and drain a 3 in your eye. Most the country were introduced to him when Lehigh beat Duke in the NCAA tournament. At 6’3’’, he is a combo guard that is capable of distributing. Before his season ending injury in college, he was the leading scorer in the country at 24 points per game. Trail Blazer fans, you have a special talent.
San Antonio Spurs – How much more can Manu contribute?
Manu Ginobli’s role diminished greatly last year with the emergence of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. Ginobli played his least amount of minutes since his rookie year. I still think he is a crunch time player and the Spurs know that. They’ll take the Dwayne Wade approach and rest him plenty during the regular season. Ginobli lives for the playoffs.
Sacramento Kings – Where is this organization headed?
When I was growing up, I remember the Kings playing the Lakers almost every year in the playoffs. Now, they’re one of the most disappointing teams in the NBA. No one quite knows where this organization is headed. Heck, they can barely get enough support to stay in Sacramento. Drafting has been a big problem for the Kings. Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard, and Klay Thompson were all drafted behind Jimmer Fredette in the 2011 Draft. He is barely getting off the bench now. DeMarcus Cousins is one of the best big men in the NBA, when he wants to be. Hopefully Mike Malone will bring this team back to the playoffs.Bring back the excitement, Mike!
Utah Jazz – Is Gordon Hayward the answer at SG?
Hayward has looked outstanding this preseason. He is averaging 16 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 4.9 assists. Each year, his scoring average has gone up so I would expect a breakout year. The knock on Hayward is his body strength. At 6’8’’, he only weighs 215 lbs. In order to guard the small forwards in this league, he must put on more weight. The Jazz are going to surprise people this year. They have the right pieces and would be wise to lock up Hayward while he is still relatively cheap.