Phife Previews The NBA’s Western Conference
Golden State Warriors
I hated to see the Warriors lose the services of Jarrett Jack, but they may have had their best off-season in a while. Starting with Andre Iguodala, who brings defense and unbelievable athleticism, along with veteran Jermaine O’Neal, who may not be the Jermaine of old, but Mark Jackson will love to have his basketball IQ on the floor as well as in the locker room.
Marreese Speights fills a void just in case Andrew Bogut has another injury-riddled season and backup point guard Toney Douglas has to make the Bay Area forget about Jack.
I shouldn’t have to mention starters like Stephen Curry, David Lee and Klay Thompson, but with Iguodala inserted as the starting small forward, this can very well become the Harrison Barnes coming out party as possible sixth man of the year as well as Mark Jackson becoming coach of the year. The Warriors will finish 2nd in the Pacific, with the 4th seed in the West.
Off-Season Grade: B+
Los Angeles Clippers
As a coach, Doc Rivers can do no wrong in my eyes. In Orlando (despite injuries to Tracy McGrady and Grant Hill) he won with what he had. In Boston, Doc brought pride back to the NBA’s most storied franchise by winning a title in 2008 and making another Finals appearance in 2010. Word has it that he didn’t always see eye to eye with his point guard Rajon Rondo, but they won. Imagine what it will be like coaching the best point guard and leader in the league in Chris Paul.
J.J. Redick is a great pickup, since his jump shot remains one of the most lethal in the league, while Jared Dudley, who comes over from Phoenix, can defend and shoot. If DeAndre Jordan can develop his defense, low post moves and foul shooting, the sky’s the limit.
As for Blake Griffin, the brother can play, but in the immortal words of Gang Starr: “NO MORE MR. NICE GUY.” Especially when facing Zach Randolph and the Grizzlies. The Clips will finish 1st in the pacific, and grab the 2nd seed in the West.
Off-Season Grade: A-
Los Angeles Lakers
I so badly want to say “DON’T SLEEPm” but unfortunately I don’t believe in Mike D’Antoni as a coach. I’m not saying he can’t coach, but how do you NOT take advantage of one of the best big men in the league in Pau Gasol?
As a kid I dreamed of coaching The Lakeshow and my hometown heroes The New York Knicks; this man single-handedly tarnished both franchises in a span of two seasons.
What bright ideas will D’Antoni and Jim Buss have up their sleeves this season? Chris Kaman is not a bad pickup, a healthy Steve Nash can be the engine to help this team run, but when will the MAMBA return? By not believing in D’Antoni, and with an injured Kobe Bryant and no Metta World Peace to lock up any of the opponents’ best players, it’s not gonna be a good look at all. The Lakers will finish 3rd in the Pacific, and wind up fighting for a playoff spot, only to miss out.
Off-Season Grade: D- (until Kobe becomes 100 percent)
I love what the Kings did in the draft by grabbing possible Rookie of the Year Ben McLemore along with point guard Ray McCallum (my sleeper pick in the draft)! Here we have another team filled with a lot of talented youth, which means it’s going to take patience and the maturation of stud DeMarcus Cousins before we label this team a contender.
Point guard Isaiah Thomas will be looking over his shoulder while former Hornet Greivis Vasquez and the aforementioned rookie McCallum try to take over the point guard spot.
The Kings will finish 4th in the Pacific.
Off-Season Grade: B+
I’m not sure what to make of this team, mainly because I’m not sure of the type of coaching job that former Sun fan favorite Jeff Hornacek will do.
How will rookies Alex Len and Archie Goodwin pan out? Will the newly-acquired Eric Bledsoe show that promise that he showed playing in L.A. behind Chris Paul? Will one of the Morris twins emerge this season?
As you can see, there are too many questions, and it’ll more than likely take a season or two—or three—before we get any good results. Phoenix will finish 5th in the Pacific.
Off-Season Grade: C-