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NBA@2: NBA West’s Top Five Teams
Posted By Bill Ingram On August 10, 2012 @ 2:00 pm In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
Last Friday, we took a look at the top five teams in the Eastern Conference, and this week we swing around to the West for a much more difficult set of predictions.
1) The Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder make marked improvements every season, and after advancing to the NBA Finals last year it’s time for the team to take control of the Western Conference. The Spurs have owned the West’s best record for the past two seasons, but sooner or later age is bound to catch up with them. The Thunder are no longer just the best young team in the West, they are the best team period. The fact that they will come into 2012-13 with two more big bodies out front won’t hurt, and if the Thunder coaching staff can finally get through to Hasheem Thabeet OKC will be just that much tougher. Continuity is still king in the NBA, and the Thunder have once again kept their core group in tact. That is the primary factor that will give them an inherent edge over every team except, perhaps, the Spurs.
2) The Los Angeles Lakers
It seemed inevitable that the Los Angeles Lakers would land Dwight Howard before the start of the 2012-13 NBA season, and now that it has happened, count the Lakers as a strong candidate to win the Western Conference. Steve Nash was the steal of the offseason, and if he can stay healthy the Lakers may have once again found a way to help extend Kobe Bryant’s impressive run of Finals appearances. Antawn Jamison is a great veteran addition to the team, as well. The Lakers may not be OKC good, but if Howard can get healthy and find himself in LA, they could be devastatingly good. On the other hand, if Howard turns out to be more of a distraction than a help, things could sour quickly. Expect some growing pains early as the Lakers’ new additions and the implementation of the Princeton offense take some time to come together, but by midseason the Lakers should bring “Show Time” back to prime time.
3) The San Antonio Spurs
Say what you want about the age factor, which is real, but the Spurs have been the West’s best regular-season team over the last two years, age and all. Duncan may not be a 20/10 threat every night, but he is still one of the smartest players in basketball and the Spurs will be the better for his presence. Someone’s going to have to step up, whether it’s DeJuan Blair or Tiago Splitter or someone else, to keep the San Antonio front line going strong, but as long as Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are healthy the Spurs are going to be one of the toughest teams in the league.
4) The Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers certainly have the talent to be one of the best teams in the West next season, and the addition of Lamar Odom could turn out to be the turning point for the Clips. Odom is saying all the right things and has already been working out with some of his new Clipper teammates. Of course, we have heard all of this before. Which Odom will show up in LA, the Lakers’ Odom or the Mavericks’ version? The Mavericks’ version is about as useless as a crash test dummy. There are also questions about whether or not Vinny Del Negro can lead a team deep into the playoffs, and that issue may come to a head if the Clippers underperform early in the season. All of that said, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and company promise to make this an interesting season for Clipper fans.
5) The Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets continue to be one of the more interesting teams in the NBA. They rebuild via a Carmelo Anthony trade that everyone thought would decimate the team, and never really missed a beat. Now, with JaVale McGee re-signed, Andre Iguodala providing a serious upgrade on the wing, and a good stiff dose of offseason health, the Nuggets look like one of the West’s rising forces. They might even challenge for home court advantage, if all goes according to plan.
The West has been ridiculously close in recent years, where three losses separated the third and sixth seeds last season, while two losses meant the difference between making the playoffs with the seventh seed and missing the playoffs altogether. The Memphis Grizzlies seem to have taken a step back, allowing O.J. Mayo to talk away, and the Dallas Mavericks have made so many changes it will be interesting to see if they can get everyone on the same page. The Utah Jazz and Phoenix Suns will likely round out the playoff hopefuls, though the Rockets are clearly looking for additional moves and could get into the mix, as well.
2013 NBA Draft Prospect: Peyton Siva
Louisville’s senior point guard talks with HOOPSWORLD about participating in adidas Nations, how the talent and competition compares to playing in the Big East, having some of his Louisville teammates competing with him, and scouts this year’s Cardinals team in this exclusive interview:
Sixers Make Good
As much as all of the chatter revolving around the four-team trade involving Dwight Howard is focused on the Los Angeles Lakers landing yet another franchise player, there is something being largely overlooked in the national media. Yes, the Lakers are contenders, but they were contenders before they landed Dwight. Yes, the Magic got a ton of assets, but they were going to get a ton of assets no matter which deal they consummated. And yes, the Denver Nuggets got a significant upgrade in Andre Iguodala.
The real game-changer here, however, is the Philadelphia 76ers’ part of the deal. Some 12 hours ago fans were scratching their heads, wondering why on earth Philly would be content to use Kwame Brown and Spencer Hawes in the front court. That proposed lineup was headed for the draft lottery, and now the Sixers look like not only a lock to make the playoffs, but also a team that could break the East’s top five.
Andrew Bynum is the key to the deal, though Jason Richardson is a proven scorer who will help out, as well. Bynum is the intriguing piece, though, for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the modern NBA is short on All-Star talent at the center position, and Bynum is a legitimate All-Star. Last season was his career best, as he averaged 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds ad 1.9 blocks while shooting 56% from the field. He also missed only six games, which is significant because a number of unrelated knee injuries have set him back time and time again.
Second, Bynum is a player who wants to be the franchise centerpiece. Living under the shadow of Kobe Bryant didn’t sit well with Bynum, and if he grasps this opportunity to be the star of Philly’s franchise, he could turn out to be the player who leads the Sixers back to prominence in the East.
The exciting, headline-grabbing parts of this blockbuster trade may revolve around Dwight Howard joining the Lake Show, but the part of the trade that helped one team improve more than any other (at least in the short-term) is, without question, the Sixers’ part of the deal.
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