As we continue our unique preview of the upcoming NBA season, let’s move on to the Western Conference. Keep in mind the team-by-team previews, are not only a look at how they would perform during the season, but also in a hypothetical 2-on-2 tournament (outlined here). Also, there’s an assumption that this tournament would take place today, so any players who are injured at the time of this writing will be ineligible to compete….
Dallas Mavericks: O.J. Mayo & Shawn Marion; Sub – Elton Brand
I like what Mark Cuban’s got going on in Dallas. Nowitzki, Elton Brand, and Chris Kaman form a very solid front court, both offensively and defensively. The additions of Darren Collison and Mayo were key after the team failed to land Deron Williams this summer. The Small Forward spot is also not a concern, as Marion and Vince Carter only really need to stay healthy and split minutes. The possibility of using the Matrix to defend opposing guards, while using his herky-jerky offensive moves to generate some points may prove invaluable for this tournament’s format.
Denver Nuggets: Ty Lawson & Andre Iguodala; Sub – Danilo Gallinari
George Karl’s run-and-gun offense is not exactly suited for a half-court set. While my expectations are relatively low on how they’d perform in this tournament, there’s a ton of optimism in the Mile High City. The Nuggets are at least 2-deep at each position, with Andre Miller providing a change of pace from Lawson, Corey Brewer running behind Iguodala, Wilson Chandler spotting Gallinari, the emerging Kenneth Faried and Anthony Randolph (finally the right team?) manning the PF position, and the centre platoon of Javale McGee, Kostas Koufos, and Timofey Mozgov.
Golden State Warriors: Stephen Curry & Andrew Bogut; Sub – David Lee
The Run TMC days may be long gone, but there’s reason for hope in the Bay Area. Jarrett Jack has consistently proven to be a serviceable 6th man, regardless of which team he’s on. Klay Thompson has the offensive skills to quickly make Warrior fans say, “Monta who?” Last season, Klay had higher averages than Monta in FG%, 3pt FG%, FT%, and points per shot, all while playing 8 more games and 12 fewer minutes per game. Coach Mark Jackson has a few more options in his front court with the acquisitions of Carl Landry and Andrew Bogut, to go along with David Lee and Andris Biedrins.
Houston Rockets: Jeremy Lin & Kevin Martin; Sub – Omer Asik
Similar to the Bucks, we’re going to go with a combo of shorter, quicker guards that can score in bunches. This squad’s trio will not be intimidating many opponents – which can also be said about the rest of the team. Daryl Morey is normally known for making the right moves at the right time. This offseason, he lost Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic and replaced them with Jeremy Lin. Courtney Lee was given up for next to nothing to the Celtics. To top it all off, in a last-ditch effort to try to win the Dwight Howard sweepstakes, he amnestied Luis Scola. Not good, Daryl….not good at all. He’s stuck with draft picks, trade assets, and an “innovative travel plan”
L.A. Clippers: Chris Paul & Blake Griffin; Sub – Jamal Crawford
Say what you will about the Thunder and the Lakers, but I’m drinking the Clippers juice this year (I did last year too!). Eric Bledsoe’s a very capable backup to CP3, Chauncey Billups should be healthy and Jamal Crawford (despite his recent decline) will be a serviceable reserve who can light it up at any given time. The additions of Grant Hill, Matt Barnes, Lamar Odom, and Ryan Hollins create an awesome Bench Mob 2.0. Stay healthy, Chauncey……you’re gunning for another conference finals!!
L.A. Lakers: Kobe Bryant & Dwight Howard; Sub – Steve Nash
So Steve Nash is actually a Los Angeles Laker? I’ll be damned. As a resident of the great country of Canada, I would have loved nothing more than to see “Kid Canada” compete for the Toronto Raptors this season, so my pipe dream is officially down the drain. You add the skills of a former two-time MVP to a squad that already features (surely) one of the greatest players of all-time in Kobe Bryant and the teams second-coming of Superman in Dwight Howard, and you have what we in the industry like to call….”unfair as $@*&@#!”
Memphis Grizzlies: Rudy Gay & Marc Gasol; Sub – Mike Conley Jr.
With their early playoff exit last year coupled with the loss of O.J. Mayo, I’m hesitant to think Memphis is anything more than first round fodder again in 2013. A healthy Z-Bo and a full season with Mareese Speights will really help. Tony Allen and his all-world defense is still there. Marc Gasol has almost passed Pau, if he hasn’t already, as the better Gasol. That’s about it. With their bench currently warmed by Jerryd Bayless, Wayne Ellington, and Darrel Arthur, a solid 8-man playoff rotation they do not have! But hey, I’ve been proven wrong before.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Brandon Roy & Nikola Pekovic; Sub – Derrick Williams
Kevin McHale: Welcome to Minnesota, Brandon. Are you going to be ready this year?
Brandon Roy: Sure thing, coach. I was only retired for a year, but I’m ready and excited. Also, I keep seeing our city, along with Brooklyn, as the teams to watch.
McHale: We definitely will be! We brought in a solid Russian scorer named Alexey Shved, replaced Darko’s shot-blocking abilities with Greg Stiemsma, picked up Chase Budinger, and even brought back Andrei Kirilenko from overseas!
Roy: That’s awesome. By the way, thanks for selecting me to play with Rubio and Love in the upcoming 2-on-2 tourney.
McHale: It was a no-brainer. Sure, you’re coming off career-altering knee surgeries, and the likelihood of Rubio being ready for the opener is less than 1%, but at least we’ve got the best PF in the league in perfect health! Wait a minute…..