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2010-11 Pacific Division Preview

2010-11 NBA Preview: Pacific Division
How They'll Finish
1
Los Angeles Lakers
2009-10 Record: 57-25; beat Celtics in NBA Finals
Top Addition: Matt Barnes | Biggest Loss: Jordan Farmar
This team appears better than the version that won the championship two years ago and also superior to the squad that repeated last season. Steve Blake will take onus off Derek Fisher, Barnes will do the same for Ron Artest, and Lamar Odom will be in peak shape after the FIBA World Championship. The only issue for the Lakers, beyond Andrew Bynum's ever-questionable knees, is whether they will get bored in the six months preceding the playoffs.
2
Phoenix Suns
2009-10 Record: 54-28; lost to Lakers in West finals
Top Addition: Hedo Turkoglu | Biggest Loss: Amar'e Stoudemire
They will need another surprise, even bigger this time, to threaten the Lakers and advance beyond the first round of the playoffs. Without Stoudemire, they will be flimsy in the frontcourt, but they should score three points at a time from outside. Robin Lopez will not be as effective a pick-and-roll partner as Stoudemire, so Steve Nash and the newly acquired Turkoglu will have to drive and dish to the Suns' impressive assemblage of three-point shooters.
3
Los Angeles Clippers
2009-10 Record: 29-53
Top Addition: Al-Farouq Aminu | Biggest Loss: Drew Gooden
As usual, they have the makings of a team that can contend for a playoff berth, with Blake Griffin preparing for his long-awaited debut, Eric Gordon returning victorious from the World Championship and Chris Kaman predicting they will have a top-five power forward/center combination. New coach Vinny Del Negro, a former point guard, will have to energize Baron Davis for the Clippers to accomplish what Del Negro's Bulls did and squeak into the postseason.
4
Sacramento Kings
2009-10 Record: 25-57
Top Addition: DeMarcus Cousins | Biggest Loss: Spencer Hawes
Still a year away, they will probably lose a lot of games again, but they shouldn't get pushed around anymore. Regardless of whether Tyreke Evans replicates his rookie season, or fares even better, the Kings have put together a promising front line that features Jason Thompson, Carl Landry, Samuel Dalembert and first-round pick Cousins. If Cousins can have anywhere near the immediate impact that Evans did, it will be a wildly successful season in Sacramento.
5
Golden State Warriors
2009-10 Record: 26-56
Top Addition: David Lee | Biggest Loss: Corey Maggette
They changed owners, then they changed coaches, but the question remains if they will change styles. Although new coach Keith Smart says he wants a more structured system than Don Nelson, he just got the job in late September and his personnel is still wired for a breakneck pace. Smart has potent scorers in Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis, but he must preach defense and get Andris Biedrins to help Lee down low.
Players To Watch
F
Ron Artest
2009-10 Season Stats: 11.0 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 3.0 APG
Career Stats: 15.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.2 APG
When is he not a player to watch? The last we saw of Artest, he was thanking his psychologist for helping him to his first championship. Then he spent the summer riding an Indy car around Los Angeles and filming his reality show. With a title, Artest can go one of two ways: Either he comes to understand the triangle offense, emerges as a veteran leader and grows hungry for a repeat, or he loses focus.
C
Robin Lopez
2009-10 Stats: 8.4 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 1.0 BPG
Career Stats: 5.6 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 0.8 BPG
In Game 3 of the Western Conference finals last season, he scored 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting in a victory over the Lakers. The Suns saw enough of Lopez, that night and many others, to make him their primary option in the post when Stoudemire left for New York. Lopez has suffered from back trouble and may never reach the level of his twin brother, Brook, but he has an opportunity to diminish Stoudemire's loss.
G
Baron Davis
2009-10 Stats: 15.3 PPG, 8.0 APG, 3.5 RPG
Career Stats: 16.7 PPG, 7.4 APG, 4.0 RPG
Del Negro wants to quicken the pace of the Clippers' offense, so it was not a good sign that Davis reported to training camp out of shape, considering he is the one who will be running the offense. Davis is entering his third season back in his hometown, and even though he has received raves as a movie producer and documentarian, the Clips are still waiting for him to make the same kind of impact on the court.
Burning Questions
Will Bynum play a full season? Already, the answer is no. Bynum's recovery from his latest knee surgery is taking longer than he expected and he probably will not be on the floor until December. The Lakers might be better off keeping him in a glass case until April, given that he has sustained a major knee injury in each of the past three seasons. If Bynum is at full strength for the playoffs, the Lakers will be hard to beat. If he is hobbled the way he was last June, they will be in for a struggle.
Can Turkoglu bounce back? It was only 16 months ago that he keyed the Magic's unlikely run to the Finals with his deft shooting and playmaking. Then Turkoglu signed a $53 million contract with the Raptors, which he followed up with a disastrous debut season, scoring just 11.3 points per game. Shipped to Phoenix, Turkoglu is in the ideal place to resuscitate his career. Although he is starting at power forward for the first time, Turkoglu just needs to take some of the playmaking burden from Nash and fit into a three-point-centric offense that should remind him of Orlando.
What is Tyreke Evans, anyway? The Kings drafted him as a point guard, then made him a shooting guard, and finally gave up labeling him, appreciating that he averaged 20 points as a rookie, no matter how he did it. At 6-foot-6, 220 pounds, Evans looks big for the point, but he loves the ball in his hands, dished out a satisfactory 5.8 assists per game and is a much better driver than outside shooter. With Beno Udrih in the lineup, Evans will likely start at the 2, but he may not end up there.
By The Numbers
4 The number of three-peats Phil Jackson would have if the Lakers can add another title this season. As one of Jackson's assistants put it, "They always come in threes."
36 Nash's age as he begins yet another transition year in Phoenix. He was able to buck the odds last season, but they are even steeper this time.
450 million Dollars paid by Joe Lacob and Peter Guber for the Warriors. At least two very important people are bullish on the team's future.
Bold Prediction
The Clippers, on the strength of their formidable front line and deep bench, will squeeze into the final playoff spot.
Pacific Video Preview
Lakers 2010-11 season preview
Source: SI
SI.com's Lee Jenkins discusses what the Lakers' new additions will do for their veterans and who could cause trouble for the defending champs.
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