Anonymous NBA Scouts Dish Dirt On Western Conference Teams
- Anonymous NBA scouts break down the good, the bad and the ugly of each Western Conference team heading into the 2016-17 season.
For some, it's tough to form an opinion about an off-season move or development without seeing the subjects first in action on the floor.
Luckily, anonymous NBA scouts do not have this problem.
Sports Illustrated's NBA writers spoke with scouts ahead of the 2016—17 season for our annual behind-the-scenes look at all 30 teams. Opposing scouts dished the good, the bad and the ugly on each team while discussing their off-season moves and outlook for the upcoming season. We granted them anonymity in exchange for their candor. They delivered.
Today, we unveil our extended scouts takes from our NBA preview issue for the Western Conference. Check back Thursday for the East.
Reporting by Ben Golliver, Rob Mahoney and Andrew Sharp.
Los Angeles Clippers
"Their goal should be the 2 seed and they should win 50+ games easily. … They will need home-court advantage in the second round if they want to make the West finals. … It’s the same question every year: Who are they in the playoffs? Something always goes wrong and they always crack. … I don’t like any of their players in the postseason, really. Everyone talks about Paul’s poor postseason record, but Blake’s had injury issues, DeAndre has the free throw shooting and Redick disappears. Needless to say, that bench isn’t going to save them. They still have a hole at three and their back-up bigs aren’t great. Why should this year be any different than previous years? … It’s kinda funny how much the Warriors love kicking their ass. … Paul is starting to get passed by some of the younger guys at his position. I’d rather have Curry, Westbrook and Lillard over Paul this year and I worry about Paul’s health going forward. … Mike Conley is the best defensive point guard in the league and Paul is second, at least when he’s locked in. … Paul takes all the criticism because he has the ball in his hands all the time but who else can Doc Rivers trust? … When he’s healthy, Blake is the best power forward in the league. He can shoot it, play-make, handle the ball, toss lobs, run the offense through the elbow. He’s always a threat. … Doc should think about scaling Blake’s minutes way back during the regular season. He’s not that old but he’s missed a lot of time. … You can win a championship with Jordan as your center thanks to his defense and he’s made great strides year after year. His free throw problems wouldn’t be such an issue if he was on a deeper team. … Mbah a Moute was a nice find for them and no one will even notice that Jeff Green is gone. He’s just one of those guys who doesn’t leave a mark. Going after Green last year was pointless. … I understand why they paid Austin Rivers and Crawford this summer. It was a lot of money, but Crawford is underrated because he’s one of the few guys on that team that can create a shot. You wish he took better shots, but that’s his game and he’s proven that it works for years. Rivers has taken steps forward in terms of his on-ball defense, ball-handling, running pick-and-rolls, and filling minutes in the second unit. He just doesn’t have a high ceiling. … Felton can help run some offense but their backcourt is a little crowded. They might try to go small with Felton, Crawford and Rivers together. I don’t really like that idea but it’s worth trying. … Pierce looks done. … Speights can’t play five because he doesn’t guard anybody. … At least Speights and Bass complement Jordan because they’re both offensive-minded. … They will miss Cole Aldrich."
Golden State Warriors
"There’s no way they beat 73 wins. They don’t want to go through that again and there will be growing pains. Maybe they can make another run at history next year once they’ve jelled. … I’ll take Golden State over Cleveland in seven. Durant’s arrival should swing that series. How does Cleveland guard both Curry and Durant? … They lost a ton of supporting players who had really clear roles: Barnes, Bogut, Ezeli and Barbosa. There will be a cumulative effect from those losses, especially early. … Their closing lineup will be scary good, but Kerr has some work to do building out his rotations. … They took a big step back at center. Bogut is an elite defender and rim-protector and Ezeli was proven. Zaza and Varejao just aren’t on that level. They’ll miss Bogut more than anyone else. If Bogut was a 10 for rim-protection, Zaza is a three. … Steph will still be the alpha guy for them because the ball will be in his hands but he will score less this year. … Distribution of shots will be a major issue no matter what they say. … There’s some pressure on Steph to make Durant feel like he’s still their go-to scorer. … Durant is the toughest scorer in the league to guard, much tougher than Carmelo now, and his shot-making is unbelievable when he’s in takeover mode. He’s also the biggest ball-stopper on their team. Look for Kerr to give him an isolation package to keep him happy. Durant going one-on-one is a great hammer coming out of timeouts or when they need a bucket late. He draws so much attention. … Durant has good feet, not great feet defensively, and he tries to get away with his length. Overall, though, he’s underrated defensively. … Kerr is smart enough to stagger Curry and Durant so that one is always on the court. Scary thought. … Curry is only an average defender but at least he has a high IQ and you can’t attack him every single possession like you could when he was younger. He’s still not that strong and he can be posted up. Thompson and Iguodala save him a lot. … Draymond is a top 15 player. They’ve done an amazing job developing him, and they really have to hope his offseason incidents were part of a learning curve rather than signs of bad habits. … Draymond is the only guy who can protect the rim for them right now. He better not get hurt. … Their small lineup got pounded on the glass in the playoffs, even when Draymond was out there. That’s an Achilles heel. … Iguodala hasn’t slipped yet and Livingston is one of the best bench guards in the league. Both excel at playing off of other players. … I don’t see West playing a huge role for them. He’s a better fit for their style if he plays the five. … I’m intrigued by McCaw. He’s going to open some eyes with his skill and athleticism. He’s got the talent and he’s a good fit."
"At best, they’re on the playoff bubble. At worst, they fall apart and they fin last in the West. Both are possible. … This whole roster is on the trade block. … Joerger was their biggest free agent addition. That’s good and bad. He’s got a solid track record but he needed some players. … Joerger will probably play with two bigs a lot just like he did in Memphis given how many power forwards and centers they have that need minutes. … They couldn’t play pace and space even if they wanted to because their guards and wings are so poor. … Cousins is the most talented center in the NBA and the toughest big to guard. He can get you points from the elbow, in pick-and-pop, from the post. So far, none of that has equated to winning or even making the playoffs because Sacramento has done a terrible job of finding guys who fit around Cousins. … This roster would make a lot more sense if they just rebuilt by trading Cousins for a top-10 point guard. Cousins should bring in strong trade offers because he’s probably the most attainable A-list talent in the league. … Defensively, Cousins still needs to improve. He’s below average for a starter. He takes charges, but he’s not a big rim-protector and he’s not great going side to side. You can attack him in pick-and-rolls and just pull up in front of him. He gives points away with his technical fouls and lapses in awareness and focus. … Cauley-Stein is best at the five but he can play the four because he’s athletic enough not to get killed by stretch guys. … Papagiannis looks like a D-Leaguer. … Sooner or later, a guy like Koufos will probably fall out of the rotation or get traded. … They’re really thin at point guard but I don’t think they’ll miss Rondo. Collison might not be able to put up Rondo’s numbers but I think he will have a much better impact. Rondo has the ball in his hands way too much. … On a playoff team, Collison is a backup. … You can’t expect a lot from Lawson. He used to put so much pressure on the rim by attacking off the dribble. We haven’t seen that for a while. … They never should have let Seth Curry go. … Afflalo is a replaceable guy who has bounced around a lot. He leaves you wanting more. ... McLemore has had plenty of opportunities but he’s inconsistent. He needs a change of scenery. If I’m his agent, I’m trying to convince teams that he’s the next Allen Crabbe. … Their frontcourt rotation is a mess. Why does one team need Casspi, Tolliver, Barnes and Gay? You don’t need more than two of those four. … They have so many below-average defenders in their rotation that it’s hard to take them seriously. What’s their best defensive lineup? Can they stop anybody with their perimeter rotation?"
"Their ceiling is third in the Pacific but it’s so health dependent. Chandler, Bledsoe and Knight have all had injury issues and need to stay on the court if they’re going to make any noise. … Among new coaches, Earl Watson is the hardest to peg style-wise because he’s so young and inexperienced. This is a wait-and-see team as he gets his bearings, although he has a bunch of pretty good guards who should help ease his transition. He’s not facing any pressure to win this year, which helps. … They have two rosters in one: a roster of vets and a roster of all their recent really young draft picks. They’ll probably try to win out of the gate and if something goes wrong they will shift to a youth movement. … The vets won’t really block the young guys too much. This will be Booker’s team sooner rather than later. I don’t think Chandler is blocking Len’s development because Len just isn’t that good. Bender and Chriss should be able to get minutes because they don’t have a rock solid option at that four spot. … Knight is a guy who gets numbers on bad teams. Phoenix lost that trade when they added him. … Don’t give up on Bledsoe. He’s an All-Star candidate if he stays healthy this season; If not, they probably need to move on. … Booker is their best asset and it’s not close. He has a higher ceiling than guys like CJ McCollum and Bradley Beal. He’s 19, high-level makeup, doesn’t get rattled, smooth on the ball, very calm and plays with great pace. He can be an All-Star in 2017-18, even in the West. … The Suns could wind up being second-guessed on this draft for sure because both Bender and Chriss will play the same position as stretch fours and both need a lot of work. This is the type of draft that can get a GM fired in two years. … Bender was one of the biggest disappointments in Las Vegas. Turnovers, bad decisions, not hitting his shots. I don’t see him having an impact on this team in his rookie year. … I love Ulis. He’s going to stick in the league for sure. They can use him as a full-court press guy, harassing ball-handlers and then let the offense come in minor doses. He has a chance to score a little bit out of pick-and-rolls. … They added Dudley and Barbosa because their locker room was a mess last year. … Chandler’s activity is starting to wane. … Len is 7-foot-1 and shoots 42%. Come on. I don’t know what he does that’s helpful at all. His size and supposed strength doesn’t translate into gameplay. He’s a top-five pick who is entering his fourth season and might not even have starter potential. A guy like Nikola Jokic already looks way better than him."
Los Angeles Lakers
"They’ll be the worst team in the West and bottom-three overall with Brooklyn and Philadelphia. … The best-case scenario for them is that Russell becomes a high-level starter, Ingram is in the Rookie of the Year mix, and they get a clear sense for how Randle fits into their long-term plans. All of those things could happen and they still might not win 25 games. … Keeping their pick again would be huge for turning this around into a playoff team again. … From a style perspective, the Lakers should change more than any other team with Kobe retiring and Walton taking over for Scott. They’ll play fast, move the ball, take more threes, less isolation plays and a lot more opportunity for their young prospects. … Russell is their most important player. The style shift will work if he makes it work and it will fail if he’s not quite ready. I think he’s ready for a breakout. He is an electric player when he’s playing well: he can score, shoot and set others up. He has the talent and confidence to be an All-Star, but that’s a long way off. He’s like a redshirt freshman because Bryant dominated everything. … Clarkson is only a starter if you’re a lottery team. He’s a one-trick pony scorer. He has blinders on and isn’t much of a passer. He’ll take bad shots. Playing him and Russell together defensively is a mess. … I’m not a Randle fan so I would just start Ingram and Deng together and see what happens. Throw Ingram into the fire. He’s the No. 2 pick. Why baby him? … The Kevin Durant comparisons are unfair to Ingram and I would have taken both Ben Simmons and Kris Dunn over Ingram. He will float a lot this year, his lack of strength will hurt him, and he needs to tighten up his handle. … Maybe Walton sees Randle as a Draymond Green type. He can dribble but can he make the reads? Randle definitely plays hard, which is a skill, but otherwise there’s a lot of work to do. He can’t really shoot it and he’s not the best finisher. He’s easy to guard. … Randle looks like a sixth man to me. … I love Deng. He’s really good. They should make Deng a stretch four role and clear things out for Ingram. Down the road, maybe they can trade him to a playoff team or shift him into a reserve role. He might only spend half of his contract with them. … Mozgov wasn’t the best center out there but beggars can’t be choosers. I think the Lakers saw him as attainable and an upgrade over Hibbert so they rushed to pay him. They had a huge hole. Going from Kareem and Shaq to Mozgov is the type of thing that will make Lakers fans roll their eyes. … Even with Mozgov and Deng, they’ll be the worst defensive team in the league."
"Denver should finish last in the Northwest and go back to the lottery, but I don’t think they’ll be that far behind Minnesota. … They’re still waiting to hit that home run in the draft but they’ve hit a bunch of singles and doubles, and those can add up. … Gallinari, Chandler, Faried could all be traded. The start to their season will dictate their activity. … If they’re going to make the playoffs, it’s because Mudiay made a gigantic jump—like a Most Improved Player type of jump. Don’t be scared off by his growing pains. Some guys take a little longer. He’s had the chance to play through his mistakes and that will pay off. He’s great at applying constant pressure, kind of like Dragic. He needs to improve as a shooter but he’s big and physical on the ball. He has leadership potential. … People don’t hype up Harris because he doesn’t have a ton of flash to his game. He’s never going to be an All-Star but he’s a 10-year starter. … Harris complements Mudiay very well because of his shooting and they are interchangeable defensively. You wish you could fast forward three years and see where they are. … Drafting Murray gives them a really promising guard trio. Any two of those guys can play together. Big picture, those three guys are going to become their team identity. … Murray gets compared to CJ McCollum but that’s too aggressive. He’s not that good with the ball, but he can shoot and he can drive-and-kick. There will be a learning curve when they ask him to play point. ... Gallinari needs to prove he can make it through a season healthy and they should probably manage his minutes. He’s a tough mismatch because he can attack bigs off the dribble and he can post up smalls. If he’s healthy for 75 games they should have an above-average offensive ranking. … I think it’s time for them to move on from Chandler. Gallinari is better across the board. … Faried functions like a small ball five but he’s not a good enough defender to make that work. He has a reputation for energy and hustle but he’s lazy. He should be similar to a guy like Tristan Thompson, but Thompson is so much better defensively it’s not close. … You can’t pair Faried with anyone. You need an elite stretch five who can play defense to keep him on the court. Good luck finding that. … Jokic is ready to step in as a full-time starter. He should be their priority over Nurkic and Faried. He’s a fantastic passer and playmaker. I love the comparisons to the Gasol brothers. He has a great feel and huge basketball IQ. Great touch, great hands, great feet. I’d give him 82 starts and big minutes this year. … Nurkic is a more traditional center than Jokic. There’s not much there. He needs to evolve as a finisher but you can run a little offense through him in the post. You have to hide him defensively."
Portland Trail Blazers
"Portland takes the Northwest with 49 wins. They should have a top 7 offense and get by OK on defense. … They’ve got everything you want on offense: spacing, shot-creators, unselfish guys. They are one of the few teams that can hang in a shootout with Golden State. … After this summer, their depth is better than people think: they can play big, they can play small and they just need to find the best lineup combinations. … Their payroll took a huge jump so they have to make the playoffs or face some serious backlash. … Stotts has had some tough situations in the past with Aldridge leaving and rebuilding teams. But this might be his toughest job yet because he’s got so many options to juggle now and there are expectations now. He has a lot of people to keep happy when it comes to their touches and shots after everyone got paid. … This team starts and ends with Lillard. He’s the best point guard in the league besides Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook. He’s good enough to will a team into the playoffs and to make some noise from there. You can rely on his game, his personality and his leadership. Offensively he has it all. … Lillard’s defense gets nitpicked for good reason. He wants the challenge but he still has work to do in pick-and-rolls. He wears down. … McCollum is one of the best ball-handlers in the league and he’s got a little Kyrie Irving in his game. He can make threes but he prefers getting the clean look from mid-range. … McCollum breaks down defensively but he puts so much pressure on you the other way that he usually makes up for it. … I would start Crabbe over guys like Turner and Harkless because of his shooting. Putting him out there with the two star guards gets Portland to its natural style. … I don’t really understand the Turner move because he’s taking away possessions from either Lillard or McCollum, and that can be a slippery slope. How they fit in Turner will be the biggest storyline for them. … Starting Aminu as a small ball four was easily their best lineup. He’s emerged into a defensive stopper who can shoot the three just a little bit, although his form is terrible. He still needs to prove he can shoot. … What exactly does Vonleh do? Not a playmaker, not a huge rebounder, not a knockdown shooter, not a lockdown defender. If he wants to get paid he probably has to become an energy guy. … Plumlee is an average or slightly below-average starter. He can make plays out of pick-and-roll traps. They understand that his back to the basket game is nonexistent and he’s not a shooter. Stotts covered up his flaws well. … Even though they paid him, there are probably going to nights when Leonard doesn’t even play. He’s a stretch five who can shoot it but he’s still not guarding anybody and he doesn’t have any other plus skills. He’s a decent passer, I guess. … Portland is in position where they might look at trade options if everyone stays healthy. Otherwise, they could have some unhappy campers."
"They’re a trendy pick for a team to make the leap, but they still need to prove it. They don’t have a star but they’ve got quality depth at all five positions and they’ll push Portland at the top of the Northwest. They could grind out a series win if everything goes right. I think they’ll do enough to keep who they want to keep, like Hayward, next summer. … Everyone thinks of them as a big team with Gobert and Favors but they have a bunch of stretch options now with Lyles, Diaw and even Johnson. … They go can really small too with Diaw as their five if they want. … Last year, Hayward and Hood tried to do too much in clutch situations. Now you plug in Johnson as a late option and Diaw as a playmaker and Hill as a complementary shooter and they’re much harder to guard late in games. … That Hayward and Hood pairing could be one of the best wing combos for a decade. Hood actually has a higher ceiling than Hayward and he’s in the conversation among young two guards who might push into the West All-Star conversation with guys like Devin Booker and CJ McCollum. Hood has size, ball skills, he can score and he makes good decisions. He’s calm on the ball and smart. … Everyone wants a guy like Hayward so he’s always in trade rumors, but I just don’t see him moving. I bet there’s a 90% chance he’s back with them. … Hill was a great answer at point guard. He’s an established, plus defender, lots of playoff experience, consistent. … Exum is a forgotten man. It’s time to see if he’s progressed with his shooting at all. … Will Burks get more than 15 or 20 minutes a game? He’s a name to watch for possible trades. … Johnson going to Utah felt like Pierce to the Clippers. They will manage his minutes and save him for the stretch run. … It’s fair to wonder how much Diaw has left. … Lyles is going to be a breakout player. He gets overlooked because they added all the vets but he’s ready to make a jump. He can shoot, he can guard all types of fours. … Gobert and Favors can really pound you on the glass and they defend so well. They can control the pace, post you up, finish around the hoop, take away all your offense from inside 10 feet. You don’t want to play them together the whole game but you’re not in a hurry to sub those guys out. … Favors is a workhorse, very good rebounder, good defender and a good scorer too. There aren’t a lot of holes to his game. Would you rather have him or Paul Millsap? He’s getting into that conversation. … Gobert is their most irreplaceable guy. He’s the difference between them being OK and very good. … They have the right personnel and the right style of play to be the NBA’s best defense."
Oklahoma City Thunder
"They’re no longer contenders without Durant and they’ll struggle to make the playoffs. Even if Westbrook is the MVP, it will be hard for them to crack the top four in the West because they’ll have a bottom-10 defense. I give them 44 wins. … They will look totally different this season. For years, their whole MO has been two guys doing everything and the rest of the team standing around. This year it’s going to be a much more collective approach. … Westbrook won’t allow them to fall apart. Sometimes people view him only as an athlete but he is savvy beating guys off the dribble and he understands that putting pressure on the rim can make a lot of good things happen for his team. He’s the best rebounding guard in the league on both ends. I can see why people think his emotion gets the best of his sometimes, but his fire and the competitiveness is something so many players, even some stars, lack. … Westbrook is my MVP pick. He’s on a mission without Durant. If I had to pick one point guard in a vacuum, I’d take Westbrook over Curry, Paul and everyone else. His team will always win because he sets the tone and gives you a clear identity with his aggressiveness. … Getting Westbrook to sign an extension was the best move any team made this summer besides LeBron and Durant. That saved their whole franchise. … Adams’ growth in the playoffs is just the start for him: he’s going to take big leaps this season and become a foundational piece. … Pairing Westbrook and Oladipo might not work. You don’t see too many great backcourts with two non-shooters these days. But if any backcourt could get by without shooting, it’s these guys because their physical tools are off the charts, they’re both so physically imposing and they play in sixth gear. … Oladipo is in a great spot to get paid big. At the same time, OKC won’t commit to him if the fit isn’t right. Look at how quickly they moved on from Waiters. … Trading Ibaka was a big mistake. I didn’t like the return package at all. Ilyasova can’t guard fours in the West for sustained minutes. No way. Sabonis is getting thrown to the wolves. They’ve lost so much length and athleticism defensively with Durant and Ibaka gone. … Kanter has to come off the bench. He can attack certain matchups and pile up points but he’s a lost cause defensively. … Their options on the wing are very, very weak. Their biggest strength with Durant has become their biggest weakness. Roberson will play heavy minutes even though he’s a defensive specialist and he cramps the court. They can also go small with Payne in three-guard lineups to try to run teams off the court. Payne can shoot and he can play off the ball. … The Thunder are absolutely screwed if Westbrook misses any time with injury. They need him to have perfect health. He’s the most indispensable player in the NBA."
"Best-case: They have Coach of the Year, Rookie of the Year, and they fight for the eighth seed. Worst-case: Their lack of depth bites them and they’re still a year away from the big jump. Still, I don’t see them finishing worse than 11th in the West. … Thibodeau has great taste in young talent and he found an organization that can really benefit from his style and experience. He will try to turn Wiggins into guys like Deng and Butler, and he can make Towns into Noah with better offense. That’s his formula and he’s got the pieces to do it. ... Towns will be a top 10 player at the end of this season. He will be right there in both All-Star and All-NBA talk. I’ll take him over Anthony Davis right now and Kevin Love at his peak with the Timberwolves. … Towns is the total package offensively. Limitless ceiling. He can score without being selfish, you can move him around all over the court, great touch for a big guy. Defensively, he needs to make progress with his strength, awareness and timing. All of that stuff will come. … I question whether Wiggins will deliver on the hype. They just haven’t had much structure to their offense in the past and he needs to prove that he can be a guy who contributes within the structure rather than just an open court guy who gets by on his athleticism. … Kris Dunn is the best player in this draft. I would have taken him number one overall and I think he will be the Rookie of the Year. He has a higher floor than a guy like D’Angelo Russell and I trust him to figure it out. He has the personality, the tempo to his game, the play-to-play intensity. … I bet they transition Dunn into the starting point guard role and that puts Rubio’s future into question. Rubio is a very good player but I think they’ll have trouble trading him for value because everyone knows they have Dunn. … LaVine should be a designated scorer off the bench because he doesn’t guard well enough to be a starter. He has blinders. I don’t see the star talk; I think he’s a slightly more skilled Gerald Green. Thibodeau will either be the best or worst thing to happen to him. … Minnesota might be a little thin at other spots but I like their rotation of bigs. … Aldrich was a nice pick-up at a good price. He and Dieng are a great contrast to have in terms of their skills at that five spot. Aldrich gives you some workmanlike offense and Dieng is more of an interior defensive presence. They’ve got Jordan Hill for energy and rebounding too. … Will Thibodeau trust Muhammad? He’s pretty expendable and could be a trade piece."
New Orleans Pelicans
"Alvin Gentry can bounce back to a degree. Last year they had to play so many players that aren't even close to NBA-caliber offensive players. The offense will not be as shitty. Just flat-out, they had way, way too many guys who were not even close to good enough. It'll be a lot better this year. I don't know if it'll be to the level people want, but it'll be a lot better. ... They have Jrue Holiday, but he's going to miss some time. So Tim Frazier's their starting point guard at the start of the year. I love Timmy, he'll play OK. But not ideal when your starting point guard is a backup. ... At the two guard, Tyreke Evans. Is he hurt again? Google that before you write the previews. I think he might be hurt again. [But] Tyreke's solid. If they can find enough other guys who can shoot to put out there with him, he could be decent anchoring the second unit. ... Buddy Hield can shoot, don't think he's going to be all that good of an NBA player. If they expect him to create for other people, or be really hard to guard, or impact the game defensively, I don't see that coming. But Eric Gordon made a lot of shots for them last year, and they needed someone to do that. Buddy is a very good spot-up shooter, he's decent shooter off some movement. But if people are expecting him to be an All-Star type guy, that's not realistic. ... At the 3, Quincy Pondexter I think is still injured too, so that's not good. ... They signed Solomon Hill, and he's an OK player. He's sort of a poor man's Jae Crowder, but with kind of a bad attitude. But he's OK. ... They signed Lance Stephenson also, so he's in this weird two-three mix. Lance is sort of like Tyreke Evans in a lot of ways. If I'm them, I'm a little worried about the mixture I'm concocting there, but that’s their call. ... Man, what Lance Stephenson, Tyreke Evans, and Solomon Hill are going to be getting up to in the evenings in New Orleans. ... Anthony Davis is going to play better, and, I don't know. They still have Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca, I guess? That's not good. ... I worry about Anthony Davis' body, what he's doing to take care of his body. He doesn't look like he's in a shape a lot of times, and then he's hurt a lot. It's concerning. But the guy can shoot, he's athletic, he's long. He oughta have a bounce back year. ... But I don't really like the team around him. Who else did they sign? E'Tuan Moore? Terrence Jones, Kendrick Perkins. ... You can put Terrence Jones in the interesting evening activities club ... Yeah, E'Tuan Moore's OK, Solomon Hill's OK, they have more OK NBA players than they did last year. Quincy Pondexter will be OK if he plays ... I don't really think they've concocted a recipe for great success, but they could push .500 with good health. ... In the West it's going to go Warriors, Spurs, Clippers. Thunder, Trail Blazers, the Jazz, will be in competition for the 4-seed. ... New Orleans can be competitive with Dallas and Memphis for the eighth seed, they'll be right there."
"Their team is kind of a house of cards right now. They have some good players, obviously Gasol, Conley, they signed Parsons. But all three of those guys have significant injury histories. That could really blow up in their face. ... If they get something like 9,000 total minutes out of Conley, Parsons, and Gasol, they're in great shape. That means they each play like 37 minutes-a-game, 80 games each for those guys. That's around 3,000 minutes from three guys. So if they get that, they're in great shape. But they won't. ... If they get more like 6,000 minutes from those guys, so like, 30 minutes-a-game for 65 games from each of those guys, then they'll be around .500. Health is a huge factor. ... I've heard nothing but good things about David Fizdale as a person. Players love him, people that work with him love him. But nobody has told me that he's a brilliant coach. Everyone's sold on him as a person, and nobody knows yet whether he can coach. ... Joerger, I'm not going to say he's perfect and he obviously had some issues with management. But he had a lot of good teams with a flawed, injured roster ... So depending on how Fizdale does his first year coaching, and how healthy they stay, they could be a team that drops off and is under .500 with moderate injuries. ... They just don't have much quality depth. Tony Allen, Vince Carter, Jordan Farmer, Brandan Wright. They drafted Wade Baldwin, but he's probably not ready to play ... Jamychal Green is secretly OK, but their bench is a problem even if there are no injuries. If there are any injuries they could be in a lot of trouble ... To expect a ton from Wade Baldwin this year is probably not wise, but he's very talented. He'll be able to help some off the bench, and he'll have some nice moments. … The biggest concern I had with Wade in the draft is that he can be sort of hard-headed and difficult. Not the easiest guy to coach, not the easiest guy to get along with, not super mature. That's one big advantage the Griz have with Fizdale there. Everyone says he's outstanding with relationships with the players. Guys want to go to war for him. A lot of coaches would have difficulty connecting with Wade Baldwin and getting him on board and bought in to his role, but Fizdale will probably do a good job with that. ... If they stay perfectly healthy and are well-coached, they could be pretty good and compete in the middle of the West. But it wouldn't surprise me at all if they missed the playoffs. ... It's hard to know with Gasol and Conley. They could easily have another few great years if they stay healthy. They're not so old or so injured, but they're both coming off leg injuries that could have them miss more games ... Z-Bo is coming pretty close to the end at this point. For 20 minutes a game scoring on other team's bench units, he's still effective. But against good players in extended minutes, he just can't do it."
San Antonio Spurs
"Kawhi is great. So you have a top 10, arguably top 5 player. So that never hurts. They'll be pretty successful regardless if they have him ... They still have Popovich coaching, and he still seems to have the desire to do it. ... Pau is probably the starting center. His pick-and-roll defense has been a disaster for years, but they will probably get more out of him on that end than other teams did. But that will be a challenge. Going from Tim Duncan's pick-and-roll defense to Pau, that'll hurt ... Danny Green and Tony Parker in the backcourt, and they still have Patty Mills. Jonathon Simmons is decent off the bench. This is probably the year we see Kyle Anderson emerge as sort of a mutant Boris Diaw off the bench ... They signed David Lee. Yikes. Yikes. ... Dejounte Murray is going to get a one-way ticket to Austin. He'll be well versed in keeping Austin weird after this season. ... Dwayne Dedmon will be pretty solid. I wouldn't be surprised if you see him playing in key situations because he's so much better defensively than Pau. ... Manu's still playing, and I still like him a lot. He just can't do it anymore in the highest intensity moments, against the best athletes. He just physically doesn't have quite enough left ... Tony's still solid, but he's not the playmaker of a good team in the playoffs. He's an above-average starter in the regular season, but he can't be the playmaker in the playoffs ... Aldridge is a good player. He seems like he's a little bit of a different guy. You need to manage his personality, his mindset, his confidence. ... It's clearly Kawhi's team. Kawhi's the best player. They're going to run a lot of stuff for him, and he'll score a lot. Pick-and-rolls, isos, post-ups. Lamarcus just needs to be the number two guy and exploit bad matchups, make pick-and-pops, and space them out with jumpshots. ... It's not unrealistic to think that Lamarcus is past his prime now, that the last three or four years were the best years of his career, and the next 3-4 years are gonna be good, but he's not quite as good as he was. That said, his game will age well. As a jump-shooting big with that height and that length, he'll be good for the Spurs. ... They'll be really good because they'll be well-coached and well-managed, and Kawhi is great. But do I think they're a championship team with Kawhi as their best player and Lamarcus as their second best player? Without someone else emerging, probably not. Definitely not in a league where the Warriors have the best team of all time. You know, that makes it hard. ... I think they'll have a good team, though. They'll win high-50s. But they were secretly a fucking juggernaut last year, and I don't think they'll be quite as good with this group ... No, they don't have a shot against the Warriors, but no one does. Not even close."
"I thought it was an interesting approach to the off-season to say, 'Alright, f--- it, we're going all in on offense. F--- defense.' ... I don't know how much of it was Daryl or the owner. There's been some rumors that D'Antoni wasn't really Daryl's call. But D'Antoni makes them really hard to guard. He's a really good offensive coach, even as people have sort of caught up to him. And they signed guys who can really shoot. Finally Harden's going to have some legit shooting around him. They're gonna be awesome on offense. ... I gotta think they're gonna be atrocious on defense. D'Antoni, every time he's been a head coach he hasn't really cared about defense. And as these coaches get older, they just lose the desire to fight those battles every day. It's pain in the ass, you have to stay on these guys, and bother them about it, hold guys accountable over and over and over. … Like you watch George Karl's Sacramento team last year? Still a lot of the things that made George a good coach. A creative, hard-to-guard offense, interesting lineups. All that was still there. But he just didn't have the desire to make guys play defense and yank 'em out of the game if they weren't willing to. … As coaches get older, more and more they just focus on the area of the game they're really passionate about. D'Antoni's really passionate about spacing and ball movement, they'll be awesome at that ... Allegedly they have assistants who will handle the defense, and that helps to an extent, but if the head coach doesn't care, assistants can scream and show film all they want, but you won't get as much buy-in ... I think they can win 45 to 48 wins. They should be very, very good on offense. And in the regular season, they'll win more than half their games. ... I like Clint Capela, he's gonna be good. He's a very good rebounder, he's a good shot-blocker ... Ryan Anderson shoots it, and shoots it with confidence. In a couple years, that deal may not look very good, but they'll be hard to guard with him this year ... The one thing that could happen is teams guard Anderson with a wing, and then just switch when he screens for Harden. Some coaches would struggle with that, but D'Antoni is savvy enough to counter pretty effectively. He just won't use Anderson as the screener as much, and just use him to space the floor. ... It'll also be interesting to see if teams use a mobile four on Capela, because it's not as if Capela is really going to punish smaller guys in the post. ... The advantage Houston has is that Harden can really beat a switch. He's one of the few guys in the league that has the whole offensive package. You really gotta be careful if you're switching onto him, because he's so good with the ball."
"Rick Carlisle is one of the three or four coaches in the league. He gets a ton out of that team every year. So I think they'll definitely be around .500. ... As long as Dirk's out there, that's something. His ability to shoot and play pick-and-pop still gives them an advantage on offense. ... Harrison Barnes is a solid player. He might give them more than Chandler Parsons did because Parsons was hurt. I'm sure he'll put up better numbers than he did in Golden State from a pure points-per-game perspective. But if they're expecting Barnes to emerge as an All-Star type guy now that he's getting more shots, I think everyone is gonna be a little bit underwhelmed. ... It’ll be a little bit like that year five or six years ago where they got OJ Mayo, and OJ actually had a pretty good first year in Dallas. They found ways to play to his strengths. He wasn't super efficient but they got him a lot of shots and he averaged close to 20 points-per-game. ... Who's their five? Bogut? ... Bogut's good, he's just not going to play 82 games. He'll probably play closer to 60, and of those 60, 15 of 'em he will probably not be feeling great physically, and therefore give a lackluster effort. But Bogut when he's feeling good and trying hard is better than anyone Dallas has had at center since Tyson Chandler. ... Bogut, I don't really want to blame it on him because his body's f----- up in a lot of ways, but he has nights where he's just not in a good physical or mental state. But when his juices are flowing and he's really competing, he's strong, he's tough, he's a great rim protector, very savvy on defense, he can really pass. He's a very good player. ... If you told someone five years ago that Marvin Williams would be a better NBA player than Deron Williams, I don't think anyone would have believed you. … Deron's OK, though. Carlisle does a great job creating opportunities for point guards, getting screens set in ways that are hard to guard, letting stuff set up for ball screens. He usually has a guy who can dive and catch lobs, like Dwight Powell. Or take J.J. Barea who was pretty bad in Minnesota, and he's pretty good for what Dallas wants to do … Justin Anderson is gonna be good. I wonder how long of a leash Carlisle will have with him. Rick prefers to play two guards, two smaller guards who are good pick-and-roll players, and that's not Justin. … I actually think Justin Anderson is almost as good a player as Harrison Barnes. Maybe not quite as good as a scorer, but rebounding, shot-blocking, he'll be a decent shooter this year. He'll be a solid piece of their rotation. ... As long as Dirk is playing and Carlise's coaching, I don't think tanking is really viable. But if Dirk gets hurt or another one of their key guys gets hurt, then they should probably tank. ... As it is, they will probably be around .500 this year and Dirk will retire, and then next year might be the tank job."