- How can your team better itself in 2017? We've come up with New Year's resolutions for the Thunder, Warriors, Spurs and everyone else in the West.
We're just about done with 2016, so The Crossover tabbed me with putting together New Year’s resolutions for every team in the NBA. You can check out our resolutions for the Eastern Conference here. Here’s what we have for the West:
Warriors: Be slightly less corny
The Warriors have one of the best, brightest and most likable coaches in all of sports in Steve Kerr. But outside of him, their owner has some weird, uh, persuasions, Draymond Green has become insufferable, Steph Curry has become a victim of his own incredible success and it’s still somewhat frustrating that they signed Kevin Durant. I’m not sure if Golden State will ever become lovable again, but the Dubs can help their case by eschewing balloons at their next picnic and getting rid of their grating persecution complex. If this team could just chill out for one second, it’s possible people wouldn’t be so quick to roast them every time something goes even slightly haywire.
Spurs: Spread the secret of Manu Ginobili
Manu Ginobili is 39 years old, but he is still shooting 40% from three in 19 minutes per game, and the Spurs have been better offensively and defensively with Manu on the court so far this season. How does Ginobili do it? Seriously, he’s played deep into the playoffs every season of his career in addition to being a storied international star for Argentina. The Spurs should donate Manu to science so we can extend the career of every aging NBA star. And the first person in line to receive Manu’s Secret Stuff could be his teammate Tony Parker.
Rockets: Play the dream 2K lineup
Houston is good this season! Surrounding point James Harden with shooters and Mike D’Antoni encouraging everyone to let it fly has resulted in one of the most entertaining teams in the league. How could the Rockets become more entertaining? By playing the Ryan Anderson-Trevor Ariza-Eric Gordon-Patrick Beverly-Harden lineup more often. This is possibly one of the greatest modern day video game lineups ever assembled, the Warriors notwithstanding. That is the ultimate “Forget about defense, we will simply score every time we have the ball” lineup. Those five have only shared the court for 22 minutes this season across seven games, but the early returns are a 134.2 offensive rating and a 72% true shooting percentage. Let’s see it more often, even if it has the potential to blow up in our faces!
Clippers: Prepare for the next era
[Deep sigh.] This one hurts. I’ve always loved the Chris Paul-era Clippers. They’ve had some bad luck with injuries and made some mind-numbing mistakes at the worst times, but this team has always been conference finals worthy. But I think summer 2017 will be the time to move on. CP3 isn’t getting any younger, Blake is becoming more of a question mark, and the current formula just doesn’t seem correct for toppling Golden State. A rebuild around Paul and DeAndre Jordan should be in order. It could mean losing Blake and J.J. Redick, but I don’t know if the Clippers can keep trying the same thing over and over again, even if there is no shame in what this team has been over the last five-plus seasons.
Jazz: Go to gameplay settings, turn off injuries
The Jazz have the fifth-best record in the West despite injuries at different times to four of their five starters. George Hill returned to the lineup Thursday and was outstanding in a blowout win over the 76ers. Basically, Utah is great when everyone is healthy, and they’ll be even better when Alec Burks returns from ankle surgery. Injuries are the most annoying part of sports and all I want is to see this team at full strength in time for the playoffs.
Thunder: Learn to share
Russ has been my MVP so far this season, and he’s been the most captivating player to watch night in and night out. His usage rate deserves to be ridiculously high, but I’m worried about the long-term implications of the one-man Russell Westbrook show in OKC. Simply put, this team is too dependent on him. Sam Presti needs to find a way to ease the burden off Russ, because I don’t know how sustainable his current pace is. Maybe Westbrook can be this kamikaze ball of energy for an entire season, but for a player who actually has a couple of knee injuries in his past, the situation does make me the slightest bit nervous. I don’t think the onus is on Russ to change his game, he’s a great teammate who is lifting that roster higher than our expectations. It’s the organization that needs to find a way to balance out what’s happening on the court.
Grizzlies: Never change
Memphis is low key the most lovable team in the NBA. Zach Randolph’s synergy with the city, Marc Gasol’s buttery-as-hell jumpers and Tony Allen’s runaway-train style of basketball are only three of the reasons I love this team. I don’t care if the Grizz will never be considered a favorite, I hope this team never gets broken up.
Kings: Maintain the current stretch of stability
That the Kings haven’t fired their coach within the first two months of the season is nothing short of remarkable. If Sacramento makes it through a whole season without having an interim head coach and shuffling the front office, the city should probably consider throwing the Kings a parade. And while stability is good from the perspective of a Kings fan, for the rest of us, please just trade Boogie. Keep everyone else, sure, but free Boogie.
Nuggets: Go all-in on Nikola Jokic
Denver found a gem in the second round of the 2014 draft with Nikola Jokic, a big man with a soft touch who routinely uncorks how-the-hell-did-he-do-that passes. It’s time for Denver to see what this team can look like with Jokic as its centerpiece, and that means a) increasing his minutes b) constructing the offense around him and c) trading Jusuf Nurkic, who’s been mostly dropped from the rotation due to Jokic’s emergence.
Trail Blazers: Play defense
Portland’s awful season really comes down to the fact this team went from having a middling defense to the worst defense in the league. Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum are still both extremely fun to watch, but it means nothing if they can’t stop their opponents.
Pelicans: Please help Anthony Davis
I really hate the new CBA’s Designated Franchise Player thing, because it could keep someone like Anthony Davis in New Orleans through his entire prime even though the organization has shown no signs it can build a team around him. Sure, Davis could leave the Pelicans one day, but he would have to do so by imposing a massive financial penalty on himself. How is that fair? New Orleans has some solid players, and it’s not fun denigrating their roster every other week. But it’s unacceptable that the Pelicans were handed such a massive talent in Davis only to have so far squandered it by failing to find anyone who can truly complement him.
Lakers: Commit to the youth movement
The Lakers were an early season surprise, starting out the year 10–10 with impressive victories over the Warriors and Rockets. Since L.A. has dropped 14 of 16, and looks to be far away from the franchise’s illustrious heights. What I don’t understand is how no one on this team is averaging 30 minutes per game. If the Lakers are going to be bad, then they should do so at the expense of their veteran players. Reduce the minutes for guys like Lou Williams, Nick Young, Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov. Instead, give more burn to D’Angelo Russell, Tarik Black and even Brandon Ingram. The short-term losing may continue, but the long-term payoff could be more substantial.
Timberwolves: Stay the course
The Wolves are mostly a victim of the hype a lot of media members placed on them in the off-season. Minnesota should almost definitely be better than they are now, but Thibs needs to resist making a desperate move that would break up Minny’s young core. It’s possible some of the Wolves’ young talent is overrated, but they need more time to sort that out on the court before knowing for sure. Patience is going to be very important for this franchise moving forward.
Mavericks: Stop calling fake timeouts
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle on multiple occasions this season has called timeouts his team didn’t have while they were losing in blowouts. Carlisle took the technical foul in exchange for a teachable moment with his team. It’s definitely a unique strategy that on some level I respect. On the other hand, Mavericks games do not need to be extended for even an extra second this season. Honestly, at a certain point in the year, once a team falls so far below .500, they shouldn’t even be allowed replay reviews anymore. Secaucus deserves better.
Suns: Don’t sign one free agent to sign another free agent
How does Suns owner Robert Sarver feel every time he sees Tyson Chandler walking through the arena without LaMarcus Aldridge? Are Chandler and Aldridge even friends?