Everyone wants to talk about super teams. Of course, the Heat, Knicks, Clippers, Celtics and all the rest of ‘em capture the imagination of the NBA fan base. There’s nothing quite like feeling the anticipation and excitement in the air when you see that news hit telling you Chris Paul has finally been traded and he’s going to the Clippers. What immediately follows is typically more invigorating than what eventually happens. The promise of what could be is almost always better than what is. Even here at Dime, we find ourselves talking about one third of the NBA about 80 percent of the time. That doesn’t mean we don’t care about everyone else.
In the final week before the regular season tips off for real this Sunday on Christmas, we’ll break down each division, team by team in an effort to give you an overall look at what to expect in what’s sure to be a relentlessly exciting season.
We started things off earlier this week by getting our East Coast bias on and diving into the Atlantic on Monday, the Central Division on Tuesday and the Southeast Division yesterday before getting into the West. Now, we hit the Pacific Division where two L.A. teams will be at each other’s throats this season.
5. Sacramento Kings
The New Guys That Matter: Jimmer Fredette, John Salmons, Travis Outlaw
Projected Starting Five: Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton, Donte Greene, J.J. Hickson, DeMarcus Cousins
On paper alone, the Kings look like one of those killer rec league teams. In warm-ups, they are phenomenal, have all this individual talent and run up the score on every bad team in the league because no one can defend them. Yet all it actually takes to slow them down is a solid team that knows how to play and forces them into doing things they don’t want to. In the NBA, the Kings will get this treatment almost every night this season.
Evans is healthy again to get back to his 20/5/5 ways, and I think he’s in for a major bounceback season. From what I’ve seen of him in the offseason and then in the preseason, he’ll be in the lane probably more often than Sacramento’s bigs. Cousins and Hickson both seem intent on getting their KG midrange game on, and neither one passes all that often either. This seems to be a common theme in Sacramento: He who passes must not be good. Or at least, I’d bet that’s the ideology most of these guys live by. Even when you go deeper into the roster – Fredette, Thornton, Salmons, Outlaw – passing is less of a reality than high gas prices. When your best true playmaker – outside of Evans, who seems to make a lot of plays because he’s involved in every single one – could be Francisco Garcia, there’s a serious problem.
We’ve seen this recipe before: talented lottery team gives everyone hope solely because they’re fun to watch. But even in this country’s worst rec leagues, teams like this rarely pan out.
BEST CASE: They extend the game clock to give everyone enough shots, Evans reclaims his place as a future All-Star and Sacramento scores 120 every night to at least make themselves enjoyable to watch.
WORST CASE: The fun in them is sucked away by too many arguments, locker room disagreements and too many babyish moves by DMC.
4. Golden State Warriors
The New Guys That Matter: Kwame Brown, Klay Thompson
Projected Starting Five: Stephen Curry, Monta Ellis, Dorell Wright, David Lee, Andris Biedrins
With their heads already spinning because of a new emphasis on this radical idea called “defense,” no one is happy to be dealing with these sexual harassment charges against Ellis. Also, it’s never a good thing to tout up “defense” as this grand new fad and then go out and recruit *disrespectful Stephen A. voice* Kwam-ay Broown. Never a good thing. At the very least, this is still a hot ticket for League Pass because of Curry, Ellis and to a degree Dorell Wright (one of the coolest people in the league). And for some reason, everyone always has a career night against Golden State. Maybe it’s the fans who always create a great game (Seriously, any Friday night, 10:30 ET Warriors game is obscenely fun to watch)? I still don’t get that one.
It took me long enough but I’ve grown to despise Biedrins. He’s been a fantasy ticket for me going on three years; every season believing this would be the one he repeats his 2008-09 year (12 points, 11 rebounds, 1.6 blocks a night). But that train has passed. He’s barely playable now.
I may actually learn to miss Mark Jackson and his heinous game calls. It’ll be especially infuriating to see him in Golden State attempting to tame one of the wackiest, and looniest, teams in recent memory. A tamed squirrel is never as cool as a wild one.
BEST CASE: The Warriors turn up the speed even more and wear down veteran teams with one of the best homecourt advantages in the league. Curry takes the step he was supposed to last year, and Jackson gets everyone to buy in enough to win barely 30 games.
WORST CASE: Someone – Ellis anyone? – gets traded for virtually nothing just to see him and his situation with the law go away. Meant to free up room for everyone else to flourish, it instead exposes the Warriors as a talent-less team stuck in-between two different philosophies.