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News » Big changes at the bottom of Pacific 2008-09-27

Big changes at the bottom of Pacific 2008-09-27

Big changes at the bottom of Pacific 2008-09-27
The Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns didn't want to wait until the summer to make big changes. Both teams chose to act before last season's trade deadline. One team used its new toy to make it all the way to the NBA Finals. The other flamed out in the first round.

Bleacher Report

Here's what I wrote:

"This one isn't even close. It's the Golden State Warriors."

The Warriors ended up losing Baron Davis, Mikael Pietrus and Matt Barnes and replaced them with Corey Maggette, Ronny Turiaf and Marcus Williams.

Am I supposed to believe they're better?

They did manage to hang onto Monta Ellis, but he's going to miss at least the first three months of the season after suffering a mysterious ankle injury.

With Ellis the Warriors were a bubble team to make the playoffs. Without him for an extended period their playoff hopes are crushed. The goal for the Warriors this season will be the continued development of Andris Biedrins, Brandan Wright, Marco Belinelli and rookie Anthony Randolph.

Next summer could be just as turbulent. Stephen Jackson has let it be known that he's unhappy being the team's fifth-highest-paid player and wants a lucrative extension. Head coach Don Nelson and GM Chris Mullin are both entering lame-duck years so we could see a change at the top as well.

Projected record: 33-49, 11th in the Western Conference

3. Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers will have at least nine new players on their roster this season. They lost Elton Brand and Corey Maggette but added Baron Davis, Marcus Camby and rookie Eric Gordon.

Because Brand decided to bolt, the Clippers could have more than $30 million in cap space and four legitimate starters under contract in 2010. Say what you want about the Clippers, but Los Angeles is still the second-biggest media market in the country.

The Clippers have a nice blend of young and old, but I still don't see them making the playoffs in the Western Conference and that's not a bad thing. Since they don't have any positions that need to be filled, they'll have the luxury of adding another lottery pick they can use to draft the best available player.

Their objective this season will be to get the franchise back on track and to develop Gordon and Al Thornton as franchise cornerstones.

Expect them to play the role of spoiler for at least one playoff team.

Projected record: 41-41, 9th in the Western Conference

2. Phoenix Suns

There are young teams, like the Lakers and Blazers, who get better with each day that goes by. Then there are older teams, like the Suns, who get worse with every day that goes by.

The Suns went 18-11 in the 29 games they played after acquiring Shaquille O'Neal from the Heat. They finished the season as the sixth seed in the West and lost in the first round.

The question for the Suns this season will be whether their new head coach, Terry Porter, will be able to instill a defensive philosophy without their offense suffering.

How far the Suns go will depend on their ability to stay healthy and on the improved defensive play of Amare Stoudemire. With Shaq, Steve Nash, Grant Hill and Raja Bell getting up there in age, it's up to the 25-year-old Stoudemire to carry them. Stoudemire finished sixth in the MVP voting last season and he should be on any preseason list of favorites heading into this season.

Projected record: 49-33, 7th in the Western Conference

1. Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers enter the 2008-09 season with high expectations. After losing to the Celtics in the Finals, the Lakers could go one of two ways. They could either use their loss as motivation to rebound this season, or the manner in which they lost could serve as motivation and instruction to their opponents on how to beat them.

The Lakers made no headline-grabbing acquisitions during the offseason but they will welcome the return of a healthy Andrew Bynum.

The return of Bynum should help them on both ends of the floor, but nobody seems to be talking about the way Rajon Rondo abused them in the Finals.

The point-guard position is a huge question mark. Derek Fisher turned 34 in August and might be better suited to coming off the bench. Jordan Farmar's confidence improved as the season went along but he never seemed to find his groove in the playoffs.

The Lakers need to decide whether to trade Lamar Odom while they can for either a jump-shooting small forward or franchise point guard — or if it's best to hang onto him in hopes that having the league's tallest frontcourt will be enough to put them over the top.

Projected record: 60-22, 1st in the Western Conference

For more from this Bleacher Report writer, click here.

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: September 27, 2008


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