The Pacific may be as deep a division as there is in the NBA this season, with more storylines than Los Angeles has stripmalls. Well, maybe not that many, but there are plenty. So for the past few weeks some very good bloggers of teams in the division â€” Tom from Sactown Royalty, Kevin from Clipperblog, Lucas from The Rising Suns, Justin from Golden State of Mind and myself â€” emailed each other in a lively discussion of the Pacific teams and players. The first two parts are already up, here’s the next part:
Tom: Let’s talk about the major subtractions Pacific teams saw
this offseason. Bonzi Wells is clearly the big name here, though the
Clippers and Suns both lost rotation players as well. How much will
Bonzi’s exit hurt the Kings?
Lucas: Yes obviously Bonzi was the biggest subtraction, but it
is yet to be determined how big. Meaning, will it really effect
Sacramento or will they fare just fine without him? Will Bonzi keep
playing intense ball since he is still going to have to play for a
contract? It seems to me that guys like this would do better to always
be playing for a contract. Maybe if they paid per game he would play
his heart out.
Another less large subtraction that hit me was the loss of Eddie
House. Eddie won at least 5 games for us single-handedly last season
due to his ability to catch fire when the team was in dire straights.
Eddie had amazing form and execution to his jumper but he was not
always the smartest player. In the beginning of the season he played
within the team’s strategy and hoisted up good shots and made lots of
them. Towards the end of the season he was rushing every shot off the
bench and couldn’t buy a bucket. He was a liability defensively,
couldn’t play the point, but his awesome shooting kept him in the
rotation. When he began rushing everything, and missing, he lost his
spot in the rotation. He is now on New Jersey and just had knee
surgury. I would think that is a good fit for him playing with Jason
Kidd because Kidd can guard bigger two’s and create for Eddie who can
shoot with the best.
Kurt: I think we may overrate how much Bonzi meant to
Sacramento based on the playoffs â€” not that they don’t matter but
you’re talking about six games with specific matchups that may have
favored him versus the 52 games he played in the regular season where
he had less of an impact. Look at it this way, he averaged 13.6 ppg
during the regular season then 23,2 in the playoffs. What I’m driving
at is that a full season of Artest and the continued growth of Kevin
Martin may more than make up for the loss.
And while we’re talking silver linings, the loss of House can only
help Phoenix’s defense.
Tom: Kurt is right about Bonzi’s overblown departure, to a
degree. The first half of the season, Bonzi was arguably the team’s
best player. Of course, the team was eight games under .500… I
digress. Bonzi is essentially Artest-lite, only he’s a worse shooter,
worse ball-handler, worse distributor, worse defender and better
rebounder. Kevin Martin fits this starting lineup much better.
House seems to get ignored in the bigger scheme of all things Phoenix.
But he has not been replaced on that roster – no one but Leandro
Barbosa on that team can gun like House could off the bench. And
Barbosa was on the team last year, so it’s a net loss in bench
shooting. That puts some pressure on guys like James Jones and Jumaine
Jones, I think.
Yeah I suspected Bonzi wasn’t as good as the hype.
I did have him on my fantasy team and he was inconsistant but even
from the start of the season when the Kings were underachieving I was
just waiting for them to snap out of it and play like I knew they
could. I also think Shareef was a bit under-utilized.
Lucas: The thing about House and his shooting is that more
often than not it was a detriment to the team. Sure he had probably 5
amazing quarters in the season where he was really hot and brought the
team back to win but the majority of the time he played ole defense
and chucked up poorly timed and awkward shots that really hurt the
team. The shooters that we currently have will take better shots than
Eddie and do much more overall than he did. Steve, Raja, Leandro,
James Jones, Jumaine Jones, and Piatkowski are all good shooters and
more than fill the void of Eddie.
Kevin: Maybe I’m crazy, but I think the reports of Sacramento’s
demise are greatly exaggerated. I keep reading that Bonzi-to-Salmons
is a real dropoff, but why isn’t anyone considering Kevin Martin in
the equation? Perhaps I’m biased because every time the Clips played
Sacramento, the Kings handed our heads to us and Martin was always a
key ingredient. But I thought allowing Bonzi to walk was a smart
decision from the outset, and not just as a “rebuilding” maneuver, but
because it was the right move. Is Miller aging, yeah, but he’s still
formidable. And with Artest and Thomas, you don’t need all that from
Miller defensively. He’s in better physical shape this season, at
least that’s what I’ve read.
Tom: Let’s talk about the future a bit. Which team is set up
best right now for long-term success? The Lakers, with a few more
years of Kobe and soon meaningful minutes from Andrew Bynum? The
Clippers and Shaun Livingston? Amare and Diaw in Phoenix?
Lucas: As for long term success I think Phoenix wins out on
this one. Bynum and Livingston have yet to prove themselves and I
think the Suns young players, Amare, Diaw, and Barbosa have more than
proven themselves. Amare did his thing in 04-05 but how good he
returns is still debateable. I think he will be fine in the long run.
Diaw and Barbosa had breakout years last season with Boris racking up
multiple triple doubles and stepping up his game in the playoffs,
averaging 25ppg 9rpg against Dallas in the Conference Finals. Leandro
stepped up his game as well and killed the Lakers and Clippers with
his quickness in the playoffs. Combine these three with a few more
years of Shawn Marion and this team is stacked.
Aside from Phoenix I would say the Clips are the next best off for the
long term. I think Shaun Livingston will be an extremely good point
guard but he has yet to prove himself. I think this season will be his
breakout year. The Clips also have Brand and will probably lock up
Kaman so with these three they should be dangerous for years to come.
As long as they get Donald Sterling to continue to spend money.
Kurt: Yes Amare and the core of Phoenix is young â€” except for
some guy named Nash. I think that is the big long-term question for
the Suns, who can step in when Nash isn’t there to run an offense
built largely on a smart point guard finding and exploiting mismatches
and running the floor. Can Banks really become that guy? Barbosa?
They’ve got the F1 car, the question is can they find another driver
as good as Schumacher/Nash. Fortunately, they have a couple years to
shop around for that guy while still being title contenders.
I think both the Lakers and Clippers have long-term potential but need
a couple pieces down the road as well. I’m a big Livingston fan, if he
can stay healthy. If not this year, in a year or two he should be a
force. As for the Lakers, Bynum shows flashes but the guy everyone may
be sleeping on is Jordan Farmar. He is showing the classic point guard
skills, he is pushing the ball and showing he is great in the open
court. He could be a big impact the the Lakers â€” a solid starting
point guards is invaluable in a perimeter league â€” in a few years.
Tom: So, is it unanimous then that the Warriors and Kings are
kind of trapped with what they have? The Kings did their best to prop
that contending window open – and it could still stay open through
next year. But Bibby could leave after this season, Miller has hit age
30, Shareef Abdur-Rahim is signed through age 34, and among the
youngsters, only Kevin Martin has shown the ability thus far to break
out. Ron Artest is signed through the end of 2007-08. There is nothing
in the pipeline (unless you’re a big believer in Ronnie Price or you
think Francisco Garcia can be a starting point guard). Geoff Petrie
has to work some magic for this team to survive long-term without
first hitting bottom.
As for the Warriors – Monta Ellis and Mickael Pietrus are exciting,
and Jason Richardson should be an All-Star. But there are too many
really bad contracts there.
Kurt: I think it’s just harder to tell where Sacramento and
Golden State will be in five years. The Kings have some young talent,
but key cogs (Bibby, Miller) will be on the downside if not gone
outright. A couple of smart moves and they could still be a threat. As
for Golden State, by bringing in Don Nelson they have essentially
changed what kind of team they want to be. Going small and fast could
be good, again there is some young talent, but they have to start
drafting/signing to the the system, then stick with the system for
more than two years.