Pacific Division Preview
There are three teams heading into the 2008-09 NBA season which are expected to rely on twin towers type lineups featuring two 6’11”+ center-type players: the Los Angeles Lakers, the Los Angeles Clippers and the Phoenix Suns.
The once fleet footed Pacific division floors of the Smush Parker Lakers and the Pat Burke Suns have become the foreboding home of the tattooed bicep of Shaquille O’Neal and the albatross arms of Andrew Bynum, the long blonde locks of all-star snubbed Viking Chris Kaman, the sinewy snarl of former defensive player of the year Marcus Camby, the birdman and otherwise flutterer Pau Gasol and the game’s beastiest interior scorer Amare Stoudemire. Not to mention, a 22 year old 7 foot leftie on Golden State that just led the league in Field Goal percentage.
And Kobe Bryant.
The Pacific Division is the land of monsters in the NBA.
Here’s what we’re looking at:
Los Angeles Lakers
Last Season: 57 – 25, lost NBA Finals 4 -2 to Boston Celtics
Most Las Vegas odds makers are installing the Los Angeles Lakers as the pre-season favorite to win the NBA championship. As much as that is a result of Vegas’ relative proximity to the high stakes bettors of LA, the Lakers do look primed for a serious run at the title. They will continue to operate through Tex Winters’ triangle offense (remaining the only team in the league to employ the famed three post offense) looking to integrate7 footers Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol into the same lineup. If the progress Bynum displayed prior to last year’s massive knee injury proves lasting and the rest of Mr. Jeannie Buss’s squad picks up where they left off, then look for the Lakers to figure prominently into the postseason picture.
- Kobe Bryant: Generally considered to be either the best or second best player in the league, Kobe Bean Bryant is still the most polarizing figure in basketball. The defending MVP will hope to grow on his fourth quarter heroics in the Gold Medal Game against Spain for a fourth NBA title. In the always burning ire of Kobe gossip, with Bryant able to opt out of his $137 million deal and the US economy’s nosedive likely to foretell big-time inflation in the dollar, the whispers are beginning to surface that the Italian raised MVP may be headed overseas in the very near future for a monumental foreign currency David Beckham deal.
FANTASY ADVICE: With Bynum’s return and Kobe set to breach the big 3 – 0, look for Kobe’s numbers to continue to drop. He is not the second best fantasy basketball player and a smart fantasy owner will prey on the inevitable Kobe worshipper in every fantasy basketball league by trading #24 for a whole lot more than he’s worth.
- Pau Gasol: The “master of the weenie shot” stopped shaving and started banging for boards… in the Olympics… for Spain. The man most bearing resemblance to a giant hawk alive today looks to mesh even more with the Lakers and their unique offensive system with a whole training camp in LA. Gasol’s much ballyhooed basketball IQ will continue to provide him success in the intricacies of the triangle. Did you know Pau is only 28 years old?
FANTASY ADVICE: Pau’s scoring average is likely to go down to around 16 ppg but his high FG % and assist numbers make him a valuable option at the C slot, particularly if you’ve already got a lot of rebounds in your guards and forwards.
- Lamar “The Conundrum” Odom: Lamar is amongst the most gifted physical specimens in the league. At a lanky 6’10, he’s a big forward, occasionally possessed with the dribbling abilities of a PG, not to mention the guy is left-handed and able to get up and down the court faster than most SGs. But “The Conundrum” is as streaky as any player not named Josh Smith in the league, evaporating into long stretches of defenselessness, turnovers and missed layups as often as snatching a rebound and going coast to coast with it. With Trevor Ariza up and coming, and Lamar’s $14 million expiring contract glittering in the wind, look for Odom’s role to diminish this year and perhaps even a midseason trade.
FANTASY ADVICE: Steer clear of Odom, his outlook is murky on the stacked Lakers squad. He’s been fine for 14 and 10 in the past but the “odd man out” writing is all over the walls.
- Andrew Bynum: The Lakers have effectively had two lottery picks since selecting Eddie Jones with the 10th pick in 1994, Andrew Bynum and Kobe Bryant. Bynum’s length and athleticism have made him a favorite for Lakers teammates in alley-oops and lobs while his defensive ferocity and tenacity on the boards had him averaging 2.6 blocks and 12.7 rebounds per 36 minutes played last season. But it is this which above all else adds credibility to the oodles of hype surrounding the kid-not-traded-Kidd, his personal mentor and coach is none other than Lou Alcindor, Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Lakers fans have been preparing for the first Bynum skyhook like a faithful Mormon for his wedding night.
FANTASY ADVICE: Ahh, Bynum’s numbers. Well, some have him as the Lakers second leading scorer, leading rebounder and blocker which would put him in the 18ppg 12rpg 3bpg neighborhood. But how wise is it to bank on a young C fitting in with a championship caliber team coming off of a knee surgery? Amare Stoudemire didn’t do half bad… Bynum’s a crapshoot this year. At most, he could be worth a pick in the second or third round of the right league.
- The Rest of the Lakers: The Lakers are both very young (average age of 25) and very experienced (80% of the team has been tenured for 2 or more seasons) with ole reliable at PG in Derek Fisher and the offensive sparks/ defensive pests of Jordan Farmar and recently signed Sasha Vujacic coming off the bench. Finally healthy swingman Trevor Ariza is seeking to round out his excellent defensive and finishing abilities with a jumpshot and earn a spot in the starting rotation. Luke Walton plays Boris Diaw for the Lakers (both as part-time scapegoat, part-time do-everything post-player off of the bench) Chris Mihm hopes to return to pre-ankle apocalypse form and 13 foot tall PG Sun Yue (he’s actually 6’9) will live on the end of the bench and in the D-League where the Lakers will look to develop the Chinese product into a possible PG of the future. And if you ever see Coby Karl in the game, the Lakers have already won.
Over-looked but potentially huge:
Infinitely overlooked by the casual fan, the Lakers are one of the League leaders in inter-state over-night travel for this coming year; that means that 13 times they will finish one game in one state, hop on a plane and play another game the very next night in a different state. In a crowded western conference, a sub .500 record in those 13 games could be the difference between home court advantage and a 3 seed.
Last season 55-27 lost 1st round series 4 – 1 to SA Spurs
The Suns will be the only team in the league to start 2 former MVPs next season in Shaquille O’Neal and Steve Nash. Basketball guru/ maligned bigwig Steve Kerr expunged the seven second or less system of Mike D’Antoni opting for first time head coach Terry Porter to usher the Suns to the Promised Land. Amare Stoudemire has been inspired to aspire to true greatness by the appearance of Kazaam Himself and was even spotted playing defense last season. Despite the loss of Shawn Marion, Porter’s squad looks to shore up defensively and start gritting out some tough victories again the big boys of the West.
- Amare Stoudemire: Amare Stoudemire is the best interior scorer in the NBA, and more so than ever before, this is his team. His absurd ability to finish anything within 12 feet of the hoop has inflated Steve Nash’s gaudy statistics all by itself and both his 80.5% FT shooting (he started at 66% as a rookie) and successful rehab from an often career-ending knee injury speak to a strong commitment to working hard. If Amare can shore up his positional defense and focus on the boards, the 25 year old may just lead the Suns to a surprise assault on the West.
FANTASY ADVICE: Amare is a stud. He’ll put up the best scoring numbers of all big men in the NBA, decent rebounds, blocks and won’t pick up a ton of TOs because Nash does all the handling of the ball. Amare is almost certainly a top 5 pick especially with his F/C eligibility.
- Steve Nash: 9 players have won back to back MVPs in NBA history: Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Moses Malone, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan and Steve Nash. Under D’Antoni’s reign there were two Suns team; those with Steve Nash on the floor and those that had no chance to win. But at 34 years old, back problems have continued to saddle the former MVP and look to exact more and more punishment upon the mop-headed one. If he is able to keep his form over the course of the grueling 82 game season on into the playoffs, then the new-look Suns may just vindicate their much scrutinized architect, Kerr. This will be a very telling season for Nash who has stated that he wants to play 4 more years.
FANTASY ADVICE: Nash is as efficient a scoring PG in history, the famed 50% 40% 90% line (50% FG %, 40% 3 pt % and 90% FT) is as impressive as it is unique. But with Suns set to slow down under Porter, time may have caught up with Nash. Probably best not to spend a top 30 pick on Nash.
- Shaquille O’Neal: Platinum selling recording artist (seriously, 1993’s Shaq Diesel went platinum) the ton of fun known as Shaquille O’Neal is winding down his historic career. Even at this diminished stage in the Big Fella’s (d)evolution, after being traded for at the expense of all-star Shawn Marion and at a price tag of more than $20 million per season, Shaquille O’Neal still brings championship expectations with him. The question is, have his 36 years of seasonal fitness robbed the basketball community of the twilight of the 4-time champion’s career? While this has nothing to do with the Suns, did you know that Shaquille O’Neal still holds the record for most blocks in one NCAA division 1A game with 17? Fun fact #2192
FANTASY ADVICE: Shaq’s going to be the butt of a lot of jokes from NBA fans who still see the 2001 Shaq but that does not mean that this Shaqtus is without fantasy value, particularly in the second half of the season. The single most underrated aspect of Shaq’s game is his ability to pass; towards the end of Wilt Chamberlain’s career, the scoring legend actually led the league in total assists. I think Shaq may be looking at 5 assists per game this year, in addition to 12 ppg and 8 rpg. Maybe not worth more than a backup C role, but still viable numbers for the right team. In fantasy basketball, assists out of your center are like steals out of your catcher – if you can manage your personnel right, Shaq’s not a dreadful option.
- Grant Hill: What does Grant Hill have left? After a strong first half of last season, Hill faded post all-star break. The crucible of injuries has left its mark on the athleticism of the onetime heir apparent to MJ, but his ball skills are still as strong as they ever were. With the interior as clogged as its going to be for a team sporting Amare and Shaq, Hill will become an even more integral link in the Suns successes as the primary perimeter/wing scorer. His defense will also be at a premium as the Suns expect to run a lot of zone defense with their twin towers (partly accounting for Nash’s renowned matador defensive “style.”)
FANTASY ADVICE: Grant Hill is an intangibles guy at this point in his career as much as anything. He’ll put up 12, 14 ppg and 5 or 6 rebounds, maybe worth a late pick in some deeper keeper leagues or even as a utility option if he’s got forward/guard eligibility, but certainly not as your team’s number one or two guard or forward.
- The Rest of the Suns: For the past few years, the Suns have taken more shots than a heroin addict. This meant that each and every one of their players was primarily competent at putting the ball in the hoop – not so any longer. While defensive enforcer Raja Bell’s nifty 44% 3 pt% has dropped 4 points over the past few seasons, he’s still a good shooter and his real role with the Suns is company pit-bull as one of the premier perimeter defenders in the league. He’s backed up by Matt “The Hieroglyphic” Barnes, a solid journeyman who has one tattoo for every dollar he’s earned in the NBA. Boris Diaw costs a lot of money now (more than $9 million per) so fans are praying to see the more assertive second team captain type Diaw of 2 seasons ago. If the still young Diaw (26) is able to fill out his now bloated contract especially early in the season, then the older Suns war horses will be able to rest up for a potential playoff run. Brazilian blur Leandro Barbosa and whizz kid Goran Dragic round out the 9 Suns likely to see playing time early on the season. The key player here is Diaw, if he can be the player that the Suns thought he was going to be 2 seasons ago, then the Suns can hang in there with anybody.
Over-looked but potentially huge:
Grant Hill and Raja Bell’s roles on this team are vital. Not only is the majority of perimeter defense going to fall on their shoulders, if they can keep defenses honest with efficient perimeter scoring of their own then life will be much easier for Amare and Shaq. Shaq is going to be the media’s darling, Nash is going to be the analysts’ darling and Amare is going to be the fantasy darling, but if the Suns hope to pull it off, Hill and Bell are going to have to be Couch Porter’s darlings.
Los Angeles Clippers
Last season 23 and 59
Has there ever been a greater example of a little sister franchise than the Los Angeles Clippers? They are the anti-Lakers, their unparalleled record of continued futility is only further parodied by their sharing of the Staples Center. But this year, this very year, the Clippers seem to have righted the ship: after luring former UCLA star Baron Davis away from Golden State, the Clippers pilfered Marcus Camby from the Nuggets for a double cheeseburger. Factor in German Olympic star Chris Kaman and rising star Al Thornton and you’ve got yourselves quite a team… in NBA 2K9. OK OK, they lost Elton Brand to Philadelphia, but really, they’d lost Elton Brand two seasons ago. The bigger loss may have been to Golden State in the form of Corey Maggette. While longtime lord of the Clippers rubble kingdom, Elgin Baylor has ceased his duties as GM to be replaced at least in the interim by coach Mike Dunleavy, you can’t help but to feel just the slightest bit reticent in making the Clippers playoffs contenders. At some point, you can’t overcome wretched ownership. Just before beginning Olympic play in Beijing, star Clippers center Chris Kaman expressed outright indignation at the Clippers management over their reactions to his desire to play for Germany which according to Kaman included “outright lying.” There’s a reason beyond the players and the coaches as to why the Clippers have been so bad for so long. Donald Sterling sucks.
- Baron Davis: Baron Davis is a dominant offensive force, he can both dominate the opposing team and dominate the ball on offense, strangling his own. The remaining baker’s dozen of Clippers fans in the world hope that the very emotional Davis will be calmed by his return to his home town and settle into the role of balanced superstar spearheading but not suffocating an offense. It could be interesting to see the effect of sharing a home court with Kobe Bryant on Baron, who may just try and mark some territory of his own. Then there’s that nagging question… can Baron stay healthy for an entire season again?
FANTASY ADVICE: Baron Davis will get his. He’ll get 22+ ppg and 8+ apg with success in steals and rebounds to boot. But he will also be a TO trough and his FG% numbers stink and are likely to get stinkier. And he’s an injury risk… dangerous pick, Baron Davis.
- Chris Kaman: Chris Kaman is a big ole rough and tumble banger. Left-handed and possessed of an unheralded shooting touch around the hoop, Kaman is one of the last true lowpost centers left in professional basketball. His growth over the past two seasons coincided fortuitously for the Clippers with the injuries to Elton Brand, who were then in a position to absorb the loss of their onetime superstar. Kaman was displeased over the way he was treated by the Clippers concerning his Olympic endeavors, and my guess is that he’s going to revert a bit because of it. Not only is there a new kid in town who will be cutting down on Kaman’s touches, but Kaman is already deflated headed into camp. Not good.
FANTASY ADVICE: In the past, Kaman has been the most over-looked player in the NBA putting up 16 13 and 3 blocks last year. My guess is that this is the season that everyone recognizes that he’s been underrated and draft him way too high for an upcoming year which in all likelihood will be closer to 14 ppg 10 rpg 2 bpg.
- Al Thornton: Al Thornton was one of the breakout rookies from last season, averaging 16 ppg and 6 rpg after the all-star break predominantly as a starter. His game often draws comparisons to Dominique Wilkins and the support group that is Clippers nation sees limitless potential in the 14th pick of the 2007 draft. If he fits in with Baron and continues his growth, the Clippers stand a chance of working their way into a crowded playoff scene in the West.
FANTASY ADVICE: I have a wait and see attitude with Thornton. Normally, I would sit on a guy like Al and heist him in the seventh or eighth round as he’s got nowhere to go but up after that rookie campaign. But I’m not sold on how Baron gets the ball flowing in this offense. I say hold off, watch a game or two and if Al seems to be getting the ball in good positions to score, go ahead and pull the trigger. Otherwise, don’t waste your time waiting for a bad gamble to pay off.
- Marcus Camby: Former defensive player of the year, Marcus Camby’s mysterious trade to the Clippers is still difficult to understand. Was Marcus Camby actually traded for nothing? Regardless, the celebrated anchor of the vaunted Denver Nuggets Defense has come riding into LA as a major piece of the 08-09 Clippers. If Camby can co-exist with Kaman, the Clippers will jog out one of the more intimidating defensive frontlines in the NBA.
FANTASY ADVICE: I still don’t get how the Defensive Player of the Year could ever come from a bad defensive team, but that doesn’t mean that I think Camby is a bad defender. I don’t, I just don’t think he’s a top 5 defender. He’s likely to split boards with Kaman and become a wallflower on offense. He may pick up a good amount of blocks. I wouldn’t touch Camby unless I was pretty desperate for defensive stats.
- The rest of the Clippers: The Clippers are a very talented, very deep squad. Ricky Davis and Cuttino Mobley are two scorers capable of putting up 30 points on any given night (although how can you ever forget Ricky Davis’s throwing of the ball off of his own backboard against the Jazz in an unsuccessful effort to garner his first career triple double? Not only was it a classless act, it was stupid – you can’t get credited for a rebound off of your own backboard.) Paul Davis is a fundamentally sound big guy out of Izzo’s Michigan St and can play a great 3rd fiddle to Camby and Kaman. Tim Thomas and Brian Skinner add more size and experience to a rather impressive frontline for the Clips. Finally, Indiana sensation Eric Gordon who was at one point projected to be a lock top 3 pick trickled down to 7 and the Clippers feel that they may have a superstar for the future. Gordon could be a huge star, but he’ll fight for touches in a crowded Clippers staff.
Over-looked but potentially huge:
The Clippers lost their leading scorer of last year, an extremely efficient Maggette (who averages 1.55 points per shot attempt) for a not so efficient number 1 (Baron averages 1.16 points per shot attempt,) spat in the face of their star big man and dumped their general manager. Yes, they drafted Eric Gordon, yes, having Tim Thomas, Ricky Davis and Brian Skinner coming off of your bench is nice. But with a gauntlet for an early schedule (first 10 games in order, the Lakers, Denver, Utah, Utah, Lakers, Houston, Dallas, Sacramento, Golden State and San Antonio) and the requisite quantity of player ill-will against Clippers ownership, don’t get your hopes too high.
Last season: 38 and 44
When was the last time you can remember hearing that a team dumped its two top players, picked up little to nothing in return and are excited about the future? With a basically .500 post all-star record last season, this is the 2008-09 Sacramento Kings, now Bibby and Artest free. These Kings are for the most part, young and agile spearheaded by phenoms Beno Udrih and Kevin Martin. While just about no one is picking them to make any sort of a playoff push, these Kings do field an interesting lineup and in a couple of years, look to be winning some games.
- Kevin Martin: Kevin Martin is an excellent basketball player. The 25 year old has spent the last few seasons scrounging for touches underneath the weight of Ron Artest and Mike Bibby, but still managed to average more than 20 ppg twice. This year, Martin looks to lead this team from pre-season to finish and while I seriously doubt you’ll see them in the playoffs, the Kings may end up being the team that no one in a playoff hunt wants to face in April.
FANTASY ADVICE: Kevin Martin is as underrated as they come in fantasy basketball. He’s a work ethic guy, having fought for his spot on teams, he’s still young and the personnel mush of the 07-08 Kings has been solved so his scoring numbers are likely to go up. If the Kobe fanatic in your league has Martin and you’ve got Kobe, go after Martin + his second best player and laugh as Martin averages 2 or 3 points per game less than Kobe this year.
- Brad Miller: Brad Miller is the definition of a wily old veteran. The scrappy center can hit a jump shot, find the open man and slap the ball out of a careless big man’s hands. His knees and back are getting stiff and he’s not quite the player he once was, but he’s able to get the most out of what he’s got. There are better centers in the league, but Brad Miller’s experience alone makes him a qualified candidate for the young Sacramento Kings.
FANTASY ADVICE: Brad Miller is a smart 7 foot starter so he’s bound to pick up some value. Don’t get me wrong, this is no cornerstone of victory but he’s got his use. Yet another good passing center, Miller’s greatest asset is in his assist numbers. If you’re starting Brad Miller at Center, then you’re not necessarily screwed but you should have some red meat at the guard and forward positions.
- Beno Udrih: Promptly after trading their one-time stud PG Mike Bibby to Atlanta, the Kings signed Slovenian 6’3” Beno Udrih to a longterm deal. The 26 year old has begun to build on the promise he has shown in 4 years as Bibby’s backup, averaging 15 ppg on 50% shooting post all-star break last season to go along with 5+ assists per. He’s still got a long ways to go to fill Bibby’s footprint and lead the Kings back into relevance, but with only his first season as the fulltime starter ahead, look for Udrih to make some progress this season
FANTASY ADVICE: My guess is that unless you’re in a league with fantasy junkies, Beno Udrih isn’t even on any one’s radar. Which is good, Beno could very well be in the 18 ppg 6 apg 4 rpg on 50% FG and 85% FT range this season.
- John Salmons: 27 year old John Salmons was another decently talented guard/forward adrift in the roster-o-rama of the 07 Kings. He figures to still be in somewhat of a fight for PT with Francisco Garcia, but Salmons will start the season as the Kings starting SF.
FANTASY ADVICE: Salmons may or may not end up a fulltime starter, he will definitely never be anything more than a 3rd or 4th option behind Udrih, Martin and even Miller at times. You’d be lucky to get 14 ppg and 5 rpg.
- The rest of the Kings: The Kings have got a lot of holes and are still in the process of patching a real lineup together. Pogo stick Mikki More figures to start at the 4 and after him you’re looking at Shelden Williams and Kenny Thomas – not a point of strength on the depth chart. Sacramento faithful are thrilled to have jitterbug Bobby Jackson back in the fold, although his game impact is not what it once was. 20 year old 7 footer Spencer Hawes is big and young and working under a smart veteran in Miller, so there could be a future there too. The Kings are looking to leave this season with 5 - 7 solid parts for the next 3 years and if they can snare a bigger FA along the way, they’ll take it.
Over-looked but potentially huge
With Brad Miller set to miss the first 5 games due to suspension, look for Kings project, Spencer Hawes to get a lot of playing time early in the season. If the Washington Center can start to live up to his lottery pick status, expect to see the Kings carve out a more sizeable role for Hawes than last year’s 13 minutes per game.
Golden State Warriors
Last season 48 and 34 but did not make playoffs
The Golden State Warriors are hurting. After parting ways with the longtime face of its franchise in Baron Davis, Don Nelson’s ragtag gang picked up dueling LA players, Ronny Turiaf and Corey Maggette and made a $66 million commitment to their superstar PG of the future, Monta Ellis. Then said superstar PG of the future hopped on a moped, hurt himself, lied to the organization. Said lied to organization found out, proceeded to publically tar and feather Ellis, applying a 30 game “I told you so” suspension and $2.7 million fine to the same said superstar they want to lead their team for the foreseeable future. Let’s see, part ways with superstar, check, take two LA players, check, estrange new superstar for idiot mistake, check, sign 153 year old Don Nelson to 3 year extension…?
- Monta Ellis: 23 year old human cannonball Monta Ellis came in with little fanfare to the Golden State system as the 40th pick in the 2005 Draft. But the 6’3” 175 pound Ellis exploded over the past two seasons, climbing to 20 ppg on 53% shooting last season and earning himself a 6 year $66 million deal. The Henry James novel was unfolding and young under-sized scrappy Monta had finally found a home – and now we’re here. Golden State without a star PG named Baron or Monta for its first 30 games in a hyper competitive West, and Monta with a $63.3 million deal. This was not the way to start the post-Baron era.
FANTASY ADVICE: Monta is injured for the first 30 games and is then going to have to get up to game speed which could take another 20 games. He performed excellently post all-star break last season, maybe it’s best to try and snipe Monta in late season trade when his value will be low.
- Corey Maggette: 29 year old Corey Maggette is playing as well as ever, averaging 22 ppg with nearly 6 rpg and 3 apg just last season… in 70 games played. Maggette has never played in more than 75 games in a season averaging 65 played per season for his whole career. Golden State sunk a lot of money into Maggette who has never played in an up and down offense like Nelly’s before.
FANTASY ADVICE: Maggette is a savvy early season option for Fantasy owners. With Monta out, Maggette will probably carry much of the load in the first 40 games for the Warriors. Pick Maggette with confidence, ride him early then trade him when his value is high.
- Andris Biedrins: 22 year old Latvian southpaw, Biedrins flew under the radar last year as a part-time big man for a guard heavy offense. But in less than 28 minutes played per game, Biedrins averaged a double-double and managed to lead the league in FG% With Baron gone and Biedrins entering his fourth season in the league, this looks to be a breakout campaign for Biedrins
FANTASY ADVICE: I like Biedrins. Naysayers will hold that the addition of Ronny Turiaf foretells a lessening in Biedrins. Ha! Anyone who thinks that Ronny “The Roar” Turiaf is a starting center on a contender is nuts – he’s an excellent backup PF and energy guy, but he’s no starting center in a Cedar forest conference. I think Biedrins gets more touches and goes for 14 ppg 12 rpg on 60 FG%
- Stephen Jackson: Oh yeah, that guy. Stephen Jackson, always the bridesmaid never the bride. The combustible guard/forward has been known as Artest’s sidekick in the Brawl then Baron’s sidekick in Golden State and now he’s likely to be Monta’s sidekick. Though his 40% FG is atrocious, that’s Nelly ball – shoot shoot shoot. Jackson still averaged 20 ppg last season and will have a similar role this year.
FANTASY ADVICE: Stephen Jackson is another under the radar fantasy guy. Again, his FG% will assassinate you in rotisserie leagues, but his 20 ppg 4 rpg 4 apg line spells out a pretty good option for most fantasy owners.
- The Rest of Golden State: Golden State has some talent. Al Harrington is an eminently capable player but prone to infuriating periods of boneheaded shots and unfocused play. Turiaf looks to add a bit more toughness to a frontline hoping to contend in the Pacific. Kelenna Azubuike will hold down the fort behind Maggette at the 3 as the 25 year old London native looks to find more playing time (he’s average nearly 15 points per 36 minutes played in his 2 year career.) And at 19 years old, very long 6’11” F out of LSU, Anthony Randolph isn’t likely to see much time on the floor for Golden State this season, but with quite a set of physical gifts, Randolph may round into something special in the next few seasons.
Over-looked but potentially huge:
If Monta Ellis misses precisely 30 games then that would have him returning on December 26 for a home game against the world champion Boston Celtics (following the Celtics Christmas Day extravaganza against the Lakers.) The first 30 games that the Warriors are scheduled to play are by and large on the road (19 on the road) and on the competitive side as well (while only 15 games are against playoff teams from last season, they’ve also got games against the Clippers, the Heat and Portland who all figure to be much improved.) And with the first game of the season against New Orleans and the next 3 on the road, the very talented Warrior squad may not get their heads above .500 until late in the season.
That's what we're looking at in the Pacific for the start of the 2008-09 season