West Side Connection
Much to the chagrin of the East Coast, the Western Conference of the NBA is home to the most dominant and exciting teams in the league. But after a rash of recent trades the Western Conference has taken on a new look. When basketball historians look back they may very well mark the 2007-08 season as a turning point where the dominant teams of the last decade began to fade and the new crop of Western Conference dominant teams began to emerge.
It is a given that the Blazers’ future looks bright and with a little luck and the right moves are poised to stand as a major player in the Western Conference in the upcoming years. But what other teams stand ready to rise to the top of the Western Conference in the near future? A quick survey of the Western Conference lends some interesting clues to the haves and have-nots of the future.
The Old War Horses
San Antonio Spurs: The Spurs always have and always will be Tim Duncan’s team. As long as Duncan is healthy they have a chance. But Duncan is not getting any younger and although he is still one of the most dominant players in the game he is not what he used to be. Although Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker are young, without Duncan they are just a second rate Euro league team that whines a lot. The Spurs are still very dangerous; maybe the most in the West but their days are numbered.
Phoenix Suns: Always the bridesmaid never the bride, the Suns went for broke this season when they mortgaged their future on Shaq. Nash and Shaq are old and have a window of two seasons to make something happen before the wheels come off. Leandro Barbosa and Amare Stoudemire are young talents but Barbosa is unproven as a starter and Stoudemire is always a health risk. The Suns will have to significantly retool if they hope to be more than average in five years.
Dallas Mavericks: Mark Cuban wants to win so he went out and got himself a savvy veteran in Jason Kidd, an old guy who likes to rack up assists and beat his wife. Dirk Nowitzki is a great player but his supporting cast is miserable. Devin Harris was a player of the future but he is gone in the Kidd deal. You can never underestimate Cuban’s willingness to spend to get good players, but five years from now Dirk may be this generation’s Alex English, a big man who can score, plays no defense and is on a losing team.
Should Be Good But For Some Reason Won’t Be
Denver Nuggets: Watching the Nuggets is like seeing Armando Benitez coming in to close a game: you know he is a gas can waiting to blow up and ruin everything, you just don’t know when the match will be lit. Allen Iverson is one tough player but does not have much tread left on the tire. Carmelo Anthony is the most over-rated player in basketball and an ego maniac who holds little promise to ever be a leader of a winning team. About the best thing going for the Nuggets is the home court advantage of the Pepsi Center with the mile high altitude.
Golden State Warriors: This team is a Don Nelson retirement away from being one of the worst teams in the league. Enough said.
Houston Rockets: Tracy McGrady plays no defense and scores a lot of points but is always hurt. Yao Ming will be the best big man in the NBA for about the 5 minutes it takes Greg Oden and Andrew Bynum to come into their own. That leaves Houston being about what they are now: a team who will be fighting for the seven and eight seat every year.
We Suck, For The Most Part Always Have, And Don’t Look To Be Getting Good Any Time Soon
Seattle Super Sonics: Until they figure out what city they will be in, get a coach who knows what the hell he is doing and get some players around Kevin Durant, the only thing you can count on the Sonics for is getting lottery picks.
Minnesota Timber Wolves: They had to make the Kevin Garnett trade, too bad they could not have gotten some better talent in return. Al Jefferson is the West’s new Zach Randolph. But hell, maybe Sebastian Telfair will become an All-Star and Jenna Jameson will become a virgin.
Memphis Grizzles: They blew the team up. They will be rebuilding for quite awhile, like 10 years. I don’t even think the Logo can help them anytime soon.
Sacramento Kings: They want a new stadium and won’t get one on the tax payers dime. So Ace and Gary Maloof want to move the team to Las Vegas. To ensure the team moves the Maloofs will keep the Kings at a sub .500 record until they get the hell out of Sacramento; which, by the way, is pretty much the worst city in the United States behind Gary, Indiana.
New Orleans Hornets: I can hear it now, “What the hell are you talking about? They have the best team in the West, how can they suck?” One answer: Chris Paul – as in Chris Paul IS NOT STAYING IN NEW ORLEANS. It is fair to say that whatever team gets Chris Paul becomes an instant contender for an NBA title that is how good he is. Too bad for Hornets fans, that won’t be them. No Paul, no wins.
Los Angles Clippers: They are the Clippers. Donald Sterling is their owner. No more needs to be said.
Future So Bright They Have To Wear Shades
Utah Jazz: Somehow, someway, the Jazz just seem to reload rather than rebuild. The Kyle Korver trade was genius and added the one piece this team was missing. Mehmet Okur, Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams are all young, good and entering into their prime. There is no reason to suspect Williams will want to leave Utah as a free agent. With a great supporting case in Korver, Ronnie Brewer , Jarron Collins and Matt Harping, the Jazz look to be a major player in the years to come. They just might need to get a new coach if they ever want to win a championship.
Los Angles Lakers: Although it is a known fact that God is a Blazers’ fan and the devil wears purple and gold, the boys from LA are good and only getting better. In no less than one year they went from a so-so team to one of the best in the West and a legitimate contender. Kobe Bryant is the best player in the NBA and he shows no signs of slowing down. To the surprise of everyone, Andrew Bynum is good and stands to have many momentous battles with Greg Oden to establish who the best big man in the West is. Throw in the strong to very strong play of Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom and deep bench of Luke Walton, Ronnie Turiaf, Jordan Farmar and Vladmir Radmanovic, and the Lake-show looks golden. Oh wait, I think I just threw up in my mouth.
There you have it, the Western Conference as we see it. What do you think?