2016-17 NBA Preview: Pacific Division

1. Golden State Warriors –

Projected Starting 5: PG Stephen Curry SG Klay Thompson SF Kevin Durant PF Draymon Green C Zaza Pachulia

Projected Record: 73-9

Last Season’s Thoughts –

Similar to the Cavs, there isn’t much I can critique about the Warrior’s roster or their season last year. Personally, I’m not a fan of the Warriors as most people are. I have advocated that Steph Curry isn’t the best player in the world, and I also feel that their style of basketball hurts “the game” in the sense that young players shouldn’t just chuck threes and try to emulate Steph and Klay. Leave the crazy shots to them.

But I fully acknowledge that I am in the minority when it comes to the Warriors, and I certainly won’t rattle off a list of things that “grinds my gears” about the Warriors. They earned the title of best regular season ever with the record of 73 wins, and they were on track to repeat as champions and put themselves into “the greatest teams of all time” discussion, before they choked and came up short against LeBron and the Cavs (I never said I wouldn’t take any shots at them 😏😏😏)

The only thing I will mention about their roster is that this past off-season, and the next couple of off-seasons, was a preview of what’s in store for the Warriors. Like I said with the Miami Heat, the two things that break up super teams are money and age. Money is the Warriors biggest concern over the next few seasons.

Regardless of their signing of Kevin Durant, they were going to have to find a way to sign their players, while paying everyone what they deserve. Obviously, they couldn’t pay Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut what they deserved and also pay Durant, but even if they had resigned those two, they would have to find a way to get Steph Curry his money in the future.

Steph signed an extension just as he was becoming a superstar in the NBA, so the Warriors have been very fortunate that they have been underpaying one of the greatest players to ever play basketball for the past few seasons. After this upcoming season, Steph is a free-agent and the Warriors are going to have to pay him every cent of the maximum. While I don’t see him leaving GS, it could become harder for the Warriors to field a full team and actually have effective bench/role players.

This Season’s Prediction –

Okay, I know, I predicted they would match the regular season record they set last season and win 73 games. But I did provide a disclaimer saying that my predictions were probably way off, so don’t expect them to get to 73 wins again. In my defense, I will say that they are incredibly hard to pick against on paper. They have 4 superstars and a good bench, so it’s hard to see them struggling at any point this season.

However, I don’t think this regular season is going to be worthless because the Cavs and Warriors will just end up in the Finals again. The Warriors biggest problem won’t have to do with any other team, but instead with how their team plays together. The chemistry of this team, both emotionally and on the basketball court, will be scrutinized even more than what the Miami Heat went through in 2011.

This team will be successful, that is obvious, but how will it happen? Will they struggle early, as they build chemistry on the court, and say after 15 games, they just start clicking? Will they, like the Miami Heat in 2011, not really gel in the beginning, but because they have so much talent make it to the Finals, only to loose because they hadn’t fully worked out who’s team it is? Or will they blaze a path of destruction through the NBA, blowing teams out every night and crumble in the Finals because the media scrutiny will be so severe that when they loose one game, the blame starts flying from all angles? Or will they simply just win the Finals because they are the best team?

I think they will gel almost right away, win 60+ games, and then the playoffs are a total toss-up. If they are healthy, including their bench, I think they have a great chance to return to the Finals. If Steph struggles with injuries again, or if Andre Iguodala gets hurt/declines in his effectiveness, then their path back to the Finals may be harder.

The Spurs, should they make it to the Western Conference Finals, would be very tough for this team to beat if they haven’t fully figured out their chemistry. The Spurs play perfect team ball, and if the Warriors are trying to be too selfless and no one takes charge, the Spurs could definitely beat them in a series.

Again, the Warriors control their own destiny. I think they will need to embrace their role as villains if they truly want to survive the media scrutiny this season. KD is going to get a lot more hate this year, whether they succeed and he is called a band-wagoner or if they struggle and he is blamed for messing up a good thing. How he negotiates that change in public perception, and how his teammates pick him up, will loom large come playoff time. But who am I kidding? They are going to be great, much to my chagrin.

As I mentioned earlier, the only outside problem that could affect the Warriors down the road is money. As an organization, they are fully in “win now” mode, so they aren’t too concerned with what the future holds, and rightfully so. Luckily for them, all their stars are still young, so they will be championship contenders for the next couple of seasons. But filling out the 15-man roster will definitely get harder once they pay Steph what he is due.

After this season, Steph will be earning $27+ million over 4 or 5 years, then add Klay Thompson who will earn around $18 million, and he’ll need a raise in the foreseeable future, plus Draymon Green who is earning $16+ million for the next few years. Durant is only under contract for the 2016-17 season, with a player option. Assuming he opts out but stays (what if he doesn’t stay?!?) he will be earning basically $30+ million for the next 4 years, if he takes the max along with Steph.

After this season, both Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala come off the books, so how do they re-sign them to contracts that they deserve? Livingston makes around $5 million this year, and he would probably get slightly more than that on the open market. Iguodala, who is 32, is going to be a tough decision because he makes $11 million this season, and you know some team would pay him more than that to come off their bench, so the Warriors would have to put up the money for him to stay. But on the other hand, do you want to pay a 33-year-old over $11 million dollars for the next few seasons?

Assuming they re-sign those two big role players, it gets harder to actually pay the other 9 guys on the team. This season, they are paying 9 dudes the minimum amount, and that’s for people like JaVale McGee, David West, Anderson Varejao and Ian Clark. Now, do they need a “great” bench like other teams do? No. But if they can’t find reliable guys in the future who will take the veterans minimum, they might be relying too heavily on guys like Zaza and Varejao to help them win games. Even this season, they don’t have a true rim protector, so they may have more weaknesses than we think.

All in all, do Warriors fans need to panic? No way. Another factor that goes in their favor is their head coach, Steve Kerr. If any one can turn scrubs on the bench into effective role players, it’s him.

2. LA Clippers –

Projected Starting 5: PG Chris Paul SG J.J. Redick SF Luc Mbah a Moute PF Blake Griffin C DeAndre Jordan

Projected Record: 57-25

Last Season’s Thoughts –

The Clippers are a funny team. While no one doubts their abilities, they do have a lot of talent on this team, they just don’t seem to have what it takes to progress in the Western Conference. If you want to see what happens to teams that run out of money, the Clippers are a great example. Between their two superstars, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, and their other star in DeAndre Jordan, they pay so much money that they have to cobble together the rest of their line-up.

For example, the starting SFs they’ve had ever since Chris Paul joined the team are as follows: Caron Butler, Matt Barnes, Jared Dudley, and then the SF by committee that they had last season, with old man Paul Pierce, Lance Stephenson for a hot sec, Wesley Johnson, Luc Mbah a Moute, and Jeff Green for a little while. And the honorable mentions have to be “way-past-their-primes” Grant Hill and Stephen Jackson, and they somehow managed to resurrect Hedo Turkoglu from somewhere.

Half of those guys were decent bench players, and none of them were worth starting, at least not at that point in their careers. Obviously, I didn’t expect them to have another star at that position, but none of the guys listed above were capable of helping them progress past the semi-finals in the playoffs. The Clippers have also had terrible luck in the playoffs, with injuries and getting outplayed by lesser teams. Last season was the epitome of this, loosing both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin in the first round, and getting beaten by Portland.

So while this team is a good team, they are stuck with “middle of the NBA” problems, where they aren’t improving enough after the season ends, and they clearly don’t have enough on their team to win a championship. And while I love Doc Rivers as a coach, I think these past few years have shown that he is a terrible GM. That doesn’t bode well for the future.

This Season’s Prediction –

Not much is going to change for the Clippers. They are a very good defensive team, with Paul able to shut down opposing PGs, which is crucial in today’s NBA, and DeAndre to protect the rim. And offensively, they have enough between Paul, Griffin and Jordan to win games. Fortunately for them, during the regular season, they are an effective team, and they are almost guaranteed to return to the playoffs. But that’s about as far as they will get.

Again, I think the Clippers are a prime example of how teams have traditionally built contenders, and unfortunately it hasn’t worked out for them. What I mean by that is that they have paid, maybe overpaid, the players that are effective for them, but in turn they have handcuffed their future to those players, and I think that DeAndre Jordan is what sinks this team every year.

I don’t blame them for sticking with him as long as they have. He is one of, if not the best, defensive centers in the league and he is a highly efficient player on the offensive end. He pairs perfectly with Paul in the pick-and-roll, and supplements Griffin’s game by doing the dirty work. But there’s two problems with committing so heavily to Jordan as the third piece of their “big 3.”

First, he cannot create his own shot. During the regular season, this isn’t a huge deal because defenses aren’t as tight as they are in the playoffs. He puts up points when the other team focuses on Paul and Griffin, but in the playoffs, those chances dry up, and every basket is hard to get. He is not the kind of player that they can dump it down to and get a bucket from in crunch time. Therefore, he cannot relieve the pressure on Paul and Griffin, and he can’t make up for the lack of production at the SF position.

Second, because they have decided to pay him, that means they cannot afford a better SF, which in today’s game is more important than having a great bigman, which they arguably already have in Griffin. Jordan is 28 and Paul is 30. Jordan will not become any more effective, he has reached his full potential, and Paul will only trend down from now on if he does loose a step. I think it was ultimately a mistake to bring back Jordan in 2015. They had the perfect excuse, that he looked else where and the Mavs had convinced him that he was the next big star in the league, but they chose to go after him and get him back. That’s where, and it’s very easy to say this as a fan and not as a real GM, they stuck with the piece that has been providing for them, instead of jumping feet first into the unknown and trying to find a better piece for the future.

And there’s a lot of reasons why teams do that, mostly because anyone in their right mind goes with the surest option, instead of the undefined path. But for the Clippers, sticking with Jordan is costing them a real chance to compete for a title while their superstar PG is still in his prime.

Let’s take a look at pieces that the Clippers could have gotten either in the off-season that Jordan almost left or this past off-season. And for reference, Jordan made $19 million last year, and he’ll make $21 million this season, so let’s see if there is one piece that would fit that sort of contract, or two players that could split that money and make the Clippers better. (For the sake of historical accuracy, I will acknowledge the Clippers didn’t actually have that amount of cap space, they used the “bird rights” on Jordan to re-sign him, but in theory they could have created the room with trades. At the very least, they could have set themselves up to have that much cap space this past off-season. But for the sake of the exercise, let’s just say they did back in 2015.)

In 2015, had the Clippers let Jordan walk, they could have afforded Marc Gasol (!), LaMarcus Aldridge (although I don’t think he’s a good fit for the Clippers), Dwayne Wade if he takes a slight pay cut, or Kevin Love (same as Aldridge, not a good fit). As far role players went, they could have gotten Danny Green, DeMarre Carroll, Greg Monroe, Robin Lopez, Wesley Matthews or Aaron Afflalo. If you put either Gasol or Wade on the Clippers, I think they are an elite team, regardless of who you get to fill out the roster. If they added at least one of those role players, especially Green or Matthews, I think they would set themselves up perfect for this past off-season to add one final piece.

This past off-season, if they still had around $20 million in space, they could have gone after: Kevin Durant if he took a big cut, but also just very unlikely, Al Horford, also with a bit of a pay cut, or Dwight Howard. If they went with a role player in 2015, they could have had some money left to still get: Bismack Biyombo, Kent Bazemore, Chandler Parsons, Nicolas Batum, Joakim Noah, Courtney Lee, Luol Deng, Al Jefferson, or David West.

Let’s say they went with the role player route. Can you imagine Paul, Matthews, Griffin and Noah? Or Paul, Green, Griffin and Biyombo? How about Paul, Batum, Griffin and West or Jefferson? Then there’s also Paul, Afflalo, Deng, Griffin. All I’m saying is that their big investment in Jordan, who has reached his ceiling, and as we’ve seen in past playoffs, cannot help them get over the hump, and one of these different iterations may have had more success. But then again, these “what-if” games are always better on paper.

So for this season, the Clippers will do well. They are one of the few teams that didn’t have a lot of turnover on their roster, so they will come back with plenty of team chemistry and get to work early in the season. Their bench is slightly better than mediocre, so they may fall off late in the season if injuries start to play a factor. Unfortunately, I don’t see CP3 getting his first ring this season, and it’s very likely the Clippers will be frustrated in the playoffs once again.

After this season, CP has a player option, which he will certainly exercise. However, if he really wants to win, I think he has to move on, instead of re-signing for a max deal. If they pay him the max, they will have zero flexibility in the future, especially if they also re-sign Griffin. If I am the Clippers, I let Paul walk in order to get the cap space and try to build around Griffin, who is just entering his prime. It wouldn’t be a popular decision, but if the Clippers ever want to be better than a 50-win team that looses in the semi-finals, they have to move on from their current roster.

3. Sacramento Kings –

Projected Starting 5: PG Darren Collison SG Arron Afflalo SF Rudy Gay PF DeMarcus Cousins C Kosta Koufos

Projected Record: 36-46

Last Season’s Thoughts –

The Kings truly perplex me. They have this vibe as an organization as a perennial failure, that no mater what they do they will always fall flat on their face. And it’s true, there are some franchises in sports that just continually suck, no matter how hard they try to get better (shout out to Philly!). But the Kings have had success in my lifetime, in the early 2000s. It’s not like they are a franchise that has struggled for decades and decades, and has a history of making terrible decisions (…I guess the Knicks are that team…😭).

For maybe the past two seasons I have honestly thought the Kings will turn it around. They have a star in DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins (one of the few things I will steal from Bill Simmons. I too love to call him Boogie Cousins), they have acquired talented youth in the recent past, and they have not signed bad players to terrible contracts that would handcuff them in free-agency. So how are they still terrible???

The last time the Kings had a winning record is also the last time they made the playoffs, back in 2006. Since then, the Kings have had a tough time with some of the talent they brought in after those winning teams. They had Kevin Martin for a little while, and he was an exciting scorer, but he never had the potential to become anything special. Next they had Tyreke Evans, who also seemed like he could be a star, but as you know from my Pelicans preview, he isn’t a great player to build around. Then they got Boogie Cousins, and it seemed like they finally had the franchise player they could properly build around.

Cousins was still pretty raw when he entered the NBA, and of course his emotional maturity was basically non-existent. But with any young star, they need time to find their place in the NBA, and as far as his play on the court goes, he has cemented himself as a beast down low. The emotional side is still a little precarious, but I will cut him some slack because of the teams he has played on. I believe he has matured and improved his behavior, but when you are stuck on a terrible team, the frustration can make anyone lash out and express their emotions.

Unfortunately, on a larger scale, I think the King’s new owner has also contributed to their struggles for the past couple of seasons. Mr. Vivek Ranadivé coached his daughter’s basketball team to a national championship (these were 12-year-olds) and he was written up in the New Yorker for his “revolutionary” style of play. He basically looked at his team, understood that they were terrible, and decided to full court press every team they played to essentially neutralize their better skills.

The bad part for the Kings is that Vivek brought this mentality to the Kings that he could somehow unlock a hidden secret and have his team soar right to the top of the NBA. Or at least that’s what I assume, because that is the only reason I can think of as to why they still pay Rudy Gay to play basketball.

I have some very strong feelings about Rudy Gay, and while I have no problem with him on a personal level, I think he’s a terrible basketball player and is pretty much a cancer to any team he plays for. Besides the fact that both Memphis and Toronto have greatly thrived after Gay left, his numbers also back up the idea that he is one of those “good-bad” players.

Gay plays SF, a critical position in the NBA. When that position is occupied by a legit star, teams ask that their SF provide a lot of offense per game, a decent amount of rebounds, and a decent amount of assists. For his career, Gay has averaged around 20 PPG, so that’s a check in the offensive category. But besides that, his numbers reveal his true value to his team. He has averaged 5.9 RPG, which is fair, but he has only averages 2.3 APG for his career, which isn’t good enough. He is also a career 34.4% shooter from 3-pt land, which is almost identical to LeBron’s career average, and we don’t consider him a good 3-pt shooter.

Gay’s career PER (player-efficiency rating) is 16.6. The list of top 20 players from last season, ranked by their PER, included Enes Kanter, a back-up center, with a 24.0 PER, Karl-Anthony Townes, a rookie, with a 22.5 PER, and a 35-year-old center in Pau Gasol, who’s PER was 21.7. So on what level is Rudy Gay’s 20 points per game worth, if he doesn’t contribute to the team in any other way? He, like Tyreke Evans, requires so much time on the ball and focus on the offensive end, that he takes away touches and shots for other players.

Sadly for Boogie Cousins, while he has progressed and matured over the past few seasons, the team around him has stayed stagnant. They essentially swapped out Tyreke Evans for Rudy Gay, and they couldn’t hold onto Rajon Rondo, who I actually thought fit well with Cousins. I will cut them some slack and say that some of their other young players haven’t panned out like most thought they would, but the decisions that they have made around those players haven’t been very good either. I truly thought they would make a push for the playoffs last season, but I was disappointed to see this team falter once again.

This Season’s Prediction –

Writing that review of the Kings seriously just gave me the urge to turn on 2K and become their GM, just to see if I could actually turn that franchise around. But I digress.

This season for the Kings, hopefully, will be the beginning of their turn around. Maybe I have clouded my judgment because of my desire to see them improve, but I think that they have a roster with enough talent to have winning season. Arron Afflalo brings much needed experience and leadership, as does Matt Barnes. Both of them are decent at the defensive end as well, which can only help.

Darren Collison is a solid PG, nothing special, but he’s quick and can stay in front of opposing PGs. The two biggest areas of concern for me are their back up bigs and back up PGs. I think it’s a terrible idea to start Koufos over Willie Cauly-Stein, mostly because regardless of this season WCS needs experience, and he and Cousins are the future pairing for this team, so why not build the chemistry now.

For their back up PGs, the problems are two fold. First, they are pretty bad, with Garrett Temple, Jordan Farmar and Ty Lawson. Second, for me, Ty Lawson is not worth the trouble. He has seemingly gotten his stuff together off the court, but he’s no longer a dependable player. And on a team with some already big personalities in Boogie and Matt Barnes, the last thing you want is to have a break down in the locker room, where guys are calling each other out and having that effect their play on the court.

Overall, I’m still optimistic for the Kings in the near future. Cousins is still young, so they have time to build around him, and with young pieces like Ben McLemore and WCS, I feel that they have a decent foundation to build on. In an ideal world, they would trade away Rudy Gay, but I’m not sure if any other team would take him, especially since he has a player option on his contract for the next season, worth around $14 million.

And while entering the “middle zone” might not be great for this team because it means loosing out on a top draft pick, I think they have to show some commitment to winning before Cousins gets so fed up that he decides to bring this franchise down with him. If they at least contend for a playoff spot, I think the vibe around this team will finally start to change, and maybe they will start to believe they can actually improve.

4. Los Angeles Lakers –

Projected Starting 5: PG D’Angelo Russell SG Lou Williams SF Luol Deng PF Julius Randle C Timofey Mozgov

Projected Record: 18-64

Last Season’s Thoughts –

Last season was tough for the Lakers, although there’s no reason to feel bad for them. It was the Kobe Bryant farewell tour, which he deserved 100%. Besides an aging Kobe, they had a few young talented pieces in D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle, but none of those guys were old enough or experienced enough to lead this team to a decent season.

On the court, Russell was trying to settle into the NBA game, and he does show promising signs. Randle was playing his first real season, after he went down in the first game of the previous season. And Jordan Clarkson was turning heads as a 6’5” guard who could develop into a good player. The Lakers had a somewhat promising future, but the 2015-16 season was really a throw away season because of Kobe, so there weren’t any real expectations.

Now, just because the season didn’t mean anything doesn’t mean that they should just mail it in, and everything will turn out alright in the future. My biggest concern with this team is the locker room, especially with the player they call Swaggy P, Nick Young. When you have a young team, having experienced veterans is critical to their development. If the other players on the team are selfish and foolish, the younger players will learn from that example. That’s why I think Nick Young is the worst thing possible for the Lakers at this point.

The major headline from this past season, besides Kobe, was the infamous tape that D’Angelo Russell made of his teammate, Mr. Swaggy, discussing his infidelity. Now, I am not going to blame this on Nick Young, Russell is fully responsible for this act, but I can’t help but fault Nick Young for being a poor role model for Russell, someone who already needed to mature in the NBA. This was clearly not the first time the two discussed this topic, and it seemed like Russell wanted to record the conversation to somehow “prank” Young at a later date.

If you haven’t seen the videos of Gilbert Arenas and Nick Young, I suggest you go google them. It’s sickening to see Arenas’ treatment of Nick Young, and I can only imagine that Young turned out to be the player he is because he was mentored by a person like Arenas back when they played for the Wizards. So flash-forward to 2016, and somehow no one in the Lakers organization thought it was a terrible idea to let D’Angelo hang around Swaggy P. I understand that he’s under contract, but if you somehow justified keeping him around for this previous season, how could you possibly justify keeping him on this team now. In what world is he worth keeping on this young and struggling team?

This Season’s Prediction –

This season is critical for the Lakers as an organization. They are in the select group of American sports franchises that have dominated their respective sports (Yankees, Celtics, Patriots, etc) and their fan-base will not wait very long for them to rebound.

The most surprising element of their recent decline is their inability to sign free-agents, even though they have arguably the best market in the NBA. Now that Kobe has finally left, I think their ability to attract free-agents will improve. But they have to handle their immediate future with the utmost care, or else they will spoil their chance to return to the top of the NBA.

Nurturing their young talent is the only goal this team has for this season. Sure, winning more games would be nice, but it is not essential for this team’s growth at the moment. Their young talents are so young that they still need to adjust to the NBA. They are in the stage just before the Milwaukees and TWolves of the NBA, not yet ready to make the leap up the standings.

D’Angelo Russell needs to mature even further this season, and Julius Randle needs to stay healthy and play a full season. I’m not sure Randle has great potential, he is undersized for the PF position, which is where his skills are, but he is the third option on this team, behind both Russell and Brandon Ingram. I do believe the comparisons between Brandon Ingram and Kevin Durant, and while they might not be 1-to-1 potential wise, I think anytime your young prospect is compared to one of the best players on the planet, you need to invest heavily in that player.

I actually like the roster moves this team made in the off-season as well. I know that everyone likes to laugh at their “big” signing of Timofey Mozgov, but they signed him to a fair deal under the new CBA, and they had to pay a bit more to get him off a championship winning team. Luol Deng I think is a great pick-up for this team, mostly because of his leadership and experience.

He’s 31, and his effectiveness has certainly dropped off in the past few seasons, but again, their stars are so young that by the time they are ready to compete, Deng will be at the end of his contract. In the meantime, you get him and his demeanor, which will help these young guys create good habits for the future. It’s the intangibles that will pay off in that Luol Deng signing.

The same even goes for a guy like Jose Calderon. Not worth much on the court, but whatever he can teach Russell in practice will essentially pay for itself. Besides that, the rest of the team is pretty garbage, and you now know my opinion on Swaggy P, so it is no surprise that I would jettison him as far away from this team as possible. Can you trade a guy for nothing?

So like I said, this year is all about growing their youth, and it’s mostly about making sure Brandon Ingram settles into the NBA and doesn’t follow in Russell’s footsteps. The added bonus to throwing away the games for this coming season is that they can get another lottery pick and add another great young talent to this roster. In about 4 years, this Laker team is going to be stacked.

5. Phoenix Suns –

Projected Starting 5: PG Eric Bledsoe SG Devin Booker SF T.J. Warren PF Jared Dudley C Alex Len

Projected Record: 15-67

Last Season’s Thoughts –

The Phoenix Suns are another team I’m bummed about. It’s a shame because I really thought they were doing a good job of rebuilding for the past couple of seasons, but for some reason in the recent past, they’ve made a few decisions that I don’t agree with.

For some reason this team stockpiled way too much talent at the PG position, and they found themselves struggling to fit their pieces together. If the 76ers have too many centers now, Phoenix had too many PGs with Eric Bledsoe, Goran Drogic and Brandon Knight. I kind of liked the pairing of Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic, and I really enjoyed the up tempo offense they played. I can excuse them for trading Dragic away, especially because they got two first-round picks from Miami, which could be pretty good seeing as the Heat are all over the place at the moment.

But what does that leave them with? A potential star in Eric Bledsoe, but he can’t stay healthy for very long, and Brandon Knight, who definitely isn’t going to develop into a star. For some reason I don’t like Brandon Knight, and I don’t think the Suns should hold onto him as if he’s going to make a big difference in their future.

This past season they were clearly looking forward, especially with their talented young guard Devin Booker, who I do think could become a star in his own right. They set themselves up to tank last season and this upcoming season, so they are attempting to properly rebuild now that they have a young star.

This Season’s Prediction –

This season will not be pleasant for the Phoenix Suns. Like Brooklyn, I think this team will be a punching bag for other teams this year. Besides the fact that they really only have one reliable young talent (I would really like to believe in Bledsoe but his health problems really worry me), the rest of the team is not very good. It will be interesting to see if they have a good player in their first round pick, Dragan Bender, who I personally would like to see thrive, solely for the nicknames/ad campaigns you can make with the name Dragan.

Besides Dragan, Booker, and Bledsoe (if healthy) this team needs work. I don’t think Alex Len is anything special, and they should avoid overpaying him in the future. Brandon Knight I would trade this season for more assets, either picks or young talent. Other than that this team is worthless. Tyson Chandler is too old (although a great locker room presence), I can’t believe they might start 6’7” Jared Dudley at PF, and I don’t think Leandro Barbosa can carry this team.

This year is all about the race to the bottom for Phoenix. Their season would be considered a failure, in my opinion, if they miss out on the lottery next season. No use in competing this year when you need more young talent. They also need to keep their finances in good shape, and not over pay some average player, either in free-agency or from their current bench (I’m looking at you P.J. Tucker).

Close your eyes Phoenix fans, or at least just look at your dope home-court and your nice jerseys this season. I’ll tell you when to look again.

Well that wraps up the 2016-17 NBA preview!!! Enjoy the season, and let's go Knicks!!!!!!

#CoverStory