Tag Archives: Goran Dragic

2017-2018 Southeast Division Projections

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X-Washington Wizards 50-32 (2)

Three of the last four NBA seasons have seen the Washington Wizards reach the playoffs, but they have been unable to advance past the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Last season the Wizards won 49 games for their highest win total since the 1979 which was their last trip to the NBA Finals. The Wizards would give the Boston Celtics all that they could handle before they bowed out in the seventh game of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. And although that we’ve heard this tune before, will the Wizards be able to take the next step in order to become a title contender?

Scott Brooks has one year under his belt as the head coach of the Wizards. And like any good coach, Brooks has been known to get most out of his players and then some. That was evident last season as under Brooks, Wizards point guard John Wall was able to take his game to the next level. Wall is a perennial All-Star point guard, but he became more of a scoring threat last season for Washington as he averaged a career-high 23.1 points to go along with 10.7 assists which was second in the NBA. Wall was also second in the NBA in steals as he averaged 2 per game and in the process he has become the complete point guard. At 27-years of age, Wall is in the prime of his career, and after he signed a contract extension with the Wizards over the summer, the future is bright for him in D.C.

Bradley Beal, John Wall

Wall’s tag-team partner in the Wizards back court is shooting guard Bradley Beal. But since the Wizards drafted Beal in 2012, the injury bug has gotten the best of him. Beal appeared in a career-high 77 games last season, and like Wall, he enjoyed the best campaign of his professional career. Beal is the perfect complimentary player to Wall as they give the Wizards one of the fastest back courts in the Eastern Conference. Both Beal and Wall have tremendous explosiveness in order to get to the basket which will once again make the Wizards a force.

In the Wizards front court they have some players that play with a bit of an edge. Center Marcin Gortat averaged a double-double for Washington last season, while at 6’11”, his size can be a menace at each end of the floor for opponents. Power forward Markieff Morris has always played with a chip on his shoulder throughout his six-year NBA career, while he provides the Wizards with a solid scorer in their front court that can knock down the mid-range shot as well as get physical on the boards. The Wizards will miss Morris’ production to begin the season as recovers from hernia surgery, but when he does return to the lineup the intensity for this team will increase.

Washington also has a pair of emerging players in their front court in the form of small forward Otto Porter Jr. and Kelly Oubre. The Wizards selected Porter with the third overall pick of the 2013 NBA Draft and he is maturing into the player that he was expected to be when he entered the league. Porter’s numbers have increased in each of his seasons in the NBA. Porter is a slasher at the small forward position, and his versatility at each end of the court make him the poor man’s Paul George as it would not surprise me to see him in the mix to earn his first All-Star Game selection this season.

Oubre is set to begin his third NBA season. It was Oubre’s athleticism that got him to the NBA, but now he is developing the skill needed for him to be a consistent factor. Like Porter, Oubre is a slasher who should see more minutes playing alongside Wall and Beal in order to run the floor and be another threat in transition.

Last season the Wizards had what it took to play with the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference, but will they be able to seize the moment in order to get past these clubs in the postseason?

Y-Miami Heat 42-40 (7)

The Miami Heat are coming off of a 41-41 season while they also failed to earn a playoff appearance for the second time in the last three years. However the Heat still have to be given credit for having a successful season. Miami began last season with a record of 11-30 as they were rapidly barreling to one of their worst campaigns in franchise history. But the Heat would rebound by winning 30 of their final 41 games to finish at .500, while missing out on the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot due to losing the tiebreaker to the Chicago Bulls. And as the Heat finished the 2016-2017 NBA season as one of the hottest teams in the league, will they be able to carry it over to the new campaign?

Heat team president Pat Riley is beginning his 22nd season with the franchise, and his time in South Beach has seen a commitment to winning. After the Heat lost small forward LeBron James in free agency in 2014, he nor anyone within the organization took the time to feel sorry for themselves, and instead have attempted to get this team back to being a championship contender. Miami attempted to expedite that process over the summer when they attempted to recruit small forward Gordon Hayward to South Beach. Hayward would ultimately opt to join the Boston Celtics which hindered Miami’s chances of being a title contender, but not their opportunity to make the playoffs.

Hassan Whiteside

For Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra, he has one of the better centers in the NBA in Hassan Whiteside. Since joining the Heat in 2014, Whiteside has emerged into one of the better big men in the NBA. At 7’0″, 265 lbs., Whiteside has tremendous athleticism which led to him leading the NBA in rebounds last season at 14.1 per contest. Whiteside was not the force at the defensive end of the floor like he was during the 2015-2016 NBA season when he led the league in blocks with 3.7 per game, but his length can once again be a factor as long as he is able to remain out of foul trouble. Whiteside is still unpolished on offense, but he is developing into a decent perimeter scorer, while being a terror in the paint. Whiteside’s ability to rebound allows him to score consistently off of put backs, while he continues to develop his offensive repertoire in the post.

Goran Dragic

Point guard Goran Dragic is coming off of a season where he was able to tie a career-high by averaging 20.3 points. Dragic has always been an underrated player throughout his NBA career, but will he be able to become the leader that the Heat will need him to be in order to become a playoff team this season?

The Heat came out smelling like a rose when they signed guard Dion Waiters in the summer of 2016. Waiters earned less than $3 million last season, but he averaged 15.8 points per game and became a difference maker during the second half of the season. The Heat would re-sign Waiters this past summer and he’ll once again be an impact player in Miami. Waiters is a classic “tweener” as he is too big to be a point guard, and too small to be a shooting guard. But what Waiters brings to the table is that he is a gritty player that will do whatever it takes at end of the floor.

Small forward Justise Winslow was selected in the first round of the NBA Draft by the Heat in 2015. Winslow is an emerging player for Miami, but his progression was derailed last season after he missed the majority of the campaign due to a torn labrum. Aside from Winslow, the Heat also have several other young players who they are high on in shooting guard Tyler Johnson and small forward Josh Richardson. The Heat shocked most basketball observers during the summer of 2016 when they gave Johnson a four-year deal for $50 million. But Johnson began to emerge for the Heat last season as he averaged 13.7 points per contest, while also being one of the team’s better perimeter shooters. Like Winslow, the Heat will need Richardson’s length and ability at each end of the floor on the perimeter as they look to make the playoffs.

Erik Spoelstra

Defense is always the name of the game for Spoelstra as Miami was fifth in the NBA in points allowed last season, while being 15th in rebounds. Miami should once again to difficult to score on this season; especially after they were able to sign center Kelly Olynk.

Collegiately for the Gonzaga Bulldogs, Olynk was known more for his offensive game which led to him being the West Coast Conference’s Player of the Year in 2013. But since Olynk came to the NBA, he has developed a reputation as the defensive end of the floor. Olynk gives the Heat size coming off of the bench, and for a big man, he knows how to move up and down the floor.

The Heat will be a tough matchup for their opponents this season due to their size and athleticism. Dragic is a good point guard in transition and I can see Spoelstra opening up the offense more this season which should help Miami’s chances of making the playoffs.

Y-Charlotte Hornets 39-43 (8)

The best way to sum up the Charlotte Hornets is that they are consistently inconsistent. The Hornets made the NBA Playoffs in both 2014 and 2016, while missing out on the postseason in 2015 and 2017. Steve Clifford has been the head coach who has overseen the Hornets for the last four seasons, while general manager Rich Cho has been with the club since 2011. The combination of Cho and Clifford have been working to improve the Hornets roster in order to make them a consistent playoff team. And with the Eastern Conference not expected to be super competitive this season, will the Hornets be able to advantage of that in order to qualify to the playoffs?

Kemba Walker

Any potential success for the Hornets this season begins with point guard Kemba Walker. Walker has been with Charlotte since 2011, and in each NBA season his productivity has increased. Walker is an improving scorer and the same can be said about his court vision. To me Walker is the poor man’s Steph Curry as it does not take that much for him to get going in regards to being a dangerous scorer. Walker is coming off of the first All-Star Game selection of his NBA career, and his ability to be a long rage shooter as well as getting to the basket will once again make him a candidate to receive the honor once again this season.

During the off-season the Hornets were able to beef up their front court when they acquired center Dwight Howard from the Atlanta Hawks. During Howard’s 14-year NBA career, he has led the league in rebounds on five separate occasions, while also being a three-time Defensive Player of the Year. Howard is 31-years of age, and although that he still has plenty left in the tank, what has plagued him throughout his career is the fact that he not been consistent at the offensive end of the floor. At this point it is what it is for Howard on offense, but if he can find a way to be a force at the defensive end of the floor, while also being able clean up on the boards, and playing off of Walker through pick and rolls as well as put backs, it’ll be a positive for the Hornets; especially since they were tied at 15th with the Miami Heat last season in rebounding.

Center Frank Kaminsky continues to be an improving bench player, while the return of small forward Nicolas Batum will be a welcome addition for the Hornets as he provides them with another quality facilitator.

The Hornets should be a competitive team all season long which will keep them in contention for a postseason berth.

Orlando Magic 35-47

The Orlando Magic have been swimming upstream in the Eastern Conference for far too long. The Magic have not made the NBA Playoffs since 2012, while they have not advanced past the first round since 2010. The Magic have been plagued for far too long by bad front office decisions which has included them missing on their first-round picks consistently. But as Frank Vogel is set to begin his second season as the head coach of the Magic, does he possess the necessary formula to get things turned around in Orlando?

Aaron Gordon

In 2014, the Magic used a first-round pick on power forward Aaron Gordon. Gordon quickly developed a reputation as far as being a dunker. But dunking the basketball alone won’t keep a player in the NBA for long and Gordon falls under that umbrella. However in each of Gordon’s three years in the NBA, his production has improved and he has the potential to be a breakout player for the Magic. Gordon is only 22-years of age and now he is beginning to add finesse to his athleticism.

Aside from Gordon, three more emerging players for the Magic are small forward Evan Fournier, center Nikola Vucevic and point guard Elfrid Payton. Fournier led the Magic in scoring last season at 17.2 per contest and he figures to be one of their better scoring options during this campaign. During the seven-year NBA career of Vucevic he has averaged just a shade under 10 rebounds per game at 9.9 per contest. Vucevic should once again be one of the better rebounders in the Eastern Conference which will benefit the Magic. Payton was selected in the first round by the Magic in 2014 and like Fournier, his production continues to increase. But in order for the Magic to cast their reputation of being an afterthought in the Eastern Conference Playoff race, Payton must become more assertive in regards to being a floor general. Payton was able to average 6.5 assists last season, but for the Magic to push for a postseason spot this time around, that number must improve to at least 8 per contest.

Frank Vogel

Throughout Vogel’s coaching career in the NBA, his teams have been solid at the defensive end of the floor. However Orlando was 22nd in the NBA last season in points allowed which is something that must changed if they are going to be a playoff team.

The Magic are still a young team and hopefully for their sake they will be able to take advantage of a weak Eastern Conference in order to qualify for the playoffs.

Atlanta Hawks 34-48

Very quietly each of the last 10 NBA seasons have seen the Atlanta Hawks reach the playoffs. But a big reason why the Hawks success has gone unnoticed is that they have never won a championship, more less a trip to the NBA Finals. Mike Budenholzer has four years under his belt as the head coach of the Hawks, and after he spent nearly two decades with the San Antonio Spurs as an assistant coach, he has brought some of those successful philosophies with him to Atlanta. The Spurs believe in ball movement as it more about the team than the individual, and as the Hawks have embraced this philosophy under Bundenholzer, it has led to plenty of regular season success. But the 2017-2018 NBA season will prove to be the toughest that Budenholzer has had to endure so far with the Hawks.

Three of the Hawks top scorers from last season are no longer with the team which includes power forward Paul Millsap who was the team’s leading scorer and center Dwight Howard who led the club in rebounds. And with the departure of so many key players, the keys to the Hawks franchise have now been handed over to point guard Dennis Schroder.

Dennis Schroder

Schroder was the Hawks first round pick in 2013, and it is now his time to be the guy. Schroder has always possessed explosiveness at the point guard position and now it is time for him to develop some leadership. Schroder has the ability to penetrate a defense in order to get to the basket, but it is up to him to now improve the players around him on the Hawks better by becoming a better facilitator.

But unfortunately for the Hawks, the talent pool around Schroder is not that deep. Schroder should enjoy a career year, but the lack of talent in Atlanta will more than likely result in this team missing out on the postseason for the first time since 2007.

X-Division Winner

Y-Playoff Berth

Source: Basketball-reference.com

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Feel The Heat

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After the first 41 games of this NBA season for the Miami Heat, they appeared to be headed for one of their worst campaigns in franchise history. The Heat were 11-30 and they were barreling towards having one of the top picks in the upcoming NBA Draft. The Heat’s roster is comprised of youngsters and relative unknowns who appeared to not have the ability to cut it at this level. But what has happened for the Heat since then has been downright magical.

The Heat would go on to win their next 13 games which included a victory over the Golden State Warriors who are the defending Western Conference Champions. And even after Miami’s 13-game winning streak, they have yet to slow down as they’ve gone 20-4 since their dreadful start. And now the Heat are just a .5-game behind the Milwaukee Bucks for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with nearly a month remaining in the regular season.

Erik Spoelstra

The coaching job that has been done by Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra cannot be overlooked. In 2012 and 2013, Spoelstra led the Heat to the NBA Championship, but he never got the credit that he deserved due to the fact that Miami had small forward LeBron James, shooting guard Dwyane Wade, and power forward Chris Bosh on the roster for those titles teams. And when James decided to opt-out of his contract with the Heat in 2014 to re-join the Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami’s chances of winning another title faded. The Heat still had Bosh and Wade as they were able to make the playoffs last season. But things changed drastically when Heat team president Pat Riley allowed Wade to leave last summer as a free agent to join the Chicago Bulls. Riley wasn’t willing to break the bank for an aging Wade, while health issues forced Bosh to unofficially retire as the only player left from Miami’s last title team is veteran power forward Udonis Haslem.

The Heat have attempted to rebuild, but one of their building blocks in small forward Justise Winslow would only appear in 18 games this season after he suffered a torn labrum. However Riley is one of the best to have ever done it in the NBA when it comes to being able to evaluate talent and put a team together.

Center Hassan Whiteside was a relative unknown who had spent the majority of his professional basketball career playing the NBA’s Development League. However Riley saw talent in Whiteside and signed him in 2014. Whiteside has gone of to be an overnight sensation for the Heat. Whiteside led the NBA in blocks last season at 3.7 per contest, and he’s leading the league in rebounds this year (14.1). Whiteside is a double-double machine as he has posted at least 10 points and 10 rebounds in 52 games this season and he has turned into a building block for the Heat.

Goran Dragic

For nearly eight years point guard Goran Dragic was an underrated player during his time with the Houston Rockets and Phoenix Suns. Riley acquired Dragic from the Suns in 2015 and after he struggled to play alongside Wade and Bosh, he has begun to flourish on South Beach. Dragic is averaging 20.2 points this season which is a career-high, to go along with 6.1 assists per contests as he has given Miami a solid floor general.

Throughout the basketball journey of shooting guard Dion Waiters he has been a player who has been overlooked. In Waiters’ last collegiate season with the Syracuse Orange, he was the Big East Conference’s Sixth Man of the Year. Waiters was selected fourth overall in the 2012 NBA Draft by the Cavaliers, but he quickly clashed there with point guard Kyrie Irving who he accused of playing “buddy ball” with center Tristan Thompson. And not long after James returned to Cleveland, Waiters would find himself traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder where he was bench player in the shadow of small forward Kevin Durant and point guard Russell Westbrook.

Dion Waiters

Waiters would sign with the Heat last summer, but for only $2.89 million which was shocking with money being thrown around the league as the result of a new television deal. But Waiters has done nothing but shine in Miami as he is averaging 15.9 points per game and he has brought the tough-minded approach that he developed on the playgrounds of Philadelphia to Miami.

Pat Riley

Riley would receive a ton of criticism last summer when he re-signed point guard Tyler Johnson to the tune of $50 million over four years. However Johnson has turned into a key contributor off of Miami’s bench as his 13.8 points per game are fourth on the team.

Aside from Dragic and power forward James Johnson, none of the regular contributors for Miami are more than 30-years of age. The Heat have a team of players that have yet to figure out how good they can be and thus they are playing with house money which is a credit to Riley and Spoelstra.

Riley has once again made the Heat into playoff contenders by using his thinking cap as opposed to relying on help. In the four years that James was with the Heat, the Cavaliers had the first overall pick in the NBA Draft three times, yet they were unable to make the playoffs in a weak Eastern Conference once. However the Heat are in the mix for their second playoff appearance without James as they’ve gone about their business in a different way. The Heat never whined and publicly complained about James leaving like Cavs owner Dan Gilbert did, nor have they ever won the NBA’s Draft Lottery. But since Riley has been a part of nine championship teams as a player, head coach, and team president, he knows how to win. And even though that James has gone on to win an NBA Championship since leaving Miami, the Heat are still a franchise that cannot be overlooked due to Riley’s influence.

Riley has lobbied for Spoelstra to be the NBA’s Coach of the Year and he has a valid case as this was written off a few months ago. When critics questioned Spoelstra’s coaching ability during James’ tenure with Miami, Riley backed his coach, and it’s time that the rest of basketball world gives him some credit as well. The Heat might not be a title team at the present time, but if you give Riley the opportunity, he will bring another Larry O’Brien Trophy to South Beach sooner than you think.

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2014-2015 Pacific Division Projections

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X-Los Angeles Clippers 56-26 (2)

Last season the Los Angeles Clippers won 57 games in their first season under head coach Doc Rivers. Rivers changed the culture with the Clippers, but they still were unable to get past the second round in the NBA Playoffs. This season however the Clippers will have an ever fresher start with a clearer piece of mind.

During the NBA Playoffs last year it was revealed that former Clippers owner Donald Sterling had made some insensitive remarks towards blacks. Sterling’s remarks almost led to a boycott by the players in the NBA which led NBA commissioner Adam Silver to take control of the team away from him. A nasty court battle ensued over the summer which led to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer purchasing the Clippers this past summer for $2.2 billion. Ballmer is on the same page with Rivers while the players are once again focused solely on basketball which is definitely good for business.

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Blake Griffin

Under Rivers, Clippers power forward Blake Griffin enjoyed his best season as a pro by averaging 24.1 points per contest along with 9.5 rebounds. Griffin’s mid-range jump shot continues to improve which will only help the Clippers chances in the upcoming season. But Griffin isn’t the only player in the Clippers frontcourt that has improved under Rivers. Last season Clippers center DeAndre Jordan led the NBA in rebounds at 13.6 per game. Jordan also averaged a career-high in points at 10.4 per contest and Rivers is trusting the big man out of Texas A&M to be on the floor more in crucial situations.

But the engine of the Clippers offense belongs to their starting point guard Chris Paul. Last season Paul averaged more than 10 assists per game for the first since joining the Clippers and aside from Griffin and Jordan, Paul has a litany of talent to get the basketball to. The Clippers will have tremendous depth this season that includes small forward Matt Barnes, shooting guard Jamal Crawford, center Spencer Hawes, and power forward Glen “Big Baby” Davis.

The Clippers shoud once again enjoy a successful regular season, but they are at the point now where they will be solely judged on what they are able to do in the NBA Playoffs.

Y-Golden State Warriors 51-31 (4)

Success does not always provide job security in the world that is professional sports. Last season Mark Jackson led the Warriors to their highest regular season win total in 22 years, but he could not get along with the front office in Oakland as he was sent packing. Jackson had a great repoire with the players on the Warriors and it will be an interesting task for Steve Kerr as he is the new head coach for Golden State to earn the locker room’s respect. Kerr has never coached in the NBA, but he does have basketball smarts that has seen him enjoy a 15-year playing career in the league that produced four NBA Championships and he also had a four-year run as the general manager of the Phoenix Suns.

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Steph Curry

The talent that the Warriors have will make Kerr’s transition to the bench that much easier. The Warriors arguably have the best backcourt in the Western Conference in point guard Stephen Curry and shooting guard Klay Thompson. Curry and Thompson combined to average 42.5 points per game last season and you can expect more of the same this year once they get accustomed to Kerr’s offensive system which will feature some of the triangle offense in it. But Curry and Thompson each have the ability to get hot for deep stretches on the offensive end to put the Warriors on their backs. This season for Thompson and Curry will come down to how much faith that Kerr is going to put in them.

Warriors center Andrew Bogut is one of the best passing big men in the game of basketball while also having the unique ability to score from both the low post and the perimeter. But Bogut has not played an entire regular season in the NBA since his rookie campaign in 2005-2006. The deck is stacked at that position this season and given Bogut’s track record it will be important for Kerr to monitor the health of his big man this season in order to keep the native Austailian fresh for the playoffs. The Warriors also have starting power forward David Lee who is a member of the 300lbsofsportsknowledge’s all-effort team. In four seasons with the Warriors, Lee has averaged 18.2 points per game along with 7.2 rebounds and he has done most of this without having plays called for him which makes him the perfect compliment to Thompson and Curry.

With the Warriors depth, the offensive production of small forward Andre Iguodala dipped drastically in his first season with Golden State, but he was named to the NBA’s All-Defensive First Team for the first time. Iguodala’s skills as an on-the-ball defender along with his long wing span will be vital for the Warriors against the likes of Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant and Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden who are two of the better perimeter players in the Western Conference as they both play for teams that Golden State could meet in the NBA Playoffs.

The Warriors could have the best bench in the NBA this season consisting of point guards Shaun Livingston and Leandro Barbosa, small forward Harrison Barnes, power forwards Draymond Green and Marreese Speights, along with center Festus Ezeli as the group possesses, size, rebounding, defense, speed, and scoring.

In recent years the Warriors and Clippers have been battling it out for supremacy in the Pacific Division. These two clubs meet on November 5 which will give Kerr and idea of how his team will do this season and they should be a factor next spring in the playoffs.

Phoenix Suns 41-41

Last season under first year head coach Jeff Hornacek, the Phoenix Suns were the surprise team of the NBA as the only missed making the playoffs by one game. All season long the Suns overachieved, but will Hornacek’s group be able to do it for a second consecutive season?

http://www.sports-logos-screensavers.com/user/Phoenix_Suns6.jpgThere will be plenty of brotherly love in Phoenix as two pairs of brothers will be vital for the Suns this season. Last season the Morris brothers (forwards Markieff and Marcus) combined to score 23.5 points per game while point guard Goran Dragic led the Suns in scoring at 20.3 points per. This off-season, Suns general maanger Ryan McDonough signed the brother of the Suns point guard in shooting guard Zoran Dragic who can provide some more depth off of the bench.

Along with Goran Dragic, the Suns have starting shooting guard Eric Bledsoe as the two will combine to be one of the fastest backcourts in the Western Conference. This past summer the Suns acquired point guard Isaiah Thomas from the Sacramento Kings. Thomas is coming off of the best season of his brief NBA career as he averaged 20.3 points per game last season with the Kings along with 6.3 assists. It would not surprise me in any way if Hornacek attempted to use Dragic, Bledsoe, and Thomas at the same time in order to speed up the pace for the Suns.

For the Suns to hang in the playoff picture in the Western Conference they must find a way to do what they did last season which is to beat up on the bottom feeders which allowed them to fatten up in the win column. If not, then the Suns will get lost in the shuffle

Los Angeles Lakers 37-45

Last season was a forgettable one for the Los Angeles Lakers as they endured their worst campaign since they have called Southern California home. Now the unusual process of returning to respectability begins for the Lakers. Byron Scott is set to begin his first season as the head coach of the Lakers and he knows a things or two about the purple and gold as 11 of his 14 years as an NBA player were in Los Angeles. Scott also helped the Lakers win three NBA Championships as a player. This is the fourth NBA team that Scott will coach and some of his highlights include leading the New Jersey Nets to the NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003 along with being named as the NBA’s coach of the Year in 2008 when he led the New Orleans Hornets to the postseason. Scott’s challenge in Los Angeles will be to turn around a Lakers team that many feel is simply too old.

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Kobe Bryant

Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant is 36-years of age and he is coming off of a season where knee and Achilles injuries limited him to just six games. Bryant is arguably one of the more determined athletes that the basketball world has ever seen and he is out to prove the naysayers wrong and show them that he can still get it done. Lakers point guard Steve Nash is a two-time NBA MVP, but he is 40-years old and Scott must monitor his minutes while also relying on backup point guard Jeremy Lin to be more of the floor general this season.

Power forward Carlos Boozer has been heavily scrutinized for his defensive prowess; or lack thereof, but he gives the Lakers a threat in low post which Los Angeles lost when they parted with power forward Pau Gasol. It is just a matter of Boozer being able to blend in with Bryant on the court. The Lakers are high on their first round pick in rookie power forward Julius Randle. Randle is only 19-years of age and there will be a learning curve for him, but he has tremendous athleticism along with a nose for crashing the boards.

Last season small forward Nick Young led the Lakers in scoring at 17.9 points per game and they will miss his production to begin the season as a thumb injury will keep “Swaggy P” sidelined.

Under Scott, the Lakers will be facing an uphill battle this season as their first seven games of the year will be against teams that finished the previous campaign with a winning record. These are not your father’s Lakers and the fans in Tinseltown will have to get used to mediocrity.

Sacramento Kings 35-47

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DeMarcus Cousins

After eight consecutive playoff appearances, the Sacramento Kings have now had eight straight losing seasons. Kings head coach Mike Malone is in his second season with the club and he has a young team that is in need of some leadership. The Kings have a pair of viable scoring threats in small forward Rudy Gay and center DeMarcus Cousins. Gay was acquired by the Kings last season and in 55 games with the club he averaged 20.1 points per game. Cousins is coming off of his fourth NBA season which was his best one as he averaged 22.7 points and 11.7 rebounds per game. Cousins is talented enough to be an NBA All-Star, but it a just matter of him getting enough recognition. The man that will be responsible for getting the basketball frequently to both Gay and Cousins will the Kings new point guard Darren Collison. The Kings will be Collison’s fifth NBA team and Malone is hopeful that he will be able to flash the potential that made him a first round pick back in 2009.¬†The Kings also have a youngster at shooting guard in Ben McLemore that they are hopeful will¬†continue to improve off of the 8.8 points per game that he averaged last season as a rookie.

Malone needs to change the culture in the Kings locker room as they have become accumstomed to losing. Right out of the gate the Kings will meet the Warriors, Portland Trailblazers, and Clippers in their first three games of the season which will definitely test the maturity of this young team.

X-Clinched Division

Y-Clinched Playoff Berth

Source: Basketball-reference.com

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