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NBA Pacific Division Preview

The NBA '03-04 Pacific Division figures to boast two if not three of the best teams in the league, and the two current favorites for the title. The off-season saw the the richer get richer and the poorer get poorer, with both the Lakers and Kings adding to their talent base, while the Warriors and Clippers saw significant talent leave. A five-year overview of results follows, with teams listed in projected order of finish:

5-Yrs
Wins
Avg.
Playoffs
Team
98-99*
99-00
00-01
01-02
02-03
Wins
98-99
99-00
00-01
01-02
02-03
 Lakers
51
67
56
58
50
56
SF
Won
Won
Won
SF
 Kings
44
44
55
61
59
53
1st
1st
SF
C
SF
 Suns
44
53
51
36
44
46
1st
SF
1st
x
1st
 Blazers
57
59
50
49
50
53
C
C
1st
1st
1st
 Sonics
41
45
44
45
40
43
x
1st
x
1st
x
 Warriors
34
19
17
21
38
26
x
x
x
x
x
 Clippers
15
15
31
39
27
25
x
x
x
x
x

* The 98-99 season was only fifty games long, but we have pro-rated the results.
Playoffs: SF - conference semi-finals, C - conference finals, F - NBA finals, Won - NBA Champion

Most Used Five-Man Floor Units
#
Team
Unit
Min
Off
Def
Net
W
L
W%
5
SAC
 Bibby-Christie-Stojakovic-Webber-Divac 21.20%  108.1  98.0  +10.1   26 11
70.2
7
POR
 Anderson-Wells-Pippen-Wallace-Davis 17.15%  98.8  88.9  +9.8   23 12
65.7
8
LAL
 Fisher-Bryant-Fox-Horry-O'Neal 13.57%  105.6  97.1  +8.6   34 16
68.0
17
PHO
 Marbury-Johnson-Marion-Stoudemire-Outlaw 8.44%  97.2  96.9  +0.3   22 27
44.8
24
GS
 Arenas-Richardson-Jamison-Murphy-Dampier 30.43%  100.6  104.0  -3.3   32 41
43.8
25
SEA
 Barry-Allen-Lewis-Evans-Drobnjak 10.25%  93.4  97.7  -4.3   12 14
46.1
28
LAC
 Miller-Maggette-Odom-Brand-Rooks 7.51%  93.7  108.5  -14.8   7 13
35.0

# - league rank, Min - percent of team's total minutes, W-L - game by game +/- (adjusted),
Off/Def/Net - show 48 minute average

Los Angeles Lakers

Ah yes, you win the league championship three years straight and perhaps just miss a fourth by virtue of a three point shot that went in-and-out. You have arguably the most valuable player in the league, who is definitely the most dominating big man in the game, and a second superstar who is still improving. You are the Lakers.

After making minor moves in the previous years, content to ride the Shaq-Kobe train, the Lakers have of course made almost all the headlines of this past off-season by signing two more sure thing hall-of-famers in Karl Malone and Gary Payton. The Lakers warrant their own dedicated preview, which we will publish shortly.

Roster notes:
Best Rated
Worst Rated
Key Additions
Key Losses
O'Neal (+11.7)
Bryant (+10.3)
Fisher (+7.9)
Shaw (-9.3)
Medvedenko (-8.2)
Rush (-8.0)
Malone (+3.2 w/UTA)
Payton (-3.7 w/SEA, +1.0 w/MIL)
Horry (+3.9)
Madsen (-0.7)
Walker (-7.7)

Best/Worst Five-Man Floor Units
Unit
Min
Off
Def
Net
W
L
W%
 Fisher-Bryant-George-Horry-O'Neal 6.35%  116.7  94.7  +22.0   27 15
64.2
 Fisher-Bryant-Fox-Medvedenko-O'Neal 2.77%  100.9  104.0  -3.1   7 6
53.8

Analysis: Not much to criticize when you add two hall-of-famers to a lineup that already has the best 1-2 punch in pro basketball. Only question is how will they all play together? With Phil Jackson in charge the likely answer is very well. Could be truly dominating. Of course, Kobe's situation may provide distractions and injuries could be the stopper. Projected: 1st.

Sacramento Kings

Regular season went well for the Kings last year in their plan to take out the Lakers and win the championship they believe they deserve. Disaster hit though in the playoffs with Dallas, when Chris Webber went down. Still had their chances however, and not clear that they would have prevailed with San Antonio anyway.

Roster notes:
Best Rated
Worst Rated
Key Additions
Key Losses
Christie (+9.0)
Divac (+7.2)
Stojakovic (+4.9)
Turkoglu (-12.1)
Jackson, J (-5.9)
Jones (-5.4)
Miller (+6.1 w/IND)
Clark (-1.9)
Pollard (+7.9*)
Turkoglu
Jones

* limited minutes

Best/Worst Five-Man Floor Units
Unit
Min
Off
Def
Net
W
L
W%
 Bibby-Christie-Stojakovic-Clark-Divac 4.04%  108.0  80.8  +27.1   9 2
81.8
 Jackson-Christie-Turkoglu-Webber-Divac 2.06%  90.5  102.9  -12.4   2 5
28.5

Analysis: Brad Miller is a nice pick-up, and the players they lost had not been effective with the Kings (which is not to imply they can't succeed elsewhere with a team they "fit" better). Miller's defense against centers last year was decent (.469 effective Field Goal percentage allowed), but the man he was presumably brought in to face, Shaquille, is an altogether different proposition than the Eastern Conference big men. The Kings are a very smooth group, and should have another outstanding regular season. There's good depth, and the main five-man unit is outstanding. Will they be good enough to top the Lakers? Doubtful. Projected: 2nd.

Phoenix Suns

A bright season for the Suns in '02-03 as they rebounded from missing the playoffs, to make it back to the post-season and give eventual champions the Spurs a scare (the series was tied at 2-2) in the first round. More importantly the young threesome of Marbury, Marion, and Stoudemire looks to be a potent trio to build around.

Roster notes:
Best Rated
Worst Rated
Key Additions
Key Losses
Outlaw (+7.4)
Marbury (+2.3)
Hardaway (-0.3)
Gugliotta (-10.6)
Tsakalidis (-8.6)
Williams (-6.0)
Cabarkapa (draft)
Barbosa (draft)
Langhi (+7.4*)

* limited minutes

Best/Worst Five-Man Floor Units
Unit
Min
Off
Def
Net
W
L
W%
 Marbury-Johnson-Hardaway-Marion-Stoudemire 2.02%  109.0  93.3  +15.8   12 6
66.6
 Marbury-Hardaway-Marion-Stoudemire-Tsakalidis 5.72%  93.1  99.5  -6.4   7 11
38.8

Analysis: The center spot is ugly, with the team struggling with Williams and Tsakalidis on the floor -- they did much better with Stoudemire as the "big man" in a unit, although obviously that play can only be used against certain opposing lineups. The thing is, even after the all star break, Stoudemire's Roland Rating was -1.1 -- the player who was shining in the second half of the season was Joe Johnson at +7.3 on the scale. Voskuhl (+3.0) could be a useful size-man, but a lot rests on the development of Cabarkapa. The team will be fun to watch and if Stoudemire's game matures they could be a contender in a few years. Projected: 3rd.

Portland Trailblazers

The Blazers have had a talented roster, as their 53 win average over the past five seasons can confirm. Unfortunately they have suffered three straight 1st round defeats and despite coach Cheeks' guidance are still a tempestuous bunch.

Roster notes:
Best Rated
Worst Rated
Key Additions
Key Losses
Pippen (+8.8)
Wallace (+7.5)
Sabonis (+6.8)
McInnis (-12.2)
Randolph (-8.7)
Daniels (-4.8)
Outlaw (draft)
Sinanovic (draft)
Pippen
Sabonis

* limited minutes

Best/Worst Five-Man Floor Units
Unit
Min
Off
Def
Net
W
L
W%
 Anderson-Patterson-Pippen-Wallace-Davis 4.58%  106.2  88.5  +17.7   15 3
83.3
 Anderson-Wells-Pippen-Randolph-Davis 3.81%  82.8  97.0  -14.2   5 11
31.2

Analysis: It's an ominous sign when two of the top three Roland Rating players are no longer with the team. Even worse is when more playing time is projected for the two worst rated! Now perhaps with Pippen and Sabonis gone, Wallace will fully showcase his superstar skills, and a backcourt of Stoudamire (+4.8 post all-star break) and Wells (+5.0 post all-star game) could be exceptionally productive. Chances are though, that there will be the usual strife in Portland. Their best unit a year ago was phenomenal (should have been used more) and if they can find a reasonable Pippen replacement -- no easy feat -- then they could reclaim third place. Projected: 4th.

Seattle Supersonics

The Sonics knew going into last season that the big issue was whether the future was with or without Gary Payton. They answered that with the trade that has brought them Ray Allen. Early indications were positive for the move as Allen's days with the Sonics produced a winning record and an upbeat atmosphere.

Roster notes:
Best Rated
Worst Rated
Key Additions
Key Losses
Radmanovic (+7.8)
Allen (+4.7)
James (+3.6)
Sesay (-9.8)
Potapenko (-10.0)
Lewis (-4.5)
Daniels (-4.8 w/Por)
Collison (draft)
Ridnour (draft)
Morlende (draft)
Campbell (+11.4*)
Ollie (+2.5)

* limited minutes

Best/Worst Five-Man Floor Units
Unit
Min
Off
Def
Net
W
L
W%
 Ollie-Allen-Lewis-Radmanovic-James 2.49%  99.0  82.8  +16.2   11 8
57.8
 Payton-Mason-Lewis-Radmanovic-Drobnjak 2.04%  102.4  109.0  -6.6   8 10
44.4

Analysis: The best player in a team sense for Seattle last season was Radmanovic, and his game was even better from the all-star break on, where he wound up with a +12.3 rating! Plug in Allen and James and they seem to have the makings of a quality team. The question mark is Brent Barry who may not be effective in the same lineup as Allen. Two first round choices brought in a power forward and a point guard. Given the success of Radmanovic, the PF choice might be viewed as a surprise, but a new point guard might be just the ticket. Projected: 5th.

Golden State Warriors

Ouch! No team had a more discouraging off-season then the Warriors. After an exciting year sprang optimistic thoughts for a long dormant franchise, the roster turnover was huge, severe, and ugly.

Roster notes:
Best Rated
Worst Rated
Key Additions
Key Losses
Boykins (+5.5)
Foyle (+4.6)
Dunleavy (+3.9)
Richardson (-5.2)
Dampier (-4.6)
Jamison (-3.8)
Van Exel (-5.6 w/Dal)
Claxton (-5.3 w/SA)
Cheaney (+5.0 w/Uta)
Pietrus (draft)
Boykins
Jamison
Arenas (+0.6)
Sura (+2.4)

* limited minutes

Best/Worst Five-Man Floor Units
Unit
Min
Off
Def
Net
W
L
W%
 Arenas-Sura-Richardson-Jamison-Foyle 2.10%  115.8  104.1  +11.7   10 8
55.5
 Arenas-Richardson-Dunleavy-Jamison-Dampier 2.33%  96.9  118.5  -21.6   4 11
26.6

Analysis: The failure to resign Boykins hurts. The failure to resign Arenas also hurts, although surprisingly Gilbert's Roland Rating after the all-star break was -5.6, whereas the up-and-comer was Adonal Foyle (at +8.1). Troy Murphy also suffered a down second half, winding up with a -9.3 rating. The theory is now you give Dunleavy more time and maybe he shows his "make the team better" abilities to the max. If Van Exel's made reasonably happy he can certainly fill the point guard spot admirably. Pietrus is a very unknown commodity -- the Warriors were apparently swayed by Jerry West's purported interest. Musselman proved to be an excellent choice as coach and got his players to play, even while antagonizing them periodically. Now he will have to make the most of a deep, but low in star-power, lineup. Projected: 6th.

Los Angeles Clippers

Last year's Clippers were terrible, in spite of having more than enough talented guys to be at least respectable. Contract squabbles, selfish play, and the general malaise that almost invariably seems to afflict the Clips continued. The off-season was important with so many free agents, and while owner Sterling did shell out a few bucks for a change, did he make the right choices?

Roster notes:
Best Rated
Worst Rated
Key Additions
Key Losses
Jaric (+7.6)
Piatkowski (+7.0)
Brand (+4.1)
Parks (-12.1)
Rooks (-11.0)
Maggette (-4.9)
Polynice
Kaman (draft)
Miller (-4.3)
Olowokandi (-1.4)
Piatkowski

Best/Worst Five-Man Floor Units
Unit
Min
Off
Def
Net
W
L
W%
 Miller-Maggette-Odom-Brand-Olowokandi 4.72%  92.6  87.4  +5.2   4 5
44.4
 Miller-Maggette-Odom-Parks-Rooks 4.64%  85.4  107.0  -21.6   1 11
8.3

Analysis: The expected five man main unit for the Clippers didn't materialize as expected last year, but as can be seen from the "best unit" above, they had a respectable core. Now only two of the five players from that unit remain on the team. Still, the young players with limited action produced some nice results -- Jaric, Wilcox (+7.9), Ely (+7.0), and Fowlkes (+13.5) saw their ratings aided by playing in less crucial minutes, but serve to provide some "youth movement excitement" in conjunction with Brand's imposing talents. Projected: 7th.


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