John Hollinger：West's pecking order has familiar flavor 由 suncheng1984 发表在虎扑篮球·翻译团-Lounge http://bbs.hupu.com/fyt
West's pecking order has familiar flavor
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty ImagesWith the main ingredients back -- plus the addition of Ron Artest -- the Lakers look poised to repeat.
OK, hungry fans, it's time to turn our attention to the Western side of the menu, after Monday's look at the new pecking order in the East.
I'm not sure the pecking order in the West is quite so "new;" less changed in these parts since the end of last season. But I'm here to break it down all the same. Much like the East, the West can be broken into five distinct groups. Make that five and a half, actually, as there's one additional category we didn't have in the East.
And, like yesterday, we'll be sticking with an epicurean theme. Without further ado, here's how it lays out.
Group IA: The Chef's Special
There's a lot of good stuff on the menu, but this one looks a cut above. Sure, it costs more, but the reviewers all say it's worth every cent. You'll be talking about this meal for weeks.
Los Angeles Lakers
Of more immediate interest, however, is their de facto swap of Trevor Ariza for Ron Artest. Artest is nuts and lost a step at the offensive end last season, but he's still an elite defensive player and he's a better spot-up shooter than Ariza. (For those who watched only the playoffs, I'll remind you that Ariza was a 29.9 percent career 3-point shooter when the postseason began. Let's not get carried away with a well-timed hot streak.)
Committing to Artest for five years was foolish, but the swap makes the Lakers better in the short term. With Lamar Odom and Shannon Brown re-signed at very reasonable prices and Phil Jackson coming back, L.A. has quietly (for them) had a strong offseason.
Of course, the greatest break for the Lakers is that they're still in the Western Conference. While the East is top-heavy with Orlando, Cleveland and Boston all loading up, L.A. remains the clear favorite to oppose one of those three in the Finals.
Group I: The Entrees
Oh sure, you'll eat the free bread and order a side dish or two. But realistically, these will be the last and most memorable items on your plate at the end of the season.
San Antonio Spurs
But all this depends on their stars carrying the mail. Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili both broke down at the end of last season and, at their age, one wonders if they can regain their previous form and sustain it through an entire season. Without knowing the answer to that major question, the Spurs merely rank as another of the West's hopefuls.
But the Nuggets' top six players return, including a re-signed Chris Andersen, and trades brought in some younger help in rookie Ty Lawson (one of my draft favorites) and Arron Afflalo. There isn't a huge margin of safety here, but if the Nuggets are healthy they'll still be really good.
Portland Trail Blazers
Yes, they went one-and-done in the playoffs, but this team should be better this time around. The Blazers added Andre Miller, vastly improving their backcourt depth, and returned Martell Webster from injury. The only departure was Channing Frye, who fell to the fringes of the rotation by the end of last season. Most importantly, one of the league's youngest nuclei gained a valuable year of experience and cut its playoff teeth. Watch out for these guys.
Group II: The Tasty Hors D'oeuvres
Scrumptious in small doses, these clubs are hoping to steal your attention from the centerpiece, and at times it seems they might succeed. But each lacks a key ingredient to keep it on our plate 'til June.
However, we're still waiting for the other shoe to drop. Carlos Boozer dismayed everyone by opting in for the final year of his contract, leaving the Jazz well over the luxury-tax line. Pretty much everyone assumes they'll trade him, and if Utah can score a quality wing player in the deal it could move up a class. Utah owns one other huge asset as well: the completely unprotected 2010 first-round pick belonging to the Knicks.
Despite their age, the Mavs will try to play small and fast, with Kidd, Jason Terry, Josh Howard, Marion and Dirk Nowitzki playing as a run-and-gun unit in crunch time. That could give them a puncher's chance at a playoff upset, but it's tough to see how they can match up physically against the powerful frontcourts the top contenders possess.
Because of Cuban's willingness to spend, they're a far more intriguing team a year from now thanks to what may become the league's most coveted asset: Erick Dampier's expiring, non-guaranteed $12 million in 2010-11. Casual fans may not realize how valuable this is in the current economy. Next summer a financially struggling team could trade a highly paid player to Dallas for Dampier, waive him immediately and wipe their books totally clean. And given the current economic conditions, I have a feeling some teams will be willing to do it.
New Orleans Hornets
Chris Paul makes them a playoff team on his own, and offseason pickups Darren Collison and Ike Diogu might improve what was among the league's worst benches last season. But the Hornets might still try to shed a contract or two to get under the tax, and as things stand now they're going to get miserable production from the wings.
Group III: The Mystery Meat
These teams are the equivalent of going to a foreign country and ordering blindly off a menu in another language. It might be awesome, it might be terrible; really, you have no idea. But it will definitely be different, and you'll probably walk away with a good story or two.
Los Angeles Clippers
But the biggest reason to like the Clips is because they were going to be better anyway. Baron Davis, Chris Kaman and Ricky Davis should all be in much better physical condition for this go-round, and second-year pro Eric Gordon should improve, too. Whether it's enough for a playoff run remains to be seen, but this version of the Clips should keep us entertained.
We have no idea how well he'll recover from his eye injury or what the implications are for his game if the eye gives him problems. But if he's not playing to his usual standard the Suns could embark on a long ride down. One quick note to file away if that happens: Oklahoma City has Phoenix's draft pick from the Kurt Thomas salary dump in 2007, and there's no lottery protection whatsoever.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Is it possible Durant blows up, averages in the high 20s and leads these guys to the playoffs? Absolutely. But they depend an awful lot on one guy for the offense, and that one guy has yet to demonstrate he can take high-percentage shots or create meaningful opportunities for others. And if injuries hit, there's not a lot of depth here.
Group IV: Can I Send This Plate Back?
Sure, they look like decent appetizers at first glance. But once you have a few bites, it turns out there's something half-baked about each of these clubs.
Golden State Warriors
Unfortunately, we already know they'll screw this up somehow. The dysfunctional mess of a front office is too busy running Don Nelson's least-favored players out of town to bother acquiring pieces that fit. Al Harrington, Jamal Crawford and Marco Belinelli already departed with nothing to show for it, and Brandan Wright's got next. With this roster and Nelson's basic M.O. of playing seven shooting guards 30 minutes each, the Warriors are guaranteed to be among the worst defensive teams in the league, so if the offense isn't lights-out they're gong to struggle.
That was the only major offseason move. Otherwise, Houston tried to supplement its future with the biggest run of property acquisitions since the Louisiana Purchase. Houston paid nearly $9 million to acquire the rights to Jermaine Taylor, Chase Budinger, Sergio Llull and David Andersen -- not their salaries, mind you, just the right to be the ones paying them -- but only Andersen is likely to be in the rotation this season.
If the Rockets stay healthy and get bust-out years from Aaron Brooks and Carl Landry it's possible they can stay on the fringes of the playoff race, but it's more likely they'll struggle too much to score.
Group V: Roadkill
I'm pretty sure this is meat, but it tastes like an animal not normally served in restaurants, and I think I see a tread mark. We're outta here …
Despite a near-empty arena, the Griz still make money. That's partly because they'll do anything for $3 million, even trading a useful player (Darko Milicic) for a finished one (Quentin Richardson). But the few fans left in Memphis will get to see two of the league's biggest ball hogs fight it out for shots every night when Randolph and Rudy Gay take the court. One almost wants to see them add Iverson to the mix just to see if they could go an entire game without an assist.
If Al Jefferson returns to his All-Star-caliber level of the first half of last season it lifts Minnesota half a notch above doormat status, but the Wolves leaked a lot of talent since their strong January last season.
The Kings did pick up a potential star in the draft in Tyreke Evans and a low-budget breakout possibility in Sergio Rodriguez, plus Kevin Martin should be healthier. That should keep them run-of-the-mill bad rather than historically awful, but optimists won't find a lot of ammunition here.