NBA Team Needs: Pacific Division

NBA Team Needs: Pacific Division
Jun 22, 2008, 12:21 am
An in-depth look at the roster situations of the Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix, Golden State, Sacramento and the Los Angeles Clippers--what they have, where they are going and who are the players that may be targeted in this upcoming draft.

NBA Team Needs: Northwest Division
NBA Team Needs: Southeast Division
NBA Team Needs: Central Division
NBA Team Needs: Atlantic Division

Golden State Warriors (48-34 in 2007-08)

Draft picks: No. 14, No. 49

Depth Chart:

PG: Baron Davis* / CJ Watson*
SG: Monta Ellis* / Kelenna Azubuike / Marco Belinelli
SF: Stephen Jackson / Mickael Pietrus* / Matt Barnes*
PF: Al Harrington / Austin Croshere* / Brandan Wright
C: Andris Biedrins* / Patrick O’Bryant* / Kosta Perovic

*Potential free agent

Could use help at: Point Guard, Power Forward, Depth

Bottom line: The 2007-2008 Warriors earned the dubious distinction of the being the best team ever not to make it into the postseason, and while an honor like that stings, it gives a team as talented as the Warriors a sense of urgency going into next season. Chris Mullin understands that he needs to improve his roster to compete in the Western Conference, and he’ll have a lot of decisions to make this offseason concerning his current stable of players. With Baron Davis considering terminating his contract early, and Monta Ellis and Andris Biedrins both looking for new deals, this offseason could turn into a turning point for Mullin and Warriors. Don Nelson has proven capable of implementing his system quickly, and he’ll probably have a number of new players that he’ll need to integrate into the team in 2009.

Draft outlook: Considering the dearth of free agents Mullin has on his roster, it seems likely that he’ll be fielding a number of trade offers, making the team’s pick at 14 a likely bargaining chip. Should Mullin opt to keep the pick, Donte Greene or Kosta Koufos could all come into play, with Greene having less polish, but more potential to see immediate playing at both forward spots in Nelson’s offense. Anthony Randolph and Darrell Arthur are other possibilities, but may not be on the board when the Warriors pick. Marreese Speights could also be an intriguing option considering his ability to play either PF or C and score inside and out. At 49, the Warriors probably won’t mind picking up a big man with some toughness who can potentially help them on the boards—such as Joey Dorsey, Richard Hendrix or D.J. White, although none of the three may be available at that point. Shooters like Brian Roberts, Maarty Leunen and George Hill may come into play as well, as the Warriors don’t have a great deal of depth, but Mullin will have to take a wait and see approach on draft day to test if he’ll get any real value in the second-round.

Los Angeles Clippers (23-59 in 2007-08)

Draft picks: No. 7, No. 35

Depth Chart:

PG: Brevin Knight / Dan Dickau* / Smush Parker* / Shaun Livingston*
SG: Cuttino Mobley / Quinton Ross*
SF: Corey Maggette* / Al Thornton / Marcus Williams*
PF: Elton Brand* / Tim Thomas/ Josh Powell
C: Chris Kaman / Nick Fazekas* / Paul Davis*

*Potential free agent

Could use help at: Point Guard, Shooting Guard

Bottom line: The Clippers had to give a little to get a little this season, and while injuries to Shaun Livingston and Elton Brand effectively eliminated any chance they had to make it into the playoffs, it helped Chris Kaman blossom into a force at center. With both Brand and Corey Maggette in position to opt out of their contracts, the Clippers may be forced into a rebuilding phase. Should both players choose to go elsewhere, the team would take almost $25 million off their books, enough to become a marquee destination for free agents. Should the pair depart, Elgin Baylor may not only get a franchise cornerstone in the draft, but one from free agency as well. The question is will that be enough to replace the loss of two of their three best players.

Draft outlook: Eric Gordon may be the best natural perimeter scorer in the draft, and has the potential to be a star. Though he lacks size, so does the Clipper’s current shooting guard Cuttino Mobley. What Gordon lacks in height, he makes up for in athleticism, strength, and determination. He seems like a perfect fit in Los Angeles, who is looking for impact players at 7. He has been rumored to be their “guy” for quite some time now. Also coming into the equation is local combo guard Russell Westbrook, who isn’t the scorer Gordon is, but has more potential as a point guard (The Clippers’ biggest need) and may have the most upside of any player in this draft. The Clippers want to get their hands on O.J. Mayo somehow, and it would likely cost them either Al Thornton or one or both of their first round picks next year (they also own Minnesota’s). They also supposedly have some interest in Brook Lopez as well.

At 35, the Clippers may take a look at a point guard as an insurance policy for Shaun Livingston. If that proves to be the case, Mike Taylor, Jamont Gordon or George Hill could come into play. Neither player would provide a major immediate impact, but offer quality depth. If Maggette is indeed leaving, it may make sense to take a flyer on a small forward prospect like Malik Hairston or Bill Walker. There will be some intriguing big men hanging around too, including at least one of the likes of Richard Hendrix, Ryan Anderson, D.J. White, Jason Thompson and Ante Tomic. The Clippers may shop both of their picks, and should come away from the draft looking much different than they did going in.

Los Angeles Lakers (22-60 in 2007-08)

Draft pick: No. 58

Depth Chart:

PG: Derrick Fisher / Jordan Farmar
SG: Kobe Bryant / Sasha Vujacic* / Coby Karl*
SF: Lamar Odom / Luke Walton / Trevor Ariza / Ira Newble*
PF: Vladimir Radmanovic / Ronny Turiaf*
C: Pau Gasol / D.J. Mbenga* / Andrew Bynum / Chris Mihm*

*Potential free agent

Could use help at: Power Forward, Depth

Bottom line: Talk about being in the right place at the right time; the Lakers stole Pau Gasol from Memphis with their terrific timing, not so much with the package they offered. Things are really looking up for the Lakers; Kobe Bryant seems happy, Gasol is fitting in well, and all the team’s role players are peaking at the right time. Although LA came up short in the NBA Finals this season, they’ll have the opportunity to make an even stronger run next season when they should earn home court advantage with Andrew Bynum back in the fold. The offseason will prove pretty uneventful in LA, but that’s ideal for a team searching for a Larry O’Brien Trophy.

Draft outlook: The Lakers may or may not actually use their extremely late second round pick, but they have the luxury of sitting back (for a long time) and waiting to take the best available player. Should the Lakers use the pick, they may take an experienced player with the potential to play a small role off the bench like Maarty Leunen or DeMarcus Nelson. They are rumored to be have interest in long-armed IUPUI junior George Hill, who mastered the Triangle Offense in college and has a terrific temperament and excellent perimeter shooting ability. The Lakers did well trusting their well-connected international scouting director Adam Filippi last year to select Marc Gasol (and almost Rudy Fernandez), and may decide to do so again.

Phoenix Suns (55-27 in 2007-08)

Draft picks: No. 15, No. 48

Depth Chart:

PG: Steve Nash / Leandrinho Barbosa
SG: Raja Bell / Gordan Giricek* / D.J. Strawberry / Eric Piatkowski*
SF: Grant Hill* / Alando Tucker / Linton Johnson*
PF: Amare Stoudemire / Boris Diaw/ Sean Marks*
C: Shaquille O'Neal / Brian Skinner*

*Potential free agent

Could use help at: Power Forward, Center, Depth

Bottom line: Trading Shawn Marion for Shaquille O’Neal was one of the gutsiest moves in NBA history. Steve Kerr put all the chips and the table, and while Phoenix stumbled this season, a Championship next season would absolve him completely. With no major free agents looking to leave, the Suns are a shoo-in to make the playoffs barring a disaster. What this aging team can do in the playoffs is another question, though. With a pick in the middle of the first round, Phoenix will have a chance to add another player to their bench to contribute to that run, and may even try to acquire another pick on draft night. For once, it seems like Phoenix will actually be able to use their first round pick, rather than putting even more money in their millionaire owner’s pockets.

Draft outlook: With their first rounder, the Suns could target a wing like Brandon Rush or Donte Greene to add another perimeter shooting threat, but will also look at shoring up their frontcourt with a player like Robin Lopez. Lopez would bring the Suns some of the energy and toughness they lacked off the bench last season, particularly in terms of being able to properly defend the pick and roll. They’ve been looking for a player like this since disastrously missing out on Joakim Noah when the lottery balls allowed Atlanta to keep their pick last May. Steve Kerr will have his choice of intriguing prospects, and will have his work cut out for him in choosing the best player available. At 48, the Suns would probably love to add the toughness and athleticism of Joey Dorsey. He would provide instant depth and production, something that doesn’t come easy to playoff teams in the second-round. Other players worth considering include J.R. Giddens and Shan Foster.

Sacramento Kings (38-44 in 2007-08)

Draft picks: No. 12, No. 42, No. 43

Depth Chart:

PG: Beno Udrih* / Anthony Johnson*
SG: Kevin Martin / Francisco Garcia / Quincy Douby
SF: Ron Artest* / John Salmons
PF: Mikki Moore / Kenny Thomas / Shareef Abdur-Rahim / Shelden Williams
C: Brad Miller / Spencer Hawes / Lorenzen Wright*

*Potential free agent

Could use help at: Point Guard, Small Forward, Power Forward, Overall Depth

Bottom line: The Kings flew under the radar for most of the regular season, and they were just a decent team in an unbelievably strong conference. With Ron Artest holding a player option for next season, the Kings may find themselves in rebuilding mode without the necessary cap space to make a big move in free agency. That factor raises the importance of the Kings draft pick significantly. The franchise really needs to luck out and draft a player that can pay immediately dividends. Until Artest makes a decision, it will be very difficult to Geoff Petrie to piece together a plan of attack for the offseason, especially with such important matters as the city’s arena situation looming in the background. The team realizes that it needs to find a long-term solution at the point guard position.

Draft outlook: With all of the top point and combo guards likely off the board already (most notably D.J. Augustin and Russell Westbrook), the Kings will likely have to look elsewhere for help at their biggest position of need. There appears to be a sharp drop-off in terms of quality of prospects right around the 12th pick, so the Kings may be forced to take a talented player who doesn’t fill an immediate need. Forwards like Donte Greene and Anthony Randolph look to be two of the best available prospects at their pick. Either would be a nice fit for the Kings regardless of whether or not Ron Artest is still around. Two players that the Kings may target depending on how they work out are Darrell Arthur and Marreese Speights. Either player would push Mikki Moore for minutes at power forward from day one. In the second round, the Kinds will have the chance to either make back-to-back selections in the early forties or shop their selections to move up. Petrie will look at any of the more highly rated prospects that fall here, and could very well take a flyer on one of the international big men slipping due to contract situations, such as Omer Asik, Nikola Pekovic or Ante Tomic. Pat Calathes is another player worth considering, since he could be a solid role player as an oversized shooter who can spread the floor.

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