Omri Casspi

2010-11 NBA Preview: Pacific Division

Los Angeles Lakers (57-25 last season)

The reigning champs would love for a three-peat.

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Derek Fisher

Shooting Guard: Kobe Bryant

Small Forward: Ron Artest

Power Forward: Pau Gasol

Center: Andrew Bynum

Key Reserves:

Guard: Steve Blake

Guard-Forward: Matt Barnes

Forward: Lamar Odom

I believe this Laker team only got better by adding Steve Blake and Matt Barnes.  Blake will prove to be a much better backup to Derek Fisher than Jordan Farmar.  Blake is a savvy veteran with a solid shooting stroke and will run this team very well.  He will also help the Lakers dismal three point percentage that they had last season.  Kobe Bryant will be Kobe Bryant, regardless if he’s hurt or healthy.  The man is the closest to Jordan that I have seen.  If Ron Artest can play like he did in the playoffs for the entire season it’s game over.  The Lakers are still the best team, even after the moves the Heat made, and they will prove it with their third title in a row.

Phoenix Suns (54-28 last season)

When will the "fountain of youth" run out of water.

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Steve Nash

Shooting Guard: Jason Richardson

Small Forward: Grant Hill

Power Forward: Hedo Turkoglu

Center: Robin Lopez

Key Reserves:

Guard: Goran Dragic

Guard-Forward: Josh Childress

Forward: Jared Dudley

The Suns have improved in some areas and in others they are going to be drastically lost.  Losing Amar’e Stoudemire is going to be tough to get over, and Robin Lopez must step up big time if Phoenix wants to prove they can still play in the West.  Rebounding will be an important stat to keep in mind, because even with Stoudemire they weren’t that great.  Channing Frye, Hedo Turkoglu and Hakim Warrick all need to bring down more rebounds than they are used to doing.  I still have faith that this new look team can make the playoffs, but will they make it past the first round?  For more on the Suns check out this article: Planet Orange Shining Bright

Los Angeles Clippers (29-53 last season)

Healthy and ready to show why he was the No. 1 pick.

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Baron Davis

Shooting Guard: Eric Gordon

Small Forward: Ryan Gomes

Power Forward: Blake Griffin

Center: Chris Kaman

Key Reserves:

Guard: Eric Bledsoe

Forward: Rasual Butler

Forward: Al-Farouq Aminu

The Clippers are going to be a much improved squad this year, and it really can be thanks to a healthy Blake Griffin.  He is an immediate impact player and will be a significant boost to the chemistry of this team.  The starting lineup for the Clippers seems solid, but the reserves will be a little shaky.  None of them have really proven to be NBA dependable and there are also a lot of rookies on the roster (Eric Bledsoe, Al-Farouq Aminu and Willie Warren).  Ultimately, the Clippers are going to go as Baron Davis goes.  He will have the ball in his hands a majority of the time trying to set up other players, and if he’s off then the rest of the team will be out of sync.  I see the Clippers missing the playoffs, but not by a whole lot.

Sacramento Kings (25-57 last season)

The catalyst of this youthful team.

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Tyreke Evans

Shooting Guard: Beno Udrih

Small Forward: Omri Casspi

Power Forward: Carl Landry

Center: Samuel Dalembert

Key Reserves:

Guard-Forward: Francisco Garcia

Forward: Donte Greene

Forward-Center: DeMarcus Cousins

A lot is going in the right direction for the Kings: Tyreke Evans is turning into a superstar, they are stacked at the power forward and center position, and the losing ways could be over this season.  This team reminds me of the 76ers though.  They have no shooters.  Tyreke is improving but still isn’t quite there.  Omri Casspi is a streaky shooter and same with Beno Udrih.  Both Donte Greene and Francisco Garcia have a chance of cracking the starting lineup and shooting consistently will be the key.  Also look for DeMarcus Cousins to slowly start taking more and more minutes away from Samuel Dalembert as the season progresses.

Golden State Warriors (26-56 last season)

Out of New York and out of the pressure.

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Stephen Curry

Shooting Guard: Monta Ellis

Small Forward: Dorell Wright

Power Forward: David Lee

Center: Andris Biedrins

Key Reserves:

Guard: Charlie Bell

Guard-Forward: Rodney Carney

Forward: Louis Amundson

David Lee must provide for this team.  The Warriors shipped three players away to acquire Lee and they are looking for something in return.  Stephen Curry is proving that he can play in the NBA and he is coming off an impressive rookie season.  His continued development will be the main focal point because who knows how much longer Monta Ellis will be around.  Golden State should have no problem rebounding with Lee and Andris Biedrins and their defense should be much improved by adding Louis Amundson.  With a few bright spots, I still feel this team will finish last in the division.

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Top 3 Teams in Play for Carmelo Anthony

Despite the fact that the New York Knicks “were” the favorable destination for 2011’s top free agent in Carmelo Anthony it looks as though the Nuggets aren’t interested in becoming trading partners. As Sam Amico reported via Twitter this past Saturday the Nuggets will try to trade Carmelo to three teams: Minnesota Timberwolves, Sacramento Kings, and the New Jersey Nets.

Which team will I pick?

There’s no doubt in my mind that Melo will in fact be traded before this year’s trade deadline. For one Carmelo has pretty much painted a clear picture to the Nuggets organization that he doesn’t have much interest in signing an extension. For two Carmelo continuously speaks to the media discussing his future plans in which he recently just expressed his interest in possibly joining the Houston Rockets.

But the third and final reason has to deal with the team that currently holds the rights to their franchise player, the Denver Nuggets.  Don’t forget they have their own agenda, their own goals, their own future to look forward too, as does Anthony. I can assure you the Denver Nuggets will take notes and examine what just happened to Dan Gilbert and the Cleveland Cavaliers with “The Decision”. There’s no way Anthony will depart from Denver without the Nuggets receiving some valuable compensation.

While Anthony may in fact have his own preferences of teams, the Nuggets also have their own. In which case brings up a very interesting story to follow: How will the Nuggets successfully pull off a blockbuster trade to their liking?

It begins with narrowing down the teams you’re interested in doing business with and they’ve already established that in the Timberwolves, Kings, and Nets. It’s been noted all offseason long that the Denver Nuggets have been out searching for a young power forward to replace their current aging and overpaid power forwards in Nene Hilario and Kenyon Martin. Each of the three teams mentioned as Denver’s favorite trading partners can offer the ideal young power forward the Nuggets have been searching for.

Love could be the piece to bring Melo to Minny.

In Minnesota it’s Kevin Love, a young post man currently a member of the young Team USA team participating in Turkey. Love’s a player who has expressed mixed emotions upon being a member of the Timberwolves. Most recently told reporters at Team USA camp that he felt “unappreciated” by the Timberwolves organization.

Meanwhile in Sacramento, the Kings have put themselves in a great position to be attractive trading partners by having successful draft nights the past few years. They have an oversized load of young post players that show tons of potential. With the variety of different big men they’re able to offer, there’s no question they’ve got the best chance of landing Carmelo Anthony.

In New Jersey, it comes down to the vision and decision-making of new owner Mikhail Prokhorov. After Prokhorov struck out on reeling in a big name star in this year’s historic free agency, he may become impatient, and make an over-the-top offer for Anthony’s services. If he does that I can promise you he’ll be doing the Nuggets some favors (pun intended).

So let’s review each of the Nuggets’ preferred trading partners and evaluate the talent they’re willing to offer in return for Denver’s superstar. It’s important to consider that it’s not likely ANY of these trades go down without Carmelo accepting a rarely used (in mid-season) what’s called an extend-and-trade.

Each of the three teams listed will want assurance that they’re not trading young big man for a “rent-a-player”. In most trade circumstances, the NBA is not like Major League Baseball where you give away a top prospect in exchange for a star you’re unlikely to resign (cough…Brewers…cough). With that in mind, Anthony will basically have an artificial no trade clause. So in the end, can the Nuggets REALLY pull a trade off with one of the following teams? Let’s examine:

Minnesota Timberwolves: While Sacramento is clearly the favorite for Carmelo Anthony in terms of the Nuggets’ preferences, let’s not forget that for Wolves GM David Kahn it may not be tough throwing him into a deal. With the additions of Anthony Tolliver, Michael Beasley, and Darko Milicic this offseason, it’s likely Love won’t even be returning next season. The Timberwolves can offer a below average package for Anthony most likely sending Kevin Love, Corey Brewer, and probably a future first round pick that can be sweetened if Kahn makes it not lottery protected.

Favors could be the big man to bring New Jersey a big piece.

New Jersey Nets: As mentioned above, if Prokhorov does get desperate, the Nets may have a nice shot at landing Melo. Not only can they off a variety of young pieces, but New Jersey is a place that Carmelo may have interest in signing and staying long term. While the Russian man may gamble & goes all in with his young talented chips, the question that arises is if Denver is willing to gamble as well. The Nets have already come out and said they’re not willing to add Brook Lopez into any kind of deal for Anthony. So even if it sounds outrageous the Nuggets would have to acquire Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, Terrence Williams, and maybe more. If a deal anywhere close to this nature, consider it a done deal, and it could be realistic “IF” (a big “if”) Carmelo agrees to do a extend and trade scenario.

Cousins is one guy who will not be included in any deal for Melo.

Sacramento Kings: Much like the Nets, the Kings also have a ton of potential pieces. But make no mistake, the Kings may be able to offer more variety of bigs, but there’s no way they’ll be willing to include DeMarcus Cousins in any trade talk. It’s clear newly acquired Samuel Dalembert will play a big role along with Jason Thompson, Donte Greene, Carl Landry, Omri Casspi and Hassan Whiteside being potential guys sent in the proposal. The Kings would love the idea of a Tyreke-Melo-Cousins trio heading towards the future. And the Nuggets may have enough interest in Dalembert’s huge expiring contract , along with Carl Landry’s. Also, don’t rule out Omri Casspi and Kings rookie Hassan Whiteside. Casspi can fill the starting small forward position and Whiteside is a young Marcus Camby in the making (Camby won 2007 Defensive Player of the Year with Denver).

This is obviously all speculation and nobody knows what may happen this upcoming season in the high country. But I’m willing to bet NOTHING HAPPENS until at least December 15th which other newly signed free agents become available for trade. That gives plenty of other teams possibilities to get involved and who knows, maybe even the Nuggets’ preferred three teams will get together to and work out a three team trade of some sort.

Until then, take this situation for what it’s worth, embrace the hype, the hoopla, and the rumors.