Ryan Gomes

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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Ross Geiger’s 2010-2011 NBA Rookie Disappointments

PG: N/A

There’s honestly not one point guard that you can fairly say they’ll be a draft disappointment. Considering where each of this year’s point guard prospects were selected, you got to like the potential upside they all offer.

Turner's role with the 76ers will be as awkward as that hat looks atop his head

SG: Evan Turner, Philadelphia 76ers

A variety of reasons land Turner in this slot: 1) He far from impressed in Orlando Summer League ball 2) While the 76ers have a fresh, new coach in Doug Collins it doesn’t change the fact that Turner will struggle finding his niche role with his team 3) If John Wall can play up to his expectation level and Turner struggles, unfortunately, unfairly he’ll be looked down upon. There’s no doubt Turner becomes a solid player in the NBA, but he’s going to be a young player that will grow with time. So from jump, Turner may be perceived as a draft disappointment.

This may in fact be the only memory of Aminu that I'll still hold at the end of the season

SF: Al-Farouq Aminu, Los Angeles Clippers

If you’re looking for this past year’s draft’s biggest disappointment look no further, Aminu can be added to the list of terrible Clippers’ draft picks. Who knows what the Clippers see in Aminu’s future as an NBA player but I can assure you he’s not worth using your 8th pick on him. His immediate role with the Clippers is limited and very well in question after bringing in Ryan Gomes and resigning Rasual Butler. Both Gomes and Butler will make it extremely difficult for Aminu to find time. Most likely Aminu becomes a guy who never gets his opportunities early on and never recovers from the lack of experience as a rookie. His best bet is to find some time in the D-League and then to go from there because he’s far from NBA ready nor is he ready to be called 8th pick worthy, regardless of draft class.

When you're picked before tons of players you probably shouldn't be, it's common practice to hug the commissioner rather than shake his hand

PF: Ekpe Udoh, Golden State Warriors

With the 6th pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, the Golden State Warriors select…umm who? Though you all know I cover the NBA draft extensively and clearly know who Udoh is, predictions aside, I’m shocked Warriors went this route. Maybe it makes more than perfect sense to draft Greg Monroe so instead they decided to take the risky pick in Udoh in hopes that he surprises us all. Udoh will be newly signed David Lee’s backup and will continually remain his backup until the Warriors feel he’s ready to play some minutes at center. If and when that time ever becomes a possibility is much like Udoh’s true potential, up in the air. Until Udoh shows us why he’s worthy of consideration as high as pick #6 he’ll remain a big disappointment in my book.

Ewing: "Dude, are you seriously this bad?"

C: Daniel Orton, Orlando Magic

Now I understand why he was the second-to-last pick in the first round, I understand he was given some attention being a member of the Kentucky Wildcats youth, but what I can’t grasp any understanding in deciding to take a gamble with Orton over Hassan Whiteside. Worst-case scenario for Whiteside is best case scenario for Orton, that’s how bad Orton is. I mean come on, the highlight of Orton’s Summer League in Orlando was him getting tossed for fighting with the Pacers’ Josh McRoberts. For Orton’s sake, I hope he can maybe learn a thing or two from fellow teammates Dwight Howard and Marcin Gortat, but I also hope he knows how to save his money. Outside of his rookie contract, I see him finding a tough time finding a job in the league.

This is Part 5 of Ross Geiger’s 7-part Blog Series covering the NBA’s most prominent young players. Be sure to be on the lookout for Part 6 that’s coming soon! In the mean time, follow Ross Geiger on Twitter: @RossGeiger.