The West is as competitive as its ever been. One has to wonder if the 2004 through 2007 Suns would have been a Top Three team in this competition. Was the Triumverate of Dominance (Mavs-Spurs-Suns) based on a lack of competition or just a ridiculously silly high level of play from those teams? Was the emperor -- and his two top generals -- naked? Was Eva naked with them?
In the West, we still have capitalism at its best -- the haves and have nots. JFK stole a line from Jesus and said that the poor are here to allow us to do good things. I guess that's the Robin Hood-esque theory behind the luxury tax. The Suns, Lakers, Mavs, Blazers and (for years) the Nuggets. I'm pretty sure the Spurs joined that list with the acquisition of Jefferson in their attempt to get the most out of the waning Duncan Years (a great strategy, btw). In typical socialist fashion, the NBA redistributes wealth and draft picks to the under-achieving lazy bums in Minnesota, Memphis and Clipper-land. Is there any way we can make the NBA and the D-Leauge like the European Football leagues? We could relegate the Wolves and Clippers to the D-League and give Courtney Sims a chance to take an elbow from Kobe Bryant.
I've got to mention Golden State. I can't be the first person to liken them to the Bad News Bears. Alcholic, manipulative coach? Check. Players willing to throw down? Check. Under-sized trouble-makers? Check. Unexpected contributions from tall, effeminate players? Check. Ability to hit the long ball at just the right time? Check. Able to pull out impressive wins but unable to sustain anything? Check. I put up a link to an article in the FanShots section that discussed the Curry-Ellis-Jackson-Stoudemire controversy in a little more depth. Being a Warriors fan has to be a lot like being a fan of Evil Knevil -- you're thrilled when they pull it off, but you're just as happy to see a miserable failure and mass destruction.
All jokes aside, let's look at our competition.
Relevant off-season moves:
Did Dallas just get a little better? Or is it just my imagination? Sure, they aren't within everyone's top contenders for the Larry O'Brien Trophy but they've sure made everything within their reach to make a run for it.
Re-signing Jason Kidd was a good move. You can argue that he's no longer one of the top Point Guards in the game but he's a great leader and he can still give people the ball where they can do some serious damage. The addition of Shawn Marion (insert sad face here) will give Kidd more opportunities to play loose and run from time to time. Marion will be the first one to run the floor for an easy basket and I expect Kidd to take full advantage of what Marion brings to the table.
On the other hand, Shawn will give the Mavericks defensive flexibility. We know he can guard small players just like he can guard big Power Forwards. He's numbers will go up but I don't expect him to be an All Star anymore. Don't get me wrong, he will certainly benefit and will thrive with Kidd on the point, who can give him he ball close to the basket or during a fast break.
Dallas was also able to get Gooden. The Mavericks may have gotten a steal with this signing. They were interested in Marcin Gortat but with the Magic matching their ridiculous offer, they pursued Gooden, who turned out to be cheaper and brings almost the same skills to the table. Gooden will be a great replacement for Dampier. You can expect to see him next to Dirk down the stretch. Drew Gooden is no All Star but he can do some dirty work under the basket. Something that I've not seen anyone do for The Mavericks in the past few years.
Tim Thomas can still knock down the occasional three point shot and Quinton Ross could turn out to be a good signing. He's an average defender who can make threes. If he's used right he can give the starters some rest and play valuable minutes.
Dallas fans should feel happy; Mark Cuban made some interesting moves that really improved their team. The big question mark continues to be Rick Carlisle. Will he use his roster the right way? Is he too stubborn to run n gun from time to time? If he gives Kidd and his pals the green light to run... this team will be really fun to watch.
JSun: I'm scared to death of watching Marion run the floor with Kidd. I'll probably cheer when he's not playing the Suns. When he is playing the Suns, all I'll be doing is bagging dog poo to light on fire for Steve Kerr's porch.
Relevant off season moves:
I've talked to several people about the Spurs Off season. Some of them feel that these moves are overrated, that it will not make a difference when it comes down to winning a title. But let me tell you something my dear friends, from a Suns fan perspective. From someone who has seen their beloved team fall again and again against the Immortal Spurs...I'm scared to death.
Remember the times when the Spurs had their offensive droughts like around the third quarter? Well, I don't think that's going to happen anymore. The addition of Richard Jefferson gives them instant offense. He can be that spark on offense the Spurs needed. He can take advantage and score easily when Tim Duncan is double teamed.
The big question mark is if Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili will be and remain healthy enough to actually help the team. This is something that has been a cause of concern for the Spurs main office which is why they decided to bring Antonio McDyess.
I really don't know how much he has left in the tank; one thing I do know is that this guy plays hard every time he's on the court. He will provide a lot of help with rebounds and playing under the basket. The only down side of his signing is his contract. 3 years for 16 millions seems a little bit too much from my end. But he's certainly the type of player that exceeds expectations; he's a Popovich type of player and that alone benefits their team.
No one can stop Tony Parker in the paint. If Roger Mason continues to shoot lights out from the three point line and if Manu is able to come back and play like his regular self...The Spurs could make a serious run to for the title.
JSun: I don't know why PSun didn't mention the draft. I've seen non-Texas papers say that DeJuan Blair is the next Paul Milsap. Isn't that the perfect complement to this roster? If he's able to be that, he will give Duncan the rest needed to get through the season. I had this great joke a couple of weeks back when the Arizona Wildcats finally admitted they were a joke and hired Bill Murray's relative. It was much funnier when I told my boss at happy hour. Hating the Spurs and the Cats, I fear much woe in the household come June.
Relevant off season moves:
It hurts to say this but they are the title favorites this year. It was important for them to keep Lamar Odom (insert Kardashian joke here) and bring a strong small forward to play along with him and Kobe Bryant. They didn't waste their time and got Artest from the Rockets. They have basically the same team, there's really no reason to fix something if it's not broken.
Artest might be a head case, but the dude can play. Phil Jackson might have to Zen his rear end to get him focused and on the same page but I feel that in the long run this move will take The Lakers to the next level. The only complaint I have about this trade is the amount of money and years they offered to Ron. If this doesn't work they are stuck with him for 5 years. I'm not sure any other team would want to deal with him.
Kobe Bryant will continue to be the best player in the league. Pau Gasol finally stepped up in crunch time last year so we can no longer question his
manhood character under pressure.
Unless something happens, I expect the Lakers to be the favorites to win the Championship again.
JSun: I read a tweet or something somewhere saying that Bynum is so freaked out by knee issues that he's wearing a brace on his good knee. Normally, I'd laugh hysterically and mock the Lakers for paying this guy $60 million; while he may be the most overpaid player in the leauge, he still does just enough to keep the Lakers at the top of the League.
Relevant offseason moves:
The years of the Denver Nuggets fighting for the 8th place in the standings are over. The addition of Chauncey Billups has completely turned around this franchise. Their fans enjoyed one of the best post seasons that you can ask for without winning it all. They saw their young star turn into a super star on the big stage. They saw their boys fighting against every team that got in their way. Their defense was superb. They executed under pressure. They became an exciting team to watch instead of a walking frustration with a light blue uniform on.
Denver will continue to be tough. If Melo continues to play like he did last season and if Chris Andersen can keep on providing that energy off the bench, Denver will make noise once again.
Minor changes were made to their roster. Again, there's no need to fix something that's not broken and that gave you a special season. Last thing you want to do is break the good chemistry. Minor tweaks here and there. I can only imagine how eager Nuggets' fans are for the season to start.
JSun: This is an important year for the Nuggets. It's kind of like the second album a band releases. After a great break-out year, how are they going to follow it up? Was last year the Nuggets' Cracked Rear View or Van Halen I?
It's tough to predict how the Suns will do against these teams. Basketball is a crazy game and what looks good on paper doesn't always look good on the court. What I'm sure of is that the West has gotten tougher and it will not be easy for our beloved Suns.
Special Thanks to JSun for his contributions and comments. It's always fun to work with you, buddy.