Let's start with the best, the Los Angeles Lakers. With off-season acquisitions, Dwight Howard (the second best big man in the league) and Steve Nash, to pair with the Black Mamba himself, the Lakers should be a force for the last 2 years of Kobe's career. Being able to hold on to that big softie, Pau Gasol, who can now focus on being soft and shooting 17 foot jumpers was a huge win for Jerry West. No team in the league has a front court that can evenly match up with the two seven footers the Lakers are going to bring on a nightly basis. Couple all that with the original wild card, RonRon, and what you have is a team has the potential to knock off the Thunder and represent the West in the Finals. (My favorite part of the "Elbow Heard 'Round the World" was not the elbow itself, it was when RonRon grabbed his honker and squared up with Ibaka. Stuff was what dreams are made of.) The only misstep the Lakers made in the off-season was acquiring Jodie Meeks, who is the least clutch, "clutch" 3-point shooter in the league, to back up Kobe. The Lakers will finish 59-23, good enough for a 2 seed in the West. Literally the only way I will be satisfied with this season is if the Lakers and Thunder play in the Western Conference Finals. Every other possible outcome will be a letdown in my book.
Side note: can you believe this shit happened? In real life, that happened. Metta World Peace is from Mars.
If Stephen Jackson doesn't slip at the 2:04 mark, he literally punches through that guy's head.
This off-season made it painfully obvious that the Clippers will be second best in their own building for at least 2 more years. They are one of the more exciting teams in the league with the Chris Paul to Blake Griffin combo, but exciting only gets you so far. There is no arguing that Chris Paul is the best point guard in the league, but the verdict has to still be out on Blake Griffin. When all you can do is dunk, no matter how cool it is, it is a problem. When he adds some back-to-the-basket game and some semblance of defense (his main defense of flopping has been outlawed), the Clippers will be much better off. Maybe even more important than Griffin's development is the health of Chauncey Billups, recovering from a season ending Achilles injury, and the effectiveness of Lamar Odom. Listen. I don't agree with Lamar Odom's life choices, but if he can regain half the form he had when he was playing for the other LA team, the Clippers will be a tough out come playoff time. The Clippers finish the season 49-33, good enough for 4th in the West. They lose to the Lakers in the second round of the playoffs.
One of my favorite young teams is the Golden State Warriors. With a strong nucleus of Stephen Curry (if he can stay healthy), David Lee, Andrew Bogut and late season star, Klay Thompson, there is little doubt they are going to put up points. The question becomes, will they be able to stop anyone on the defensive end? That has been their major problem the last (insert number of years they have been around here) years. They had a very strong 2012 NBA draft with notable additions of Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green (huge steal at #35 overall) and also were able to sign notable backups Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack, all good defensive players. My guess is 2012 will be the first year I can remember where the Warriors keep teams under an average of 100 ppg. Besides, how can you hate on a team with some of the best jerseys in the league? The Warriors finish with their first winning record in a million years at 43-39 and MAY sneak into the 8 spot in the West to have the honor of being swept out in the first round by K Smoove and the Thunder.
Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins are those bulls for the Sacramento Kings. DeMarcus is going to average 23 and 15 in 2012 while Tyreke is going to get that scoring average back above 20 per game. After DeMarcus and Tyreke, the Kings are garbage. Marcus Thorton can score the ball but doesn't play a lick of defense and Isiah Thomas does not remind me of THE Isiah Thomas. The addition of rookie Thomas Robinson means the Kings could easily have 2 front court guys averaging double digit rebounds. If Robinson develops quickly, the Kings could be tough, but I can't see it happening. The Kings finish 30-52, DeMarcus gets his second head coach fired and the Maloof Brothers move them to Alberta.
When your biggest off-season signing has a crippling weed addiction, you know you are in trouble. The Suns finish the season at 29-53 and receive absolutely no time up in da club.