Offering up New Year’s resolutions for every team in the Western Conference
With the new year upon us, The Point Forward offers up resolutions for every NBA team. To read Rob Mahoney’s resolutions for every team in the Eastern Conference, click here. For the West, check out below.
Dallas Mavericks: Appreciate the finer things in life.
It’s easy to gloss over what Dirk Nowitzki is doing in Dallas this season. He’s been putting up 20 per night for the Mavericks for more than a decade, carrying them to the playoffs year after year, with the exception of last year’s injury-plagued campaign.
But missing the playoffs appears to have lit a fire under Nowitzki this year, as has the arrivals of Monta Elis and Jose Calderon. While we’ve seen Dirk dominate for what feels like ages, the 35-year-old has been particularly lethal this season, even for his standards. Nowitzki is currently a golden lock short of the famed 50/40/90 splits, shooting 49.3 percent from the field, 40.5 percent from deep and 91.9 percent from the stripe.
With that type of efficiency, we’ll likely see another playoff run out of Nowitzki and the Mavericks. But Dallas shouldn’t take the playoff berth for granted, nor should it overlook the man who makes the impossible look so easy. It might seem like old hat at this point to see the 7-footer splashing jumpers from all over the floor in all manner of ways, but Father Time hangs over the veteran just like everyone else. Dallas should appreciate Nowitzki while he’s still around and marvel at his mastery.
Denver Nuggets: Play the hand you’ve been dealt.
The Nuggets have a smorgasbord of a roster, made up of a variety of talented players that don’t really go with each other, but have nonetheless been paired together. The biggest eyesore of all is at point guard, with Ty Lawson, Nate Robinson and Andre Miller making up three of the team’s seven best players. The team has a slew of athletic bigs who can finish , such as Kenneth Faried and J.J. Hickson, and a number of other players who can run — and yet the notoriously speedy Nuggets rank just No. 14 in fast break points this season at 13.6 per game.
First-year head coach Brian Shaw is trying to make his impact on the streaky Nuggets, who held a seven-game winning streak at one point during December and are now on a seven-game slide, but he’d be wiser to try and tailor his team’s offense to what it already has. Denver ranks 18th in points per possession and continues to be stuck somewhere between a run-and-gun and half-court team, but the Nuggets should give in and push down the throttle. With three talented point guards, Denver has the horses to push the ball and find the open man. While they don’t have the shooters ideal for an up-tempo game, they do have enough athletic bigs to run the floor, attack the rim and make them a dangerous offensive team.
Golden State Warriors: Use size to their advantage.
On the surface the Warriors are a glamorous team, led by the sharpshooting duo of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. But a closer examination reveals Golden State is actually a physical, bruising team with enforcers like Andrew Bogut, Marreese Speights, Draymond Green and Jermaine O’Neal.
Golden State’s group of imposing big men, coupled with the lockdown defense of Andre Iguodala, has helped the Warriors rise to No. 3 in the league in points allowed per 100 possessions (98.1) . With Bogut, David Lee and Iguodala in the starting lineup, the Warriors will hold a size advantage on opposing teams on almost every night. And with physical players like Green, Speights and O’Neal coming off the bench, Golden State’s second unit pounds the paint just as hard.
Curry and Thompson will get the spotlight for their feats on offense, and rightfully so, but the key to the Warriors’ success could be the big bodies in the paint occupying space under those jumpers.
Houston Rockets: Quit Omer Asik.
You know that awkward position when you are trying to trade a player and the rest of the league knows it? No? Just Daryl Morey? OK, well that might explain why the Rockets GM has had such little success in moving the disgruntled big man. Asik made his intentions known that he wanted out of Houston in mid-November, and yet Morey has been unwilling to find a deal to his liking despite Asik’s talent.
At his core, Asik is one of the best defensive centers in the league. He averaged 10.1 and 11.7 rebounds in a starting role for Houston last season, and his ability to protect the rim makes him a valuable commodity. But he’s not a power forward, nor is he suited to play next to Dwight Howard, which is why the Rockets no longer have any use for him.
Morey might not get everything he wants for Asik, but it would be wise for him to cash out sooner than later. There are plenty of teams that could use a talented center and the Rockets have plenty of needs (backup to Howard, bench shooter) they could address with a player in return.
Los Angeles Clippers: Let cooler heads prevail.
The Clippers are hands-down the most likely team in the NBA to get into a fight on any given night. It’s not even close. It’s like Doc Rivers put together the perfect storm of fisticuffs. With Blake Griffin, who carries possibly the biggest target on his back in the league, the team is always ready to throw down at a moment’s notice after a hard foul or rough play. And don’t forget Chris Paul, whose trash-talking tendencies have instigated more than one scuffle before when things get heated enough.
But Griffin and Paul aren’t the ones likely to do the scrapping. Enter Matt Barnes, arguably the dirtiest player in the league, and the newly signed Stephen Jackson, who played a major role in the infamous Malice at the Palace, and has had a serious of violent run-ins over the years, including our personal favorite, choking Steve Francis in a club.
With Barnes and Jackson getting Griffin’s back, plus the menacing DeAndre Jordan, the scrappy Paul and Griffin himself, who is 6-10 and 250 pounds and can more than stand up for himself, the Clippers aren’t one to back down from a fight if they see red.
Technical fouls and suspensions are blips on the radar during the regular season, but during the playoffs they can be series altering. It’s up to the Clippers to keep themselves from being their worst enemy and getting in any fights.