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Category: Scouting Reports

Know Thy Enemy: Dallas Mavericks

Dallas Mavericks

Last Season:50-32 (.610, 3rd in the Southwest Division, 6th in the Western Conference)

Key Additions: Traded for Shawn Marion and Kris Humphries, signedDrew Gooden, Tim Thomas and Quinton Ross, drafted Rodrigue Beubois
Key Losses: Brandon Bass, Jerry Stackhouse, Ryan Hollings, Antoine Wright, Devean GeorgeDirk

Generally speaking, folks who do this sort of thing for a living have tabbed three teams as primary threats to the Lakers in the Western Conference: Portland, San Antonio, and Denver (quibble about the order amongst yourselves, that's how I'd arrange them at least in terms of wins). If there's a fourth team capable of crashing the party, it's likely the Mavs. It's a big if. Capital I, capital F. (There would be more, but it's a short word.) Dallas will be good, but for them to crash the party at the top of the conference, a lot has to go right. But it's not beyond imagination.

The addition of Marion to the core of Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, and Josh Howard gives Rick Carlisle and Co. heaps of offensive versatility and a wide variety of dynamic players to help push the squad. There are plenty of questions. Marion's presence necessitates a bit of a lineup shuffle. They don't have much going on in the post after Erick Dampier, and he's not all that much himself. Gooden will play some center, but he's undersized there for sure. Plus, to say the Mavs are a veteran bunch would be an understatement. Some would call them old.

To help get some insight into the happenings in Big D, I hit up Philip Baggett over at MavsMoneyball.com with some questions. Click below for the answers, but only if you want the truth, and feel you can handle it.

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Know Thy Enemy: Houston Rockets

Houston Rockets

Last Season: 53-29 (.646, 2nd in Southwest Division, 5th in the Western Conference)

Key Additions: Signed Trevor Ariza, traded for David Andersen, drafted Chase Budinger, Jermaine Taylor
Key Subtractions: Ron Artest, Von Wafer, Brett Barry, plus Yao Ming is injured

I like this team.

I respect the work ethic, and how hard they'll compete. If my future children grow up to play basketball and I end up the coach, I'll fire up game film of the '09-'10 Rockets and use them as a model of determination and teamwork. (As an aside, I also wonder how much we'll win, given that our entire playbook is likely to consist of hoping one of those six year olds can dunk.) I think they'll win an ESPY for Best Scrappy Team. They will never mail it in. They won't even own postage. 

I just wonder how much they'll win.

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Know thy Enemy: Golden State Warriors

Golden State Warriors

Last Season: 29-53 (.354, 3rd in the Pacific Division, 10th in the Western Conference)Scream

Key Additions: Drafted Stephon Curry. Also brought in Acie Law, Speedy Claxton, Devean George  and Mikki Moore, but if any of those guys become "key," the Warriors will have officially crossed into a realm scary enough to be the setting for the next installment of Saw.
Key Subtractions: Jamal Crawford, Marco Belinelli

(You just think the lil' guy is watching Warriors highlights from last season... Amazing how the color palate matches, though.)

The Real Housewives of Atlanta. Joan and Christina Crawford. The Nazis and the French Resistance. All examples of relationships functioning at a more harmonious level than the Golden State Warriors. While the assembled hoards in El Segundo spent Media Day desperately trying to prove the circus had come to town in the form of Ron Artest's social media smorgasbord and Lamar Odom's E!-tastic wedding, the real McCoy was taking place upstate, short only dancing bears and bearded ladies. Monta Ellis welcomed Curry to the locker room by declaring the Warriors wouldn't be able to win says there's no way the Warriors can win with both the two of them on floor at the same time. Stephen Jackson wants out, because, and I'm paraphrasing only slightly here, it's exceedingly obvious the team is run by nitwits, and the chances of him ever being on a winning squad in Oakland appear as likely as Paris Hilton being named Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

Hard to believe Captain Jack has already been suspended, thanks to his actions against the Lakers at the Forum. Two preseason games missed, something that, as an angry 10 year vet, I'm sure tore him up inside.

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Know thy enemy: Los Angeles Clippers

Los Angeles ClippersClippers Bear

Last Season: 19-63 (.232, 4th in Pacific Division, 14th in the Western Conference)

Key Additions: Drafted Blake Griffin, traded for Craig Smith, Sebastian Telfair, Rasual Butler.
Key Subtractions: Zach Randolph, Paul Davis, Zach Randolph, Mike Taylor, Fred Jones, Zach Randolph, Zach Randolph, Alex Acker (I kid), Zach Randolph, Zach Randolph, and Zach Randolph.

(Look, it's Clipper Bear-rell! Cue collective groan...)

A Heaven's Gate franchise for nearly their entire existence, 2008-2009 may just have been their Gigli.Or vice versa. Or maybe it was their Meet Dave/Adventures of Pluto Nash. Whatever the cinematic comparison, for LA's other squad it was, even relative to a history fairly riddled with this sort of thing, a total disaster from start to finish. Last summer's triumph of landing Baron Davis immediately went sour for the Clippers when Elton Brand defected to Philadelphia. Davis showed up out of shape, got hurt, shot 37% when he did manage to play, and didn't get along with Mike Dunleavy. Essentially, he brought nothing to the floor except Kate Hudson. Davis was hardly the only problem. Marcus Camby was injured in the preseason. Ricky Davis got hurt, as did Chris Kaman. Jason Williams retired before he ever suited up. Maybe he had a vision?

It all served to kick the jersey maker into overdrive. Over the course of the season, trades- including perhaps the worst swap of the decade, bringing in Randolph and his tailor-made-for-bad-teams game and albatross of a contract- and injuries put 19 different guys in red, white, and blue.

Not exactly a recipe for continuity.

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Know Thy Enemy: Houston, Seattle, New Orleans, Utah

Back by (semi) popular demand! Today we'll take a look at the rest of the Western Conference's lottery squads. While the Baltic Avenues of the West don't shape up as threats this season, this bunch, including the Rockets, Sonics, Hornets and Jazz, could make a little noise. But will they be better or worse than the Lakers?

HOUSTON ROCKETS (34-48 last season)
Big Gains:
Traded for Shane Battier, Kirk Snyder.
Big Losses: Traded Stromile Swift. Bob Sura?

Big things were expected from the Rockets last season, with Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady (permanently referred to by Mom as "Yao's friend," since she always draws a blank trying to remember his name), having played a full season as a duo. Instead, the team suffered so many injuries, you expected news of Jeff Van Gundy getting shanked in the shower as a capper. But the talent is there, if stunningly fragile.

After healing up, Yao Ming spent the season's second half newly aggressive and absolutely balling, including a 28 point/11 board/2 block March. With Shaq on the decline (and content to let Wade carry his ass), "NBA's best center" could be Yao's for the taking. T-Mac is labeled by some as a poor man's Kobe Bryant (one hopes he has a rich man's Kobe Bryant health insurance plan), but Kobe-lite still shreds teams on a regular basis. Throw in Shane Battier, who can do just about everything (including take pressure off McGrady), and that's a pretty tough trio, reinforced by solid compliments Juwan Howard, Luther Head, Ryan Bowen, Rafer Alston, Deke "Cookie Monster" Motumbo, Snyder and Sura (assuming injuries don't force retirement, resigning him to life as a Stephen Baldwin impersonator). Then again, should everyone's medical history remain consistent, you could very well end up with Van Gundy's slower-than-a-parked-car offense being run through whoever's capable of walking. We watched that version last season. Ain't pretty.

Final Verdict: This a really tough one to call, since it's entirely health dependent. Should they all stay on the court, Yao-McGrady-Battier could keep Houston running side by side or even slightly ahead of the Purple and Gold. However, I've firmly established myself as a "gotta see it to believe it" kinda guy on this blog, so I'm gonna label them "worse than the Lakers." But an asterisk is understood. (AK)

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Know Thy Enemy: Portland, Minnesota, and Golden State

We've spent a good portion of our collective summers discussing every move the Lakers have made, along with the imaginary ones they didn't actually do. I think we all agree the team will be better next year — how much being the discussion point. The degree to which those improvements will translate into wins, playoff positioning, and (this would be a good time to say a little prayer) playoff advancement is very much dependent on how their Western Conference brethren have spent their summer vacations. Who they brought in, who they kicked out, and most importantly, if they're going to be better than the Lakers this year. It's been suggested that we discuss just that. Good idea. We'll start with the bottom feeders from '05-'06: Portland, Minnesota, and Golden State.

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