On the heels of the Clippers landing Lamar Odom earlier this week, one could argue (easily, in fact) that Chris Paul’s Los Angeles team is better than Kobe’s Los Angeles team.
First, let’s dismiss what Odom did last year. After getting traded from the Lakers to the Mavericks, he pouted and sulked and never got into it and essentially quit on the team so they could dump him. I’d prefer to look at Odom’s stats in 2010-2011 with the Lakers: 14.4 points and 8.7 rebounds in 32 minutes a night, while shooting 38 percent on 3-pointers. I can see Odom, 32, putting up similar numbers (12-7?) in a reserve role with the Paper Clips this season.
Crawford returned to the Northwest last year with Portland and had the worst season of his career – 38 percent shooting from the field, 30 percent on 3-pointers. He’s 32 and his best years are behind him, but should still be able to provide punch off the bench.
Without Nick Young – no word on his free agent status yet, but one would assume the signing of Crawford makes Young less of a priority – the Clippers still have a very dangerous 1-8 rotation: Billups and Paul starting at guard, Caron Butler at SF, and Blake Griffin/DeAndre Jordan up front. Your bench is a blend of veterans – Odom and Crawford – and the young and exciting Eric Bledsoe. Perhaps they bring back Randy Foye and he joins the backcourt rotation. This has to be a Top 4 seed in the West. I’d project 2nd, behind Oklahoma City.
The Lakers have a stronger starting linup – Nash and Kobe, Artest, and Bynum/Gasol up front, but no bench to speak of. With four starters over 30, finding some pop off the bench will be crucial. I’d say the Lakers are the 3rd best team in the West, but here’s the beauty of what the Lakers have done: After next season, they’ll have a clean slate.
West Power Rankings with Free Agency Not Finished:
1. Oklahoma City
2. LA Clippers
3. LA Lakers
4. San Antonio
7. Minnesota (if they manage to trade for Gasol, could move up to 5)
9. New Orleans (love the Hornets! assuming they keep Gordon)
10. Portland (could go up or down depending on Batum, Hibbert)
11. Houston (where’s the point guard?)
12. Golden State (100% sure they’ll move up on my list before the season starts)
13. Dallas (yuck)
15 Sacramento (blow this sinking ship up)
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