NBA betting: Pacific division preview

NBA betting: Pacific division preview

NBA betting: Pacific division preview
By VIC TAFUR

Los Angeles Lakers

Odds: 56.5 over/under wins, 3-1 to win title

In: Sun Yue, Josh Powell

Out: Ronny Turiaf

Outlook: The Lakers became one of the NBA’s two best teams overnight after stealing Pau Gasol from Memphis for Kwame Brown, Jarvis Crittenton and draft picks. Now Los Angeles gets center Andrew Bynum back from his knee injury and might have to bring Lamar Odom off the bench it's so deep. The 7-foot Gasol should be fine playing the high post, with his soft touch and passing skills, and Bynum was on his way to becoming one of the best centers in the league before he got hurt. Odom will either play small forward or be the first guy off the bench if Phil Jackson decides he needs Vladimir Radmanovic’s 3-point shooting in the lineup. Shooting guard Kobe Bryant, who is decent, and point guard Derek Fisher round out the starting five and Sasha Vujacic, Jordan Farmar, Luke Walton, Trevor Ariza and Chris Mihm make up an extremely impressive bench.

Prediction: Can Kobe get enough shots on this talented team? Does he care? This team wins 57 games sleep-walking. Over.


Phoenix Suns

Odds: 51.5, 12-1

In: Matt Barnes, Robin Lopez, Goran Dragic

Out: D.J. Strawberry, Brian Skinner

Outlook: We’re not saying the door is closed on the Suns, but watch your fingers because it’s about to get slammed shut. If Shaquille O’Neal doesn’t start dunking on people again soon and give Phoenix a third weapon besides Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire, then the Shawn Marion deal with Miami starts to look very bad. It’s already bad, mind you. The Suns lost their identity as the most efficient and fun-to-watch offensive team in the league. Then they lost coach Mike D’Antoni and hired Terry Porter to focus on defense and throwing the ball into Shaq and Stoudemire. Boring. Phoenix can still shoot, with Nash, Leandro Barbosa and Raja Bell. Stoudemire could always win MVP and there’s enough role players like Grant Hill, Barnes and Boris Diaw to run the floor and keep defenses honest. But the clock is ticking, as O’Neal and Hill are 36 and Nash is 34.

Prediction: Under. The 12-1 might be worth a look just because of Nash and Stoudemire.


Los Angeles Clippers

Odds: 33.5, 50-1

In: Baron Davis, Marcus Camby, Ricky Davis, Eric Gordon, Brian Skinner, Jason Hart, Steve Novak

Out: Elton Brand, Corey Maggette, Brevin Knight, Josh Powell

Outlook: Lost in last year’s nightmare of a 23-win season in which Elton Brand got hurt early and everybody else late was the emergence of Chris Kaman as a dominant center. Add to that one of the best point guards in the NBA in Davis and a top-notch, defensive-minded power forward in Camby and you gotta love the over 33.5. True, there are always health concerns with Davis — he did show up to camp 19 pounds lighter, however — and the shooting guards and small forwards don’t knock your socks off. But the Clippers should find enough scoring from Al Thornton, Davis, Tim Thomas, Cuttino Mobley and Gordon to keep defenses honest.

Prediction: We think Davis has a big season in front of his hometown fans and the Clippers win close to 40 games. Over.


Golden State Warriors

Odds: 39.5, 60-1

In: Corey Maggette, Anthony Randolph, Ronny Turiaf, Marcus Williams

Out: Baron Davis, Mickael Pietrus, Matt Barnes, Patrick O’Bryant

Outlook: The Warriors could be in trouble, and it all started with their casualness about trying to re-sign Davis. He put the team back on the NBA map the last couple of years, and they used concerns over his long-term health to nickel and dime him. Then Monta Ellis gets hurt on a moped, and suddenly Golden State is looking at someone named CJ Watson as its point guard. The Warriors brought in Williams to hopefully handle the point on an interim basis, but he is showing his disastrous play in New Jersey was no fluke. Stephen Jackson and Maggette become the go-to guys on offense, while talented big man Andris Biedrins tries to carve out a bigger role. The defense forced a lot of turnovers last year but that was largely due to Davis and Ellis. Rookie Anthony Randolph could help on that front as he been impressive and has moved ahead of Brandon Wright in the rotation. How soon Ellis comes back (halfway through the season?) and how he plays on the ankle should determine if the Warriors even sniff the playoffs again.

Prediction: Under. All the close games that Davis and Ellis pulled out now go the other way.


Sacramento Kings

Odds: 31.5, 125-1

In: Jason Thompson, Bobby Jackson

Out: Ron Artest, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Lorenzen Wright, Anthony Johnson

Outlook: The Kevin Martin show. Doesn’t have much of a ring to it. But that’s what the Kings are now that they get rid of Ron Artest and are fazing out Brad Miller. Martin is quick, can hit the 3-pointer and mid-range jumper and scores in bunches, but the shooting guard has complained that coach Reggie Theus doesn’t run a lot of plays for him. That's a little disconcerting. Beno Udrih is serviceable at point guard and swingman John Salmons has more good days than bad. Francisco Garcia can also shoot. The front office is high on rookie Thompson, but the power forward is pretty raw. Same with center Spencer Hawes. Defensively, the Kings are terrible.

Prediction: Bet the house on the under.

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