How to fix the bottom-feeders in the stacked West
Posted: Wednesday February 7, 2007 3:08PM; Updated: Thursday February 8, 2007 7:13PM
I feel bad for Kevin Garnett. For the last 11 years Garnett has been the NBA's most complete player this side of Tim Duncan. He plays through injuries (he has missed just 19 games in his career) and inconsistency (his most talented sidekicks have been Latrell Sprewell, Sam Cassell and Wally Szczerbiak), yet aside from one glorious run in 2004, KG has never been past the first round of the playoffs. Why? Two words:
The West is the varsity to the East's JV, the Matthew McConaughey to the East's Freddie Prinze Jr. Garnett's quest for a championship ring has been blocked by the likes of Shaquille O'Neal, Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki. He has battled valiantly (career averages of 22.3 points and 13.4 rebounds in the playoffs) but has been (and continues to be) victimized by a road filled with 7-foot land mines.
The same goes for the rest of the West's also-rans. Consider: At 30-19, the Lakers stand alone in sixth place in the West. If the Lakers were to, say, uproot and move to Tampa Bay, that record would be good for the top spot in the East, where no team has cracked the 30-win barrier this season.
With the Timberwolves seemingly destined for another trip to the lottery, let's play Western Conference GM and analyze what Minnesota and the rest of the West's Secaucus-bound bunch need to do to get into contention. You know, besides applying for relocation.
Golden State Warriors
Projected draft position: 14
The Warriors need to show patience. Patrick O'Bryant, Monta Ellis, Andris Biedrins and Mickael Pietrus are a solid young core complemented by the considerable talents of Al Harrington, Baron Davis and Jason Richardson. But neither Davis nor Ellis is a pure point guard, and the Warriors crave a pass-first floor leader. The draft doesn't offer much so the only way for that to happen is for Mullin to put on his dealing cap again. What the draft does offer is size, which is where someone like Pittsburgh's Aaron Gray would fit in well.
Projected draft position: 12
Problem is, the Timberwolves don't have much to offer. Virtually the entire roster is tied into long-term deals and not one of those players is considered a marketable commodity. The best Minnesota can hope for is to strike gold in the draft, which, given the team's history (Ndudi Ebi, William Avery), isn't likely. Unless Minnesota lands in the top 10, their pick is transferred to the Clippers as a result of the Sam Cassell-Jaric trade (isn't that the gift that keeps on giving?). Should they keep the pick, Duke's Josh McRoberts, UCLA's Arron Afflalo and Gray all could be on the board when Minnesota's turn comes up, but they are hardly the impact players the Timberwolves are lacking. No one wants to trade Garnett, but sometimes you have to get worse before you can get better.
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