by Lang Whitaker

A few years ago, I came up with the idea of running individual NBA team previews on The Links, and having each team’s preview written by a fan of that team. Nowadays, all the fans have their own blogs, and every NBA site (including ours, thank you) has been having fans/bloggers review their team’s chances for the upcoming year.

So in order to flip the script a little, I’m going to do quick NBA previews for each division. I wrote a gargantuan NBA preview in SLAM 103 (on newstands now!), and I’m using the illustrations from that issue here (drawn by the terrific Mike T).

If you want to read my full predictions and thoughts you’ve gotta go buy the magazine. But here’s how I ranked them and why.

Today, the Northwest Division…

How I picked it in the magazine:
1) Phoenix Suns
2) Los Angeles Lakers
3) Los Angeles Clippers
4) Golden State Warriors
5) Sacramento Kings

Why I picked them that way:
For some reason, you readers think I hate Steve Nash and the Suns; I can’t tell you how many angry emails I’ve received from Suns fans, accusing me either of dissing or hating on the Suns. I like watching the Suns, though, and I like Steve Nash, and I think the Suns are going to win a ton of games again this season. I still don’t believe they can make it all the way through the postseason playing a slower brand of ball, though, especially with Amare still hobbled. Regular season? They’re tough to beat. Postseason? I don’t think they’re winning a title as long as they’re trying to just outscore everyone.

For some reason, you readers think I hate Kobe Bryant and the Lakers; I can’t tell you how many angry emails I’ve received from Lakers fans, accusing me either of dissing or hating on the Lake Show. And…well, enough of that. Thing is, I don’t really hate the Lakers, or even Kobe for that matter. I just don’t like watching them play the way they played 82 games last season, with Kobe taking all the shots. What I did like was watching their postseason run, when they played team basketball and shared the rock. Will that continue this year? I think so.

The Clips shocked the world last season, and this summer they re-signed Sam Cassell and then gave big money to Tim Thomas. I think they’ll still be a good team, but this year everyone will be watching out for them and not taking them lightly. I think they’ll make the Playoffs, but it won’t be a runaway like last year.

Golden State is one of the teams I called a “Wild Card Squad” in the magazine: There’s no telling what they’ll do. I wouldn’t be surprised if they win 45 games, and I wouldn’t be shocked if they win 25 and Nelly quits by the end of the year. I’m putting them fourth to play it safe.

The Kings really aren’t that bad a team, but they’re in a stacked division. Maybe next year.