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June 25, 2007

Pacific Division looks to build on success

You can make a compelling argument that the Pacific Division was the best the NBA had to offer this past season.

It featured three playoff teams, tying the Southwest and Central Divisions for tops in the NBA. Phoenix took the No. 2 seed, the Lakers the No. 7 seed and the Warriors were the eighth seed in the West.

Golden State knocked off the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks in the first round. The L.A. Clippers were on the outside of the playoffs looking in, but by only two games. The Sacramento Kings struggled last season and have the top pick (No. 10) in the Pacific division.

It's a critical draft for the teams in the Pacific. There are many good teams who could add key role players or find missing pieces that could lead to a long run in next year's postseason.

Rivals.com has partnered with NBA Draft experts DraftExpress.com to analyze the needs of each NBA team. Here are the needs for the five teams in the Pacific Division:

Pacific Division:
Golden State Warriors | Los Angeles Clippers | Los Angeles Lakers | Phoenix Suns | Sacremento Kings

Golden State Warriors (42-40 in 2006-2007)
Draft picks: No. 18, No. 36, No. 46
Depth chart
PG: Baron Davis/Sarunas Jasikevicius
SG: Jason Richardson/Monta Ellis/Kelenna Azubuike*
SF: Stephen Jackson/Mickael Pietrus/Zarko Cabarkapa
PF: Al Harrington/Matt Barnes*/Josh Powell*
C: Andris Biedrins/Adonal Foyle/Patrick O'Bryant
*Potential free agent
Could use help at: Point Guard, Power Forward
Bottom line: The Warriors are coming off an outstanding season in which they knocked off top-seeded Dallas in the first round of the playoffs. The team does not have a solid backup for Baron Davis, since Sarunas Jasikevicius hasn't been up to par. They are also thin up front, and could use a big man to back up Al Harrington and Andris Biedrins.
Draft outlook: At No. 19, the Warriors may have the opportunity to nab Tiago Splitter, Jason Smith, or Josh McRoberts. However, there is a chance that all three might be off the board. With their two second round picks, they will have a shot at big men Glen Davis, Kyle Visser, Herbert Hill, and Jermareo Davidson. All four would give the Warriors a nice rebounding boost off the bench. If Golden State looks for a backup point guard with their second round picks, Zabian Dowdell, Bobby Brown, Gabe Pruitt, and J.R. Reynolds are all possibilities.
Los Angeles Clippers (40-42 in 2006-2007)
Draft picks: No. 14, No. 45
Depth chart
PG: Sam Cassell/Jason Hart*/Will Conroy*/Shaun Livingston
SG: Cuttino Mobley/Quinton Ross/Daniel Ewing
SF: Corey Maggette/Tim Thomas/Yaroslav Korolev
PF: Elton Brown/James Singleton
C: Chris Kaman/Aaron Williams/Paul Davis
*Potential free agent
Could use help at: Point Guard, Shooting Guard, Power Forward, Center
Bottom line: The horrific injury that Shaun Livingston suffered last season leaves the squad with a huge hole at point guard behind the aging Sam Cassell. The team finished two games out of the playoffs, and a solid backup point guard or big man could easily push them back into postseason contention next season. Shooting guard also remains a possibility.
Draft outlook: Picking in the middle of the second round, the possibilities are endless as to whom the Clippers could take. There will always be one or two players who fall on draft night to the mid second round, so the Clippers could very easily land a first-round talent in this slot. A few players the club might consider at that slot are point men Bobby Brown, Gabe Pruitt, and Zabian Dowdell. Also, big men Jermareo Davidson, Glen Davis, and Herbert Hill remain possibilities. The team is working out Javaris Crittenton, leading one to believe that the squad is looking to move up in the draft via trade.
Los Angeles Lakers (42-40 in 2006-2007)
Draft picks: No. 19, No. 40, No. 48
Depth chart
PG: Jordan Farmar/Smush Parker*
SG: Kobe Bryant/Sasha Vujacic/Aaron McKie*
SF: Luke Walton*/Vladimir Radmanovic/Maurice Evans
PF: Lamar Odom/Ronny Turiaf/ Brian Cook
C: Kwame Brown/Andrew Bynum/Chris Mihm*
*Potential free agent
Could use help at: Point Guard, Small Forward
Bottom line: The Lakers have two gaping voids to fill at point guard and power forward. Smush Parker and Luke Walton (this year's starters at each of those slots respectively) are free agents, and the team has marginal replacements at best. Look for the Lakers to address these areas of need with their three draft picks.
Draft outlook: With Los Angeles' first pick (No. 18), Rodney Stuckey and Javaris Crittenton could be possibilities given Phil Jackson's love for tall guards to run the triangle offense. If the Lakers decide to go with a wing, two contenders for that slot would be Georgia Tech's Thaddeus Young and Arizona sophomore Marcus Williams. In round two, a few names that the Lakers will surely consider with their selections are Gabe Pruitt, Demetris Nichols, Bobby Brown, and Wilson Chandler. All four of those players would fill one of the aforementioned needs.
Phoenix Suns (61-21 in 2006-2007)
Draft picks: No. 24, No. 29, No. 59
Depth chart
PG: Steve Nash/Marcus Banks
SG: Raja Bell/Leandro Barbosa/Eric Piatkowski
SF: Boris Diaw/James Jones/Jalen Rose*
PF: Shawn Marion/Jumaine Jones*/Sean Marks*
C: Amare Stoudemire/Kurt Thomas/Pat Burke*
*Potential free agent
Could use help at: Point Guard, Shooting Guard, Center
Bottom line: The Suns are coming off an outstanding regular season. Many experts and fans were disappointed they didn't make the conference final, but the postseason suspensions of Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw were too much to overcome. The Suns are very thin up front and could really use a bruiser to take some of the load off Stoudemire. The Marcus Banks experiment failed miserably, so Phoenix could also use another playmaker to relieve Steve Nash.
Draft outlook: Florida guard Taurean Green would be a nice fit at No. 29. He would fit nicely in the Suns' scheme. Troubled Boston College center Sean Williams could also be around at that point, and would provide another rebounding and shot-blocking presence to go with Stoudemire. If there are no American players that fill a need in round two, look for them to draft an international player and stash him overseas for a year or two. Possibilities include big men Mirza Begic, Ali Traore, and Stanko Barac.
Sacramento Kings (33-49 in 2006-2007)
Draft picks: No. 10
Depth chart
PG: Mike Bibby/Ronnie Price*
SG: Kevin Martin/John Salmons/Quincy Douby
SF: Ron Artest/Corliss Williamson*/Francisco Garcia
PF: Shareef Abdur-Rahim/Kenny Thomas
C: Brad Miller/Vitaly Potapenko*/Justin Williams*
*Potential free agent
Could use help at: Point Guard, Power Forward, Center
Bottom line: The Kings have an outstanding point guard in Mike Bibby, an emerging star in Kevin Martin and arguably the league's top perimeter defender in Ron Artest. On the down side, they have two aging big men starting in the post - Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Brad Miller. Their most glaring need is clearly a young big man, although they still do not have a legitimate backup for Mike Bibby.
Draft outlook: With only one pick at No. 10, the Kings would ideally snag the best big man still on the board. They reportedly love Spencer Hawes, but he will be off of the board by then in all likelihood. Yi Jianlian remains a possibility here, but he could also very well be gone. If Jianlian and Hawes are gone by the time the Kings are on the clock, look for them to consider Jason Smith, Josh McRoberts, and Tiago Splitter to fill their glaring need in the pivot.

Rodger Bohn of DraftExpress covers the NBA Draft for Rivals.com. Weiss' work can also be found at www.draftexpress.com, where they offer a free NBA Draft scouting service.

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