Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Western Conference X-Factors

After looking at the Eastern Conference X-Factors, the Western Conference has a handful of players that are equally important to their team. An X-factor is a player on a team who will largely help a team towards success or failure.

Dallas Mavericks: Devin Harris
For the Mavericks to get back to the NBA Finals, Harris needs to move up a step in the league's group of point guards. The Mavericks are at their best when Harris is distributing the ball and Jason Terry slides over to the shooting guard spot.

Denver Nuggets: Kenyon Martin
Martin is coming of a loss year due to injury, and the Nuggets could use a consistent scorer next to Anthony and Iverson. A big year from Martin could mean a long run in the playoffs for the Nuggets.

Golden State Warriors: Stephen Jackson
Jackson played his best late last season and the Warriors need him to do the same all year in 2007-08. With Jason Richardson being traded during the offseason, the Warriors will certainly look to Jackson to pickup the lost production.

Houston Rockets: Mike James
The Rockets will look for James to push Rafer Alston at the starting point guard spot. James' ability to score from the perimeter will also benefit the Rockets off the bench, which is something they struggled to get last season.

Los Angeles Clippers: Al Thornton
With Elton Brand lost for a majority of the season, the focus will be on the 2008-09 season. Thornton's progress in his rookie season will be vital to the Clippers success in the years to come.

Los Angeles Lakers: Javaris Crittenton
The Lakers hope that Crittenton can be ready to start at point guard by mid-season. Crittenton is a big point guard, who can do things that no other point guard that the Lakers have.

Memphis Grizzlies: Darko Milicic
The Grizzlies have a number of good, young players in Mike Conley, Rudy Gay, and Keith Lowry. However, they are thin in post players that can score outside of Pau Gasol. If Milicic can provide consistent post scoring, then the Grizzlies rebuilding process will be a big success.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Gerald Green
Although still young, Green has now played two seasons in the NBA. Now with Minnesota, Green needs to have a strong season in order to remain as one of their core, young players. Minnesota knows what they will get in Randy Foye and Al Jefferson, but Green may be the wildcard here.

New Orleans Hornets: Rasual Butler
Butler will compete with Morris Peterson for time at shooting guard. Butler is the taller of the two and provides greater upside than Peterson. With a strong core of players in Tyson Chandler, Peja Stojakovic, Chris Paul, and David West, Butler would be a strong, versatile player if he can play at a high level this season.

Phoenix Suns: Boris Diaw
Coming off a disappointing season, Diaw needs to rebound with a year similar to 2005-06. The Suns are in need of Diaw to provide the offensive versatility and rebounding that he once brought them. If Diaw can play at a high level, then the Suns can afford to play Marion, Diaw, and Stoudamire at the same time. If not, Grant Hill will have to fill Diaw's role and the Suns will have to play smaller.

Portland Trail Blazers: Travis Outlaw
With Oden and Randolph off the team this year, Outlaw needs to provide the scoring that Portland will be missing. Outlaw played well at the end of last season, but needs to do that all season in 2007-08.

Sacramento Kings: Francisco Garcia
Garcia needs to have a strong year similar to what Kevin Martin had last season. Garcia played his best at the end of last season, but needs to continue to develop his all around game. As a long-armed, tall guard who can play three positions, he has the ability to become a very versatilite piece for the Kings.

San Antonio Spurs: Ime Udoka
A player in the mold of Bowen, Udoka will be expected to defend the opponent's top scorer. As the Spurs only significant addition from last year, Udoka will most likely play an important role in the playoffs this season.

Seattle Supersonics: Robert Swift
In his third season, Swift will get every opportunity to win the starting spot for Seattle. Swift has struggled to avoid injuries during his career, but Seattle will rely on Swift to provide defense and rebounding. Swift will compete with Chris Wilcox, Nick Collison, and Kurt Thomas for minutes - all of whom are proven commodities.

Utah Jazz: Andrei Kirilenko
With Kirilenko playing at his best, the Jazz have one of the most talented starting five's in the league. Kirilenko brings great versatility and arguably the best defensive player in the league. However, when he plays like he did towards the end of last season, Kirilenko is the most overpaid player in the NBA. A good year from Kirilenko means that Utah will compete for the championship.

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