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By Rahul Lal
So many New Year’s resolutions go unfulfilled every year. And often it’s because people set the bar too high.
NBA teams, even in the West, also have some room for improvement. And to see results, those goals can be modest. Here are what should be the 2017 New Year’s resolution for each team in the Western Conference.
Dallas Mavericks: Give Dirk His Kobe Season
It’s not secret that Dirk has struggled to stay on the court even though he’s been effective. Nowitzki seems about ready to join the retirement club with Kobe, KG and Tim Duncan. It’s imperative to let him have his moment in the sun to cap off his historic career.
Denver Nuggets: Get Rid Of Unnecessary Players On Roster
The Denver Nuggets have the second lowest payroll in the NBA and are loaded with young talent on friendly contracts. It’s time to cut or trade the extra fat on larger contracts, because the Nuggets have a chance to develop these young players who will undoubtedly demand large contracts one day.
Golden State Warriors: Don’t Fatigue Your Players
The Warriors seemed to fizzle on their way to 73 wins, giving up some easy games down the stretch and blowing leads in the playoffs. This season, it’s important for the Warriors to rest their stars instead of chasing meaningless records in the regular season.
Houston Rockets: Pay For Defense
I’m not sure many projected the Houston Rockets to be as dangerous as they have been. But the Mike D’Antoni project is working very well in Houston because of the talent and player personnel they have. Adding a defensive-minded player like Amir Johnson, Andrew Bogut, Thabo Sefolosha or even P.J. Tucker would make a huge difference.
Los Angeles Clippers: Don’t Let Blake Griffin Leave
The Clippers are always in that ‘elite’ conversation, but find themselves losing the big games. Blake Griffin and Chris Paul both will have a chance to walk this offseason. Griffin should be prioritized over Paul because of his age, ceiling and ability to attract other young stars going forward. Paul is only a couple years removed from an inevitable decline.
Los Angeles Lakers: Stay Patient
The Lakers started the season at an unbelievable pace and had naive fans thinking they could play for a playoff seed in the west. While the Lakers aren’t at that level, it’s important to trust in the young core and continue to develop Brandon Ingram and company into the future stars they can be one day.
Memphis Grizzlies: Sign Young Talent
The Grizzlies are still one of the most confusing teams in the league. Some see them as one step away from being the San Antonio Spurs, while others see them as the next Dallas Mavericks. The Chandler Parsons experiment has not been working out, but making a play for Otto Porter, Serge Ibaka or even J.J. Reddick could help with the young talent and the future of the franchise.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Play Some Defense
NBA nerds salivated at the thought of a Tom Thibodeau defense with the athletic monsters in Minnesota. Instead, the offense has been there with no effort on defense. To get to the next level, the young Wolves have to start delivering on defense.
New Orleans Pelicans: Keep Jrue Holiday
Forever one of the most underrated players in the NBA, Holiday came in and had an instant effect on the team’s win-loss record. Holiday, an unrestricted free agent, is vital to this team’s success. It’s important to keep him paired with Anthony Davis as this team develops.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Keep Developing The Core
The Thunder will look fairly similar for a long time, as Westbrook, Oladipo, Sabonis and Adams are all locked in until at least 2019. Along with Roberson, this group has accumulated the highest +/- average of any group on OKC’s roster according to NBA.com and has improved leaps and bounds over the course of this short season.
Phoenix Suns: Embrace The Youth Movement
The Phoenix Suns are paying Devin Booker, Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender and Alex Len under $5 million a season. These players are their future as opposed to Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, Tyson Chandler, Jared Dudley and P.J. Tucker with their $53 million in salaries this season. It’s time to get rid of bad contracts and believe in the youth.
Portland Trail Blazers: Sign Nerlens Noel
Smart money is on Nerlens Noel leaving as an unrestricted free agent this season. The Blazers are getting killed on the boards late in games against bigger teams and could use his interior defense and shot blocking to add another dimension to a solid, young team.
Sacramento Kings: Take The Best Deal For Boogie
Watching the Kings is as close to an NBA reality show as we’ll ever see, and it starts with DeMarcus Cousins’ deep disdain for the organization. He’s a truly talented player who deserves a large haul in return, but each day passed lowers the Kings’ bargaining power on him.
San Antonio Spurs: Sign A Floor General This Offseason
The Spurs quietly still have a really solid chance at making it to the Finals this year and beyond. But to get to the next level, they need one more dangerous player to join them in the offseason as a distributor. Offering a contract to Jrue Holiday, Jeff Teague, George Hill or even Chris Paul, who has an early termination option, could pay dividends both next season and beyond.
Utah Jazz: Keep Growing Together
The Jazz may be the most underrated team on both sides of the ball, even if their record doesn’t reflect it. With injuries to Derrick Favors, George Hill, Gordon Hayward, Joe Johnson and Rodney Hood, the Jazz have to keep gaining experience and playing time together to be a real playoff upset contender.
Rahul Lal is an LA native stuck in a lifelong, love-hate relationship with the Lakers, Dodgers and Raiders. You can follow him on Twitter here.