Golden State Warriors
Coach: Don Nelson
Starting five: PG Baron Davis, SG Jason Richardson, SF Mike Dunleavy, PF Troy Murphy, C Adonal Foyle
Off the bench: SG Mickael Pietrus, SG Monta Ellis, PF Ike Diogu
Most underpaid: The difference for the Warriors with Jason Richardson on the court versus off the court was striking for a team that went 34-48. Golden State averaged 108.3 points per 100 possessions last season with Richardson playing and 98.7 points/100 possessions when he was not playing. Richardson has increased his scoring each of his five seasons in the league and set a franchise record by making 183 3-pointers last season. Don Nelson might be the only coach, in addition, who can find Richardson more than the 19 shots a game he is used to getting. He was a $13.9 million player making $8.9 million.
Most overpaid: The Warriors won just 10 of 30 games after the All-Star break last season. The fact that Baron Davis sat out the final 19 of those with an ankle injury didnt help. Davis played in only 54 games last season and now has missed a combined 111 games the last four seasons. If Davis is healthy, he is one of the most electrifying guards in the league. If Davis isnt healthy, he can drag his team down. But Davis at least wont have to play for deposed coach Mike Montgomery any more. He was a $6.11 million player making $13.7 million.
Outlook: The Montgomery era wont be remembered fondly in Oakland. Nelson inherits a team with seemingly all the talent to make the playoffs and none of the will to do so. It has been 12 seasons since the Warriors last made the playoffs (with Nelson as coach) and 15 years since they won a postseason series.
Coach: Jeff Van Gundy
Starting five: PG Rafer Alston, SG Tracy McGrady, SF Shane Battier, PF Juwan Howard, C Yao Ming
Off the bench: SG Luther Head, SF Bonzi Wells, C Dikembe Mutombo
Most underpaid: Until he broke a bone in his foot in April, Yao Ming might have been the NBAs best center. He averaged 25.7 points and 11.6 rebounds after the All-Star break and regularly posted games of 30 points and 10 rebounds. The only thing that sidetracked Yao were injuries. After missing only two games his first three seasons, Yao missed 25 last season, most as a result of toe surgery. It will be interesting to see how effective Yao will remain in a league that is increasingly following Phoenixs lead in playing small lineups and opening up the floor. He was a $13.61 million player making $5.6 million.
Most overpaid: At one point last season, the Rockets were 0-13 in games that Tracy McGrady was unable to play. That set the tone for a season in which McGrady was available for only 47 games, battling a back injury throughout. In the games he played, McGrady shot just 40.6 percent. If McGrady can play, the Rockets will be one of the Western Conferences playoff teams this season. The additions of Shane Battier and Bonzi Wells should ease his burden as well. McGrady was a $9.36 million player making $15.7 million.
Outlook: The Rockets were 21-10 with Yao and McGrady in the lineup last season. That would translate into a 55-27 record if both players could make it through healthy. Theres no reason to expect Houston to finish worse than sixth after adding the severely undervalued Battier and Wells on a bargain contract.