Without question, Toronto FC head coach Ryan Nelsen has better players at his disposal this season. Buy Cheap Kd . The clubs remarkable off-season saw the addition of proven international players like Jermain Defoe, Michael Bradley, Júlio César and Dwayne De Rosario, as well as seasoned MLS campaigners like Justin Morrow and Jackson. Throw in Brazilian designated player Gilberto and the sense of anticipation felt by TFC supporters is understandable. The big question is this: How will Nelsen utilize the talent at his disposal? Throughout the 2013 season, Nelsen chose to stick with a 1-4-4-2 formation, and if the 2014 pre-season is any indication, it is likely that he will stick with this formation. If that is the case, these are the players that, if everyone is fit and available, I think will take the field for Toronto FC: Goalkeeper - Julio Cesar Some have pointed out that despite TFCs struggles in 2013, Joe Bendik had a reasonably good season and doesnt deserve to be replaced by César. While it may be true that Bendik had a good season last year, it is complete and utter nonsense to suggest that he should be starting ahead of Júlio César, Brazils number one goalkeeper. Despite not playing regularly for Queens Park Rangers in the English Championship this season, César is still streets ahead of Bendik. Right Fullback - Bradley Orr When Richard Eckersley departed for the New York Red Bulls this year (his contract was structured in such a way that his cap hit was prohibitive, meaning Toronto needed to dump his salary), TFC needed to bring in someone to play this position. Nelsen has options - both Mark Bloom and Ryan Richter can play right back - but he is likely to select Englishman Bradley Orr as his first choice. Orr joined TFC on loan from Blackburn Rovers, and at 31, will add experience to the back four. Left Fullback - Justin Morrow With all of the big-name signings that Toronto has made this off-season, the addition of Justin Morrow slipped under the radar. After being drafted by the San Jose Earthquakes in 2010, Morrow struggled to hold down a regular place in the Quakes lineup until 2012, when his consistently strong performances were rewarded with a place in the MLS All-Star game. Not a flashy player by any means, Morrow will be expected to tidy up the left side of Torontos defence - an area that has been a problem for the team since the clubs inception. Central Defender - Steven Caldwell If Toronto is going to achieve success this season, captain Steven Caldwell will need to be ever-present. His leadership is not something that is measured by statistics; it is seen in the day-to-day interactions with his teammates, his work rate on the training ground and in his ability to remain calm under pressure and deliver consistent performances week after week. The Scot not only has to do his job, he also has a big role to play in the development of his young partner, Doneil Henry. With Caldwell in the team, Im confident that both will be taken care of. Central Defender - Doneil Henry Doneil Henry has everything needed to play at the very highest level of the game as a central defender; he is strong, aggressive, good in the air, can tackle and is quick and athletic. His distribution, technical skills and positional awareness are a work in progress, but at just 20 years of age, he has so much potential its scary. An off-season training stint with West Ham of the English Premier League went so well, in fact, that I wouldnt be at all surprised if Henry is destined for overseas at some point in the not-too-distant future. Which makes the cries of some that "TFC needs an upgrade at centreback" completely baffling. No, they dont. They need to let this promising youngster continue his development alongside the experience of Caldwell, and under the watchful eye of Nelsen. Right Midfield - Jackson The Brazilian, acquired in a trade with FC Dallas, will slot in nicely for TFC on the right. He is quick, strong, technically solid - and capable of not only providing scoring chances, but also of converting them. With the defensive experience of Orr behind him, expect Jackson to be comfortable pinning the opposing fullback high up the pitch. This will create space in midfield for the likes of Michael Bradley and Jonathan Osorio, but will also lead to more chances being delivered from wide areas. Left Midfield - Dwayne De Rosario Alvaro Rey could very well be Nelsens first choice at left midfield, but I am of the opinion that he should find a way to get his best players on the field as much as possible. If Nelsen subscribes to this philosophy as well, then De Rosario has to play on the left. It isnt his favourite position - he would much prefer to operate centrally, just behind the front two or off a single striker - but De Rosario has played on the left before for both club and country. Given the strengths of other players in Torontos squad, De Rosario might have to accept a role on the left if he is to be in Nelsens starting lineup. Given his attacking flexibility, De Rosario could also be used as the first substitute off the bench, filling in where needed. If that is the case, Nelsen has an able deputy at left midfield in the Spaniard, Rey. Given the lack of preseason soccer that Gilberto has played, it is also likely that De Rosario will start the season partnering Defoe in attack. If that happens, Rey will play on the left. Central Midfield - Michael Bradley One of two major signings for Toronto in the off-season, it is crucial for the club to have Michael Bradley on the pitch as much as possible. If hes fit, he will be in the starting lineup. For the uninitiated, dont expect Bradley to score double digits from midfield - goal scoring has never been one of his major attributes. What he does bring is composure, tenacity, leadership and excellent passing range - he will anchor the midfield and serve as the fulcrum around which the team operates. If Bradley plays well, TFC will win games because he will limit chances defensively, and get the ball to the teams goal scorers in dangerous positions. "The General", as he was known in Italy, will be bossing the TFC midfield for years to come. Central Midfield - Jonathan Osorio A Toronto native, Osorio had a very good season in his rookie year - five goals and one assist in 28 games - despite the teams struggles. While Nelsen could choose to play De Rosario as an attacking midfielder in this position, doing so would put a greater defensive burden on Bradley. Osorio is a better option here, because he can not only be a creative force, providing scoring chances as well as converting them by arriving late in the box, he is also better equipped to do the defensive work required in central midfield. There are question marks over whether or not Osorio can operate as a true "number 10", but I dont think his role needs to be as such. He is more suited to be a double pivot with Bradley - covering when the American makes forward runs, and vice-versa. Regardless, the partnership between the two central midfielders will be one to watch develop over the course of the season. Striker - Jermain Defoe It was a bloody big deal, wasnt it? Jermain Defoe is going to be a star in Major League Soccer. Young (and healthy) enough to have some very productive years ahead of him, Defoe can do for TFC what Robbie Keane has done for the Los Angeles Galaxy - terrify defenders every time the ball enters the attacking third. Like Keane, it isnt size, strength or even speed that makes Jermain Defoe so dangerous - it is his movement and finishing ability. Watch for him to drop into midfield to link play and bring others into the game, to pull off on the shoulder of the last defender to exploit space, to make blind-side runs across the face of goal and to have a clinical finishing touch when presented with chances to score. Defoe has been a goal-scorer his entire career - and there is nothing to indicate that this pattern will end now that he is plying his trade in a TFC jersey. Striker - Gilberto The first of TFCs major off-season moves, Gilberto is very much the one with the most to prove. He carries neither the track record nor the pedigree of Defoe or Bradley, and as such, is something of an unknown quantity. Yet Nelsen felt strongly enough about him to make him the first of three designated player signings in the off-season - which means that Gilberto will be in the lineup at every opportunity. Worryingly, Gilberto has not played a great deal in preseason. This could see Nelsen prefer to start the season with De Rosario in attack - but that is likely to be short-lived, as the TFC coach will want to get his best players on the field as often as possible. Given the upgrades that Toronto FC has made - in virtually every position - Ryan Nelsen has the flexibility to employ a variety of tactical formations. He could, for example, slide De Rosario to the tip of a diamond midfield four, with Osorio sliding left and Bradley operating as a genuine holding midfielder. He could also push De Rosario forward to employ a 1-4-3-3 formation, with the Canadian prowling up front alongside Gilberto and Defoe. Another option, if Gilberto struggles to get himself fit, is to play a 1-4-2-3-1 formation, with the attacking midfield three of Rey, De Rosario and Jackson supporting Defoe in the lone striker role. For the first time ever, Toronto FC has options. If they are to achieve success this season, it will be because Nelsen has found a way to unlock their obvious potential. If not, then his position will come under scrutiny. Regardless, if you are a fan of Toronto FC, you are looking forward to the 2014 MLS season with anticipation. Kd Shoes Clearance . Louis Cardinals, the team will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of the opening of the SkyDome. Jays legends Jimmy Key and Ernie Whitt, members of playoff and World Series-winning teams of the past, will be on hand for the festivities to look back at what was the beginning of the Jays halcyon years. Cheap Kd Shoes .com) - The St. http://www.cheapkdshoes.net/ . -- The Minnesota Vikings released reserve cornerback A.With the regular season right around the corner, TSN.ca profiles each NBA division before the first tip. TSN Basketball analyst Jack Armstrong also gives his pick for division champ and a player to keep an eye on this season. We continue with the Pacific, where Blake Griffin and the Los Angeles Clippers look for that next gear, Steve Kerr takes the reins of the Golden State Warriors and an aging Kobe Bryant attempts to keep the Los Angeles Lakers relevant. Golden State Warriors Steph Curry in 2013-14: 24.0 PPG, 8.5 APG, .471 FG% Coach: Steve Kerr (first season) GM: Bob Myers (third season) Last year: 51-31, second in Pacific (sixth in Western Conference) Playoffs: Lost in first round to Clippers Notable additions: SG Shaun Livingston ($16M, three-year deal), SG/SF Brandon Rush ($2.42M, two-year deal), SG/PG Leandro Barbosa ($1.45M, one-year deal), SF Jason Kapono ($1.32M, one-year deal) Notable subtractions: PG Steve Blake (signed with Blazers), SG Jordan Crawford (signed with Xinjiang Flying Tigers) and C Jermaine O’Neal (unsigned) Warriors Depth Chart Position Starter Bench Point Guard Stephen Curry Leandro Barbosa, Nemanja Nedovic Shooting Guard Klay Thompson Brandon Rush, Shaun Livingston (IR) Small Forward Andre Iguodala Harrison Barnes Power Forward David Lee Draymond Green, Marreese Speights Centre Andrew Bogut Festus Ezeli, Ognjen Kuzmic Steve Kerr better be a good coach. As a GM (with the Suns from 2007-2008), Kerr proved himself unafraid to make bold moves even if they didn’t pan out as planned (his acquisition of Shaq didn’t get the Suns out of the first round), but he inherits a team that expects results. Though Mark Jackson had a seemingly good relationship with his players, his staff was in turmoil for the majority of the year (assistant Brian Scalabrine was “reassigned” by the organization at Jackson’s behest before Darren Erman was shown the door…just weeks before the playoffs, by the way) and the team regressed in the playoffs a year after upsetting the Clippers in one of the best first-round match-ups in ages. The writing was on the wall and the team chose to go in a different direction. Kerr was a bold and expensive choice and the Warriors might not be the best situation for a coach to make his maiden voyage. The Warriors have one of the most rabid fan bases in the entire league and are starving for a winner. They feel that the build blocks are there for the team to make a real run and Kerr will not be afforded the luxury of growing pains. As for the players on the court, the best decision the Warriors made in the offseason might have been a trade they didn’t make. Acquiring Kevin Love would have meant splitting up the Splash Brothers (the price quoted by the T-Wolves was reportedly Klay Thompson and David Lee, with maybe a pick or two involved) and, while Love would have made what is already a solid frontcourt into a dominant one, it was for the best that the Warriors didn’t mess with what might be the finest backcourt in the entire NBA of Thompson and the unstoppable Steph Curry. The key for the Warriors this season will be maintaining their outstanding level of defending and improving their offensive efficiency. The team, not particularly reliant at all on the bench a season ago at guard, made a shrewd move in bringing in Shaun Livingston. The fourth-overall pick from what seems like ages ago (it was 2004) had arguably his best season as a pro in Brooklyn last year where he played a career high in minutes and shone in a first-round playoff series with the Raptors. Livingston, coming off of offseason surgery on his toe, along with Leandro Barbosa and Brandon Rush, will provide bench options in the back who Kerr should feel comfortable in using seamlessly to spell Thompson and Steph Curry. Andrew Bogut’s health will once again be key. Though the Warriors frontcourt, of starters Lee and Andre Iguodala and stellar bench options Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green and Mareesse Speights, is a formidable one, the five spot could be worrisome. Bogut, one of the league’s best defensive centres, missed 15 games a year ago, 50 the season before that and 70 three years ago, his last in Milwaukee. The big Aussie has shown a better offensive touch this preseason, but that’s not what the Warriors need out of him. Jermaine O’Neal, even at his advanced age, was good for 20 minutes a night last season. With him gone, Festus Ezeli will be counted on for minutes in Bogut’s stead. The 25-year-old Nigerian has been out for over a year with a variety of leg ailments. It would be foolish for Kerr to bet on getting 82 games out of either Bogut or Ezeli, so the health of the Warriors’ big men in the middle is something to watch this season. The West will be just as competitive as it was a season ago, if not more so. The Warriors can ill-afford another step back like they took in last year’s postseason. There is belief that the best is yet to come out of this team, but another first-round exit and questions will surely be asked if a ceiling has already been hit. Projection: Second in the Pacific (sixth in Western Conference) Los Angeles Clippers Blake Griffin in 2013-14: 24.1 PPG, 9.5 RPG, .715 FT% Coach: Doc Rivers (second season) GM: Dave Wohl (first season) Last year: 57-25, first in Pacific (third in Western Conference) Playoffs: Lost in Western Conference semi-finals Notable additions: C Spencer Hawes ($22.5M, four-year deal), PG Jordan Farmar ($4.2M, two-year deal), PF Ekpe Udoh ($985K, one-year deal), SG/SF Chris Douglas-Roberts ($950K, one-year deal) and SG/SF Jared Cunningham ($915K, one-year deal) Notable subtractions: PG Darren Collison (signed with Kings), SG Willie Green (waived), SF Danny Granger (signed with Heat), SF Jared Dudley (traded to Bucks) and C Ryan Hollins (signed with Kings) Clippers Depth Chart Position Starter Bench Point Guard Chris Paul Jordan Farmar Shooting Guard JJ Redick Jamal Crawford, CJ Wilcox Small Forward Matt Barnes Reggie Bullock, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Joe Ingles Power Forward Blake Griffin Glen Davis, Hedo Turkoglu Centre DeAndre Jordan Spencer Hawes, Ekpe Udoh The biggest offseason acquisition for the Clippers won’t be playing on the court this season. Donald Sterling and the cloud he brought over the team are gone. With former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer now owner of the Clippers, the unwanted and unnecessary distraction that Sterling (of whom Blake Griffin referred to as a “weird uncle”) was is no longer an issue and Doc Rivers and his charges can get back to on-court matters. That’s best for everybody. Doc Rivers finds himself with a team very much like the one that topped the Pacific last season, just a little bit more battle-tested and maybe even a little bit better. Their time needs to be now and with an aging Spurs team and no Kevin Durant in OKC for a couple of months, the Clippers believe it is their time. The Clippers’ backcourt is not a young one, but when healthy, it must be considered among the league’s best. Chris Paul, who turns 30 this year, is a perennial All-Star whose credentials aren’t in doubt (he led the league in both APG and SPG), but his ability to stay healthy is. He missed 20 games last season. His backcourt mate, JJ Redick, also 30, appeared in only 35 games last season. Redick, easily the team’s biggest threat from outside, hasn’t played a full season since he was with the Magic four years ago. Jamal Crawford was the NBA Sixth Man of the Year last season and will again be counted on to score off of the bench (he averaged 18.6 PPG in 30.3 minutes a night a year ago), but Rivers would ideally like to limit some of those minutes, something that he didn’t have the luxury of last season. Also to consider is the absence of back-up PG Darren Collison, who moved over to the Kings in the offseason for a starting gig. Jordan Farmar slots into that role and, while certainly competent, the former Laker isn’t as dynamic a defender as Collison. In a perfect world, Rivers will have four healthy options in his backcourt. History, though, suggests more than a few trips to the training room are on tap for the Clippers and that doesn’t exactly bode well. While not the sexiest of additions, Spencer Hawes looks like a deft bit of business for the Clippers. The former Washington Huskie will be a fine complement for DeAndre Jordan at the four. Hawes is a deceivingly fine shooter who does his best work outside of the paint, which should allow more room for Griffin to maneuver inside. Coupled with Jordan’s inside dominance, the pair should make for a potent presence in the West. As for Griffin himself, he made strides last year in his perimeter game. The reason that’s so key for a player like Griffin is that becoming a threat from outside means that room will become available inside where the 25-year-old might be the best in the game. His chemistry with Paul is almost preternatural (Paul assisted on more than a third of all of Griffin’s made field goals last season) and, barring injury to either, there’s no reason to believe that will abate any time soon. If there is a weakness on this team, it’s at small forward. Jared Dudley, last year’s starter up until the New Year, is gone and it’s once again Matt Barnes’s job. Barnes is a serviceable player, but certainly not irreplaceable and there will be opportunity for Reggie Bullock and Chris Douglas-Roberts to unseat him. The Clippers have never made the conference finals in their history. Frankly, if they’re looking at that as a benchmark now, it’s not a lofty one. This team should see the NBA Finals as a realistic goal. It’s talented enough to get there, but actually making the run is something entirely different. Another early exit and the Clippers will face questions if this core will ever be equipped to win. Projection: First in the Pacific (second in the Western Conference) Los Angeles Lakers Jeremy Lin in 2013-14 (with Rockets): 12.5 PPG, 4.1 APG, .358 3P% Coach: Byron Scott (first season) GM: Mitch Kupchak (14th season) Last year: 27-55, fifth in Pacific (14th in Western Conference) Playoffs: Did not qualify Notable additions: PG Jeremy Lin (acquired from Rockets), SF Carlos Boozer (claimed from Bulls), PF Ed Davis ($2.2M, two-year deal), SG Wayne Ellington (claimed from Kings) and PF Julius Randle (drafted) Notable subtractions: PF Pau Gasol (signed with Bulls), PG Jordan Farmar (signed with Clippers), C Chris Kaman (signed with Trail Blazers), SG Jodie Meeks (signed with Pistons), PG Kendall Marshall (waived and claimed by Bucks) and SG Kent Bazemore (signed with Hawks) Lakers Depth Chart Position Starter Bench Point Guard Jeremy Lin Ronnie Price, Jordan Clarkson Shooting Guard Kobe Bryant Wayne Ellington, Xavier Henry Small Forward Wesley Johnson Nick Young Power Forward Carlos Boozer Julius Randle, Ed Davis, Ryan Kelly Centre Jordan Hill Robert Sacre The 2010 NBA Championship seems eons removed at this point from where the Lakers stand today. If last season was a disaster for the Lakers, this year will be the clean-up stage: Not nearly as bad as the cataclysm itself, but still not very pretty. Kobe Bryant is once again healthy. That will go a long way in getting the Lakers’ offence rolling after sputtering under Mike D’Antoni, but let’s not forget one key thing – the Black Mamba is now 36 years old and, while it might be premature to call Bryant a shadow of his former self, he can’t be relied on to turn back the clock every night. Hee’s still likely to be the top scorer on this team, but that speaks more to the Lakers’ inability to bring in a true first option in the offseason. Kevin Durant Shoes Clearance. Jeremy Lin was the Lakers’ biggest acquisition this offseason and it’s certainly looking like a necessary one now. Steve Nash is out for the season and is probably going to have to call time on his storied career. The Lakers weren’t expecting 82 games out of Nash (and if they were, that’s beyond foolish), but they did think that the 40-year-old would appear in more than the 15 he did last year. Sadly, the back injury that felled him for most of last season has proven to be just too much for a player of his age from which to come back. Of course, the fans lose to with the absence of Nash. Even in his advanced age, Nash was still capable of flashes of greatness, displaying why he’s going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer in a few years’ time. The primary concern for the Lakers again this season will be defence after being the third-worst defensive team in the league last year. The hiring of Byron Scott as coach doesn’t go a long way to assuage fears that things will be just as bad. Scott has coached some awful defensive teams in the past and it’s difficult not to get the sense that his hiring was just as much about being a patronage appointment for a former Laker great than it was filling a need. Scott will be given time to mold this team into his own, but anybody who’s expecting some kind of panacea from Scott is headed for disappointment. If Lakers fans are looking for a silver lining, then look no further than Julius Randle. Randle has the potential to develop into a fine big with loads of energy and a knack for offensive rebounds and drawing fouls. He’s far from a finished product and will need to learn an offensive game that exists outside of post-ups, but he’s only 19. Obviously, the spotlight of playing for the Lakers can only magnify everything, both the good and the bad, so it’s important for Randle to be mindful of this. Having somebody like Kobe, who was in the exact same position almost 20 years ago, will go a long way to easing Randle’s transition to the pro game. Expect another middling season from the Lakers this season, but they might be worth a watch to enjoy Kobe while we still can. Projected finish: Fifth in the Pacific (15th in Western Conference) Phoenix Suns Goran Dragic in 2013-14: 20.3 PPG, 5.9 APG, .505 FG% Coach: Jeff Hornacek (second season) GM: Ryan McDonough (second season) Last year: 48-34, third in Pacific (ninth in Western Conference) Playoffs: Did not qualify Notable additions: PG Isaiah Thomas (acquired from Kings), PG Tyler Ennis (drafted), PF Anthony Tolliver ($6M, two-year deal), PF TJ Warren (drafted), C/PF Earl Barron ($1.3M, one-year deal) and SG Zoran Dragic ($3.1M, two-year deal) Notable subtractions: PF/C Channing Frye (signed with Magic), PG Ish Smith (waived, signed with Rockets), SG/PG Leandro Barbosa (signed with Warriors) and C/PF Emeka Okafor (unsigned) Suns Depth Chart Position Starter Bench Point Guard Goran Dragic Isaiah Thomas, Tyler Ennis Shooting Guard Eric Bledsoe Gerald Green, Zoran Dragic, Archie Goodwin Small Forward PJ Tucker Marcus Morris, TJ Warren Power Forward Markieff Morris Anthony Tolliver, Shavlik Randolph Centre Miles Plumlee Alex Len It might be jarring for those who follow the Eastern Conference to note that a 48-win Suns team last season was on the outside looking in come playoff time, but that just illustrates the ultra-competitive nature of the West. With a dynamic backcourt driving the offence, rookie coach Jeff Hornacek’s Suns were the surprise package of the Western Conference last season, even if they came up short in securing a postseason spot (the Mavericks finished a single game ahead of the Suns for the eighth seed). The Suns, still one of the youngest teams in the West, added another weapon to the backcourt and will once again compete for a playoff spot, but they’re not going to take anybody by surprise this time around. Goran Dragic, who was named the 2014 Most Improved Player, and Eric Bledsoe formed one hell of a dynamic partnership in the backcourt, quick in transition and opening up the floor with passing…when they played together. Bledsoe, who finally re-signed with the team in September after contentious negotiations and talk that he wanted to leave, missed 39 games last season, his first in the desert, with a shin injury. With Bledsoe’s contract status and his health in question, the Suns brought in an insurance policy in acquiring Isaiah Thomas from the Kings. The diminutive guard gives the Suns a veritable embarrassment of riches when it comes to backcourt options. Thomas, who averaged 20.3 points last season, likely starts off of the bench and gives the Suns a legitimate Sixth Man of the Year contender. The Suns have the potential to present teams with backcourt headaches for an entire 48 minutes, but Hornachek’s guard rotation will go a long way in determining the Suns’ success. He’ll have his hands full in keeping his three stars happy, as well as making sure Gerald Green, who emerged as something more than just a spectacular dunker last season with 15.8 points per game and .400 clip from beyond the arc, gets the opportunity to once again make his mark on games. That’s to say nothing of getting Brampton, Ontario rookie Tyler Ennis into games or Dragic’s brother, Zoran, another new arrival. If Thomas is the Suns’ only Sixth Man contender this season, it’s going to be due to the fact that last year’s, Markieff Morris, will be starting. Morris, who posted 13.8 points per game and 6.0 rebounds in 26.6 minutes, steps into the starting five with Channing Frye’s departure to the Magic. Frye was a key contributor to the Suns last season at stretch-four and will need somebody to step up in his absence. Anthony Tolliver, coming over from the Pelicans, will also see minutes at four, especially if Hornachek is intent on experimenting with Morris at centre at points. The rest of the frontcourt, Miles Plumlee and PJ Tucker, were solid, if unspectacular, last season and will need to be again, Alex Len, the fifth-overall pick a season ago, will get more of a look in the middle. With youth in abundance and under contract (all of Bledsoe, Thomas, Dragic and the Morris twins are locked up), the Suns have the building blocks in place to be a good team for a long time. Whether the breakthrough happens this season remains to be seen and, if they are able to make the playoffs, a first-round match-up with one of the West’s Goliaths beckons. The Suns were oh, so close last season and should just edge out the Grizzlies and Pelicans to grab that final postseason berth. Projection: Third in Pacific (eighth in Western Conference) Sacramento Kings DeMarcus Cousins in 2013-14: 22.7 PPG, 11.7 RPG, 1.3 BPG Coach: Mike Malone (second season) GM: Pete D’Alessandro (first season) Last year: 28-54, fourth in Pacific (13th in Western Conference) Playoffs: Did not qualify Notable additions: PG Darren Collison ($16M, three-year deal), SG Nik Stauskas (drafted), C Ryan Hollins (one-year deal), SF Omri Casspi (one-year deal) and PG Ramon Sessions ($4.2M, two-year deal) Notable subtractions: PG Isaiah Thomas (traded to Suns), C Aaron Gray (signed with Pistons) and SG/PG Jason Terry (traded to Rockets) Kings Depth Chart Position Starter Bench Point Guard Darren Collison Ramon Sessions, Ray McCallum Shooting Guard Ben McLemore Nik Stauskas Small Forward Rudy Gay Omri Casspi Power Forward Jason Thompson Carl Landry, Derrick Williams, Eric Moreland Centre DeMarcus Cousins Reggie Evans, Ryan Hollins, Sim Bhullar The Kings are in a tight spot. This is a capable offensive team that can score in droves, but is stuck in an ultra-competitive conference that makes the goal of a playoff spot all that more unlikely. Can the Kings qualify for the postseason? It’s not entirely outside of the realm of possibility, but it would require just about everything to go right. The biggest change for the Kings is the departure of point guard Isaiah Thomas. Perhaps undervalued by the Kings (and underappreciated if you’re to ask him), Thomas was the team’s second-leading scorer last season (20.3 PPG) and ran the offence. With Thomas off to Phoenix, the Kings turn to veteran Darren Collison. Collison signed with the Kings with an understanding that he will start (competition will come from Ramon Sessions.) Collison might be a better passer than Thomas, but the Kings shouldn’t expect to get the same kind of offensive output from their backcourt that they got a season ago. The danger in this, of course, is having Rudy Gay fall back into his old habits of low-percentage shooting to compensate. Gay had the best year of his career with the Kings last season after coming over from the Toronto Raptors in December. Gay shot a career-best 48.2 per cent in Sacramento, almost a full 10 points better than what he was shooting with the Raptors, and did a good job of eliminating the kind of decision-making that’s had him labelled as a ball hog in both Memphis and Toronto. This is a contract year for Gay and the 28-year-old has positioned himself to be an attractive commodity on the open market. That said, the Kings are very willing to extend him long term and midseason talks are likely if Gay can retain last season’s form. With Gay, the issue has always been bad shots, but with DeMarcus Cousins, it’s been his temper. Boogie Cousins is the best offensive centre in the NBA and capable of completely taking over games. He’s a 20-10 a night guy and can get even better, provided that he keeps his fire in check. Cousins is on the cusp of being a perennial All-Star and in the first year of a massive extension. The Kings have shown commitment to Cousins and it’s time he pays it back by growing up and taking a leadership role on a team that is very clearly being built around him. Part of the young team around Cousins is Canadian sharpshooter Nik Stauskas, drafted eighth-overall out of Michigan. The Kings were impressed by the 21-year-old’s dogged commitment to defence he showed in school and his uncanny ability to be close to automatic from distance. If Ben McLemore struggles, Stauskas might be able to force himself into starting consideration. The Kings’ Canadian contingent extends past one. Toronto’s monstrous Sim Bhullar, undrafted out of New Mexico State, performed well enough for the Kings’ summer league team to warrant a contract. Bhullar is likely a fourth option down the middle for the Kings, so his minutes will be scarce. It would be no surprise to see the Kings assign him to their D-League-affiliate Reno Bighorns. Projected finish: Fourth in the Pacific (13th in Western Conference) Jack Armstrongs Pick: Chris Paul in 2013-14: 19.1 PPG, 10.7 APG, 2.5 SPG Los Angeles Clippers - Im still not a fan of their two and three spots, but when you have Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, youve got answers. I love the Spencer Hawes pick-up because hell open things up for them. Doc Rivers will have a stable environment to work in now that former owner Donald Sterling is gone. Jack Armstrongs Player to Watch: Kobe Bryant in 2013-14 (six games): 13.8 PPG, 6.3 APG, .425 FG% Kobe Bryant, Lakers - The coverage of his return season is going to be over the top which is typical for Los Angeles. Bryant is a great natural scorer with wonderful instincts. He might not be able to bring his A-game as much as hed like anymore, but hell surely be heard from this season. Kobes as good a competitor as youll find. He will get by many nights on smarts and toughness alone. ' ' '