NBA Western Conference preview


(teams in predicted order of finish)

Pacific Division

Phoenix Suns

Last season: 62-20, first

Coach: Paul Westphal, 62-20 in one year

New faces: F A. C. Green, C Joe Kleine, F-C Malcolm Mackey

Outlook: A solid team got better with the addition of Green, a strong rebounder, and Kleine, who's not afraid to bang. F Charles Barkley, coming off his MVP season, has said this will be his final season and yearns for a championship ring. If F Cedric Ceballos' fractured foot heals in the next month as expected, he will be asked to fill the role of Richard Dumas, sidelined for the season after a drug relapse.

Key: The play of point G Kevin Johnson, who missed 33 games with injuries last season. At times, he over-penetrates -- often leading to turnovers and forced shots.

Seattle SuperSonics

Last season: 55-27, second

Coach: George Karl, 201-218 in six seasons (third with SuperSonics)

New faces: F Detlef Schrempf, G Kendall Gill, C Ervin Johnson, G Adonis Jordan

Outlook: The addition of Gill gives Seattle a scoring guard who is also a good defender. Sam Perkins adds versatility at center and Gary Payton finally developed as a point guard. With Shawn Kemp and Schrempf filling out the starting five, Seattle should contend for the division title.

Key: Can F Kemp continue to improve? At 6-10, he can score (17.8) and rebound (10.7), but relies too much on his athletic ability and strength.

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