2016-17 NBA Season Preview: Pacific Division
NBA Season Preview Series by Danny w/the J: Pacific
The 2016 NBA season is rapidly approaching and with the wild offseason over, the time has arrived for assessing the status of teams heading into training camp and predicting what fans can expect out of their respective teams. Disclaimer: We in no shape or form claim to know everything about basketball, but we do confess our love for the game and will make statements for each team built on sound arguments. With that in mind, let us begin…
Los Angeles Lakers
- Offseason: The offseason of the much-maligned Lakers was very promising. The team selected Brandon Ingram with the second overall pick. Ivica Zubac was taken in the early second In a surprising move, Timofey Mozgov was given a multiyear contract this past offseason. Jose Calderon joined the team through a trade that sent the draft rights of Ater Majok along with two future second round picks. Tarik Black, Jordan Clarkson and Marcelo Huertas all signed multiyear deals to stay in Tinseltown. Luke Walton, former assistant coach of Pacific division rival Golden State Warriors, now mans the ship for the Lakers.
- 2016-17 Outlook: D’angelo Russell looked very good in the preseason. He showed off his scoring prowess and passing as well. Ingram and Clarkson both impressed in their own rights. Mozgov has seemingly bounced back, athletically, after a down and disappointing season with the Cleveland Cavaliers last year due to injury. The team as a whole is going to go through some growing pains. If Walton wants to implement what he helped create in Golden State, then patience is going to be his best friend.
Jay: The Lakers will be fun to watch as far as development goes. New coach, young talent and Mozgov will be more appreciated than he was in Cleveland last season. No playoffs this year again for La-La. I like what I saw from Russell in the summer league and Ingram has the talent so those two will be the guys to watch grow this year in my opinion. Bottom fourth of the west is where I predict they finish.
Daniel: This squad will be an exciting one for sure. Watching Ingram develop through the year will be interesting. The backcourt of Russell and Clarkson will assuredly gain some chemistry and make for some entertaining and competitive basketball. There is star quality in Los Angeles, but the wins won’t come as easily as fans would like. Vegas has the over/under at 24.5 games. That seems like the safe route to take. 25-82.
Golden State Warriors
- Offseason: The runner-ups in last season’s NBA Finals, won the off-season by a huge margin. The Warriors selected Damion Jones with the 30th overall pick, and acquired the draft rights to Patrick McCaw in exchange for cash. Andrew Bogut was traded to the Dallas Mavericks; Harrison Barnes also joined the Mavericks, albeit in free agency. The Dubs sured up the frontcourt by adding veterans David West and Zaza Pachulia. Leandro Barbosa, Festus Ezeli and Marreese Speights were all lost in free agency. The biggest deal was the free agent signing of Western Conference Final opponent Kevin Durant.
- 2016-17 Outlook: adding arguably the preeminent scorer of the league to a team with historically great shooters, one of whom reigns as the first unanimous MVP, seems like overkill to some fans. In all fairness it shows the incredible guile and shrewdness of the Warrior front office. It should all but wash away the foulness of surrendering a 3-1 lead in the Finals. Watching them play is going to be a mandatory assignment for all. Even with media outlets searching for any thread that can unravel the very fabric of the team, it shouldn’t slow down the onslaught. While some bench depth was lost, there are still some pieces that can alleviate some of the pressure off of the stars. One player in particular is Patrick McCaw. There is a serious buzz around the rookie and fans equally love him after a highlight-filled preseason.
Jay: Golden State is the new “most-hated” team since LBJ’s Miami days. Anything less than a trip to the Finals will be considered a failure, as it should. They won’t shoot for 74 this season, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility they stomp through the league to achieve 67 wins with ease. I’ll be keeping my eyes on the role players like Kevon Looney and rookie Patrick McCaw to provide the spark that was lost by Speights, Barbosa and Ezeli. Can’t wait to watch this team.
Daniel: What can be said about this powerhouse of a team. Eclipsing last year’s wins total isn’t on the mind of any of the players. However, one can predict them easily sliding their way to a 66-16 season.
- Offseason: The Suns drafted Dragan Bender with the 4th overall pick, Tyler Ulis in the 2nd round and added rookie Marquese Chriss via a draft day trade. Leandro Barbosa returned to the team after six years away, the two previous were spent in Oakland. three point ace Jared Dudley also signed a deal with the team.
- 2016-17 Outlook: This Suns team has gone through some flux the past few seasons. Three years ago they seemed destined for the upward trajectory. Injuries, trades and chemistry issues derailed all of it. However, with a healthy Eric Bledsoe, an up and coming star in Devin Booker and two promising rookies, the situation in the desert looks a lot less bleak. Not to mention a collection of talent on the bench. It’s up to second year head coach Earl Watson to continue to create and nurture an environment that’s conducive for winning basketball.
Jay: I like Ulis out of Kentucky; plays with energy and leadership. I also like Bender. They will have to play scrappy in the loaded West, but I have them as my sleeper pick to make the playoffs as the 8th seed. Bold prediction of the year.
Daniel: The West is still too stacked for this Phoenix team. They’ll be scrappy and will play fast. They played with the fastest pace in the league this preseason. With that being said that had a near-bottom of the league offensive rating. The teams in the West can score and score effectively, especially in this division. It should prove too much of an obstacle for them to make the playoffs this year. 36-46
Offseason: The Kings kept it simple with their off-season business, players were added but no real splashes. They drafted Isaiah Cousins and Marquese Chriss. Chriss was traded to the Suns on draft day for the rights to Bogdan Bogdanovic, Skal Labissiere and Georgis Papagiannis. Arron Afflalo, Matt Barnes, Garrett Temple and Ty Lawson were notable free agent additions.
- Outlook 2016-17: All in all, the Kings have their flaws as a team and organization. Rudy Gay wants out, with his name being associated with multiple trade rumors. Lawson is still dealing with his own troubles. The one bright spot seems to be DeMarcus Cousins, who’s coming into the season with a Gold Medal. Dave Joerger could possibly bring some stability to bench and connect with the team, specifically Cousins.
Jay: Kings need to trade Cousins before the deadline for a pot of gold in picks. No playoffs. They won’t be a .500 team. Prepare for some drama.
Daniel: No playoffs for the Kings. They have to get things fixed with the roster. It’s devoid of any real perimeter threats and instead of getting younger they seem to be getting older and less talented. Hopefully Joerger can inject some principles and standards for them to at least reach .500.
Los Angeles Clippers
- Offseason: With a roster that’s ready to contend and challenge the Warriors in a potential Conference Finals matchup, there wasn’t much for them to do except create some depth. The Clippers took Brice Johnson with the 25th pick in the first round. Cheick Diallo was also drafted, but was traded on draft night for the rights to David Michineau and Diamond Stone. Alan Anderson, Raymond Felton, Marreese Speights and Brandon Bass all joined as free agents. Wesley Johnson, Jamal Crawford, Austin Rivers and Luc Mbah a Moute all re-signed this offseason.
- 2016-17 Outlook: With a deeper bench than last year, there is no reason the Clippers don’t have the talent and teamwork to make it to the Western Conference Finals. “Can Doc Rivers and CP3 get the team there” will be the question on everyone’s news feed and minds.
Jay: Clippers need to make the Western Conference Finals. The window is closing and I say this is the year they do it. 56-26
Daniel: The Clippers HAVE to stay healthy this season. With the fall of the Oklahoma City Thunder, LAC has real shot at finally getting past the second round in the playoffs. They have the talent and the coaching to make a push at the Larry O’brien trophy. 55-27.