The NBA season is around the corner. The preseason has already begun, while regular season action kicks-off on October 22.
The Game Haus will be doing division previews following an exciting offseason. Teams will be reviewed in order of where they are expected to finish in the division. Today, the Pacific Division will be previewed.
#5 Phoenix Suns
Like the last few seasons, Phoenix will be at the bottom of the barrel in their division yet again. However, like many young teams in the league, player development will be way more valuable that the number of wins.
The Suns have the their core of the future in place with Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton. Heading into his fifth season, Booker has proven to be a great scoring guard, but could still improve his efficiency and three-point shot.
Ayton had an excellent rookie season, averaging 16 points and 10 rebounds at the center position. Another step forward for Ayton would mean a lot for the team’s success, especially against the talented big men of the Western Conference.
This offseason the team needed a point guard which led them to sign veteran playmaker Ricky Rubio. Rubio’s passing and offensive leadership could help Phoenix develop young talent like rookie Cameron Johnson and second-year player Mikal Bridges.
A key for Phoenix will be Kelly Oubre’s play. After being traded to Phoenix, Oubre came off the bench averaging 17 points per game. Oubre signed a two-year deal with the team this summer, so taking another step could be huge in helping make Phoenix a formidable team sooner than later.
With the addition of players like Dario Saric and Aron Baynes, the Suns will be a better team than last season. However, it won’t mean much in the tough Pacific Division.
#4 Sacramento Kings
By nearly making the playoffs last season, Sacramento proved that they have one of the best young cores in the league. This season, the Kings will make a run at the eight seed despite a tough division.
Sacramento has an excellent backcourt in De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield. Fox took a leap in his sophomore season last year, averaging 17 points and 7 assists, while Hield had a historically good three-point shooting season.
To pair with these future stars, the Kings will also see more of big man Marvin Bagley, who had a great rookie season despite injury. Bagley could be a turning point for the team if he can bounce back and have a great second season.
This summer, the team re-signed veteran Harrison Barnes, as well as bringing in Trevor Ariza, Dwayne Dedmond and Cory Joseph. With Bogdan Bogdanovic as a great sixth man, Sacramento has a good enough roster to make noise in the West and be a tough competitor for the best teams in the NBA.
Despite good, young talent, the Kings likely won’t make the playoffs, but should improve their record since last year. The fast-paced team should focus on improving their halfcourt game. Potentially, the Kings could look for teams interested in gaining young talent for an established star, as dividing minutes could prove to be difficult.
#3 Golden State Warriors
With Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala gone, and Klay Thompson recovering from injury, the Golden State Warriors have an interesting season ahead of them. In the loaded West, Steph Curry may have to return to MVP form for the Warriors to earn decent seeding.
To compensate for Durant leaving, Golden State signed Nets guard D’Angelo Russell to a max deal. He and Curry will have to make up for a lot of lost scoring this season, at least until Thompson returns, whenever that may be.
Draymond Green returns for Golden State on a fresh contract, and will likely have to be better offensively, in addition to carrying more defensive load in absence of Thompson and Iguodala.
For the first time in several years, the Warriors will be putting some young talent on the floor. Developing players could be a silver lining of a year where the Warriors may not make a deep playoff run.
Omari Spellman, Jordan Poole, and Jacob Evans are all guards and wings that will likely get plenty of action this season.
Golden State will still be a good team next year behind Curry, Russell and Green, no matter which other young players fill in the gaps. Still, the Warriors are a clear notch behind both L.A. teams in the Pacific Division.
#2 Los Angeles Lakers
Both Los Angeles teams made huge moves this offseason, putting them both into title contention. After months of speculation, Anthony Davis will finally join LeBron James on the Lakers this coming season.
The Lakers, beyond Davis, will be looking a lot different than last year. The team will also have its first season under head coach Frank Vogel, while under going many roster changes.
To shore up depth behind Davis, the Lakers signed DeMarcus Cousins, who has since gone down with an injury. The team signed Dwight Howard to replace him, which could be a big pay off if Howard can return healthy.
The Lakers signed Quinn Cook, Jared Dudley, Avery Bradley and Danny Green at the guard positions, with Rajon Rondo and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope returning.
The Lakers lack an established third star behind their two will-be MVP candidate stars, but could find the key to their success being Kyle Kuzma. Last year he averaged 18.7 points and 5.5 rebounds on 45 percent from the field. If Kuzma can make another jump in his third year, improving his three-point shooting, the Lakers will stand out more at the top of the crowded West.
Perimeter defense and health will be the biggest questions for the Lakers. Having a superstar big like Davis goes a long way, especially against a team like the Clippers but perimeter defense may be an issue for them. Still, the Lakers will be among the best teams in the West at the end of the year, unless James or Davis miss extended periods of time.
#1 Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers had by far the best offseason in league in terms of making themselves title contenders. The team gambled their future on Paul George, which swayed Kawhi Leonard to sign as well. Both stars have player options after the next two season in L.A., so the time for winning is now.
George and Leonard give the Clippers the best two-way wings in the NBA. George, while missing the preseason and a few games to start the year, is coming off a season where he averaged a career-high 28 points per game.
Leonard is coming off an incredible playoff run with Toronto, where he led the franchise to its first title, earning himself Finals MVP. These two together will be a nightmare for opponents on both ends of the court.
Aside from the stars, the Clippers have a solid supporting cast that will help make them one of the league’s best teams.
Patrick Beverly re-signed with the team this summer, and provides staunch perimeter defense despite limited offensive numbers. Lou Williams will come off the bench for the Clippers after capturing the Sixth Man of the Year award the past two seasons, making three total, and averaging 20 points per game last season.
The biggest question for the Clippers comes in the frontcourt, as Montrezl Harrell and Ivaca Zubac may have trouble matching up with elite centers in the West. However, the team’s depth and defense at other positions should be enough to win them the Pacific Division, as long as their stars aren’t load-managed too heavily.
Featured image credited to AP.
Stats credited to basketball-reference.com.