The Pacific Division has belonged to the Golden State Warriors for the last few seasons. The other four teams have provided little opposition to Steve Kerr’s juggernaut, but that could will be a little different this season after the arrival of LeBron James.
Golden State are almost certain to win the division. The arrival of LeBron, though, means more matchups between the league’s best team and its best player.
Sacramento are destined for another long season. A campaign of tanking brought good lottery odds, which turned into Marvin Bagley. The rookie has his work cut out for Sacramento to be anything near a playoff team, however.
There’s some upside on the young Kings roster. De’Aaron Fox is an exciting young talent, and there are several others who could breakout in a big way this season. It would take leaps forward from Fox and multiple teammates for Sacramento to be competitive, though.
The Kings won 27 games last season. Beating that number has to be the aim right now, but the development of Fox and Bagley is the real key, regardless of the win column.
Phoenix selected DeAndre Ayton with the number one pick in the draft. Ayton had spoken about his desire to go first overall and it will be great to see him team up with Devin Booker when the gifted shooting guard returns to action.
The Suns also added veteran experience in Trevor Ariza, who will help out defensively with his ability to guard multiple positions. Mikal Bridges was picked 10th overall in the draft, while Ryan Anderson arrived from Houston. Phoenix have depth and young talent, but a lot depends on the form and health of Booker.
The Clippers briefly flirted with a playoff spot last season but ended up well short. It’s a rebuild – or at least a retool – this year, with DeAndre Jordan having departed in the offseason. Los Angeles hit a wall with Jordan, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul and are biding their time.
They extended Lou Williams this offseason, who was brilliant off the bench last season, and added Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (after a trade with Charlotte) and Jerome Robinson with two lottery picks. Marcin Gortat arrived in a trade, Avery Bradley was retained and Luc Mbah A Moute was signed.
This is not a roster destined for the tank. In the East, the Clippers would have a shot at a low seed. In the West, they need a massive breakout from one of their draft picks to really stand a chance, such is the depth of talent in the conference.
Excitement in Laker world is at an all-time high. LeBron James is wearing the purple and gold and Magic Johnson managed to retain all of their talented young trio in the offseason while adding veterans.
Rajon Rondo was the highest profile of those veterans and the former Celtic will provide creativity when LeBron is off the floor. JaVale McGee and Lance Stephenson offer experience and combativeness that the young Laker core will benefit from.
The Lakers are in that chasing pack in the West. They will be the second-best team in the Pacific, but their real rivals lie in the other divisions.
Golden State Warriors
Golden State’s roster was already in the conversation as the best ever. Then, after a peculiar set of decisions from rival teams, they added All-Star centre DeMarcus Cousins. Steve Kerr now has five All-Stars at his disposal.
Even after a less than perfect regular season, the Warriors won a third title in four years. Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson all shone in the playoffs and there’s no team that looks like they can come close to stopping them this season.
This is their last season at their beloved Oracle home and it’s set to be a glorious one. Cousins is a bit of an unknown quantity after his Achilles injury, but whatever his impact, this Warriors team is going to be in the top two seeds in the West.
Serious injuries are all that can stop Golden State from a fourth title in five seasons. This could be their last year together, but there’s no reason for that to impact their performances.