TheSportsNotebook.com’s march to the opening of the NBA season on October 29 has begun, and today we’ll take a look at the Pacific Division. We’ll go over each team’s starting lineup and measure them against the NBA win futures–the Over/Under win totals–posted in Las Vegas.
In yesterday’s review of the NBA Atlantic Division we noted that it was a division in flux, as the traditional power (Boston) went into rebuild mode and gave rise to a new power in Brooklyn. It must be a coastal thing, because the same phenomena is going down in the NBA Pacific Division, where the Los Angeles Lakers are having to hit the reset button, while the crosstown Clippers and Golden State Warriors aspire to the throne.
LA Clippers: After a disappointing first-round loss to Memphis in last year’s playoffs took a little bit of the gloss of the organization’s first Pacific Division title, the Clippers went out and got head coach Doc Rivers from Boston. There’s a belief this team needs to be toughened up a bit, specifically Blake Griffin at the power forward spot.
I would agree, and would add DeAndre Jordan to that as well. The center is capable of being a rebounding and shotblocking force, and the stats say he is just that. The big-game performance though, says something else.
Los Angeles still has Chris Paul running the offense, and while I’m not a huge J.J. Redick fan, the new two-guard is a good fit on this team, as his three-point marksmanship can open the alley-oops and interior passing game the Clips thrive on. Jamal Crawford and Darren Collision provide quality depth, something that should help pace Paul’s minutes in the regular season.
Paul dealt with nagging injuries last year, and with the Pacific Division title monkey off this team’s back, I’m sure Doc will pace them through the regular season. That makes the 55.5 win future a stiff number. In the Western Conference, you have to push hard to go 56-26. I think Los Angeles is good–I may pick them to reach the NBA Finals when final predictions are made just prior to Opening Night. But I have to lean to the Under on this number.
Golden State: Another rising organization with high expectations–specifically a win future of 51.5, coming off this team’s beating of Denver in the first round of the 2013 NBA playoffs, and then giving the San Antonio Spurs all they could handle before falling in a six-game second round series.
Golden State added Andre Iguodala to the offense. His ability to provide some punch from the 3-spot allows head coach Mark Jackson flexibility with star guard Steph Curry–specifically Curry’s fragile ankles and the need not to burn him out. Klay Thompson also emerged as a laser-sharp shooter from three-point range last year.
If the Warriors are going to have a really big year though, they need consistent scoring inside. We know power forward David Lee will provide a lot of that, and they also need a healthy and consistent Andrew Bogut. The center has never been either, and it’s a risk to pick him to start doing so now. That’s why this is another team that I respect ,and think is good, but find 47-48 wins more realistic–especially in the tougher conference–and go Under.
LA Lakers: Kobe Bryant’s rehab from his torn Achilles is going well, though we don’t know how soon into the regular season he’ll be ready. Steve Nash and Pau Gasol both have nagging injuries, but at their ages, that’s going to be a season-long drama.
Los Angeles added Chris Kaman, who will provide some rebounding help and toughness inside, but otherwise this is a team completely dependent on the health of aging stars who have established health issues. Not exactly a winning formula.
But the win future is 35. Seriously? I can bet the Over on the Lakers and if they go 36-46,I cash? I’ll take it. If Bryant stays even reasonably healthy, they’ll get that.
Sacramento: Demarcus Cousins is a great talent at center, but he’s likely to become a poor man’s Dwight Howard–a head case where the primary topic of conversation is about where he gets traded to, and if such a trade happens this season. Power forward Carl Landry is out to mid-January, and there’s nothing else I like about this team. Which is why I find the win future of 32 still too high.
Phoenix: The rebuilding project in the desert is about the development of the young big men. The Morris twins, Marcus and Markieff, who starred together at Kansas and now hope to grow together in Phoenix. And last year’s top draft choice, Maryland center Alex Len. The backcourt is handled by Eric Bledsoe, who can play either guard spot.
There is zero reason to expect Phoenix in the playoff hunt and that would be true even if you put them in the Eastern Conference. Still…the win future is at 21. If even a tiny bit goes their way they’ll beat that, and even if it doesn’t, they could stumble into a 22-60 disaster and go Over. Which is where I’m going with them.
TheSportsNotebook.com’s NBA commentary will continue with division previews over the next week and a half, and then right before the October 29 openers, we’ll tie everything together with a look at the betting futures on the NBA championship and final preseason predictions.