The Pacific Division in the West figures to be the toughest division. Not tough as in competitive, tough as in it's going to be so hard trying to knock the defending champion Lakers off the top of the standings. Clearly the most talented, deep team, the other teams will find it hard especially since so some regressed during the off season. A healthy Clipper squad may be the biggest challenger but the Phoenix Suns and Sacramento Kings are still a way off and the upstart Warriors are still in rebuilding mode. The question is not will the Lakers win the division, it's by how many games will they win it by?
PACIFIC DIVISION PREVIEW
Los Angeles Lakers
Last Season : 57-25
Ins : F Matt Barnes, G Steve Blake, SF Devin Ebanks, PF Derrick Caracter
Outs : G Jordan Farmar, C DJ MBenga
What 2 Watch For : Three-peat. It will happen, when Phil Jackson wins rings it's done in lots of three. This team really faces no real challenge from anyone in the Western Conference. Oklahoma City still aren't complete enough to match up with LA. Gasol will be fresh from time off during the summer and despite Kobe's knee surgery, he will still be locked and loaded and will play close to 82 games once again. Bynums health is a worry but the Lakers have the depth to cover if he is absent for a long period of time. The additions of Matt Barnes and Steve Blake have bolstered an already deep bench. The Laker team has no weaknesses from 1 through to 15 on the list. The City of Angels will be celebrating another banner come June.
Prediction : 1st 60-22
Los Angeles Clippers
Last Season : 29-53
Ins : G Randy Foye, SF Al-Farouq Aminu, PG Eric Bledsoe, F Blake Griffin ( returning from injury )
Outs : F Drew Gooden
What 2 Watch For : Blake Griffin. This kid is going to be a monster in this league. The Clippers have had to wait a year for him to finally play but he is the real deal. He can shoot, post up, defend, rebound, everything the Clips need him to do. If Baron Davis gets in shape and stays healthy, that duo is going to be murder trying to defend on the pick and roll. A strong backcourt tandem in Davis and Eric Gordon paired with a front court of Griffin and Kaman is scary. The Clips are also high on rookie Al-Farouq Aminu who they hope will pick up some valuable minutes at small forward. If your a Clippers fan, you're praying the Clipper curse doesn't strike this team because on paper it's a very intriguing combination with great potential. Unfortunately basketball isn't played on paper, something the Clippers know all too well.
Prediction : 2nd 49-33
Last Season : 54-28
Ins : F Hedo Turkoglu, G Josh Childress, F Hakim Warrick, PF Gani Lawal, PF Dwayne Collins
Outs : F Amar’e Stoudemire, G Leandro Barbosa, F Louis Amundson
What 2 Watch For : A return to the lottery for this team. Over achievers last year in reaching the Conference Finals, you never really got the feeling they were going to knock off the Lakers, no matter how many games they won. The loss of Stoudemire will be huge for this team. Who is going to score buckets for this side? We just don't see Turkoglu having the same impact here he did in Orlando. He's coming off a bad season in Toronto and hasn't started the pre season off well either. Can Steve Nash keep the engine running all by himself? There is just not enough firepower here. Jason Richardson may be asked to go back to being a 22-25 ppg scorer. Grant Hill played his most consistent season while in Phoenix last year and will need to replicate that form once again. The Suns regressed in the off season, spent almost $100 million on 3 free agents whe they could've spent that on keeping Amar'e happy in Arizona.
Prediction : 3rd 41-41
Golden State Warriors
Last Season : 26-56
Ins : F David Lee, G Charlie Bell, G Jannero Pargo, F Dorell Wright, C Dan Gadzuric, PF Ekpe Udoh, F Louis Amundson
Outs : F Corey Maggette, F Ronny Turiaf, G Kelenna Azubuike, C Anthony Randolph, F Anthony Tolliver, F Ronny Turiaf, G C.J Watson
What 2 Watch For : Despite the loss of Don Nelson the Warriors will still run and gun this season. Defence will be an afterthought but the backcourt tandem of Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry will blossom into a dangerous one for Golden State. Add to the mix David Lee who should fit the system perfectly and you have the foundations for a solid core for the future. Golden State are hoping swingman Dorell Wright is able to produce consistently, some of the flashes he showed while in Miami. When he's on his game his length is able to bother opponents while on D and his athleticism is an advantage on offence. The Warriors will score points – Ellis should average around the 25-27 ppg mark – this team will lack consistency. A battle with Sacramento to avoid bottom place is the only war they may win.
Prediction : 4th 33-49
Last Season : 25-57
Ins : F/C Demarcus Cousins, C Samuel Dalembert, G Luther Head, F Antoine Wright ,
Outs : C Spencer Hawes, F Andres Nocioni, G Sean May, G Ime Udoka, F Jon Brockman
What 2 Watch For : The Kings improved slightly from the season prior to last and will only improve slightly again on that. Progress will be slow for this young side who have some nice pieces to pair with Tyreke Evans in DeMarcus Cousins and Samuel Dalembert who will provide some interior presence the Kings haven't had in many years. The team is Evans for the time being and the winner of the ROY trophy last season will be counted on for a whole lot more than what he offered last season. The Kings may win a few more games than they did last year but still are a few players away from challenging. Another lottery finish will almost seal the deal on another high draft pick in the future.
Prediction : 5th 31-51