2013 NBA Preview: Pacific Division

The Pacific Division is an intriguing one. The Clippers have a new coach and championship aspirations. The Warriors score points like its still ’88. Meanwhile, nobody knows what to expect from the Lakers. And everyone knows what to expect from the woeful Suns.

1. Los Angeles Clippers

What we like:

There’s so much to like about the Clippers. Chris Paul is as good a two-way guard as there is in the NBA. Blake Griffin is such a tremendous weapon. Deandre Jordan and Jamal Crawford both do what they do well. And Jared Dudley was a fantastic off-season acquisition. Dudley is a knock down shooter and a great defender–he should fit perfectly into the Clippers. They also added J.J. Redick, who’s gonna snipe some threes. Darren Collison is a real good backup too. The biggest thing to love about the Clippers is that they made a huge upgrade by replacing coach Vinny Del Negro with Doc Rivers (sorry Vinny).

What we don’t:

The Clippers are going to be elite defensively, but they won’t be as good offensively. They don’t have any dominant scorers and guys like Redick and Dudley are one dimensional. So is Griffin, to a lesser extent.  Crawford is inefficient. Doc will need to find a way to squeeze as many points out of the Clippers as he can for them to win a title.

Our call:

Rivers is as good a coach as there is in the NBA, and he has the talent to go after an NBA title. But, ultimately, the Clippers will go as far as Paul and Griffin take them.

Chris Paul and the Clippers should be fantastic.

Chris Paul and the Clippers should be fantastic.

2. Golden State Warriors

What we like:

With Steph Curry and Andrew Bogut healthy Golden State blew through the Denver Nuggets in the first round of the playoffs last year. While they came up short in the second round against the Spurs, it was still a strong postseason performance from the Dubs. Their backcourt of Curry and Klay Thompson is killer. And David Lee and Bogut make up a great frontcourt. The Warriors could be the best offensive team in the NBA. They added Andre Iguodala to the equation and he should help the Nuggets massively, mainly on the defensive end, where they struggled last year. Harrison Barnes was solid as a rookie and has tons of potential. Draymond Green should improve also.

What we don’t:

Health remains the big variable. The Warriors will also need to improve defensively to be serious contenders to win it all. And their bench isn’t great.

Our call:

If they stay healthy, the Warriors not only could be the most fun team to watch in the NBA, but also serious contenders out west. But they can’t allow teams to drop 100+ points a night against them.

This man is unreasonably good at shooting.

This man is unreasonably good at shooting.

3. Los Angeles Lakers

What we like:

When Kobe Bean Bryant returns he’ll score a lot. Pau Gasol still is one of the most skilled bigs in the A. He enters the season healthy. The Dwight drama is over. Oh, and Nash is a cool guy.

What we don’t:

Their roster really is mediocre beyond Kobe and Gasol. Kobe is 35 and it feels like he’s much older. He’s not going to carry them far even if he comes back and plays well.  Defensively the Lakers should be an absolute wreck.

Our call:

The Lakers don’t look like a playoff team on paper. But they do have some decent offensive pieces like Nick Young and Jodie Meeks. Coach Mike D’Antoni should find a way to get them to score some points, so they might sneak into the playoffs as a low seed.

Mike D'Antoni doing something with his hands.

Mike D’Antoni doing something with his hands.

4. Sacramento Kings

What we like:

Rookie Ben McLemore, who the Kings took with the seventh pick in the draft, could prove to be a steal. He’s a rare athlete with a fantastic shot and a generally strong game. He will join point guard Grevis Vasquez, the feisty former Hornet, and Marcus Thornton in the Kings’ backcourt. Diminutive scorer Isaiah Thomas will play a lot of point too. Demarcus Cousins is obviously the star in Sacramento, and he is outstanding. He’s ridiculously athletic for a seven footer and he’s got 20-10 potential.

What we don’t like:

Cousins has so much of Javale McGee in him. The Kings in general don’t play very good basketball. They were unbelievably bad defensively last year.

Our call:

The team coach Mike Malone inherits in his first year in SAC has some promise. If he can get them to improve even moderately defensively, the Kings could easily finish with more than 30 wins.

Cousins is a monster.

Cousins is a monster.

5. Phoenix Suns

What we like:

Not a whole lot. Rookie coach Jeff Hornacek might have to suit up and player-coach.

What we don’t:

Their roster. Its highlights include Emeka Okafor, Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe, and…um… Gerald Green?

Our Call:

The Suns are in the middle of a rebuild project. They won’t win much, but they should get themselves a good draft pick.

Gerald!

Gerald!

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