NBA Preview: Pacific Division Is Golden State’s For The Taking
KSLSports.com continues its coverage of the beginning of the 2018-19 NBA season with a division-by-division look at the league. Next up is the Pacific division, which has been full of interesting storylines all offseason. Here are the teams in the order of their projected finish:
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
Last season: 58-24, 1st in Pacific Division, NBA champions
Key additions: DeMarcus Cousins, Jonas Jerebko
Draft pick: Jacob Evans (1st round, 28th overall, Cincinnati)
Key losses: JaVale McGee, Zaza Pachulia, David West
Why even play the season out? This team has the title in the bag, especially with the addition of big man DeMarcus Cousins. He tore this Achilles in January and will likely miss the first half of the season rehabbing the injury. But when he gets back on the court for the end of the regular season and playoffs, this team should, on paper at least, be the runaway favorites to win their third straight championship.
Just about the only thing that could unseat the Warriors from their throne would be a major injury to one of their stars or a serious regression by the team as a whole, which is possible but unlikely. Some of the players have slowed down, like Andre Iguodala, who had a horrible regular season last year. However, the star players like Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are still in their primes. This team is the real deal.
Prediction: 64 wins, NBA champions
LOS ANGELES LAKERS
Last season: 35-47, 3rd in Pacific Division, missed playoffs
Key additions: LeBron James, Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee, Michael Beasley
Draft picks: Mortiz Wagner (1st round, 25th overall, Michigan), Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (2nd round, 47th overall, Kansas)
Key losses: Julius Randle, Isaiah Thomas, Brook Lopez, Luol Deng
The team signed free agent megastar LeBron James and just like that, the Los Angeles Lakers became the most relevant team in the NBA. His arrival, as it did with Cleveland, Miami and Cleveland again, turns what was a very eh team into a very talked-about squad. As for whether this team will compete for a spot in the playoffs will become clear as the season progresses.
Last season, the Lakers were dedicated to developing their young core of Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram. This year, with one of the best team players of all time in James these guys will really have a chance to sink or swim in the spotlight that James brings. They’ll be better, but the real story is what will have in the next offseason when the Lakers will try to add another huge free agent like Kevin Durant.
Prediction: 45 wins, first round exit
Last season: 42-40, 2nd in Pacific Division, missed playoffs
Key additions: Luc Mbah a Moute, Mike Scott, Marcin Gortat
Draft picks: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (1st round, 11th overall, Kentucky, traded from Charlotte), Jerome Robinson (1st round, 13th overall, Boston College)
Key losses: DeAndre Jordan, Austin Rivers
All that’s left over from the days of “Lob City”, is head coach Doc Rivers, who will have to rebuild his team’s identity. Chris Paul has been gone for over a year, Blake Griffin was traded at midseason last year and DeAndre Jordan finally left for Dallas in free agency. So who’s going to lead this team?
Lou Williams, the reigning Sixth Man Award winner will be counted on to lead the team in scoring. He’ll have Marcin Gortat, acquired in a trade for Rivers’ own son, Austin, to help him. Rivers is one of the best head coaches in the NBA, but the organization will have to face a harsh reality: after a brief reign at the top of the Los Angeles hoops world, the Clippers are no longer the best show in town.
Prediction: 37 wins, miss playoffs
Last season: 21-61, last in Pacific Division, missed playoffs
Key additions: Igor Kokosov (head coach), Trevor Ariza, De’Anthony Melton, Ryan Anderson, Jamal Crawford
Draft picks: Deandre Ayton (1st round, 1st overall, Arizona), Mikal Bridges (1st round, 10th overall, Villanova, traded from Philadelphia), Elie Okobo (2nd round, 31st overall, France), George King (2nd round, 59th overall, Colorado)
Key losses: Tyler Ulis, Alex Len, Elfrid Payton, Jared Dudley, Marquese Chriss, Brandon Knight
After hitting rock bottom last season, the Suns were rewarded with the top selection in the 2018 NBA Draft. They selected star big man Deandre Ayton from down the road at Arizona with the pick. He along with star shooting guard Devin Booker will be the cornerstones of the franchise for years to come under new head coach Igor Kokosov.
The good news for Suns fans is that things will get better for Phoenix. Frankly, things couldn’t get much worse after they lost 31 of their last 35 games. But while they’ll have solid play from Booker and Ayton and probably free agent signing Trevor Ariza, the rest of the roster will bring a lot to be asked for. Ever heard of a guy named De’Anthony Melton? Didn’t think so. Well, he’ll be getting a large portion of the Suns’ minutes at point guard. Somewhat telling about how the season will probably go for the Suns.
Prediction: 28 wins, miss playoffs
Last season: 27-55, missed playoffs
Key additions: Ben McLemore, Deyonta Davis, Nemanja Bjelica
Draft picks: Marvin Bagley III (1st round, 2nd overall, Duke)
Key losses: Garrett Temple, Vince Carter
It was a toss-up between the Kings and the Suns as to which team would finish last in the Western Conference. In the end, after the Utah Jazz completely steamrolled the Kings 132-93 in the preseason, it was clear: this team is not going to be very good.
Buddy Hield is going to be relied on as the primary scoring option on this team. On any other team, he’d be a solid up-and-coming prospect. On this team, he’s being forced into a starring role, something that doesn’t bode well for the team. He and rookie Marvin Bagley III will carry this team to the bottom of the Western Conference cellar.
Prediction: 25 wins, miss playoffs