2017 NBA Preview – Pacific Division

THE NBA season is fast approaching! So there is no better time than the present to analyse each of the 30 teams with tipoff etching closer every day. Read each of the division by division primers to know what to expect from the 2017-18 NBA season!

Atlantic Divison

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Golden State Warriors

Roster Changes
OWNERSHIP forked out the dough necessary to keep the championship core together. Andre Iguodala (3yrs/$48mil), Kevin Durant (2yrs/51.25mil) and Steph Curry (5yrs/$201mil) all saw raises in their salary, which meant the Warriors could only offer smaller salaries to Nick Young and Omri Casspi.


Three Questions That Matter

1. Can They Actually Be Stopped?
BARRING injury this team seems destined to win between 65-70 games and wow us all during the process. Even without Kevin Durant last year for around a month they still managed to go 15-4 including reeling off a 13 game winning streak. This team has too many weapons to be stopped on a nightly basis and they may actually be better heading into year two with KD on the roster.

2. Who Is The Fifth ‘Crunch Timer’?
A season ago there was a clear four man squad that ended games for Golden State. All-Stars Curry, Thompson, Durant and Green all warrant minutes in crunch time and last year Iguodala was the guy who helped finish games, but Nick Young and (dare I say it) JaVale McGee might be the better option in season 2017-18.

3. Was Jordan Bell The Steal Of The Draft?
THEY did it again. The Milwaukee Bucks drafted Pat McCaw 38th overall in 2016 only for the Warriors to trade cash for the UNLV guard. What transpired was McCaw starting multiple postseason games and emerging as a real part of the rotation. Fast forward 12 months and they have done it again with Jordan Bell. Drafted by the Bulls at 38 in last years draft only to be traded for cash and emerging as a potential steal. If Bell lives up to the hype of being ‘Draymond Green 2.0’ then teams have got to stop trading second rounders for cash to this juggernaut.

Record: 69-13
LIKE I said before I think this Warriors team will be better than their championship team from a season ago. They didn’t even really have a perfect game in the Finals and another year of Durant in their system will help them find another gear and lay waste to the rest of the NBA.

Los Angeles Clippers

Roster Changes
THE trade that sent Chris Paul to Houston changed the roster dramatically since we last saw them on the floor. They opted to through their support behind Blake Griffin and resign him and brought in 11 new faces to support him and All-Star teammate DeAndre Jordan.

Three Questions That Matter

1. Who Starts, Patrick Beverley Or Milos Teodosic?
PART of the Paul trade saw them land Patrick Beverley, who seems destined to start for the Clippers from day one. His backup, rookie 30-year old Milos Teodosic will demand some minutes though, already showcasing his playmaking abilities in the preseason with 13 assists in two games. The Clippers may need to choose whether they value offensive creativity (Tido) or lockdown defense (Beverley) when it comes to crunch time, with both of the former Olympiacos teammates unable to reliably play a spot shooter role.

2. Was Blake Griffin Worth The Investment?
INJURIES have played the one time hyped career of Blake Griffin with the high flying forward failing to play more than 70 games in each of his last three seasons. The Clippers didn’t bat an eyelid when it came to the possibility of letting him walk though forking out $173 million over five years to keep the 5x All-Star. With Griffin now the face of the franchise, LA fans will be crossing their fingers that he stays healthy and thrives as ‘the guy’.

3. Can We Trust Doc Rivers?
INFAMOUSLY the Clippers have failed to breakthrough in playoff series in the past, losing in the first or second round for six straight seasons. With an entirely new makeup and team orientation now that Chris Paul is gone, we will see what kind of a coach Doc Rovers really is and if he can get the best out of his roster to warrant keeping him around.

Record: 42-40
ANYTIME you lose a player of Chris Paul’s talent you are going to be worse off. Los Angeles is still talent plenty enough to crack into the playoffs, but without another star, I find it hard to see them reaching anything higher than one of the bottom two spots come postseason time. This season will really be determined by how healthy their stars can play and who else will step up in the absence of Paul.

Los Angeles Clippers Media DayImage from clipsnation.com

Los Angeles Lakers

Roster Changes
BRINING in more rookies and expiring contracts positions the Lakers to make a play at the big names in the 2018 offseason. They traded D’Angelo Russell and drafted his replacement in Lonzo Ball, whom many believe will win Rookie of the Year (ROY) while continuing to structure the team around rookies and one year older vets.

Three Questions That Matter

1. What Can We Realistically Expect From Lonzo?
I’M not one of the thousands who think that Lonzo Ball will win the ROY award, but he will definitely be in the running. His floor vision is his biggest strength and the Lakers will look quite different with him running the team as opposed to Russell who has more of a scoring mentality. If he doesn’t claim the ROY he still has a chance to finish the year with the ‘most passes that send the Internet into meltdown for 24 hours’ award.

2. Are We Sure They Can’t Make The Playoffs?
WHILE it makes sense for LA to stay near the bottom of the league and tank for another year, they may have a team that can actually win now. Brook Lopez is no scrub and will give them a viable scoring big man, while Ingram, Caldwell-Pope and Clarkson can all score too. If they are hovering around 25-25 at the All-Star break we could see them opt to go for a postseason berth over another year in the lottery.

2017 NBA Preview - Pacific Division 2Image from nba.com

3. Should Larry Nance Be Starting?
AS it stands the Lakers will start Julius Randle in the frontcourt alongside Brook Lopez. While Randle has shown flashes of being a dominant inside presence, Larry Nance Jr. may offer more versatility and ultimately earn the start. Using Randle as a high energy guy off the bench (much like the Nuggets use Faried) could be a better fit for the team and let’s not rule out the Lakers dealing Randle either in an effort to pile up the L’s one last time.

Record: 30-52
THE young core in LA is good enough for them to win more than the 26 games they did last year. Throw in Lopez and KCP’s scoring and another year in Luke Walton’s system and the Lakers may surprise some and win somewhere around 35 games. Either way, this season is all about Lonzo and auditioning for free agents in a years time.

Phoenix Suns

Roster Changes
THEY may have had the most boring offseason with no real notable turnover to their team. The only big change will be the arrival of Kansas freshman phenom Josh Jackson who they drafted third last year. There are plenty of trade candidates on the team as well, so don’t be surprised if their roster today is vastly different by seasons end.

Three Questions That Matter

1. Is Devin Booker Actually Kobe Bryant 2.0?
WE have seen first hand what Devin Booker can do when it comes to scoring the ball after his famous 70-point outburst last year. But are we sure that it is a good thing he is so hungry? I’ve always been a big defender of people who say that Kobe Bryant was selfish and detrimental to his team, but there are definitely pluses and negatives to having such a player on your roster. It seems like Devin Booker is growing into a similar athlete right before our eyes and his desire to be successful may be seen as selfishness by teammates and media analysts this year.

2. Should They Trade Eric Bledsoe?
WITH Booker at the two spot, they need to establish his backcourt running mate for the future. While Bledsoe is still only 27 he probably isn’t the long-term answer with Tyler Ulis looming as a viable floor general. Whether they believe it is Ulis or not they need to move Bledsoe if they want to give that player time to grow alongside Booker. That being said are we sure that trading away a player who averaged 20 PPG in each of his last two (injury-riddled) seasons?

3. Can Dragan Bender and/orMarquese Chriss Show Something?
PHOENIX isn’t going to be winning rings anytime soon, but if they want to build for the future they need their young guys to keep growing. Somehow though it looks like both sophomores Maquses Chriss (taken 8th overall) and Dragan Bender (taken 4th overall) have taken a step backwards since last year, with both struggling mightily in Summer League. If just one of them can emerge as a decent player after the Alex Len failure from a few years prior Suns fans will have reasons to cheer.

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Phoenix SunsImage from hoopshabit.com

Record: 24-58
THE Suns seem like a salary dump team this year, with plenty of pieces on the trade block that playoff teams may be interested in. That’s not a bad thing though, with all their young guys still three or four years away from being primed for greatness in my opinion.

Sacramento Kings

Roster Changes
SACRAMENTO have embraced the rookies and vets mould as well, moving on middle-tier talent in an effort to finally focus on a proper rebuild. After trading DeMarcus Cousins midway through last year they brought in four rookies (Fox, Giles, Jackson & Mason) and signed three notable veterans (Carter, Randolph & Hill) to jumpstart the franchises future.

Three Questions That Matter

1. Who Is Your No.1 Guy?
FOUR of the top five scorers from a season ago aren’t on the team this season and there is now plenty of touches to go around. Buddy Hield seems like the logical choice to put up most of the shots, but George Hill and the other starters might have something to say about that.

2. What Impact Will The Veterans Have?
THE addition of Vince Carter, Zach Randolph and George Hill will undoubtedly help mould their young guys and get them to set good habits and behaviours moving forwards. They didn’t sign that trio to play in a championship and if the three can accept their roles and come off the bunch in bursts to help on the court too, the Kings might look like an actual basketball team in 2017-18.

3. Is Life After ‘Boogie’ Better?
THERE is no doubting that DeMarcus Cousins is one of the best big men in the league and after the front office decided to trade him they are steering the team in a completely different direction from a season ago. The next few years will show us if they made the right move to trade such a transcendent talent in an effort to achieve stability and improve chemistry throughout the team.

Record: 31-51
LET’S not forget this team is relying on a lot of young talent to be successful. Anytime a team doesn’t have a veteran star or leader then it’s tough to see them finishing with a 50/50 win/loss record. There is promise so fear not Sacramento fans, but don’t expect your team to be making a playoff push just yet.

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