'Only God can stop GSW

The Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe) - - SPORT -

THE NBA’s Pa­cific Divi­sion is a one-team race for the fore­see­able fu­ture.

The War­riors will win this divi­sion for the fourth straight year, with an act of God more likely to stop them than any of the other team in this group.

Golden State would have to lose mul­ti­ple stars be­fore it started to worry, so don’t ex­pect a tight race here for even a sec­ond.

Still, there’s some in­trigue for the non-War­riors class of the divi­sion. The new-look Clip­pers are start­ing the postChris Paul era. Lonzo Ball is get­ting the keys to the Lak­ers. And the Kings and Suns are look­ing to make the leap into re­spectabil­ity.

Let’s dive deep into the Pa­cific.

Golden State War­riors Out­look:

The War­riors are bet­ter go­ing into this sea­son than they were a year ago. Kevin Du­rant is now fully ac­cli­mated into the team, and he seemed to iron out any ball distri­bu­tion is­sues with Stephen Curry dur­ing this most re­cent post­sea­son. Not that they needed one, but Nick Young gives the Dubs an­other scorer off the bench. Omri Casspi was also a stealth­ily solid pick-up, given his fit into what Golden State wants to do. And the usual sus­pects — Dray­mond Green, Klay Thomp­son, An­dre Iguo­dala — are mostly still at the top of their games, though Iggy’s game is show­ing signs of age. All that’s left to won­der is how many games this team can win. If Adam Sil­ver’s new rest­ing rules are taken se­ri­ously, don’t be sur­prised if the War­riors flirt with 70.

Best case: War­riors win 73 games and ac­tu­ally win the fi­nals this time.

Worst case: Steph leaves a game hold­ing his an­kle and Du­rant for­gets to switch ac­counts be­fore call­ing him soft.

Los An­ge­les Clip­pers Out­look:

The Clip­pers de­cided to stay com­pet­i­tive in­stead of bot­tom­ing out af­ter Chris Paul’s de­par­ture, which may not have been the best long-term strat­egy. But the team they’ll put on the court this sea­son looks very fun. Blake Grif­fin will fi­nally be given con­trol of the team and he’s proven in smaller sam­ples he can ac­quit him­self well out­side of Paul’s shadow. Danilo Gal­li­nari should also have a fea­tured role pro­vided he stays healthy. And Mi­los Teo­dosic is go­ing to have the As­so­ci­a­tion’s great­est YouTube mix by the end of the sea­son, both in terms of vol­ume and qual­ity. The Clips prob­a­bly won’t reach the heights of their Paulled of­fen­sive jug­ger­nauts, but there’s def­i­nitely some sleeper po­ten­tial with this team.

Los An­ge­les Lak­ers Out­look:

There’s ex­cite­ment in LA again, so much so that some Lak­ers fans are get­ting cocky about the play­ers ac­tu­ally on the team, and not the free-agent pho­to­shops that go up in flames ev­ery time a star de­cides against play­ing for the Lak­ers. Los An­ge­les won’t be good this sea­son, but they should be more re­spectable than in re­cent years. Brook Lopez was a sneaky good pick-up, and Ken­tavi­ous Cald­well-Pope should soak up some solid min­utes on the perime­ter. Lonzo will have fun run­ning the fast­break with guys like Julius Ran­dle and Larry Nance, while Bran­don In­gram will hope­fully round into form with a year of sea­son­ing sprin­kled on his game. Don’t get your hopes too high, but Luke Wal­ton’s team will prob­a­bly steal some games through­out the sea­son.

Rookie to watch:

Lonzo Ball Ball’s star po­ten­tial will play a gi­ant role in the Lak­ers’ fu­ture. If Ball proves quickly he’ll be a force in the NBA, Los An­ge­les has an ace in its pocket when meet­ing with free agents next sum­mer. (If the Ok­la­homa City ex­per­i­ment goes south, maybe Paul Ge­orge will want to play with a pass-first point guard.) So Ball isn’t only play­ing for him­self or to shut up the peo­ple who crit­i­cise him and his dad. He’s also play­ing to clar­ify the Lak­ers’ roadmap back to cham­pi­onship con­tender. For all the hoopla around Ball and his family, don’t for­get that this dude can play.

He’s a will­ing passer, a force in tran­si­tion and ath­letic enough to de­fend both guard spots well. Ball knows all eyes will be on him early in the sea­son, so he’ll also have a chance to show how he can per­form un­der pres­sure. — Sports Il­lus­trated.

The Golden War­riors are bet­ter go­ing into this sea­son than they were a year ago

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