'Only God can stop GSW
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