NBA Preview: Pacific Division

By Drew Sorrells

Golden State Warriors:

credit: www.foxsports.com
  • 2014-15 Record: 67-15
  • Key Acquisitions: Jason Thompson (Kings)
  • Key Departures: David Lee (Celtics)
  • Projected starting lineup: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, Andrew Bogut

What you need to know:

There isn’t much to say about the defending champion Warriors that hasn’t already been said. They are the casual NBA fan’s dream; a statistical anomaly who has been the biggest factor in moving the NBA into a new age . They put together an uncertain path to the championship last year through an unprecedented offense that was predicated on sharing the ball and using their weapons.

There was also the emergence of the Chef himself, Mr. Stephen Curry. The Baby-Faced Assassin put on a show last season, cooking a fair amount of individuals in his kitchen. Nobody in the league was safe. Nobody.

Especially not you, Chris Paul.

The Dubs won 67 regular season games and lost only 5 during the playoffs, on their way to the Bay’s first title since 1975. They bring back almost the exact same roster, looking to do one of the hardest things in basketball: repeat as champions.

While last year’s core remains intact, there is a difference about this years team that has made the Warriors even more fun. They’re back and they are PISSED. They feel that they have not been given the credit they deserve as champions and they are letting the world know that they feel slighted.

Here’s what Klay Thompson had to say about comments that Doc Rivers and some Clippers made in an interview with Zach Lowe, where they essentially called the Warriors lucky.

And of course Draymond Green, who is known for his lack of hesitation when tossing out chirps, added his two sense.

Steph Curry too? Why not!

Last year the Warriors emerged as the feel good, fairytale team that NBA fans wanted to root for. The face of their franchise looks 15 years old, they put up unreal numbers, and they have fun sharing the wealth with teammates. Now, they are angry that they aren’t getting the proper respect from the rest of the league and are on the mission to repeat.

Can they repeat? Absolutely. They have the best back=-court in the NBA, one of the deepest rotations, the top defense, and they now add experience to their long list of strengths. But to call the Western Conference a bloodbath would be putting it mildly. There are at least five teams who have very realistic shots at the title this year in that conference, so the Warriors will have a long road ahead of them.

They are not the friendly feel-good story that the league fell in love with last year. They now have a target on their backs, From the looks of things, that’s just fine with them.

Los Angeles Clippers:

credit: www.masslive.com
  • 2014-15 Record: 56-26
  • Key Acquisitions: Paul Pierce (Wizards), Lance Stephenson (Hornets), Josh Smith (Rockets)
  • Key Departures: Matt Barnes (Grizzlies)
  • Projected starting lineup: Chris Paul, JJ Redick, Paul Pierce. Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan

What you need to know:

It was an interesting offseason for the Clippers, headlined by the DeAndre Jordan free agency fiasco. They locked their big man back up and added some much needed bench support, which makes them another title contender from the West. But the clock is ticking on the Clippers’ championship window. They have one of the best core groups in the entire league, but they are aging. While this year is shaping up to be their best shot, there is an abundance of pressure to turn this best shot into an NBA title.

Chris Paul is still the best prototypical point guard in the league. He is an elite scorer, passer and defender. With weapons like Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan surrounding him, the Clippers offense is a finely-tuned system of three pointers and posterizing dunks.

The addition of Paul Pierce will more than likely give us another opportunity for him to show us why they brought him here. Pierce, along with Wesley Johnson, Lance Stephenson and Josh Smith, give the Clippers much needed depth on the wing, which was so nonexistent last year that we were all reminded that Hedo Turkaglu still played in the NBA.

My subconscious is forcing me to refresh you on Hedo’s greatness. You’re welcome.

Doc River’s Clippers stack up well against the rest of the league. They face the obstacle of overcoming the perils that lie in the Western Conference, as does everyone else in the conference. They also bring the top beef in the entire league against the Warriors to the table, which will be one of the most entertaining storylines to pay attention to this season. They constantly whine, antagonize and play the role of little brother but they also bring an entertaining flair to their game. But if any year is going to belong to the Clippers, it is this year.

Los Angeles Lakers:

credit: www.usatoday.com
  • 2014-15 Record: 21-61
  • Key Acquisitions: Lou Williams (Raptors), D’Angelo Russell (Ohio State), Roy Hibbert (Pacers)
  • Key Departures: Ed Davis (Trail Blazers), Wesley Johnson (Clippers)
  • Projected Starting Lineup: D’Angelo Russel, Jordan Clarkson, Kobe Bryant, Brandon Bass, Roy Hibbert

What you need to know: 

I really can’t find the proper combination of words to summarize how bad the Lakers were last season. Here’s some clips that will attempt to paint the picture that my words can not.

This too.

And finally, this.

On to this season.

The Lakers scored D’Angelo Russell in this year’s draft, who is expected to be the point guard of the future. Julius Randle also returns from injury. These two give the Lakers a young foundation that provides hope for the future. But today, all the Lakers have is that hope.

Kobe Bryant is old now. He has been plagued by injuries in the latter end of his career and many speculate this will be his last season. He no longer has the ability to carry a team but Kobe is Kobe. And Kobe will never let somebody else run his team (I’m looking at you, Shaq). It will be interesting to see how Nick Young, Lou Williams, and Bryant will all share the ball this year. I also realize that is the first time that those three have been in a sentence with the word “share” in it.

Mediocrity will be ramped for the Lakers this season. These are dark days for the organization and thus, even darker days for me trying to nap with ESPN First Take on in the background.

Sacramento Kings:

www.thebiglead.com

2014-15 Record: 29-53

  • Key Acquisitions: Rajon Rondo (Mavericks), Kosta Kofuos (Grizzlies), Marco Bellinelli (Spurs)
  • Key Departures: Nik Stuskus (76ers), Jason Thompson (Warriors)
  • Projected Starting Lineup: Darren Collison, Ben McLemore, Rudy Gay, Willie Cauley-Stein, DeMarcus Cousins

What you need to know:

The Kings proved to be one of the most inept franchises in sports once again this past season. Their owner suggested that they should play 4 on 5, with one player cherry picking on defense. That’s not a joke. There is one reason that this preview did not stop with that sentence right there. That reason is DeMarcus Cousins.

Boogie is the league’s most dangerous inside threat who has been forced to play a majority of his career in meaningless basketball games because when was the last time the Kings were in a meaningful basketball game. Sure, he does this sometimes.

That is bad, I agree. And yes, public beefs that feature subtweets about your head coach are also very frowned upon. No arguments over here.

But he also does this this.

And this.

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Which, I’m assuming, are all real world examples of what Drake meant by going DeMarcus Couuusins out in puuublic.

Where the Kings have fallen short is in everybody not named DeMarcus Cousins. This year’s team has the best personnel to change that. They signed Rajon Rondo, who did everything in his power to ruin his career by the end of last season, Marco Bellinelli, who can shoot the ball and help with their spacing issues, and Kousta Koufos, who is a gritty rebounder and rim protector. While these moves are progress, they are not enough to make them a contender.

If I may, I will make a bold prediction that contradicts analytics, the internet, and the basic skills of human observation. That is the fact that Rajon Rondo will prove he’s not quite done yet. Under his own accord, he went from a widely perceived top-tier point guard to a shell of himself. He is a gifted passer with an extremely high basketball IQ, playoff and championship experience, and a fierce competitive fire. Look for this guy to make a return to high level basketball, but not his former level of prominence.

credit: sbnation.com

Maybe he should wait until the season starts to bad mouth George Karl. Maybe.

Phoenix Suns:

credit: www.basketball-society.com
  • 2014-15 Record: 39-43
  • Key Acquisitions:
  • Key Departures:
  • Projected Starting Lineup: Brandon Knight, Eric Bledsoe, PJ Tucker, Markieff Morris, Tyson Chandler

What you need to know:

Phoenix fell short of their sleeper expectations last season. Where they fall this season remains to be seen. While they signed Tyson Chandler over the offseason and dealt Marcus Morris to Detroit, they bring back a majority of the same core players and thus keep the same identity as well. They have the ceiling potential of a sleeper-surprise in the West, and the cellar-potential similar to last season’s disappointments.

The word for the Suns is potential, and it starts with their backcourt. Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight have yet to clock a full season together and both are under 25 years old. Offensively, they have the skill set to develop into a monster backcourt. This takes time and it may take more NBA experience for the two to get there.

Where Phoenix beefed up in the offseason is on the front. Tyson Chandler can still be an elite rim protector on defense who eats the glass on both ends. Former Maryland big man Alex Len is also poised to have a breakout year. He gives the Suns added depth on the interior and another rebounding presence with his tremendous length.

Its the same story for Phoenix as we enter the 2015 season. Breakout potential is interspersed with inexperience, making it shaky to put a large amount of stock in this team. But this is what makes them a sleeper team who can fight for the 8th seed in the West. They can also fall short of these expectations.