Thursday 19 October 2017 / 06:16 PM

NBA SEASON PREVIEW: PACIFIC DIVISION

The NBA season is right around the corner, kicking off on October 25. We will be previewing each division in the league to get you ready for the season.

Today, we’ll be previewing the Pacific Division, which features two teams stuck in the bottom of the conference looking to climb, one team looking for direction, and two certified NBA Finals contenders.

Last season, it was all Warriors all season, as the ‘Splash Brothers’ ruled the NBA en route to another MVP for Steph Curry, and an unprecedented 73-9 record in the regular season. They fell short in the Finals, yet added one of the best players in the league to remedy it.

The Clippers saw their postseason cut short by injuries and are watching their title window close, while the Kings, Suns and Lakers tumbled down the standings.

So, is it still the Warriors’ league? Or will the Clippers unseat the heavy favorites? Will the Kings finally break through wall and make the postseason? And will we see any improvement from the Lakers or Suns?

1. Golden State Warriors

It was the time to be a Warriors fan last season, as following a shocking run to an NBA Championship, the Warriors rolled off to a 73-9 record in the regular season, and then another trip to the NBA Finals. That’s where the good times ended, however, with LeBron and the Cavs stopping them short of a repeat.

The Warriors reloaded, however, adding Kevin Durant, Zaza Pachulia and a slew of veteran bench players, while losing Andrew Bogut and Harrison Barnes. The controversial addition of Durant has been the talk of the NBA since it happened, with pundits and opposing players wondering aloud how the league could potentially stop the new-look Warriors.

The offense is staggeringly loaded, with four players in the starting line-up that can hit threes at alarming rates and score at will. The Warriors already had the NBA’s best three-point shooting team in NBA history, and added one of the league’s best to go with it. The Warriors arguably weakest position got a massive upgrade, and now they look unbeatable.

They are certainly the most heavily-favored preseason team since the LeBron-led Heat or the MJ-led Bulls. And while I don’t think they will be quite as good as last year in terms of record, the depth and talent of this team is phenomenal. There are four players on this team that can dominate on any given night, and they have to be the favorite by the end of the year.

2. Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers are the cautionary tale of the NBA that a lot of talent stacked on one team doesn’t always equate to winning.

The Clippers were ravaged by injuries a season ago, and that overshadowed the solid campaign enjoyed by DeAndre Jordan. He was spectacular in the first year of his new contract, and as a centrepiece of the team, he showed improvement. The frontcourt of Jordan and Blake Griffin still feels like one of the best in basketball, and can keep them afloat against most teams in the conference.

However, the age of Chris Paul is certainly of concern, and while the Clipper attempted to fix their lack of depth on the roster in the offseason, it still is worrisome. Marreese Speights was a solid addition, but outside of that, the bench looks as thin as last season, and the roster is starter-heavy outside of Jamal Crawford. The bench is better, I think Rivers is a solid coach and they appear to be the antithesis to the Warriors.

Still, the starters are uber-talented, and as long as the Griffin-Jordan-Paul trio is around in LA, they are going to be contenders. There’s very few teams in the NBA that are more deadly than the Clippers when healthy. But that remains the question: can they stay healthy?

3. Sacramento Kings

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Kings are going through some organizational changes. After another season of grossly underperforming, the Kings pulled the plug on the current regime and landed Dave Joerger from the Grizzlies. He’s a terrific coach, and probably the best the Kings could hope to get. He will improve DeMarcus Cousins and should help the bad defense.

They are thin at point guard and could get boat-raced by teams in the conference that are better at the position. Rudy Gay likes Joerger’s system, and he and Arron Affalo should add some nice offense to compliment Cousins. All the pieces are there to have a competitive defense, including a really talented front court. The rookies they brought in, Skal Labissiere and Georgios Papagiannis, are talented and could be a nice fit.

The Kings aren’t going to set the world on fire, but Joerger provides a real chance to find some stability. Still this roster is just a losing streak away from a really bad situation, and the Kings have so many problems outside the basketball court. Until the team gets its organization under control, it’s going to continue to waste the best player at his position in Cousins.

4. Los Angeles Lakers

Things are going to feel a tad bit different in LA following the departure of franchise legend Kobe Bryant. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. The Lakers added a flood of talent in the draft and free agency, and are finally looking to start building in the days following Kobe.

Brandon Ingram looks likely to be the new face of the franchise and will be counted on to contribute significantly at an early stage. Add in D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle and Ivica Zubac, and the Lakers feel that they have a potential cornerstone at each position moving forward. But the lumps are going to be plentiful and painful while they grow. The veterans around them make things a little better, with Luol Deng being a competent and capable SF, and Lou Williams and Timofey Mozgov solid starters.

D’Angelo Russell also looks way better and has showed out in the preseason. The Lakers aren’t looking to compete right now, and with new head coach Luke Walton they know that the building of a championship roster and culture will take some time. But they have a potential star in Russell and Laker fans can take solace in his ability – even when the scoreboard might be tough to look at.

5. Phoenix Suns

Welcome to another year of the endless Phoenix rebuild. Since the Steve Nash era, the Suns have been stuck in middling-to-bad territory, and don’t look much closer to climbing out of that cellar. The new regime led by Earl Watson will have some hills to climb for a roster that didn’t add many wins in the arrivals list going into 2017.

The guard position is really deep on this team – and is their only real strength. Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe are a terrific one-two punch, however many don’t expect both to last on the team. Devin Booker looks like a future star, and should see more minutes and touches as the season progresses. The rookies they’ve added are also solid, with Dragan Bender, Marquese Chriss and Tyler Ulis all showing tremendous upside.

This team should remain close to the cellar again this season, though, with the veterans on the roster slowing down and not a lot of proven guys to pick up the slack. Tyson Chandler is the best player down low, and that’s not the best thing in the world. There’s some talent here, but nothing that will be of any use to this team until a few seasons from now. The rebuild will continue.

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About the author

Austin Albertson

Austin is CBS' senior NFL and NBA analyst, bringing you commentary on everything between the lines and inside the hashes, from the film room to the scoreboard.

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