Monday 21 August 2017 / 05:04 AM

Pre-season analysis: Pacific Division

Last year, the Golden State Warriors had one of the best regular seasons in NBA history, going 67-15. They had little problems going to the NBA Finals, where they took measure of the Cavaliers in 6 games. The Los Angeles Clippers had a great season as well and were looking to go to the Conference Finals, leading the Houston Rockets 3-2 in the series with a chance to clinch it at home. They inexplicably melted down completely, losing the series in horrid fashion, going into the offseason with a lot of frustration and doubts.

Last year was a year the Los Angeles Lakers fans quickly want to forget. They couldn’t make it to the playoffs for a second straight season and with only 21 wins, the recorded their worst regular season in franchise history. Kobe Bryant played 35 games, but a torn rotator cuff in January meant another season lost for the Lakers’ superstar. He will be back for the season opener and arguably with a better team as well.

The Lakers brought in bigs Roy Hibbert and Brandon Bass and acquired sixth man of the year Lou Williams. They drafted a possible future superstar point guard in D’Angelo Russell and got healthier with the return of Julius Randle, who suffered a season-ending injury in the first game of the regular season last year. Together with Jordan Clarkson, the Lakers have some potential future stars on their roster, but the roster does not look like a playoff candidate yet this year, in what might be Kobe’s last season. Will he be able to will this inexperienced team back to the playoffs?

The Sacramento Kings have not been able to reach the playoffs for nine consecutive years. They fired two different coaches in last year’s regular season, before eventually keeping George Karl at the helm. After some initial issues between coach and star player DeMarcus Cousins, it looks that the Kings are finally heading in the right direction.

They added some (championship) experience with Marco Belinelli and Rajon Rondo, giving Rondo a chance to show why he once was called one of the best point guards in the league. Ben McLemore has been improving substantially since his rookie year and with Rudy Gay and Cousins, they have two legitimate scorers in their starting line-up. With Darren Collision, Belinelli and rookie (and prime defender) Cauley-Stein coming off the bench, the Kings will be a team to be reckoned with again.

If they can keep their heads together, they might be that will improve the most, compared to last year. Will that be enough to make the playoffs in the West? Probably not.

In Arizona, the Phoenix Suns had a tough offseason. After the disappointment of not making the playoffs last season, they weren’t able to sign a big star free agent. They eventually got Tyson Chandler to sign a big $52 million, four-year contract, but Chandler is already 32 years old and has not been able to stay injury-free the last couple of seasons.

It seems that the franchise is in a kind of stalemate. Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas are gone, so all eyes will be on Brandon Knight to lead the team. Phoenix’s roster looks thin, and without any really talented youngsters on the team, it doesn’t look that they are going anywhere fast.

This year will be all about redemption for the Los Angeles Clippers, after the dramatic postseason loss against the Houston Rockets. They almost lost free agent DeAndre Jordan, but eventually were able to make him sign a new contract in Los Angeles.

With the addition of proven winner Paul Pierce, head coach Rivers brought in a man with championship experience and savvy. The Clippers further strengthened their bench adding Lance Stephenson, Wesley Johnson and Josh Smith. With such a talented and experienced roster, the Clippers look like one of the favorites to go all the way this season. Will Chris Paul be able to lead his team to the Conference Finals for the first time in his career? 

No such redemption ambitions for Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors after hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy last season. The Warriors kept their team together, and because they wrote a big check to free agent Draymond Green, their roster didn’t change one bit. With Curry and Klay Thompson, the Warriors will count on their Splash Brothers to lead them again to the promised land.

Golden State has the potential to go for several championships in a row, considering that the majority of their roster is still young, with the exception of Andrew Bogut and last year’s surprising NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala. During the offseason, a lot of people talked about the Warriors as a lucky champion, only winning because of injuries on opposing teams. They will have the bullseye on their back this season as reigning champions, however, and it will be interesting how the Warriors  cope with those new expectations.

[YouTube – NBA]

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Tim Glibert

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