GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
Last Season: 47-35 (2nd in the division)
The Golden State Warriors’ post-season run was a pleasant surprise last season. As the 6th seed in the Western Conference, Golden State won a convincing 4-2 first round series against the second seed Denver Nuggets and was a handful for the San Antonio Spurs, the eventual Western Conference champions.
Despite losing point guard Jarrett Jack to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State added three key players in Andre Iguodala, Toney Douglas and Mareese Speights, who can contribute immediately. Iguodala provides the Warriors with a player who serves as a dual threat in scoring and perimeter defense. Toney Douglas will be an excellent weapon coming off the bench. His turnover ratio is low and he can score pretty much anywhere on the court. It’s hard to match Mareese Speights’ energy on the floor. This guy can rebound, guard anyone and isn’t afraid of diving for loose balls. He’s the ultimate utility player.
Golden State is one of the top three shooting teams in the league and with a hall of fame coach in Mark Jackson, this team can go far in the playoffs.
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
Last Season: 56-26 (1st in the division)
Last season, Chris Paul led the Los Angeles Clippers to its first Pacific Division crown in franchise history. With a 56-26 record, the Clippers captured the 4th seed in the Western Conference only to get bounced out in the first round by the Memphis Grizzlies. However, sky’s the limit for this young team, especially after the team re-signed Paul to a $107 million deal this past off-season. Adding head Coach Doc Rivers to the mix can only result in a “Win-Win” for this club.
Rivers will change this team’s mentality. Look for him to put more emphasis on defense and less on “Lob City”. Now is the time for L A to make a serious run for a title and they have the talent to achieve it. The Clippers’ bench is arguably the best in basketball. Former “Sixth Man of the Year” winner, Jamal Crawford is a monster scorer coming off the bench. The signing of Darren Collision, who averaged 12 points and 5.1 assists per clip last year for the Dallas Mavericks, will prove to be extremely valuable. Additionally, the Clippers signed Jared Dudley and JJ Reddick. Reddick is a solid shooter that can spread the floor. When healthy, Dudley can be rock solid on both sides of the floor especially from the 3-point line.
The Clippers’ title hopes lie with their head coach. Can Rivers get Blake Griffin’s low post game to sizzle? Will DeAndre Jordan stay consistent enough down the stretch? Is this team capable of buying into Doc’s system the way the Celtics did? We’ll see!
LOS ANGELES LAKERS
Last Season: 45-37 (3rd in the division)
The Lakers 2012-2013 campaign was a season to forget. With the signing of Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, championship aspirations were in full effect. But what they didn’t expect was early injuries to Steve Nash and Pau Gasol, a slow healing Dwight Howard and an over worked Kobe Bryant, who suffered a torn Achilles late in the season. As a result, they finished the year with a 45-37 record and was swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the playoffs.
When Dwight Howard signed with the Houston Rockets in the off-season, the Lakers appear to be a team full of turmoil. However, the might better team without Howard. Howard never really bought into head coach Mike D’Antoni’s system. How damaging would it had been if Howard took the money and signed a long-term deal with LA? The Lakers organization didn’t really need the negativity that Howard would have brought if he had stayed. So LA will now rely on Pau Gasol and newly acquired Chris Kaman to fill the void left by Howard, which could turn out to be the better fit for D’Antoni’s scheme. The additions of Ellias Harris, Jordan Farmar, Marcus Landry, Nick Young, Ryan Kelly, Wesley Johnson and Xavier Henry adds depth on both sides of the floor.
In the end, Kobe Bryant’s health will decide how successful this season will be for the Lakers. If Kobe Bryant can recover fully and return to form, the Lakers chances of making the playoffs will be high. Maintaining that healthy is key.
Last Season: 25-57 (5th in the division)
The Phoenix Suns finished last in the Pacific Division. The Suns acquired Eric Bledsoe in the off-season. The back court of Bledsoe and point guard Goran Dragic should be fun to watch. Bledsoe has the potential to be a star in the league. He put up good numbers for the Los Angeles Clippers last season coming off the bench.
The Suns drafted center Alex Len from the University of Maryland. Len will be good and working with Marcin Gortat will help his development a lot. Gortat will look to be the leader on a team in need of serious leadership. The losses of Luis Scola, Michael Beasley, Wesley Johnson, Hamed Haddadi, Jared Dudley and Jermaine O’Neal, further proves that the Suns are in rebuild mode. This season will be a rough one for rookie head coach, Jeff Hornacek.
Phoenix will be looking up to its Pacific Division brethren once again this season as they will once again finish in last place.
Last Season: 28-54 (4th in the division)
Staying in Sacramento was a huge victory for Kings fans this offseason. Unfortunately they won’t see many victories on the court this season. The Kings were a disappointing 28-54 last season. The Kings added Mike Malone as head coach this offseason, which is a good hire. However, he needs a lot of pieces to solve the King’s puzzle, avoiding a seventh consecutive draft lottery pick.
Losing Tyreke Evans makes DeMarcus Cousins the team’s best player. Cousins signed a 4 year, $62 million extension. Like it or not Kings fans, Cousins is the face of the franchise. Hopefully he can curb his on and off court troubles. The Kings also signed forward Carl Landry during the off-season to a 4-year, $26 million contract. Landry is an excellent player that brings a lot of energy.
Although the Kings will most likely finish about the same as last season, the 2014 Draft looks very promising.
By Keith Madyun