I’m not even going to get into the fact that California somehow has 4 NBA teams while my ass has to take public transportation across the river to pony up money for the most expensive tickets in the NBA (or 4th most if I want to then take a subway to Brooklyn) if I want to see some live basketball. Unfair, really. Greedy if anything.
But anywayyyz, welcome to the Pacific Division! Last year this division featured two playoff teams in the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Clippers, with the Lakers failing to make the postseason for the first time since the 2004-2005 season. (Coincidentally the one season Phil Jackson took off from coaching. Coincidentally?? Nevermind.) While I’m not quite ready to get behind Kobe and Co. turning this thing all the way around, I think we will see 3 playoff teams from this division regardless.
Overall, not a lot of change in the Pacific division other than a little PG swapping. The Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors largely kept their teams intact. The Kings allowed their starting guard Isaiah Thomas to walk to Phoenix to make room for Clippers backup Darren Collison while the Warriors acquired a new backup PG in Shaun Livingston who will replace the departed Steve Blake. This could have gone very differently as the Golden State front office was engaged in trade talks with Minnesota all summer, trying to pry Kevin Love away from the Wolves (and the Cavs) in a package centered around fourth year SG Klay Thompson. Personally, I think it was a good call to stay put. The Warriors have arguably the best YOUNG backcourt in the NBA (give the peeeeople what they want!) and Klay Thompson is one season away from every NBA fan recognizing him as the best 2-way guard in the league.
For the Clippers and the Suns, the offseason was an opportunity to surround their talented cores with a few more supplementary pieces. The Suns took all summer before finally retaining the services of Eric Bledsoe, giving them back their two guard attack that blitzed the League for the better half of a season before Bledsoe went down to injury. Surprisingly the Suns signed Thomas regardless, giving them the league’s deepest 1 guard rotation. I can’t wait to see if coach Honacek plays them all together in an ultra-small lineup.
The Clippers snatched up Jordan Farmar to replace Collison and signed to big men to bolster their backcourt in Ekpe Udoh and Spencer Hawes. Hawes should be a huge boon for this team as he gives Deandre Jordan a capable 7′ backup, and can step outside of the arc to shoot 3s. The Clippers playing him next to Blake Griffin will be a nightmare big duo to defend.
And the Lakers? Gosh, the Lakers did pretty much everything they could this offseason and after failing to pitch woo at Carmelo Anthony or Lebron James, snatched up a bevy of consolation prizes, including Jeremy Lin, Carlos Boozer, and Ed Davis. This is going to be a drastically different team from the Lakers we watched (haha you watched them!) last year, but the biggest difference regardless may be getting a healthy Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant.
What to be Most Excited About?
Really tough question in one of basketball’s most exciting divisions. I’m going to give honorable mentions to watching Phoenix try to stun the league once again (wouldn’t be so shocking this time, though) and tuning in to the Lakeshow to see if Kobe can hate-motivate all of the league’s sorrier cast-offs into becoming a somewhat respectable ball club. But the winner?
Getting to watch the Clippers and Warriors play each other 4 times. These are two of the most exciting teams in basketball both in the third year of solidifying their teams. Both will obviously be in the postseason, though I think the Warriors will play well enough this year to secure home-court advantage. And lastly? They hate each other.
Well maybe hate is the wrong word, but these guys get into some altercations. Blake Griffin and Andrew Bogut legitimately cannot stand one another, and both have been tossed out of games. They had an amazing playoff series that went to 7 games, possibly fueling a young Warriors team to come out gunning for their in-state rivals. You get to see Chris Paul matched up on Steph Curry, Griffin toasting David Lee, and massive, massive shoot-outs in the raucous Oracle Arena. I’m not ashamed to say I watched these two in preseason last night, and we are in for some fun basketball this year.
Biggest Question Heading into 2014?
Is Kobe back?
I’m sorry, I am neither a fan of the Lakers or Bryant in particular but this has to be the biggest question mark hanging over the division, as well as the career of one of basketball’s all-time greats. Kobe only played in 6 games last season and, well, looked his age, but he’s had a lot of time off since then. A LOT OF TIME. After a year, and another trip to Germany to visit his favorite platelet (?) surgeon, he may be ready to roll.
Because when Kobe is at his best, he’s fucking Kobe. Old age or not, he is going to be one of the best offensive 2 guards in the game and may even give James Harden a run for his money (I’m guessing he won’t get to the line as much, but his offensive repertoire is more varied). He’s also a notorious competitor, in the mold of a Michael Jordan, and has the will to shoot the Lakers back into games and take on the other team’s best player in scoring the basketball. While he may not be able to get that 6th ring to tie MJ with the current LA roster, if he’s healthy, he’s going to chase a lot of records this year.
I believe the cohesion of the Golden State Warriors’ is going to result in homecourt advantage come playoff time. Still, I can never bet against Chris Paul and I think with his leadership and another year to come together and improve their defense with coach Doc Rivers, this is the team that will win the division. And lastly, I see the Phoenix Suns running and gunning their way into the postseason for the first time since the team parted ways with Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire.
Los Angeles Clippers (58-24) Last Year (57-25)
Golden State Warriors (54-28) Last Year (51-31)
Phoenix Suns (50-32) Last Year (48-34)
Sacramento Kings (36-46) Last Year (28-54)
Los Angeles Lakers (30-52) Last Year (27-55)