A quick preview of the NBA Pacific shows a division in flux with the departure of Kevin Durant and the addition of Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis. The Golden State Warriors are in rebuilding mode while Klay Thompson recovers from a blown ACL, while both the LA Clippers and LA Lakers are attracting the majority of love from fans, bettors, and the mainstream media.
The LA Lakers and LA Clippers are at the top of NBA futures board to win the NBA Championship. The Clippers pulled off a key free agent acquisition by landing Kawhi Leonard and added a surprise trade for Paul George. Meanwhile, the Lakers finally worked out a mega-trade with the New Orleans Pelicans. Disgruntled All-Star Anthony Davis finally left the Big Easy with his trade wish to Los Angeles to play Batman to LeBron James’ Robin..
The Clippers are the favorite to win the Pacific at 4/5 odds, while the Lakers are 2/1 right now.
2019 PACIFIC DIVISION ODDS:
LA Clippers 4/5
LA Lakers 2/1
Golden State Warriors 4/1
Sacramento Kings 50/1
Phoenix Suns 500/1
Meanwhile, the Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns are loaded with young talent. However, the franchises seem to be going in different paths. The Kings are making strides to return to playoff contention. The Suns have an awesome scorer with Devin Booker, but they ‘re stuck in a bad funk as the doormat in the Western Conference.
These days, you hear whispers about an NBA team moving to Las Vegas. Will it be the Suns or the Kings? While rumors swirl in Sin City, the NBA regular season will continue like business as usual. The big dogs in the Pacific are shuffling around to see which one will be the alpha of the pack, while the two weakest dogs hang out in the back of the pack.
Welcome to Hollywood, Champ
Kawhi Leonard won a championship and got paid to play in his hometown. It’s been a heck of a summer for Leonard.
Everyone knew that Leonard wanted to relocate to Los Angeles, but no one really anticipated Paul George would force OKC’s hand and the Thunder would trade him. The addition of Paul George is the real reason the Clippers have the best odds to win the NBA championship.
It would be hard to not find an NBA preseason preview that did not pick the Clippers to win the Pacific crown and the NBA title in 2020. But are we getting too ahead of ourselves? The Clippers have two excellent players, but they have yet to actually play together. Chemistry is important, but it seems like the Clippers will have a little less attention on them with the LA Lakers across town drumming up plenty of headlines. The Clippers have always been the little brother in Los Angeles compared to their big brother Lakers. But with Kawhi and George in town, they’re on a mission to put the Clippers back on top as the best show in Hollywood.
The Clips still have Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams (20.0 ppg), Patrick Beverly, Landry Shamet (10.9 ppg), and Montrezl Harrell (16.6 ppg). They made the playoffs last season with the 8th seed and 48 wins. This year’s Clips might take some time to get rolling, but they should win enough games in the second half to pass 50 wins.
Projection: LA Clippers 50-32
LBJ + AD = BFF
The Lakers (37-45) missed the playoffs during LeBron James’ tumultuous first season. Since then… Magic left the front office, they fired head coach Luke Walton, hired Frank Vogel, and unloaded everyone except Kyle Kuzma (18.7 ppg) to acquire Anthony Davis in a trade with the Pelicans.
LeBron James (27.4 ppg) and Anthony Davis (25.9 ppg, 12.0 rebounds) seem like an awesome dynamic duo on paper, but we’ll see what they can do in real life. Without much money to afford a surrounding cast, the Lakers added Dwight Howard, Danny Green, Quinn Cook, and Jared Dudley.
LBJ has the playing basketball part down. That’s the easy part. The difficult part is surviving the Buss Family Circus and the drama attached to the Lakers franchise with Hollyweird vampires scheming in the shadows. You can already see how social media junkies and the 24/7 news cycle has been grinding down a media-savvy LBJ, and the season hasn’t even started yet.
It felt like a gaggle of sportswriters went overboard last year overestimating LeBron James’ ability to turn around the Lakers over night. It seems like the average NBA preview has the Lakers as the second-best squad in the Pacific this season behind the Clippers, but still one of the overall favorites to contend for the championship.
Projection: LA Lakers 45-37
If Kevin Durant’s years with Golden State were the second incarnation of the mighty Warriors, then the KD-less team is the 3.0 version.
The Warriors lost their best pure scorer when Durant (26.0 ppg) left for the Brooklyn Nets. They’ll also be without one of the Splash Brothers. Klay Thompson (21.5 pg) blew out his knee in the NBA Finals. Thompson will probably the entire season while rehabbing his ACL.
The Warriors also lost Boogie Cousins and Quinn Cook. Boogie headed south to play with the LA Lakers and reunited with his old teammate Anthony Davis.
The current Warriors still have Steph Curry (27.3 ppg) and Draymond Green (16.3 ppg, 7.3 rebounds, 6.9 assists). The Warriors added D’Angelo Russell to the mix in hopes that Curry will be a good influence on the kid during his return to the West Coast.
We’ll see how good of a coach Steve Kerr really is with a squad that’s without KD and Thompson. This season could go one of two ways. Either it’s the beginning of the end of a glorious dynasty, or a just a brief pause before another multiple-title run from the Splash Brothers and Draymond.
Projection: Golden State 44-38
Kings Trio: Buddy, Fox, and Bags
Too bad Buddy Hield did not play in New York or somewhere back East where he’d get more exposure. The kid is good but no one really gets to see him on a nightly basis because he’s playing in obscurity in Sacramento.
The Kings are loaded with young talent and their trio of young guns return with Buddy Hield (20.7 ppg), Marvin Bagley (14.9 ppg), and De’Aaron Fox (17.3 ppg). Sharpshooter Bogdan Bogdanovic (14.1 ppg) is fresh off a victory in the FIBA World Cup where he led Serbia in scoring. The Kings added Trevor Ariza (14.1) to help provide veteran leadership. Plus, they have a new head coach with Luke Walton.
Projection: Sacramento 38-44
But It’s a Dry Heat
Wins will be tough to come by in the Arizona desert this summer. Only the NY Knicks and Cleveland Cavs had a worst record than the 19-win Suns last season.
The Suns will struggle to win 25 games if they continue on the same path as last year. It’s sad because they have one of the best scorers in recent memory with Devin Booker (26.6 ppg) and an up-and-coming big man with Deandre Ayton (16.3 ppg, 10.3 rebounds). But after those two, they don’t have the same firepower to compete with the Lakers and Clippers.
The Suns landed the #1 pick two years ago with Deandre Ayton. He had a strong rookie season, but Booker continued to draw most of the attention. The Suns were bad last season, but you never knew when Booker would explode for 40-50 points.
Projection: Phoenix 25-57
If you enjoyed the NBA Pacific division preview, check out more 2019 NBA previews.