How do the Golden State Warriors stack up against the rest of the Pacific Division?
The NBA season is a little over a month away, which means the Golden State Warriors will start a season filled with redemption, vilification, hate, joy and questions from critics questioning the move to go after four-time scoring champ Kevin Durant and actually getting him. One question that I have is How the Warriors will stack up against the Pacific Division and what seed will each team in the Pacific Division be after the end of the regular season?
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I will preview each team in the Pacific Division and what their strengths and weaknesses and if they have a shot at upending the Warriors in a game or two in their season series.
I’ll preview if the Kings can overcome troubles to get them to a respectable position in the loaded Western Conference, where the Clippers and the star powered team can be at the end of the season with a short title window closing, how the Lakers’ young core can become effective and develop for years to come and if the Suns can stay healthy and build up to a respectable record with a talented core of young players.
Jan 9, 2016; Sacramento, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) dribbles the ball as Sacramento Kings guard Darren Collison (7) defends during the fourth quarter at Sleep Train Arena. The Warriors won 128-116. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
First, let’s start with the Warriors’ NorCal rivals, the Sacramento Kings. Despite playing in a new arena next year, the Kings are a mess. Their starting point guard, Darren Collison recently got into a domestic abuse matter, which is still trying to get worked out.
The Kings’ backup point guard, Ty Lawson has been on the decline for a couple years since his DUI arrest a couple summers ago. Rudy Gay recently told the Kings that he will not stay with the Kings after this season and he is not the same player he was with Memphis. Finally, DeMarcus Cousins, their star center is still a bit of a head case, even though he’s one of the best centers in the league and his contract is up in 2018.
Now, the Warriors should be able to roll over the Kings with the kind of troubles that the Kings have had. I would expect the Warriors to sweep the season series, however, the Kings have put up a good fight with the Warriors over the years, so they are a team that the Warriors should be mindful of when playing division foes. The Kings still have a couple of solid role players to go along with Cousins to give the Warriors a tough time.
It is hard to gauge how good (or bad) the Kings can be, but my prediction for the Kings this upcoming season is to have a 34-48 record and finish 12th in the West.
Feb 20, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) defends Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) as he drives to the basket in the first half of the game at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Los Angeles Clippers
Let’s move onto the Warriors’ other SoCal rivals in the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers should be the biggest threat in the Pacific Division for the Warriors, since they have stars in Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. They also have sharpshooter JJ Redick and super-sub and former Warrior, Jamal Crawford.
This was the same Clipper team that “blew away” Kevin Durant and his free agent meeting with them, but almost immediately was ruled out in signing to come to the City of Angels. Despite the Clippers never making it to the conference finals or finals, they still remain a legitimate threat to the Warriors with the playmaking of Paul and high-flying of Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. The hot streaks of Crawford and Redick and also former Warrior and fan favorite Marreese Speights should help their bench tremendously.
The Warriors’ rivalry has been heated the past few years with players like Draymond Green and former Warrior, Andrew Bogut getting involved into scuffles with Griffin, Jordan and other members of the Clippers team.
With the talent of both teams, I could see the Warriors splitting the season series over the Clippers or winning three out of four against them. The Warriors have cruised against them the past few meetings with their rivals, but that could change with one Paul lob and one monster jam by Griffin.
I expect the Clippers to be 57-25 by the time the regular season ends and be the third seed in the West behind the Warriors and Spurs.
November 24, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward Julius Randle (30) controls the basketball against Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (23) during the third quarter at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Lakers 111-77. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Los Angeles Lakers
Next, I’ll be talking about the Los Angeles Lakers, one of the most storied franchises in the history of the NBA. However, the Lakers have experienced some unusual down years to fans due to the loss of key pieces and injuries to one of the best players to ever step foot on the basketball court in Kobe Bryant, who just retired this past year.
The Lakers, in a way, are starting out how the Warriors were a few years ago. Awful, but getting high draft picks year after year. This year, they’ll roll out a possible lineup of D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle and Larry Nance Jr. Now, that’s a young starting five with a lot of potential. Russell and Clarkson are slowly showing signs they could become a fantastic backcourt if they stay healthy.
Ingram has already been dubbed as the “next KD,” so we’ll see how that turns out. Randle has been slowed by injuries in his first couple years, but he’s a solid, young player, who is a little bit like Green and Zach Randolph of the Memphis Grizzlies in terms of game and physical stature. Nance Jr. is a good, young big, who is a dirty work player and loves to rebound.
Over the past few seasons, the Warriors have took the Lakers to task, although, the Lakers showed last year in March that anything can happen and handed them one of their nine losses during the regular season. I expect the Warriors to roll over the Lakers, but not without them giving them a full game effort. The Lakers might keep a game or two close in the first half, but with the talent the Warriors have, they should cruise in the second half of the games they play.
I expect the Lakers to be 27-55 after the conclusion of the regular season and to finish 14th in the West.
Mar 12, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Brandon Knight (3) drives in against Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) and forward Draymond Green (23) ahead of Suns center Alex Len (21) during the fourth quarter at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Suns 123-116. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Finally, the last team in the Pacific Division I’ll be talking about is the Phoenix Suns, a franchise that hasn’t found much success after the Steve Nash and Amare’ Stoudemire era. The team has experienced some downfall with injuries, but have found a bright spot in their guards of Brandon Knight, Devin Booker and Eric Bledsoe.
They recently signed former Warrior and another fan favorite, Leandro Barbosa in the offseason. Dragan Bender is supposed to be one of the top European players in the world and the Suns are hoping that his skills in the European leagues will translate overseas to the NBA.
Their core is decent and in a few years if they get the right bounces of the ball and the draft picks, they could be in a situation, where the Lakers are in now, with a young solid core and still building around the core.
Throughout the past couple of seasons, the Warriors have been able to handle the Suns pretty easily, but this is the NBA and anything can happen. You give a team extra possessions and more defensive stops, then they start to believe they can beat you. However, I think the Warriors should be able to dismantle the Suns in their season series with their plethora of offensive weapons and versatitlity on defense.
I expect the Suns to finish the regular season with a 24-58 record finishing 15th in the West.