I have been to the west coast a couple of times, and I must say, it is pretty great. There are beaches, mountains, and the weather is usually perfect. It feels like a land of hopes and dreams, where anything is possible. Anything. Like, for example, the greatest regular season team in history blowing a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals. (Sorry, this joke is required by the Fear the Sword by-laws in all posts that mention the Warriors.)
But we are not here to talk about the past, we are here to look to the future. Most people think the Warriors will repeat as the best team in the division, and in the conference. We shall get to them in a minute. But first, let’s begin with the rest of the Pacific’s contenders:
5. Los Angeles Lakers
2015-16 record: 17-65
2016-17 over/under: 24.5
For the first time since 1995, the Lakers will begin an NBA season without Kobe Bryant. Unless, of course, Kobe decides at the last minute to make a comeback. It can’t be ruled out.
What will this team look like as it begins the post-Kobe era? Well, they probably won’t be good just yet. But they are young and have some talent. They also have a new coach, Luke Walton, so they should be more fun to watch than they were under Byron Scott. The goal for this season should be to figure out what they have with rookie Brandon Ingram, and youngsters Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell.
4. Phoenix Suns
2015-16 record: 23-59
2016-17 over/under: 26.5
Wait, why are the Suns even in the Pacific Division? I’m pretty sure Phoenix is a few hundred miles from the Pacific Ocean. Arizona isn’t even in the Pacific time zone. This is just further proof that divisions in the NBA are pointless.
Anyway, Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker, and Brandon Knight will all look to co-exist in the backcourt under head coach Earl Watson, who took over when Jeff Hornacek was fired last season.
3. Sacramento Kings
2015-16 record: 33-49
2016-17 over/under: 32.5
Will this be the season the Kings finally figure it out? If not, will they shop DeMarcus Cousins? These are the questions we all want answers to. For what it’s worth, I’d put my money on the latter being more likely than the former.
It’s not clear exactly what kind of team they’re trying to put around Cousins. They added Ty Lawson and Aaron Afflalo to join the likes of Darren Collison, Rudy Gay, Ben McLemore, and Willie Cauley-Stein. So we’ll see how that works out. Also, Dave Joerger is their coach now.
2. Los Angeles Clippers
2015-16 record: 53-29
2016-17 over/under: 53.5
The Clippers have been one of the most consistent teams in the league, and they’re getting the band back together for one more go. Between 2012-13 and 2014-15, they won 56, 57, and then 56 games. Last year, they dropped to 53 wins, but were still the fourth-best team in the West despite only getting 35 games from Blake Griffin.
On paper, there is an argument to be made that this team could compete with San Antonio to be second-best in the West. To do so, though, they will have to stay healthy, and avoid distractions off the court.
1. Golden State Warriors
2015-16 record: 73-9
2016-17 over/under: 66.5
The Warriors played beautiful team basketball last season en route to setting the record for most regular season wins by an NBA team ever. They should be very good again this season, though it remains to be seen how their big offseason addition will fit with their core of Steph Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson. I mean, you can’t just expect a guy like Zaza Pachulia to show up and blend into the mix seamlessly. Coach Steve Kerr will have to earn his money this season.