Pacific Division Preview

Stephen Curry and the up tempo Warriors will be a contender in the Pacific.

Golden State Warriors

It was a breakthrough season for Golden State in 2012. Golden State’s 47 wins got them the 6th seed in the playoffs and a playoff victory over the Denver Nuggets. They add Andre Iguodala to their already talented lineup. Iguodala is a perfect fit in the offense where he can run and has three point range. Golden State has a nice front court of David Lee and Andrew Bogut who must stay healthy for this team’s success. They have two young guys in Harrison Barnes, Marreese Speights and Toney Douglas  who should get significant minutes off the bench. The Warriors had a breakout 2012 season, but they must continue the transformation or they wont contend in a deep Western Conference. (Scott Boutcher)

Andre Iguodala is a perfect fit for Golden State’s fast paced offense.

Los Angeles Clippers

The Los Angeles Clippers turn around was either tremendously healthy or tremendously sick after the 2012-13 season and it’s tough to say which it is and which it was. The Clippers made the odd move of trading for their coach as Doc Riverse joined the organization after a very successful run in Boston. The Celtics implosion aside the Clippers picked up a few pieces and gave up a few pieces in the off-season. They remain an explosive and capable team but one that will have to continue to grow if they want to fulfil their potential. Doc Rivers had a phenomenal class of players in Boston and did an extremely nice job getting them to play as a team, however lost in the euphoria of replacing Vinny Del Negro are these unfortunate facts. The Celtics were knocked off the heap by the Miami Heat forcefully and soundly over 3 years ago. Their last trip to the finals was in 2010 and that championship took place in 2008. Obviously the Heat made changes but Boston didn’t seem to adapt to the point where they could hang on for any amount of time. Almost shockingly for the length of his run in Boston Rivers is only 52 and if he can win in Los Angeles he should be the Clips head man for a long time. The Clippers backcourt will be run by Chris Paul, who will continue to be one of the top 1-guards in the NBA. Paul scores, assists, and provides strong defense and will cause opposing teams fits as he did last year. Darren Collison is a near perfect backup in this spot that immediately makes up for the loss of Billups. Collison will be a rotational player, but one who will positively contribute. The two and three spots are a little more sketchy for the Clippers. JJ Redick gives them a wonderful shooter but he remains a defensive liability and will be best used in conjunction with Jamal Crawford and Willie Green. This is a complementary group and as long as expectations are in check they should be about average. The small forward position is a trickier spot because Jared Dudley, Matt Barnes and Reggie Bullock just can’t be counted on for significant anything. Dudley likely will get the start and should benefit from being surrounded by a more talented crew then he’s had in the past. Reggie Bullock was a first rounder in the draft and could develop into a starting player eventually. He’s a solid shooter but will have to learn how to move better from outside to inside in order to reach his potential. The front court is an obvious strength with regards to scoring with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan both capable of attacking the basket against just about any defender. They’re going to run, they’re going to gun, and they occasionally will put up just gawdy numbers on the scoreboard. Off the scoreboard what isn’t going to show up as blatently is that they are a bit lacking on the glass so teams that have athletic big men who rebound first could stack up rather well against the Clippers. A fading Antwan Jamison is unlikly to solve that conundrum and Ryan Hollins/Byron Mullens won’t either. This is a team that should win it’s division with the Lakers down, The Kings and Suns pretty terrible and the Warriors their only true competition. The way the division is down 56 wins should translate into 58-60 this year. That should prevent them from a #4 seed like they had in 2013 and that should help them avoid a team like Memphis that stacks up just perfectly against them in the playoffs. This is a team that could challenge for the title if they can play a bit of team defense. With Doc Rivers at the helm they have a professional coach who is a step up from Vinny Del Negro and it should translate into a more professional style team in 2013-14. (Michael Bedard)

The Clippers will need solid leadership from new coach Doc Rivers and their star point guard Chris Paul.

Los Angeles Lakers

There have not been many seasons where the Lakers head into a season just hoping to make the playoffs. Los Angeles won 45 games last season but were swept by the Spurs in the first round. Kobe Bryant tore his Achilles late last season but should be expected to play early in the season. Steve Nash and Pau Gasol return but both are getting older and health has become a big concern. Chris Kaman and Nick Young are brought in to the starting lineup. Kaman is a serviceable big men who can score and adds a nice defensive presence. Nick Young adds a scoring punch and perimeter threat to an offense that is struggling with an identity. Jordan Hill and Wesley Johnson add some youth to their bench. They have enough talent to make the playoffs, but are far from the years of competing for a title. (Scott Boutcher)

Kobe Bryant is recovering from a tore Achilles and is a bit frustrated about the future of this team.

Phoenix Suns

A new regime takes over in Phoenix and the team hopes to improve on a 25 win season.  Eric Bledsoe, and Goran Dragic lead a rebuilding team full of potential but falling a bit short on talent.  Bledsoe most prove he can be known as something other than Chris Paul’s back-up for the last three seasons.  Former NBA player and rookie head coach Jeff Hornacek takes over on the bench and will in charge of getting this team to produce.  Finishing last in the Western conference last season means the Suns can’t sink any lower going into this year. (Glenn Coyle)

Eric Bledoe’s addition gives the Suns a consistent scoring threat.

Sacramento Kings

One of the major themes of the Sacramento Kings season last year was whether or not they were leaving town. They finally have new ownership and the Maloof Brothers are gone. When owners don’t care about the teams they run, they should be removed. The people of Sacramento deserved better and hopefully the new ownership is more committed to winning than the Maloofs were. The Kings have a nice young team but it is unlikely that they will figure into the West’s playoff picture. They have an offense that can score. DeMarcus Cousins is the centerpiece of the team and they have just given him a 4-year, 62 million dollar contract. He has to show some maturity though as many who have followed the NBA in recent years has viewed him as an immature head case. New head coach Mark Malone has to have some control of Cousins otherwise this could turn into a very long season for Sacramento. He has the skills, but if you’re not there mentally like we have seen time and time again, you will underachieve in this league. A big problem Sacramento has is that they have way too many guards on the team and because of that they can’t maintain any sort of consistent offense. Tyreke Evans has left for the New Orleans Pelicans so that should free up some shots for other guys like Marcus Thornton, Greivis Vasquez, Isaiah Thomas, Jimmer Fredette, Ben McLemore, etc. They don’t have a lot at small forward and not many guys prime to do great like Cousins has. Malone should make the Kings better this year on defense as they struggled in a lot of areas last year. He was one of the better coaching hires this year and he hopes to make his mark in his first season. It’ll be an uphill climb for this franchise, but they haven’t won 30 games since 2008 and I expect them to do that this season. (Dan Sohler)

Cousins is the best player on the Kings, but he must become a leader or they are going to continue to be a bottom feeder.

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