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Road To A Championship: NBA Pacific Division Predictions

Consisting of the defending NBA champions, the Pacific Division has a perfect balance of contenders and young teams on the rise. Playing in probably the most luxurious division (climate-wise) the Pacific Division contains some of the best superstars this game has ever seen. Let’s dive into the best the NBA has to offer.

Golden State Warriors

What is there to say about this team, The Golden State Warriors are going to win this division. In possession of Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, it’s obvious that the Warriors are heavy title favorites heading into next season. However, the Warriors did add players such as Nick Young and Omri Casspi. Young, although looked at as a joke throughout his career, is still a great sharpshooter who many believe could win most improved player of the year next season. Casspi, best known for his mid-game shootout with, now teammate, Stephen Curry, Casspi is also a solid sharpshooter who will bring even more shooting off the bench as if the Warriors didn’t already have enough of it. Although it should be obvious, let’s take a look at the Warriors 2017-18 starting lineup:

PG- Stephen Curry

SG- Klay Thompson

SF- Kevin Durant

PF- Draymond Green

C- Zaza Pachulia

Stephen Curry is a top 5 NBA player, despite what Dahantay Jones says. A two-time MVP and NBA champion,  Curry averaged 25.3 points per game while still dishing out 6.6 assists and shooting over 41% from downtown. Although Stephen took a backseat to Kevin Durant, he was still an efficient player who earned his fourth all-star selection in four years. Klay Thompson fell to the third option offensively which just forced fans to really realize the kind of impact he has on the defensive end. However, Thompson actually averaged 0.2 more shots per game than last year while averaging a career-high, 22.3 points a game. Kevin Durant, the most-hated player in the NBA, is now a champion. Now it’s easy to focus on Durant’s offensive game, as his numbers were incredible and will always be incredible, but defensively, Kevin Durant was one of the best in the league. Averaging over one steal a game along with nearly two blocks, Durant’s length and athleticism frustrated opponents and altered shots at the rim. Draymond Green was what he has always been for the Warriors, the villain. Green, a close second in the most hated NBA player race, finally earned his defensive player of the year award behind his absurd 2.0 steals a game pairing with a nice 1.4 blocks per game. Draymond Green will go down as one of the greatest defenders, this league has ever seen. The next piece of this Warriors juggernaut is a bit underwhelming. Let’s be honest, Zaza Pachulia is there to eat minutes until Golden State goes to its death lineup.

Season Prediction: 68-14

Image result for golden state warriorsLos Angeles Clippers

It’s been one of the craziest offseasons in Clippers history as their roster had a near complete turnaround. Following the Chris Paul sign and trade, Los Angeles acquired players such as Patrick Beverley, Montrezl Harrell, and Lou Williams. Although solid players, it looked as if Los Angeles was looking to enter rebuilding mode and start to tank. However, that theory was quickly debunked as the Clippers signed Blake Griffin to a max contract while also signing former Nuggets forward, Danilo Gallinari. Forming one of the best frontcourt combinations in the league, Los Angeles made it clear that they were not interested in any rebuild and was going to once again compete in the Western Conference. However, something that went under the radar this offseason, was the loss of the former sixth man of the year, Jamal Crawford. Crawford who was the leader of that deadly Clippers bench unit saw the writing on the wall for him and decided it was time to bolt to Minnesota. Eventually, the Clippers decided on the following starting lineup for the 2017-18 season:

PG- Patrick Beverley

SG- Austin Rivers

SF- Danilo Gallinari

PF- Blake Griffin

C- Deandre Jordan

Patrick Beverley, known for irritating opponents on the defensive end, has been a solid guard who has put up consistent offensive numbers while averaging over 1.3 steals a game throughout his career. Last year though, Beverley averaged 9.5 points per game on 42% shooting. Austin Rivers has been coming off the bench for the Clippers the past few seasons behind future Hall Of Famer, Chris Paul, and was great at doing so. Despite his lack of jump shot, Rivers is solid at attacking the basket and converting near the rim. Last season, Rivers averaged 12.0 points per game on 44.2% shooting. Danilo Gallinari was an underrated forward in Denver who felt that it was time to move on to a bigger market. Gallinari, who averaged over 18 points a game last season, started on a below average Nuggets team. Blake Griffin has starred on the Clippers for the past seven seasons and has averaged over 20 points a game throughout the course of his career. However, in recent years, Griffin has been plagued with injuries and just can’t seem to stay on the court for a full 82 games. Many tagging him as the next Amar’e Stoudemire. It is a bit early for that though, as Griffin is still producing while on the court. Deandre Jordan earned his first all-star selection last year behind his great 12.7 points and 13.8 rebounds. This Clippers team may not be built for a championship, but it is definitely built for the playoffs.

Season Prediction: 49-32

Image result for la clippers danilo gallinari

Los Angeles Lakers

Currently, the worst NBA team located in Los Angeles, the Lakers are looking to turn over a new leaf. Following the trade of D’Angelo Russell and the acquisition of Brook Lopez, the Lakers drafted UCLA standout, Lonzo Ball. Ball, easily the most hyped rookie of his class, is known for his unique playmaking ability and setting his teammates for easy baskets. However, Lonzo Ball is not the only bright spot in the Lakers young core, as small forward, Brandon Ingram showed flashes of what he can become last season. Ingram, listed at 6 foot 9 inches, is best compared to Kevin Durant. A skinny but lengthy small forward who is capable of playing any position. Although this Lakers team may not be competing this year, they have a strong core that in two or three years, should be championship ready. The following is the 2017-18 Los Angeles Lakers starting lineup:

PG- Lonzo Ball

SG- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

SF- Brandon Ingram

PF- Julius Randle

C- Brook Lopez

Ball, as I said earlier, was great in college and had some of the biggest hype we have seen out of a college athlete. In his only year at UCLA, Ball averaged 14.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 7.6 assists a game. Paired with these great stats came a near perfect UCLA record and a sweet 16 appearance. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is a proven NBA scorer who averaged nearly 14.0 points per game last season on 40% shooting. Brandon Ingram oozes potential and could one day be an NBA superstar. However, Ingram lacks confidence with his scoring ability and will need to drastically improve in that department if he wants to grow in this league. Despite these struggles, Ingram averaged 9.4 points per game on just over 40% shooting from the field. Julius Randle has all the tools to become the next Draymond Green. Green himself admitted that Randle could one day be better than him, however, Randle will need to work tirelessly if he wants to achieve that feat. For now, Randle is sitting on 13.8 points a game and 8.6 rebounds, which is impressive for such a young player. Brook Lopez is one of the newest Lakers after being brought over from Brooklyn via trade. Lopez, an aging scorer, averaged over 20 points last year but shot just 47% from the field. Lopez has also had injury problems and is not the player he once was.

Season Prediction: 34-48

Image result for la lakers

Phoenix Suns

The Phoenix Suns may have the best 20-year-old NBA player in Devin Booker. Booker, who scored 70 points in a single game last season, has shown just how good he can become. Although he will never average 70 points, I could easily see Devin Booker becoming a consistent 30 point per game scorer. Booker isn’t the only bright spot in the Suns young core as Phoenix drafted athletic wing, Josh Jackson. Jackson was by far my favorite player coming out of the draft as his defensive skills will bother opponents. Jackson is also a slasher offensively and is capable of finishing around the rim. In a few years, Josh Jackson will be in the running for defensive player of the year awards. Phoenix’s former draft pick, Dragan Bender, has not yet panned out but he also hasn’t gotten the opportunity that he should have and was injured for a chunk of the season. With all of these pieces combined, the Phoenix Suns have formed the following starting lineup to start the 2017-18 season:

PG- Eric Bledsoe

SG- Devin Booker

SF- Josh Jackson

PF- Marqueese Chriss

C- Tyson Chandler

Eric Bledsoe is one of most underrated point guards in the NBA due to the lack of overall team success. Bledsoe averaged over 21 points and 6 assists a game last season on 43.4% shooting from the field. Bledsoe’s backcourt mate, Devin Booker averaged 22.1 points per game but shot just 42.3% from the field. This showcases that although Booker is a great scorer, he is still growing and will need to learn more in this league before he is seen as an elite NBA guard. As I mentioned before, Josh Jackson is an elite defender who could win multiple defensive of player of the year awards throughout the duration of his career. Jackson averaged over 16 points per game in college along with 1.7 steals and over 1 block a game. Power Forward Marqueese Chriss averaged 9.2 points a game last season on 45% shooting. Although it wasn’t the greatest rookie season, Chriss showed his potential as a high flyer in this league. Tyson Chandler, although 34 years of age, brings a veteran presence to the Suns locker room that every growing team needs. Chandler averaged over 11 rebounds a game last season and is a former all star. Although this Suns team won’t compete for a championship next year, they will grow into a great team that has a chance at a championship in a few years.

Season Prediction: 32-50

Image result for phoenix suns team

Sacramento Kings

The Sacramento Kings had one of their best offseasons in franchise history after drafting Kentucky point guard, De’Aaron Fox and Duke forward, Harry Giles. Fox was possibly the best player in the draft at finishing around the rim. Giles was once ranked the best player in his draft class, but knee injuries have held him back in the past. Both of these draftees have incredible potential and could one day be multiple time all stars. Sacramento also signed veteran free agents, Zach Randolph and Vince Carter. Both of which were former all stars and could be essential to the young Kings locker room. Sacramento is also still in possession of Buddy Hield and Willie Cauley-Stein. Hield, although struggled in the beginning of the season, hit his stride in Sacramento as he was handed over the ropes of the offense. As for Cauley-Stein, with the absence of Demarcus Cousins, Willie was able to take what he learned from Cousins and finally grow into his own player. These are just a few of the pieces the Sacramento Kings will feature in their 2017-18 starting lineup:

PG- George Hill

SG- Buddy Hield

SF- Garrett Temple

PF- Zach Randolph

C- Willie Cauley-Stein

Hill was another offseason signing for the Sacramento Kings and will teach a young De’Aaron Fox how to run an NBA offense. Last season, Hill averaged nearly 17 points a game on 48% shooting from the field. However, George Hill was plagued with injuries for much of the season which could have boosted his stats a bit. Buddy Hield averaged 10.6 points a game on 39% shooting from behind the arc. Although post all star break, Hield averaged 14.7 points a game on 43% shooting from downtown. Hield was a college standout who is now starting to prove his worth in the NBA. There’s not much to say about Garrett Temple, he’s an NBA journeyman who has come off the bench for most of his career. Last year, Temple averaged 7.8 points per game on 42.4% shooting. However, Temple managed to land a spot on this starting lineup, but hopefully won’t be there for long with the development of Harry Giles. Zach Randolph was a sixth man of the year candidate last year behind his 14 points and 8 rebound season, and as I mentioned before, Willie Cauley-Stein is starting to grow into his own player. However, last year Cauley-Stein averaged just 8.1 points per game on 53% shooting.

Season Prediction: 37-45

Image result for sacramento kings de'aaron fox

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