Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing with you my standings predictions in each division for the coming NBA season. We will start out west with the Pacific Division, and finish up with the Atlantic Division, where the Brooklyn Nets play.
1. Los Angeles Lakers (2nd in west)
Projected starters: Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard.
The Lakers arguably had the best offseason of any team this year and may be the favorites to win the NBA championship. However, I don’t think they will finish with the best record in the western conference, and there is no chance that they will win even close to 70 games. The reason for this is that they are too old and injury prone, and they know that the regular season really isn’t very important. First of all, we don’t know when Dwight Howard will return from his back injury and until then failed Knick lottery pick Jordan Hill will probably have to start at center. Also, Steve Nash will be turning 39 this year and it is impossible to know if his body will hold up for an entire season. I think that the Lakers will be a very good team this year and easily win this division, but I don’t see them breaking any regular season records.
2. Los Angeles Clippers (5th in west)
Projected starters: Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, Caron Butler, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan.
The Clippers will be one of the more disappointing teams in the NBA this season because they will not improve on their 5th place finish last year. Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan are one of the most overrated front courts in the NBA and Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, and Caron Butler are all injury prone. The Clippers should still have enough talent to easily make the playoffs and finish second in this division.
3. Golden State Warriors (9th in west)
Projected starters: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, David Lee, Andrew Bogut.
The Warriors have one of the more intriguing teams in the west and they could sneak into the playoffs. It all depends on if Stephen Curry and Andrew Bogut can stay healthy for an entire season. When healthy, Bogut will average a double-double and is one of the better defensive centers in basketball. The Warriors have not had a center like this in the last 10 years. Klay Thompson is one of the best shooters in basketball, but does not play any defense. Harrison Barnes is a sleeper rookie of the year candidate. The Warriors could potentially finish as high as 6th in the west, but there are just too many “ifs” and they will barely miss the playoffs this year.
4. Phoenix Suns (13th in west)
Projected starters: Goran Dragic, Jared Dudley, Michael Beasley, Luis Scola, Marcin Gortat.
The Phoenix Suns are a team full of players who have done well for bad teams. When you put all those players together, it usually results in a bad season. With the departure of Steve Nash, expect Phoenix to finish near the bottom of the western conference this year. They added 3 semi-big name free agents this summer, but I don’t expect any of them to make a very big impact. Goran Dragic is a below-average starting point guard. Michael Beasley can score a lot, but he has never played for a good team and he is a selfish player. Luis Scola is a solid starter, but he cannot carry a team to the playoffs. Also, expect a huge drop-off in production from Marcin Gortat with Steve Nash gone. Instead of signing these free agents, the Suns should have just started rebuilding from scratch this season. They will pay for it in the future.
5. Sacramento Kings (15th in west)
Projected starters: Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Thornton, Tyreke Evans, Jason Thompson, DeMarcus Cousins.
The Kings have been so bad for so long and they still are not showing any signs of improvement. The good news is that they will have a good chance at landing the top pick in the 2013 NBA draft. I don’t see any direction with the moves they have made over the last 5 years. This offseason, they signed Aaron Brooks to take playing time away from young, developing point guard Isaiah Thomas. That doesn’t make sense. Marcus Thornton has averaged about 20 ppg since coming to Sacramento, which should make him valuable in a trade, but the Kings have not traded him. The Kings now have 3 recent high-lottery picks playing for them in Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins, and Thomas Robinson. They should be a good team at this point, but unfortunately, they will probably be adding another high lottery pick to the team next season.