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NBA 2018/19 Predictions – Pacific Division

The Pacific recruited a new star this off season.  All hail the King, but how will his Lakers go??  (cue daydream jingle here…).  There’s 4 other teams here too, including the consensus selection for taking the chocolates after another off season recruitment coup.

Golden State Warriors

PG:  Steph Curry, Shaun Livingston

SG:  Klay Thompson, Patrick McCaw

SF:  Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala

PF:  Draymond Green, Kevon Looney

C:  DeMarcus Cousins, Damian Jones, Jordan Bell

The Warriors may have single-handedly ruined the NBA mid level exception process with their signing of Boogie Cousins in the offseason.  He will no doubt be booed wherever the Warriors play given his clear case of trophy hunting – turning down millions of dollars while in his prime to join this All Star laden franchise.  In fact I suggest Adam Silver changes All Star weekend this year – makes it just GSW vs NBA rather than the weird selection process of last season.

I’m predicting a return to a 70 win campaign here, and it would be more if Cousins was fit from week 1.  He’s not so they’ll drop a few.  Truthfully, in a tough West Conference they will probably drop a few more, especially when rest days can be expected once a playoff berth is in the bag.  5 years ago they were exciting to watch and everyone’s second team.  Now it’s just boring writing about this mob as they should be simply too good.  Anything less than 70 wins and they should automatically be given 9th seed and eliminated.  Next…

Prediction:  70-12, first in the Pacific.

LA Clippers

PG:  Pat Beverley, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

SG:  Avery Bradley, Lou Williams

SF:  Danilo Gallinari, Wes Johnson

PF:  Tobias Harris, Luc Mbah a Moute

C:  Marcin Gortat, Montrezl Harrell

A fit Gallo and P-Bev next to Tobias Harris, DeAndre is out of town and so is the coach’s son, changes have been made to the almost but not quite Clippers.  But how will they go out West in this div where the Lakers are stronger, Suns look stronger, and even the Kings have the youth to create headaches??  There’s not a whole lot of depth here and I keep hearing rumors about the Spurs fishing for Beverley given their troubles at PG so this could be a long season for the other tenant in the Staples centre.

Should P-Bev move on, it might be a blessing in disguise anyway as it would free up the keys to this franchise to rookie, former Kentucky Wildcat Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.  At 6’6″, he’s had an impact already in the preseason with Doc Rivers talking his praises.  So perhaps the best the Clips can hope for this season is strong play from Gallo and Harris, the emergence of SGA, and a bounce back campaign from Avery Bradley in which case they may just sneak into the playoffs.  More likely though, only 1 or 2 of the above takes place and they are booking a longer offseason holiday.

Prediction:  35-47, third in the Pacific.

Phoenix Suns

PG:  Devin Booker, Elie Okobo

SG:  Josh Jackson, Troy Daniels

SF:  Trevor Ariza, T.J. Warren

PF:  Ryan Anderson, Dragan Bender

C:  Deandre Ayton, Tyson Chandler

I really like the work Phoenix has put in this offseason.  Ok, so jagging Ayton on draft day wasn’t their work, just the lucky lotto ball.  But to then surround this young core with proven vets like Ariza and Anderson appears to be a masterstroke on paper.  Cue the start of the Booker/Ayton era in PHX.

The balance of that youth – especially when throwing in second year pro Josh Jackson – with the experience, strong shooters galore (Booker, Anderson, Ariza, Daniels) to create space inside for Ayton to operate, this has some early signs of potential.  Unfortunately the West will be so tough all year, the roster still looks one or two stars away from being a playoff team.  But if the development of those younger guys exceeds expectation and the elder statesmen don’t go down hurt, they could be in the race longer than many predict.

Prediction:  31-51, fourth in the Pacific.

LA Lakers

PG:  Lonzo Ball, Rajon Rondo

SG:  Kentvantious Caldwell-Pope, Josh Hart

SF:  Brandon Ingram, Lance Stephenson

PF:  LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma

C:  JaVale McGee, Ivica Zubac

The King is in the purple and gold.  And with those words, the Lakers move back into playoff contention.  No sooner had he landed in LA, the mob earlier in this article signed Boogie and it was as if the Lakers put up the white flag already.  From there they surrounded James with a bunch of one year rentals, and guys who are questionable fits based on previous LBJ teams.  It is almost as if they decided to just let this year go by and be ready to launch an all out assault for next season, plus a couple more after once the dynasty at Oracle Arena is over.

My guess is many of these parts surrounding LeBron are on a full year audition to earn a permanent spot on the roster when the full rebuild starts in July 2019.  Who works well with him?  Who does LeBron like on the team?  What rotations work best?  Only issue is, James isn’t pausing father-time while this season is wasted and the additional miles on the legs could be telling in those future season when LAL might be a true contender.  Lets see how this plays out, but there will be some fun times at Staples this season and they will move back above .500.

Prediction:  43-39, second in the Pacific.

Sacramento Kings

PG:  De’Aaron Fox, Yogi Ferrell, Frank Mason

SG:  Buddy Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovic

SF:  Justin Jackson, Nemanja Bjelica

PF:  Marvin Bagley, Zach Randolph

C:  Willie Cauley-Stein, Harry Giles

So much talented youth on the one roster.  Yes, the Kings will likely be rubbish this year which these guys all work out the rigours of the NBA together.  But I’ll be tuning in to plenty of games to just see how it all hangs together.  Three Kentucky stars (Fox, WCS, Labissiere), 2 Duke stars (Bagley and Giles), and 1 each from North Carolina and Oklahoma (Jackson and Hield), 4 of them lottery picks with a couple more projected in the lottery until questions about their character came up.

For those in Australia, I see this team a little like GWS Giants in season two or three of their existence.  So much potential talent, but too raw and inexperienced to challenge the big guys.  Vlade will earn his keep from here in years to come to try and keep this core together and push for titles.  Even if that proves too difficult, he has some good parts here to work the trade table and start to build something good in Sac-town.  30 wins should be their goal this season, then playoffs next year.

Prediction:  29-53, last in the Pacific.

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