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2013-14 NBA Season Preview: Pacific Division

Rashad Alaiyan October 11, 2013 Comments Off

Pacific Division 2

Thunder Obsessed staff got together and we’re going to preview all six divisions. Then we’re going to vote, pick a conference champ, then a world champion. We’ll conclude it all by choosing your award winners. Then at the end of the season we’ll see how wrong we were. Southwest Division – here.

Golden State Warriors

WarriorsBarAdditions: Andre Iguodala, Jermaine O’Neal, Marreese Speights, Nemanja Nedovic, Seth Curry, Toney Douglas

Losses: Andris Biedrins, Brandon Rush, Carl Landry, Jarrett Jack, Richard Jefferson

Expectations: After winning 47 games last year and making a run to the Western Conference Semifinals, expectations will be sky high in Oakland for the 2013-2014 NBA season. Led by sharpshooter, Stephen Curry, who broke the NBA record of 3-pointers made in a season last year with 272, while averaging 22.9 points and 6.9 assists per game, the Warriors bring back most of their core pieces for the upcoming season.

By trading Richard Jefferson, Andris Biedrins, and Brandon Rush to the Utah Jazz, the Warriors were able to unload about $20 million, which enabled them to acquire veteran swingman Andre Iguodala from the Denver Nuggets and sign him to a 4-year, $48 million contract. Iguodala averaged 13 points, 5.3 rebounds, 5.4 assists, and 1.7 steals per game last season in Denver, and he will need to be a key contributor on both sides of the ball if the Warriors are going to be one of the top teams in the West.  With Iguodala coming to a team that already has talented young players at both the shooting guard and small forward positions in Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes, the Warriors are being mentioned as one of the most exciting teams to watch this year.

David Lee will also need to make a huge impact if the Warriors are going to continue their recent run of success. After putting up 18.5 points, and 11.2 rebounds per game last year, Lee tore his right hip flexor during Game 1 of the opening playoff series against the Nuggets.  Questions arose about whether Lee’s injury would be a long-term concern, but he appears to be at 100 percent now, and the Warriors will need him to continue to play a vital role offensively.

The success of the Warriors season will ultimately come down to the health of Australian center, Andrew Bogut. Last year, Bogut was plagued by injuries, but when healthy, he really gave the Warriors a huge presence down low, as was evident by the team’s success in the postseason. Anything short of a trip to the Western Conference Finals will be a disappointment for this team.

Los Angeles Clippers

ClippersBarAdditions: Antawn Jameson, Byron Mullens, Darren Collison, J.J. Redick, Jared Dudley, Reggie Bullock

Losses: Chauncey Billups, Eric Bledsoe, Grant Hill, Lamar Odom, Ronny Turiaf

Expectations: The Los Angeles Clippers, led by Chris Paul, easily won the Pacific Division last season. They compiled a record of 56-26, en route to the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference. Paul, arguably the most talented point guard in the NBA, averaged 17.9 points per game, and 9.7 assists, leading the Clippers to their first division title in team history.  Although they had an early exit from the playoffs, the future looks bright for the Clippers, especially after Paul re-signed with the team for a five year,  $107 million deal in the off-season.

Doc Rivers replaced Vinny Del Negro as head coach, and he will really be looking to change the culture of the franchise this season. Coming off of last year’s success, the time is now for this team to make a run in the playoffs. Rivers’ main task will be guiding Chris Paul to the NBA Finals for the first time in his career.  The Clippers have also revamped their roster, already strong with Paul, Blake Griffin’s inside presence and veteran Jamal Crawford coming off of the bench. The Clippers signed point guard Darren Collision to back-up Paul. Collision averaged 12 points and 5.1 assists per game last season on the Dallas Mavericks, and he will prove to be a highly valuable asset for the Clippers.

Additionally, the Clippers acquired sharpshooter J.J. Redick and swingman Jared Dudley.  A career 39 percent shooter from long distance, Redick will get many open looks this season, and he will certainly be a viable threat on the offensive side of the ball. Dudley could also turn out to be a vital acquisition for the Clippers. In Phoenix last season, he averaged 10.9 points per game, and will provide a solid presence on both sides of the floor.

Ultimately, the success of this team will come down to whether Rivers can help to improve Blake Griffin’s post game. If Griffin can improve his game around the basket, the Clippers will be legitimate contenders in the Western Conference.

Los Angeles Lakers

LakersBarAdditions: Chris Kaman, Ellias Harris, Jordan Farmar, Marcus Landry, Nick Young, Ryan Kelly, Wesley Johnson, Xavier Henry

Losses: Andrew Goudelock, Antwan Jamison, Chris Duhon, Darius Morris, Dwight Howard, Earl Clark, Metta World Peace

Expectations: Last season, the Los Angeles Lakers finished the year with a decent 45-37 record, but lost superstar guard Kobe Bryant late in the regular season with a torn Achilles. Anything short of an NBA title is a disappointment for the Lakers, and after being swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the playoffs last year, the front office realized that changes had to be made.

Not many teams could afford to lose the best center in the NBA and expect to improve the following year, but with center, Dwight Howard, opting to sign with the Houston Rockets this off-season, the Lakers appear to be a better off for the 2013-2014 NBA season.  Howard reportedly voiced his displeasure with head coach Mike D’Antoni, and the Lakers realized that they could ill afford to have such a negative influence in their organization.  Although Howard averaged 17.1 points per game, along with 12.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks last year, the Lakers will rely heavily on forward Pau Gasol and new center Chris Kaman this upcoming season.  Gasol averaged 13.7 points and 8.6 rebounds per game last year, but he was plagued by injuries, and only played in 49 games. As a member of the Dallas Mavericks, Kaman averaged 10.5 points, and 5.6 rebounds per game last year. He is not as athletically gifted as Dwight Howard, but he will still look to fill the void left by Howard’s absence this season.

Ultimately, the health of Kobe Bryant will determine whether this team can make a push for the seventh or eighth seed in the Western Conference.  Steve Nash and Pau Gasol saw a decline in their productivity last season, as they are both getting up there in age, but if Kobe Bryant shows no lingering effects from his torn Achilles, this team has a good chance at making the playoffs. Bryant averaged 27.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 6 assists per game last year, and if he can remain healthy, the Lakers will be in good hands.  Of course, every season is championship or bust for the Lakers, but the Western Conference is very deep this year. The Lakers should be focused on just making the playoffs, and if not, heading to the lottery and rebuilding for the future.

Phoenix Suns

SunsBarAdditions: Alex Len, Archie Goodwin, Eric Bledsoe, Gerald Green, Ish Smith, Malcolm Lee, Miles Plumlee, Viacheslav Kravtsov

Losses: Hamed Haddadi, Jared Dudley, Jermaine O’Neal, Luis Scola, Michael Beasley, Wesley Johnson

Expectations: Last season, the Phoenix Suns ended the year in the cellar of the Pacific Division with a 25-47 record. This off-season, the Suns added guard Eric Bledsoe, who will be paired alongside returning point guard Goran Dragic. Bledsoe has All Star potential, and he will be an intriguing player to keep an eye on. As a member of the Los Angeles Clippers last season, Bledsoe averaged 8.5 points, and 3.1 assists per game, but he only played in just over 20 minutes a game.

In the 2013 NBA Draft, the Suns drafted talented center Alex Len from the University of Maryland. Len has tremendous upside, and he will gain tremendous experience by playing behind one of the most underrated big men in the league in Marcin Gortat.  Gortat averaged 11.1 points and 8.5 rebounds per game last season, and he will look to provide veteran leadership on this year’s team. It is going to be a rebuilding season in Phoenix, as evident by the front office trading Jared Dudley, Luis Scola and Caron Butler during the off-season. Twins Marcus and Markieff Morris will need to continue to improve offensively, and stretch power forward Channing Frye will still be a viable threat from long distance, where he is shooting 39% for his career.

First year head coach, Jeff Hornacek, will face his share of challenges this season. The Suns will likely finish at the bottom of the Pacific Division once again, and another high lottery pick is to be expected. With the 2014 NBA Draft looking to be one of the best in years, the Phoenix Suns will be best off hoping to land star prospect Andrew Wiggins in next year’s draft.

Sacramento Kings

KingsBarAdditions: Greivis Vasquez, Luc Mbah a Moute, Carl Landry, Ben McLemore, Ray McCallum

Losses: Tyreke Evans, Cole Aldrich, James Johnson, Toney Douglas

Expectations: The biggest news from the Sacramento Kings offseason was that the franchise would be staying in Sacramento. Now their fans do not have to spend the entire season worrying about whether or not they will lose their beloved basketball team to Seattle. Last season, the Kings went 28-54, en route to a lottery pick for the seventh consecutive year.  The Kings hired Warriors assistant, Mike Malone, as head coach this offseason, and although he is a great hire, they are likely headed towards another long and disappointing season.

Former lottery pick Tyreke Evans was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans in a three-team deal this off-season, which resulted in point guard Greivis Vasquez heading to Sacramento. Last year on the Hornets, Vasquez averaged 13.9 points, and 9 assists per game, while shooting 43.3 percent from the field, and he has steadily improved over the course of his NBA career.  The Kings also signed center DeMarcus Cousins to a 4-year maximum contract extension, worth a reported $62 million.  With the departure of Evans, Cousins is undoubtedly the most talented player on this team, and he will look to improve his production from last season, when he averaged 17.1 points, and 9.9 rebounds per game.  Although he has had his share of off the court issues, Cousins is now the face of the Kings, and he will need to mature in order to become the superstar that he is capable of becoming.

The Kings also signed forward Carl Landry during the off-season, to a 4-year, $26 million contract. Landry had a great season last year in Golden State, where he averaged 10.8 points and 6 rebounds per game off the bench, and he will be a veteran presence that this team needs.  The Sacramento Kings will likely be one of the bottom two teams in the Pacific Division once again this season, and if the 2014 NBA Draft is as deep as experts claim it to be, they will need to continue to rebuild for the next few seasons.

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About The Author

Rashad Alaiyan graduated from the University of Wisconsin - Madison with a degree in Political Science. He is a contributor for ThunderObsessed.com. Follow him on Twitter (@RashadAlaiyan).