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What the Hell Happened in the Pacific Division?

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The Warriors rule the division - and the NBA - but there are reasons for intrigue

NBA: Preseason-Denver Nuggets at Golden State Warriors Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Golden State Warriors

IN: Jordan Bell, Omri Casspi, Nick Young

OUT: Matt Barnes, Ian Clark, James Michael McAdoo

You’ll notice that none of the important names, like “Kevin Durant” or “Andre Iguodala” are mentioned in the “OUT” section above. That’s because the Warriors managed to retain all their relevant pieces by Jedi mind-tricking Kevin Durant into only taking a two year, $51 million contract instead of whatever ungodly sum he was due as an unrestricted free agent. His current deal pays him less than his player option for the 2017-18 season would have! That’s insanity.

Oh, and Jordan Bell, Nick Young, and Omri Cassipi are upgrades on James Michael McCadoo, Ian Clark, and Matt Barnes, respectively. Cassipi, in particular, is a massively underrated signing - a guy with his skillset is the glue that holds a five-man unit together. In the regular season, he’ll defend bench wings so Durant doesn’t have to, space the floor for Draymond Green rolling to the rim, and move the ball around to keep Steve Kerr’s free-flowing offense moving.

Alright, that’s 150 words. Even if you watch basketball, you don’t need me to tell you how good the Warriors will be this year. The King Stay The King.

Los Angeles Clippers

IN: Danilo Gallinari, Patrick Beverley, Sam Dekker, Jawun Evans, Montrezl Harrell, Milos Teodosic, Willie Reed, Sindarius Thornwell, Lou Williams

Out: Jamal Crawford, Raymond Felton, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Chris Paul, Paul Pierce, J.J. Redick, Marreese Speights, Diamond Stone

Well! That’s a lot of turnover for a team to be roughly in the same place they were last year. And don’t forget that Doc Rivers stepped down as President of Basketball Operations (RIP Roc Divers). There are a lot of names up above, but what you really need to know is that Chris Paul left, Blake Griffin stayed, and the talent level on this team points to another (well-fought) first-round exit.

Don’t get me wrong, their ceiling is absolutely higher than that, but it’s hard to project them higher because of the following:

  • The last time Danilo Gallinari played 70 games was in 2012-13.
  • The last time Blake Griffin played 70 games was in 2013-14.
  • The backups for Danilo Gallinari and Blake Griffin are Sam Dekker and Willie Reed, respectively.
  • Austin Rivers is a lock to be in the rotation.

Milos Teodosic might be good, but I’d be loathe to rely on him after the ride that was the Sergio Rodriguez Experience - Patrick Beverley should start for them. Lou Williams is a carbon copy of Jamal Crawford, but he could start because of the departure of J.J. Redick.

The Clippers are an unknown in a conference that appears to be definitively more competitive. That’s not a good combination.

Sacramento Kings

IN: Bogdan Bogdanovic, Vince Carter, De'Aaron Fox, George Hill, Frank Jackson, Justin Jackson, Harry Giles, Zach Randolph

OUT: Arron Afflalo, Darren Collison, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, Rudy Gay, Ben McLemore, The Tolliver Effect

Brace yourselves: I am going to be complimentary towards the Kings.

Yes, they traded DeMarcus Cousins for a comically low return. Yes, their owner and general manager remain a dual threat of overconfidence and ineptitude. Yes, I wrote an entire piece about how the soul of the Kings is cursed with a curse.

However, they drafted a bunch of kids I favored in this year’s draft, replaced last year’s veteran leaders (Arron Afflalo and Anthony Tolliver) with newer (older?) veteran leaders (George Hill, Vince Carter, and Zach Randolph). The plan now - really, since the DeMarcus Cousins trade - is to turn the team over to the kids.

That plan really only works if you have good kids to turn things over to; Fortunately, I like most of their kids. De'aaron Fox is a blur. I’ve sung the praises of Justin Jackson on DBB once or twice. Buddy Hield apparently needed to get away from Alvin Gentry and Anthony Davis to blossom. Bogdan Bogdanovic has been described to me as “the player Mario Hezonja thought he was,” which I am HERE for. Skal Labissiere showed definite flashes in the dog days of March and April.

I mean, sure, Georgios Papagiannis is the Greek Bruno Cabocolo (two years away from being two years away), Willie Cauley-Stein is still on the roster sapping minutes from Skal, and it’s impossible for me to trust Harry Giles’ knees. On the whole, though, the potential for the Kings to not be devastated after losing their All-NBA talent is there, which is more than most teams can say (Hi Orlando. Sorry Orlando.)

Ok, that’s as nice as I get. This team is going to lose a bunch of games and be bad in the West. Fun, but bad.

Los Angeles Lakers

IN: Lonzo Ball, Vander Blue, Thomas Bryant, V.J. Beachem, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma, Brook Lopez, Briante Weber, Stephen Zimmerman, Andrew Bogut

OUT: D’Angelo Russell, Timofey Mozgov’s contract, David Nwaba, Tarik Black, Nick Young

The Lakers are playing for 2018 free agency, and I don’t (can’t?) blame them. Although one of their probable targets is off the board now, free-agent game-changers like LeBron James and Paul George have been linked to Los Angeles. Any other team with the Lakers’ track record the last three years would be crazy to think they even get in a room with that level of free agent, but that’s Lakers Exceptionalism for you.

As for the team they will put on the floor in 2017, Lonzo Ball should be fun to watch, but rookie point guards take time to get going, even ones as talented (and hyped) as he is. Having an offensively flexible center like Brook Lopez should help Lonzo in that regard. I remain an unabashed KCP fan, despite how his situation in Detroit was resolved. He can do good things for that team for however long he remains in L.A. - not that it seems like he’ll be there long:

I loved the pick of Thomas Bryant - he would do well to learn the art of the semi-legal screen from Andrew Bogut. Kyle Kuzma impressed in Summer League, but that was Summer League. I am not quite sure what to make of Ivica Zubac, but basketball people smarter than I remain bullish on him, so he bears watching.

That said, this team doesn’t have the talent to compete in their conference. Ball and Brandon Ingram aren’t ready, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle aren’t good enough, and Luol Deng and Corey Brewer are not the answers to any questions worth asking.

Phoenix Suns

IN: Josh Jackson, Davon Reed, Mike James (No, the OTHER one. The younger one.)

OUT: Leandro Barbosa, Brandon Knight’s left ACL

Once Phoenix contrived reasons to send Eric Bledsoe and Tyson Chandler home for the season, they were almost completely unwatchable. Their kids (Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender, and Tyler Ulis) were less fun to watch than, say, Sacramento’s, which is saying something.

Even Devin Booker’s 70-point game (which I am legally obligated to mention anytime his name is brought up) was an exercise in drudgery, replete with TWENTY-SIX free throws in a game Phoenix lost by double digits. Seriously, go watch Booker’s 70, then watch Klay Thompson’s 60-point eruption. Which one of those was more fun to watch? That’s what I thought.

The Suns only added to that Sisyphean grind with the selection of Josh Jackson, a long, rangy defender whose destiny is to be an excellent glue guy on a championship contender - which Phoenix isn’t going to be anytime soon. It doesn’t matter if Jackson is paired with the bafflingly productive T.J. Warren, the shambling remains of Chandler, the perpetually lost Chriss, or Alex Len, he who simply IS - his talents as a defender and above-average passer will be wasted. It is a basketball tragedy that Tobias Harris carbon copy Jayson Tatum caught Danny Ainge’s ever-roving eye instead.

I have nothing more. The Pacific Division should be fairly entertaining as long as you avoid any and all Suns games