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What the Heck Happened in the Pacific Division?

Lets take a look under the hood of the NBA’s most glamorous divison

2021 NBA Playoffs - Utah Jazz v LA Clippers Photo by Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images

The Pacific Division is home to some of the most glamour franchises of the NBA. Since 2015, all eight organizations to represent the West at the NBA Finals have originated from the Pacific. With the division claiming five of the past eight championships between the Warriors and Lakers.

On the flip side, the division is also home to the NBA’s longest playoff drought. In many ways, the Sacramento Kings are the ugly stepson of the Pacific quintet, having not made the postseason since 2006.

With the Kings showing signs of improvement this offseason, there’s a world where all five teams in the division secure a playoff berth.

Washington Wizards v Golden State Warriors - NBA Japan Games Photo by Takashi Aoyama/Getty Images

Golden State Warriors

Offseason in 5 words or less

The Cost of Winning

Big Changes

By now, I’m sure you’re well aware of the Draymond Green and Jordon Poole altercation. But in case you’ve been living under a rock, the Warrior’s veteran forward spent several days away from the team following leaked footage of him laying out Jordan Poole with a vicious right blow to Poole’s young mug.

In terms of impact; internally, it appears Green’s actions will be forgiven and forgotten, with Steve Kerr confirming his starting forward’s availability for opening night on Oct. 18. Externally, it remains to be seen how the defending champs will handle the media scrutiny surrounding the incident. With Green in search of a final major payday at season’s end, could the Warriors use his off-court antics as a means to move on from the 32-year-old?

In addition to Green, Jordan Poole is due to sign a $100 million extension in the near future. And with a slew of recent first-round selections who will be in line for a pay rise across the next few off-seasons, the question begs, what is majority owner Joe Lacob’s breaking point?

In order to determine the ultimate worth of James Wiseman, Moses Moody and Jonathan Kuminga, all three will need want to earn their money through playing actual NBA minutes. They’re looking to secure the bag — in Golden State or elsewhere.

To date, coach Kerr has typically shied away from awarding young talent consistent playing time in his veteran-laden style of attack. But with the aforementioned group of youngsters requiring minutes, it will be interesting to see how Kerr balances his rotations and mounts a serious title defense.

Better or Worse?

Even with the Draymond Green saga looming over the franchise, it’s hard to see this Warriors team regressing anytime soon. Klay Thompson will enter his 11th season healthy and motivated to prove he’s still an All-Star talent. Jordan Poole appears set to take another leap. Kevon Looney continues to star in his role. And there’s every reason to believe the franchise's young core will provide an injection of energy through the doldrums of an 82-game season.

So yes, it would appear the Warriors will be better than last season.

Playoff Contender?


Portland Trail Blazers v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

Los Angeles Clippers

Offseason in 5 words or less

Finals or bust

Big Changes

After a February trade with the Portland Trail Blazers that netted the wings duo of Norman Powell and Robert Covington, the Clippers had a relatively quiet summer, essentially swapping Isaiah Hartenstein for veteran point guard John Wall.

The return of All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard is the headline acquisition to a stacked Clippers roster. Following a full offseason of health and surrounded with an abundance of talent, it’s now time for the star wing pairing of Leonard and Paul George to deliver the franchise its first NBA Finals berth.

A LOT has changed in the world since Leonard and George signed with the organization back in 2019. It seems crazy to think that entering year four together, they’ve accomplished; a sole Western Conference Finals appearance in 2021, a semi-finals showing in 2020 and missed the playoffs completely in 2022.

For a team that has the potential to field a genuine 12-man rotation led by two alpha wings, anything short of a Finals appearance will be a disappointment.

Better or Worse?

Regardless of the roster, the mere return of Kawhi Leonard makes this year's team 10-fold better than last season’s. Even with some age concerns, there is no shortage of talent at the guard positions or on the wings.

One area Clippers GM and former Pistons head coach Lawrence Frank will have to address throughout the season is the roster's lack of interior size. Seven-foot big man Ivica Zubac is the only true center currently listed on the team sheet.

Playoff Contender?

No question. Draft Kings currently has the Clippers listed as their 2023 NBA Title favorites.

Sacramento Kings v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Los Angeles Lakers

Offseason in 5 words or less

Make or break for AD

Big Changes

Following a disastrous 2021-22 campaign, Rob Pelinka spent the offseason trying to undo the previous summer's mistakes. The biggest, of course, being the acquisition of LA-native Russell Westbrook. Despite concerted efforts, the Lakers were unwilling to ship out the former MVP, and it has led to a slew of awkward moments.

Following their failed bid to ditch Russ, the Lakers pivoted and executed a trade for veteran guard-stopper Patrick Beverly. Despite his antics, Beverly provides a sub-par Lakers defense with some much-needed grit and accountability.

Lakers brass also made a bevy of changes on the fringes, signing Lonnie Walker IV, Juan Toscano Anderson, Troy Brown Jr, Thomas Bryant and Damien Jones in the hope they can provide solid frontcourt minutes around their star duo of Anthony Davis and LeBron James.

After two seasons filled with absence due to injury, Tinseltown will need at least 65 combined games from James and Davis. Davis, in particular, finds himself at a crossroads. A third consecutive failed campaign could spell the end of Davis being considered a top-20 NBA player.

Better or Worse?

Better, but not by much. After electing to sign a host of 35+ year-old vets in 2021, Los Angeles will field a younger, more athletic roster heading into this season. The potential of a Russ trade could also improve the team greatly.

Playoff Contender?

Just. The top-6 in Western Conference appears pretty well set in stone. Hence, I’ve got the Lakers finishing somewhere between the 7-9 seed out west.

Boston Celtics v Phoenix Suns Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

Phoenix Suns

Offseason in 5 words or less

Game 7 wounds

Big Changes

In what felt like Chris Paul’s best chance to win his long-elusive ring, his league-best 64-win Phoenix Suns went out in embarrassing fashion to the Dallas Mavericks. Luka Doncic and co. eviscerated the Suns from start to finish in a 33-point annihilation of the conference's No. 1 seed.

We won’t know the after-effects of such a loss until a third of the way through the season, however, the light seems to have dulled on the Phoenix’s championship hopes. DeAndre Ayton and head coach Monty Williams have a frosty relationship, to put it mildly, following their fallout in Game 7. Starting forward Jae Crowder has requested a trade in light of Cam Johnson’s promotion to the starting lineup. And the franchise as a whole is still dealing with the Robert Saver fiasco.

With mass discontent between the walls of the organization, can Monty Williams, Chris Paul and Devin Booker keep the ship on course?

Better or Worse?

With the imminent departure of Jae Crowder, the Suns’ best reserve man now becomes...Landry Shamet? So far in the preseason, Phoenix has trodden out a bench unit of Cameron Payne, Landry Shamet, Damien Lee, Tory Craig and Jock Landale. While Dario Saric will log minutes as well, there’s a clear lack of talent on Suns' depth chart. Hence, it’s hard to envision the Suns topping last season’s performance.

Playoff Contender?

Yes. Even with the off-court drama and a lack of depth, the Suns still have enough top-end talent to be considered a top-6 lock in the West.

2022-23 Sacramento Kings Media Day Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

Sacramento Kings

Offseason in 5 words or less

Play-In bound

Big Changes

Sacramento made a franchise-altering move upon last season's trade deadline, sending out sophomore guard Tyrese Haliburton for All-Star big man Domantas Sabonis from the Indiana Pacers. The shocking deal signaled Sacramento’s intentions of looking to ‘win-now’ in the hopes of ending a 16-year postseason drought.

While many have clowned the Kings for their pursuit of mediocrity, there’s no denying general manager Monte McNair made a slew of savy moves to improve the roster this summer.

With some Draft Lottery luck, the Kings were able to jump to the fourth selection overall where they selected a ready-made wing prospect in Iowa’s Keegan Murray. The 22-year-old has already demonstrated he’s ready to contribute right away, with his complementary style of play sliding perfectly alongside the King’s offensive pillars.

McNair was also able to acquire a pair of sweet-shooting guards via trade and free agency in Kevin Heurter and Malik Monk.

Better or Worse?

When assessing the Kings’ roster, for the first time in forever, it feels like they have 10-11 actual NBA players. While there are defensive concerns, this iteration of the Kings is sure to put up a TON of points. And with the aim of the game being to outscore your opponent, Sacramento is set up to win its fair share of contests by way of an all-out attack.

Playoff Contender?

Play-in contender, Yes. Playoff contender, potentially. The Kings find themselves in the 7-10 range for mine. Where they will jostle with the Lakers, Trail Blazers and Mavericks for positioning. Ultimately, I think their defensive shortcomings lead to their ouster in the play-in tournament.