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2013-2014 NBA Pacific Division Preview

Darian Nourian |
October 27, 2013 | 4:03 p.m. PDT

Staff Writer

Chris Paul hasn't led the Clippers past the second round in his two years in L.A. (nikk_la/Wikimedia Commons)
Chris Paul hasn't led the Clippers past the second round in his two years in L.A. (nikk_la/Wikimedia Commons)
Teams Ranked in Order of Projected Finish

1. Los Angeles Clippers

Last Year’s Finish: 56-26, Lost in Second Round to Memphis Grizzlies (4-2) 

Projected Starting Five 

PG: Chris Paul 

SG: J.J. Redick 

SF: Jared Dudley 

PF: Blake Griffin 

C: DeAndre Jordan   

Key Bench Players: Jamal Crawford, Darren Collison, Antawn Jamison  

After a busy offseason, the Clippers have not only shown the Lakers that they are the new show in town, but they have also become the NBA’s second-deepest team behind the Brooklyn Nets. What will also be exciting is to see how effective the Clippers are going to be able to play ‘In and Out’ basketball with their newly acquired perimeter shooters in J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley. Blake Griffin could evolve into one of the league’s best facilitators if this plays out.

The Clippers also have arguably the league’s best point guard in Chris Paul and the NBA’s best sixth man in Jamal Crawford. They are expected to be putting up 100-plus points per game and even better yet, they can play defense too. DeAndre Jordan is a shot blocker that deters scorers from the paint, and Dudley is also a talented perimeter defender. Finally, new team leadership via the acquisition of Doc Rivers from the Boston Celtics gives the Clippers the general they need to hold all the glue together for a very talented team that had lacked discipline in the past. At their best, the Clippers are one of the Western Conference’s best teams, if not the best. The regular season is not the real test though, as the Clippers have yet to break past the second round with Paul leading the way.

Prediction: 61-21

Stephen Curry has his best supporting cast yet. (Keith Allison/Creative Commons)
Stephen Curry has his best supporting cast yet. (Keith Allison/Creative Commons)
2. Golden State Warriors   

Last Year’s Finish: 47-35, Lost in Second Round to San Antonio Spurs (4-2)  

Projected Starting Five 

PG: Stephen Curry

SG: Klay Thompson 

SF: Andre Iguodala

PF: David Lee

C: Andrew Bogut 

Key Bench Players: Harrison Barnes, Toney Douglas, Jermaine O'Neal

The Warriors are the division’s most improved team with the addition of the explosive Andre Iguodala, who is going to open up great possibilities for Golden State this season. He is going to be able to penetrate opposing defenses, and when the defense collapses on him, kick the ball out to deadly three-point shooters like Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Iguodala meshes perfectly with Marc Jackson’s up-and-down style, and is also going to be a large presence on the defensive end to go along with a rim protector in Andrew Bogut. Curry and Thompson have already proved that thet are the best scoring backcourt, and having a post presence inside with Lee, Bogut and veteran Jermaine O’Neal will also aid them in better spreading the floor. If this Warriors team can stay healthy, they'll be a sleeper contender in the West.

Prediction: 55-27 

With Kobe Bryant out, Pau Gasol will need to hold down the fort until Bryant's return. (Keith Allison/Creative Commons)
With Kobe Bryant out, Pau Gasol will need to hold down the fort until Bryant's return. (Keith Allison/Creative Commons)
3. Los Angeles Lakers  

Last Year’s Finish: 45-37, Swept by San Antonio Spurs in First Round

Projected Starting Five  

PG: Steve Nash 

SG: Kobe Bryant

SF: Nick Young

PF: Pau Gasol 

C: Chris Kaman 

Key Bench Players: Jordan Hill, Steve Blake, Jodie Meeks

It’s incredible to see how far downhill the Lakers have gone in just one year. They have quickly gone from championship contenders, with last year’s additions of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, to a team that is projected to be in this year’s draft lottery after losing Howard to free agency and Kobe Bryant indefinitely to injury. For at least the beginning of the season, the Lakers are going to struggle to score with not having Bryant out on the court. The team is going to have to be carried by Pau Gasol and Nash early, and it’s going to be a mystery night in and night out of who else is going to step up for the team. The Lakers' biggest offseason acquisition has to be Nick Young, who will bring scoring and energy to the squad. Chris Kaman, although not a worthy replacement for Howard, will need to anchor a Lakers defense that has had a lot of trouble in guarding quick point guards and the pick-and-roll. Where the Lakers finish this season is going to be determined by how they start the first 20 games of the season, with or without Bryant. If they are going to want to have a shot at making the playoffs, the Lakers have to finish those games with at least a .500 record.

Prediction: 42-40 

Goran Dragic is one of the few sure things for the Suns this year. (Keith Allison/Creative Commons)
Goran Dragic is one of the few sure things for the Suns this year. (Keith Allison/Creative Commons)
4. Phoenix Suns

Last Year’s Finish: 25-57, Missed Playoffs 

Projected Starting Five 

PG: Goran Dragic 

SG: Eric Bledsoe 

SF: P.J Tucker

PF: Markieff Morris 

C: Emeka Okafor

Key Bench Players: Alex Len, Channing Frye, Gerald Green

With the recent trade of Marcin Gortat, Shannon Brown and Kendall Marshall to the Washington Wizards for veteran center Emeka Okafor, the Phoenix Suns have basically given the reigns to their hot off-season acquisition Eric Bledsoe. He and Goran Dragic should shape up to be a very good backcourt, and will probably be the source of all Phoenix offense this year. The loss of Jared Dudley, Luis Scola and Wesley Johnson are going to be felt not only on the court with their scoring and defensive presence, but also in the locker room, as this team doesn’t really have anybody to lead. This is troublesome for players like rookie Alex Len, who is going to have to contribute more with the loss of Gortat. Len has struggled in the preseason and it looks like he is going to need some time to develop before having a big presence in the paint. In the end, the Suns are going to be able to score with their talented backcourt and some perimeter shooters, but will struggle even more defensively.

Prediction: 24-58

DeMarcus Cousins got paid this offseason, but the Kings will still struggle for wins. (Scott Mecum/Flickr)
DeMarcus Cousins got paid this offseason, but the Kings will still struggle for wins. (Scott Mecum/Flickr)
5. Sacramento Kings

Last Year’s Finish: 28-54, Missed Playoffs 

Projected Starting Five 

PG: Greivis Vasquez 

SG: Marcus Thornton 

SF: Luc Richard Mbah a Moute 

PF: Jason Thompson  

C: DeMarcus Cousins 

Key Bench Players: Isaiah Thomas, Ben McLemore, Carl Landry   

With the team settled in Sacramento for at least the near future, the Kings can finally get back to focusing on just basketball. However, they are going to need to improve in multiple areas if they are going to climb out of the depths of the West. Last season, they were the NBA’s worst defense, giving up 105.1 points per game and finishing last in rebounding defense. Sacramento is just about average on the offensive end, but with their uptempo style, they are bound to average over 100 points a game after they averaging just over 100 (100.2) last season. They are going to have to make up for the loss of Tyreke Evans, who was their second-leading scorer last season. The addition of Greivis Vasquez will somewhat make up for the loss of Evans, although Vasquez is primarily a pass-first point guard. The team's best player is arguably DeMarcus Cousins, who led the team in scoring last year with 17.1 points per game. He is pretty much a double-double night in and night out, but the Kings ultimately don't have enough weapons to compete in the cutthroat Western Conference. 

Prediction: 23- 59

Reach Staff Writer Darian Nourian here or follow him on Twitter



 

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