Two months after the finish of the NBA’s restart season in Orlando, another NBA season is right around the corner, and rightfully so. It will truly be the most wonderful time of the year in so many ways for basketball fans, as the 2020-21 NBA season will commence on December 22. All 30 teams, including the ones that participated in the aforementioned NBA restart, look to make a big impression during the 72 game season, leading up to the Finals in June. Following on from the Northwest Division preview, we continue onward as we take a look at the Pacific Division.
The Sacramento Kings were one of the teams invited to the NBA restart in Orlando last season, led by the speedy scoring duo of De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield. Though Sacramento didn’t do much during their time in the restart, they would get an early jump on the free agency market. In that period of time, the Kings acquire Chimezie Metu from the San Antonio Spurs, Glenn Robinson III from the Philadelphia 76ers, Frank Kaminsky from the Phoenix Suns, and Hassan Whiteside, who was once drafted by the Kings a decade ago and previously played for the Portland Trail Blazers.
In the draft, Sacramento selected Tyrese Haliburton from Iowa State, Xavier Tillman Sr. from Michigan State, Jahmi’us Ramsey from Texas Tech, and international prospect KJ Martin. The Kings are not only an enigma of a team to figure out, but they’re also an anomaly. Outside the scope of Fox, Hield, and Harrison Barnes, the roster for Sacramento looks like they have some upside and potential, but that potential would have to take time to tap into.
Fox and Hield are the stars of that team and both should be in line to make the jump to becoming potential all-stars, especially since Fox signed a contract extension.
The Golden State Warriors didn’t just have a rough season, they would also lose Klay Thompson before the start of the upcoming season. With one-half of the Splash Brothers on the mend, this leaves Stephen Curry to lead a core consisting of Draymond Green, Andrew Wiggins, and Kevon Looney to help the Dubs reach the postseason.
In the free agency period, the Warriors would acquire Kelly Oubre Jr. from the Phoenix Suns, Brad Wanamaker from the Boston Celtics, and Kent Bazemore, who once played for the Warriors for two seasons. During the NBA Draft, Golden State addressed their big man issue by selecting James Wiseman from Memphis University, a scorer in Nico Mannion from the University of Arizona, and Justinian Jessup from Boise State.
Missing out on much of last season plus losing Thompson to injury is more than enough motivation for the Warriors to make a loud and clear statement that they want to return back to prominence in the league and need a deep postseason run to further cement it. Look for Golden State to provide some real competition and play spoiler to some of the top teams.
The Los Angeles Lakers had one of the most memorable, if not the most memorable seasons ever in the history of their franchise. From the loss of Kobe Bryant to making a dominant run in the playoffs and winning the NBA Finals in six games, the Lakers were more than a team on a mission.
The free agency period saw the Lakers did a lot of serious retooling, in which they brought in Marc Gasol, Dennis Schröder, and Montrezl Harrell, who once played for their crosstown rival L.A. Clippers. The Lakers didn’t do much in the NBA Draft other than select Jaden McDaniels from Washington, only to send him to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
With their level of depth, plus a young core looking to come into their own like Kyle Kuzma and Talen Horton-Tucker, it’s safe to say that the Lakers are shoo-ins to repeat as champions, though in a 72 game season with 29 other teams aiming for the Larry O’Brien trophy, the challenge becomes very difficult.
Even more difficult for the Lakers come the start of the season is that LeBron James will sit out in back to back games for the upcoming season. One should respect LeBron’s expression to sit out for some games to heal his body so it can be at the maximum, especially since many were hoping for a January opening instead. Either way, the Lakers will make the postseason again, but this time, their road to the Finals will be much arduous than before, but it would be even harder if they don’t retain Anthony Davis come next free agency period.
The Los Angeles Clippers looked primed to take the next step in becoming a team that could reach the Finals, but an embarrassing exit in the second round against the Denver Nuggets prevented them from having their conference finals matchup with their more successful rivals in the Lakers. In the offseason, they shockingly let Montrezl Harell, who won Sixth Man of the Year honors, sign with the Lakers, which would add a lot of intrigues should the two Los Angeles teams face off in Staples Center.
In turn, the Clippers acquired Serge Ibaka from the Toronto Raptors, Reggie Jackson from the Detroit Pistons, Luke Kennard from the Detroit Pistons, and Nic Batum from the Charlotte Hornets. In the draft, the Clippers selected Reggie Perry from Mississippi State and acquired Daniel Oturu from the University of Minnesota, who was drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Clippers have some good shooters, a bothersome defensive player in Patrick Beverley, and upgrading on the big man presence with Ibaka at the helm. The Clippers have a tough task ahead of them that includes not only reaching the postseason and recorrecting themselves from last season’s collapse but also attempt to get out of the lengthy shadow of the Lakers.
The Phoenix Suns can hold the distinction of being the only team to go undefeated throughout the entire NBA restart in Orlando. Though they didn’t reach the playoffs, it was just one step further for Devin Booker and company towards making some headway for next season. In doing so, they would acquire Chris Paul and Abdel Nader from the Oklahoma City Thunder, Jae Crowder from the Miami Heat, and Langston Galloway from the New York Knicks.
In the NBA Draft, the Suns selected Jalen Smith from the University of Maryland. With CP3 in the backcourt with Booker, Phoenix has a 1-2 punch combination on offense with Paul’s precise and crisp passing and playmaking skills, plus Booker’s consistent scoring. One lingering issue that could prevent Phoenix from reaching the postseason, aside from the obvious being in a highly competitive Western Conference, is how the frontcourt would improve after last season.
DeAndre Ayton and Dario Šarić will most likely be in the starting lineup for the Suns, so they should be players that will need to improve greatly for Phoenix to reach the lofty goal of playing in the postseason. The Suns have the potential to reach the postseason now that they have a veteran leader, a leading scorer, and some upside from last season. It all depends on how far they can go.
The Pacific Division will once again be the Lakers vs. everyone, but more specifically another battle in the City of Angels with the Clippers. Golden State has something to prove, as does Phoenix, considering the contrast of how their seasons ended, despite either team not making the playoffs. As for Sacramento, De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield will continue to grow and could be on the radar for all-star selection conversations.
The teams that will reach the postseason: L.A. Lakers, L.A. Clippers, Golden State, Phoenix
The teams that will be in the draft lottery: Phoenix and Sacramento
Players to watch in the division: LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Serge Ibaka, Kyle Kuzma, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Kent Bazemore, De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Devin Booker, Chris Paul, DeAndre Ayton, Dario Šarić, Marc Gasol, Montrezl Harrell, Kelly Oubre Jr., Andrew Wiggins,
Rookies to watch: James Wiseman, Daniel Oturu, Reggie Perry, Tyrese Haliburton, and Xavier Tillman Sr.
Rising stars to watch: De’Aaron Fox, Kyle Kuzma, DeAndre Ayton
Pacific Division Standings Prediction: