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NBA: Western Conference Preview

The wild wild Western Conference is the toughest in the NBA and making long term predictions is never easy because of how competitive the conference is. So in the coming articles, each division in the West will be covered along with playoff predictions if necessary and if there is an MVP candidate among said team.

Pacific Division Preview:

1. Los Angeles Clippers: With Head Coach and President of Basketball Operations Doc Rivers at the controls and the Donald Sterling drama far behind them, the Clippers begin the season as a clear-cut favorite to repeat as Pacific Division champions and a top-tier seed in the NBA playoffs. Led by their floor general, point guard Chris Paul, the hump of opening round losses seems to be ready to become a mole hill. Power Forward Blake Griffin (MVP candidate) looks to continue to improve his game and Center Deandre Jordan in that man in the middle who always seems to be throwing a “block party” on a nightly basis. Now if only he could improve his free-throw shooting. The pick-ups of stretch Power Forward Hedo Turkoglu and Small Forward Chris Douglas-Roberts look to give the Clippers more scoring options and to space the floor so that there is more room for the big men to work. One of the most underrated pick-ups was done by the Clippers when they added Spencer Hawes, free agent who last season played for the Cleveland Cavaliers. He is a good back up option for either Jordan and Griffin and has decent numbers for a back up.

Expect the Clippers to be the leaders of the Pacific Division and making the playoffs (pending injuries of course). Will they get past the opening round of the playoffs, that is the 200-billion-dollar question.

2. Golden State Warriors: With the “SPLASH Brothers” of Stephen Curry (MVP Candidate) and Klay Thompson together, skys the limit for the Golden State Warriors, IF and this is a BIG IF, brand new Head Coach Steve Kerr brings a system that plays to his team’s strengths. Last season, Forwards Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes began to make a name for themselves, so will that continue to regress in the new system by Kerr. Will Power Forward David Lee continue to be productive as always AND can Center Andrew Bogut stay healthy to give them that much needed man in the middle. Small Forward Andre Iguodala showed signs of his 76er days, so can the Warriors get that same production from him. There is an old saying “If it ain’t broke, then don’t try to fix it.” Coach Kerr should take this saying very seriously because expectations for this team are very high.

Expect Golden State to be in the top four of the playoff bracket and second in the Pacific Division to the LA Clippers. The team is too solid to have them any lower, it all comes down to the Coach.

3. Phoenix Suns: The drama with free-agent guard Eric Bledsoe is long gone as he has signed a long term deal with the team. The Suns are the anomaly of the West as they are a team with no real superstar but are a team who play as one complete unit. Their young roster includes players like Duke Forward Miles Plumlee, whose numbers can at times be herculean. Guard Goran Dragic can light up the gym and when he is on, he is on sniper accurate style. This is a team that was in the hunt last year until the final couple of weeks of the season because of their resilience.

Expect pretty much the same results, if not a slight fall back this year from the Suns. While the roster is decent, there are other teams that did more to improve. Don’t underestimate this team but in the end, superstars make the playoffs.

4. Sacramento Kings: With the drama of a new stadium seeming to be behind the Kings, with new part owner Shaquille O’Neal now owing a piece of the team that he himself once called the “Sacramento QUEENS,” can this team begin to put the pieces of this puzzle together to get themselves into playoff contention? Can journeyman Forward Rudy Gay and his experience wake up the young guns like DeMarcus Cousins and Ramon Sessions who can at times put up superstar numbers. Can rookie Nik Stauskas stay out of the media with the constant stereotype battle of the “white NBA player?” Time will tell but Stauskas needs to learn really quick that distractions like that eventually make their way to the court and the team’s play.

Don’t expect much from the Kings as there is just not enough consistency on this team. They make some noise but it is not enough noise to even get a sniff of the playoff picture. If they were in the Eastern Conference, perhaps but this is the West.

5. Los Angeles Lakers: Lakers fans REJOICE. The Black Mamba Kobe Bryant has returned and is 100% healthy, for his age of course. In a preseason game, Bryant stole the ball and dunked it like Michael Jordan did when he was with the Washington Wizards. With the injury to guard Nick Young (out 4-8 weeks), the Lakers already are on their upward climb back to relevance. The loss of Power Forward-Center Pau Gasol (FA signed with Chicago) will be felt inside. The Lakers hope that rookie Julius Randle can help on the boards inside along with Center Robert Sacre and Forward-Center Jordan Hill. Can Guard Xavier Henry give what he did last year? Which Jeremy Lin will the Lakers be getting, LIN-sanity or the inconsistent Lin. How much does the Steve Nash really have left in his NBA career? Can new head coach Byron Scott find a way to make these pieces fit and work together to make a playoff team? Time will tell.

Kobe Bryant is the X-Factor. Most cannot go against him and neither can I. His presence alone gets you at least 25-30 wins and that makes the bottom of the playoffs.

That completes the Pacific Division. Up next we head to the Northwest, a much improved Northwest Division.

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Ralph Garcia

CEO NGSC Sports


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