The Pacific Division of the NBA is home to the 2022 NBA Champion Golden State Warriors, the legendary Los Angeles Lakers, the rising Phoenix Suns, the underrated Los Angeles Clippers, and the young Sacramento Kings. The division has produced five championships in the last eight years. The Pacific Division will remain one of the most talked about divisions next season as the Warriors, Clippers, and Suns are the three Western Conference teams with the highest betting odds of winning the 2023 NBA championship.
Golden State Warriors: Can they repeat before 2023 free agency strikes?
The Golden State Warriors won the 2022 NBA championship after being doubted by many throughout the season and even in the playoffs. The core of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green had many good games throughout the NBA season, and when they did not, players like Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole had monster games. This offseason, the Warriors lost several role players including Gary Payton II, and Otto Porter. Looking to the end of next season, the Warriors will likely lose more key players as several will become free agents. Andrew Wiggins will be an unrestricted free agent, Jordan Poole will be a restricted free agent, and Draymond Green has a player option that he could opt out of. It is possible they could lose two of those players. Draymond has already stated he wants a max contract while many reports have it looking like the Warriors may not offer Draymond what he wants. Recent reports have come out saying Green has a desire to play for the Pistons at some point in his career. Andrew Wiggins may be the most likely of the three to be moved as he is likely to get a max as well. After a great season fourth season in the league, Jordan Poole could get a great contract as well. As a restricted free agent, it is possible the Warriors won’t be willing to match most offers. Next season will be the last chance for the Warriors to win a title with the current iteration of the team. With several teams in the West looking to move up in the standings and surprise many, will the Warriors be able to repeat and win their fifth title in the last decade?
Los Angeles Clippers: Are they a Dark Horse in the West?
One of the toughest challenges the Golden State Warriors will face in the west is the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers were quiet for most of last season as Kawhi Leonard missed the entire season and Paul George missed significant time. Even though they were missing their stars for most of the season, the Clippers were competing until the very end, losing in the play-in tournament. Many forget that the same team was in the Western Conference Finals the year before. That team did not have Kawhi Leonard (who was already out with his knee injury) and lost in six games while being led by Paul George. The 2022-23 season will be different for the Clippers. A healthy Leonard is expected to return alongside George. In addition, the team signed veteran guard John Wall to a two-year contract. Coming off a season and a half of not playing in Houston, Wall is expected to have a huge impact on the team. Averaging 20.6 PPG and 6.9 APG the last time he played, a healthy and eager Wall will be a great addition to Leonard and George. With a bench including Nicolas Batum, Luke Kennard, Reggie Jackson, and Terance Mann among others, the Clippers look to surprise many this season. If everyone can stay healthy, there is no doubt that they could make their way out of the Western Conference come June.
Phoenix Suns: What can the Suns expect from DeAndre Ayton or will he be traded?
While the Suns had a successful 2021-22 season winning a franchise high 64 games, the future of DeAndre Ayton was looming in the shadows. The Suns had a chance to sign Ayton to a contract extension prior to the 2021-22 season, but ultimately chose not to. Ayton had a solid season, averaging 17.2 PPG and 10.2 RPG. When it came to the playoffs, Ayton had solid games until the end of the second round. He was benched in game 7, scoring only 5 points in less than 20 minutes. Head Coach Monty Williams described the situation as an “internal issue”. Rumors of Ayton not being focused on improvement went around and when NBA free agency came around, the Suns still hesitated to re-sign the big man. The Suns waited to match a contract offer from Indiana as Ayton was basically a Pacer. Looking to the 2022-23 season, Ayton cannot be traded until January. The second leading scorer, Ayton would be a big piece for Phoenix to lose. Having backups in Bismack Biyombo and Jock Landale, trading the big man could have a negative impact on the team going forward. One of the better big men in the league, Ayton has proven he can be a pivotal part of a championship-contending team. If Ayton remains with the team, there is sure to be tension between Ayton and several parties including the coaching staff and Chris Paul. Phoenix would be smart to keep Ayton as a part of their core, especially with an aging CP3 nearing the end of his career. Unfortunately, the relationship between Ayton and the Suns could be damaged beyond repair.
Los Angeles Lakers: Can the Lakers turn it around this season?
The last two seasons have not been great for the Los Angeles Lakers. The team went 42-30 during the 2020-21 season before losing to the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the playoffs. This past season, the Lakers went 33-39, completely missing out on the NBA playoffs. LeBron James and Anthony Davis both missed significant time, playing 56 and 40 games respectively. Russell Westbrook played 78 games but saw his stats drop in most categories. Many news outlets and media personalities argued that Westbrook did not fit with the team, leaving him in trade rumors all season. Reports also noted he was almost traded for John Wall at the deadline, but the trade did not end up happening. Westbrook has not been traded in the offseason, with many recent reports stating that Westbrook would stay with the team as all three superstars wanted to make the trio work. With LeBron, there was plenty of speculation surrounding his future, but signing a two-year extension this week shows he believes in the team. The Lakers are going to have plenty of tough competitors this season, especially from their Pacific Division rivals. If injuries and age result in another disappointing season for the Lakers, what will be the next course of action for the team?
Sacramento Kings: Is this the year the Kings finally end their playoff drought?
No active player has played for the Sacramento Kings in the playoffs. The Kings have not been to the playoffs since the 2005-06 season, the last time they won 40 or more games. Over the last handful of seasons, the Kings have looked promising only to fall apart. The team has several all-star caliber players including De’Aaron Fox and Harrison Barnes, as well as a two-time all-star in Domantas Sabonis. This offseason, the Kings added several players including Malik Monk, Kent Bazemore, and veteran Matthew Dellavedova. The team also added fourth overall draft pick Keegan Murray, who had several impressive performances during the summer league. With these additions and teams like the Utah Jazz and San Antonio Spurs most likely falling out of the playoffs and play-in contention, could the Kings make their first playoff appearance in 17 years? It would be difficult for the Kings to compete with some of the best teams in the West, making a first-round exit likely. While it would be seen as another disappointing season for the Kings organization, it would be seen as a win to the fanbase if the team could squeeze into the playoffs or play-in tournament.
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