NBA Pacific Division Preview: Clippers Poised To Finally Break Through

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October 1, 2014

deandre jordan stephen curryAs the 2014-15 NBA season approaches, NESN.com will be taking a preseason look at each of the league?s six divisions. Up next on the docket is the Pacific Division, where Doc Rivers’ Los Angeles Clippers — finally free of the Donald Sterling mess — will look to dethrone the West’s elite.

Teams are listed in predicted order of finish (last year?s result in parentheses).

1. Los Angeles Clippers (first)

Key additions: SG Chris Douglas-Roberts (free agent), PG Jordan Farmar (free agent), C Spencer Hawes (free agent), SG C.J. Wilcox (draft)

Key departures: SF Danny Granger, SG Jared Dudley, PG Darren Collison, C Ryan Hollins

If any team can break up the Thunder-Spurs stranglehold in the Western Conference, it’s the Clippers, who come off their tumultuous offseason looking stronger than ever. L.A. posted the best record in franchise history last season, and the core of that team — Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, who developed into a defensive monster over the last year — are back. Farmar and Hawes will bolster an already deep bench, and Doc Rivers, the recipient of a massive contract extension over the summer, still is one of the top coaching minds in the game.

2. Golden State Warriors (second)

Key additions: PG Shaun Livingston (free agent), SG Leandro Barbosa (free agent), SG Brandon Rush (free agent),

Key departures: C Jermaine O’Neal, SG Jordan Crawford

The Warriors pushed the Clips to a Game 7 in the first round of last year’s Western Conference playoffs before bowing out, and they should be back in the thick of the postseason conversation this season. The No. 1 question mark for the Stephen Curry- and Klay Thompson-led squad will be new head coach Steve Kerr, who aims to implement a new offensive system in his first season on an NBA bench.

3. Phoenix Suns (third)

Key additions: PG Isaiah Thomas (free agent), PG Tyler Ennis (draft), SF T.J. Warren

Key departures: PF Channing Frye

One of the NBA’s most exciting and surprising teams last season, the Suns appear to have gotten even better this offseason with the acquisition Thomas and the drafting of Ennis and Warren. Phoenix also made a point to re-sign brothers Marcus and Markieff Morris and (eventually) point guard Eric Bledsoe, the team’s second-highest scorer last season. With Thomas joining Bledsoe and 2013-14 Most Improved Player Goran Dragic in the Suns’ backcourt, the desert should be home to some seriously entertaining basketball this season — and possibly a playoff run.

4. Los Angeles Lakers (fifth)

Key additions: PG Jeremy Lin (trade), SG Wayne Ellington (free agent), PF Carlos Boozer (free agent), PF Julius Randle (draft)

Key departures: PF Pau Gasol, PG Kendall Marshall, SG Kent Bazemore, C Chris Kaman

The Lakers brought in a potential starting point guard in Lin for essentially nothing — acquiring him plus a first- and second-round pick in 2015 for the rights to Ukranian center Sergei Lishchuk — and Boozer will be called on to replace Gasol down low. But, as always, the Lakers’ fortunes will be determined by Kobe Bryant. If Bryant can remain healthy — a big “if” after playing just six games last season — the L.A. should at least avoid a repeat of last year’s dumpster fire.

5. Sacramento Kings (fourth)

Key additions: PG Darren Collison (free agent), SG Nik Stauskas (draft), PG Ramon Sessions (free agent)

Key departures: PG Isaiah Thomas, SG Wayne Ellington

Sacramento has two studs in DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay, and … not a whole lot else. The decision to let Isaiah Thomas walk could come back to haunt the Kings, and the new acquisitions don’t stir up a whole lot of excitement. They do have 7-foot-5, 360-pound rookie center Sim Bhullar fighting for a roster spot in training camp, though, so that should be fun to watch.

Previously: Northwest Division

Up next: Southwest Division on Friday, Oct. 3

Photo via Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports Images

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