With the 2015-16 NBA season set to begin, NESN.com is breaking down each of the league’s six divisions. This time we’re focusing on the Pacific, where the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers stand out as clear favorites. Teams are listed in predicted order of finish (last year’s record and result in parentheses).
1. Golden State Warriors (65-17, first in division)
Key additions: Jason Thompson (trade), Ben Gordon (free agent)
Key departures: David Lee (free agent)
The Warriors are at the top of the NBA heap, and they don’t plan on going anywhere. Golden State returns all five of its starters from last season along with NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala, and the absence of David Lee shouldn’t be too much of a setback. The lone question mark is head coach Steve Kerr, who is on an indefinite leave of absence while dealing with complications from a recent back surgery. If Stephen Curry plays like he did last season season, however, there’s nothing to suggest this team won’t be back in the Finals come June.
2. Los Angeles Clippers (56-26, second)
Key additions: Paul Pierce (free agent), Josh Smith (free agent), Lance Stephenson (trade), Wesley Johnson (free agent)
Key departures: Matt Barnes (trade), Spencer Hawes (trade), Glen Davis (free agent), Hedo Turkoglu (free agent)
The Clippers had a pretty ridiculous offseason, but the end result was positive, as DeAndre Jordan is back in Los Angeles along with newcomers Paul Pierce, Josh Smith and Lance Stephenson. This team is loaded with talent, but there’s also quite a lot of egos for head coach Doc Rivers to manage. If everyone stays on their best behavior, the Clippers have the potential to challenge the Warriors for the Pacific crown and make a deep run in the playoffs after falling just short to the Houston Rockets last season. If not, things could go south in a hurry.
3. Phoenix Suns (39-43, third)
Key additions: Tyson Chandler (free agent), Devin Booker (draft), Ronnie Price (free agent), Mirza Telovic (free agent), Sonny Weems (free agent)
Key departures: Danny Granger (trade), Reggie Bullock (trade), Gerald Green (free agent), Marcus Morris (trade)
The Suns are a bit of an enigma. Eric Bledsoe is one of the better young point guards in the league and has a solid sidekick in shooting guard Brandon Knight. But Phoenix didn’t do itself any favors when it traded away Marcus Morris — angering twin brother Markieff in the process — and took on aging center Tyson Chandler’s contract. The Suns could win more games than they lose this season, but they’ll still be right on the Western Conference playoff bubble, which isn’t exactly an ideal situation.
4. Sacramento Kings (29-53, fourth)
Key additions: Rajon Rondo (free agent), Willie Cauley-Stein (draft), Marco Belinelli (free agent), Caron Butler (free agent), Seth Curry (free agent)
Key departures: Nik Stauskas (trade), Jason Thompson (trade), Carl Landry (trade), Derrick Williams (free agent)
Buckle up, Kings fans. It’s going to be a fun ride in Sacramento. The Kings rolled the dice this offseason by bringing in enigmatic point guard Rajon Rondo, and if all goes according to plan, this team could surprise some people. DeMarcus Cousins is a stud, Willie Cauley-Stein could make an immediate impact and Rudy Gay, Darren Collison and Ben McLemore are decent complementary pieces. But that’s if all goes according to plan and Rondo and Cousins don’t start butting heads two weeks into the regular season, which is far from a guarantee.
5. Los Angeles Lakers (21-61, fifth)
Key additions: Lou Williams (free agent), Brandon Bass (free agent), Roy Hibbert (trade), DeAngelo Russell (draft), Metta World Peace (free agent), Larry Nance Jr. (draft)
Key departures: Jordan Hill (free agent), Jeremy Lin (free agent), Ed Davis (free agent), Carlos Boozer (free agent), Wayne Ellington (free agent), Wesley Johnson (free agent)
This Lakers team still will be very bad, but at least it’ll be more fun to watch. The immortal Kobe Bryant is expected to return by the start of the regular season, and 2014 first-round draft pick Julius Randle is back after playing just 14 NBA minutes last season. Los Angeles also added solid pieces in Lou Williams, Brandon Bass and Roy Hibbert and drafted an exciting young player in DeAngelo Russell. Bryant is too old to carry this team toward any relevance, but there’s some optimism in L.A. for life after Kobe.
Thumbnail photo via Kelvin Kuo/USA TODAY Sports Images
Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) dribbles past Los Angeles Clippers guard Lance Stephenson (right) during the first quarter at Staples Center.
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