What the Heck Happened in the Pacific Division?

Detroit Bad Boys

The NBA’s Pacific Division is looking to have four championship contenders this year, but there are plenty of questions about the team building approach of each squad. There are plenty of elite players and a lot of banners in this division, but each team is also facing plenty of questions. Let’s dive in.

Phoenix Suns

Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Lakers

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Offseason in 5 words or less: “Bland but fine.”

The Phoenix Suns did not have a very eventful offseason, but they didn’t really need to considering they are the reigning Western Conference champs. The Suns added a backup big with Javale McGee, but he might not even play if former 10th overall pick Jalen Smith is healthy and ready to contribute as a 3-and-D center.

Elfrid Payton and Landry Shamet were added as guard depth but neither are likely rotation players right out of the gate. Abdel Nader and Cam Payne were both given seemingly team-friendly extensions. The big offseason news was a huge extension for aging star guard Chris Paul. Paul seems like he should be a ticking time bomb what with age and injuries, but he continues to excel. He’s been healthy the past few seasons and he will continue pushing this team towards the top of the west. Or is this the year the bomb of Father Time finally goes off?

Did they get better?

Maybe, the roster is about the same but the West around them is better.

Playoff Contender?

Absolutely.

Los Angeles Clippers

Denver Nuggets v Los Angeles Clippers

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Offseason in 5 words or less: “Can we compensate for Kawhi?”

The Clippers were a real championship contender until the injury to Kawhi Leonard last season. Replacing a player like Kawhi is impossible so the Clippers approached the offseason with an eye for Leonard’s eventual return toward the end of the season and are set up to contend next season if this year is a wash. The Clippers re-signed Nicolas Batum who was vital to their success on both ends of the floor last season. They also basically swapped Patrick Beverly for Eric Bledsoe through some multi-team trade machinations. The Clippers also signed Justice Winslow to potentially play some bench minutes and add to their overall playmaking. The Clippers also have three roster spots tied up with rookies; Keon Johnson, Jason Preston, and Brandon Boston Jr. The outlook for this team is fairly simple; Ty Lue and the talent on this roster can craft a very good offense, but the top-end talent is simply lacking on both ends without Kawhi Leonard.

Did they get better?

Not really

Playoff team?

Most likely, but potentially a play-in team

Los Angeles Lakers

Los Angeles Lakers v Sacramento Kings

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Offseason in 5 words or less: “Talent over fit.”

The Lakers had by far the most eventful offseason of any team in the division. It started with the Lakers trading Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, and the 22nd pick in the draft to the Washington Wizards for Russell Westbrook. This move was so questionable in so many ways, but it likely does make the Lakers a better regular season team if the chemistry isn’t a complete disaster.

The playoffs are another story for another day though. The Lakers also re-signed young guard Talen Horton-Tucker, but his contributions this season are still up-in-the-air. The Lakers surrounded their three stars — LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Westbrook — with a glut of minimum contracts who will all fight for roles on the team. These players include Carmelo Anthony, Kent Bazemore, Trevor Ariza, Wayne Ellington, Dwight Howard, DeAndre Jordan, Malik Monk, Rajon Rondo, and Kendrick Nunn. This collection of players could be a really nice complement to, but they could also be a complete disaster depending on how it is handled.

Did they get better?

No, but if they’re healthy they could finish better than last year.

Playoff team?

Probably, but play-in is a very likely outcome.

Golden State Warriors

Portland Trail Blazers v Golden State Warriors

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Offseason in 5 words or less: “We miss being healthy”

The big potential addition for the Warriors is going to be Klay Thompson when he is finally ready to return to the floor. He seems close to returning after a long absence, and his offensive contributions have been greatly missed. However, the Warriors made some other small moves this offseason to help them build for the last remaining years of Steph Curry’s prime. The Warriors added two interesting forwards through free agency; Otto Porter Jr and Nmenja Bjelica. Both of these players are shooters who will help add extra spacing for Kerr’s pass, shoot, and move offense.

The Warriors also made two lottery selections this season with Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody. Moody, despite going later, is the more likely to contribute immediately because of his shooting and quick decision-making. Kuminga is a bit farther away from high-level contributions to a team that wants to win like the Warriors.

Did they get better?

Yes.

Playoff team?

Maybe, but Play-in is more likely.

Sacramento Kings

Los Angeles Lakers v Sacramento Kings

Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

Offseason in 5 words: “They are still the Kings.”

The Kings are mostly the same roster as last year but there is a lot of hope that the young players can take major leaps. The big addition of the offseason was 9th overall pick Davion Mitchell, who is one of the oldest players to be taken top 10 in NBA history.

Mitchell is a ready-to-compete player, but he overlaps positionally with De’Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton, and Buddy Hield. Re-signing Richaun Holmes was a big move for the Kings as he is there only above average-defender and is also one of the best offensive centers in the NBA. The Kings also brought in two back-up 5s in Tristan Thompson and Alex Len. Overall, the Kings are still the Kings and they still have a of organizational holes that are tough to fill.

Did they get better?

Eh.

Playoff team?

No.

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