With summer having drawn to a close, various trades and signings have shaken up the NBA landscape. In anticipation of the 2016-2017 season, here are some of the highlights of the offseason in the Pacific Division.
Warriors Upgrade to Death Star Lineup: There’s not really much to it. Take a team who won a record 73 games, made the Finals and, depending on who you ask, were one more win and one less suspension away from consecutive championships. Now take their acclaimed “Death Lineup”, made of All-Stars, the best backcourt in the NBA and a Finals MVP, and replace its weakest link with Kevin Durant, a top-five player in the NBA. What you get is a terrifying offensive machine headed by coach Steve Kerr that, despite a suspect bench, corners the market on championship bets this upcoming season.
Lakers Relying on Youth Movement for the First Time in a While: After 20 years, NBA legend and Lakers mainstay Kobe Bryant has finally retired. While this leaves a huge hole in the hearts of Lakers fans everywhere (as well as most of China), it also gives Los Angeles an opportunity to finally rebuild through the draft. They have a strong core in the trio of D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram, and with Jordan Clarkson and veteran Lou Williams providing a spark off the bench, the City of Angels is bound to produce some exciting basketball, which will probably make up for their lack of victories.
Clippers Recovered and Ready to Take the West: After Blake Griffin missed a large chunk of games with injuries and a suspension due to a scuffle with a staff member, he is ready to help take the “other” Los Angeles basketball team to the top of the West. With Chris Paul still functioning as one of the league’s best point guards and DeAndre Jordan as the quintessential big man around the basket, the Clippers remain the biggest threat to the Golden State Warriors. With seasoned coach Doc Rivers at the helm and a perennial Sixth Man of the Year contender in Jamal Crawford, provided Los Angeles can finally avoid the injury bug or any other misfortune this year, look for the Clips to give the Dubs a run for their money.
Suns Looking to Backcourt to Take Charge: Though Phoenix has talented young big men such as Dragan Bender, Alex Len and Marquesse Chriss, its future lies mostly on the shoulders of their guard corps. Eric Bledsoe continues to lead this team at the point guard spot, while 19-year-old Devin Booker looks to build on his strong rookie season and provide buckets galore for the Suns. Off the bench, Brandon Knight will help anchor a less than promising second unit, and young guns like Tyler Ulis and Archie Goodwin (it’s finally his year!) look to be mentored by veteran Leandro Barbosa and contribute to Phoenix’s hope to rise up out of the ashes and through the standings.
Can Cousins Carry Kings Out of the Cellar?: For 6 years, DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins has grown into the role of one of the best big men in the league; with his athleticism, strength and ability in the post, there’s not much you can do when Boogie’s bullying you down low. Despite his difficult temperament, he remains the Kings’ only and best hope.