The summer of 2017 brought many changes to the NBA landscape.
The OKC Thunder acquired Paul George and Carmelo Anthony for a penny, the Houston Rockets formulated, arguably, the greatest back-court in the NBA by trading for Chris Paul to fit alongside James Harden. The Minnesota Timberwolves got better with the acquisitions of Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague. In regards to competition and tough playing fields, the West has never been so loaded.
Yet, at the same time, it's also never been so predictable.
Because even in the wild, wild West, there's one team that stands tall against the rest: The Golden State Warriors.
Never before has the league been so captivated by an assembly of stars. Steph Curry , Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, they reign supreme on the NBA landscape in a way nobody has really ever witnessed before.
And in the wake of the Warriors' dominance lies the rest of the Pacific Division, who are all trying to revive their devastated franchises. The Lakers, Kings, Suns, and Clippers are all in the midst of their own rebuilds, having no means to challenge their rivals in Oakland.
The Suns don't have very many things going for them. Brandon Knight is out with injury, Eric Bledsoe lacks the star-power they desire, and the organization is missing a spark.
This upcoming season won't provide very much to look forward to, and the direction of the entire team is a huge question mark. But all things considered, the Suns have hope, and it resides in Devin Booker.
When the 6'6" shooting guard got drafted by the Suns in 2015, nobody really saw him as a future superstar.
But with only two years of pro-basketball under his belt, he's proven pretty much everyone wrong. Averaging 22 points per game at 20 years old (with a 70 point game to add with it), Booker is proving to be one of the most promising young superstars of this era.
If Phoenix continues to fail at surround him with better talent, however, he could ditch town the first chance he gets.
So while the Suns do have a promising player to build around, their future is still very unclear. Since the days of Steve Nash, there hasn't been a buzz in the city of Phoenix, making the team a shell of its former self. Only with Booker can they ever hope to bring that buzz back. But will he stay long enough to see it through?
| Record: 18-64 |
| Position: 14th in West|
| Future: Devin Booker |
Biggest Concern: Will they get more help?
Will the Kings ever get it right?
They gave DeMarcus Cousins away for practically nothing, continuously draft mediocre prospects, and make front-office decisions that will make anyone scratch their head. To be blunt, the Sacramento Kings may be one of the worst organizations in basketball.
This year, they don't look very threatening either, even after the acquisitions of Zach Randolph and George Hill. This season will be all about trying improve the repuation of the franchise, while waiting to see which of their youngsters will blossom first.
Buddy Hield, De'Aaron Fox and Willie Cauley-Stein are the keys to Sacramento's future. If any one of those guys develop into something special, the Kings may just turn things around.
But for things to truly change for this franchise, they'll have to prove they can make the right decisions. Even without battling for a playoff spot, this team can have a good season if the atmosphere and attitude of the guys at the top start changing for the better.
| Record: 27-55 |
| Position: 12th in West|
| Future: Optimistic |
Biggest Concern: Can they fix their culture?
Los Angeles Lakers
For 20 years, the Lakers' relevancy in the West coincided with Kobe's greatness. They never had to think about where they'd land in the standings because Kobe determined that for them.. and he rarely let them down.
Now in an era without Kobe, the Lakers will have to learn how to survive without him. So far this new period in Los Angeles has been rough, losing a combined 237 games in the last four years.
Coming in to the 2017-18 season though, things seem to finally be turning around. Brandon Ingram's shot and confidence is much improved, Julius Randle continues to be the dog of the squad, fighting for every rebound while muscling his way in the paint, Lonzo Ball brings the hype, optimism, and skill set folks haven't seen in years, and the culture/feeling in the locker room is at an all-time high.
Positive vibes are taking over Los Angeles, as StubHub proved when they announced that the Lake-show was the highest selling ticket of the new season.
While LAL will be on the outside of the playoff bracket again, their resurgence is just around the corner. And if this upcoming season is any indication of what they will be like, the whole world should keep a very close eye on them.
Either way, hope and optimism will keep the Lakers' season alive, no matter how the team performs on the court.
| Record: 30-52 |
| Position: 11th in West|
| Future: Intense |
Biggest Concern: Who's their next star?
Los Angeles Clippers
Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan had themselves a nice run in L.A.
Together, the three stars dominated the Western Conference regular season in fantastic displays of brilliance. In the post-season, however, things never materialized. Time and time again, something would get in the Clippers' way. Finally, Chris Paul had enough, and darted to Houston to give it a shot with James Harden.
The 2017-18 season brings a lot of changes to this Clipper team, but can it change their misfortune?
That is, perhaps, one of the biggest story lines of the year. If this Clips team can surpass expectations for a change, it'll go a long way into reinventing this basketball club.
Regardless, it will be on Blake Griffin's shoulders to do it. He chose to stay in Los Angeles and, therefore, chose to be the one to lead it to glory. If he can stay healthy and keep himself in the MVP conversation, the Clippers will be much better off.
Obviously though, that's much easier said than done.
| Record: 40-42 |
| Position: 8th in West|
| Future: In Doubt |
Biggest Concern: How far can Blake Griffin take them?
Golden State Warriors
How is it that the reigning Champions, with four All-Stars already on the team, got better this summer?
How is it that the Warriors keep finding room for all of these quality stars?
When you talk about the NBA today, the Warriors are probably some of the first images to come to mind. It's their show, their stage, their world, and life has never been so good.
The reason so many people admire and adore the Warriors (both fans and stars alike), is because they play in a democracy that allows for everyone to get involved and have fun. Not to mention that being on their side almost guarantees you're on the winning side.
This season will prove challenging to the Dubs, as every team in the West is loading up on stars in an attempt to beat them at their own game. But even with new threats arising every month, Golden State remains the favorites to take home the trophy in June. Love it or hate it, the Warriors have built something that works, and will continue to work for a long, long time.
| Record: 69-13 |
| Position: 1st in West|
| Future: Golden |
Biggest Concern: Is there room to grow?
Pacific Division Overview
In a league dominated by the Warriors, not many teams have a real chance at going all the way this season. In the Pacific Division, not many teams even stand a chance at making the playoffs. Other than Oakland's Golden boys, this division is classified by rebuilding teams trying to find their identity. As a result, guys like Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Devin Booker and Blake Griffin will all have to prove they're the guy that can get their teams out of the bunker.