The Favorite: GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
Yes, the Golden State Warriors. This is not a misprint or a typo. Based on what they were able to do in last season’s playoffs, I honestly believe that the Warriors could have a special season this year. Harrison Barnes, Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry will all be a year older, and most importantly, better. If Andrew Bogut can stay healthy, this team has enough to do some major damage in the playoffs, again. Give them homecourt advantage? You just never know, man.
The Tanker(s): SACRAMENTO KINGS
I’m not going to accuse the Kings of tanking, but this is more by default. Apart from DeMarcus Cousins, I’m not sure what the Kings plan on doing to make this team a contender – or even a playoff threat. They lost Tyreke Evans this past summer – which sent them back a few steps – and they really didn’t add any marque free agent. However, they did add Ben McLemore via the draft, but there are no real high expectations for the rook out of Kansas. This won’t be the worst of seasons for the Kings, but it’s not going to be 2001-02 either.
Division MVP: CHRIS PAUL
Chris Paul is the best player on (arguably) the best team in this division. He’s going to do some real special things, especially now that Doc Rivers will institute an actual offense. Paul wanted Rivers, now he’s got him. I’m excited to see how much different – and more efficient – this offense will be. Also, defense will be better and that’s one of Paul’s strengths. CP3 will get some consideration for overall NBA MVP, but it will be hard for him to actually win it because, well, LeBron James and the fact that he will split votes with Blake Griffin.
The “Real” Division MVP: PAU GASOL
Many people are down on the Los Angeles Lakers, I am too but I don’t think they’re going to be THAT bad. The real reason why I don’t think they won’t be as bad as some people predict? No, not because Kobe Bryant is going to comeback better than ever. He may, but I’m not banking on that. It’ll because of Pau Gasol. Yes, the “soft as silly putty” Gasol. I think he’s going to have an exceptional season – it is his contract year, too. I don’t think he’s going get traded. I think he’ll play this season out and he’ll impress the heck out of people. He’ll be set up for one more “big-ish” paycheck after this season, which probably won’t be from the Lakers. Gasol will keep the Lakers afloat until Kobe returns to Black Mamba form.
Team To Watch: LOS ANGELES LAKERS
Like I said, I don’t think the Lakers will be as bad as everyone thinks they’ll be. It’s crazy to say that the Lakers could be the “darkhorse” of this division, but it’s exactly what they’re going to be. We have no idea how Kobe is going to look – coming off the injury – and there’s just not much left on the roster apart from him. Well, there’s Gasol, but there’s just not much faith in him to carry a team anymore. If Kobe’s return delays past the season opener, it’ll be interesting to see how Gasol reacts. When was the last time he was asked to be a team’s No. 1 option? Interesting.
Player To Watch: ERIC BLEDSOE
Eric Bledsoe was just stuck on the bench during his time with the Clippers. But now that he finally has “freedom”, it’s his chance to star. And I believe he will sooner rather than later. He’s going to play the “shooting guard” position in Phoenix, but he’s more of a combo guard – he’ll be better when he has the opportunity to create. Bledsoe will “technically” be sharing a backcourt with Goran Dragic, but by the time the season’s over it’ll be his alone (no offense to Dragic). If he’s not currently the best player on the Suns roster, he will be by the end of the season.
SCIC’s Division Champ: Los Angeles Clippers
Even though the Golden State Warriors are going to be the favorites (in my opinion), I still believe that somehow, someway the Clippers will win this division. On paper, they have the best talent in, maybe, the entire league — that’s been the case for a few years now. With Doc Rivers coming aboard, I don’t think he’ll let that go to waste.