Recently the Pacific division has been a complete dominance displayed by the Golden State Warriors. They have won the last four division titles and three of the last four NBA titles. Their arch nemesis LeBron James is now in the division with the Los Angeles Lakers, so instead of playing James twice in the regular season, they’ll now play him four times. This has been an extremely top heavy division and that will more than likely continue once again. James vs Golden State! I can’t wait.
Golden State Warriors
Last Season Record: 58-24, #2 Seed
Projected Season Record: 63-19
The reason why this division is so top heavy is right here, the Golden State Warriors. I am pro “Super Teams” so I am a little bit upset that this could be the last season of this juggernaut. After this season Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins contracts are all up as they are free agents. There is already speculation on where each player will be going and who is going to be staying with the Warriors. The one constant is Stephen Curry isn’t going anywhere. He’s in the Bay to stay. After back to back NBA Finals Most Valuable Player awards, Kevin Durant has gotten his point across that he is arguably the most talented offensive player in the league. The only question now is whether or not Durant will send another dagger through the hearts of his opponents this season. For the last four years since Draymond Green has started for the Warriors, last season was the only season in which he did not land on the All-NBA First Team All Defense. Knowing Green, that’s not going to sit too well with him. Klay Thompson set career highs in field goal percentage (48.8%) and three point percentage (44.0%) last season. He’s still one of the most underrated players in the league in my opinion. DeMarcus Cousins signed a one year deal with the Warriors to prove to the league and to himself that he can come back strong off of a devastating Achilles injury. He has been “ramping up” his conditioning, but they are still taking it week-by-week. I wouldn’t expect a Cousins sighting for quite awhile. Stephen Curry remains the best shooter in the league. In his last two preseason games, Curry has looked in mid-season form. He had back to back games where he’s scored 23 points while shooting 56% from the field, 45% from three and made all 13 of his free throws. Those are the five big guns! Unfortunately from a fantasy perspective it’s extremely difficult to narrow down the best play every single night.
Los Angeles Clippers
Last Season Record: 42-40
Projected Season Record: 38-44
After not bringing back the last member of Lob City with DeAndre Jordan, the Los Angeles Clippers will look to Marcin Gortat to be their man in the middle… yikes. In the middle of last season the Clippers sent Blake Griffin to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley and Boban Marjanovic. Now with Jordan out of town it’s going to be very interesting how this Clippers team does on the glass. Jordan averaged over 13.0 rebounds per game in each of his last five seasons as he finished either in first or second in rebounds in the entire league with the Clippers. A drastic change going from Jordan to Marcin Gortat who has only averaged double digit rebounds twice in 11 seasons. Once Blake Griffin left town, Lou Williams led the team in usage with 30.3% and 22.7 points per game. Despite only starting 19 games last season, Williams recorded career highs in minutes per game (32.8), points per game (22.6) and assists per game (5.3). The 13-year veteran combo guard will unlikely start this year, but that won’t stop him from filling up the box score. Tobias Harris looks like he’s going to have free rain when it comes down to the starting unit. Last season in 32 games with the Clippers, Harris set career highs in field goal attempts per game (16.0) and points per game (19.3). In their first three preseason games, Harris averaged 20.3 points per game, 8.3 rebounds per game while shooting 51.2% from the field and 50% from the three points line. He’ll be a frequent target of mine especially early on in the season. If Boban Marjanovic ever got valuable minutes in the regular season he is going to be a fantasy monster. In back to back games, Marjanovic posted double double’s of 14 points, 12 rebounds and 18 points, 12 rebounds. He did this playing 15 and 17 minutes! He may be able to help them with their rebounding woes. Honestly how can you not play him?! He can dunk while standing on the ground!
Los Angeles Lakers
Last Season Record: 35-47
Projected Season Record: 49-33
The largest gap in projected season record from last year’s record belongs to the Los Angeles Lakers. I bet you could never guess why that would be. LeBron James! Stumped you with that one. LeBron James has officially gone west to join the Los Angeles Lakers. He signed a four-year deal so he won’t be going anywhere for awhile. Pairing the best player in the league with a very good young core will be fun to watch them progress as a team this season. Not only did James come on board, but Lance Stephenson, Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee and even Michael Beasley also joined the party in L.A. to join the ultimate Meme Team. This is going to be one fun roller-coaster ride all season long. LeBron James is coming off of a year where he played all 82 regular season games for the first time in his 15-year career. He averaged career highs in both rebounds per game (8.6) and assists per game (9.1) last season. James also averaged 27.5 points per game which was his highest total since the 2009-10 season. It’s amazing at the age of 33 that he had arguably his best regular season in his career. He’s like wine, he gets better with age. Rajon Rondo will be playing with his sixth team in the last five years. Playoff Rondo is 100% a thing as we saw last year once again. Rondo increased his points per game by 2.0, assists per game by 4.0 and his rebounds per game by 2.8 in the playoffs compared to the regular season. He has won the starting job over Lonzo Ball and will be a legit triple double threat every time he takes the floor as the Lakers are young and love to run. In the preseason, the Lakers currently rank second in the league in pace. That’s going to benefit everyone on the team and their fantasy expectations for this season. Besides James, my next favorite player to target this season will be Kyle Kuzma. The rookie led all returning Lakers players in usage rate (22.5%), points per game (16.1) and rebounds per game (6.1).
Last Season Record: 21-61
Projected Season Record: 30-52
It’s not often that you see a General Manager fired nine days prior to the start of the season. That’s exactly what went down in Phoenix when Ryan McDonough was fired and James Jones former 3x NBA Champion was signed to be the Interim General Manager. The Suns felt that five years was enough of McDonough as he only produced one winning record and zero playoff appearances. The Suns have had so many draft picks, but have yet to have a break through with any success. They currently have the youngest roster in the NBA with an average age of 24.12. The Suns have not had a player reach the All-Star game since 2011-12 when Steve Nash was voted in. Devin Booker is awfully close though! Booker is coming off of a career season where he recorded career highs in every major statistic. He finished 10th in the league in scoring with 24.9 points per game and is becoming one of the best scoring wings that the league has to offer. Unfortunately for Booker he had to undergo hand surgery in the off-season on his shooting hand. He is still hopeful that he can be ready for the season opener, but it’s definitely a situation worth monitoring especially since it was his shooting hand. First overall pick Deandre Ayton has looked every bit the part in the preseason. In his first four preseason games Ayton averaged 20.5 points per game, 11.3 rebounds per game and 2.5 blocks per game while shooting 60.4% from the field. Pace is going to be extremely interesting with the Phoenix Suns this season. Over the last four years they have ranked in the top four in pace. However, in the preseason thus far with Ayton the Suns have had the slowest pace in the entire league! Pace and bad defense has been what the Suns are known for. The past two seasons the Suns have ranked last in points allowed with back to back seasons allowing 113.3 points per game. They should be fantasy friendly once again, but we’ll definitely need to monitor their pace.
Last Season Record: 27-55
Projected Season Record: 26-56
The Sacramento Kings have been the whipping boy of the entire league for the last 12 seasons. They have had a losing record for 12 straight seasons which has resulted in drafting towards the top of the NBA draft. Since 2009 the Kings have had a top 10 pick in every single draft. Unfortunately those top draft picks have yet to make a major difference on the court. Their most recent selection was second overall where they picked Marvin Bagley III from Duke University. Bagley has looked solid in the preseason as he’s averaged 14.2 points per game and 7.8 rebounds per game. However, he is not a big defensive presence so the Kings will once again be a team to target in DFS. They finished 27th in defensive rating last season as they held the third lowest point differential in the league. The worst part is how slow they play! They were last in the league in pace, which is surprising due to their young talented players. So far in the preseason the Kings have had the 11th fastest pace while also having the second worst defensive rating. So they are trending in the right direction for being fantasy friendly. They recently gave up 132 points to the Utah Jazz which forced their media team to censor out the score while they were showing highlights! I love targeting good rebounding players against the Kings who ranked 28th in rebounding differential last season. Similar to the Brooklyn Nets who I covered a few days ago, the Sacramento Kings run a very balanced rotation. Last season no player averaged more than 28.0 minutes per game. Playing that little of minutes limits fantasy production. Last year the team leaders in the main statistics were Zach Randolph (14.5 points per game), Willie Cauley-Stein (7.0 rebounds per game) and De’Aaron Fox (4.4 assists per game). If their pace increases like it is showing in the preseason I expect these numbers to pop a little more, but it’ll be something to monitor early in the season.