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2016-17 Season Preview: Pacific Division

Scott Howard-Cooper

Scott Howard-Cooper NBA.com

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Oct 12, 2016 1:01 PM ET

The Pacific Division is where everything and nothing changes. It's where the Golden State Warriors can remain clear favorites to finish first yet also the unknown of a new lineup. Where the LA Clippers can enter another season with reason to think and also know what first-round elimination feels like. And where the Sacramento, Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers can still be making a steep climb.

DIVISION PREDICTION

  1. Golden State Warriors
     
  2. LA Clippers
     
  3. Sacramento Kings
     
  4. Phoenix Suns
     
  5. Los Angeles Lakers

Team On The Rise

Los Angeles Lakers -- There aren’t many options in the Pacific -- either the Lakers or Suns -- and Los Angeles has a long way to go before rising just to playoff level. But at least it has prospects or proof at four positions and one of the promising young coaches of the league.

Team On The Decline

Sacramento Kings -- The Warriors and Clippers aren’t going away, and the Suns and Lakers have already gone down, which leaves the team that may have two current starters, DeMarcus Cousins and Willie Cauley-Stein, in the same role in a year.

Top Player

Stephen Curry -- While there is an argument whether he is even the best player on his own team, Curry has the slimmest of edges over Kevin Durant because Curry has the additional impact of controlling the pace of the flammable Warriors offense as the point guard.

Player On The Rise

Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns -- While established players, All-Stars even, like Draymond Green and Cousins are still making significant strides, Booker fits as the emerging prospect headed in the right direction after an All-Rookie selection with the Suns.

Top Coach

Steve Kerr, Golden State Warriors -- Now all he has to do is win 74 games in the regular season and 16 more in the playoffs.

Coach On The Hot Seat

Doc Rivers, LA Clippers -- Not because president of basketball operations Doc Rivers is about to make a move on coach Doc Rivers, but the Clippers need to get big results out of that high-priced roster at some point, right?

Top Rookie

Brandon Ingram, Los Angeles Lakers -- Though needing to get stronger as his career develops, the No. 2 pick could play a lot right away for the Lakers and potentially score in transition and create his own shots in the halfcourt.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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