Kia Season Preview 2017-18

2017-18 Season Preview: Pacific Division

Scott Howard-Cooper

More than the Pacific Division belongs to the Warriors, of course. The Western Conference does. The entire league does, for the second time in three years. The new season begins the same way the last one ended, with everyone chasing Golden State, such a favorite for the division title and so obviously looking beyond winning California and Arizona that a owning the Pacific is a starting point, not an accomplishment.

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DIVISION PREDICTION

1. Golden State Warriors

2. LA Clippers

3. Sacramento Kings

4. Los Angeles Lakers

5. Phoenix Suns

Team(s) On The Rise

Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns A three-way tie is fair when all three have a bright future with a foundation of a young roster.

Team On The Decline

LA Clippers — It won’t be a major decline from 51 wins and it won’t be a fall out of second place, but being pressured to deal Chris Paul will hurt.

Top Player(s)

Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors — Or Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry. They’re that hard to separate.

Player On The Rise

Julius Randle, Los Angeles Lakers — His numbers jumped in 2016-17, essentially Randle’s second season, to where averaging a double-double and shooting 50 percent is realistic in 2017-18.

Top Coach

Steve Kerr, Golden State Warriors — Manages the strategy, handles the personalities, deals with the expectations.

Coach On The Hot Seat

Doc Rivers, LA Clippers — Expectations have changed with the departure of Chris Paul, but the Clippers still need to remain a factor in the West.

Top Rookie

Lonzo Ball, Los Angeles Lakers — Having the basketball IQ of a veteran and several receiving targets gives the Lakers’ pass-first point guard a slight edge over Josh Jackson (Phoenix) and De’Aaron Fox (Sacramento).

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

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