After doing a series on the Eastern Conference, I thought it would be best to decide who the biggest threat would be in the ultimate showdown in the NBA season, the NBA Finals. Once again, assume from here on out that the Milwaukee Bucks make it back to the Finals. Now, the West is a bit more tricky to decipher than the East as to who will come out on top, at least in my opinion, and there is a lot more competition within the conference. That’s how it always has been, and we will wrap things up today with the Pacific Division. This division, in my opinion, might be the best, if not at least most competitive, in basketball.
Can the Kings finally end the playoff drought? Forget about that, we are talking about how they can stop the Bucks in the Finals and be crowned Kings of the NBA! Yeah, that sounds off, but this could be the best team they have had since the Chris Webber days. De’Aaron Fox should become an All-Star, and having someone else join him in that game will be good. My bet would be on Harrison Barnes, as he is the most experienced King and is an NBA champion and Olympian.
I’m not sure why they keep not trading Buddy Hield, but he needs to fire on all cylinders this season too. Marvin Bagley III needs to finally grow up and be productive. Tyrese Haliburton building upon his great rookie season will be great, as well as rookie and NCAA Champion Davion Mitchell following in his footsteps. Richaun Holmes also needs to build upon his success from last season, and Tristan Thompson needs to show us why he’s not just a random Sacramento signing. The rest of them team is much less interesting, but role players like Terence Davis, Maurice Harkless and Alex Len need to be productive too.
I’m not saying this team will end the playoff drought, I thought that might have happened in DeMarcus Cousins’ prime, but they do have as good of a chance as any before them. They actually were competitive last season, and now they only look better than they did last year. They won’t beat the Bucks since most of this won’t happen as planned, but they should contend until at least March.
My Odds: 150 to 1
If Kawhi Leonard comes back in February at the latest, this team’s chances go up much further. Yes, I know they stopped Utah last season without him and took two from Phoenix, but I’m not even sure if they can make the playoffs without him. But, let’s assume they do. Having Paul George also play like an MVP-runner-up-runner-up like he did a few years ago is vital regardless. Reggie Jackson playing like he did in the postseason will be needed, and Serge Ibaka coming back strong will be helpful too. Nicolas Batum’s renaissance is needed to continue, and maybe they can find one for Eric Bledsoe. Is he an upgrade over Patrick Beverley?
Role players like Luke Kennard, Terance Mann, Ivica Zubac and Justise Winslow all provide valuable depth, and will be needed to be productive as well. Solid contributions from a rookie, Keon Johnson, Brandon Boston Jr. or Jason Preston, will be required too.
Honestly, with Kawhi, I was probably most scared of the Clippers in the West last season, just because of ghosts of playoff’s past. But, with his injury history, the fact that they have Eric Bledsoe (we remember him in Milwaukee…), and a lot of old players just doesn’t really scare me as much. They might not even make the playoffs in the deep Western Conference.
My Odds with Kawhi: 2 to 1
My Odds without Kawhi: 20 to 1
This assumes Klay Thompson becomes Klay Thompson again. Stephen Curry had a great season last year and will need to continue to do that. Draymond Green needs to score a bit more, and Andrew Wiggins needs to be available to play the whole season and be a better version of Harrison Barnes. James Wiseman is also currently injured, but he looked like he could be productive last season.
I think the two year playoff drought really helped Golden State acquire depth, and they realistically go 14-15 deep. They have veterans Andre Iguodala, Otto Porter Jr., Avery Bradley, Nemanja Bjelica, and holdover Kevon Looney on the bench, as well as young players Jordan Poole, Damion Lee and Juan Toscano-Anderson and finally rookies Moses Moody and Jonathan Kuminga. All of them have the ability to be productive players, and can do damage on any given night.
The depth is there to withstand injuries and nights off, and is there to manage a step back from Klay Thompson. I’m not saying they are favorites again, but a return to the Finals is not out of the question by any means if Klay, Curry and the rest are healthy. This team definitely can stop the Bucks.
My Odds: 5 to 1
Phoenix made the Finals last year, and I don’t think they have to do too much else. Note I did not feature them in the cover photo, because I don’t think they have a good chance of returning to the Finals. But this is more so about stopping the Bucks. Adding JaVale McGee, Elfrid Payton and Landry Shamet to the roster will help them overcome the loss of Dario Saric to his injury, and second year player Jalen Smith can possibly fill in for him. Steps forward from DeAndre Ayton, Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson are very likely, and should offset any major stepback potential from CP3. The biggest question here is, will they be more motivated or take a step back?
My Odds: 3 to 1
The Lakers are the favorites by many to be NBA Champions, and if I’m not mistaken, they have better odds than the Bucks. Having LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook, who arguably were all the best player at their position at one point or even currently in their careers, is a huge reason why. AD and Russ might be LeBron’s best star duo ever, but how long can he really keep this up?
The Lakers also have many big name veterans like Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard and Rajon Rondo, along with others like Trevor Ariza, DeAndre Jordan and Wayne Ellington. Young players like Malik Monk, Talen Horton-Tucker and Kendrick Nunn should help take some pressure off of the old man knees on this team, and the age really is the biggest concern here, including and especially for LeBron. If age was not a factor, they would have a better team than the Bucks. But age is a factor, and not everyone here will be immune, so I have to say the odds are about even.
My Odds: Even
As you can see, this division is stacked, and very dangerous. I don’t believe in the Lakers like everyone else seems to, but when you add in Phoenix, Golden State and the Clippers, this division is loaded. The Kings are also probably the best worst team in any division.