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NBA Pacific Division preview: The three-headed monster that is ready to try bringing the Lakers down

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Roar Guru
21st December, 2020
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LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers secured yet another championship in 2019-20 and with the changes that the Lakers made in the offseason, they are determined to go back-to-back.

The Lakers managed to make major improvements to their championship-winning squad. They traded for Dennis Schroder, signed Marc Gasol, Wesley Matthews and Montrezl Harrell. This is while they let go of Rajon Rondo, Javale McGee, Danny Green, Dwight Howard, Avery Bradley and an injured Demarcus Cousins.

They managed to improve their top-end talent and barring any injury scares, this team looks stronger than last season.

They’ll be hoping to maintain their defensive capabilities from last season. In 2019-20, they were able to field huge line-ups with their big men and it caused plenty of havoc for the opposing teams. Bringing in Gasol and Harrell along with a gritty Matthews should help maintain their strength defensively.

With a better supporting cast surrounding LeBron James and Anthony Davis, you can’t dethrone them as the favourites to defend their title in the West.

Their major rivals the Clippers, however, have plenty of work to redeem a disappointing end to their playoffs run in 2019-20.

The Clippers fell victim to conceding a 3-1 lead in the playoffs against the Denver Nuggets. They were set for a collision that was built up all of last season. Many expected the Western Conference finals to involve the Lakers and the Clippers, but it wasn’t meant to be. Now, Doc Rivers has departed, and the Clippers have retooled their roster to improve from last season.

As mentioned earlier, former Clipper Montrezl Harrell left to join the Lakers and that will certainly add some fuel to the fire in the rivalry.

The Clippers also cut ties with Landry Shamet, Rodney McGruder, Mo Harkless and JaMychal Green. As a result, they were replaced with Luke Kennard, Serge Ibaka, Nicolas Batum and rookie Daniel Oturu.

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There is a lot at stake this season for the Clippers to prove that their investment in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George was worth it. They had the talent as they were a top-five offensive and defensive team. But when it mattered most, they crumbled.

Kawhi Leonard fends off Jae Crowder

Kawhi Leonard. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)

The Pheonix Suns are riding high off a successful bubble showing last season. The Suns were undefeated in the NBA bubble during the COVID-19 lockdowns, going 8-0 in all their games. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough for them to sneak into the playoffs.

But if Suns fans weren’t excited about how they ended last season, there should be plenty of optimism to start the 2020-21 season.

The Suns have established a young core of Devin Booker, DeAndre Ayton, Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson and Dario Saric. But they are positioning themselves to achieve great things in 2020-21.

They’ve had an eventful offseason after bringing in veterans Chris Paul, Jae Crowder, Langston Galloway, E’Twaun Moore and Damion Jones.

Now they have a quality roster with veterans to complement their core and don’t be surprised if this team can have a top-ten offence with Chris Paul running the floor.

Ayton missed a significant portion of the 2019-20 season after he was suspended for drug use and that hampered their playoff chances.

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If they can make strides defensively, there’s no reason why the Pheonix Suns in 2020-21 can’t be the 2019-20 equivalent of the Dallas Mavericks. A young up-and-coming team with first-round upset potential.

Deandre Ayton from the Suns

Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22). (AP Photo/Matt York)

The Sacramento Kings are trying to make a playoff appearance for the first time since 2006. The franchise’s poor decisions and inept management has led them to a long playoff drought.

This team certainly has the talent but there are going to be question marks over the culture and coaching.

Coach Luke Walton was favoured by Sacramento after he did an admirable job with Golden State while Steve Kerr was absent. However, the Kings were below average offensively and defensively last season and at times seemed like they had no direction.

Their roster includes De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Harrison Barnes, Marvin Bagley, Richaun Holmes, Nemanja Bjelica, Jabari Parker, Tyrese Haliburton and Hassan Whiteside. All of the listed players are extremely talented but it’s going to be up to Luke Walton’s coaching staff to maximise their abilities.

Unfortunately, Sacramento have been mediocre for a long time where they haven’t been good enough to make the playoffs but have also made poor draft choices over the years.

The current team is as good a roster they have had in years but whether they can make any waves is yet to be determined. They will most likely be an average team who on their day can certainly shock many teams.

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Los Angeles Clippers guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, left, tries to stop the drive of Sacramento Kings guard De'Aaron Fox during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Friday, March 1, 2019. The Clippers won 116-109. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Sacramento Kings guard De’Aaron Fox. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

The Golden State Warriors and injuries have never gone well together. There was extremely unfortunate news with Klay Thompson having to miss the 2020-21 with a torn right Achilles tendon.

2019-20 was plagued with injuries for Golden State and as a result, they had to write off the season. They will be hoping that things will be different coming up even without Thompson.

All eyes will be on how rookie James Wiseman will perform. As an athletic big man, playing alongside Steph Curry and Draymond Green with their passing ability should definitely open things up for him.

Golden State’s front office did a great job in trying to place a supporting cast around Curry and Green. They have Andrew Wiggins who will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2019-20 season as well as Kelly Oubre Jr, who was great with Pheonix.

One of the positives from last season was that it allowed Golden State to develop multiple young players. It will be intriguing to see how the likes of Eric Paschall, Damion Lee, Jordan Poole and Marquese Chriss performs.

Overall, if the Warriors can stay healthy, they are certainly a playoff team. Without Thompson, it’s a little difficult to see where they are in the Western Conference hierarchy, but the Warriors should not be underestimated.

steph curry drives past a defender

Stephen Curry. (AP Photo/Scott Threlkeld)

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The achievement of LeBron James winning the championship with the Los Angeles Lakers should and will be remembered for many years to come. But that has just placed a massive target on their heads.

We may very well see four teams in this division in the playoffs. There is no doubt that the Clippers, Suns and Warriors are quality teams.

Will they be good enough to take down the Lakers? It will be exciting to see the battles between them.

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