Pacific Division preview: Can Warriors' reunion overcome Lakers' aging stars?

The Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry, left, pressures the Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James. (Jae C. Hong/AP)

The NBA is back, and Sportsnet is breaking down everything you need to know about each of the 30 teams in the lead-up to tipoff on Tuesday, Oct. 19.

Today, we look at best- and worst-case scenarios for the Western Conference’s Pacific Division. (Teams are listed in the order in which we believe they’ll finish in the 2021–22 standings.)

Los Angeles Lakers

2020–21 finish: 42-30, third in the Pacific, lost in the first round.

Major additions: Carmelo Anthony, Trevor Ariza, Kent Bazemore, Wayne Ellington, Dwight Howard, DeAndre Jordan, Malik Monk, Kendrick Nunn, Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook.

Major subtractions: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Alex Caruso, Andre Drummond, Marc Gasol, Montrezl Harrell, Kyle Kuzma, Markieff Morris, Dennis Schroder.

Best-case scenario: The Lakers had the splashiest off-season by a wide margin. Even if you don’t look at the names they added, just the sheer turnover with the team is a sight to behold. When you actually look at some of those all-star names joining the team, however, it’s hard not to get excited about them. Yes, they’re old, and there are shooting concerns, but it is still names like Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook joining forces with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Championship expectations are back on the table.

Worst-case scenario: As was mentioned before, this is a team that’s very old and has shooting concerns. The age factor may result in a worse regular season than Los Angeles would’ve liked, not to mention there’s legitimate injury concern with players like Davis, James and Westbrook. As for shooting, while the Lakers seemed to address some of it with the additions of Trevor Ariza and Wayne Ellington but you can never have too much -- especially on a James-led team -- and not fully stockpiling on the most important skill in basketball could hurt the Lakers.

2021–22 season prediction: 52-30, first in the West.

Golden State Warriors

2020–21 finish: 39-43, fourth in the Pacific, lost both play-in games.

Major additions: Andre Iguodala, Jonathan Kuminga (R), Moses Moody (R), Otto Porter Jr.

Major subtractions: Kent Bazemore, Kelly Oubre Jr., Eric Paschall.

Best-case scenario: Watch out NBA because the Warriors are back – sort of.

After a couple of seasons hovering closer to the basement and middle of the league, despite MVP-like performances from Stephen Curry, the Warriors could finally return to the top of the standings as they figure to be back to full strength soon. Klay Thompson is targeting a Christmas return date from his Achilles injury, Andre Iguodala has returned to the Bay area and the Dubs added a solid three-and-D wing in Otto Porter Jr., not to mention have some exciting young talent in rookies Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody.

The band, and then some, seems like it’s back together, and Curry shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. You should expect big things from the Warriors this season.

Worst-case scenario: The worst thing that could’ve happened to the Warriors has, thankfully, been rectified with Andrew Wiggins finally deciding to get vaccinated. Now the only concern will be on the court. Namely, whether Thompson can come back from that Achilles injury and still be his old deadeye-shooting, lockdown-defending self.

If the Dubs want to return to their championship level they’ll need Thompson at that level again.

2021–22 season prediction: 50-32, third in the West.

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) shoots against the Cleveland Cavaliers during the second half of an NBA basketball game. (Jeff Chiu/AP)



Phoenix Suns

2020–21 finish: 51-21, first in the Pacific, lost in the Finals.

Major additions: JaVale McGee, Elfrid Payton, Landry Shamet.

Major subtractions: Torrey Craig, E’Twaun Moore.

Best-case scenario: After coming within two wins of winning it all last season, the Suns essentially brought the band back together to make another run at it, re-signing Chris Paul and the emergent Cameron Payne.

The Suns found success last season because of the smothering defence they played, the on-court leadership of Paul and Devin Booker taking a legitimate superstar turn. None of that should change this season, so expect this team to be right in the thick of things as a legitimate contender again.

Worst-case scenario: The only way things could go off the rails for Phoenix is an injury to one of their star guards, such as what happened with the Paul injury in the post-season. Other than that, this is a rock-solid team without many weaknesses you can point out. However, teams like the Lakers and Warriors might have a higher ceiling than they do.

2021–22 season prediction: 49-33, fourth in the West.

Los Angeles Clippers

2020–21 finish: 47-25, second in the Pacific, lost in the conference final.

Major additions: Eric Bledsoe, Justise Winslow.

Major subtractions: Patrick Beverley, Rajon Rondo.

Best-case scenario: There are a few frustrating variables for the Clippers that are out of their hands and may impact how this season goes.

For one, it’s unclear if Kawhi Leonard will play at all as he recovers from an ACL injury, and Serge Ibaka is also unlikely to begin the season healthy as he deals with a back issue. If these two guys are healthy in time for the post-season, however, everything should be good for the Clippers. A team led by Paul George should be good enough to earn a competitive playoff spot, giving Leonard the chance to then take over in the post-season as we all know he can.

Worst-case scenario: Unfortunately, given how ultra-cautious he is with his body, the more likely scenario for the Clippers is that Leonard does miss the whole season. This isn’t to say that George can’t lead a squad by himself – he proved himself very well in the playoffs when Leonard went down – but if the goal is a championship then that likely isn't happening without Leonard.

2021–22 season prediction: 48-34, fifth in the West.

Los Angeles Clippers' Kawhi Leonard (2) and Paul George (13) celebrate a basket in the closing seconds of Game 3 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks in Dallas, Friday, May 28, 2021. (Tony Gutierrez/AP)



Sacramento Kings

2020–21 finish: 31-41, fifth in the Pacific, didn’t qualify for the post-season.

Major additions: Davion Mitchell (R), Tristan Thompson.

Major subtractions: Delon Wright.

Best-case scenario: Though it didn’t look like it, the Kings were actually pretty competitive last season and the fact they came within two games out of the last play-in spot was proof of some positive momentum this team might have heading into this season. It’ll be difficult to do, but Sacramento has a shot at reaching the play-in tournament and it should look to build towards that.

Worst-case scenario: Unlike other basement-dwelling teams out there, the Kings shouldn’t be looking to play for ping pong balls. They have a legitimate rising star in De’Aaron Fox and other intriguing pieces like Tyrese Haliburton and rookie Davion Mitchell. They need to try all they can to get these kids into meaningful games.

2021–22 season prediction: 35-47, 12th in the West.

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