My division by division preview of the 2023 NBA season ends with the Pacific, perhaps the most loaded group in the NBA.
Golden State Warriors
Additions: Donte DiVincenzo, JaMychal Green, Patrick Baldwin Jr. (28th Pick in 2022 Draft) Ryan Rollins (44th Pick in 2022 Draft), Lester Quinones
Subtractions: Otto Porter, Gary Payton II, Juan Toscano-Anderson, Damion Lee, Nemanja Bjelica, Chris Chiozza
Other: James Wiseman will return after missing all of 2022
Outlook: The defending champions are sitting pretty entering 2023. Sure, a couple key playoff rotation pieces in Otto Porter and Gary Payton II left. And yes, a bunch of other veteran regular season depth is gone as well. But the core is still there, and considering how much time Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green missed due to injury last year, and there’s a solid chance the Warriors will be better this year. That’s not even counting internal improvement from their young guys like high-powered bench scorer Jordan Poole, athletic forward Jonathan Kuminga, steady guard Moses Moody, and the enigmatic James Wiseman. None of those guys is good enough (yet) to be a true bridge to a post-Curry era, but they could be very good supplements now (Poole already is). The Warriors have championship equity and will be a threat to win 60 games with good health.
Additions: Damion Lee, Josh Okogie, Jock Landale, Duane Washington Jr.
Subtractions: JaVale McGee, Elfrid Payton, Aaron Holiday, Frank Kaminsky
Other: Re-Signed DeAndre Ayton to a 4 year, $133M dea
Outlook: The Suns are more or less running back their 2022 squad that went 64-18 and then flamed out in the second round of the playoffs in spectacular fashion. While their postseason abilities may or may not have been exposed, there’s no real reason to think that their regular season success was fluky. Yes, Chris Paul is their best player, and he’s both ancient and historically injury-prone. Yet nearly every other key player on the roster is somewhere in their early to mid-20s with a chance to improve their game for this season. The Suns probably won’t win 60 games again, as doing so in back-to-back seasons is very unlikely, but they have a method of regular season success, a lot of top-end talent, and should be hungry to avenge last season. I am wary of their contention chances with Paul heading to his late 30s, but 55 wins is in the cards.
Los Angeles Clippers
Additions: John Wall, Moussa Diabate (43rd Pick in 2022 Draft)
Subtractions: Isaiah Hartenstein, Rodney Hood
Other: Kawhi Leonard is returning after missing all of 2022
Outlook: The Clippers are bringing back nearly the entirely same roster as last season, but things will look completely different. Kawhi Leonard will play in games, Paul George will hopefully play in more than half the season, and Norm Powell will be integrated into the team. The Clippers might have the best depth in the league, and are coached by one of the best in the NBA in Ty Lue. However, their regular season record might not be as stellar as those statements might make you think – Leonard will presumably be on a rest and load management plan, and it wouldn’t be shocking if other Clips vets were as well. The Clippers are going to be all about getting to the playoffs healthy, not winning 60 games, so despite their depth, I don’t think they’ll be top of the conference. But, if they do reach the postseason healthy, they’re a clear contender to win it all.
Los Angeles Lakers
Additions: Patrick Beverley, Thomas Bryant, Damian Jones, Lonnie Walker, Troy Brown Jr., Juan Toscano-Anderson, Max Christie (35th pick of 2022 Draft), Cole Swider, Scotty Pippen Jr.
Subtractions: Talen Horton-Tucker, Stanley Johnson, Dwight Howard, Avery Bradley, Wayne Ellington, Carmelo Anthony, Trevor Ariza, Kent Bazemore, D.J. Augustin
Other: Hired Darvin Ham as head coach
Outlook: The Lakers have two All-NBA level players in LeBron James and Anthony Davis, a strong complementary starter in Beverley, and question marks. Russell Westbrook is still on the team – will he ever adapt his game to adjust to his declining athleticism and the presence of other stars? Can Thomas Bryant stay healthy and regain his form of a couple years ago? Can Lonnie Walker make the leap from flashy plays to positive impact for a good team? I tend to be skeptical on all of them, with Bryant being my most optimistic. The Lakers’ depth is better and younger than last season, but it’s still pretty bad, and the entire roster lack shooting. If Ham is able to get Russ to buy in, AD and Bron stay healthy, and a couple of the young guys break out, the Lakers could be pretty good. Odds are that despite their talent, age, injuries, and lack of depth will have them in mediocrity once more.
Additions: Keegan Murray (4th pick, 2022 Draft), Kevin Huerter, Malik Monk, KZ Okpala, Matthew Dellavedova, Sam Merrill, Keon Ellis, Chima Moneke
Subtractions: Justin Holiday, Mo Harkless, Donte DiVincenzo, Jeremy Lamb, Damian Jones, Jahmi’us Ramsey, Josh Jackson
Other: Hired Mike Brown as head coach, replacing interim Alvin Gentry
Outlook: De’Aaron Fox-Kevin Huerter-Harrison Barnes-Keegan Murray-Domantas Sabonis is a pretty competent and well-fitting starting unit anchored by a multi-time All Star in Sabonis. Why do I only have the Kings improving by three games and sitting in the lottery once more? Well, I don’t think their roster is terrible, but it is simply not as strong as most others in the West. Sabonis is good, but he’s a fringe All-Star player, and Fox’s best season has been around that level too. Combine less than All-NBA top talent with a shaky bench and you get a team that might sniff around the play-in if things break right, but more than likely will be high in the draft once more in 2023.