Pacific Division (Part I)
The NBA season has arrived, with games due to tip off Oct 22nd, on Tuesday. Bovada has released odds of divisional crowns for the 30 NBA teams, and we are going to handicap that aspect as well as take a quick glance at each team as it enters the 2019-20 season. There are no over/under for season wins currently available for betting on Bovada, but we are going to predict season win totals for each team in the brief synopses of each of the six divisions in the NBA, moving here into the NBA’s Pacific Division, with a look at the two Los Angeles teams in Part I.
L.A. Clips (-140)
The Los Angeles Clippers gave the Golden State Warriors a good test in the 2019 playoffs. With the revamp the team underwent over the summer, it is now the favorite, the team the Warriors will hope to give a run to, quite in reverse. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George join the Clippers as a new super duo, and the pair should blend spotlessly with a team that built its identity on tough defense and gutsy play.
Both George and Leonard are among the top defenders at their positions, and that theme runs throughout the Clippers rotation— hard-nosed defenders that are going to make perimeter players work for every take to the bucket, for every shot. While the Clips do lack a great rim protector, few teams are counting on waltzing into the paint area with such staunch perimeter defense, at any rate. The Clips have Pat Beverley and Landry Shamet to man the 1/2 spots alongside George and Leonard at the 3/4, and if this lineup is undersized, it should make up for it with the speed it possesses.
The 5-spot is something of a weakness for the Clippers, but that is to vastly understate the talents of Ivica Zubac and the high-energy electric play of Montrezl Harrell, who could be in contention for a Sixth Man of the Year award if his role remains constant. Maurice Harkless is another strong defender in the second unit, and the timeless Lou Williams will always get his buckets. The Clips are for real finally, and it is the favorite to take the Pacific division crown. Of course, LA’s sites are much more firmly focused on a title in 2020.
L.A. Lakers (+200)
The Los Angeles Lakers did exactly what it wanted to in the offseason: Gutted its team to add Anthony Davis alongside LeBron James in its frontcourt. Then, the Lakers did several confusing things to follow that move, not the least of which is having JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard to play usually alongside Davis, as something of a three-headed center. Davis, you see, does not want to play the center position, which leaves the Lakers in the strange position of basically having to start two bigs to satisfy that request. James, Davis, and whichever center it fills the 5-spot with, will undoubtedly be one of the slowest frontcourts, talents notwithstanding.
The backcourt is also a bit maladapted with Rajon Rondo, Danny Green, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope forming something of a three-guard rotation, with whatever Kyle Kuzma will function as (stretch-4?) mixed in. There might be chemistry issues in L.A., and there is already a real sense this team might not translate to on-court success. James certainly enhances everything around him, but how much is there really to enhance? Davis is a bit of an isolation talent, and his refusal to play the 5-spot handicaps the Lakers more than most are willing to admit. None of that really can be overlooked, despite many really trying to. The Clippers are the big brother this year.