StatFox continues its run of previewing all six NBA divisions in the next six weeks before the regular season tips off on Oct. 29. Next up is the Pacific Division, which the Los Angeles Clippers won by a hefty nine games last season.
Once the NBA season begins, check out NBA Best Bets for all the Expert picks both Against the Spread and Over/Under Totals. StatFox Scott was 57% (130-99-5) in Totals last season (including 58% in playoffs) and 52.4% ATS (122-111-2) on his regular season Best Bets. StatFox Gary was 59.4% (19-13-1) on Totals in the postseason, while StatFox Dave was 53% ATS (10-9) Best Bets for the NBA Playoffs and StatFox Brian was 52.1% ATS (25-23) Best Bets in the postseason.
PACIFIC DIVISIONGOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
2012-13 SU record: 53-41 SU (56.4%), 10th in NBA
2012-13 ATS record: 51-42-1 ATS (54.8%), 8th in NBA
Odds to Win 2013-14 Pacific Division: 5-to-2
Odds to Win 2013-14 Western Conference: 13-to-1
Odds to Win 2013-14 NBA Championship: 25-to-1
STEPHEN CURRY is not only the NBA’s best shooter, but he has also become a great passer. Durability is the only question about him now . . . KLAY THOMPSON should take advantage of the many open looks he’ll get playing alongside Curry and Andre Iguodala . . . The Warriors lost Jarrett Jack and brought in TONEY DOUGLAS. While Douglas got his career on track in Houston last year, he’ll strictly be a second-unit guy as Iguodala erases the need for a second point guard . . . NEMANJA NEDOVIC is looking at a redshirt year, especially after an injury-filled summer. The Serbian combo guard should overtake Douglas eventually . . . There are few things in the world better than KENT BAZEMORE celebrating a Curry three.
ANDRE IGUODALA is a perfect fit in Oakland, where he can play point forward and set up the Warriors’ many shooters. He’s also a crafty cutter who should do some sweet things alongside Stephen Curry . . . DAVID LEE draws attention away from their shooters, which ensures him a significant role. But he kills this team with his awful defense . . . HARRISON BARNES may come off the bench more often, but the Warriors will frequently go small with Barnes stretching to the four, especially after Barnes’ impressive postseason showing . . . MARREESE SPEIGHTS steps into Carl Landry’s role as a low-post scorer off the bench . . . DRAYMOND GREEN had some trouble as a rookie. He’ll have to play his way into this rotation.
ANDREW BOGUT is injury-prone and will continue to be an afterthought on offense. They’ll have to rest him often during the regular season . . . Between Bogut and JERMAINE O’NEAL, they’re hoping at least one of them will be healthy at all times to protect the rim . . . FESTUS EZELI had major knee surgery and is unlikely to return in time for the Feats of Strength or the Airing of Grievances.
StatFox Take: Golden State burst onto the scene in the NBA playoffs last season, where Stephen Curry emerged as an elite talent in this league. In the offseason, the Warriors said goodbye to Jarrett Jack but welcomed in Andre Iguodala who gives them a top-tier talent on the defensive side of the ball as well as a quality finisher and deft passer. Golden State's odds to win the West are quite favorable, making the club a solid wager possessing the pieces to finish at the top of the conference.
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
2012-13 SU record: 58-30 SU (65.9%), 6th in NBA
2012-13 ATS record: 45-42-1 ATS (51.7%), 12th in NBA
Odds to Win 2013-14 Pacific Division: 7-to-25
Odds to Win 2013-14 Western Conference: 4-to-1
Odds to Win 2013-14 NBA Championship: 8-to-1
CHRIS PAUL is back with the Clippers, and this time with his handpicked head coach. Not that Doc Rivers will make a big difference though, as he’s just as uncreative an offensive tactician as Vinny Del Negro was . . . J.J. REDICK will do less ball-handling than he did in Orlando the first half of last season, but he should feast on the wide-open looks Paul creates for him . . . JAMAL CRAWFORD will once again be a Sixth Man of the Year candidate. He’s a pure gunner with some creativity to his game . . . DARREN COLLISON is strictly a back-up after a dreadful one-year stint in Dallas . . . WILLIE GREEN, a starter in name-only last year, may be squeezed out of the rotation.
BLAKE GRIFFIN deferred more often last season, especially as he continues to see more double teams. But he did show improvement as a passer . . . JARED DUDLEY steps into Caron Butler’s old role. He’ll set up for a lot of wide-open corner threes. His reputation as a quality defender is downright wrong . . . MATT BARNES will often close games due to his defense, and he’s coming off one of his best offensive seasons . . . Rookie REGGIE BULLOCK is the kind of spot-up shooter the Clips want to surround Paul with. If Bullock’s defense matches up with his athleticism, he could break this rotation . . . It’s tough to see how BYRON MULLENS fits on a team with postseason aspirations.
Though he’s the team’s only real rim protector, DEANDRE JORDAN will likely be in a part-time role again. He still can’t defend the pick-and-roll, and Rivers got by just fine without a shot-blocker in Boston . . . RYAN HOLLINS is little more than a big body with six fouls to give. Blake Griffin will often slide to the five on this team.
StatFox Take: The Clippers suffered another disappointing exit in the playoffs last season at the hands of the Grizzlies. In the offseason they moved Eric Bledsoe and got back two players ready to contribute in J.J Redick and Jared Dudley. They also hired Doc Rivers who was extremely unhappy in Boston after they decided to rebuild. If Chris Paul can stay healthy, he now has the pieces around him to compete for both a top seed in the West and an NBA Championship. A lot of that will also rest on the shoulders of Blake Griffin, who must show he has improved his all-around game. For a franchise with so little past success, the odds are way too low to get excited about wagering on this club.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS
2012-13 SU record: 45-41 SU (52.3%), 14th in NBA
2012-13 ATS record: 34-51-1 ATS (40.0%), T-28th in NBA
Odds to Win 2013-14 Pacific Division: 40-to-1
Odds to Win 2013-14 Western Conference: 35-to-1
Odds to Win 2013-14 NBA Championship: 75-to-1
KOBE BRYANT is 35 and coming off a ruptured Achilles. Even if he is ready for the season opener (as expected), Achilles injuries have drained the athleticism out of younger men . . . STEVE NASH enters the year healthy, but the training staff has discussed a minutes cap for the 39-year-old point guard . . . NICK YOUNG could grab that other starting wing spot, opposite his boyhood idol. How those two gunners could co-exist is something we’d love to see . . . STEVE BLAKE looked good in this offense last season, but is strictly a back-up . . . JODIE MEEKS might shoot his way into a much bigger role this season . . . XAVIER HENRY will need to prove a lot to earn himself minutes . . . What are you complaining about, Lakers fans? You got JORDAN FARMAR back!
PAU GASOL should benefit from the departure of Dwight Howard, who never bought into head coach Mike D’Antoni’s offense or even tried to mesh with Gasol. D’Antoni’s up-tempo, Euro-style system is perfectly suited to Gasol’s strengths. And when Nash sits, they can run a lot of sets through their big man . . . WESLEY JOHNSON will have a chance to grab the vacant small forward spot. The former No. 4 overall pick has been a big disappointment through three seasons, but he looked decent as a spot-up shooter last seasons . . . JORDAN HILL will be the first big man off the bench in a thin frontcourt rotation. He can rebound and clean up around the basket a bit . . . ELIAS HARRIS keeps the Gonzaga connection going . . . SHAWNE WILLIAMS has had success for D’Antoni, but he is far removed from his days contributing for the Knicks.
CHRIS KAMAN is the consolation prize after Dwight Howard’s departure. Yes, it’s a monstrous downgrade talent-wise, but as a skilled 7-footer, Kaman at least fits D’Antoni’s system better . . . ROBERT SACRE has a chance to develop into a useful back-up center.
StatFox Take: The Lakers lost Dwight Howard in the offseason and signed a bunch of players just to fill the roster as they attempt to open up cap space. Nick Young is going to step in and score from the wing, while Chris Kaman will slide next to Pau Gasol in the starting lineup. The Lakers will be a competitive team this season in nearly every game, but Kobe Bryant’s recovery from a torn Achilles will prevent them from making any serious noise in the Western Conference standings. Despite the tantalizingly long odds, they are nowhere near talented enough to make a run at a championship even if they somehow sneak into the playoffs.
2012-13 SU record: 25-57 SU (30.5%), 27th in NBA
2012-13 ATS record: 32-48-2 ATS (40.0%), T-28th in NBA
Odds to Win 2013-14 Pacific Division: 500-to-1
Odds to Win 2013-14 Western Conference: 250-to-1
Odds to Win 2013-14 NBA Championship: 500-to-1
ERIC BLEDSOE immediately becomes the Suns’ best player. He dominated for stretches while backing up Chris Paul . . . GORAN DRAGIC and Bledsoe will play together since they’re the two best players on this team. Dragic also has enough size to match up with most twos . . . After a disappointing stint as a starter, SHANNON BROWN will return to the second unit . . . KENDALL MARSHALL doesn’t fit new coach Jeff Hornacek’s up-tempo style. The Suns will move him if they can . . . ARCHIE GOODWIN looked lost at times at Kentucky, but his ability to get to the line bodes well for his NBA future . . . GERALD GREEN is the kind of athlete who could make an impact on an up-tempo second unit . . . MALCOLM LEE is here in case Marshall is dealt.
MARKIEFF MORRIS has some upside as a skilled stretch four. He’s shown flashes over his first two seasons, and playing in Honracek’s up-tempo system should only help him take the next step forward . . . MARCUS MORRIS is still a man without a position, a tweener in a bad way. The Suns will try to make him into an effective second-unit guy . . . CHANNING FRYE missed all of last season with a heart ailment, and the Suns don’t seem to be expecting to get anything from him this season.
MARCIN GORTAT will keep the seat warm for Alex Len. He doesn’t fit this up-and-down offense . . . ALEX LEN must become more assertive and the bust factor is high, but 7-footers with his mobility and touch don’t come around often . . . MILES PLUMLEE could get minutes as a defensive specialist after making just 5-of-21 FG as a rookie.
StatFox Take: The Suns made a big move acquiring the highly-coveted Eric Bledsoe, but they are still nowhere near competing in the West. Their two best players are ball-dominant guards and they lack a true scoring presence. Alex Len is their long-term project who won’t contribute much to this team immediately, and Marcin Gortat is good, but will be seen more as a trade commodity than a true talent to build a franchise around. The Suns are lottery bound this year and aren’t a good pick to win anything, as evidenced by their 500-to-1 odds to win the division.
2012-13 SU record: 28-54 SU (34.1%), 25th in NBA
2012-13 ATS record: 38-42-2 ATS (47.5%), T-21st in NBA
Odds to Win 2013-14 Pacific Division: 75-to-1
Odds to Win 2013-14 Western Conference: 90-to-1
Odds to Win 2013-14 NBA Championship: 200-to-1
GREIVIS VASQUEZ seems to have the edge in the point guard battle. He’s a pass-first floor general who fits better in a lineup full of chuckers . . . ISAIAH THOMAS will have a major role whether he starts or not. He can score, and while his lack of size is a defensive liability, he makes up for it with harassing on-ball pressure . . . MARCUS THORNTON will eventually be relegated to a smaller role, but the gunning combo guard will get his minutes until Ben McLemore is ready . . . BEN MCLEMORE takes a lot of heat for his lack of assertiveness, but he can knock down corner threes and is an outstanding athlete, which is enough to make him a fine role player . . . JIMMER FREDETTE is kicking around as trade bait . . . Second-rounder RAY MCCALLUM should earn a bench role.
With his potential to be a solid defender, JASON THOMPSON is likely to retain his starting job. He’s an afterthought on offense, though . . . LUC RICHARD MBAH A MOUTE seems like a natural to slide into the starting lineup. He can defend multiple spots and doesn’t need touches on a team of players who do . . . CARL LANDRY could unseat Thompson. We see him in the same kind of bench role he had in Golden State. He’s very good offensively and a relentless rebounder, but will struggle defensively against top-line forwards . . . JOHN SALMONS avoided the amnesty axe, though his role will likely be reduced again . . . Stretch four PATRICK PATTERSON is on the fringe of this rotation . . . Streaky shooting should have TRAVIS OUTLAW in and out of the rotation.
The new regime of head coach Michael Malone will try again with DEMARCUS COUSINS, who continues to show flashes of dominance but too often plays and acts like a head case. He’s playing for a contract, which would presumably have him on his best behavior . . . CHUCK HAYES will continue to be a second-unit glue guy at the four and five.
StatFox Take: Tyreke Evans is out of Sacramento, and in comes Greivis Vasquez to take over the point, Ben McLemore on the wing and Carl Landry to hit the glass off the bench. The Kings are finally starting to get rid of some of their shoot-first players for guys who fit into a team concept, and that will come a long way in their efforts to become a playoff team once again. But they are still at least a couple of years and a couple of players away from lasting until June.
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SOUTHWEST Division - Wed, Oct. 23