The Warriors will have to hope Curry stays healthy this year.
The Golden State Warriors jump into the 2012-13 regular season with a significantly upgraded team. The Dubs added talent through free agency and the draft, but they are still looking to climb up a few notches on the Pacific Division ladder.
The Warriors will face a new behemoth with the Lakers adding Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. They will have to hold court against Blake Griffin and the Clippers, a completely rebuilt Suns squad and DeMarcus Cousins and the Sacramento Kings.
Now let’s take a look at each team in the Pacific Division and get a better idea of how the Dubs will match up:
Howard's addition to the Lakers will keep them as a top contender.
Los Angeles Lakers projected starting five:
C Dwight Howard
PF Pau Gasol
SF Metta World Peace
SG Kobe Bryant
PG Steve Nash
The Lakers have the most talent in the division on paper and look like they will easily squash any plans of their Staples Centers' co-tenant, the Clippers in taking over their city. The Lakers' squad is older than most, but with age comes wisdom.
The Warriors will have to use a different strategy with Dwight Howard that they utilized last year. The Hack-a-Dwight didn’t work, even with his below-average free-throw shooting. The young Dubs will get their lessons this year on how to play defense with the shifty Nash running the point.
The Dubs will have to use ball movement and physicality with Bogut and Lee to counteract Howard and Gasol. The Dubs technically have a better bench on paper than the Lakers, so they will need to use that. Klay Thompson and Brandon Rush will get first dibs on the call to guard Kobe.
The Lakers are obviously a more developed team at this point, but I can guarantee you that some major battles will be the result this year.
Paul and Griffin will have to be on the same page this season to improve.
Los Angeles Clippers projected starting five:
C DeAndre Jordan
PF Blake Griffin
SF Caron Butler
SG Chauncey Billups
PG Chris Paul
The Clippers continue to improve and build away from their old reputation. They are a notch below the Lakers, but they have a very solid starting five. Chris Paul at point and Blake Griffin playing the power forward position are the team’s two biggest stars.
The Dubs normally struggle against the Clippers, but last year both teams won two games apiece. The Paul-Griffin combination is still in its infancy and lucky for the Dubs, they have not perfected the pick-and-roll.
The Clippers should have a healthy Chauncey Billups back this year, which will only solidify the shooting guard position. He is older, but he is also the glue-guy in the lineup. Lamar Odom returns to the Clippers and Grant Hill looks to be taking one last lap as a new addition.
In order for the Dubs to beat the Clips, they will have to move the ball around, establish the post, and kick the ball out to Curry, Thompson and Barnes for the three-pointer. The Clippers-Warriors games don’t get the publicity that Lakers games do, but these will be all-out battles.
David Lee will also have to control Blake Griffin like he did at times last year.
The Suns will be without the services of Steve Nash this season..
Phoenix Suns projected starting five:
C Marcin Gortat
PF Luis Scola
SF Michael Beasley
SG Wesley Johnson
PG Goran Dragic
The Phoenix Suns have decided to do a rebuild on-the-fly and could be a lot better than everyone expects. They picked up a lot of quality talent over the summer and now hope to build a new foundation.
Scola comes over from Houston where he average 15.5 PPG and 6.5 RPG and joins Marcin Gortat, also known as the “Polish Hammer” in the front court. These two guys scrap hard and maximize their effort on the court.
Goran Dragic joins Scola again in Phoenix and will now run the point with Steve Nash as a Laker. Dragic returns to the team that he started his NBA career with and hopes to get this team off and running in the right direction.
The Warriors should be able to handle the rebuilding Suns this year. They will need to work at maximum efficiency because the Suns are hard workers, who don’t mind making the extra effort to win a game. If the Dubs take the night off, they will probably be going home empty-handed.
Cousins looks to improve his stat line once again this season.
Sacramento Kings projected starting five:
C DeMarcus Cousins
PF Jason Thompson
SF Tyreke Evans
SG Marcus Thornton
PG Isaiah Thomas
The continuously-rebuilding Sacramento Kings are still looking to put together a solid foundation. Center DeMarcus Cousins, SG Marcus Thornton and SF Tyreke Evans all look to be the building blocks of this franchise.
DeMarcus Cousins is the Kings’ best player and looks to be a future All-Star. He significantly increased his totals per game last year and will look to do the same again this year.
The Kings were smart to acquire Marcus Thornton in a trade with the New Orleans Hornets during the 2010-11 NBA season and he is proving a punch with a line of 18.7 PPG, 3.7 RPG and 1.9 APG. Thornton should improve on those totals and mesh well with the other youngsters.
The Warriors need to attack the Kings hard and often when they meet up because the Kings allowed the most points in the NBA last year (104.4 PPG) and the highest opponent field goal percentage (47.6 percent).
The Warriors will also need to attack the Kings in the lineup spots that are not already established. David Lee and Carl Landry will need to go hard against Jason Thompson and PG Stephen Curry will need to outperform either Isaiah Thomas or Aaron Brooks.
This matchup will be intense just because it is the NorCal rivalry and Keith Smart, the former Warriors coach, is manning the bench for the Kings.
The division looks to have three playoff teams this year.
Here are my predicted records for the Pacific Division:
1) Lakers 60-22
2) Clippers 49-33
3) Warriors 45-37
4) Suns 35-47
5) Kings 34-48
The Lakers, Clippers and Warriors each advance to the NBA Playoffs.