After underachieving last season, the Lakers went spring-cleaning turning nearly their entire roster over in the off-season.
With Russell Westbrook added to the mix they should finish on top of the Pacific Division as one of the best teams in the West. Here’s The Wolf’s preview of the NBA Pacific Division.
NBA Best Bets – Pacific Division
Wasn’t an ideal season for the Lakers in 2020/21 coming off a Championship run. A very tight turnaround from the 2019/20 season into last season resulted in a number of injuries to key players, mainly LeBron James and Anthony Davis barely stepping foot on the court together in the backend of the season.
As a result the Lakers fell short of covering the 49.5 win mark (68.8% win percentage), with their win percentage line set at 65.2% for this season.
The Lakers have made wholesale changes for the upcoming season – in fact only one other Laker remains alongside LeBron and AD; Talen Horton-Tucker. They’ve added a whole heap of experience – Carmelo Anthony, Trevor Ariza, Kent Bazemore, Wayne Ellington, Dwight Howard, Deandre Jordan, Rajon Rondo, but the most important acquisition is Russell Westbrook.
Westbrook is a vital third piece in this Lakers outfit, one they desperately missed last season. How does he fit alongside LeBron and AD with his high usage? The Wolf still isn’t too sure, but no doubt they’ll find a way to be a serious challenger again this season.
Do they cover 53.5 wins? Flip of the coin, but I’m leaning towards just falling short due to their aging bodies playing an 82-game season, plus how injury-prone AD is.
Prediction – 53 wins
Good stability over the off-season for Phoenix keeping Chris Paul despite speculation of a move, while maintaining their core group for another run at it.
It was an enormous 20/21 season by the Suns with a regular season win record of 70.8% – well above the 52.1% line at the start of the season.
The Wolf expects them to once again be around the top of the West. They’ve added role players in Landry Shamet and Javale McGee who can both add value, but it’s the progression of Booker, Bridges, Ayton and Johnson that is vital to their success this season.
Phoenix barely suffered any injuries and rode the momentum to a monstrous win percentage. Their line is set at 50.5 this season, but The Wolf believes they may fall short. Hard to see them having the perfect run again this year, but they’ll do enough to cement a top-four finish in the West.
Prediction – 50 wins
Golden State Warriors
A big win line for the Warriors with the return of Klay Thompson to the fold, but being away from the game for over two years we can’t expect to see Klay return to the level he was at in 2019.
Thompson should return in December or January and will slowly be transitioned back into the team coming off an ACL rupture followed by a torn Achilles.
The Wolf doesn’t believe he’ll be the reason behind a rapid rise in 2022 though. Aside from Thompson back in the mix, I’m still struggling to find how they’ll jump to a 58% win record.
They’ll continue to struggle in the big man department, which may result in Draymond once again filling the void in the five-sport while Otto Porter could play the four.
With the improvement of other teams in the West, it wouldn’t surprise The Wolf if the Warriors missed the playoffs paying $4.90 – expect them well unders.
Prediction – 43 wins
How do the Clippers go without Kawhi? We know Paul George is capable of being the main man, but is the support crew strong enough to lead them to 46+ wins?
George will be surrounded by a similar roster as last season – Reggie Jackson coming off a big post-season, Terance Mann who many predict to breakout, Marcus Morris and Ivica Zubac. They also add Eric Bledsoe to their roster.
The Wolf’s main concern – what happens if Paul George gets injured? It’s hard to see this roster without George and Leonard winning games, and PG13 has had injury concerns over the last two season with the Clippers.
They’re good enough to play playoffs with Tyronn Lue demonstrating his ability as a coach in last season’s playoffs – despite previously winning a title at Cleveland.
The line seems about right here, but their scoring depth is the reason they’ll fall slightly under.
Prediction – 45 wins
The Wolf thinks this could be a breakout season for the Sacramento Kings – my only hesitance surrounds Luke Walton.
On paper they have boom potential – De’Aaron Fox starred in the back-end of last season, Tyrese Haliburton has star potential, they’ve got Buddy Hield and Marvin Bagley who are capable of taking the next step, while role playing veterans in Harrison Barnes and Richaun Holmes round their core nicely.
The Kings also bring in Tristan Thompson to add to their big-man stocks, while rookie Davion Mitchell will add a defensive element to their back-court.
If Walton wasn’t at the helm, The Wolf would be very keen to take them to make the playoffs at $5 – but for now he’s still the coach of this team. Very keen on the overs, even more keen if Walton is moved on early in the season. The $2.75 to make the play-in tournament appears great value.
Prediction – 42 wins