NBA Pacific Division Preview and Betting Odds

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Division Winner Pick: Phoenix Suns +190

Phoenix was such a fun story to follow last season: they went undefeated in the bubble (without even making the playoffs); traded for Chris Paul; watched Devin Booker blossom into a near superstar; made the Finals; lost the Finals.

Now the Suns have a real shot to win this division and also get the top seed in the West. Not only are they bringing back their same core from last season, young guys like Deandre Ayton, Cam Johnson, Mikal Bridges and Cam Payne will continue to improve. As an organization, the Suns should look to maximize their current situation; they’re a legitimate title contender--and championship windows close fast. 

Just as Phoenix benefited from some well-timed injury luck in last year’s postseason, it will find itself in a favorable situation in their division this year. The veteran-heavy Lakers will probably care more about load-managing their stars than pursuing a division title; Kawhi Leonard might not even play for the Clippers this season. Too, Klay Thompson might not be back for Golden State until the new year and the Kings are, well, the Kings. At plus odds and taking all of those factors into account, the Suns offer a ton of value.

“What If Everything Goes Right?” Pick: Golden State Warriors +550

Wardell Stephen Curry II. If you have him on your team, you have a shot. Steph will go nuclear. Would it really surprise you if he averaged 40 PPG in a month? 

The two surgeries for Klay aren’t great. And not playing in a game for over two years isn’t ideal. Still, that’s part of his allure. Maybe smoking weed, hanging out with his dog and going out on his boat will be just what he needs to return to prime Klay. Encouragingly, his game is sort of perfect for coming back from two major injuries. Even if his defense may not reach its previous peak, Klay’s effectiveness has never been predicated on his explosiveness or athleticism—it doesn’t matter if the guy barely dribbles because he’s the second greatest shooter in the history of his sport, behind only his teammate. 

Draymond is what he is. 

Andrew Wiggins is a wild card. 

Everyone should buy the dip on James Wiseman’s stock. 

Finally, if Klay comes back and is even 70 percent of his old self from the jump while Steph continues to do Steph Things, the Warriors could be elite.The other guys can play their own roles. Plus, it’ll be fun to watch the Warriors with some stake in the game at those division odds.

The Longshot Pick: Los Angeles Clippers +900

Okay, +900 isn’t *really* a long shot, but it’s not like anyone’s going to pick the Kings. 

The case for the Clippers: Paul George, two years removed from a serious MVP push, really shut a lot of critics up last year in the playoffs, when Kawhi wasn’t healthy. Is it out of the question that we get some form of that for an entire season? Or maybe even three-quarters of the season? After all, he’s just three seasons removed from receiving serious MVP consideration. 

Along with George, guys like Reggie Jackson and Terrence Mann emerged in Kawhi’s absence. Sometimes, all it takes is guys experiencing a high pressure situation like the playoffs to build on that for an entire season. Also, Marcus “Flask Dad” Morris does some truly wild things to swing a handful of games every year. 

Is it probable that all this will happen? No. But they don’t call it the longshot pick for nothing.

Best of the Rest:

Los Angeles Lakers -106

A team with Lebron and Anthony Davis is good enough to beat anybody, but its ambitions lie far beyond the regular season. Maybe the Lakers will chase home-court advantage in the playoffs, but their ultimate goal will probably be keeping their cadre of old guys fresh. Although the greatness of Lebron James and AD aren’t in question, there are a slew of variables for this overhauled team: can they stay healthy? How will Russell Westbrook mesh with Lebron and AD? Can Melo score enough to warrant heavy minutes? How will their rotation shake out?

Odds of -106 with a team constructed like that is not particularly tasty. Come playoff time however, it’s a different conversation—never bet against Playoff Lebron.

Sacramento Kings +20000

A few nice things about the Kings: De’Aaron Fox is one the most thrilling players in the league and will form an intriguing backcourt, alongside Tyrese Haliburton. Marvin Bagley isn’t the worst rapper in the NBA. All of those people who claimed they could score against Harrison Barnes within five minutes, one on one, were wrong.

The Kings are not winning the division.

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