To begin the NBA season, our staff writers took a stab at previewing each team and their division. While some predictions and prognostications have panned out, there is plenty that has been surprising.
This week, our writers will again break down the league, team by team, in order to get ready for the rest of the NBA season. We hope to give insight into where teams are at this point in the year, and with the trade deadline right around the corner, we will try to forecast what move lies ahead.
Next up is our breakdown of the Pacific Division in the Western Conference. Plenty of storylines have come from these five teams out west, and numerous lingering questions remain with the trade deadline in the rearview mirror. Here’s what our writers think of the results in the Pacific so far.
(BSP mid-season reports were written prior to Feb. 8, 2024)
Golden State Warriors
Team Record: 25-25 (10th in Western Conference)
First-Half Best Player: Stephen Curry
First-Half Underperformer: Draymond Green
The first half of this season has gone differently than the Golden State Warriors anticipated. The team seems to have been given a strong dose of humility, ending under 500 at the halfway point. Many contributing factors have contributed to this, including suspensions, injuries, unnecessary turnovers, and questionable play decisions.
In a trade that sent Jordan Poole to the Washington Wizards, the Warriors acquired Chris Paul, who was brought in to strengthen the bench and help limit turnovers. This looked to be promising before losing him for several weeks due to injury.
One of the top stories with this team this season comes as no surprise to those who know the name, Draymond Green. He is a player you love if you’re a Warriors fan, and I hate it if he is on the court against your team. No stranger to controversy, Green is only named as the underperformer of the season’s first half simply because he was suspended for a large chunk of the games indefinitely. After an incident on December 12th involving the Phoenix Suns’ Jusuf Nurkić, Green was absent from Oracle Arena for 16 straight games, returning in early January.
The Warriors lost many of their other stars periodically to injuries, with Gary Payton II out with a hamstring strain, Chris Paul fracturing his hand, Andrew Wiggins dealing with an ankle injury, and Klay Thompson recently out with an illness, the starting five has shifted drastically throughout the first half of this season. Many of these are recent and will bleed into the beginning of the second half, but if this team can stay healthy and focused, there may be light at the end of the tunnel.
With Green off his suspension, Wiggins is looking close to a return, and others are raring to come back. Hopefully, they can breathe some life back into this team and give some reprieve to Stephen Curry, who has had the weight of a dynasty on his shoulders. Yes, Curry is still Curry and has been putting up numbers consistent with expectations, but he is fighting a losing battle without support and chemistry with those on the court with him.
If this team cleans up their ball handling, limits their turnovers, reduces the fouls they are giving, and keeps its starting five healthy and fluid on the court, this team could turn it around in time for the off-season.
Los Angeles Clippers
Record: 35-16 (2nd in Western Conference)
First Half Best Performer: Kawhi Leonard
First Half Underperformer: Terance Mann
The Los Angeles Clippers went through drastic changes at the beginning of the season after acquiring guard James Harden from the Philadelphia 76ers and trading away Nicolas Batum, Marcus Morris Sr, and KJ Martin. Clippers got off to a rocky start with Harden, starting the season 3-7 with a six-game losing streak. Since then, they have clicked on all cylinders. They are 31-9 since and have been the hottest team in the NBA for the past two months.
Getting Harden has made life easier for their two stars, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. With Harden running the point, it takes the ball-handling burden off Leonard and George, and it has allowed them to preserve energy on the defensive end so they’re not extremely gassed. One of the other big reasons for the Clippers’ success this season is Kawhi Leonard’s play. Leonard is having the most efficient year of his career, averaging 24.2 points on 53.1% from the field and 45.6% from three, 6.3 rebounds, and 3.7 assists. The important stat might be that he’s played in 46 of 50 games for the Clippers this season. His health issues throughout his career are well known, and this season is the healthiest he’s been in quite some time.
The most important thing for this team is sustaining good health and winning habits. With Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and James Harden leading the way, this team is looking to finish the season on a strong note. This Clippers team has a lot of depth, and they are confident they can make a deep playoff run and ultimately compete for an NBA championship.
Los Angeles Lakers
Record: 28-26 (9th in Western Conference)
First-Half Best Performer: Anthony Davis
First-Half Underperformer: Austin Reaves
Coming into this season, the Los Angeles Lakers had championship hopes. They were looking to build on an amazing run to the Western Conference Finals the previous year. This year, the Lakers have been a massive disappointment. Outside of winning the In-Season tournament, they haven’t had too many bright spots this year.
The Lakers have had many injuries to their role players, but their two stars, LeBron James and Anthony Davis, have been healthy for the most part. James and Davis have both combined to only miss ten games together of the 53. Both guys are playing at an All-NBA level and made the All-Star team. Yet, the Lakers still find themselves hoovering around .500. Although Austin Reaves is having a career year averaging 15.5 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 5.4 assists, his consistency throughout the year has been extremely up and down. Many in the fanbase expected him to make a bigger leap coming off his impressive run in the playoffs in the previous year.
The Lakers find themselves in the play-in spot once again and currently sit in 9th place in the Western Conference. The goal for the team is to pile some wins together and hope they can make a push for the 6th seed to avoid the play-in. With LeBron James and Anthony Davis healthy, they have to take advantage and get to the playoffs. It will be interesting to see how everything folds for this team.
Team Record: 31-22 (6th in Western Conference)
First-Half Best Performer: Kevin Durant
First-Half Underperformer: Bradley Beal
The Phoenix Suns are a team that wants to break out but still needs one key piece. Looking at the end of January, Phoenix is a respectable seven games above .500, which puts them third in the Pacific Division and sixth in the Western Conference. They are a streaky team, having won seven games in a row twice this season, and their losing streaks reached a high point of three times.
Of course, Kevin Durant is one of the superstars on this team that is considered an elite performer. Through 40 games, Durant is the second-highest scorer on the team, averaging a solid 28.3 points a night while maintaining a make rate of 53.1% from the court, and he also is hitting a career-best 45.2% from behind the three-point line. Now, there are a few choices for what could be considered his best game, but I think I’ll go with his 27-point triple-double output on Dec. 27 in a road win over the Houston Rockets, including a +16 plus/minus rating.
Conversely, the team’s underperformer from the first half is two guard Bradley Beal. In his first season in the Valley, Beal is putting up numbers that fall as low as the stats he put up during the 2015-16 season. He only averages 17.5 points per game on 49.1% field goal percentage and a dismal 34.7% from the three-point line. Now, sure, Beal has only played in 23 games so far this season, but his production seems to be seriously lacking. He’s now a number three option in the Phoenix offense behind Durant and Devin Booker.
There is a good feeling that the Suns will be going into the playoffs, but there is still a question mark regarding how deep of a run they will make. The streakiness is a question mark, and consistency needs to be better for the Suns in the second half.
Phoenix will break the 50-win milestone this season, and I see them claiming either the fourth or fifth seed in the Western Conference, locking up a spot in the playoffs.
Record: 30-21 (5th in Western Conference)
First-Half best Performer: De’Aaron Fox
First-Half Underperformer: Davion Mitchell
Last year, the Sacramento Kings broke their long streak of not making the playoffs. Beyond that, they were a top-three seed in the Western Conference and looked poised to make some noise in the playoffs. Things ended less than glamorously. A home, Game 7, loss to the Warriors somewhat took the glory of the previous season away. However, it shouldn’t have made people ignore the Kings altogether. Which is what it feels like is happening this season.
The Kings are among the top six seeds in the West, and their numbers are similar to last year’s. Besides a small dropoff in their record-setting offense last season, the Kings have settled into their identity, and it has them on pace for a 44-plus win season. Led by De’Aaron Fox, who is averaging 26.6 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game, the Kings suffocate teams with their pacing and spacing. The pairing alongside Domantas Sabonis has once again proved as a doubt that it can win in the regular season.
Mike Brown has once again put in a great season of coaching. The Kings have six players who average over double-digit points. Managing the skillset of players like Malik Monk, Kevin Huerter, Harrison Barnes, and Keegan Murray shows why Brown has great respect around the league and why he won Coach of the Year last year.
The Kings didn’t make any drastic changes at the trade deadline. Therefore, they have the benefit of keeping their lineup continuity growing. It’ll be interesting if there will be any sort of leap in offense down the stretch from the Kings. Whether it be Keegan Murray’s three-point shooting or the emergence of a player like Keon Ellis or Davion Mitchell, any sort of uptick could propel the Kings higher in the standings. As mentioned above, the Kings have been a solid regular-season team. Can they make it to the playoffs? It’s unclear what their chances are, but don’t count the experience from last year as something small. It could ultimately make a difference.
Keon Coleman, WR, Florida State Height: 6’3” Weight: 213 Hand Size: 9 3/8...
Malik Nabers, WR, LSU Height: 6’0” Weight: 200 Hand Size: N/A 40-Yard...
Jalen McMillan, WR, Washington Height: 6’1” Weight: 197 Hand Size: 10 40-Yard...
/ 2 days ago
Rome Odunze, WR, Washington Height: 6’3” Weight: 215 Hand Size: N/A 40-Yard...