Tag Archives: Pacific Division

2020-2021 NBA Season Preview

Welcome to DraftNasty’s 2020-2021 NBA Season Preview. In this preview, we will offer a quick division-by-division snapshot, make our picks for the All-Star team and NBA playoffs, and predict the end of season award winners. This season will take on an unprecedented tone as the NBA will attempt to play a 72-game season starting on December 22 after concluding the season this past October at the NBA Bubble. Will the short turnaround hurt or help any teams/ players? Read our preview to find out!

Eastern Conference

Southeast Division 

The Miami Heat represented the Southeast Division well with an Eastern Conference playoff berth after notching 44 wins in the regular season. This has the potential to be the most competitive division in the NBA when looking at the additions made by the Atlanta Hawks and the Orlando Magic as well as the return of John Wall to the Washington Wizards. Orlando, who made the playoffs as the 8th seed with 33 wins including a 3-5 record in the NBA Bubble, added North Carolina’s Cole Anthony in the draft to give them some scoring punch off the bench. Not to be outdone, Miami retooled by drafting Precious Achiuwa (Memphis) and acquiring veteran shooting guard Avery Bradley. Atlanta could be intriguing with young talent like Trae Young, Kevin Huerter and Onyeka Okongwu. 

DraftNasty player to watch: Bradley Beal- Washington Wizards 

Through 57 games in 2019-20, Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal averaged 30.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, 6.1 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game. In the process, Beal shot 45.5% from the field (35.3% 3-pt).

Division MVP: Trae Young- Atlanta Hawks

DraftNasty rookie to watch: LaMelo Ball- Charlotte Hornets 

Central Division

The Milwaukee Bucks and Indiana Pacers have been the traditional powers in the division for the last five years but the Detroit Pistons under Troy Weaver are starting to build an identity. Veteran head coach Dwane Casey will field a young team in his second season as a lionshare of the division welcomed new coaches. Billy Donovan (Chicago), Nate Bjorkgren (Indiana) and JB Bickerstaff (Cleveland) will all start the season as first year head coaches in the division. With that said, Milwaukee is still expected to be the cream of the crop in the division with the return of two time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the additions of floor spacing veterans like Jrue Holiday, Bryn Forbes and Bobby Portis. 

DraftNasty player to watch: Domantas Sabonis- Indiana Pacers 

Division MVP: Giannis Antetokounmpo- Milwaukee Bucks 

DraftNasty rookie to watch: Killian Hayes- Detroit Pistons 

Atlantic Division

The Atlantic Division led the conference in storylines during the offseason as former NBA point guards: Steve Nash and Doc Rivers joined the division to coach the Nets and 76ers respectively. Boston and Toronto had a relatively quiet offseason but they have dominated the division in past years. With Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving fully healthy, the Nets have the talent to take the division but how will all the pieces mesh under a new head coach? The New York Knicks probably won’t be a major factor in the playoff race but rookie Obi Toppin has a chance to win the Rookie of the Year award as he will be asked to carry a heavy load. 

DraftNasty player to watch: Ben Simmons- Philadelphia 76ers

Division MVP: Kevin Durant- Brooklyn Nets

DraftNasty rookie to watch: Obi Toppin- New York Knicks 

All Star Picks 

Starters: Ben Simmons, Jimmy Butler, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant, Domantas Sabonis 

Bench: Trae Young, Bradley Beal, Pascal Siakim, Jrue Holiday, Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum, Joel Embiid 

Playoff Picks

1.  Miami Heat 

2.  Milwaukee Bucks

3.  Toronto Raptors 

4.  Brooklyn Nets

5.  Boston Celtics 

6.  Philadelphia 76ers

7.  Washington Wizards

8.  Atlanta Hawks 

Western Conference 

Pacific Division

Last season, the Lakers and Clippers battled not only for city supremacy but for division and conference supremacy. The Lakers came out on top in all three of those categories and won the NBA Championship. This offseason, they added Montrezl Harrell from the Clippers, to provide energy off the bench. while the Clippers parted ways with head coach Doc Rivers in favor of former Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue. The Golden State Warriors are fresh off their historic five year run but will be without sharpshooter Klay Thompson, who tore his Achilles after tearing his ACL a season before. The Phoenix Suns added Chris Paul to take the offensive load off of Devin Booker. The Sacramento Kings are in the league’s toughest division and have struggled to get to 40 wins over the past decade (longest active playoff drought streak in the NBA- 14 seasons). 

DraftNasty player to watch: Stephen Curry- Golden State Warriors 

Division MVP: Kawhi Leonard- Los Angeles Clippers 

DraftNasty rookie to watch: Jalen Smith- Phoenix Suns

Northwest Division

It’s a youth movement in the Northwest Division as players like Nikola Jokic, Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, Donovan Mitchell and Shai Gilgeous- Alexander lead their teams (all 25 years old or younger). Portland fields the most experienced roster of the bunch but struggled in the NBA bubble on the defensive end. If Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. can build on their performances in the bubble then Denver could repeat as division champions for the third consecutive season. The Utah Jazz have finished in third place in the division for the last three seasons but they didn’t move the needle with any free agency acquisitions. Despite having young pieces to build around, look for the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Oklahoma City Thunder to finish at the bottom of the division.

DraftNasty player to watch: Jamal Murray- Denver Nuggets 

Division MVP: Nikola Jokic- Denver Nuggets

DraftNasty rookie to watch: Anthony Edwards- Minnesota Timberwolves

Two seasons removed from his MVP award-winning year, Houston’s James Harden averaged 29.6 points per game on a career-best 47.8% shooting percentage in the 2020 NBA Playoffs.

Southwest Division

Dallas’ Luka Doncic and Houston’s James Harden will be asked to lead their teams in not only scoring but playmaking for others. The Mavericks have a better infrastructure in place around Doncic as opposed to Harden, who will have a new head coach (Stephen Silas), and that’s why we believe Dallas will win the division. San Antonio has been the class of the division over the past decade but how will they respond after missing the playoffs for the first time since 1997? The top two draft picks from 2019 (Ja Morant and Zion Williamson) will also have something to say with how the division shakes out. Morant was the Rookie of the Year but Willamson impressed during limited action (averaged 22 points per game and 6 rebounds in 27 minutes per game ) as he dealt with a meniscus tear. 

DraftNasty player to watch: Ja Morant- Memphis Grizzlies 

Division MVP: Luka Doncic– Dallas Mavericks 

DraftNasty rookie to watch: Devin Vassell- San Antonio Spurs

All Star Picks 

Starters: Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James, Luka Doncic, Nikola Jokic, James Harden

Bench: Damian Lillard, Devin Booker, Chris Paul, Donovan Mitchell, Anthony Davis, Stephen Curry, Brandon Ingram

Playoff Picks 

1. Denver Nuggets 

2. Los Angeles Clippers

3. Los Angeles Lakers 

4. Dallas Mavericks

5. Utah Jazz

6. Phoenix Suns

7. Golden State Warriors 

8. Portland Trail Blazers

End of Year Award Accolades 

Eastern Conference Champion: Milwaukee Bucks

Western Conference Champion: Los Angeles Clippers

NBA Champion: Los Angeles Clippers (4-2)

MVP: Luka Doncic- Dallas Mavericks 

Defensive Player of the Year: Kawhi Leonard- Los Angeles Clippers 

Rookie of the Year: Anthony Edwards- Minnesota Timberwolves

Most Improved: Michael Porter Jr.- Denver Nuggets 

Sixth Man of the Year: Lou Williams- Los Angeles Clippers

Coach of the Year: Mike Malone- Denver Nuggets

Executive of the Year: James Jones- Phoenix Suns 

2018 NBA Draft Team Needs: Pacific Division

Los Angeles Lakers

Team needs:

Shooting Guard

The Lakers got their table-setting point guard in Lonzo Ball, who has the ability to spoon feed baskets for others but with Isaiah Thomas and Kentavious Caldwell Pope facing free agency, the team needs to add another off the ball scorer. If the Lakers want to add a cheaper piece via free agency in order to put money aside for a bigger free agent, Marco Belinelli is an option. Bellinelli fit in seamlessly for a young 76ers team after coming to Philadelphia midseason. If the Lakers use their 25th overall pick on a scorer, UCLA’s Aaron Holiday, who played with Lonzo in 2016, could provide depth behind Ball and play off the ball when he plays point guard.

Forward

The Lakers will be in the Paul George sweepstakes this offseason. Even if the Lakers sign George, they will still have enough money to offer Julius Randle a long-term contract. Randle is coming off his most efficient season, averaging 16 points (55-percent FGs) and eight rebounds per game. If LA chooses to add some depth along the frontcourt with its 25th overall pick, Kentucky’s Jarred Vanderbilt could be worth a shot. Vanderbilt is a left-handed power forward with good position versatility, athleticism and -at times- can’t help but remind you of a young Lamar Odom.

Cap space: -3 million, 103 million

Free agents: Brook Lopez, Kentavious Caldwell Pope, Channing Frye, Isaiah Thomas, Julius Randle

Los Angeles Clippers

Team needs:

Power forward

The Clippers had a lot of young players step up despite losing Blake Griffin. Players like Sindarius Thornwell, Milos Teodosic and Tobias Harris can serve as the new faces in the rebuild around DeAndre Jordan. Los Angeles also has capable three-and-D players like Wesley Johnson and Sam Dekker under contract. However, the Clippers could stand to add an athletic power forward to spell Harris in small ball lineups. With the 12th and 13th picks, LA could go in a few different directions but Kentucky’s Kevin Knox fits the mold of a strong but athletic forward. The Clippers could bring in Knox with the 12th pick and use the 13th pick on the best available prospect, which could be anyone from Alabama’s point guard Collin Sexton to Missouri small forward Michael Porter Jr.

Cap space: -19 million, 119 million

Free agents: Avery Bradley, Montrezl Harrell

Golden State Warriors

Team needs:

Wing

If the Warriors showed one weakness it was when Andre Iguodala went down to injury.  Coupled with the earlier injury to fellow wing Patrick McCaw, Golden State needed another wing defender. The Warriors will bring back Kevin Durant but it remains to be seen what else they will be able to add in free agency.  If Golden State looks to the draft with their 28th overall pick, then SMU’s Shake Milton is a name to watch. Milton shot 43 percent from three-point range last season and owns a 6’11” wingspan.  Milton also averaged four assists and four rebounds per game. The former Mustang would be a welcome addition and could develop into a three-and-D prospect capable of defending multiple positions.

Cap space: -36 million, 136 million

Free agents: Kevin Durant, Nick Young, Zaza Pachulia, Kevon Looney, JaVale McGee

Sacramento Kings

Team needs:

Wing

Justin Jackson is the only true small forward under contract. Sacramento has the second and 37th overall picks in the draft. If the Kings want to add a wing early in the draft, Luka Doncic from Slovenia would make sense. Doncic is a polished player and at 19 years old, he has not yet reached his ceiling.  However, if Sacramento wants to grab a big man and come back in the second round and add a wing player, Kansas’ Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk is a 6’8” sharpshooter.  He has shown before that he can play well alongside former Kansas Jayhawk and current Sacramento Kings guard Frank Mason, Jr.

Big man

Willie Cauley-Stein, Zach Randolph and Kosta Koufos have one year each remaining on their contracts.  Sacramento could look to add another big man who could play alongside Cauley-Stein, stretch the floor and play both the forward/center positions. With the second pick in the draft, Duke’s Marvin Bagley, Jr. would make sense. He has room to improve defensively but he could play beside Cauley-Stein and they could both help each other’s deficiencies.

Cap space: 2 million, 98 million

Free agents: Vince Carter, Bruno Caboclo

Phoenix Suns

Team needs:

Center

Phoenix has the first and 16th picks in the first round.  Tyson Chandler is the only true center under contract and he will be 36 years old by the start of next season.  Arizona’s Deandre Ayton played right down the road and is the consensus best prospect in the draft.  Ayton is a 7-foot-1-inch,  250-pound 19-year old with an NBA-ready body. Ayton averaged 20.1 points per game last season along with 11.6 rebounds.  He also possesses a decent jump shot to go along with a back to the basket game. With Ayton and young SG Devin Booker, Phoenix would have a strong foundation to build around.

Guard

Elfrid Payton turned in his best season last year, averaging 12 points per game, six rebounds and four assists. Payton also played 28 minutes per game last season, splitting minutes with a host of players (Troy Daniels, Tyler Ulis and Mike James). If the Suns choose to add a big man with the first pick, look for them to come back 15 picks later and try to address the depth in the backcourt.  Miami’s Lonnie Walker IV is 6’4” and has a 6’10” wingspan.  His size will give him some position versatility defensively at the next level.

Miami (Fla.) G Lonnie Walker IV (pictured for Team Final during the 2016 Nike EBYL Peach Jam) averaged 11.5 points per game for the Hurricanes in 2017-18 and shot nearly 35-percent from three-point range.

Coupled with his scoring potential (11.5 points per game), Walker could be an intriguing pick to log guard minutes behind Ulis and Booker next year.

Cap space: 7 million, 93 million

Free agents: Alex Len, Elfrid Payton

*The 2018-2019 NBA salary cap sits at $101 million and the luxury tax sits at $123 million.

Player stats are courtesy of ESPN.com.

Financial outlook is courtesy of Spotrac.com.

— By: Troy Jefferson, DraftNasty Staff reports, Follow him @troy_jefferson on twitter.