The Pacific Division champion will very likely come from Los Angeles this season… but once again, the Clippers and not the Lakers will be the team at the top of the pack.
1. Los Angeles Clippers
Odds To Win Pacific Division: -265
The Clippers will finish first because they now have a coach who can keep them ahead of Golden State. Doc Rivers replaces Vinny Del Negro as the leader of the team on the bench, and that should transform the Clippers’ results this season. Rivers will obviously need time to get used to his team and its playing style. He’ll also need to get used to Western Conference basketball after spending his previous coaching stops in the East with the Celtics and, at an earlier point, the Orlando Magic. Yet, after a couple of months of rough sailing, Rivers should be able to find common ground with his players. He possesses extremely good people skills and knows how to get players to buy into his system. Rivers wins the respect and trust of his guys, and after several seasons of laboring under Del Negro, the Clippers – especially superstar point guard Chris Paul and power forward Blake Griffin – should be thrilled with the chance to play for an elite coach. The morale of the team should remain high throughout the season, enabling the Clippers to fulfill their potential. The Clippers have never made the Western Conference Finals in their history but basketball betting fans know that could very realistically change in the spring of 2014.
2. Golden State Warriors
Odds To Win Pacific Division: +185
This is the clear second NBA betting choice in the Pacific Division. Golden State emerged last season, getting great performances from rookies who were not expected to become so good in such a short period of time. Harrison Barnes looked like a draft bust when he was selected out of North Carolina. Barnes was a very inconsistent shooter in college, and he didn’t ripen into a two-way player as a Tar Heel. However, he blossomed in Oakland, hitting one big shot after another in the playoffs while not being too much of a defensive liability. The Warriors were also bolstered by the development of Draymond Green, who quickly caught onto coach Mark Jackson’s system and became a well-rounded player during the team’s stirring playoff run.
These realities don’t even touch on the growth of Klay Thompson into an elite shooter, and the sustained ascendance of Stephen Curry into a genuine superstar who became just about impossible for other teams to guard. This team is too loaded to finish any lower than second in the division. It has a great chance to make the second round of the playoffs once more.
3. Los Angeles Lakers
Odds To Win Pacific Division: +2400
The big problem for the Lakers is that Kobe Bryant probably won’t be able to play anywhere near full strength this season. With that deficiency in place, the Lakers will be scrambling to get production from the other spots on their roster. Pau Gasol is still around, but hardly anyone else of note is around to provide help. Metta World Peace is now a New York Knick. This is not a playoff team, but the Lakers won’t mind – they’re going to make a run at the draft lottery and a major free-agent signing in the summer of 2014.
4. Sacramento Kings
Odds To Win Pacific Division: +10000
This is one of the two dead-end franchises in the division. Sacramento could become something special if big man DeMarcus Cousins ever decides to work hard and apply himself on defense, but that’s just not likely. This team needs an attitude overhaul in order to get a lot better.
5. Phoenix Suns
Odds To Win Pacific Division: +30000
The Suns made terrible draft picks and traded away Luis Scola, Marcin Gortat, Shannon Brown and Jared Dudley. They have a hollowed-out roster and will likely finish at the very bottom of the Western Conference.