How will the 2017-18 Sacramento Kings fair against their Pacific Division rivals?

The season is less than 40 days away and vastly approaching. The Kings, Suns, and Lakers are looking to find their ways with a plethora of young stars in the making and want to build a winning foundation around them.

The Warriors are the team to beat in the entire NBA and the Clippers are a perennial playoff team looking to build on its previous seasons. Today, we provide you with a little preview into this season’s Pacific Division and what we should expect.

Pacific Division Preview

Sacramento Kings            vs            Golden State Warriors

2016-2017 Pacific Division Rank: 1st

2016-2017 Record: 67-15

2016-2017 PPG Rank: 1st (115.9 PPG)

2016-2017 PPG Allowed Rank: 11th (104.3 PPG)

The Golden State Warriors are the current Pacific Division and NBA champions for reason. This roster is absolutely stacked from top to bottom and there’s no other roster in the league that even comes close in comparison.

With Stephen Curry (25.3 PPG / 6.6 APG) and Kevin Durant (25.1 PPG / 8.3 RPG) leading the way as the two centerpieces, it gives opportunities to many other key role players on the team, who are by no means slouches in their own right.

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Klay Thompson with his sharp shooting prowess is extremely dangerous every single night. Draymond Green’s leadership, defense and unselfishness with the ball is the engine this team needs and Andre Iguodala providing key minutes as the leader of the second unit is just scary.

It doesn’t end there because Shaun Livingston spelling Curry minutes is a super underrated luxury this team possesses, since Livingston never loses a beat on the offensive or defensive side of the ball.

While they’ve found ways to somehow get better this offseason by locking up Durant and Iguodala long-term, signing Nick Young and Omri Casspi via free-agency, and trading into this year’s draft selecting 2017 PAC-12 defensive player of the year, Oregon’s Power Forward Jordan Bell at No. 38, it seems like the Warriors know no limits.

The Kings may be able to find ways to lock down Curry and Durant at times having two outstanding defenders in George Hill and Garrett Temple, but that opens everything up for Draymond Green and Klay Thompson to go to work against a lot of unproven players, who have two or less years of NBA experience.

Basketball is a team sport and the Golden State Warriors are a model of how the game is supposed to be played if you want to win in this league.

The games on the road will be close in the first half, but you’ll begin to see that veteran and championship experience kick in the second half of those games (31.1 PPG in the 3rd Quarters of 2016, 1st in NBA), as the Warriors always do coming out on top.

The Sacramento Kings playing at home, while I think have a much better chance to steal a game from the Warriors mid-season in front of a packed crowd at the Golden One Center, have shown that their lack of experience on their roster hasn’t necessarily translated to defending home court (17-24 at home in 2016). The games may be close, but as good as the Warriors are at home (36-5) they are just as good on the road (31-10). Warriors take the series 4-0 to sweep the Sacramento Kings.

Projected Starting Lineups:

PG Stephen Curry vs. PG George Hill

SG Klay Thompson vs. SG Buddy Hield

SF Kevin Durant vs. Garrett Temple

PF Draymond Green vs. Skal Labissiere

C Zaza Puchulia vs. Willie Cauley-Stein

Projected Series Record: 4-0 Warriors Win the Series

Projected 2017-2018 Record: 64-18

Sacramento Kings          vs            Los Angeles Clippers

2016-2017 Pacific Division Rank: 2nd

2016-2017 Record: 51-31

2016-2017 PPG Rank: 6th (108.7 PPG)

2016-2017 PPG Allowed Rank: 12th (104.4 PPG)

This was a busy off-season for the Los Angeles Clippers. They added Jerry West as a consultant to their front office. West said this would be his last venture before retirement.

Knowing that there was a vacancy at the general manager position for the Clippers, West and his team went out to sign former Thunder executive Michael Winger to the general manager spot as well as former Cavalier executive, Trent Redden to the assistant general manager position. Both men helped build a very successful product on the floor in Oklahoma City and Cleveland respectively.

The blockbuster trade that happened this offseason involving Chris Paul to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Sam Dekker, and a top-three protected 2018 first round pick in the off-season was a bit unexpected as many thought Paul would opt out of his final year of his contract to test free-agency.

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Time and time again, we realize that the world of professional sports is a crazy and unpredictable beast that throws many unforeseen wrenches in what actually ends up playing out.

Nabbing sharp shooting Danilo Gallinari fills an immediate need at the small forward position for the Los Angeles Clippers.

The loss of Paul and unmentioned JJ Redick, who joined the Philadelphia 76ers via free agency hurts, but what lacks at the guard position they make up for it with their strong depth at other positions coming off the bench. By no means will this 2017-2018 Clippers roster improve upon the season they had last year, but they will still be competitive enough to finish in the playoff conversation at the end of the year.

The Clippers were able to land Serbian star and passing expert Milos Teodosic through this year’s free-agency which gives the second unit a much needed spark off the bench, not necessarily scoring the basketball but moving the ball around efficiently enough to give Williams, Austin Rivers and company open looks when they need them most.

Excluding Sacramento’s thriller last year against the Clippers where Buddy Hield scored six straight points in a matter of seconds to give the Kings a thrilling come from behind victory (98-97), the Kings haven’t seen another victory since.

Key matchups to look for will be the battle down low between centers DeAndre Jordan and Willie Cauley-Stein who are both well known as rim protectors ready to block anything that comes in their wheelhouse and the hustle plays both players provide for their respective teams.

Skal Labissiere facing off against seasoned veteran Blake Griffin will be another matchup to keep an eye on as Griffin is very quick with his first step and is tough to stop if he has gotten too far into the paint with his unstoppable dunks.

This will be an interesting matchup to watch unfold as Labissiere is the more finesse player, who is often compared to Dirk Nowitzki. Only time will tell how finesse versus power plays out.

The Kings and their well-prepared coaching staff find a way to steal a game on the road against the Clippers in Staples Center splitting the series there. Feeding off the roaring cowbells at the Golden One Center, I see the Kings having one of their better games at home against their division rival winning in blowout fashion, but eventually coming back down to earth to split the series at home. The Kings tie the overall series 2-2.

Projected Starting Lineups:

PG Patrick Beverley vs. PG George Hill

SG Austin Rivers vs. SG Buddy Hield

SF Danilo Gallinari vs. Garrett Temple

PF Blake Griffin vs. Skal Labissiere

C DeAndre Jordan vs. Willie Cauley-Stein

Projected Series Record: 2-2 Series Tied

Projected 2017-2018 Record: 45-37

Sacramento Kings           vs             Los Angeles Lakers

2016-2017 Pacific Division Rank: 4th

2016-2017 Record: 26-56

2016-2017 PPG Rank: 17th (104.6 PPG)

2016-2017 PPG Allowed Rank: 28th (111.5 PPG)

The Los Angeles Lakers are in the midst of their rebuilding process and it looks a lot more promising with new President of Basketball Operations and Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson, and General Manager Rob Pelinka.

The Lakers laid their fate in the hands of the ping pong balls meaning the Lakers would have to land in the top 3 of the 2017 NBA draft for them to even keep their draft pick. As fate would have it, they were awarded with the No. 2 pick and they selected Lonzo Ball. Much can be said about the Ball family and the chaos that came with it this offseason, but we will leave that for another day.

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This was only one of many roster moves by Magic Johnson and his team to not only improve the team in the short-term, but also keep their long-term financial flexibility open for superstars that will become free-agents in the summer of 2018.

The Los Angeles assessed what they had at the end of last season and decided to ship off their former starting point guard D’Angelo Russel and costly center Timofey Mozgov to the Brooklyn Nets for Brook Lopez and the No. 27 overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft.

This not only signified the end of the Russel era but allowed the Lakers to dump Mozgov’s huge salary cap hit and get a better all-around center in Brook Lopez (20.5 PPG / 5.4 RPG) to start for the Lakers. The 27th  pick would eventually end up being versatile forward, Kyle Kuzma.

This young core has been quietly built through the draft and each passing year under current head coach Luke Walton, former Warriors assistant coach, there is more and more buzz about what the Lakers can potentially do a year from now when they have the resources to land the likes of Paul George and LeBron James through free agency.

In the meantime, core players Brandon Ingram out of Duke, rookie guard Lonzo Ball, and recent free agent pickup from the Detroit Pistons, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope gives Lakers fans hope for a better 2017-2018 season.

The matchup everyone is waiting to see is De’Aaron Fox battling it out once again against Lonzo Ball just as they did in college. At the time, Fox worked Ball, putting up 39 points against the UCLA Bruins leading them to a Sweet 16 victory in last year’s NCAA tournament.

I think Fox outperforms Ball in the opportunities that he is out there driving to the rim at will and providing the necessary spark on the defensive end but in terms of overall team play, I think the Lakers answer with other options on the roster, Ingram, Caldwell-Pope, etc. to take advantage.

The Los Angeles Lakers will not be good next season but that doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t be a team on the rise with a promising future.

The Sacramento Kings will face the Lakers four times this season and although the series was 2-2 last year between the two, I see the Lakers getting the last laugh winning both games at Staples Center, but the Kings coming back to the Golden One Center to split the series 1-1.

Projected Starting Lineups:

PG Lonzo Ball vs. PG George Hill

SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope vs. SG Buddy Hield

SF Brandon Ingram vs. Garrett Temple

PF Julius Randle vs. Skal Labissiere

C Brook Lopez vs. Willie Cauley-Stein

Projected Series Record: 3-1 Lakers Win the Series

Projected 2017-2018 Record: 34-48

Sacramento Kings         vs            Phoenix Suns

2016-2017 Pacific Division Rank: 5th

2016-2017 Record: 24-58

2016-2017 PPG Rank: 9th (107.7 PPG)

2016-2017 PPG Allowed Rank: 30th (113.3 PPG)

The Phoenix Suns haven’t had much to cheer about in recent seasons finishing near the bottom of the conference the past three years with the exception of the 2013-2014. That season, they barely missed the playoffs despite a 48-34 record.

Not all is lost in the desert of Phoenix, as the Kings and Lakers have done, there is a young core of very talented players on that roster including Devin Booker, Eric Bledsoe, Josh Jackson, Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss. The wins will begin to follow with more years of NBA experience underneath their belts.

Booker (22.1 PPG / 3.4 APG) is the leader of the Phoenix Suns and a future multi-year NBA All-Star who just recently put up 70 points against the Boston Celtics. He became one of only six players to accomplish this in an NBA game.

Between the Kings and Suns playing four times next season, I see this being a battle in each of those games. Phoenix winning, then Sacramento, then Phoenix, and finally Sacramento once more. A complete teeter totter of sorts between these two young and very inexperienced squads.

Projected Starting Lineups:

PG Devin Booker vs. PG George Hill

SG Eric Bledsoe vs. SG Buddy Hield

SF Josh Jackson vs. Garrett Temple

PF Marquese Chriss vs. Skal Labissiere

C Tyson Chandler vs. Willie Cauley-Stein

Projected Series Record: 2-2 Series Tied

Projected 2017-2018 Record: 35-47

The season is almost here and yes the Sacramento Kings roster is young, but that doesn’t mean this team won’t be competitive in the division. They will go through their growing pains and learn from their mistakes.

With time and development, we will slowly begin to see a winner. Kings fans have been told to be patient for more than a decade now, which is extremely frustrating.

But the biggest difference I see now, is an incredible coaching staff capable of taking on the development of these young stars in the making and actually putting these players in the right situations to succeed.

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Cameron York
Special Contributor to Cowbell Kingdom

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