Heading into the 2018-2019 NBA season, the NBA’s Pacific division is seen as one of the most dominant and fun to watch divisions in basketball. Stacked with three of the NBA’s top five players along with a rising superstar in Devin Booker and multiple potential ridden players such as Deandre Ayton, De’Aaron Fox, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, etc. So in the first edition of the Pacific division briefing, let’s preview each of these teams first games plus recap the Warriors opening night battle versus the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Warriors Squeak by a Westbrook-less Thunder team in 108-100 Battle
Opening night games are never pretty. They usually feature a lot of unforced turnovers and defensive errors that make the games very sloppy. And this game was no exception. The Warriors “Big 4” combined for 82 of the teams 108 with Steph leading all scorers, tallying 32 points on 5/9 shooting from behind the arc. As for the Thunder, despite the loss of Westbrook, Paul George and Dennis Schroder were able to pick up the slack combining for nearly half of the teams’ overall points. However, other than George, Schroder, and Adams, it was tough to find any positives within the Thunder team. Their bench alone is a concern but should improve when Westbrook is back and Schroder can fill back in as a sixth man.
Sacramento Kings vs. Utah Jazz
Although the Sacramento Kings have multiple players with great potential (De’Aaron Fox, Harry Giles, Marvin Bagley III), I fully expect them to be one of the worst teams in the NBA. And unfortunately, they will be opening their season versus one of the leagues best teams in the Utah Jazz. Utah offers a top-three defense along with a great offense that features possibly the NBA’s best “young” talent in Donovan Mitchell. And if the talent and coaching disparities in the starting lineup aren’t enough, Utah posses a chemistry and grit that a young, inexperienced Kings team will likely not be able to match. I would be surprised if Sacramento doesn’t find their first (of likely many) losses tomorrow.
Final Prediction: Jazz- 110 Kings- 95
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Phoenix Suns versus Dallas Mavericks
This is possibly the most intriguing matchup of the NBA’s opening slate. With both teams offering top-5 draft picks (Luka Doncic, Deandre Ayton) along with other young “stars” who still have a lot of potential (Dennis Smith, Devin Booker), I’m expecting a tight game that features a ton of offense and highlights along with little to no defense. However, in the long run, I expect the Mavericks to prevail as the better team and maybe even a playoff contender. However, opening games are often sloppy and filled with turnovers, so I’m going to rely on a Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton led offense to outscore and out-run some of the Mavericks older players in Wesley Mathews and Dirk Nowitzki.
Final Prediction: Suns- 107 Mavericks- 104
Los Angeles Clippers versus Denver Nuggets
Every NBA season, I look at one team and label them the face of “mediocracy”. This season, the Los Angeles Clippers are on my short list for 41-41 contenders. Featuring underrated forward, Tobias Harris along with a 2x sixth man of the year winner, Lou Williams, the Clippers are just good enough to compete in every game. However, facing off against one of the leagues most underrated teams in the Denver Nuggets, the Clippers will have neither the firepower nor the defense to combat Denver’s stars. Players such as Nikola Jokić, Paul Millsap, Isaiah Thomas, and Gary Harris will prove to overpower Los Angeles’ lack of depth.
Final Prediction: Clippers- 94 Mavericks- 108
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Portland Trail Blazers
Another intriguing matchup, there’s going to be a lot of excitement surrounding the Lakers and how they will play and space the floor together. Obviously, LeBron is going to dominate the court at all times, but all eyes will be on the Lakers young talent (Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma) and if they can be productive with a ball-dominant superstar on the floor. Ultimately, despite the Blazers high-powered guard duo in Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, LeBron along with the Lakers young talent and veteran journeymen will outplay and outscore Portland.
Final Prediction: Lakers- 108 Trail Blazers- 100
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