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NLJ’s 2021 NBA Season Preview: Pacific Division

The NBA season begins on December 22. After an offseason in which we’ve seen contenders retool their rosters and star players change locations; this 2021 season could be one of the best ever. Here at No Limit Jumper, we’ve got you covered for the start of the season with our official 2021 NBA Season Preview. Join us as we take a look at each division and make predictions on how the 2021 season may shake out.

Next up: the Pacific Division


Los Angeles Lakers

  • Last Season: 52-19 (3-5 in the bubble), 1st in West, 1st in Pacific Division
  • Playoffs: 🏆 16-5, W NBA Finals (vs MIA)
  • Key Departures: Rajon Rondo (ATL), Dwight Howard (PHI), Danny Green (PHI), Avery Bradley (MIA), JaVale McGee (CLE)
  • New Additions: Dennis Schroder, Montrezl Harrell, Wesley Matthews, Marc Gasol
  • Head Coach: Frank Vogel

Projected Starters:

Dennis Schroder

Dennis Schröder

KCP

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

Lebron

LeBron James

Anthony Davis

Anthony Davis

Marc Gasol

Marc Gasol

All photos via BBall Ref

Season Outlook

The LA Lakers are the reigning champs, which means they will have the target on their backs all season long. Credit needs to be given to Lakers GM Rob Pelinka as the Lakers retooled the roster on the fly. Gone are Rondo, Dwight, DG, and Bradley. KCP, Keiff, Cook, and Dudley are all back for another run. The Lakers will miss Rondo and DG’s leadership, but getting Schroder to replace Rondo is a huge move. Schroder is three years away from 30 and injects a youth movement into the Lakers roster. Wes Matthews is a cheaper version of Danny Green, Marc Gasol is a less-athletic and wiser Dwight, and Montrezl is a STEAL. Trez isn’t replacing anyone on the roster … he is just an awesome addition. He’s a rim-runner and is pure energy, AND this move hurts the Clips.

Oh yeah, and the Lakers still have AD and LeBron, the reigning NBA Finals MVP. LeBron is in year 18 but somehow one of the best in the league. This is something truly remarkable and despite him getting older, LeBron just finds a way to improve. Locking in Lebron and AD just shows the Lakers are going to be contending for titles for the next few seasons. The Lakers might not put a lot of effort into the beginning of the regular season, but as the 2nd half starts, look for them to turn it on and make another serious playoff run.

Prediction

Considering the last season ended just over 6 weeks ago, the Lakers will take it easy in the first part of the schedule, especially LeBron. I can see this being the MVP year for Anthony Davis. Fresh off his five-year extension, AD is ready to take over the league. AD finished 2nd in DPOY and 5th in MVP last year, so could we see an MVP and DPOY? The Lakers are loaded on defense and I fully expect this team to finish in the top-5 of most defensive categories. The Lakers are essentially a shoo-in for the postseason, but the Pacific division will be a tight race. I am going to go out on a limb here and say the Lakers are loaded enough to go back-to-back … and I think they do.

LBJ and AD celebrating their title.

Los Angeles Clippers

  • Last Season: 49-23 (5-3 in the bubble), 2nd in West, 2nd in Pacific Division
  • Playoffs: 7-6, L Conference Semifinals (DEN, 4-3)
  • Key Departures: Montrezl Harrell (LAL), JaMychal Green (DEN), Doc Rivers (PHI)
  • New Additions: Serge Ibaka, Nicolas Batum, Luke Kennard, Daniel Oturu (R)
  • Head Coach: Tyronn Lue

Projected Starters:

pat bev

Patrick Beverly

PG

Paul George

Kawhi

Kawhi Leonard

Marcus Morris

Marcus Morris

Serge

Serge Ibaka

All photos via BBall Ref

Season Outlook

Despite the postseason collapse, the Clippers did have a successful season in 2020. In season one of the Paul George and Kawhi Leonard experiment, the Clips finished with 49 wins and were 12 minutes away from a showdown in the West Finals against the Lakers. So you know in season two, the expectation is ‘West-Finals or bust’. The Clippers were hit with a bombshell in free agency when reigning 6th-man of the year Montrezl Harrell joined the Lakers, but the Clippers were able to scoop up a former-champion in Serge Ibaka, which is one hell of a replacement. Out is head coach Doc Rivers and in is former associate head coach Tyronn Lue, and the Clippers are hoping this is the change that will help them move forward. Lue helped guide the Lebron-lead Cavs to the title and the Clips are looking for the same kind of guidance here.

Kawhi Leonard is still one of the best players in all of basketball and is looking to reestablish his dominance after a miserable game 7 against Denver. Paul George just signed a 5-year super-max deal to keep him in LA for at least five more years and while Kawhi has yet to do so, all indications are he is in this for the long haul. The Clippers have higher expectations than just a Pacific Division title.

Prediction

The Clippers are still one of the best teams in the league and that is evident by their odds (+650) and their roster. On paper, this team is stacked and should battle for one of the top seeds all season. This is the third year after Kawhi’s knee injury and I expect him to compete for league MVP. Kawhi is ready and willing to show the league he is a supreme talent. Paul George is still an All-Star and borderline All-NBA player – I don’t expect him to play poorly again for long stretches. Serge Ibaka will fit right into the roster, set nasty screens and hit pick-n-pops from Lou Williams, who is still leading the Clippers bench. I think the Clippers win the Pacific and I fully expect a Lakers/Clippers West finals and while I stated that I picked the Lakers to win it all, this Clippers team is extremely capable of winning the 2021 title. I just think they will fall one round short.


Phoenix Suns

  • Last Season: 34-39 (8-0 in the bubble), 10th in West, 3rd in Pacific Division
  • Playoffs: N/A
  • Key Departures: Kelly Oubre (GSW), Ricky Rubio (OKC), Frank Kaminsky (SAC)
  • New Additions: Chris Paul, Jae Crowder, Langston Galloway, E’Twaun Moore
  • Head Coach: Monty Williams

Projected Starters:

Chris Paul

Devin Booker

Jae Crowder

Dario Šarić

Deandre Ayton

All photos via BBall Ref

Season Outlook

The Suns made a huge splash in the offseason by acquiring future Hall-of-Famer PG in Chris Paul. They gave up a lot, but this is a great chance for the Suns to make a real push at the postseason. All-Star guard Devin Booker should be happy with this move as he can play more off-ball now. Booker really came into his own last season, especially in the bubble. Book averaged 31 points and 6 assists, while shooting 49% from the field and 35% from three. If he can do that for this upcoming 72-game season, the Suns can replicate the success they had in the bubble.

The Suns were 8-0 in Orlando and missed the play-in game thanks to a tie-breaker, which had to hurt. So much so that the team went out and got CP3. Saric is back and the team also went out and signed Jae Crowder, which is a sneaky-good signing for them. Crowder brings postseason experience and intensity on defense, which is a must in Phoenix. This is also a big year for big man Deandre Ayton, who was suspended in 2019 for PED use and then missed most of the season last year. The Suns need Ayton to be the best version of himself if they want to compete in the Pacific division, let alone the West.

Prediction

The Suns will be one of the most exciting teams to watch this year. They have 9 games on National TV, so they have a decent chance to get some exposure here. The Suns are poised to be a playoff team and to be honest, it would surprise me if they didn’t make it. They were so close last year and after watching what CP3 did for the Thunder in 2020, I see the same kind of thing happening here. This team is already riding high from the 8-0 bubble … and they have every right to. Adding Chris Paul to a confident Suns team should result in at least 40 wins (in a 72-game season) and a 3rd-place finish in the Pacific. I envision this team playing controlled. I know you think Chris Paul and fastbreaks, but he is all about pace of play, and the Suns need to control the ball and limit their silly decisions in order to get over the hump.


20 Second Time Out

2021 City Jersey Rankings: Pacific Division

  1. Lakers City & Classic Edition ‘Legacy of Laker Lore’: Inspired by Elgin Baylor and the 1960’s Lakers, the 2021 Lakers city and classic edition jerseys are some of the best I’ve ever seen. The blue is stunning and the white is growing on me. The Lakers are one of a few teams releasing two jerseys this season.
  2. Suns City Edition ‘Hottest in the Game’: These spit hot fire like Dylan from Chappelle’s Show. These jerseys have a serious 90’s vibe with the black and twilight colors, and I love the ‘Valley’ across the chest. It’s a shame that one of the OG ‘Valley Boys’ is on the Dubs now.
  3. Warriors City Edition ‘Believe in the Bay’: You gotta love the respect given to the ‘you gotta believe’ Warriors of 2007. However, this is still a little disrespectful to the people of Oakland, considering the Warriors just bolted from there.
  4. Kings City Edition ‘The Loyal Legion’: The black goes perfectly with the power-blue and red outline, and I really like the sublet black & grey checkered sides, paying homage to the mid-90’s Kings. However, I am not a fan of the ‘SacTown’ (LOL) name and I hope the NBA ends this ‘xxx-town’ trend.
  5. Clippers City Edition ‘The Art of the Grind’: The Clippers unveiled their city jerseys and they are the black version of the 2019 city jersey, which were some of the ugliest in the league. They are lucky there are only five teams in this division, otherwise, they’d be lower.

Sacramento Kings

  • Last Season: 31-41 (3-5 in the bubble), 12th in West, 4th in Pacific Division
  • Playoffs: N/A, 1.5 games back
  • Key Departures: Bogdan Bogdanović (ATL), Anthony Tolliver (MEM), Kent Bazemore (GSW)
  • New Additions: Tyrese Haliburton (R), Hassan Whiteside, Glen Robinson III, Frank Kaminsky
  • Head Coach: Luke Walton

Projected Starters:

De’Aaron Fox

Buddy Hield

Harrison Barnes

Nemanja Bjelica

Marvin Bagley III

All photos via BBall Ref

Season Outlook

The Kings are going into year 100 of rebuilding, or at least that is what it feels like. Management did make a very smart decision by resigning De’Aaron Fox to a 5-year supermax, so he will be in Sacramento for the foreseeable future. Not much is lost in the starting line-up, as it looks very similar to the team that won 31 games in 2020. What the Kings did lose is a special bench player like Bogdan. Not only did they lose him, but the Kings (or someone) botched the initial trade to Milwaukee, so it just looks like the same old stuff in Sacramento.

Former number 2 pick Marvin Bagley finally seems healthy after only playing in 13 games last season. He’s still not 22 years old until March 2021, so he is VERY young still and the Kings should not rush things. This season is key season players like Buddy Hield and Harrison Barnes, who might find themselves on a contender around the trade deadline. Regardless, a player like De’Aaron Fox is electrifying and the Kings will be a borderline ‘league-pass team’.

Prediction

The Kings will be in a lot of games in 2020/21 and they might even win some. But the majority of the games will result in a loss because that is what young teams do. There are plenty of things to like here and if everyone stays healthy, this team could compete for one of the play-in spots. I still feel there is a trade to be made on this roster, but I am not entirely certain I trust the person calling the shots. However, as mentioned early, I do want to give credit for re-upping Fox. That eases Fox’s mindset for this season and he can just play.

The draft selection of Haliburton is an intelligent one, but losing a player like Bogdan really hurts and will cause the Kings to fall short of the postseason again, by about 4-5 games this season. They are stuck in no-mans-land at the moment. They are too bad to be a good team, but too good to be a bad team.


Golden State Warriors

  • Last Season: 15-50, 15th in West, 5th in Pacific Division
  • Playoffs: N/A
  • Key Departures: Klay Thompson (Torn Achilles), Alec Burks (PHI)
  • New Additions: James Wiseman (R), Kelly Oubre Jr., Kent Bazemore, Nico Mannion (R)
  • Head Coach: Steve Kerr

Projected Starters:

Steph Curry

Andrew Wiggins

Kelly Oubre Jr.

Draymond Green

James Wiseman

All photos via BBall Ref

Season Outlook

This season could have been something much better than what it appears to be, but the Warriors bad luck with injuries continues. Klay Thompson tore his Achilles in offseason workouts, so his highly-anticipated return will have to wait until 2021/22. But there is good news! Thanks to the 15-win season last year, the Warriors landed the number 2 pick in the draft and selected big-man James Wiseman. Wiseman will come in and immediately be the starting center and while he will struggle at times, I can see Curry and Draymond getting him easy buckets inside with crisp entry passes and drive-and-dishes.

Warriors superstar Steph Curry is finally healthy and ready to lead this team and we all are happy to have him back. The NBA really missed Curry’s presence around the league & the Warriors really missed him on the court. The addition of Oubre Jr is a sneaky-good signing, as he can learn from some of the best to play the game. It’s good to see Bazemore back in GSW as well, but those two players don’t equal what Klay brings to the table. If the Warriors want to be anything at all this year, it comes down to if Andrew Wiggins can play well after the first month of the season.

Prediction

I think the Warriors will be fighting for a low playoff seed in the West. It would surprise me if they are one of the better teams in the league but crazier things have happened. I fully expect Curry to be a MVP candidate the first half of the season and the Dubs could even start out hot, but eventually this team has a ceiling and that ceiling was lowered when Klay tore his Achilles. Wiseman could win rookie of the year and I expect him to finish at least in the top-3 in voting. My sole prediction for the Warriors is Curry dominates – he’s an All-Star, 3pt shootout champ, All-Star Game MVP, All-NBA First Team. But the Warriors will probably finish closer to .500 than we think.


Brandon Rosenthal

I’m a sports fanatic, podcaster, and sports blogger. Born and raised in Los Angeles, basketball is in my blood. I played until the game told me I wasn’t good enough and I’ve covered the NBA since 2019 for NoLimitJumper.

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2 thoughts on “NLJ’s 2021 NBA Season Preview: Pacific Division Leave a comment

    • Thank you. I experienced a few years of Luke coaching here in LA and I don’t know how to feel. Fox is a stud though! Hopefully we can hear the ‘Sactown’ faithful roaring soon.

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