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NBA Season Previews: Pacific Division

With the NBA season only two weeks away, the NBA staff of My Mind on Sports is continuing our roundtable series to prepare you for the upcoming year. In these roundtables we will answer key questions in each division concerning their respective teams. The third division up is the Pacific. This division harbors the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors. Enjoy. 

1. How soon will Kobe Bryant be back and what do you expect from him once he returns?

Michael Sykes: I think Kobe will be back by mid-December and he’ll likely be inserted instantly into the starting lineup. That’s right within the 6-9 month frame that we were told for his recovery time. I don’t expect him to be the Kobe Bryant of yesteryear, though. He’s one year older and will likely have a lot of rust to work off.

Chuckie Maggio: Kobe Bryant knows his body better than almost anybody, so his comment about being out of shape concerned me. But he’ll get it together and be back by the game against Memphis on November 15–missing only eight regular season games. I expect him to be back to his usual self by the All-Star Break.

Samar Gaines: I have zero doubt in my mind that Kobe will be back sooner than later. When he gets back on the court I expect him to struggle with his conditioning for at least a few weeks. As for his actually play Kobe is smart enough to be effective even if he’s not 100%.

Eddie McDonald: I expect Kobe Bryant to be out for the first month of the regular season. He said he needs roughly three weeks to get his “fat ass” into shape. When he returns, he will be Kobe Bryant. He will do whatever it takes to win games, even if that means shooting too much at times.

Octavia Wyatt:  There isn’t a set timetable for his return so when he’ll be back? We really have no idea. Kobe is a beast but realistically he’s coming off a severe injury and he’s not a young man anymore. His superstardom may push him to prove the naysayers wrong about the Lakers, I think time will only tell.

Jay Braswell: I think Kobe gives us a nice Christmas present this season, and plays versus Miami at home in LA. At 35 I most certainly do not expect him to be Kobe of old. But I believe after the All-Star break he gets into gear.

2. Will Andre Iguodala put the Warriors in the upper echelon of the West?

MS: I think so. He’ll give the Warriors some defensive versatility on the perimeter. He’ll be able to guard all perimeter positions during stretches and it’ll be much easier for Mark Jackson to hide Stephen Curry because of that addition.

CM: The Warriors would be in the upper echelon of the West without Iguodala, but they are even better with him. Klay Thompson needs to be reined in a bit, and A.I. can provide the veteran leadership to help him be more selective with his shots and to improve his shooting percentage as well.

SG: No, because the upper echelon teams of the West are so good. It’s hard for me to see this team being better than the Spurs, Thunder, Clippers, and Rockets. This is probably the fifth best team in the West which this season is very good. Also, if Andrew Bogut misses a long stretch of the season this team may end up lower than a fifth seed.

EM: I think Andre Iguodala will put the Warriors in the top four in the West. He is a versatile player who is not concerned with his numbers, but rather his team winning. Not only the addition of Iguodala, but the additions of Jermaine O’Neal and Toney Douglas (not great, but excellent role players) combined with Steph Curry, Andrew Bogut, David Lee, Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson will make for an exciting team.

OW: I think the new age A.I gives the warriors an edge. He’s a great finisher at the rim and plays great perimeter defense. He brings a spark to them.

JB: es they are a very dangerous bunch with a lot of confidence in themselves. Last year they knocked off a pretty solid Denver Nuggets team in round one. If the ball bounced differently in the overtime loss to San Antonio in game 1 of the second round; they could have been in the WCF. Iguodala just adds an elite wing defender to their arsenal as well as another scoring option.

3. Does Demarcus Cousins deserve the extension that he received?

MS: I don’t think so. He’s been a productive player in the league in some regards, but I still don’t like his shooting percentages nor do I like how his attitude swings back and forth. I would have traded Cousins last season if I were Sacramento. With these next few upcoming draft prospects, there was a viable replacement on paper for the Kings to possible go to.

CM: No he does not. Cousins has shown he still lacks maturity, as evidenced by his comment that this is the “first” offense he’s ever been in, a statement clearly directed at former Kings coach Keith Smart. Maybe minority owner, Shaquille O’Neal, can turn Cousins’s attitude around so he can become the player he has the potential to be.

SG: Realistically? No he doesn’t deserve the extension he just signed. In a perfect world Cousins is playing for his extension this season but because it’s the Kings the market is small and they are a team with a history of losing lately they had no choice but to do it.

EM: DeMarcus Cousins does deserve the boatload of money the Kings gave him–especially if he can show signs of maturity throughout the duration of the contract. Also Shaq – who is in the upper management now – will be able to mentor Cousins.

OW: I’m not 100% sure if he deserves it but I think this is an incentive for him to prove his worth. Cousins has talent beyond his years but his maturity hasn’t caught up yet. This may be a reach but maybe now that Shaq is a minority owner things may change for the better with Cousins.

JB:  DeMarcus Cousins deserves every bit of the 4 year 62 million dollar extension. Cousins has been producing on the court since he was drafted in 2010. Averages nearly a double-double. Has some growing up to do in my opinion, but his production says that he deserves it.

4. What impact will Doc Rivers have on the Clippers?

MS: Rivers is going to make Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan a consistent defensive combination. With Rivers’ zone-man hybrid defensive scheme, both of these hyper-athletic big men will thrive. They’ll be able to cover so much space effectively.

CM: Rivers will change this offense around with the postseason in mind. “Lob City” doesn’t work in the playoffs, and we’ve seen that the past few years. Look for a more controlled offense that will directly improve Blake Griffin’s game and take him to the next level.

SG:  Well, let’s see. They went from being coached by one of the worst coaches in the league (sorry, Mike) to one of the best coaches in the league just the upgrade in coaching is going to be huge. If Doc can get through to DeAndre Jordan and help him become a better defender that may decide if this team is just a very good team or a championship contender.

EM: -Doc Rivers will provide a huge impact on the Clippers. He simply just knows how to win. He brought the Celtics back to being one of the best teams in the NBA and will do the same with LA. Not only does he know how to win, but he has a very talented roster that is capable of doing big things.

OW: I think Doc Rivers will have a huge impact. The Clippers have the pieces they need and Doc Rivers is the man for the job. What he did with the “Big 3” in Boston, I think he goes beyond that with Paul, Griffin, and Jordan.

JB: Doc will bring a lot to the table in Los Angeles, he is a Hall of Fame coach and a former NBA Champion. I see Rivers leading this group to a remarkable regular season. I think Doc is needed most for the Clippers in the postseason. He will add an element of toughness and playoff experience.

5. How good will Eric Bledsoe be in Phoenix?

MS: I don’t see him being as good as he was in Los Angeles. They traded him within the division for a reason. Bledsoe only played around 18 minutes per game last season–a very small sample. His defense is going to take a small step back and I think he’ll be exposed offensively for not being a consistent creator for the team around him.

CM:  Bledsoe creates turnovers better than almost anyone in the game. That will be appreciated in Phoenix where extra possessions are hard to come by. He won’t have a monster year, but he’ll shoot his usual 45% clip, improve in points and assists, and help improve this young Suns team.

SG: I’m not really high on Bledsoe. I’m unsure on him as a point guard. He struggles running an offense and getting over players involved. I think he’s going to struggle on this Suns team, which maybe what the rebuilding Suns want for at least a season or two.

EM: Eric Bledsoe will flourish in Phoenix, but not enough to have them winning a lot of games. This is his time to shine, but unfortunately for him, he has a less than stellar supporting cast. I expect big things from him, but not his new team.

OW: To me it doesn’t matter how good he will be if he will be alone. He may try to overcompensate for what his team lacks and that could hurt his personal stats.

JB: I think Bledsoe has pretty much the same season as last year. He more than likely will backup Goran Dragic to start the season and, whats more, I hear Shannon Brown has been playing some point guard as well. Eric will provide more defense at the point guard spot for the Suns.

6. Who wins the division?

MS: I’ve got the Los Angeles Clippers winning this division. With the Lakers down and the Warriors posing the only real  threat, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin will prove to be just too much for the other teams vying for the division lead.

CM: The Clippers will benefit from a new offensive mindset to win the division.

SG: The Los Angeles Clippers will win the division but it will be close because this Golden State Warriors team will also be really good.

EM: The Clippers. I think they are too talented and deep not to win the division. Oh, that guy Rivers, he will be a huge upgrade from Vinny Del Negro.

OW: All in all, the Clippers take the division. With the acquisition of Doc and retaining arguably the best point guard in the league, and a cast of very capable players I think it’s a good year for the Clippers. But keep and eye on the Warriors.

JB: Give me the Lakers.

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Editors note: Answers from Octavia Wyatt and Jay Braswell were added in by the editor.

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