The Phoenix Suns have owned this division for the last two years and with Amare Stoudemire back in the fold experts are all but giving it to them once again.
But not so fast say the Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings – all teams that are hoping to improve on their successful campaigns of a year ago.
Finally, throw in the new-look Golden State Warriors and the Pacific division promises to be more than just a one-horse race.
Golden State Warriors
2005-2006 record: 34-48 SU, 41-39-2 ATS
O/U odds: 36 ½ wins, Over (-150), Under (+120)
Run, run, run.
That will be the Golden State Warriors` mantra this season after the team brought in three-time Coach of the Year Don Nelson to steer the ship this season.
Fortunately for Nellie and Golden State backers, the team has the athletes to play his favored run and gun style, especially in the backcourt where guards Baron Davis and Jason Richardson may be the most athletic guard tandem in the league.
But both are injury prone with Richardson already doubtful for the season opener because of a bad back. If either end up missing any serious time, don’t expect the Warriors to meet expectations this season.
Especially since the team will already be handicapped with their short bench and small lineup that starts undersized Troy Murphy at center and Mike Dunleavy at the four.
Covers.com prediction: 35-47 straight up
Los Angeles Clippers
2005-2006 record: 47-35 SU, 42-38-2 ATS
O/U odds: 46 ½ wins, Over (-115), Under (-115)
The Los Angeles Clippers had a banner year last season recording the franchise`s highest win total since they won 49 games in 1974-75 when they were located in Buffalo.
Because of this, the team maintained the status quo in the offseason with the decisions to re-sign point guard Sam Cassell and center Chris Kaman the only serious summer moves. With those players in place, it’s highly unlikely the team will improve on last year’s monumental season.
But it’s also unlikely they will fall too far. Power forward Elton Brand is a bona fide star who brings his best effort every night and must be figured into and consistently opposition’s game plan.
Throw in the presence of coach Mike Dunleavy along with the return of Cassell and the emergence of Shaun Livingston and the Clips will once again be a tough team although last year’s success may make them a bit overrated from a betting standpoint.
Covers.com prediction: 46-36 straight up
Los Angeles Lakers
2005-2006 record: 45-37 SU, 44-36-2 ATS
O/U odds: 42 ½ wins, Over (-115), Under (-115)
It’s not just about Kobe Bryant anymore.
Or at least backers of the Los Angeles Lakers hope this is the case, especially since Bryant is hurting after offseason knee surgery has the superstar doubtful for Tuesday`s season opener.
That means the team will rely heavily on Lamar Odom, one of the game’s more enigmatic players. Odom has the ability to be one of the most dynamic performers in the league but seems to lack that killer instinct and will often differ to Bryant in the team’s offense.
But if Odom can maintain the level of basketball he played during the last year’s playoffs when he averaged 19.1 points, 11 rebounds and 4.8 assists, then the Lakers stand a good chance of equaling their win total of a year ago.
The team should also benefit from increased contributions from their other rotation players, most notably their big men, Chris Mihm, Kwame Brown and Andrew Bynum, who will be counted on to hold the fort against the Western Conference’s most imposing big men.
Covers.com prediction: 45-37 straight up
2005-2006 record: 54-28 SU, 44-37-1 ATS
O/U odds: 56 wins, Over (-125), Under (-105)
We shouldn’t even bother playing the season and just give the NBA Championship to the Phoenix Suns judging by what the basketball experts are saying.
Sure the Suns were an impressive team a year ago and now with Amare Stoudemire back they have to be considered a favorite for the title. But how will Stoudemire’s return affect the team’s chemistry and rotation?
Most notably, how will it affect Boris Diaw, the young Frenchman who flourished in his absence? And how will the team react to Stoudemire coming back and demanding the ball in the offense? Stay tuned for answers.
The good news is the Suns are still a very good team who are deeper than they were last year, especially at point guard where they signed Marcus Banks to give MVP Steve Nash a breather every now and again.
But in terms of betting, you may be smart to take a wait-and-see approach with Suns. There is no doubt this team will be overvalued to start the season and there’s a good chance they will struggle until the team adjusts to Stoudemire’s presence.
Covers.com prediction: 54-28 straight up
2005-2006 record: 44-38 SU, 43-37-2 ATS
O/U odds: 43 ½ wins, Over (-115), Under (-115)
It was a tale of two seasons for the Sacramento Kings.
First there was the part of the season when the team went 19-27. Then there was the part of the season when, after acquiring Ron Artest, the Kings went 25-11 and sneaked into the playoffs to give the San Antonio Spurs a scare in the first round.
Now with Artest around to start the season expectations are high – but are they realistic?
For starters, the team let small forward Bonzi Wells go in the offseason and it’s certain they will miss his scoring and rebounding. Secondly, the Kings did nothing to upgrade the frontcourt, a unit that can score but lacks athleticism, something that will surely hinder the team when they play the likes of Phoenix and Dallas.
And finally there’s the injury to starting point guard Mike Bibby that will keep him out of the lineup for the first couple of weeks. While it doesn’t sound like much, the team has very little depth at guard and any extended period of time without their leading scorer could seriously hurt their playoff chances.
Covers.com prediction: 39-43 straight up
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