Back by popular demand, we are taking a look at divisions around the League. I don't know about you guys, but with our team on their current skid, I could stand something to think about other than the ankles of LeBron James and Chris Bosh. Other than a lengthy diatribe, there was virtually no conversation on my first crack at this. I pointed out different things this time around--as I'm sure I'll do with the remaining divisions as well.
The Pacific Division-were it not for the Phoenix Suns-could be renamed the California State Division. This division is, by far, the weakest in the Association. The division-leading Los Angeles Lakers are the only team currently in the Playoffs (if those playoffs began today). The second place Phoenix Suns are 10 games back of the Lakers and are currently in 9th place in the Western Conference standings. The Lakers are fairly consistent whether at home or on the road, but the rest of the division is abysmal on the road. The rest have combined to win only 20 of 57 (.351) road games thus far.
Biggest disappointment: Sacramento Kings. I had such high hopes for this team. All things considered, they had a rather respectable 2009-2010 campaign, and they added DeMarcus Cousins through last year's Draft. Of course, I mainly keep my attention on the Miami Heat, but I keep the Kings in my peripheral. Why? Tyreke Evans is my fourth favorite NBA player to watch (behind Dwyane Wade, Manu Ginoboli, and Deron Williams, respectively). The way Evans plays actually reminds me a lot of D-Wade. The youngster has hit a bit of a sophomore slump this season, and you could argue that he has been limited by injuries (and perhaps playing through some of those injuries), but I think he'll be fine in the long run. Cousins, on the other hand, is having and will continue to have his growing pains. With a new arena deal in place (allegedly) and the team's current lack of success, the Maloofs (co-owners) may be ready to make a change at head coach to speed up the success rate.
Team with the most to look forward to: Los Angeles Clippers. With the long-awaited debut of Blake Griffin, the acquisition of Al Farouq-Aminu, and the development of Eric Gordon, the Clips were a sexy preseason pick to contend for the Playoffs this season. They do, however, seem to be heading in the right direction. The Clippers have won 7 of their last 10 games, and they are the only Pacific Division team other than their Staples Center roommates to have a winning record against the rest of the division. This success is not due to a favorable schedule. They have recent quality wins against the Lakers, Heat, and Nuggets. Griffin has shown that he has the ability to lead his team, and they will be a force to be reckoned with. Even if too much of this season has passed, they will be a force to be reckoned with in the next. That may be something Clipper fans are tired of being told for the last half-century, but the young fella has me drinking the Kool-Aid and believing the hype.
Team most likely to represent the Pacific Division in the NBA Finals: Los Angeles Lakers. No big surprise here. They are the only team from the division currently in the Playoff picture, and they are the defending Champs until they get eliminated in the postseason. These Lakers haven't exactly looked dominant, but they have the second half of the season to find their stride and play their best basketball going down the stretch. Kobe Bryant hasn't been Kobe Bryant for most of the season, but you can believe he is working himself to a point where he'll be ready for the Playoffs. Don't count these guys out by a long shot.