October 21, 2016 by Ell and Mike Sports
Ell’s NBA Divisional Rankings
Western Conference – Pacific Division
Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Zaza Pachulia
PG Shaun Livingston, SG Ian Clark, SF/SG Andre Iguodala, PF David West, C Anderson Varejao
PF James McAdoo, C Damian Jones
The Warriors were already a good team, but the addition of Durant takes this team to another level offensively. Stephen Curry is still a star in the league and arguably the best shooter in the league, if he can continue to improve his defense and stay healthy there will really be no stopping him. Klay Thompson is one of the top SG’s in the league and has really grown over the last two seasons, especially as a defender, but scoring is his bread and butter. Kevin Durant continues to be a star in this league and an offensive mismatch due to his length, but he needs to prove this season that he can play as a stretch 4 at times to allow the Warriors to put their best lineups on the floor. Draymond Green continues to be a versatile athlete who can play and defend multiple positions on the floor; he is probably the most valuable player on the team, as he is irreplaceable. ZaZa Pachulia was a solid free agent addition to replace Andrew Bogut, as a rim protector and he can also be a bully in the paint at times, due to his size. Shaun Livingston continues to be a valuable leader and defender off the bench, leading the 2nd unit and giving the team a spark when needed. Ian Clark is a young developing combo guard who the team would like to see continue to grow, as a possible replacement for Barbosa; other teams were interested in the offense. Andre Iguodala continues to be the primary defender on the team and x-factor; he is a solid two-way player who continues to make a living on the defensive end. David West was a solid pick up, as a role player at this point in his career who still brings interior toughness and veteran leadership, while providing inside scoring in spurts. Anderson Varejao continues to be an energetic rim protector, but he needs to stay healthy and he is mostly just around for playoffs. James McAdoo is a player that the Warriors continue to develop, as an offensive big man with a soft touch, good size, and a long wingspan. Damian Jones was a 1st round pick by the Warriors this year, that they hope to develop to replace Ezeli, as a shot blocker and rim protector; the team is very high on his potential. The Warriors continue to lead the way in the Western Conference and should continue to be the top team, they will need to learn how to work Durant into their system and develop good chemistry for the playoffs where they will continue to have a target on their back.
Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, Luc Mbah a Moute, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan
PG/SG Austin Rivers, SG/PG Jamal Crawford, SF Paul Pierce, PF Brandon Bass, PF/C Marreese Speights
PG/SG Raymond Felton, C Diamond Stone
The Clippers still have a solid veteran core and a solid trio with Paul, Griffin, and Jordan, but the clock is ticking. Chris Paul is still one of the elite PG’s in the league with a solid two game and the ability to bring top perimeter defense, passing, and leadership. J.J. Redick remains one of the top 3pt shooters in the league, but has since opened up his offensive game to more than jump shooting. Luc Mbah a Moute slides into the starting SF spot, for now, a position that continues to be in need of a long term solution, but he is a solid defender inside and outside; however, he doesn’t offer much on the offensive end. Blake Griffin continues to expand his offensive game and playmaking abilities, while growing as a player, but he needs to stay healthy. DeAndre Jordan is one of the top interior defenders and rim protectors in the league, while trying to expand his offensive presence. Austin Rivers proved last season to be a value combo guard who can score in an instant and he has even expanded his playmaking abilities; he is young enough to be a starter someday. Jamal Crawford is still one of the top 6th men in the league brining instant offense off the bench and playmaking ability. Paul Pierce is a shadow of himself at this point in his career and he is can only contribute valuable limited minutes and veteran leadership; he plans to retire as a Celtic next year. Brandon Bass is a solid veteran with a solid offensive game and the ability to rebound. Marreese Speights was a solid free agent addition from the Warriors who can provide solid interior offense and the ability to stretch the floor, as well as, be in a bully on the boards and in the paint; however consistency will be the key to his game. Raymond Felton was another solid addition, as a versatile combo guard who can also slide down to SF providing instant scoring and playmaking ability. Diamond Stone was a solid 2nd round pick, as a young big man who just needs time to mature, but he has a solid offensive game and inside presence; he needs to learn to stay out of foul trouble and work on his defense. The Clippers are one of the top teams in the West and they are the team no one wants to face in the playoffs, especially if everyone can stay healthy; however, they will need an infusion of youth soon.
Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker, T.J. Warren, Alex Len, Tyson Chandler
PG Brandon Knight, SG Leandro Barbosa, *SF P.J. Tucker, PF/SF Jared Dudley, PF Dragan Bender
PF Marquese Chriss, PG/SG Archie Goodwin, PG Tyler Ulis
The Suns have a solid collection of young talent and have added veterans Barbosa and Dudley to provide leadership, while getting Bledsoe back from injury. Eric Bledsoe returns to his starting job, as an offensive combo guard who can score and make plays, but he needs to stay healthy in an up-tempo offense. Devin Booker has developed into one of the best shooters in the league and can really put the ball in the hoop; he could be one of the top SG’s in the league the season. T.J. Warren is also finally healthy and has the ability to offensively take over games, but staying healthy will be the key. Alex Len has developed into one of the top offensive big men who can rebound and protect the rim; he will see more time at Center this season with Chandler coming off the bench more. Tyson Chandler remains a solid veteran presence on this team and defender/shot blocker, but he showed some decline last season and needs to stay healthy. Brandon Knight is also fully healthy and ready to be an offensive threat and playmaker, as the 6th man. Leandro Barbosa will also provide instant offensive, as he did with the Warriors, and provide a veteran presence off the bench. P.J. Tucker moves to a bench role, but could also start at PF with Chandler moving to the bench. Tucker is a defensive forward who can play both spots and provide solid all-around play and scoring in spurts, but he is currently injured. Jared Dudley is a versatile veteran who is a solid glue guy and defender; he doesn’t mind doing the dirty work and coaches love that. 1st round pick Dragan Bender is a rangy athletic scorer who is still young and raw, but he will have time to develop; however, the team is hoping he could be the next Porzingis. The Suns acquired 1st round pick Marquese Chriss who is an athletic two-way player who excels more on the offensive end; Chriss has stretch 4 potential, but needs to get bigger and prove that he can put it all together. Archie Goodwin is a young combo guard who needs to put it all together, as well, but he has shown offensive potential. 2nd round pick, Tyler Ulis is an undersized PG, who plays with toughness brining solid scoring and playmaking, but is he too small? The Suns continue to stock PGs and last season proved that it may not be a bad idea, however injuries could continue to stunt the growth of the team, but they are a solid young group who needs to develop chemistry and decide who will stay and who will go; they should contend for a playoff spot, but it will be tough for them to get in.
D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Luol Deng, Julius Randle, Timofey Mozgov
PG Jose Calderon, SG Lou Williams, SF Brandon Ingram, SF/PF Larry Nance Jr., C Tarik Black
SG/SF Nick Young, SF/PF Yi Jianlian
The Lakers are a shell of their former selves with the retirement of Kobe Bryant leaving a lot of shots to be taken and no ability to attract top free agents. D’Angelo Russell is now the future of the team, despite his immaturity he has grown on the court and has really picked up his scoring, but consistency will be key and continued growth as a playmaker and defender. The team still likes Jordan Clarkson, as he is a combo guard who can bring scoring off the bench or in the starting lineup, but his shot selection and consistency must improve. Luol Deng was a smart pickup who they had to overpay, but he proved last season that he can excel at both forward spots and he is one of the best glue guys and better defenders in the league. Julius Randle is a young work in progress with a good offensive touch and improving passing and rebounding skills, but he needs to put it all together and develop some consistency. Timofey Mozgov was another very expensive free agent the team overpaid for as he is coming off a championship with Cleveland and has proved prior that he can be a rim protector and provide scoring in spurts; however, he is 30 years old, but the Lakers will see what he has left. Jose Calderon is a veteran offensive guard, who can bring solid passing and long range shooting, but he doesn’t play defense at all; he is best suited to be a backup anyway. Lou Williams is still one of the top one on one scorers in the league and he can score whether starting or coming off the bench. 1st round pick Brandon Ingram has potential to be a one of top scorers of in the league with a solid inside/outside game, but he’s shown that he’s not ready, needs to gain weight, and needs to get better defensively; Deng is here to mentor him, as a true professional. Larry Nance has a solid all-around game, but he is not very explosive; he is a solid role player at either forward spot. Tarik Black continues to provide solid minutes in the paint, as one of the surprise finds on the team. Nick Young is a veteran offensive wing man at this point who is a very streaky shooter. Yi Jianlian is back for a 2nd stint in the league and has grown overseas, polishing his game; he could possibly work his way into playing time. The Lakers have a collection of young talent that needs to get better and develop chemistry, while they have added vets in Deng and Mozgov to help the growth; this team will continue to see growing pains under new coach Luke Walton.
Darren Collison, Ben McLemore, Rudy Gay, Willie Cauley-Stein, Demarcus Cousins
PG Ty Lawson, SG/SF Arron Affalo, SF Matt Barnes, SF/PF Omri Casspi, C/PF Kosta Koufos
PG/SG Garrett Temple, PF Anthony Tolliver
The Kings still haven’t put it all together and need to figure who is going to stick around as long term pieces. Darren Collison is going through some off the court troubles, but he should return to be the starter at PG, after Rajon Rondo left via free agency. Collison saw starter-like minutes last season and he should be ready for the expanded role again. Ben McLemore continues to be an inconsistent offensive player who needs to get better on the defensive end; the clock is ticking for him to be productive, but the Kings will not wait too much longer. Rudy Gay continues to be a consistent all-around player who never really proved to be a superstar, the timing is coming closer for the Kings to decide if he will be a long term sidekick to Cousins; however, he needs to stay healthy. Willie Cauley-Stein is a solid defensive presence inside who fits well next to Cousins, but he needs to put it all together and he should be ready. Demarcus Cousins continues to be a star and one of the top young centers in the league, but the lack of growth around him will keep him frustrated and looking for a way out. Ty Lawson continues to try to work his way back into being a top PG, but for now he will backup Collison and should see meaningful minutes. Arron Affalo was brought in via free agency, as a consistent wingman with the ability to score in spurts, but he needs to stay healthy; he should challenge McLemore for his starting spot. Matt Barnes was a smart free agent pickup, as he remains one of the top perimeter defenders in the league bringing good toughness and showing that he has a lot left in the tank. Omri Casspi remains a favorite of Coach Karl and a legit stretch 4 who can take over the 2nd unit, whenever the offense stalls. Kosta Koufos is a solid big man off the bench with the ability to protect the rim, rebound, and bring an offensive presence. Garrett Temple was brought in as a smart free agent pickup, as a consistent combo guard who can play defense and a veteran presence. Anthony Tolliver continues to be one of the top glue guys and a versatile player who can do a little bit of everything. The Kings have a long uphill battle in the Western Conference, again, but the continued growth of Cauley-Stein and McLemore will be the key and figuring out who will stay past this season; anyone, but Cousins should be expendable.