The Wild West: Pacific Division

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Updated: October 25, 2021
Stephen Curry – Kings

Golden State took the 90-minute drive from the city to Sac to match up with the retooled young Kings. Last year Sacramento was the chicken soup of the West with the 30th ranked defense in the NBA, but with the recent addition of rookie Davion Mitchell, the culture seems to be shifting in the right direction with their overall intensity. It’s not only their constant up-tempo offensive attack or their commitment to team defensive, but the Kings look like a team that enjoys playing with one another. It doesn’t sound like high praise, but for a Luke Walton team that last year made every guard in the league look bubble Herro, they appear to have made an evolutionary step in their personal.

Now they swallowed the L against the Warriors, but the game had a playoff intensity that forced the hottest team in the West to make big shots down to the wire. The newly formed young core in the backcourt of Mitchell and Tyrese Haliburton is a rare two-way commodity in the making. Especially if Davion’s shot starts to develop, the Kings will have a hard decision to make about recently maxed-out 25 point per game scorer De’Aaron Fox. Although his burst to the basket makes him a terror when moving downhill especially when he identifies a mismatch out in the perimeter, his shot looks too much like it did in his rookie season.

Harrison Barnes on the other hand looks like he has fully stepped into his prime as a poised veteran out on the wing. We’ll see if he can maintain the ice in his veins if they ever make it to playoffs, but it appears like he now welcomes game-deciding shots. In a 7-game series, I can’t imagine this young squad conquering any of the established contenders in the West…but in a 1-off play-in game, they are lowkey dangerous. Now it’s a long season, and we’ve seen plenty of teams have nice starts these last few years and then completely fall off a cliff by the All-Star break. And considering Luke Walton’s recent tract record, it really wouldn’t be a huge surprise if that’s exactly what happens.

However, even though Sac seems to be fixated on making the playoffs, whether they do it this year or next, there is finally promise again in Sacramento. The worse thing they can do is move young pieces or assets for a win-now weapon to solidify the 6th seed. If they can have patience around the two new young guards, just with internal development they may turn themselves into a perennial playoff participant.

Dubs

 Throughout the preseason the Warriors were shooting the lights from distance. They went undefeated to enter the regular season with a split in narratives between analysts who were believers and non-believers about their title aspirations. The one thing that was universally held by the majority of pods and telecasts though was that they would most likely struggle until Klay Thompson’s return. Well, that simply hasn’t been the case. So much has been made about their rookies after they took the ceiling pick on raw Jonathon Kuminga, but the Warriors have one of the oldest rotations in basketball. Their depth of veterans on the wing and their ability to facilitate in the non-Steph minutes is something that has been lacking the last few years.

With Curry in full MVP mode, averaging 31, 7, and 9 even in the outings where his shot hasn’t been falling, he still has found ways to lead his team to victory. Since the regular has started, we have seen less of shimmy Steph and more towel overhead serious-eyed Curry waiting in the early minutes of the 4th quarter to come in and close. Last year he was the oldest player on the team, and for the first time in his career, he did not have the luxury of sulking and pouting when things weren’t going his way. As the oldest player on the squad, he had too much responsibility for the growth of the young and had to be the adult in the room. Well, now with Iggy back and a stack of new vets, Curry gets to go back to being the offensive killer, but with a new poise of a grown man.

Not only on the offensive end, with his new size he adopted last year, one could argue for his position as an All-NBA point guard he is actually a plus defender in comparison to the other star offensive-minded guards. He leads the team in steals with 2.3 a game, setting the tone for a team that has always prided themselves on the defensive end of the floor. Look, it’s early, 3 games is nothing to bet a season on, but Klay Thompson will return by the end of January, fully rested, and hungry. Even if he is a shelf of himself, he still is will be the greatest spot-up shooter in the history of basketball with one of the quickest triggers the league has ever seen. For a team that already has its identity and established veteran depth, adding such a weapon should strike fear in every team across the league.

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Aurelio
Aurelio (@aurelio)
1 month ago

Now if only old town Sac people would support their team instead of our Warriors. Great read.

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