Dan Favale | Tue 27/03/2018 - 17:10 EDT

One Question Every Team in NBA's Pacific Division Must Answer By the End of 2017-18

One Question Every Team in NBA's Pacific Division Must Answer By the End of 2017-18
Five teams are traversing very different paths in the NBA's Pacific Division. Getting out in front of their betting vitals, either as a playoff team or lottery-bound squad, entails a comprehensive understanding of what they need to do between now and the end of 2017-18. And from the reigning champion Golden State Warriors, all the way down to the league-worst Phoenix Suns, we have your complete one-question guide for each and every team.

NBA championship odds come courtesy of Bovada and are accurate as of Tuesday, March 27. While teams that have been officially eliminated from playoff contention won't have line changes, be sure to double-check the numbers on postseason hopefuls before placing a wager, as they will shift with each passing game.

Golden State Warriors (-180): Will Steph, Dray, KD And Klay Be Healthy?

Warriors

One wouldn't expect the Golden State Warriors to have any questions to ask. They are the reigning champions. They have four All-NBA players, each in their primes, on the roster. Their bench owns the NBA's second-best point differential per 100 possessions, behind only the Toronto Raptors.

They should be ready to roll for the rest of the year.

As it turns out, though, they might not be.

Injuries have started to catch up with the Warriors in a big way. Stephen Curry will miss at least the next three weeks with a Grade 2 left MCL sprain; head coach Steve Kerr does not expect him back in time for the start of the playoffs—or at all in the first round, for that matter.

Kevin Durant is sidelined with an incomplete fracture in his ribs. Klay Thompson has a broken thumb in his shooting hand. Draymond Green has been dealing with a hip injury. 

On top of that, Patrick McCaw is still on the shelf with a wrist injury. David West has missed time. Ditto for Jordan Bell. 

Is there no end for the Warriors? They're deep enough to weather this storm for the rest of the regular season. They're locked into the Western Conference's No. 2 seed. But will they be whole in time to face off with the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference Finals?

And better yet, if they're not, if Curry or Durant or Thompson misses more time than expected, will the Warriors even reach the Western Conference Finals?

Los Angeles Clippers (+30000): Is This Nucleus Worth Moving Forward With?

clippers

Keeping DeAndre Jordan and extending Lou Williams should have told us all we needed to know about the Los Angeles Clippers' plans.

It didn't.

Jordan is a free agent this summer (player option). Williams will be eligible to be traded in August. Newcomer Avery Bradley, who is done for the season, is a free agent. So, too, is standout Montrezl Harrell (restricted).

How will the Clippers approach the offseason? Will they look to keep this core together, even though it probably isn't headed for the postseason? Will they hit reset, completely and totally, letting Jordan walk and seeking to get out from under their veteran contracts? Will they toe a line somewhere in between? 

Owner Steve Ballmer wants to win. By that logic, the Clippers should end up standing relatively pat. But if they aren't able to capitalize on vulnerable positions being espoused by the Minnesota Timberwolves and Denver Nuggets en route to an eighth-place playoff berth, they'll have to look for other means of justification to run this thing back.

Los Angeles Lakers (Off): How Important Is Julius Randle To The Future?

lakers

In flipping Jordan Clarkson to the Cleveland Cavaliers at the trade deadline, the Los Angeles Lakers gave themselves a fairly clear path to two max-contract slots in free agency this summer.

The catch? 

Carving out dual-max spots will likely cost Julius Randle, who will be slated for a raise in restricted free agency.

Now, there are ways around the Lakers' predicament. If they can sweeten the pot enough to trade the final two years and $38.6 million remaining on Luol Deng's contract, they'll be able to float Randle's cap hold while pitching both LeBron James and Paul George on a relocation to Hollywood. But there's no guarantee they're willing to do that. 

More importantly, there's no guarantee the Lakers can trade Deng even if they try with all their might. Sure, some team, somewhere, will accept his deal. But cap space is expected to be scant around the league. The odds of them lopping off Deng's salary without taking back any money in return are virtually nonexistent. And if they're not getting out from under that money free and clear, there's little point in forking over valuable assets to grease the wheels of his departure.

Waiting for LeBron and PG13 to deliver their decisions before revisiting Randle's contract situation makes the most sense. But that's assuming he gives them the time. He could force their hand by signing an offer sheet elsewhere.

After all, Randle joins Joel Embiid as the only players this season clearing 20 points, 10 rebounds and three assists per 36 minutes. He's also improved his individual defense by appreciable margins. He will have more than his fair share of suitors. The Lakers must decide how much they're willing to invest in him—not to mention how soon they're willing to invest it. 

Phoenix Suns (Off): What Are Their Biggest Free-Agent and Draft Needs?

suns

The Phoenix Suns would be in a semi-enviable position if not for their questionable track record of developing players and keeping them happy. 

In addition to being the odds-on favorites to land the No. 1 overall pick, the Suns are one of the few teams with access to more than $20 million in cap space this summer. They could enter next season touting two additional high-end talents alongside Devin Booker. The question is: How should they go about doing that?

People will be clamoring for them to draft Deandre Ayton if they win the first overall pick. But they already have Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender, plus Tyson Chandler, on the docket. Are they willing to cut bait with one or both of the aforementioned youngsters?

Drafting a wing, such as Luka Doncic or Michael Porter Jr. paves the way for similar issues. Who do they replace in the rotation? Do the Suns try starting them at the 4, in place of Chriss or Bender? Do they move them to the 3, pinning both Josh Jackson and TJ Warren to the bench in the process? Do they bring their top rookie off the pine himself?

And how does free agency impact their thinking? They don't have to worry about being seduced by a point guard. None of the top floor-general prospects should be going in the top five. So should they resign themselves to chasing upgrades there in free agency, perhaps giving a call to Fred VanVleet, the Toronto Raptors' restricted free agent?

If they do target another position, which will it be? Another wing who can shoot coming around screens? Can they spin that while taking Doncic or Porter? Can they find viable trade candidates for Bender and Chriss if they opt to add more size? 

There's no such thing as too much talent in the NBA. Not really. And the Suns are far from scraping that apex even if there is. They do, however, need to figure out how they'll be fleshing out their depth chart from here. They're otherwise at risk of creating a damning imbalance. 

Sacramento Kings: Which Youngsters Are Keepers?

kings

The Sacramento Kings have no real discernible needs entering this year's NBA draft.

Bigs? They've got them in Skal Labissiere, Harry Giles and Willie Cauley-Stein.

Wings? They have those, too: Buddy Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Justin Jackson.

Guards? Yes, again. They picked up De'Aaron Fox and Frank Mason III last year, and both appear to be keepers.

The Kings even have a pair of intriguing fliers in JaKarr Sampson (big) and Bruno Caboclo (wing).

This surplus isn't an issue in the backcourt. The Kings won't be tempted to draft, say, Trae Youg no matter where they fall in the lottery order. There will always be an alternative.

Things are less certain when looking at bigs, wings and tweeners. Can they snag Michael Porter Jr., Mikal Bridges or Luka Doncic while remaining committed to both Bogdanovic and Hield? Can they go with Mohamed Bamba or, against all odds, Deandre Ayton with Cauley-Stein, Labissiere and Giles all in the fold? Does someone like Kevin Knox, a tweener forward, force them to move on from at least one of those three as well?

Fox is the Kings' only prospect with a superstar ceiling, so they won't bring in overlapping talent at his position. That doesn't make things much easier, though. They'll invariably be left to select someone who doesn't fill an immediate need, which leaves them to juggle the age-old prospect pageant question: Should they draft to plug weaknesses or simply opt for the best player available? 

Their evaluation of all their young talent down the stretch of this season—Fox excluded—will go a long way toward determining who they zero in on during the draft and even free agency.

*All statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference, FiveThirtyEight or NBA.com and are accurate leading into games being played on Tuesday, March 27.

Category : Sports Betting News

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