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Pacific: Best Division in NBA History?

Entire Pacific Division in Playoffs

The modern NBA standings were made before the 2004-05 season, dividing the 30 teams into two conferences, like they always had been, but now sorted into three divisions of five.

Pacific: Best Division in NBA History?
Domantas Sabonis #10 of the Sacramento Kings - Loren Elliott/Getty Images/AFP

1) Denver
2) Memphis
3) Sacramento
4) Phoenix
5) LA Clippers
6) Golden State
7) LA Lakers

— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) April 9, 2023

Theoretically, it should be hard for all five teams from one division to make the playoffs all at once, but the Pacific Division has broken NBA news by doing that exact thing. With the Los Angeles Lakers beating the Minnesota Timberwolves in the Play-In Tournament, the Sacramento Kings, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Clippers, and Golden State Warriors are all in the playoffs.

This is only the third time since 2004-05 that this has happened. The Central Division did it in 2005-06, and the Southwest accomplished the feat in 2014-15. However, no team was able to win the NBA Finals.

Pacific Division Break Down

Kings Offensive Masterpiece

The Kings won the Pacific Division for the first time since 2003, ending a 16-season playoff drought. They also finished the regular season with the best offensive rating in league history. Sacramento’s roster features two All-Stars, Domantas Sabonis and De’Aaron Fox, who have been the offense’s backbone.

However, the Kings have the worst NBA Finals odds out of all five teams. Despite being the third seed and winning the division, their odds of making it to the Finals are +2000, and being champions is +6000. That might have to do with them facing the defending champions, the Warriors, in the first round and the Kings having the 25th-rated defense.

Suns All In With Durant

Coming in second is the Suns, who are the favorites in the West (+200) and have the third-best NBA odds (+450). Phoenix made the NBA Finals in 2020-21 and had the best record in the league by a wide margin last season. Most of the roster is the same, except they traded for Kevin Durant at the deadline.

The star power of Durant, Devin Booker, Chris Paul, and Deandre Ayton might be too much to handle. However, their lack of depth is a massive question, especially with the star players dealing with injuries throughout the season. On top of that, the Suns have only played eight games with Durant in the lineup.

Clippers Remain a Question

Next is the fifth-seed Clippers, who will face the Suns in the first round of the playoffs. Los Angeles was able to sign Kawhi Leonard and acquire Paul George in the summer of 2019, but it has not been able to put the pieces together. They blew a 3-1 lead in the 2020 playoffs. Leonard was injured in the second round of 2021, and the team lost the West Finals. Last season, they missed the playoffs after being eliminated from the Play-In.

The Clippers have been untapped potential for the last three seasons and seem headed for the same disappointment again. Facing the Suns is challenging, especially with George now injured. The one positive would be that the Clippers now have Russell Westbrook, who can take games over in George’s absence.

Warriors Still Defending Champion

Unsurprisingly, the defending champions have the third-best odds in the West, second in the division, to make the Finals (+325). Golden State has almost nearly stayed alive based on its reputation alone. The season has been a struggle dealing with injuries, off-court drama (Draymond Green punching Jordan Poole in the preseason, along with contract issues), and an inability to win on the road.

On the other hand, it is hard to deny that the Warriors are hard to beat, with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Green all on the court. Golden State will match up with the Kings, the second playoff series between two Pacific Division teams. The series will likely be an offensive masterclass between two of the highest-scoring teams in 2022-23.

Lakers Could Make Things Interesting

Finally, the Lakers have somehow clawed their way into the playoffs. This season has been a complete roller coaster ride for Los Angeles. LeBron James and Anthony Davis struggled to stay healthy, Westbrook was traded, and most offseason moves were given up on. This roster is entirely different from the start of the season, but an 8-2 record over the final 10 games was enough to get the team into the Play-In, where it beat the Minnesota Timberwolves in overtime to secure the seventh seed.

Despite all the problems this season, the Lakers still have two of the top players in the league, giving them the third-best odds of making the Finals in the division (+650) and a solid option for NBA picks. That isn’t surprising, given the team’s history and having a player like James on the roster. A talent like that can always give a team a chance, especially in a West void of a powerhouse.

Barometer of Success?

In 2005-06, the Detroit Pistons won the Central Division and had the best record in the East. However, they lost in the Eastern Conference Finals in six games. In 2014-15, the Houston Rockets won the Southwest Division, tied for the second-best record in the West. However, they only made it to the Western Conference Finals, losing in five games.

In both seasons, two teams from the division made it to the conference semifinals – the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2005-06 and the Memphis Grizzlies in 2014-15. Both teams came in second in the division. In 2005-06, the Pistons and Cavaliers met in the East semifinals.

This history could help with NBA predictions because at least two teams from the Pacific Division will make the Western Conference semifinals. That makes the chances of a team making the Finals from the division much greater, despite history going against that.

Plus, the elite talent in the division, from Curry, Durant, James and Leonard – all proven winners – makes it a real chance that one of these teams could make the Finals. That is backed by the odds, with the Suns, Warriors, and Lakers among the favorites to win the West.

Pacific’s Place in Division

Now for this division’s place in history. There are at least four sure-first-ballot Hall of Famers in the division, not to mention at least six more that will have a case by the end of their careers. Based on that alone, this might be one of the most talented divisions ever. If two teams make the West Finals or one wins the championship, it will become even harder to deny this as the best division in NBA history.

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