The Pacific division has always been about the Los Angeles Lakers and then the other teams, with a few outstanding occasions throughout the years. This season? Nothing much changed, with the arrivals of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, joining forces with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace in the most star-powered starting five in the NBA.
The rest of the division? The Clippers feel they’re just as good, with a team that has a better point guard in Chris Paul and possibly a deeper bench, while the Suns try to get used to life without Nash and the Kings & Warriors will try and take another step towards the postseason.
Point Guard – Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
Paul just might be the best point guard in the NBA, earning All-NBA first team and All-Defensive first team honors for the second time in his career last season. Griffin was the first touch of stardom for the Clippers, but the arrival of Paul has turned them into a very good team, reaching the conference semifinal last season. Once again, Paul’s ability to lead this team will decide how far they go and how good they’ll be compared with the Lakers.
Shooting Guard – Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
Entering his 17th NBA season, Bryant is still the class of the NBA when it comes to shooting guards, scoring and desire to win, despite falling short in the postseason these last two years. A big test for him in 2012-2013 will be swallowing his own pride from time to time and do the things that are good for the team and not for himself, as Nash is the main ball-handler while Dwight Howard will be another attention grabber in the paint.
Small Forward – Tyreke Evans, Sacramento Kings
Beginning his fourth season in the NBA, the Kings are still not quite sure what is his true position. He averaged 16.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists last season, the lowest numbers of his career as his time on the court took nearly a 10% drop. He brings a lot of talent and ability to play the point-forward as a ‘3’ on the floor, but his disregard for team play and defense at times can be much more than frustrating.
Big Man I – Pau Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers
The first half of what looks like the best big man duo in the NBA, Gasol gets kind of a different deal and combo with Howard than he did with Bynum. Suddenly, defending is what’s Howard is all about, which will help Gasol a lot in helping out and probably free him up, at least mentally, to feel a bit more offense oriented in his general game play. On offense, it’s going to be interesting to see how the roles between the two differ and possibly change during games.
Big Man II – Dwight Howard, Los Angeles Lakers
The new main attraction in town filled with them, and the next great (???) big man to join the Lakers. It’s going to be weird for Howard not being the alpha-male just yet on a team filled with players used to being the go to guy at some point in their careers, but a bit of lesser responsibility on the offensive game might just do him a lot of good after being the reason and target for everything good and bad down in Orlando.