Go to guy: I heard that guy named Steph Curry is pretty good. The reigning MVP will have a chance to defend both his award and the Warriors’ championship, so it’ll be interesting to see if he hits the ground running to start the year, or if there will be a little bit of a championship hangover.
Player with upside: The Warriors have one of the deepest teams in the entire NBA, but when Harrison Barnes is playing well it makes the Warriors almost impossible to defend. Last season Barnes averaged 10 points and almost six rebounds, and he has a chance to improve on those numbers this season.
Best case scenario: Well it’s no bold prediction to say the Warriors will win a title, so it’s safe to say they’ll be in contention again this year.
Worst case scenario: Steph Curry or Klay Thompson getting hurt would be the only thing that could slow down this group.
Go to guy: In recent years Chris Paul has been the guy for the Clippers, but there’s a good chance that Blake Griffin takes complete control of the group this season. Griffin’s always been an explosive player, but now he’s expanded his overall game and there’s no reason he couldn’t be a potential MVP candidate.
Player with upside: The Clippers took a flier on Lance Stephenson over the summer to see if he still has any inkling of the talent he flashed while playing for the Pacers two seasons ago. That season, he showed he was capable of playing on both sides of the floor, and had potential to put up a triple double on occasion. He’s expected to start at small forward at the beginning of the year for the Clips, but he could potentially lose minutes to Paul Pierce. Stephenson definitely has upside but his attitude problems have brought him trouble in the past.
Best case scenario: Many analysts have predicted the Clippers to make it to the NBA Finals this season, and with players such as Griffin, Paul and DeAndre Jordan, that’s not an unrealistic expectation.
Worst case scenario: The Western Conference is only getting better, so if Jordan doesn’t gel with Paul, and Stephenson starts to give his teammates headaches, things could hit rock bottom pretty quickly.
Go to guy: Demarcus Cousins is one of the best big men in the entire NBA, and this appears to be the year the Kings are really looking to make progress and sneak into the postseason. Last year Cousins averaged 24 points and almost 13 rebounds, and the sky’s the limit for him moving forward. Look for Cousins to make the all-star team and really cement himself amongst the league’s elite.
Player with upside: The Kings drafted Willie Cauley-Stein in this year’s draft, and head coach George Karl announced he’ll be the likely starter at center. Cauley-Stein could be an elite defensive player in the NBA, and it would benefit the Kings greatly since Cousins and Rudy Gay are both primarily offensive players.
Best case scenario: The Kings will have a solid coach in Karl, and an even better superstar in Cousins. With those two things going for them, the Kings could make the playoffs as a seven or eight seed.
Worst case scenario: If Cousins and Karl don’t get along this could be another long season for Sacramento fans.
Go to guy: The Suns said farewell to Goran Dragic last season at the trade deadline, therefore Eric Bledsoe has full control of this team at the point guard position. Bledsoe averaged 17 points, six assists and five rebounds last season and he has a chance to make the all-star team this year.
Player with upside: Brandon Knight has a chance to put up big numbers for the Suns this year in the backcourt next to Bledsoe. Last year he averaged 17 points and five assists, but look for him to have more scoring opportunities, and also look more comfortable now that he’s had a training camp with the Suns.
Best case scenario: The Suns don’t have as good a chance to make the playoffs as they did last year, but they could definitely be a fringe team if Markieff Morris can repeat the year he had last season.
Worst case scenario: This team doesn’t really have an elite player, and that could hurt them in a Western Conference that’s loaded with them. If Bledsoe doesn’t have an all-star season, look for the Suns to be picking in the lottery again.
Go to guy: As long as Kobe Bryant plays for the Lakers, he’ll be the go to guy whether you like it or not. Kobe’s an all-time great, but it’s clear his best days are far behind him. If the Laker’s are going to succeed, Kobe will need to find a way to involve more of his teammates while mentoring the young guys.
Player with upside: DeAngelo Russell was one of the gems of the draft, and the Lakers snatched him with the second pick over Jahlil Okafor. With any top pick comes the hype, and Russell appears to have the necessary tools to succeed if he’s surrounded with talent.
Best case scenario: Kobe finds a time machine and turns the dial back to 2004.
Worst case scenario: The worst thing that could happen to this team is if none of the younger players (Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle) develop the way they should. It’s no secret that the Lakers won’t be very good, so the most important thing would be for the young guys to learn as much as possible.