The quick answer is: there are five teams in the Pacific division — Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns, and the Sacramento Kings.
Most know the NBA as a league split into east and west. The two conferences are how fans often categorize the league, and it’s how the playoffs are structured as well. Even so, there are several divisions within each conference that many tend to overlook.
This article studies those splits by looking at the Pacific. While all of the groupings are unique in their own way, the Pacific Division stands out for having such a wide spread of both winning and losing franchises.
A Split Decision
When the NBA first merged back in the late 1950’s, it had a problem. There were simply too many teams. While managing a smaller number wasn’t too bad, keeping track of extra organizations made things much more difficult than they had been in the past.
To fix that, they decided to split the league into select categories known as divisions. The groupings all covered a specific region, with all of the teams inside each one being relatively close geographically.
While the first divisions didn’t last too long, the idea stuck. It allowed the league to create rivalries, schedule games more efficiently, and handle travel without any long-term issues. As such, the method is exactly what the league used when it expanded again in the 1970’s.
That’s when the Pacific was born.
West Coast, Best Coast
The Pacific Division is one of the three in the current Western Conference. As with the other divisions, it contains five teams. They are the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns, and the Sacramento Kings.
All of those teams became grouped together during the 1970-1971 season after the NBA decided to expand the league up to 17 franchises (from 14). The addition of the extra franchises made it more difficult to create a schedule, so some needed to be put together.
At the time of the creation, the Pacific Division contained the Lakers, Trailblazers, San Diego Rockets, San Francisco Warriors, and Seattle SuperSonics. Due to shifts over time the Rockets, Trailblazers, and Sonics went to other divisions. The Suns, Clippers and Kings came in.
That current iteration has been in effect for many years, and will likely stay that way until the league decides to add even more franchises. All teams are centered around the west coast, with four being in California. That makes travel extremely easy.
As four teams are from one state, it also holds some of the biggest rivalries in the NBA. The two L.A. teams always have tough games, as do the Kings and Warriors. It’s part of what makes basketball so fun.
A Mixed Bag
The Pacific Division has some of the highest highs in the NBA. The Lakers are an incredibly storied franchise with the second most championships in league history. On top of that, the Warriors are currently in the midst of one of the best dynasties of all time.
However, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. The Kings are one of the worst franchises in the NBA, having the longest playoff drought of any team, while the Suns and Clippers are both inconsistent at best. None of the three organizations have any rings either.
That creates a spread few divisions see. It’s not rare to have some winners and some losers, but to have two dynasties and three championship-less franchises is pretty unique.
The Pacific Division has one of the largest spreads of any in basketball. There are a lot of winners, but a lot of long-suffering teams too. The Kings, Suns, and Clippers all hope they can get the monkey off their back one day. They’ve come close, but have struck out so far.