This has been without a doubt the most memorable off-season in the history of the NBA. The player movement frenzy went from its usual speculation and rumor mill style, to all out pop culture event in some instances. This summer has looked more like a Fantasy League draft than re-ordering of some players in new area codes. The earthquake across the league this summer reset much of the power from being just on the left coast, and into the east. However, the talent in the west is still spread across the board better than anywhere else. Of the 15 teams in the division, 13 of them have a legit chance at making the playoffs every year. While the biggest moves of the off-season didn’t happen amongst the teams from the West side, a lot of them honestly didn’t need to make huge moves to sustain their success. Here is a showing of where less can be more.
Here are the CHEAP SEATS take on how each Western Conference team made out in the offseason, from additions and subtraction, draft and current free agent moves. Additions are noted as free agents (fa), draft picks (d) or trades (t).
Houston Rockets-Grade: A
Retained: Luis Scola, Kyle Lowry
Additions: Brad Miller (fa), Patrick Patterson (d)
The off-season sealed the march back towards the playoffs for the Rockets by not looking outwards, but keeping their already impressive corps together by resigning restricted free agents Luis Scola and Kyle Lowry in town. Add in well-rounded Patrick Patterson for the bench and potential return of Yao Ming, with Brad Miller for security and depth, and you’ve got a team the is guaranteed to push for the playoffs this year.
Los Angeles Lakers-Grade: A
Retained: Derek Fisher
Additions: Matt Barnes (fa), Steve Blake (fa), Theo Ratliff (fa), Devin Eubanks (d), Derrick Character (d)
Lost: Jordan Farmar (NJ), Josh Powell (ATL)
The champs did exactly what they needed to do, keep their core intact and improve on depth. Resigning Fisher took care of the first part and adding Barnes and Blake handled the rest. Blake will make a seamless transition for the departure of Farmar and Barnes will team with Lamar Odom to make this one of the toughest second teams in basketball. If Shannon Brown returns, this becomes the best graded off-season in the West.
Oklahoma City Thunder-Grade: A-
Retained: No FAs returned
Additions: Morris Peterson (fa), Daequan Cook (fa), Royal Ivey (fa), Cole Aldrich (d), Tibor Pleiss (d), Latavious Williams (d), Ryan Reid (d)
The number one team on the verge of breaking through made the right moves to finish that transition this off-season. They already have a solid rotation starting around the All-Universe Kevin Durant and added more depth than nearly any other team. Morris Peterson’s veteran presence could be exactly what this team needs to go over the top. Cole Aldrich, acquired in a draft day trade with Peterson, will be a plus front line bench performer.
Memphis Grizzlies-Grade: B
Retained: Rudy Gay
Additions: Tony Allen (fa), Xavier Henry (d), Greivis Vazquez (d)
Lost: Ronnie Brewer (CHI)
Memphis’ summer is best understood by looking at the future. While Gay may not be worth the five-year, $82 million contract he signed to kick off agency, it could pay off in big time if he continues to his personal consistent improvement and becomes one of the premier wings in the League, as he projects to be over the course of the contract. It was premature, it was necessary to keep intact one of the best young cores in the NBA.
Dallas Mavericks-Grade: B
Retained: Dirk Nowitzki, Brendan Haywood
Additions: Tyson Chandler (t), Dominique Jones (d), Ian Mahinmi (fa)
Lost: Erick Dampier (CHA), Eduardo Najera (CHA), Matt Carroll (CHA)
The Mavs kept their franchise’s most pivotal player in place by resigning Nowitzki, but also add pieces that can make it easier for him to maximize his game at his increasing age. Resigning Haywood and acquiring Chandler, will let him spend more time on the perimeter and less contact under the rim.
Minnesota Timberwolves-Grade: B-
Retained: Darko Milicic, Nikola Pekovic (d-2007)
Additions: Michael Beasley (t), Luke Ridnour (fa), Martell Webster (t), Wesley Johnson (d), Lazar Hayward (d), Nemanja Bjelica (d), Paulao Prestes (d)
Lost: Al Jefferson (UTH)
The Wolves drastically changed their makeup this summer. When you’re as bad as they have been over last few years, anything is worth a try. To their credit the additions of Beasley, Ridnour and Webster give immediate boost to their bench and Wesley Johnson will be the “do anything” type that the team has needed for years. The only concern could be chemistry with so many young players looking to make their name at once on the crowded roster.
Portland Trailblazers-Grade: C+
Retained: No FAs returned
Additions: Wesley Matthews (fa), Luke Babbitt (d), Elliot Williams (d), Armon Johnson (d)
Lost: Martell Webster (MIN), Juwan Howard (MIA)
At this point the Blazers don’t have much more they can add, or afford to lose. They have to have a fully healthy unit on the court to see how good it is. Luke Babbitt could be nice draft coup for team depth along with Sergio Rodriguez and Wesley Matthews. In the end this team’s roof goes as high as it’s injured list lets it go.
Golden State Warriors-Grade: C+
Retained: No FA has returned
Additions: David Lee (t), Dan Gadzuric (t), Charlie Bell (t), Ekpe Udoh (d), Jeremy Lin (fa)
Lost: Kelenna Azibuike (NY), Anthony Randolph (NY), Anthony Morrow (NJ), Corey Maggette (MIL), Ronnie Turiaf (NY), CJ Watson (CHI)
The Warriors changed more off their existing roster than any other team and surprisingly landed David Lee to give balance their back court heavy attack. #6 overall pick Ekpe Udoh should a new defensive presence once he heals from a summer injury, but depth could still be an issue considering what they moved out for Lee.
Utah Jazz-Grade: C+
Retained: NO FAs returned
Additions: Al Jefferson (t), Raja Bell (fa), Gordon Hayward (d), Jeremy Evans (d)
Lost: Kyle Korver (CHI), Carlos Boozer (CHI), Wesley Matthews (POR)
The Jazz are in transition this year after losing two of their core contributors from the past few years in Kyle Korver and Carlos Boozer. However they actively looked to improve everything they lost, with Al Jefferson, Raja Bell and rookie Gordon Hayward. Each could make up exactly for the player they are replacing, but there is experience and health questions that must be answered too.
Phoenix Suns-Grade: C
Retained: Channing Frye
Additions: Hedo Turkoglu (t), Josh Childress (t), Hakim Warrick (fa), Gani Lawal (d), Dwayne Collins (d)
Lost: Amar’e Stoudemire (NY), Leandro Barbosa (TOR), Dwayne Jones (TOR)
Phoenix changed their approach after the departures of Amar’e Stoudemire. Instead of replacing him with a similar presence, they changed the approach to a shooter based team, adding in Hedo Turkglo and Josh Childress. Not Amar’e with similar size could make them sorely susceptible to the big frontcourts in the West.
San Antonio Spurs-Grade: C
Retained: Richard Jefferson, Matt Bonner
Additions: Tiago Splitter (d-2007), James Anderson (d), Ryan Richards (d), Gary Neal (fa)
Lost: Ian Mahinimi (DAL)
San Antonio is a study in opposites this offseason. They retained Richard Jefferson for four more years at $10 million per, after he made minimal impact on the Spurs efforts to start to change their attack last year. Finally adding 2007 draft pick Tiago Splitter to the team will make it easier for Tim Duncan to decrease his load, without damaging the team.
Denver Nuggets-Grade: C-
Retained: Antony Carter
Additions: Al Harrington (fa)
Lost: Linas Kleiza (TOR), Johan Petro (NJ)
Denver wasn’t overly active in many roster changes and didn’t add any draft picks to their team. However, they did add Al Harrington to their frontcourt, which will make the minutes load easier for the injury prone Nene and Kenyon Martin, but could add some chemistry issues, due to his desire to shoot at a high level.
Sacramento Kings-Grade: D
Retained: No FAs returned
Additions: Samuel Dalembert (t), Darnell Jackson (t), DeMarcus Cousins (d), Hassan Whiteside (d)
Lost: Spencer Hawes (PHI), Andres Nocioni (PHI), Jon Brockman (MIL), Dominic McGuire (CHA)
The Kings made the smart pick in selecting center DeMarcus Cousins at #5 overall in this summer’s draft, but didn’t add much else to a team that has needs around the court. With new acquisition Samuel Dalembert also suiting up at center, they are more than set around the rim. Now for everything else…..Tyreke Evans can only do so much.
Los Angeles Clippers-Grade: D
Retained: Craig Smith, Rasual Butler
Additions: Randy Foye (fa), Ryan Gomes (fa), Al-Farouq Aminu (d), Eric Bledsoe (d), Willie Warren (d)
Lost: Steve Blake (LAL), Drew Gooden (MIL), Travis Outlaw (NJ)
The Clippers mistakenly thought they could compete in the LeBron derby for a while, but ended up with Randy Foye and Ryan Gomes, which is much more tradition Clipper fare. They did well in the Draft, landing Al-Farouq Aminu to add athleticism and Eric Bledsoe to develop into the point guard of the future, but they won’t have the immediate effect that should have been worked for this summer. Blake Griffin’s return is very critical for any improvement here.
New Orleans Hornets-Grade: F
Retained: Aaron Gray
Additions: Craig Brackens (d), Quincy Pondexter (d)
Lost: Morris Peterson (OKC)
While he didn’t go about it the right way, Chris Paul may have been on to something about the future in New Orleans, or lack thereof. They made no significant additions to the team and moved out original first round pick Cole Aldrich before the first round was over. Due to Paul’s time injured last year, this team was not able to live up to their potential of year’s past however and still could make a playoff push with their franchise player back full-time with what they have currently.