Today we go west, young man, to examine the summer moves of the Pacific Division teams: the Golden State Warriors, the Los Angeles Clippers & Lakers, Phoenix Suns and Sacramento Kings. We already did the Eastern Conference, so click on the following links to check out our reviews on the Atlantic, Central and Southeast. Our last two posts will be on the Southwest and Northwest. For the newbies to this series, the rules are again listed below, but the rest of y’all can skip down to the team listings.
1. Rather than a standard A through F grade or going for a scale of 1-10, we shall use a system that my friend Noriko loves: -5 through +5. It helps differentiate things a bit more, ‘cuz like if a team gets a C-, it’s better than an F, but is it good? With this scale, you can instead give the team a +1, which shows that they improved the team, but only marginally. Or maybe they get a zero ‘cuz they didn’t hurt the team or help it.
2. These grades are not, I repeat, NOT, about how good teams will be. It’s purely about how good their summer moves were. For instance, the Sacramento Kings may get a higher grade than say the Orlando Magic, but that doesn’t mean I’m insane and think the Kings will be better than the Magic. It simply means I like the Kings’ draft of DeMarcus Cousins more than the Magic’s signings of Quentin Richardson and Chris Duhon (although I haven’t fully examined those teams yet, so I dunno what grades they’ll get).
3. The grades are not just based on how good the players are, but also their contracts. Joe Johnson is definitely a top 30 player, but with Atlanta giving him $120 million/6 yrs, the largest contract of anyone this summer, his signing turns into a negative.
4. Grades will be scaled based on what each team could have done. Meaning the Lakers, a team over the salary cap, get major kudos for snagging Steve Blake, Matt Barnes, Theo Ratliff and bringing back Shannon Brown with their limited financial flexibility, but if say the Knicks, with all their cap space, had only made those moves, I’d pan ‘em.
5. Fit matters. I like Kirk Hinrich a ton, and had he gone to the Pacers (a team that desperately needed a point guard before the Collison trade), I would’ve raved about the move. However, Washington acquiring him is a bit odd considering they already have PGs in John Wall and Gilbert Arenas.
The Pacific Division
Golden State Warriors – Perhaps the most important move doesn’t involve the players, coaches or the general managers/president. It’s that it seems like long-time awful owner Chris Cohan will finally sell the franchise. The sale hasn’t been finalized yet, but it appears all but certain to go through. Cohan’s had the benefit of his awfulness being hidden due to far more egregiously bad owners in Donald Sterling, James Dolan and George Shinn, but long-suffering Bay Area fans will tell you Cohan belongs either in that tier or just a slice below. And not a sicilian or deep-dish slice, we’re talking NY-style regular slice thin. Besides that they acquired the definite consistent production of David Lee in return for the inconsistent, all-potential Anthony Randolph. Lee’s offensive game perfectly complements Stephen Curry, making a very potent duo. Likewise, his rebounding should be a big boon for a team that used to get slaughtered on the boards due to their past need to rely on small ball. That said, swapping Corey Maggette for the bench combo of Charlie Bell and Dan Gadzuric, was a big trade-down in talent, despite Maggette’s mediocre defense and ball-stopping ways. Similarly, to lose Anthony Morrow, CJ Watson and surprisingly good D-League call-up Anthony Tolliver is a bit depressing if they’re just replaced by Jannero Pargo. Maybe summer league super story Jeremy Lin will continue to find success even once he joins the big boys. All that aside, they’ve got a nice young core in Lee, Curry, Monta Ellis and Andris Biedrins, and when Gadzuric and Vladimir Radmonivic come off the books next year they’ll actually have enough cap space to make a play for a max player like Carmelo Anthony. And owners who, for once, actually want to create a winning team.
Los Angeles Clippers – They were one of the few chosen teams to get to meet with the Chosen One. Unfortunately, they only chose to give a 45 minute presentation when every other team took nearly half a day. That said, of course there was no way LeBron would’ve come here with Sterling as the owner. If this team ever gets rid of The Donald as owner, that alone would give them an instant +5. Despite having enough cap space for a max player, they were non-factors in free agency. I know, it’s shocking that Sterling wasn’t a big spender. Less shocking is the predictable lawsuit between him and ex-coach Mike Dunleavy. They lost Steve Blake, Drew Gooden and Travis Outlaw, but considering the deals those last two guys got, it was good the Clips were too cheap to match the offers. Unable to find another semi-decent small forward, they decided to re-sign last year’s semi-decent small forward, Rasual Butler. The addition of Ryan Gomes, a high character guy, is solid, and I like the low-cost flier they’re taking on Randy Foye, who may still come into his own yet. I also actually like the hire of new coach Vinny Del Negro too. Yes, he wasn’t known for being a brilliant x’s and o’s man, but he not only got the Bulls to the playoffs his first year, but also the second one after losing top scorer Ben Gordon, plus John Salmons at the trade deadline, and with both Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah injured/recovering from injury for big chunks of games. He got those guys to fight and compete hard. Dunleavy knew x’s and o’s, but he never got the team to play hard, so this could be exactly what they need. Still, it’s sad that with all that cap space their only clear improvement in personnel was at the coach position.
Los Angeles Lakers – Much like during the playoffs, the Lakers’ off-season looked like everything could go to hell, but in the end they came away triumphant. Both Phil Jackson and Derrick Fisher contemplated leaving, but in the end both opted to stay on and go for the three-peat. Less vital, but also nice, they were able to keep dunker-extraordinaire Shannon Brown too. Not only that, but adding top defender/do-it-all swiss army knife Matt Barnes was pretty sweet. Everyone raved about signing new backup point guard Steve Blake, and while he’s smarter and a better three-point shooter than the now-departed Jordan Farmar, he’s also a worse defender and doesn’t play with the energy that Farmar had. Speaking of Farmar, why’d he go to New Jersey? I can understand him wanting more playing time and a shot at a starting role. However, going from backing up an already declining 36-year-old on a championship team to backing a 27-year-old on last year’s worst team, that makes no sense to me. I guess you could argue that Devin Harris is extremely injury-prone while ol’ man Fish is an iron man due to his insane conditioning, but still it seems like a dumb move to me both in the short term and long term. Wait, but we’re not talking about the Nets here, are we? Okay, we are, but we’re not supposed to be. Back to the Lake Show. I also really liked them letting the useless Josh Powell go and signing the potentially useful defensive-minded Theo Ratliff for the minimum. Plus, even their two second-round draft picks seem like they could have potential. For a team far over the cap and that had already won rings with the roster as is, it’s pretty impressive they got even better.
Phoenix Suns – Losing Amar’e Stoudemire will hurt. However, at least they were able to use the trade exception they got from his departure to net Hedo Turkoglu for Leandro Barbosa. Turk, despite being overpaid, should be a perfect fit for this team with his amazing offensive abilities and only middling defense. In addition, adding Josh Childress was a sweet pickup. However, signing Hakim Warrick to a four-year deal seemed baffling. Particularly since it seems to now have entailed losing super-sub Louis Amundson. Also, owner Robert Sarver’s cheap ways not only scared off Amar’e, but general manager Steve Kerr too. While Kerr wasn’t necessarily great, the pu-pu platter replacement featuring agent Lon Babby seems more like Sarver being too cheap again to go after a top guy like Kevin Pritchard, rather than the “innovative” move they’re trying to sell it as.
Sacramento Kings – As I said under my Sixer review, I found the Samuel Dalembert/Spencer Hawes a bit baffling. It seemed like a serious case of grass-is-greener-on-the-other-side. The Kings were tired of a center who played offense but had no defensive abilities, while the Sixers were sick of their defensive center who couldn’t play O. I mean it makes sense they’d do the trade when you look at it like that, but couldn’t either team make the mental leap that both guys are flawed? Regardless, Dalembert comes off the books after this season, which will leave them with enough cap space to sign two max players and their entourages and their entourage’s cousins. They also came away from the draft with a player in DeMarcus Cousins who could end up being the star of his rookie class. However, that was less due to their brilliance and more that they lucked out by picking after incompetent Timberwolves’ GM David Kahn. Still, while they had the cap space to do more, they took the smart prudent approach, a la the Thunder, to wait and see how their young core of Tyreke Evans, Cousins, Omri Casspi and Carl Landry will develop rather than spending for the sake of spending.
Grade: +1 (if Cousins shows he’s mature enough to turn into a star, this could go to +2)
If you want to see how we think these teams will stack up against each other during the season, look at our Western Conference Playoff Preview.
Topics: Amare Stoudemire, David Lee, DeMarcus Cousins, Donald Sterling, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Off-Season Grades, Phil Jackson, Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings, Vinny Del Negro