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[ESPN] Offseason Report Cards: West

Discussion in 'NBA Dish' started by J.R., Aug 1, 2013.

  1. J.R.

    J.R. Contributing Member

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    Offseason grades for the West

    For years, the Western Conference, as a whole, has been uniformly stronger than the East. That trend continued this summer.

    On Wednesday we graded out the entire Eastern Conference. With just one "A" and one "A-" it's safe to say that there weren't a lot of teams in the East hitting home runs this summer.

    The Western Conference, though, had a much more successful few months. We had one "A+", two "A"s and one "A-" in the West. The rich are, apparently, getting richer.

    The grades take into account how each team in the league has performed so far in remaking itself, considering both the opportunities it had and the moves it has made. It takes into consideration the draft, free agency, trades, front office and coaching moves as well as positioning for future drafts and free-agent opportunities.

    The grades are not a ranking of which are the best teams in the league, just a device to track which teams have improved or have placed themselves on the fast track to improve and which teams haven't -- both for the upcoming season and beyond.

    DALLAS MAVERICKS | GRADE: D+

    Additions: Monta Ellis (FA), Jose Calderon (FA), Samuel Dalembert (FA), Brandan Wright (re-sign), Shane Larkin (draft), Ricky Ledo (draft), Devin Harris (FA), Wayne Ellington (FA), Gal Mekel (FA), DeJuan Blair (FA), Bernard James (re-sign)

    Subtractions: O.J. Mayo (Bucks), Chris Kaman (Lakers), Darren Collison (Clippers), Elton Brand (Hawks), Anthony Morrow (Pelicans), Josh Akognon (Grizzlies), Nick Calathes (Grizzlies)

    Two years ago, Mark Cuban made the unorthodox decision to break up a title team so that the Mavs could dip into the free-agent pool a year later and grab a superstar or two.

    But Deron Williams and Chris Paul both re-signed with their respective teams, and Dwight Howard chose the Rockets. So instead of giving Dirk Nowitzki a high-priced running mate, two years later, Dallas ended up with Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon.

    Best-laid plans, indeed.

    Ellis is a high-volume scorer who can be electric getting to the basket, but lacks efficiency, basketball IQ or a well-rounded game. Like Ellis, Calderon's best days are behind him, and while he understands the game well, his ability to get by anyone or guard anyone has waned significantly. That the Mavs spent $54 million on these two speaks to how desperate they are to be relevant again.

    Dalembert was their third big score, and frankly, he may be their best. The 32-year-old is still a force on the defensive end, and two years for $7.4 million was a bargain contract for a big man. The team also re-signed a key reserve in Wright, who shockingly didn't get bigger offers despite being 25 years old and coming off a season in which he had a player efficiency rating (PER) of 21.

    Mekel is an NBA-ready prospect who intrigued several teams after a terrific season in Israel. Larkin is a great athlete who can really shoot the basketball (though his lack of size is a question mark). And Ledo has as much raw basketball talent as anyone they acquired, but he will need to make significant improvements in the maturity department if he's going to stick in the league; the Mavs should go find out what the Pacers did with Lance Stephenson and replicate it.

    Despite the flurry of deals, the Mavs should have significant cap space next summer assuming Nowitzki is willing to take a big pay cut on his next deal. Perhaps fortunes will turn in 12 months, and the Mavs will land the free-agent stud they've been looking for. If not, this is what they are left with.


    DENVER NUGGETS | GRADE: D+

    Additions: J.J. Hickson (FA), Darrell Arthur (trade), Nate Robinson (FA), Randy Foye (S&T), Timofey Mozgov (re-sign), Tim Connelly (GM), Brian Shaw (coach)

    Subtractions: Andre Iguodala (Warriors), Kosta Koufos (Grizzlies), Corey Brewer (Timberwolves), Julyan Stone (Raptors), Masai Ujiri (GM), George Karl (coach)

    A quick first-round exit in the playoffs was just the opening salvo in the Nuggets' horrific summer. Ujiri, fresh off winning Executive of the Year, left for the Raptors after the Nuggets refused to match an offer. His right-hand man, Pete D'Alessandro, left a few weeks later to take the Kings' GM job. Head coach George Karl was fired. And their key summer acquisition of last season, Andre Iguodala, bolted for the Warriors.

    So in the space of a few weeks, the Nuggets lost their key architect, their Hall of Fame head coach and their best player. Ugh.

    New GM Tim Connelly has since tried to right the ship, but Denver's books have kept his hands relatively tied. So instead of trying to replace Iguodala's leadership, passing and defense, Connelly acquired talented backups in Arthur, Hickson and Robinson to take his minutes.

    The Nuggets' best move came on the coaching front with the hiring of Shaw, who figures to become one of the top young coaches in the league. He has huge shoes to fill, but he has the talent to pull together this diverse, starless squad and keep them in the hunt for a playoff seed in the five to eight range.


    GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS | GRADE: A-

    Additions: Andre Iguodala (S&T), Jermaine O'Neal (FA), Toney Douglas (FA), Marreese Speights (FA)

    Subtractions: Jarrett Jack (Cavaliers), Carl Landry (Kings), Andris Biedrins (Jazz), Richard Jefferson (Jazz), Brandon Rush (Jazz), Scott Machado

    The Warriors continue to show what a difference smart ownership and management can make for a team. Golden State has been on a roll ever since owner Joe Lacob took over and revamped the team's front office, and this summer was no different.

    Through a series of creative cap maneuvers -- primarily via getting the Jazz to swallow the final years of Biedrins, Jefferson and Rush in exchange for draft picks -- the Warriors were able to address their biggest weakness with the addition of Iguodala. With two gunners in the backcourt and talented scoring options in the frontcourt, Iguodala is the perfect glue guy to hold this team together. The move also strengthened their bench, as Harrison Barnes can now move to a sixth-man role.

    The move came at a price, though. The Warriors couldn't afford to keep Jack and Landry, and they gave away two future first-rounders. But they're right in the title conversation now -- a remarkable feat for a team that was still stuck in the lottery last summer.


    HOUSTON ROCKETS | GRADE: A

    Additions: Dwight Howard (FA), Aaron Brooks (re-sign), Isaiah Canaan (draft), Reggie Williams (FA), Marcus Camby (FA), Omri Casspi (FA), Francisco Garcia (re-signed), Robert Covington (FA), B.J. Young (FA), Kostas Papanikolaou (rights), Marko Todorovic (rights)

    Subtractions: Thomas Robinson (Blazers), Carlos Delfino (Bucks), Royce White (76ers), James Anderson (76ers), Tim Ohlbrecht (76ers)

    You have to hand it to Les Alexander. Virtually every other owner in the league would've fired Darryl Morey and given up on his Celtics-inspired plan to stockpile middling assets in an effort to land a couple of star players via free agency or trade. For too many years, the Rockets looked like they would tread water forever.

    And then, pay dirt.

    The Rockets first landed James Harden in a trade last October and then followed it up this summer by scoring Howard's signature. In about nine months, the Rockets went from milquetoast to one of the most dangerous teams in the NBA.

    Some of the Rockets' success had to do with luck. Had the Thunder not panicked about their looming luxury tax bill or had the Lakers hired Phil Jackson instead of Mike D'Antoni, Morey is probably looking for a job this summer. They easily could've been in the same predicament as the Mavericks.

    But sometimes all it takes a little luck, and right now, the Rockets have it.

    None of the rest of the acquisitions inspires much enthusiasm. Canaan was one of the steals of the draft, and I could see him cracking the rotation at some point this season. Williams and Garcia give the Rockets a couple of snipers, Casspi provides toughness off the bench and Camby will be largely serve as a mentor.

    There are still holes. I'm not sold on Jeremy Lin as a championship-caliber point guard (though Mario Chalmers didn't stop the Heat), and they still have some question marks at the 4 (Omer Asik? Terrence Jones? Donatas Motiejunas?). But with Harden, Howard and Chandler Parsons leading the way, the Rockets should contend for the Western Conference crown for the next three to four seasons.


    LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS | GRADE: A+

    Additions: Chris Paul (re-sign), J.J. Redick (S&T), Jared Dudley (trade), Darren Collison (FA), Matt Barnes (re-sign), Byron Mullens (FA), Reggie Bullock (draft), Ryan Hollins (re-sign), Doc Rivers (VP & Coach)

    Subtractions: Eric Bledsoe (Suns), Caron Butler (Suns), Grant Hill (retired), Chauncey Billups (Pistons), Ronny Turiaf (Timberwolves), DaJuan Summers, Vinny Del Negro (coach)

    Much has been made of the Rockets landing Howard, but you could argue that the Clippers made the two biggest moves of the summer.

    First they somehow convinced Rivers to leave Boston. Say what you will about Rivers, bitter Celtics fans, but he can coach and knows how to fit alpha dogs into a cohesive whole. The Clippers needed a coaching upgrade if they were going to take the next leap, and the team landed the best one available.

    Rivers' arrival also went a long way in convincing Paul to re-sign. The All-Star point guard was the best free agent on the market, and the Clippers found a way to keep him in L.A.

    They weren't done there, though. The Clippers added Redick to shore up their shooting, Dudley to serve as an all-around glue guy, Collison to back-up Paul for just $1.9 million a year and a bouncy, face-the-basket big man in Byron Mullens.

    I even loved their draft pick, Reggie Bullock, who was one of the best shooters in this year's class and should be able to immediately step in and play minutes.

    They did all of this without going over the luxury tax (for now) and lost just one first-round pick (in 2015).

    As good as the summer was for the Rockets, I think the Clippers that were the NBA's biggest winners. Not only will they field a true title contender next season, but they are now well-positioned to be competitive for years to come.


    LOS ANGELES LAKERS | GRADE: C

    Additions: Chris Kaman (FA), Nick Young (FA), Jordan Farmar (FA), Wesley Johnson (FA), Robert Sacre (re-sign), Ryan Kelly (draft), Elias Harris (FA)

    Subtractions: Dwight Howard (Rockets), Metta World Peace (Knicks), Earl Clark (Cavaliers), Andrew Goudelock (Russia), Chris Duhon

    It was the best of times and the worst of times in Los Angeles this summer. And for once, it was the Clippers who were celebrating. While Donald Sterling's crew was landing Doc Rivers and re-signing Chris Paul, the Lakers stood by and watched their dynasty crumble.

    Dwight Howard bolted and, with him, went any sense of future security for the Lakers. This upcoming season might not be a total disaster. Perhaps Kobe Bryant (if he can recover from his Achilles tear), Steve Nash and Pau Gasol will rally for one last postseason push. Kaman, Young and Farmar are three veterans who might be able to help them creak by the younger, more energetic upstarts in the West. Unlikely, but perhaps.

    But after this season? The Lakers are facing the cleanest slate they've had in over a decade. Next season they figure to have just one significant contract on the books (Nash) and roughly $40 to $45 million in cap space.

    While I personally think they should've tried to move Gasol and Nash and then tried to bottom out for a high draft pick, at least they aren't trying to piece together a team of veterans for a two- to three-year run.

    In 2014, the Lakers are going to look much, much different. Kobe will be back if he wants to be and is physically able to be, but the rest of the team is up for grabs. The Lakers are confident that they'll be at the front of the line for top talent like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh. If they can land any of those guys, this summer will be a one-time setback in an otherwise super-bright future.


    MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES | GRADE: C

    Additions: Tony Allen (re-sign), Kosta Koufos (trade), Mike Miller (FA), Jon Leuer (re-sign), Nick Calathes (trade), Jamaal Franklin (draft), Josh Akognon (waivers), Dave Joerger (coach)

    Subtractions: Darrell Arthur (Nuggets), Austin Daye (Raptors), Lionel Hollins (coach)

    The Grizzlies made most of their major moves at the trade deadline and appear content to take another swing at a Western Conference title with their team largely intact.

    Their biggest move was replacing Hollins with Joerger. Much has been written about the divergent worldviews of the Grizzlies' new front office and their now-former head coach. Hollins was a good coach, but clearly the team felt they needed a coach more aligned with their new philosophy. Joerger doesn't have much of a track record by which to judge him, but sources all around the league are confident he has the makings of a very good head coach.

    Memphis' big move, roster-wise, was to re-sign Allen, their defensive stopper, at a bargain price (four year, $20 million dollar). Otherwise, the Grizzlies focused on upgrading their bench. Koufos provides some much-needed depth behind Marc Gasol. Miller, if healthy, is still a lethal shooter and should provide a big boost coming off the bench behind Tayshaun Prince. Franklin, an uber-athletic wing who led San Diego State in points, rebounds, assists and steals as a junior, is the type of junkyard player who could earn minutes next season.

    And they might not be done yet. Sources say they continue to explore trades scenarios involving Zach Randolph, and they have shown interest in free-agent point guard Mo Williams.

    I don't think the Grizzlies are the favorites in the West. But if everything goes right for them? They could still run the table.


    MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES | GRADE: C-

    Additions: Kevin Martin (S&T), Chase Budinger (re-sign), Corey Brewer (FA), Shabazz Muhammad (draft), Gorgui Dieng (draft), Ronny Turiaf (FA), Lorenzo Brown (draft), Flip Saunders (GM)

    Subtractions: Andrei Kirilenko (Nets), Luke Ridnour (Bucks), Brandon Roy (retired), Greg Stiemsma (Pelicans), Malcolm Lee (Suns), David Kahn (GM)

    I'm tempted to give the Wolves an "A" here just for firing Kahn, but the rest of the summer was a mixed bag for new team president Flip Saunders.

    We're assuming the Wolves will eventually reach a deal with Nikola Pekovic, a restricted free agent, since there isn't a team with cap room left that has interest, and the Wolves want to retain him.

    Minnesota has been looking for an answer at the 2 for years, and Martin gives them a veteran who can make an impact right away. But $27 million over four years is crazy for a player whose game is slowly starting to wane. Add in $15 million for three years of Budinger and $14 million for three years of Brewer, and the Wolves spent $56 million on role players. Maybe the team didn't fire Kahn after all.

    Their other big addition was Muhammad, a player many scouts felt would be one of the top three players in the draft last July. However, an uneven year at UCLA exposed many of his flaws and his draft stock plummeted. Did the Wolves get a steal when they drafted him with the last pick of the lottery? If his Summer League performance gives any indication (and many times it doesn't), the answer is no. Dieng, meanwhile, gives them a big man who can block shots and really pass it. But he's still raw, especially for a 23-year-old.

    Kirilenko was terrific last season, and losing him to the Nets, especially given the huge pay cut he took to do so, was painful.

    Overall, the Wolves have the pieces in place to compete for a seventh or eighth seed in the West if everyone stays healthy. But with this team still treading in the waters of mediocrity, Kevin Love's free-agent decision in the summer of 2015 begins to loom large.


    NEW ORLEANS PELICANS | GRADE: B-

    Additions: Jrue Holiday (trade), Tyreke Evans (S&T), Al-Farouq Aminu (re-sign), Anthony Morrow (FA), Greg Stiemsma (FA), Jeff Withey (trade)

    Subtractions: Robin Lopez (Blazers), Greivis Vasquez (Kings), Lance Thomas, Terrel Harris (Blazers), Xavier Henry, Lou Amundson, Roger Mason Jr.

    I'm not sure any team had a more controversial summer than the Pelicans. Whether you took issue with naming a NBA team after a goofy bird, questioned their decision to trade away a guy who probably should've been the No. 1 pick in the draft along with a potential lottery pick in next year's loaded draft or you wondered aloud why they'd pay so much money to player who peaked as a rookie and won't even start, the Pelicans have given us plenty to talk about.

    Context, I believe, is in order. GM Dell Demps is under the same ownership edict that Bucks GM John Hammond is. His owner is old. He doesn't have time for a long rebuild. He wants to win now.

    So Demps, given those constraints, gets a solid grade for the Holiday deal. His team needed a point guard, and Holiday made the All-Star team last season at the age of 22. While I can't find anyone who loves his game, New Orleans landed an above-average player at the cost of a young big man coming off ACL surgery, who does many of the things that Anthony Davis already does well and a pick that probably ends up in the late lottery to mid-first round. If the Pelicans were really trying to shore up their future, they stick with Noel, stay bad for another year and try to add another star. But if you're going to go for it, you can do a lot worse than Holiday.

    The Evans decision is a little harder to wrap my arms around. The Pelicans needed a center and small forward. Evans is neither. But Demps saw talent that he thought he could steal. He believes that the culture they've built in New Orleans and a head coaching staff led by Monty Williams is far superior to what Evans was subjected to the past few seasons in Sacramento. Evans is just 23 years old, and if he can put it all together, they might still be able to turn Eric Gordon into a long-term solution at the 3 or 5.

    For those that love true rebuilds, the Pelicans lost their patience and screwed this up. But on second glance, they are still young and still have assets and talent. While I'm not convinced the Pelicans crack the top eight in the West, they still have a strong foundation going forward.


    OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER | GRADE: C-

    Additions: Derek Fisher (re-sign), Steven Adams (draft), Andre Roberson (draft), Grant Jerrett (draft)

    Subtractions: Kevin Martin (Timberwolves)

    Not sure there was a team with a quieter offseason than the Thunder. With a payroll dangerously close to the luxury-tax threshold, they had to let sixth man Kevin Martin walk and signed only a minor role player in Fisher and their draft picks.

    Adams is a freak of nature -- a young, 19-year-old big man with an NBA body, strength, athleticism and motor. But he's relatively new to the game and has a lot of work to do to be ready for the pro game, especially on the offensive end. Despite being just 6-foot-7 and 206 pounds, Roberson was one of the best rebounders in college basketball last season. And they hit in the second round with Jerrett, a big stretch-4 who underachieved as a freshman at Arizona but who looked solid in summer league. All three have bright futures but will likely spend the season in the D-League.

    The Thunder drafted well, but their window is now, and it's unclear whether Jeremy Lamb has the chops to replace Martin coming off the bench. So many teams have improved in the West, but the Thunder's lack of creative moves marks a second straight disappointing offseason.


    PHOENIX SUNS | GRADE: B

    Additions: Eric Bledsoe (trade), Alex Len (draft), Archie Goodwin (draft), Caron Butler (trade), Gerald Green (trade), Miles Plumlee (trade), Malcolm Lee (trade), Ryan McDonough (GM), Jeff Hornacek (coach), Pacers' 2014 1st Rd draft pick

    Subtractions: Luis Scola (Pacers), Jared Dudley (Clippers), Wesley Johnson (Lakers), Jermaine O'Neal (Warriors), Hamed Haddadi, Lance Blanks (GM), Lindsey Hunter (coach)

    I've been throwing haymakers at the Suns in this forum for the past few years. Given their rapid descent, I think the criticisms have been fair. But for the first time in a while, I see a ray of hope in the Valley of the Sun.

    With new GM Ryan McDonough at the helm, the Suns officially acknowledged what they should've accepted three years ago: they're rebuilding. And as a result, they have been aggressive in acquiring draft picks, have been conservative in using their cap room and are stocking up on young players with serious upside.

    Landing Bledsoe for the price of Dudley and a second-round pick may have been the steal of the summer. Reasonable minds can disagree about Bledsoe's future, but he's a 23-year-old young point guard who excelled while playing significant minutes on a playoff team. For a rebuilding one like the Suns, that's pure gold.

    They also landed what they believe to be their center of the future in Len, who is huge, athletic and quite skilled for a player his age but is coming off surgery for a stress fracture in his ankle. I like Len, but the Suns should've taken Nerlens Noel ahead of him. Noel, to me, has more upside, and I worry a bit about Len's toughness.

    Goodwin, the second youngest player in the draft, struggled in his freshman season at Kentucky. But he's blessed with great speed and athleticism, and if he ever develops a jump shot, he could be a lethal scorer. He looked quite impressive at summer league, and if the Suns are patient, they could have their backcourt of the future in Bledsoe and Goodwin.

    The rest of the acquisitions the Suns made were really throw-ins. They swallowed Green's contract to get a hold of the Pacers' first-round pick next year. Butler was a throw-in to get Bledsoe. The team does like Plumlee a bit.

    They may not be done yet. There remains significant interest in Marcin Gortat and Goran Dragic, who they could deal for valuable asset.

    The Suns will likely be awful again next season, perhaps awful enough to be the worst team in the West. But they are finally beginning to acquire young players to build around. Another high draft pick next year, combined with a load of cap space, and the Suns could be well on their way back up the standings.


    PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS | GRADE: A

    Additions: C.J. McCollum (draft), Thomas Robinson (trade), Robin Lopez (trade), Dorell Wright (FA), Allen Crabbe (draft), Earl Watson (FA), Terrel Harris (trade)

    Subtractions: J.J. Hickson (Nuggets), Eric Maynor (Wizards), Ronnie Price (Magic), Jared Jeffries, Sasha Pavlovic

    GM Neil Olshey has been quietly rebuilding the Blazers while keeping up appearances that this might be a playoff team. With the addition of two more lottery picks in McCollum and Robinson, the Blazers have somehow managed to inject new blood into the franchise without giving up any of their key core players.

    After hitting a home run with Damian Lillard last summer, the Blazers believe they may have done it again with McCollum. Like Lillard, McCollum is a super scorer who lit up opponents in a small conference. Like Lillard, he also possesses exceptional maturity and an unrelenting work ethic. Together, they could give the Blazers one of the most dynamic backcourts in the league.

    Robinson was a top-five pick in the 2012 draft, but he struggled as a rookie in stints with the Kings and Rockets. He has the requisite strength and athletic ability to be a beast on the boards. It's his basketball IQ on the offensive end that's in serious question now. While he may not have been worthy of his lofty draft position -- he went one spot ahead of Lillard -- Robinson has upside and could be an important fixture off the bench.

    The team also upgraded in the middle, getting Lopez from the Pelicans. While Lopez is probably better suited coming off the bench, he had a very strong 2012-13 in which he posted an impressive 18.9 PER. He should battle second-year big man Meyers Leonard for the starting center position.

    Wright and Crabbe were also important additions. They came cheap, and both players can really shoot the basketball.

    All in all, Olshey has proven to be quite adept at sniffing out bargains in the market and pouncing on them. Not only do the Blazers have intriguing young players at every position on the floor, they also look talented enough to make a real run at the eighth seed in the West. In a few years, they may be far more dangerous than simply a team that you don't want to play in the first round.


    SACRAMENTO KINGS | GRADE: C+

    Additions: Ben McLemore (draft), Carl Landry (FA), Greivis Vasquez (trade), Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (trade), Ray McCallum (draft), Vivek Randive (owner), Pete D'Alessandro (GM), Mike Malone (coach)

    Subtractions: Tyreke Evans (Pelicans), Toney Douglas (Warriors), Joe and Gavin Maloof (Owners), Geoff Petrie (GM), Keith Smart (coach)

    Whatever I write about the Kings will likely be irrelevant. Kings fans won in April when the NBA announced that the league would reject the Maloofs' proposal to sell the franchise to a Seattle-based ownership group.

    Anything else that happens is gravy. Basketball lives in Sacramento.

    To that end, the gravy has been pretty thin at the moment. New owner Vivek Ranadive looks a bit green already, panicking and hiring head coach Mike Malone before finding a GM and then letting Malone dictate who he hired to run the team. Ranadive has said publicly on several occasions that he wants an experienced hand guiding his new team, but instead hired a young assistant GM who happens to be tight with the new head coach. I think D'Alessandro is a smart, talented man, but I'm not sure he was ready for the job. When coaches, especially rookies, are calling the shots, it rarely goes well.

    A case in point was the four-year, $26 million dollar deal they gave to Landry. He's a good player and a guy that coaches love, but he's not a terrific fit in the rebuilding curve of the Kings and seemed an odd choice to spend on. The same could be said for the decision to trade for Mbah a Moute. He was barely a solid rotation player on a quasi-playoff team like the Bucks, but his defensive reputation sold Malone on committing nearly $9 million of the Kings' money.

    In the meantime, the Kings didn't really make much of an effort to get out and pursue younger players that could fit into the future. They didn't even explore moving DeMarcus Cousins, because the big man will help them win ball games next season. Not enough to be a playoff team, mind you, but enough to not be associated with the Suns or Sixers of the world.

    Their best addition was McLemore. Based on talent alone, he was one of the two or three best players in the draft, but he slipped to the Kings because of questions about his maturity and his lack of aggression. He didn't quell any fears at summer league, where he looked awful. But his performance was mostly a result of not being in great shape and desperately trying to prove his willingness to shoot. Over his last few games in Las Vegas, he settled down, and the upside was evident. If Malone can give McLemore both structure and confidence, he will be a major building block for the Kings.

    As for the rest of the team? Expect a finish somewhere between 12 and 14 in the West, a high draft pick next June and significant cap room next summer. The long-term future looks promising, but the short term is still going to be ugly.


    SAN ANTONIO SPURS | GRADE: B

    Additions: Manu Ginobili (re-sign), Tiago Splitter (re-sign), Marco Belinelli (FA), Jeff Pendergraph (FA), Deshaun Thomas (draft)

    Subtractions: Gary Neal (Bucks), DeJuan Blair (Mavericks)

    The Spurs came about as close as you can come to winning a NBA title without actually winning it. If a team ever deserved a trophy for coming in second place, it's them.

    To that end, the team decided to bring back the same crew. They got the rapidly fading Manu to sign a reasonable, two-year, $14 million deal. Their offer to Splitter (four years, $36 million) was considerably larger, but it decreases each year, and there aren't 15 centers in the league better than he is.

    Their other additions probably won't excite anyone, but maybe they should. Every year the Spurs pull a player of two from the proverbial NBA trash heap and turn them into valuable role players. This year, Belinelli and Pendergraph might be those guys. Belinelli can really shoot the basketball, and Pendergraph can rebound and score around the basket. Both have talent well-suited to the team's style of play and are better than the contracts they received -- a hallmark of Spurs summers.

    And don't sleep on Thomas, the Spurs' second-round draft prospect. He was one of the two or three best scorers in the draft this year, but slid because people questioned his work ethic and defense. He couldn't have landed on a better team than San Antonio or with a better coach than Gregg Popovich. If he's willing to do what Pop says, in two years everyone will be asking why in the world Thomas wasn't a lottery pick.


    UTAH JAZZ | GRADE: B

    Additions: Trey Burke (draft), Rudy Gobert (draft), Andris Biedrins (trade), Richard Jefferson (trade), Brandon Rush (trade), John Lucas III (FA), Ian Clark (FA), Warriors' 2014 1st Rd draft pick

    Subtractions: Paul Millsap (Hawks), Al Jefferson (Bobcats), Mo Williams, Randy Foye (Nuggets), DeMarre Carroll (Hawks), Earl Watson (Blazers), Kevin Murphy (Warriors)

    As long as I've known him, Kevin O'Connor has never been a fan of tanking. The reason being that a culture of losing starts forming and that playing meaningful basketball is as important to a player's development as playing lots of minutes.

    For years, the Jazz have embodied that philosophy. This year, that's all changing.

    With Dennis Lindsey now leading the team and the NBA landscape changing, the Jazz have joined the teams "Riggin' for Wiggins." And somewhere, O'Connor's blood pressure is soaring.

    The team is loaded with young talent already. Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter have been mentored for several seasons behind veterans, and both have the potential to be All-Stars someday. Ditto for Gordon Hayward. And lots of people on the team are high on Alec Burks as well. So deciding to let Milsap, Jefferson and Williams walk this summer was about more than just tanking -- it was about giving their young core a chance before difficult decisions have to be made in free agency.

    The newest addition to that young core is Burke, who the Jazz traded up to get. While I was higher on a couple of other point guards in the draft, I understand that the Jazz need a leader for their young team and what Burke possesses in spades is moxy. His lack of size and elite athletic ability were exposed at summer league. But he's a tough player who plays with a chip on his shoulder and he should find a way to overcome his physical weaknesses.

    The drafting of Gobert was also about upside. He's not ready to play in the NBA, but his 7-foot-9 wingspan and his work ethic were too much for the Jazz to pass on. Clark, the MVP of the championship game at the Las Vegas Summer League, also gives them a young player who can score from both positions in the backcourt.

    Biedrins, Jefferson and Rush were all throws-in so that the Jazz could get a hold of the Warriors' 2014 and 2016 first-round picks. Biedrins and Rush both have upside and could end up getting minutes this season, and perhaps even another contract in Utah.

    If the Jazz are going to be bad, they only want to be bad for one year -- and they picked the right year to do it. The competition in the West was likely too stiff to make the playoffs anyway. Next year's draft is loaded, and a year of leadership experience for Hayward, Favors, Kanter, Burks and Burke is a good thing.

    Flush with cash next summer, the Jazz can re-sign who they want, add others via free agency and move right back into being contenders in 2014-15.
     
  2. myco

    myco Contributing Member

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    Pretty backhanded compliment for the Rockets and really more of a dig at Morey.
     
  3. plates300

    plates300 Member

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    I hate it how everyone plays it off as "oh the Rockets got lucky." Well no sh*$, all teams have to get lucky to get the players they want. Definitely a back handed compliment but it's ESPN so it's expected. Honestly, if Morey didn't land Howard, I still think he's done a great job.
     
  4. CDrex

    CDrex Contributing Member

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    I'm a little offended by the Ford's lack of research here. He implies that even without jettisoning Nash, they'll have two max contracts to toss out and then they can resign Kobe. Obviously he didn't read this piece on their cap outlook, which reminds us that unless they renounce the rights to go over the cap to sign Kobe, Kobe's cap hold eats up nearly $32 million.

    Accounting for roster spot min salary charges, this gives them

    a) about $14 million to spend if they plan to spend first, then resign Kobe over the cap, keeping Nash
    b) about $20 million to spend if they waive Nash with the stretch provision, spend, then resign Kobe over the cap
    c) about ($14 million + X) if Kobe signs first and take a pay cut of X dollars compared to his cap hold, keeping Nash
    d) about ($20 million + X) if Kobe signs first and take a pay cut of X dollars compared to his cap hold, stretching Nash
    e) goodbye Kobe! (like that's going to happen)

    Bryant would have to accept at the very most $11 million a year to get max contracts to two guys from the class of '03. And he's said he doesn't plan to take a pay cut. So...yeah.
     
  5. Fyreball

    Fyreball Contributing Member

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    ESPN continues to show their true colors by calling the Rockets lucky, and saying that this has a likelihood of being a short-term setback in a "super-bright" future for the Lakers. Really?? Super-bright? Because last time I checked, Kobe's cap-hold is massive, and LeBron is not leaving Miami. That to me is the polar opposite of "super-bright."
     
  6. da_juice

    da_juice Member

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    Lakers always have a super bright future in the world of ESPN (something that is, unfortunately, historically rooted in reality).
     
  7. jim1961

    jim1961 Member

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    Resigning your own players is one of those things that if you do, your holding serve basically. But if you fail to do it, assuming that player is an important piece and someone you want to resign in the first place, then its a loss definitely.

    In the case of the Clippers, I just cant elevate them to the top of the heap mostly based on resigning players.

    If Miami merely resigns Lebron next year, I suppose in ESPN's way of thinking their off season will be a A+++++ while at the same time the team is not one iota better than before based on this move alone.

    So what ESPN's offseason report REALLY should be called is "Who had the best player to resign in the offseason" report card.
     
  8. ROXTXIA

    ROXTXIA Contributing Member

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    From what I understand, Morey wanted to blow it up. He found the "middle way" listed above because Les insisted on rebuilding without sucking any harder than necessary.

    Otherwise, decent article, if a little heavy on the "Rockets are more lucky than good". How about, Sam Presti should be kicking himself right now?
     
    #8 ROXTXIA, Aug 1, 2013
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2013
  9. Jimes

    Jimes Member

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    The writer also didn't get the memo that you're supposed to misspell Morey, not Daryl.
     
  10. daywalker02

    daywalker02 Easter Egg Hunter - Tell me why? نحن عائلة

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    It's A+
    They just don't know how to appreciate the loss of Royce White

    It will guarantee us another spot to accommodate a quality player
     
  11. benchmoochie

    benchmoochie Contributing Member

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    only contending for wc championship?
     
  12. RedEyesKirby

    RedEyesKirby Member

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    You have to have skills to be lucky.

    If you're not prepared, even when luck comes, you won't be able to do anything about it. (LAKERS)
     
  13. ivenovember

    ivenovember Member

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    Why did they put Royce White (76ers) under "Subtraction"?
    That is definitely an "Addition".
     
  14. roslolian

    roslolian Rockets Only Fan

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    I have several issues with this, namely how the Warriors are supposed to be "in the middle of contention", the Lakers "have a super bright future", but the Rox should only "contend for the WCF crown for the next 2-3 years".

    LOL wtf? DH is only 27, Harden is 23 and Parsons is 24 :rolleyes:

    Also why is Dudley, Reddick and Collison amazingly great while Camby, Garcia, Brooks, Cassipi and Canaan aren't impressive? It's not our fault we're already stacked, maybe Ford forgot that we have Harden and Parsons at both wing spots :rolleyes: Why the hate on Lin, is De Andre Johnson a championship caliber C? lol

    I mean seriously, who wins in a 7 game series?

    CP3/Griffin/DJ/Reddick/Dudley

    or DH/Harden/Parsons/Asik/Lin with Beverly/DMo/Camby/Garcia as the bench?
     
  15. CometsWin

    CometsWin Breaker Breaker One Nine

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    Rather be lucky than good in free agency. The Harden trade wasn't luck, that was straight mobster taking advantage of the poor.
     
  16. BeardSanity

    BeardSanity Member

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    That article possed me off even tho they gave us an A.
    He totally discounted moreys skills by basically calling him lucky to still have a job. Wow.
    All good, I would hate to be overhyped all season anyways.
     
  17. LosPollosHermanos

    LosPollosHermanos Appropriate pronouns only please
    Supporting Member

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    what is it with the clipps improving the most?

    Thats a joke.
     
  18. crash5179

    crash5179 Contributing Member

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    I don't have really have much of a problem with the grades for the most part, but if I'm being critical then here is really my main issue with the article.

    The author lays out the criteria for his grading system right here. Then he proceeds to give the Clippers an A+ largely based on the fact that they signed Chris Paul. My problem with that is that Chris Paul is not an addition for the Clippers, they already had him. By resigning Chris the Clippers did nothing in the form of Remaking the team. The team is essentially the exact same set of starters from last season.

    Are the Clippers substantially closer to winning a championship then they were in April? No. Doc probably gives them a better chance but does a coach suddenly make the pathetic play the Clippers have been getting out of DeAndre Jordan better? I doubt it.

    The Clippers gave up a 1st round pick for Doc but completely blew their oppertunity to acquire Kevin Garnett because of how public them and the Celtics made it known that they were intending to make Doc and KG a package deal. Had they kept that quite and observed the rules of the CBA then the Clipps probably are able to acquire KG seperately from the Doc transaction with out too much interference from David Stern.

    By Comparison:

    1. The Rockets clearly made the biggest jump by advancing the team into elite/contender status.

    2. While the Clippers had to give up a 1st round pick to acquire Doc Rivers, the Rockets gave up nothing to acquire Dwight Howard.

    3. While the Clippers got high marks for not exceeding the Luxury Tax Threshold, the Rockets are paying more than 10 million a season less than the Clipps in total salary.

    4. While Keeping the all of the teams draft picks, the Rockets are in better position going forward than the Clippers, considering the additional 2nd round picks the Rockets are also loaded with.

    5. Not only do the Rockets field a true title contender this season but they are BETTER positioned than the Clipps because they have more 1st and 2nd round picks moving forward plus the Rockets salary cap situation is much better then the Clippers. According to Shamsports the Clippers are actually over the LT just not over the Apron. http://data.shamsports.com/content/pages/data/salaries/clippers.jsp
     
    #18 crash5179, Aug 2, 2013
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2013
  19. trueroxfan

    trueroxfan Member

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    Fixed.
    I am surprised they gave us an A and the Clippers an A+. The Clippers kept all their guys and signed two quality role players. We kept our main guys and signed the best center in the league. How are 2 role players > 1 all star?

    I'm one of those who believes the loss of Dwight was a good thing for the Lakers. If they were going to continue that system of offense, and keep Gasol, Dwight was not a good fit, imo. This team is still a playoff team (bottom of the pack) IF Kobe is able to return by midseason. I don't know much about the heal time for Achilles injuries, but didn't Billups have the same injury, came back early, and got re injured? I think they'll be battling for the 8th seed, which isn't terrible considering they are essentially the poster team for AARP.

    Not sure how I feel about this team anymore. Rudy Gay isn't the player I thought he was going to develop into, and they got rid of Hollins, who I thought was a pretty good coach. I think this is a fair grade.

    I think the T Wolves had a pretty good offseason. K Mart fits perfect with that team, and if he can score 20+ again this season, and Love and Rubio come back strong, with a coach like Adelman...this team can be as good as a 5th seed. Not to mention they got some help at backup center, a steal with Shabazz, and a quality wing with Brewer. I think a B- is more appropriate.

    They deserve an F- for the stupid name.

    They essentially did NOTHING. How is Fisher still in the league?

    Not sure if they deserve an F for letting Scola go, or an A++ for letting him go to a contending team. JK, I am confused with their moves, why are they stacking up on starting point guards?

    Not a bad offseason, but I think they'll tear it down by the trade deadline.

    Why did Landry sign with this team? Must have been to be back with Hayes! But seriously, he could have gone to a much better team.

    I like Belinelli, but I can't imagine Duncan will play as good as he did last year. This is their last chance.

    F the Jazz. They get a D for being tools.
     

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