Two legitimate contenders in Los Angeles. The potential collapse of a dynasty in The Bay. And… whatever the heck Phoenix is doing. This off-season has brought some very surprising shake-ups in the pacific division of the Western Conference and we’re here to dive in to grade each team’s front office on the moves they’ve made this Summer. Don’t see your favorite team on this list? Check out our upcoming articles for more breakdowns on every team around the NBA. But for now let’s look at the Pacific 🏄…
Golden State Warriors
Last year’s record: 57-25 (1st in the Western Conference)
Key Additions:Jacob Poole, Alec Burks, Willie Cauley-Stein, D’Angelo Russell, Kevon Looney
Key Losses:Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala, Jordan Bell, Quinn Cook
Things couldn’t get much worse in The Bay this past June. Kevin Durant’s sickening achilles injury, coupled with an ACL tear to Klay Thompson’s left knee, left the organization reeling after a 4-2 series loss to the Toronto Raptors. Durant, after months of speculation, caught the first flight to Brooklyn to pair up with Kyrie Irving (more on that later), leaving Steph Curry on an island with Draymond Green. Despite losing the former MVP, the Warriors quickly made up lost ground with the re-signing of Klay Thompson to a 5 year, $190 million dollar max deal, before pulling off a shocking sign-and-trade to acquire 23-year-old D’Angelo Russell from the Nets. The trade resulted in veteran swing-man Andre Iguodala becoming a casualty of the cap, as he was off-loaded to Memphis along with a protected first round pick.
Russell is coming off a break-out season where he made his first all-star appearance, and led the Nets to the Eastern Conference playoffs. The acquisition gives the suddenly retooling Warriors one of the best trade pieces they could have asked for, and Russell can expect to get instant touches next season throughout Klay Thompson’s absence.
The Warriors front office built off of their sudden momentum by facilitating two underrated signings in Willie Cauley-Stein and Alec Burks, both solid young role players on reasonable contracts, before re-signing Kevon Looney to continue to provide depth in the front court. While they haven’t been talked about, these moves will keep Golden State in the playoff picture this upcoming season, and set them up with good role-players on reasonable contracts for the present. As for the Warriors’ future, that still largely hinges on the health of Klay Thompson and the brilliance of Steph Curry, but considering what they lost when free-agency opened, fans should be excited about the calculated moves Bob Myers and his front office have made this Summer.
Los Angeles Clippers
Last season’s record: 48-34 (8th in the Western Conference)
Key Additions: Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Maurice Harkless
Key Losses: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, Garrett Temple, Wilson Chandler
The off-season couldn’t have gone much better for Clippers fans. L.A kicked off the free-agency period with the re-signing of Patrick Beverley, who continues to dominate year in and year out as a defensive nightmare. Then, after a tense four day waiting period, the Clippers beat out the cross-town rival Lakers and the Toronto Raptors in the Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes, hauling in the reigning finals MVP alongside Paul George. Yes Clippers fans, do a celebratory jig- you’ve added not one, but two MVP candidates to an otherwise loaded roster that stood toe-to-toe with a healthy Warriors team.
Of course, as any NBA franchise knows, you have to give a lot to get a lot, and the Clippers did just that. After shipping off a record-setting number of draft picks to Oklahoma City (see our previous off-season grades article), the Clippers were forced to say goodbye to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who became a rookie sensation during his short stint under Doc Rivers. Seeing the young guard go will be a large pill to swallow, especially when accounting for the loss of Danilo Gallinari, who’s evolved into an excellent three level scorer.
However, the loss of those assets isn’t on the mind of anyone in the Clippers organization. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George have the word ‘championship’ on the tip of every tongue in the Staples Center, and after bringing back glue guys such as Beverley, Montrezl Harrell, and Lou Williams, the Clippers are looking like the favorites to secure their first NBA championship.
Last season’s record: 39-43 (9th in the Western Conference)
Key Additions: Trevor Ariza, Dewayne Dedmon, Cory Joseph, Richaun Holmes
Key Losses: Willie Cauley-Stein, Alec Burks
After a surprising break-out season led by De’Aaron Fox, the Kings had their work cut out for them this off-season, with multiple rotation players hitting free-agency. Harrison Barnes inked a 4 year/$85 million dollar deal, which was a pricey but necessary signing for the club, as his addition provided much needed scoring and spacing from the three-point line. The Willie Cauley-Stein project finally had the plug pulled, as he left for Golden State, but was quickly replaced with an upgrade in Dewayne Dedmon. Cory Joseph and Richaun Holmes are quality signings that will give Sacramento extra depth for the near future.
Overall, with very few draft picks and not much cap space, the Kings front office made good, but not great moves. The addition of Ariza will give the kings some extra permiter defense off the bench, which is becoming more and more important in a Pacific division that is loaded with talent on the wings. Overall, this team’s ceiling will continue to depend on the development of Marvin Bagley, De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, and Harry Giles, all of whom show immense promise and potential. Expect another quality season out of Sacramento.
Los Angeles Lakers
Last season’s record: 37-45 (10th in the Western Conference)
Key Additions: Anthony Davis, Danny Green, Demarcus Cousins, Avery Bradley, Quinn Cook, Talen Horton-Tucker
Key Losses: Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Mike Muscala, Tyson Chandler, Reggie Bullock, Moritz Wagner
The fireworks in Los Angeles were in full swing this Summer, and the Lakers were at the core of it all. After landing the fourth pick in the NBA Draft, the Lakers finally managed to swing a deal for Anthony Davis, a proven star and (arguably) top-5 talent around the league. The asking price was hefty, and the Lakers had to part ways with three talented young players who still have quite a bit of potential in Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, and Josh Hart. The fourth pick in the draft, De’Andre Hunter, is no small loss either, but the piece L.A got in return is undoubtedly worth the ransom they payed. The Lakers will no trot out a starting five built around the pairing of LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Lakers fans, get very excited.
In all the commotion of the Davis trade, the Lakers forgot to clear the necessary cap space needed to ink a third star via free-agency, causing them to off-load a good young center in Moritz Wagner to the Wizards for next to nothing in return. With max-slot money (finally) cleared, the Lakers led an all out pursuit of Kawhi Leonard, who promptly took his talents across town to join the Clippers, leaving the Lakers to dig through the bargain bin of the free-agency pile.
In this bargain bin, L.A found some solid pieces to fill out their roster. Demarcus Cousins, a year removed from that dreaded achilles injury, has made it work alongside Davis once before. If healthy, he has the potential to provide valuable post-scoring and tenacious rebounding for a squad that lacks obvious depth. Danny Green was an excellent signing, and will fit beautiful next to James and Davis in the starting lineup. Quinn Cook, Avery Bradley, and Rajon Rondo provide solid depth in the backcourt. Talen Horton-Tucker was a steal at the 37th pick in the draft. Overall, the Lakers did some very good things, despite packaging away their future.
Last season’s record: 19-63 (15th in the Western Conference)
Key Additions: Ricky Rubio, Frank Kaminsky, Dario Saric, Cameron Johnson, Ty Jerome
Key Losses: Dragan Bender, Josh Jackson, Marquese Chriss, TJ Warren, Trevor Ariza, Troy Daniels, Richaun Holmes
I won’t lie- the Phoenix Suns continue to baffle me. James Jones, newly hired general manager, was tasked with the impossible job of revamping the league’s worst roster and continuing to build around Deandre Ayton and Devin Booker, and he did just that. Gone are the failed developments of Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss, two high draft-picks that never panned out for a franchise stuck in the NBA’s basement. Gone is Trevor Ariza, whose 1 year/$15 million dollar deal never bore fruit. Gone is Josh Jackson, just two seasons removed from being the highly-touted fourth pick in the draft. I don’t necessarily have a problem with those moves- Phoenix needed new personnel, and James Jones ushered out the many failed talents that littered the Phoenix bench.
I do, however, have a problem with the additions meant to replace these failed talents. Phoenix inked veteran guard Ricky Rubio to a 3 year/ $51 million dollar contract, a move that simply doesn’t fit the timeline of Ayton and Booker. Rubio is by no means a bad player, but he’ll be turning 32 and making $17 million dollars annually when his contract is set to expire- a hefty price to pay for a player who’s not a permanent solution at the point guard position.
Perhaps even more baffling is that Phoenix off-loaded their second leading scorer, TJ Warren, to the Indiana Pacers for cash. Warren is coming off of back-to-back seasons where he averaged over 18 points per game, and has developed into an excellent shooter from beyond the three-point arc. Oh yeah- and he’s only 25 years old. The Suns flipped Warren, who was on a very reasonable contract and fit the timeline of Ayton and Booker, with the intention of creating cap space to go out and sign… you guessed it… Ricky Rubio.
Things couldn’t get much more directionless down in the desert, right? Wrong. If we take a trip back to draft night, the Phoenix Suns ended up with the sixth overall pick, which isn’t a terrible consolation prize for the 19-63 record they amassed last season. With the sixth pick, the Suns had multiple young talents to choose from, including Coby White, Jarrett Culver, Jaxson Hayes, Rui Hachimura, and Tyler Herro, all of whom have showcased impressive potential. The Suns, however, opted to trade out of the sixth slot and select Cam Johnson, a 23-year-old power forward out of UNC, with the 11th pick in the draft. Johnson, significantly older than the majority of prospects, was projected to be available well after the lottery, making his selection very questionable. Unfortunately, the Suns appear to be going nowhere, fast.