Did the Lakers overreact? Are we certain the Warriors are again? NBA offseason grades for the Western Convention

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It is time to hand out last grades on the 2021 offseason.

With training camp now two weeks away, we’re taking one final likelihood to rehash all that went down in a blur of an offseason.

Defining success is all relative when making an attempt to gauge the success of any offseason, and it is necessary to remember the shifting priorities and life like expectations weighed by every franchise. For some groups, sitting idly by and making minor tweaks is one of the simplest ways to chart a course to rivalry. For others, sitting idly by and making minor tweaks is the surest strategy to the underside of a 6-foot gap.

No two circumstances are alike, nor does roster-building exist in a vacuum. Context issues!

MORE: The top 50 storylines to watch in 2021-22

May we sit again and hand out As and Bs to everybody? After all! Taking the glass half-full method, there is a world during which the best-case situation performs out for each crew.

However we’re not doing that. Nope, not right here. These grades function on a curve and for every convention, not more than 4 groups can obtain an A, no less than 4 groups should obtain a C, and no less than one crew should obtain a dreaded D or F. Even when a crew completed its major goal, that does not essentially translate to a excessive grade, particularly if there’s work left to be accomplished.

We already handed out report cards to the Eastern Conference. Now it is time to sort out the West.

(Click on on any of the groups to skip down).

DAL | DEN  | GSW  | HOU  | LAC  | LAL  | MEM  | MIN  | NOP  | OKC  | PHX  | POR  | SAC  | SAS  | UTAH

Dallas Mavericks

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  • Additions: Sterling Brown (free company), Reggie Bullock (free company), Moses Brown (commerce)
  • Departures: Josh Richardson (Celtics), JJ Redick (unsigned), Nicolo Melli (unsigned)

Largest offseason precedence: Appease Luka Doncic

The thin: First and most significantly, the Mavericks locked in Doncic to a brand new five-year, $207 million extension, the richest rookie extension in NBA historical past. Getting into the ultimate yr of his rookie season, the ascendant celebrity is now signed via the 2026-27 season. Past a brand new contract — at all times a given — the Mavericks and new coach Jason Kidd face the strain to construct a winner across the 22-year-old wunderkind. They added some taking pictures in Reggie Bullock and Sterling Brown whereas jettisoning the underperforming Josh Richardson to Boston. Are Bullock and Brown actually sufficient to maneuver the needle? Dallas hopes {that a} full offseason of restoration for Kristaps Porzingis will result in a rejuvenation and bounce-back yr from somebody they desperately have to pop. Outdoors of some flashes, the on-court chemistry between Doncic and Porzingis has by no means been nice, and whereas they didn’t have many engaging choices to maneuver off Porzingis this offseason, a breakup feels inevitable down the highway. Outdoors of Doncic, the Mavericks as soon as once more look the a part of a crew destined for a first-round flameout.

Grade: C+

Denver Nuggets

 

  • Additions: Jeff Inexperienced (free company), Nah’Shon Hyland (draft)
  • Departures: JaVale McGee (Suns), Paul Millsap (Nets)

Largest offseason precedence: Load up for Jamal Murray’s mid-season return

The thin: The timing of Jamal Murray’s torn ACL couldn’t have been a lot worse. When Murray fell to the ground in Golden State final April, it not solely sunk Denver’s title likelihood for 2021 however likewise positioned 2022 doubtful. Simply don’t inform the Nuggets.

They’re working underneath the guise that Murray will return someday within the spring to make a critical run at popping out of the West. They introduced again Will Barton, JaMychal Inexperienced and Austin Rivers whereas prying Jeff Inexperienced away from Brooklyn, which must be an improve over Paul Millsap (who mockingly then signed with the Nets). Though they might have waited till subsequent summer time, Denver opted to increase Aaron Gordon, signing the versatile Swiss-army knife to a four-year, $92 million extension. It’s an enormous chunk of change, however Gordon means extra to Denver than he would anybody else and is an ideal match on each ends. With Michael Porter Jr. and Nikola Jokic in line for large pay days, Denver is pushing its chips all in with this group. If Murray comes again wholesome, this offseason places the Nuggets on monitor to noticeably contend within the West.

Grade: A-

Golden State Warriors

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  • Additions: Nemanja Bjelica (free company), Otto Porter Jr (free company), Andre Iguodala (free company), Jonathan Kuminga (draft), Moses Moody (draft)
  • Departures: Kelly Oubre (Hornets), Kent Bazemore (Lakers), Eric Paschall (Jazz)

Largest offseason precedence: Open a brand new championship window

The thin: With Klay Thompson getting back from a torn Achilles, Stephen Curry acting at an MVP stage and Draymond Inexperienced rekindling his DPOY potential, the Warriors absolutely count on to re-enter the title combine in 2022. Armed with a pair of lottery picks, 2020 No. 2 general decide James Wiseman plus some high-dollar wage (Andrew Wiggins is on the hook for $31.6M this season), the Warriors may have aggressively pursued one other star, maybe one which rhymes with the names Chadley Neal or Ren Timmons. As a substitute, the Warriors keep that they’ve sufficient firepower as at the moment constructed and hope no less than one of many youngins pops. Maybe they’re proper to carry on to the longer term belongings with the lengthy recreation in thoughts. In the event that they fall brief, this may very well be seen as a wasted golden alternative throughout the again finish of Curry’s prime. 

There’s real pleasure about Golden State’s return to the higher echelon, and for good motive. Additionally looming is the potential for large disappointment. Thompson hasn’t performed in two years, Inexperienced is a zero offensively, and the Warriors have been throttled in non-Curry minutes. The Lakers basically performed a box-and-1 in opposition to Curry within the play-in recreation, concurrently an indication of limitless respect for Curry and utter disrespect for everybody else. Shopping for into the Warriors hype is the NBA equal of going all-in on crypto. In principle, the blockchain is aligned for a large windfall. However till that potential pays out, that’s all it’s — potential. For now, Bob Myers will get the advantage of the doubt.

Grade: B-

MORE: Golden State playing with fire in latest balancing act

Houston Rockets

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  • Additions: Daniel Theis (commerce), Jalen Inexperienced (draft), Alperun Sengun (draft), Usman Garuba (draft), Josh Christopher (draft)
  • Departures: Sterling Brown (Mavericks), Kelly Olynyk (Pistons)

Largest offseason precedence: Restock the cabinet

The thin: The Rockets did about in addition to they might have. Jalen Inexperienced is a powerful candidate to guide all rookies in scoring whereas Alperun Sengun, Turkish League MVP at simply 19 years outdated, has an opportunity to be one of many draft’s final steals. There’s a want to discover a taker for John Wall’s deal however at such a hefty price ticket ($91.7 million over the following two years), the Rockets might be hard-pressed to discover a taker except they connect a decide. As I’ve talked about elsewhere, gauging the success of an offseason fully off draft picks necessitates a wait-and-see method, particularly if Inexperienced doesn’t pan out or underperforms relative to rookies taken later. General, a stable offseason for the rebuilding Rockets.

Grade: B+

LA Clippers

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  • Additions: Justise Winslow (free company), Eric Bledsoe (commerce), Keon Johnson (draft), Jason Preston (draft), Brandon Boston (draft)
  • Departures: Patrick Beverley (Timberwolves), Rajon Rondo (Lakers), Daniel Oturu (Grizzlies)

Largest offseason precedence: Stay respectable sans Kawhi

The thin: The Clippers are fascinating. On one hand, you may have a look at a crew possible with out Kawhi Leonard for your entire common season as a lame duck squad merely ready it out till 2022-23. Alternatively, you may have a look at them as a crew with the chance to put low pressure-free and easily bide their time within the shadows earlier than rising as an actual menace if Leonard comes again. They introduced again each Nic Batum and Reggie Jackson, that latter of whom erupted when given the chance to step up after Leonard’s harm. Out of necessity, Jackson averaged an environment friendly 21 factors over his final eight playoff video games, greater than holding his personal in opposition to each Donovan Mitchell and Chris Paul. Eric Bledsoe receives his fair proportion of criticism, however there’s zero query that he stands to be a major improve over Patrick Beverley, particularly if requested to tackle major scoring tasks for the bench unit. Justise Winslow merely can’t keep wholesome, however he’s an intriguing piece to fit into an amorphous crew that stumbled into an identification as soon as Leonard went down. The offseason set the Clippers as much as compete even with out their finest participant. And if he comes again? Be careful.

Grade: A-

Los Angeles Lakers

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  • Additions: Russell Westbrook (commerce), Carmelo Anthony (free company), Dwight Howard (free company), Trevor Ariza (free company), Rajon Rondo (free company), DeAndre Jordan (free company), Wayne Ellington (free company), Kent Bazemore (free company), Malik Monk (free company), Kendrick Nunn (free company)
  • Departures: Kyle Kuzma (Wizards), Montrezl Harrell (Wizards), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Wizards), Andre Drummond (76ers), Dennis Schroder (Celtics), Marc Gasol (TBD), Alex Caruso (Bulls), Markieff Morris (Warmth)

Largest offseason precedence: Numerous botox.

The thin: Whew. There’s quite a bit to unpack in regards to the Lakers — an excessive amount of for this area — however my general perspective revolves round a one-word query: “Why?”

Why did the Lakers really feel the necessity for such a drastic overhaul? The identical crew that gained all of it within the bubble seemed able to make one other Finals run till Anthony Davis caught the harm bug on the improper time. Revamping and retooling round LeBron and AD is one factor. However including the highest-usage level guard in NBA historical past who additionally doubles because the worst high-volume shooter in NBA historical past feels pointless. There might be nights when Russell Westbrook takes over and appears superb, however his addition seems like an 82-game resolution greater than a 16-game resolution. Past Westbrook, the protection took an actual hit and is a a lot bigger concern than the low-hanging AARP fruit. 

This crew might be judged on what occurs in Could and June. In the event you’re a Lakers fan, do you really need your crew’s destiny resting on whether or not Westbrook can hit extensive open 3s when left alone down the stretch of tight playoff video games? The Lakers didn’t want a 3rd star to win large. We all know this as a result of we actually simply noticed it. They wanted taking pictures, protection and good well being. They’re nonetheless the favorites to return out of the West and certain would have been no matter what they did, so it’s not a full-blown “our heads are falling off” overreaction. However this offseason reeks of desperation for a crew that didn’t have to act desperately.

Grade: C

MORE: How Westbrook can learn from Carmelo

Memphis Grizzlies

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  • Additions: Steven Adams (commerce), Jarrett Culver (commerce), Kris Dunn (commerce), Carsen Edwards (commerce), Ziaire Williams (draft), Santi Aldama (draft)
  • Departures: Grayson Allen (Bucks), Eric Bledsoe (Clippers), Jonas Valanciunas (Pelicans), Justise Winslow (Clippers)

Largest offseason precedence: Fill within the gaps round Morant and JJJ

The thin: I don’t perceive how the Grizzlies bought higher. Steven Adams will slot in completely in Memphis, however he’s making $3M greater than the departed Jonas Valanciunas this season ($17.1M in contrast with $14M) and has one further yr on his deal. Whereas ridding themselves of Eric Bledsoe’s contract helps (he’s owed $18.1 million this season), the ultimate yr of his deal is simply partially assured for $3.9 million in order that they didn’t save that a lot. Jarrett Culver is a low-risk swing price taking, however the No. 6 decide within the 2019 draft has up to now been a colossal bust. Offloading Grayson Allen opens up room for Desmond Bane and De’Anthony Melton however doesn’t come with out danger. Allen is simply 25, averaged extra 3s than anybody else on the crew and proved to be a beneficial crunch-time contributor.

Perhaps the road of considering is that continued persistence, a clear invoice of well being for Jaren Jackson Jr. and a cleaner cap sheet paves the highway towards progress. However this feels underwhelming for a crew on the upswing.

Grade: C

Minnesota Timberwolves

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  • Additions: Jarred Vanderbilt (free company), Patrick Beverley (commerce), Taurean Prince (commerce)
  • Departures: Ricky Rubio (Cavaliers), Jarrett Culver (Grizzlies), Juancho Hernangomez (Celtics)

Largest offseason precedence: Add toughness and depth

The thin: Minnesota’s dream is touchdown Ben Simmons, who would slot in completely alongside Karl-Anthony Cities. After all, it’s a pipe dream in the event that they proceed insisting that Cities, D’Angelo Russell and Anthony Edwards are all off-limits. Past the blockbuster that didn’t (but) occur, the Timberwolves introduced some adults within the room who will convey much-needed toughness and taking pictures. Taurean Prince is a legit 3-and-D wing who drilled over 40 p.c from past the arc final season. Beverley’s finest days could also be previously, however he’s nonetheless a tenacious thorn within the aspect of opposing level guards whose no-nonsense method ought to assist mild a hearth underneath a crew that ranked twenty eighth in defensive effectivity final season. Time machines don’t exist and neither do mulligans. Minnesota can’t take again the Russell commerce with Golden State, so it’s merely crossing fingers that Jonathan Kuminga’s excessive upside doesn’t translate into stardom elsewhere.

Grade: B-

New Orleans Pelicans

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  • Additions: Devonte’ Graham (commerce), Jonas Valanciunas (commerce), Tomas Satoransky (commerce), Garrett Temple (commerce), Trey Murphy (draft), Herbert Jones (draft)
  • Departures: Lonzo Ball (Bulls), Steven Adams (Grizzlies), Eric Bledsoe (Clippers), Wes Iwundu (Hornets), James Johnson (Nets)

Largest offseason precedence: Preserve Zion engaged

The thin: The Pelicans have been down this highway earlier than.

  1. Draft generational expertise No. 1 general.
  2. Underwhelm in surrounding mentioned expertise with assist.
  3. Permit seeds of discontent to sprout.

If New Orleans isn’t cautious, what occurred with Anthony Davis may occur once more with Zion Williamson. Siphoning off Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams to clear up room to usher in a star is smart. Deciding to not spend $20 million a yr on Lonzo Ball and his questionable match is defensible. Coordinating these strikes to make a run at Kyle Lowry is admirable. However doing all that simply to signal Devonte’ Graham WHILE ALSO GIVING UP A FIRST-ROUND PICK? Not nice, Bob! Jonas Valanciunas is an effective participant and Trey Murphy is likely one of the finest shooters within the rookie class. However by failing to encompass Williamson with needle-moving items, the Pelicans are inching one step nearer to historical past repeating itself.

Grade: D

Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder

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  • Additions: Derrick Favors (commerce), Josh Giddey (draft), Tre Mann (draft), Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (draft), Aaron Wiggins (draft)
  • Departures: Tony Bradley (Bulls), Svi Mykhailiuk (Raptors), Kemba Walker (waived)

Largest offseason precedence: Acquire all the infinity sto-, ur, draft picks

The thin: The loudest splash OKC made was inking Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to a five-year, $172 million extension. Past that, Sam Presti continues to amass as many picks as humanly attainable in an extended, drawn-out rebuild that seemingly has no finish in sight. The 6-8 Josh Giddey ought to slot in properly subsequent to SGA as a high-IQ prospect who may be the very best passer within the draft. OKC traded Al Horford to Boston for Kemba Walker and the sixteenth general decide however then flipped that decide to Houston for 2 future protected first-round picks that possible gained’t convey for years because the Rockets are in an analogous rebuild. Houston used that decide on 19-year-old Turkish MVP Alperen Sengun, who may be the steal of the draft. Would the Thunder have been higher off simply drafting Sengun? The Thunder purchased out Walker, a curious resolution as they might have gone the Chris Paul route and waited to commerce him for — you guessed it — extra picks. OKC bought one more first-round decide from the Jazz for agreeing to tackle Favors. Giddey is a begin however sooner or later the Thunder might want to truly add extra foundational items subsequent to SGA, who at this price may be 38 years outdated by the point that occurs.

Grade: C+

Phoenix Suns

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  • Additions: Chandler Hutchinson (free company), JaVale McGee (free company), Elfrid Payton (free company), Landry Shamet (commerce)
  • Departures: Jevon Carter (Nets), Torrey Craig (Pacers), E’Twaun Moore (Magic)

Largest offseason precedence: Re-sign Chris Paul and decide to contending

The thin: On the heels of the crew’s first NBA Finals look since 1993, there have been quiet murmurs that Phoenix wouldn’t break the financial institution to convey again Chris Paul. The franchise infamous for penny pinching as a substitute forked over the bag to run it again, giving the 36-year-old Level God a four-year deal price as much as $120 million. Although maybe not an Achilles heel, frontcourt depth behind DeAndre Ayton proved to be a critical ache level within the postseason, which the Suns addressed by signing JaVale McGee to a one-year deal. Contemporary off the heels of an Olympic gold medal, McGee brings championship expertise from his time with the Warriors. Re-signing Cameron Payne and bringing in Elfrid Payton shores up the backcourt depth behind Paul and may give the Suns sufficient rope to maintain him contemporary via the trials of an 82-game season. The Suns did every part of their energy to stay on the brief record of groups able to profitable the West.

Grade: A-

Portland Path Blazers

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  • Additions: Ben McLemore (free company), Tony Snell (free company), Cody Zeller (free company), Larry Nance Jr. (commerce), Greg Brown III (draft)
  • Departures: Carmelo Anthony (Lakers), Zach Collins (Spurs), Derrick Jones Jr. (Bulls), Enes Kanter (Celtics)

Largest offseason precedence: Appease Dame and graduate from frisky to legit contender

The thin: Let’s begin right here: Portland won’t be dangerous. The truth is, there’s an opportunity that Portland might be actually good. May the Blazers end within the high 4 within the West? Completely. May they win a playoff collection? Positive. However Portland is kidding itself if it thinks that something it did this offseason adjustments its fortunes in any significant method. Norman Powell is a pleasant participant. Does giving him $90 million over 5 years to be the crew’s third-best guard equate to substantial enchancment? No. Ditto for Larry Nance Jr., a pleasant function participant who affords plus playmaking and protection however possible isn’t making or breaking Portland’s probabilities.

Damian Lillard needs the Blazers to be aggressive of their pursuit of loftier ambitions. Even when the rumors of Lillard’s commerce calls for proved untimely, the Blazers are as soon as once more setting themselves up for a predictable ho-hum season that ends with one other early playoff exit. By no means change, Blazers.

Grade: D

Sacramento Kings

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  • Additions: Alex Len (free company), Tristan Thompson (commerce), Davion Mitchell (draft), Neemias Queta (draft)
  • Departures: Hassan Whiteside (Jazz), Delon Wright (Hawks)

Largest offseason precedence: Clear up an identification disaster

The thin: The Kings haven’t made the playoffs since 2006. A mixture of current draft picks plus indecisiveness makes it tough to evaluate how precisely the Kings see themselves. Drafting Davion Mitchell one yr after drafting Tyrese Haliburton indicators that maybe they’re prepared to maneuver on from both Buddy Hield and even De’Aaron Fox. Whereas they almost dealt Hield to the Lakers, the Kings have been outbid by Washington’s provide of Russell Westbrook and so he stays. Although he may be a turnstile defensively, no participant in your entire league has made extra 3s than Hield over the previous three seasons. That kind of voluminous flooring spacing mixed with a singular contract that really goes down over the following three seasons makes him a probably juicy commerce chip. Add in Marvin Bagley and Harrison Barnes, and Sacramento has an attractive warfare chest to throw Philly’s method ought to it need in on Ben Simmons or a participant of his ilk. If the Kings are accomplished, then the unresolved backcourt logjam may show problematic. But when there’s one crew primed for a big-time preseason shake-up, it’s the Kings.

Grade: C+… for now

San Antonio Spurs

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  • Additions: Zach Collins (free company), Bryn Forbes (free company), Al-Farouq Aminu (commerce), Doug McDermott (commerce), Thaddeus Younger (commerce), Joshua Primo (draft), Joe Wieskamp (draft)
  • Departures: DeMar DeRozan (Bulls), Gorgui Dieng (Hawks), Patty Mills (Nets), Rudy Homosexual (Jazz), Trey Lyles (Pistons)

Largest offseason precedence: Transition right into a full rebuild

The thin: The Spurs lastly did it. After two years of hanging on the fringes of playoff chatter, they’re leaning into the rebuild. As a substitute of overpaying to maintain DeMar DeRozan, they correctly agreed to a sign-and-trade with the Bulls and within the course of picked up a future first-round decide and veteran Thaddeus Younger. Lengthy-time Spur Patty Mills, the final holdover from the glory years, signed with the Nets in free company, leaving 25-year-old Dejounte Murray because the longest-tenured Spur. With the twelfth general decide, the Spurs took a shock flier on Joshua Primo, the youngest participant within the draft who many draftniks pegged as a possible second-round decide. Though the consensus guidelines it a serious attain, it’s the kind of back-end lottery swing you’re taking when absolutely committing to a rebuild with no bona fide foundational items within the cabinet. Doug McDermott provides taking pictures on the heels of a profession yr whereas Zach Collins is a probably shrewd buy-low addition with the large caveat that he wants to remain wholesome. San Antonio took an sincere look within the mirror, inhaled deeply and did what it ought to have accomplished a yr in the past.

Grade: B

Utah Jazz

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  • Additions: Rudy Homosexual (free company), Hassan Whiteside (free company), Eric Paschall (commerce), Jared Butler (draft)
  • Departures: Derrick Favors (Thunder), Georges Niang (76ers) 

Largest offseason precedence: Re-sign Mike Conley

The thin: Above all else, the Jazz couldn’t afford to lose Mike Conley. Sure, $72 million over three years is a danger for an harm susceptible 34-year-old level guard. And but if the Jazz let him stroll, that they had no means to interchange him by advantage of being cap strapped and unable to spend that cash elsewhere. Including Hassan Whiteside on a minimal contract to again up Rudy Gobert is an absolute high-reward, low-risk no-brainer. Finest case situation is he rebounds, rolls and blocks a ton of photographs. Keep in mind, Whiteside led the league in blocks per recreation as lately as 2019-20. At worst, he’s a nasty match for the Jazz they usually let him stroll for subsequent to nothing. Rudy Homosexual provides the Jazz extra small-ball flexibility for the non-Gobert minutes whereas Eric Pascall can dependably fill in back-of-the-rotation minutes. There have been some rumblings that Utah could unload Joe Ingles, however to date the sweet-shooting lefty playmaker stays within the fold. Wanting pivoting away from the Mitchell-Gobert tandem, that is about in addition to they might have realistically hoped for.

Grade: A-


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