NBA Preview/Offseason Grades – Pacific Division
Who’s in: Steve Nash, Antawn Jamison, Dwight Howard, Jodie Meeks, Earl Clark, Chris Duhon, Overflowing Bandwagons.
Draft: Robert Sacre, Darius Johnson-Odom.
Who’s Out: Ramon Sessions, Matt Barnes, Andrew Bynum, Christian Eyenga, Josh McRoberts.
Summary: When Steve Nash agreed to join the Lakers I threw up in my mouth. The last of the loyal “good guys” sold out for the purple and gold (It is really hard to avoid swearing for this entire paragraph). Nash becoming a Laker was bad enough but for the Dwight Howard saga to end with “Supervag” landing in LA? Let’s just say I’ve been kicking a lot of puppies over the last couple of months.
There was no scenario on my radar where I thought it could be possible to dislike Steve Nash in my lifetime. Well here we are, although Nash opting for that stupid haircut has made it a lot easier.
Laker fans will be wondering why I’m being such a killjoy. The simple fact is this Laker squad scares the crap out of me. These fuckers are like the bad guy in a bad 80’s slasher franchise. Oklahoma cut them up with a chainsaw and buried the body six feet under this past offseason. Now they’re back on the Championship doorstep not even a month later?
The Hollywood Lakers are exactly that. They’re the M. Night Shymalalanalan of translating an obviously shithouse script into a billion dollars at the box office. Everybody knows the Lakers will fleece you at the trade table yet General Manager’s continue to do whatever they can to make a move with the Lakers. Just like everybody reads the 6% rating on Rotten Tomatoes but still hands over $20 to be subjected to a plot-less M. Night straight jacket head fuck.
First there was Kwame Brown for Pau Gasol, then Nash for nothing and now Dwight Howard for a lazy immature injury prone big man in Bynum? This wouldn’t happen anywhere else but in Hollywood.
The sneaky addition of veteran scorer Antawn Jameson will provide the Lakers with an upgrade when it comes to scoring off the bench. Jameson averaged fifteen points and six rebounds for the Cavs last year and combined with long-range gunner Jodie Meeks should provide the Lakers with adequate production off the bench.
Did the Lakers improve their squad in free agency? Duh. Did they do enough to leapfrog Oklahoma and regain top spot in the Western Conference? Debatable.
Kobe Bryant could be gunning for his sixth ring to equal MJ in June just as M. Night Shyamalan’s next blockbuster release “After Earth” will premier in theaters. It’s as if a perfect storm of alcoholism is heading straight for me.
Someone hand me a bucket…
Offseason Grade: A+
Predicted Win Total: Too many for my liking
Who’s in: Lamar Odom, Jamal Crawford, Grant Hill, Ryan Hollins, Ronny Turiaf, Matt Barnes, Willie Green.
Who’s Out: Randy Foye, Mo Williams, Nick Young, Ryan Gomes, Reggie Evans.
Summary: The Clippers spent the offseason getting a whole lot older but also a whole lot deeper. We all saw the impact that a veteran presence like Chauncey Billups had on the Clippers in the early parts of last season. Adding Lamar Odom, Jamal Crawford and Grant Hill to the mix will only aid the Clippers with making a deeper playoff run; assuming Lamar Odom is fined every time he goes within 100 feet of a buffet.
Despite last season’s antics the nostalgia associated with Odom returning to the Clippers #7 jersey is a nice touch. Jamal Crawford will add instant scoring punch off the bench whilst confusing the hell out of a silent Vinny Del Negro with his shot selection. Between Grant Hill, Matt Barnes and Caron Butler the Clippers should have 48 minutes of serviceable production at the small forward spot.
The Clippers are still a tier below their LA neighbors and the Oklahoma Thunder. A second round Playoff exit and three-hundred-and-fifty-two Blake Griffin highlight plays would be a par achievement for the Clips.
Offseason Grade: B+
Predicted Win Total: 48-52
Golden State Warriors
Who’s in: Jarrett Jack, Carl Landry, Carlon Brown, Lance Goulbourne, Rick Jackson, Terence Kinsey.
Draft: Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli, Draymond Green.
Who’s Out: Dorrell Wright, Nate Robinson.
Summary: One word; Health. If Andrew Bogut and Steph Curry can remain healthy the Warriors are a legitimate playoff contender. That’s a big “if” though considering combined Bogut and Curry played 28 of a possible 132 games last season. With this in mind the Warriors chased depth and the addition of former New Orleans pair Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry is solid insurance if the inside/outside combination misses significant time.
Operation Tankapalooza worked a treat last year from a draft perspective and the Warriors were able to land their guy in UNC small forward Harrison Barnes. With Klay Thompson looking every bit of a top ten shooting guard (18.1 points per game in 29 starts) since Monta Ellis left town, the Warriors have a nice offensive balance.
Golden State will also be donating over $40 million dollars to the Richard Jefferson/Andris Biedrins Charity fund over the next two years. Ladies and Gentleman, a round of applause if you don’t mind!
Offseason Grade: A
Predicted Win Total: 38-42
Who’s in: Goran Dragic, Luis Scola, Michael Beasley, Wes Johnson, Jermaine O’Neal, PJ Tucker.
Draft: Kendall Marshall.
Who’s Out: Steve Nash, Grant Hill, Josh Childress, Ronnie Price, Hakim Warrick, Robin Lopez, Aaron Brooks.
Summary: Flipping arguably the greatest player in franchise history for a couple of crappy first round picks, the cap space to sign an inefficient weed head in Michael Beasley and the right to turn your biggest rival into a Championship contender was a total no-brainer in Phoenix this summer. Apparently.
The Suns finally decided to end the Nash era for twenty cents on the dollar and with it arrives new faces and a new direction.
Signing do-it-all point guard Goran Dragic was a must once the decision on Nash was made but investing $18 million in Michael Beasley is a high risk, high Beasley, low reward scenario if the recent production from the self-titled “Supercool Beas” is anything to go by. In games where Beasley had six or more shot attempts for the Wolves last season Minnesota posted a 15-24 record. When Beasley was really feeling the chucking vibe and attempted eleven or more shots, Minnesota were 6-19.
The main problem with Beasley is that he fails to contribute to his team outside of throwing the ball at the rim. This is the 183rd most efficient player in the game we’re talking about here. A guy who had a total of three fewer turnovers than he did assists, steals and blocks combined. “Potential” is the word often associated with Beasley but after watching Beasley for two straight seasons in Minneapolis I’m convinced the guy just doesn’t get it and never will.
An identical paragraph can be penned for another former Timberwolves bust in Wes Johnson who since entering the league has made a strong case for the title of crappiest player in the NBA. If you’re into blown layups, turnovers and a ghost-like presence, Wes Johnson is your guy.
In 64 starts last season Wes Johnson averaged 6.4 points per game and a whole lot of nothing else. Johnson ranks inside the league’s top 100 in one category, blocks. This is the standout production you want from a 6’7” shooting guard.
The biggest knock on Johnson is his lack of confidence. In 1468 minutes last season Johnson attempted just 34 free throws from 397 field goal attempts. I’m serious, that actually happened. Poor Wes just hates contact and will avoid it at all costs, even despite being a career 70% free throw shooter. At 25 years of age there’s little room for Wes to grow. He is what he is, terrible.
The one positive is that Phoenix will continue the decade long trend of being league pass darlings. Between Dragic, rookie Kendall Marshall, Luis Scola, Shannon Brown, Jared Dudley, the Polish Hammer in Gortat and whatever the hell backwards antics Beasley can bring to the table, the Suns have a highly entertaining squad who will put up points and play zero defense. Yay!
Offseason Grade: D
2012/2013 Wins: 33-37
Who’s in: Aaron Brooks, James Johnson
Draft: Thomas Robinson
Who’s Out: Hasssan Whiteside
Summary: With rumors circling regarding their location the Kings on-court issues have taken a backwards seat this offseason. The way Sacramento basketball played out last season you could only assume that players were fined for playing defense and paid based on some whacky field goal attempt KPI. The Kings roster is an oddball group to say the least and ranked dead last in scoring defense last season and first in field goal attempts. The Kings are a pick up squad in the pros.
One of the primary reasons for the Kings low efficiency on the offensive end is the erratic play of shooting guard Tyreke Evans. Evans has never come across a defensive triple team that he didn’t want to dribble into and shoot a contested fallaway jumper against. If I were coaching a junior team I’d advise the kids to study film of Tyreke Evans and then do the complete opposite of everything he does.
DeMarcus Cousins showed some semblance of maturity once head coach Paul Westphal was ran out of town in favor of Keith Smart and should be in the discussion for an All Star birth. With Jimmer Fredette, Aaron Brooks, Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton all on the one roster is there anybody in the house who can overcome their shooting addiction and actually run an offense? I like Isaiah Thomas’s production as a rookie but I can’t imagine how big of a monster the Cousins and Thomas Robinson combination would be if this team had a great facilitator at point guard.
Offseason Grade: C+
Predicted Win Total: 30-34
You can follow Scott on Twitter: @Scottybarby