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An NBA Offseason Guide: The Pacific Division
Well the 2014-2015 NBA season has come to an end which means one thing: it’s time to look forward to the 2015 NBA offseason. This year sees many teams facing an uncertain future and the moves they make in the next few months will shape the outlook of the league for the next few years. Of course you could have written the preceding sentence about any offseason in the past decade or so. But every NBA offseason brings a certain level of excitement, it presents the chance for teams who underachieved to hit the reset button and it allows crazy owners to make crazy trades and dish out mind boggling contracts. Its a time for players to bet on themselves and turn down relatively large contracts (looking at you Jimmy Butler). This guide will look at the entire NBA by division by team giving you a comprehensive breakdown on what teams may be looking for this July. Today we will be looking at the Pacific division.
Golden State Warriors
2014-2015 Record: 67-15, 1st in the Western Conference.
Free Agents: Leandro Barbosa (UFA), Draymond Green (RFA), Justin Holiday (RFA), Ognjen Kuzmic (RFA), Brandon Rush (UFA), Marreese Speights (RFA).
Does this team really have any holes? They are the newly crowned NBA champions and dominated the league from start to finish last season. Steve Kerr has the personnel to play big or play small without giving up much on either offense or defense. They have two of the deadliest shooters in the league with Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry in the backcourt. Is there any weakness to this team? Of course the Warriors won’t be facing the same teams they did this year, so general manager Bob Myers and coach Steve Kerr have to find a way to improve the roster. The front office is looking to trade power forward David Lee in an effort to save money. Lee is still a starting caliber power forward in this league and while he can’t post up anymore, he’s not bad in the pick and roll. He also runs the floor well and is an excellent passer at his position. There hasn’t been any news in terms of what teams would want to take him. Charlotte may be interested since they need a power forward and either Noah Vonleh or Cody Zeller are young prospects Golden State could receive in return. Washington could be another destination for David Lee, but it’s hard to see Golden State taking back anyone on Washington’s roster. Golden State should be able to find someone willing to trade for David Lee, he’s due $15 million next year and only played 49 games this season, but he remains a serviceable power forward and Golden State is determined to trade him. Of course the main reason why the Warriors need his salary off the books is to make room for Draymond Green’s probable max contract. Draymond Green was arguably Golden States second best player behind Curry. The 3rd year forward averaged 11 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, a steal, and a block per game. Green was named 1st Team NBA All Defensive team and should have won defensive player of the year, but finished second to Kawhi Leonard. To top everything off Green notched a triple double in the Warriors’ close out game on the road against the Cavs in the Finals. In short, Draymond had himself a pretty good year and is going to get a raise. Last year Green’s contract totalled to less than $1 million. After the season he’s had there’s no way he doesn’t get the max from someone and Golden State’s management is aware of this. Even with Lee off the books Green’s new contract will soak up Golden State’s available cap space. Klay Thompson’s contract extension will also kick in next year meaning Golden State will be limited with who they will be able to pursue in free agency.
That being said there aren’t many holes on this Golden State roster as it stands. They may want to sign another wing if they elect not to bring back Leandro Barbosa. They could also look for more shooting. There may be a couple of wings on the perimeter that could interest Golden State. Dorell Wright, Mike Dunleavy, and Corey Brewer are all free agents this summer and would be great fits in terms of their shooting ability and versatility. Both Wright and Dunleavy are only average on defense, but are better shooters than Brewer. However Brewer brings more to the table in terms of athleticism and defensive prowess. However with two poor perimeter shooters in Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala on this roster, it may not suit the Warriors to add a third mediocre perimeter shooter to the team. Chad Ford has the Warriors taking a shooter in Anthony Brown. Given their picking at 30 in the first round, the team is going to have to take whoever is available to them that at least has a shot at being a role player. The Warriors have enough talent to continue to contend next year without to many changes to their roster, but if they want a real shot at repeating they should look to add perimeter shooting.
Los Angeles Clippers
2014-2015 Record: 56-26, 3rd in the Western Conference.
Free Agents: Glen Davis (UFA), Dahntay Jones (UFA), Deandre Jordan (UFA), Austin Rivers (UFA), Hedo Turkoglu (UFA), Ekpe Udoh (UFA).
Deandre Jordan earned his max contract this year. In his seventh year Jordan lead the league in rebounding, pulling down 15 a game. To add to that he also posted career highs in points (11 per game) and field goal percentage (a league high 71%). With that in mind you may be quick to assume Jordan is a no brainer to be maxed out by the Clippers, but wait, there’s more we have to consider. First Jordan shot an almost comically terrible 39% from the free throw line. Jordan’s free throw woes have been well documented and the Houston-LA series at one point devolved into a free throw contest between Jordan and Houston center Dwight Howard. Now you might want to argue that Jordan could improve next season if he works at it in order to become less of a liability. Surely he couldn’t possible shoot such a terrible percentage in back to back years...right? Unfortunately Jordan has already shot under 40% from the free throw line in back to back years (his rookie and sophomore years he shot 38% and 39%). For his career he shoots 41% from the charity stripe, only passing 50% once in his career. Can you really give a max contract to a guy who can’t stay on the floor during close games? Of course Jordan’s defense is top notch, he made All NBA defensive 1st team this season and finished in the top 10 in defensive rating, defensive win shares, and defensive box plus/minus. Also consider that when Blake Griffin went down with injury it was Jordan and Chris Paul that helped the Clippers to thrive and eventually take the third seed in the west. And then there is the issue of depth at the frontcourt behind Griffin and Jordan. Well there isn’t really any depth behind the Clippers’ starters. This past season a mixture of Glen Davis, Ekpe Udoh, and Spencer Hawes were employed in an attempt to spell Jordan and Griffin. Hawes was traded earlier in the offseason in a deal for Lance Stephenson, and both Davis and Udoh are free agents. Meaning if the Clippers don’t re-sign Jordan there is no one under contract right now to replace him. Even if the Clippers re-sign Udoh or Davis, neither are capable of replacing Jordan’s production. Therefore although he has his flaws at the end of the day it makes sense for the Clippers to give Jordan a max contract. Giving Jordan a max restricts Doc Rivers’ ability to go after free agents and takes LA out of the Kevin Durant sweepstakes (were they ever in it?) but it’s for the best.
However even then Rivers still had to find competent backups in the frontcourt and perimeter. Basically Doc has to find a bench for this team. It was one of the biggest issues the Clippers faced in the postseason and it may have been what cost them the series against Houston. The team has recently brought in Lance Stephenson to help out with playmaking and defense on the wing. However he can be a bit of a headcase and isn’t a great shooter from three. The Clippers desperately need perimeter shooting to space the floor for Chris Paul’s drives, right now JJ Redick and Jamal Crawford are the only members of the squad that can be counted on the be a consistent threat. Stephenson may fare better than Matt Barnes, but LA could use more shooting on the perimeter. They could try to woo Mike Miller, or if Luol Deng he could be another target. Luol Deng is a bit of a pipe dream since there are probably other teams willing to pay more for his talents. Another free agent they could try for would be Alan Anderson. He played fairly well for the Nets a year ago and is a career 34% shooter from three. Wayne Ellington and Wesley Johnson should also get some looks from the Clippers. Both are decent wing defenders and pretty solid shooters from three. Of course the Clippers could also try to hit a home run with their draft pick, oh wait, they don’t have one. That’s right folks the Clippers traded away their draft pick for the privilege to have Doc Rivers coach their team. So this offseason the Los Angeles Clippers only hope for help is the bargain bin of free agency.
Los Angeles Lakers
2014-2015 Record: 21-61, missed the playoffs.
Free Agents: Vander Blue (RFA), Carlos Boozer (UFA), Ed Davis (UFA), Wayne Ellington (UFA), Jordan Hill (RFA), Wesley Johnson (UFA), Jeremy Lin (UFA), Ronnie Price (UFA).
Well at this point it’s safe to say that the Lakers offseason could have gone much worse. Don’t believe me? They managed to luck into the 2nd overall pick in the draft when they were slotted to be drafting at fourth. Sure they lost 61 games this season and were nothing short of terrible. Sure rookie Julius Randle was injured in the first game of the regular season and Kobe Bryant only played 35 games, but hey the team got bumped up two picks in this years draft. Lottery luck aside, Mitch Kupchak has some work to do if he wants the Lakers to be a legitimate playoff threat next season. Aside from Julius Randle the team has holes at every position from starting point guard to sixth man. And yes I’m including shooting guard on the list of needs for the Lakers. Kobe has played a combined 41 games in the past two years. He is also coming off a season where he shot 37% from the field and 29% from three. He’s also had multiple different leg injuries and is going to be 37 next season. Thus the Lakers need a shooting guard. They also need to see what they have in Julius Randle. The rookie went 14 minutes on the court this season before he went down for the rest of the season with injury. This year the Lakers front office needs to see if Randle can be a star in this league and whether or not he is a piece they can build around for the future. Don’t expect them to retain any of their free agents, these guys won a total of 21 games, L.A isn’t going to want them back.
Usually L.A like to swing for the fences in free agency and grab big names, but there may not be anyone out there for them. They’ve been linked to Rajon Rondo, but are they really going to toss Rondo max money after the season he had? Marc Gasol is another name they could chase after, but Gasol wants to win, and he’s not going to do that with the Lakers. If Kevin Love opts out of his contract with the Cavs L.A is going to try to sign him to a max contract. Kevin Love is an amazing power forward who can stretch the floor, rebound, and pass. But there would be positional overlap with Julius Randle, who needs the reps. Otherwise the Lakers may take a pass on free agency this season to save their money for next season when Kevin Durant becomes a free agent. Instead most of the talk regarding L.A’s offseason is going to revolve around who they take in the draft. Right now the Lakers have been linked to D’Angelo Russell, Emmanuel Mudiay, Jahlil Okafor, and Kristaps Porzingis. Any of those could turn into fantastic players and who they pick may determine the way in which they try to rebuild. If they go for a big man in Okafor or Porzingis they could try to form a menacing duo with Randle. Russell and Mudiay would both be great pick and roll partners for Randle. The Lakers need to hit big on this pick for the sake of their franchise, otherwise they risk another lost season.
2014-2015 Record: 39-43, missed the playoffs.
Free Agents: Earl Barron (UFA), Gerald Green (UFA), Brandon Knight (RFA), Marcus Thornton (UFA), Brandan Wright (UFA).
The Phoenix Suns need to figure out what the long term plan for this team is. The year before they were a feel good story, winning 48 games and just missing the playoffs. In the offseason the team brought in Isaiah Thomas to act as the third guard off the bench for the team. But the team imploded, Goran Dragic, the team’s best player last year, was traded to Miami, and Isaiah Thomas, the team’s big free agency acquisition was flipped to Boston. The moves the team made at the trade deadline brought in Brandon Knight, a solid combo guard with the size and shooting ability to play alongside Eric Bledsoe. However the Morris brothers have run into trouble with the law and may be facing jail time. There haven’t been many details released regarding their legal situation, so it remains to be seen what is happening there. If the Morris twins do wind up facing legal consequences and miss time this season, the Suns will need to find replacements at the forward spots. TJ Warren was solid for the Suns in limited minutes, but he may not be ready for a regular role in the lineup just yet. He isn’t a great three point shooter or defender, but he is a capable mid range shooter and finisher at the rim. The Suns also need to see if Alex Len can be the center of the future for this organization. He was drafted fifth overall in the 2013 draft. Len improved his game this season boosting his averages across the board to 6 points, 6 boards, and a block per game. However he continued to have struggles staying on the court. The 69 games he played this season is an improvement from last season but his ankles may continue to worry the front office. But even with those worries Ryan McDonough and Jeff Hornacek have to be happy with the progress Len made on the court. He is probably the Suns best rebounder and shot blocker. He’s also been pretty good as the roll man in the pick and roll and has showcased a sweet up and under from time to time. If Len can stay healthy and build off of this year he could turn into a quality center for Phoenix. However Phoenix has to figure out the rest of the roster fits their plans.
Phoenix now has a need for a backup point guard, unless Jeff Hornacek plans on bringing Brandon Knight off the bench. Knight, however, would be a very expensive backup for Phoenix to employ. Aaron Brooks would be one guard that could be a nice pickup for Phoenix, he would be able to play alongside Knight and Bledsoe off the ball, but is also a capable pick and roll ball handler. Rodney Stuckey is a capable combo guard who could also help with backcourt depth. However the most intriguing option for Phoenix would be Jeremy Lin. Lin has struggled since his “Linsanity” days, but, he is still a solid combo guard and is an excellent finisher around the rim (he shot 60% from 0-3 feet this season). He could be a great fit for Jeff Hornacek’s guard centric offensive system. Phoenix may also try to sign a backup big man to play behind Alex Len and (hopefully) Markieff Morris. If Luol Deng opts out he could actually be a good fit for the team at the power forward position. He’s a little old, but at the power forward position he brings a decent amount of size and shooting. More importantly he brings defense on the court and professionalism in the locker room. Phoenix is a young team and they could use a veteran to help them out. They could also grab a big man with their draft pick. Right now Chad Ford has Frank Kaminsky falling to the Suns at 13. However they could also go with Myles Turner, Bobby Portis, or Trey Lyles. Kaminsky would obviously be the best shooter of the four, but the other three bring a higher degree of athleticism to the table. But don’t be surprised if they go with Kaminsky. Phoenix values shooting and missed Channing Frye this year. McDonough could draft Kaminsky and hope he winds up being another Frye type of big man.
2014-2015 Record: 29-53, missed the playoffs.
Free Agents: Omri Casspi (UFA), Reggie Evans (UFA), Ryan Hollins (UFA), Andre Miller (UFA), Derrick Williams (RFA).
Does anyone know what the heck is going on with the Kings? First Mike Malone gets fired, even though for all intents and purposes he was doing a pretty good job with the roster he had. Then George Karl is hired to replace Malone about mid way through the season (they could have waited until the end of the season to do all this by the way). Now Pete D’Alessandro, who was the general manager of the Kings up until about 10 days ago, bolts for a promotion in Denver. Then throughout the season there are rumors about the influence of Vlade Divac and Chris Mullin in the front office. It doesn’t even look like there’s anything that resemble an established hierarchy within the organization. Well everyone knows Vivek Ranadive is the man making most of the decisions, but everything else is sketchy at best. Which is why it is difficult to ascertain what the heck this team is going to in the offseason. Although the core of Demarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay, and Ben Mclemore is solid, the pieces surrounding that core are suspect. The Darren Collison/Ray McCallum combination at point guard seemed to be effective, but Sacramento could look to upgrade. Collison is a scoring point guard whose best asset is his speed. McCallum is a solid point guard but may be better off as a backup. Of course this team could really use a power forward. Right now Carl Landry is slotted at the position for the Kings, but he can’t space the floor and at 31 his best days are behind him. The Kings would do well to find a stretch four that can space the floor for Cousins. Cousins has shown he can be a dominant center that can carry the Kings offense. If the Kings can space the floor for him it could really open up their offense. But as I said earlier, I have no idea what the heck the plan going forward is. They might very well trade Cousins and start from scratch, who knows at this point.
As with everything else on this team, possible free agent targets for the team aren’t clear. They could grab someone like Monta Ellis or Rajon Rondo to help solve their point guard problems, but Cousins doesn’t like having guards on the perimeter pound the basketball (ask Isaiah Thomas). Lou Williams or Mo Williams may be another option for the Kings to consider but honestly I wouldn’t look for Sacramento to grab a point guard in this free agent class. However there are a couple of forwards that may interest the Kings. Andrea Bargnani is available and could be a floor spacing power forward for the Kings. Thaddeus Young and Dorell Wright are also options for the Kings. Both are capable of playing the power forward position and are solid shooters. If they really want swing for the fences they could try to lure Paul Millsap. He’s a versatile power forward who can shoot the ball, rebound, and drive. Millsap might be a nice fit alongside Cousins. Bargnani seems like he could be a strong possibility given George Karl’s love of floor spacing. When he was coaching the Denver Nuggets during their 50 win season one of his favorite lineups employed Danilo Gallinari at the 4, giving the team tons of room to run pick and roll. However this doesn’t solve the issues the Kings have at point guard. With the 6th pick in the draft however, Sacramento could get lucky and grab Emmanuel Mudiay. Its not clear if he will actually drop to 6 but if he does it is largely expected that the Kings will draft him. Mudiay would enable the Kings to push the pace and gives them a great pick and roll player. However he can’t shoot the ball and it’s not clear if he can play with Cousins if he can’t shoot. Sure they could coexist in the pick and roll but if Cousins gets the ball in the post Mudiay’s man is immediately digging down on Cousins. If Mudiay isn’t available another option may be Kristaps Porzingis. He may be a better fit for the Kings as a stretch four. Right now the scouting report suggests that Porzingis can be a power forward that steps out and hits jumpers. He doesn’t have much in the way of a post game, but the Kings wouldn’t need him to go to the post. He may wind up being the best fit in the draft for Sacramento.