Offseason Review - Western Conference
|Team Points (first place votes)|
With a relatively quiet off-season so far (save the drafting of two very promising players, Al Horford and Acie Law), the Hawks didn't garner very much support, but that's to be expected given the changes made in places like Boston, Portland, and Seattle.
Using a 5-4-3-2-1 points system, the Boston Celtics were the overwhelming choice as the NBA squad that has made the most positive changes this summer. Portland finished second, followed by Houston, Charlotte and Memphis.
Here are the results of polling writers who cover Western Conference teams:
Damien Pierce, Rockets.com
Rockets Offseason Review
Three months removed from a first round playoff exit, the Rockets have made a flurry of moves to close the gap between themselves and the West's top teams. The team began the summer by hiring Rick Adelman as the franchise's new coach and backed him by acquiring Steve Francis, Mike James and Luis Scola. While Francis and James should add more speed, Scola's addition may be the most significant. The Argentine star, regarded as one of Europe's best players, fills a need at power forward. Along with those moves, the team retained free agents Bonzi Wells and Chuck Hayes and added a promising rookie - Aaron Brooks. Brooks was named the top rookie at NBA Summer League.
The Celtics are no longer the same bunch that finished last season with the second-worst record in the NBA. Thanks to two blockbuster trades, Boston suddenly has three stars and hope. Sure, it's premature to suggest that the Celtics are suddenly the team to beat in the East. But no team should see a bigger gain in the win column.
2. New York
Isiah Thomas, the Knicks' president and coach, managed to make a splash on draft night without a lottery pick. The Knicks acquired Zach Randolph, an All-Star-caliber power forward that should give New York one of the most imposing frontlines in the East. Thomas also found a destination for Steve Francis after the team's expensive two-point guard lineup of Stephon Marbury and Francis fizzled.
Does any team in the NBA have a more enviable young core than the Blazers? Portland added Greg Oden to a roster that already had reigning Rookie of the Year Brandon Roy, forward LaMarcus Aldridge and point guard Jarrett Jack. The Blazers probably won't get immediate results from their young group, but the franchise's new look has renewed interest among their fans.
The Bobcats didn't need to get any younger - and they didn't. Rather than keeping their lottery pick from the 2007 NBA Draft, Charlotte shipped its draft choice, Brandan Wright, to Golden State for Jason Richardson. With the move, the Bobcats finally have an established go-to player.
Pau Gasol will have more help next season. The Grizzlies have added a new coach - former Phoenix assistant Marc Iavaroni - and three talents in Mike Conley, Darko Milicic and Juan Carlos Navarro.
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
Dena Beth Krischer, Clippers.com
Clippers Offseason Review
In only six months, the Clippers' offseason needs took a drastic turn. Not only did L.A. lose point guard Shaun Livingston (tears to the ACL, PCL, MCL and lateral meniscus, dislocated patella and tibia/femoral) for most, if not all of the 2007-08 campaign, a mishap during daily workouts sidelined Elton Brand (ruptured Achilles) for at least six months. A good pair of draft picks in athletic forward Al Thornton and point guard Jared Jordan, as well as the free agent signings of point guard Brevin Knight and forward Josh Powell will help keep the Clippers competitive in the West.
All it took was one lucky ping pong ball bounce for the Trail Blazers to land No. 1 pick Greg Oden and become the hottest ticket on the market. Check out the potential starting lineup: Oden, 2007 Rookie of the Year Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, Jarrett Jack and Steve Blake. Scary.
Not long after the Rockets lured 16-year coaching veteran Rick Adelman back to the NBA, Houston's roster began to flourish. The Rockets brought back familiar faces Steve Francis and Mike James, re-signed Chuck Hayes, acquired power forward Luis Scola from San Antonio and inked their first-round draft selection, guard Aaron Brooks.
The Celtics made two blockbuster deals this summer, first sending their No. 5 pick for Ray Allen, then trading for Kevin Garnett. The August signings of Scot Pollard and Eddie House will add depth to their previously thin lineup. The dangerous combination of Garnett, Allen and Paul Pierce makes Boston a frontrunner in the East.
4. San Antonio
The defending champs aren't going away anytime soon. The Spurs wasted no time re-signing Jacque Vaughn, Matt Bonner and Fabricio Oberto, then added Ime Udoka to their lineup. These additions beef up an already strong San Antonio team and put the Spurs in position to make a run at the title for the next three to four years.
Grizzlies fans can rejoice - it looks like Pau Gasol will be staying put in Memphis. After acquiring the draft rights for Juan Carlos Navarro, selecting Mike Conley Jr. and bringing on big man Darko Milicic, it's looking like the Grizzlies' "future starts now."
LOS ANGELES LAKERS
Nick Kioski, Lakers.com
Lakers Offseason Overview
The Lakers' offseason was highlighted by Kobe's media binge, which overshadowed a series of patient moves. The Lakers fulfilled their top priority by re-signing Luke Walton and fortified their front line by re-signing Chris Mihm, who missed all of last season. Derek Fisher returned to the Lakers and will be needed to bring presence, clutch shooting, understanding of the triangle and defensive hustle. The Lakers drafted point guard Javaris Crittenton, a player they thought would have been gone at No. 19. However, these moves don't seem to address Kobe's dissatisfaction with the team's ability to win now, putting Lakers fans on edge.
Boston has taken a gamble and put all of its eggs in the present, but most importantly they found focus as a team, instead of trying to balance the present needs (Pierce) and the future (Jefferson). Now they have three stars all on the same 3-5 year timeframe.
The Rockets needed to add quality to complement Yao and McGrady. They addressed their point guard and power forward weaknesses and while all the players will need to adapt to a new system, they could be ready to make a jump to the upper echelon of the Western Conference.
Unlike Boston, Portland/Seattle chose to focus solely on the future. They have both put everything in the hands of their young players who now get to grow up together. This will cause some tough years in the near future, but should yield long-term benefits.
The Bulls resisted the temptation to shake up their core of young players and opted to give them another year to grow together. Standing pat can be nerve-racking to the fans, but this group has shown enough development to warrant the patience.
Charlotte's trade for Jason Richardson signaled a decision to take their existing group and move forward, rather than adding another talent who would blossom years into the future. Their team is still young, but has scoring potential and a chance to progress into the playoffs this season.
Graham Kendrick, grizzlies.com
Grizzlies Offseason Review
Coming off a season with a league-worst 22 wins, the Grizzlies have undergone a number of changes across the organization. Chris Wallace now leads basketball operations, and the team hired highly-regarded Phoenix assistant Marc Iavaroni as the new head coach. The new management immediately identified point guard and center as areas that needed upgrades, and promptly went out and filled those needs. Mike Conley, the No. 4 overall pick, has a chance to make an immediate impact. The team then went out and signed free agent Darko Milicic to team up with Pau Gasol in the paint. They also added Spanish sharpshooter Juan Carlos Navarro to the roster. This is a young team, but one that should be vastly improved.
This one's a no-brainer. When you team Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen with Paul Pierce, you have a squad that can contend in the East immediately. If they can get adequate point guard play and most importantly, stay healthy, they have a chance to make the Finals.
New head coach Rick Adelman will bring a more potent offense to Houston, and the team has added firepower to complement McGrady and Yao. Mike James will man the point, and Steve Francis will be looking to get his career back on track where he began. And don't sleep on Bonzi Wells. He was injured for most of last season, but thrived under Adelman in Sacramento. This is a dangerous team.
With the big draft night trade for Jason Richardson, the Bobcats are in position to make a run at a playoff spot. Richardson is the elite scorer the franchise has always lacked, and will make new head coach Sam Vincent's job easier. They also re-signed Gerald Wallace to a long-term deal, a critical move for the franchise. If Adam Morrison can improve, and Sean May stay healthy, this is a good team.
Two words: Greg Oden. He doesn't immediately make Portland a playoff team, but his presence alone makes them better. Perhaps more importantly, he will put Portland at the top of most free agents' wish lists for the next decade. With Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge returning, the Blazers are on the cusp of something special.
The Hawks scored big on lottery night when they landed the third pick, meaning they didn't have to give it up to Phoenix. They took Al Horford with that pick, who many feel is the most NBA-ready rookie. With the 11th pick, Atlanta then took Acie Law IV, filling the Hawks' longtime need for a point guard.
Mike Trudell, Timberwolves.com
Timberwolves Offseason Review
If it were opposite day, I'd report that nothing noteworthy happened this offseason in Minnesota. In contrast, try undergoing more change than the body of Barry Bonds. In the biggest trade in several years, Minnesota sent KG to Boston for five players - highlighted by Al Jefferson - plus two first-round picks and cash. The story will be how all of that young talent meshes with the current crop of talent, featuring names like Foye, Smith and Brewer. This young squad will struggle to make the playoffs in the West, but they'll be better than you think. Trust that.
Stick KG alongside Jesus Shuttlesworth, and the Celtics get our No. 1 ranking. But not just for bringing in two All-Stars ... also for helping cement a young foundation in Minnesota with a stud like Al Jefferson, other young talents and draft picks. Thanks, Boston, and good luck to you.
Charlotte has quietly done some good work, starting with the trade for Jason Richardson. They let Brevin Knight go to get more minutes for Raymond Felton and re-signed the enigmatic Gerald Wallace and underrated Matt Carroll. A lineup with Felton, Richardson, Wallace, May and Okafor - with Carroll, Herrmann and Morrison off the bench - looks solid.
The Mavericks were the best team in the NBA for much of last season before falling in the worst possible matchup to Golden State. However, they supplemented an already talent-laden roster with Eddie Jones, Nick Fazekas and Reyshawn Terry, in addition to re-signing key pieces Diop and Stackhouse. Under the radar, but savvy.
The Blazers don't get this love so much for being smart, but for getting lucky. Greg Oden is the kind of player who is almost guaranteed to win a title ... Name a dominant big man outside of Patrick Ewing (thanks, MJ) that hasn't won? Think Shaq, Hakeem, Duncan/Robinson, Kareem, Russell, Wilt...
It was tough ignoring Seattle, Detroit and Golden State here, but I love what the Raptors did to supplement what's already proven to be a successful system. Instead of overpaying for a "name" free agent, they brought in Jason Kapono and traded for Carlos Delfino, two players that fit perfectly into their style.
Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com
Hornets Offseason Review
After a 2006-07 campaign wrecked by injuries - New Orleans' top three scorers missed a total of 117 games - the biggest need entering this season is a healthy roster. The Hornets' significant additions were Morris Peterson and No. 13 overall pick Julian Wright. The Mo Pete signing was one of the most underrated moves of the summer. Wright may not have a huge role as a rookie, but his all-around skills make you believe he'll be a force in the near future. As long as the injury bug doesn't strike the way it did last season, this is a playoff team.
Criticism of Danny Ainge's decision to pull the plug on the Celtics' recent rebuilding project has been emphatically silenced. After going 24-58, including an 18-game losing streak, the C's now boast KG, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. When Allen is your third-best player and you're in the East, that's scary.
It's been great to see some of the NBA's best fans become re-energized about their Trail Blazers. The addition of No. 1 pick Greg Oden to the roster gives Portland an enviable young core that also includes LaMarcus Aldridge and 2006-07 Rookie of the Year Brandon Roy.
The Grizzlies were disappointed to end up with the No. 4 pick despite having the NBA's worst record in 2006-07, but it's been all good news since lottery night. Mike Conley and Darko Milicic will help, along with the return of Kyle Lowry. Watch out for Rudy Gay in his second season.
Everyone is up in arms about the contract he signed, but give the Magic some credit for the Rashard Lewis pickup. Lewis provides Orlando with a much-needed perimeter option that should allow the Magic to move out of the bottom tier of the league's offensive statistics and be more dangerous in the East.
Say what you will about giving up a lottery pick and the negative salary-cap implications of the Jason Richardson deal. The Bobcats landed a much-needed offensive weapon. One of the youngest teams in the league - which didn't need another project - now has legitimate playoff aspirations for the first time.
Brad G. Faye, Suns.com
Suns Offseason Review
When you're the three-time defending Pacific Division champions, there really isn't a need to clean house during the hot Arizona summer. When you can add a seven-time All-Star like Grant Hill, however, some minor tweaking never hurts. Hill's signing brings the Suns an experienced veteran who knows how to contribute both on and off the court. Rookies Alando Tucker and D.J. Strawberry, meanwhile, add young legs that should have no problem getting up and down the floor in Mike D'Antoni's running system.
While it is never easy stopping an inside-outside game like the one Boston now has between All-Stars Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, it is at least a conceivable concept. It's scary to think, however, that should you find a way to slow those two down, you'll still have a five-time All-Star in Paul Pierce running the wing and making opponents pay.
Two words - dominant center. They've assured every team in NBA history at least an appearance in the Finals, and now the Blazers may have one in youngster Greg Oden. It also won't hurt that the ballclub has the 2006-07 Rookie of the Year, Brandon Roy, getting the ball in his hands when the big man doesn't clean it off the glass himself.
With Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady and Shane Battier in place last season, the Rockets appeared just a point guard away from being legitimate NBA contenders. The organization made sure that wouldn't be a need come next season, signing veterans Mike James and Steve Francis and drafting a potential sleeper in Oregon's Aaron Brooks.
4. New York
A team which has had an abundance of talent on the perimeter for years added perhaps the league's most underrated inside talent in forward Zach Randolph. Of course, Isiah Thomas and the front office couldn't resist adding at least one versatile guard to the backcourt, reuniting Thomas with one of his former players, Fred Jones.
5. Golden State
Last year's Cinderella enters 2007-08 as a Western Conference wild card. Trading high flyer Jason Richardson could put a kink in the team's run-and-gun style of play, but rookie Marco Belinelli should more than fill Richardson's shoes. Factor in a wild card rookie in North Carolina's Brandan Wright, and a healthy Baron Davis could be enjoying an even more successful campaign by the Bay next season.