With Training Camps set to tip off in just over two weeks, most of the smoke has settled on offseason player movement.
(But obviously not all the smoke, as the Cavs proved on Tuesday afternoon when they signed beloved big man, Tristan Thompson.)
On Wednesday, Cavs.com took a look at who went where, and which teams made the biggest splash in the Eastern Conference over the summer. Today, we’re crossing time zones to the Western Conference, whose teams have won seven of the last 10 NBA Championships – including last year’s top dog - the Denver Nuggets.
Teams like the Lakers and Suns made major overhauls on the free agent and trade market while others, like Portland, didn’t make a single move outside of the Draft. And speaking of the Draft, the West will witness the eagerly-anticipated rookie season of Victor Wembanyama – selected by San Antonio with the top pick.
So, as we prepare for the upcoming 2023-24 campaign, here’s a snapshot of the movers and shakers who’ll shape the Western Conference this season and beyond.
FREE AND EASY
A few teams made some small, but impactful additions through the free agent market. And other organizations – like the Clippers, Blazers and Spurs – didn’t make any free agent signings at all. Then there’s the Lakers, who went on a rotation player summer shopping spree.
Last season, the Lakers finished 5th in the Pacific Division and went on to reach the Western Conference Finals before being blanked in four games by the Nuggets. So, they made wholesale changes across the second unit – adding big man Jaxson Hayes, well-traveled former Cavaliers swingman Taurean Prince, former Lottery pick Cam Reddish, one of the stars from Miami’s surprising Finals run, Gabe Vincent, and veteran forward Christian Wood, who’s averaged 18.5ppg under the radar over the last three years.
The other Western Conference franchise that made a seismic shift over the summer was the Rockets – who made a major coaching change and landed one of the offseason’s biggest prizes in former NBA Champion, guard Fred VanVleet (along with Dillion Brooks and recent NBA Champion and former Cavalier, Jeff Green). Houston also added young veterans to the rotation in forward Jock Landale and point guard Aaron Holiday.
The Suns made their big splash with the Bradley Beal trade and, like Houston, made a coaching change over the summer. But James Jones was also very busy rebuilding the roster around their new superstar. This offseason, Phoenix inked Bol Bol, who’s coming off his best season last year in Orlando, former Buckeye forward Keita Bates-Diop, also coming off his best season last year with the Spurs. The Suns also drew Drew Eubanks away from San Antonio and versatile forward Yuta Wantanabe from Brooklyn along with 15-year veteran, Eric Gordon.
Seth Curry proved that you can go home again, and again – making his third tour of duty with Dallas, signing a deal to return after three seasons in the East. The Mavs – whose main goal was retaining Kyrie Irving – also inked Derrick Jones Jr. and former Cavalier Dante Exum.
Former MVP Derrick Rose signed with the Grizzlies, Cody Zeller bolted South Beach for the Big Easy, Shake Milton shook Philly for Minnesota, and JaVale McGee landed in Sacramento with the up-and-coming Kings.
WHEELING AND DEALING
The three-team Bradley Beal deal – (discussed in Wednesday’s East Player Movement feature) – which sent the 11-year veteran to Phoenix, might reshape the Conference – pairing the three-time All-Star and former scoring champ with Kevin Durant and Devin Booker along with former top overall pick, DeAndre Ayton. The deal also spelled the end of the Chris Paul Era in the desert.
CP3 wasn’t without a home long after being dealt to Washington in the deal, with Golden State sending Jordan Poole, Patrick Baldwin Jr. and Ryan Rollins to the nation’s capital in exchange for the 12-time All-Star.
The busy Wizards also dealt Kristaps Porzingis away this summer, ending another long-time era in the process as Marcus Smart makes his way to the Grizzlies in the three-way deal. Memphis also made another major deal over the summer, shipping veteran provocateur Dillon Brooks to Houston in a complicated five-way trade.
Another Celtic on the move was Grant Williams, who was sent to Dallas in a three-way deal with the Spurs that landed Reggie Bullock in San Antonio, where he’ll join beloved former Cavalier Cedi Osman, dealt by Cleveland after six years with the squad.
The Pacers and Kings did inter-Conference business once again, with Indiana sending young shooting guard Chris Duarte to Sacramento in exchange for a package of second round picks.
Utah continued to reshape its roster, dealing for forward John Collins – sending Rudy Gay and a Second Rounder to Atlanta.
FEELING THE DRAFT
The major prize in this year’s Draft clearly went to the Spurs, who landed a prospect with potential experts have already likened to LeBron James. So at least Victor Wembanyama can come into his rookie season with no pressure.
The Spurs landed the 19-year old 7-3 prodigy – their third huge Lottery big man score in the storied franchise’s history – but they were the only team to come out of Draft night feeling good.
Four teams had multiple First Rounders this June – including the rapidly-rebuilding Jazz, who grabbed big man Taylor Hendricks at No. 9 overall, the highest player picked in UCF history. At No. 16, Utah grabbed Baylor combo guard Keyonte George and, at No. 28, selected Ohio State freshman wing, Brice Sensabaugh.
The Blazers stood pat in the trade and free agent markets, but they made a pair of first round picks – including hyper-athletic guard Scoot Henderson, who starred with the G-League Ignite, at No. 3 overall pick along with Chris Murray – Keegan’s twin brother – out of Iowa at No. 23.
The Rockets continued to build through high draft picks – snagging a twin of their own, Overtime Elite guard and former five-star recruit Amen Thompson at No. 4, one pick before Detroit selected his brother, Ausar. At No. 20, the Rockets selected rugged Villanova forward Cam Whitmore.
The Mavericks didn’t reach the Playoffs last year, but they did make two first round picks this June – grabbing Duke big man Dereck Lively II at No. 12 and high-energy forward, Olivier-Maxence Prosper, out of Marquette with the 24th pick.
The Thunder, who could have as many as eight first round picks in the next two Drafts, only grabbed one this year – selecting Kentucky’s crafty combo guard Cason Wallace at No. 10 overall.
The Nuggets, Grizzlies, T-Wolves, Suns and Kings didn’t have any first round picks in this June’s Draft.
After winning just 49 games in three seasons as the Rockets went through a painful youth movement and rebuilding process following the departure of James Harden, the Houston Rockets moved on from Stephen Silas – turning the team over to former Celtics coach Ime Udoka who, in his single season with Boston, won 51 games and led Boston to the NBA Finals.
Udoka inherits a thoroughly talented but still very young roster, and he’ll have to deal with the Kevin Porter Jr. situation. But the addition of Fred VanVleet should help accelerate the group’s maturation process.
After helping his squad reach the NBA Finals in 2020-21, former Coach of the Year Monty Williams was shown the door in Phoenix. The well-respected Williams wasn’t on the market long, however, signing on to replace Dwane Casey in Detroit.
Frank Vogel, who won the Whole Enchilada with the Lakers in 2019 takes over for Williams in Phoenix. He’ll have to hit the ground running, with the Suns having made deals for Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal within the last calendar year.