GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
Lost: SF Harrison Barnes, C Andrew Bogut C Festus Ezeli, SF Brandon Rush, PF/C Mareese Speights
Gained: C’mon now.
I don’t even want to do this guys this isn’t fun.
Over/under on 73 wins?
This season is going to be short.
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
Lost: C Cole Aldrich, SF Jeff Green, PG Pablo Prigioni, SG CJ Wilcox
Gained: PG Raymond Felton, SG Alan Anderson, PF Brandon Bass, C Diamond Stone
If the Clippers don’t make the conference finals this year then you’d have to consider it a failure. The only other team that could also make a run for the #2 seed would be the Spurs and I don’t express enough confidence in them during the regular season, or even matching up with the Clippers in the playoffs. NO ONE in San Antonio could stay with DeAndre Jordan, let alone guard him AND Blake. The 67 win Spurs got manhandled in the playoffs last year by the Thunder, who went right at them with a clobbering double-center lineup. Kawhi is a seminal talent but he’s not guarding Jordan on a rim dive.
This is their year to get scrappy with Golden State in the conference finals. Their roster has continually gotten deeper, and even though they still haven’t solved their small forward problem, the rest of the starting five fills enough gaps to make it the best starting unit outside of the Bay. Chris Paul is one of the greatest point guards of all time. I will die on this barricade if necessary. His defense is superb, his dribble is tighter than a brand-new pickle lid, and he decides EVERYTHING that goes on in an offense. He’s been world class for ten straight years. He’s been he most technically proficient and qualified point guard since Isiah Thomas. He has no holes. He’s surrounded by a perfect team to highlight his skills. JJ Redick was made to run the floor with a point guard like Paul, and his elite shooting bends the floor for the rest of the team. Blake Griffin is an MVP candidate when healthy, and he can also diversify the offense and run the sets on the floor when Paul sits. And then, there’s always DJ:
Jordan is a powder keg of bounce, the greatest possible outcome of using the farcical boingVERT system. He’s not a maven on the block and he can barely create his own shot, but Jordan is the perfect center for this team. He runs with Paul, he smashes with Griffin, and he creates an unmistakable gravity that all opposing centers are drawn to but perpetually scared of. Maybe he wasn’t the most deserving of the All-NBA First Team nod, but he’s still go it on the resume.
As for the bench, it’s far from perfect but at least it’s near competent levels. Austin Rivers has made enough of a dent to stay, and as long as he avoids thinking he’s the spirit incarnate of Allen Iverson and makes boneheaded plays, he’s a sufficient backup. Jamal Crawford dominates the ball too much and most Clippers fans would have preferred to see him leave this offseason, but he’ll win a couple games every year when he gets hot, and who knows, maybe one of those is against the Warriors next May. Paul Pierce will appear in maybe five games this year, but he wouldn’t bolster the wing position anyway. It’s just a black hole and unless they pull off a coup for Rudy Gay it’s going to stay that way. There’s competent big men all around, and maybe Diamond Stone (drafted in the second round) turns out to be a…
DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH I’m so sorry I apologize
Lost: SF Chase Budinger, PF Jon Leuer, PG Ronnie Price, PF Mirza Teletovic
Gained: PG Tyler Ulis, G Leandro Barbosa, SF Derrick Jones, PF Jared Dudley, PF Dragan Bender, PF Marquese Chriss
The Suns are in a quagmire. They’re barely winning games and staying out of the absolute cellar, but they’re not trending up just yet. Ownership and management are hasty to try and get back to the playoffs but they simply don’t have the roster for it yet.
You can see what you want to however from this lineup. Eric Bledsoe and soon to be all-star Devin Booker create a wonderfully meshed backcourt, providing spacing and muscle. Having Bledsoe back should help the offense create a lot more open looks than what they struggled to get last year. You can never overestimate having a good point guard in charge of things. If superstition holds true this should be a healthy year, as he’s alternated between 75-game seasons and less than half total games for his entire six-year career. Recovery from his meniscus tear is complete and he still looks STACKED in his upper body. He’s like if a pogo stick ate only protein shakes and egg whites for a year straight. Booker shoots the leather off the ball and he’s available to pull up in any spot on the floor.
Below them in the rotation comes Brandon Knight, their highest paid player. He’s publicly accepted and expressed faith in coach Earl Watson placing him as a backup. It makes sense, the Phoenix three-point guard thing was getting a little too cute for its own good. He’s best with the ball in his hands and allowing him to run wild on opponents’ benches will do just that. The team is still figuring out their big man rotation, as proven veterans Jared Dudley and Tyson Chandler are gobbling up minutes from developing young players like Dragan Bender, Marquese Chriss and Alex Len. Chandler is ripe trade bait for any contender looking to throw a strong center in the middle of their lineup, and moving him would allow the Suns to see what they have from top ten picks. They’re going to give up a lot of points down low, but it should be worth it to allow these guys to take their healthy losses.
The Suns SHOULD finish in the bottom fifth of the league. Whether they accept it now or later is up to them.
Lost: SF Quincy Acy, G Seth Curry, PG Rajon Rondo, SG Marco Belinelli
Gained: PG Garrett Temple, PG Ty Lawson, SG Arron Afflalo, SG Malachi Richardson, SF Matt Barnes, PF Anthony Tolliver, PF Skal Labissiere, C Georgios Papgiannis
Hit the reset.
Try again with good drafting.
This team is a mess.
It just depresses me.
I’m done with them.
Everyone wants out and outside of Boogie there’s NOTHING going on. They botched their draft pick this year (I’m happy Papa John is in the league because his name is too much fun but he’s barely a rotational player), Willie Cauley-Stein and Ben McLemore are their only rotational players on rookie contracts and they’re hardly world class players, and they almost bolted to Seattle two years ago. The team is a mess from top to bottom and I won’t stomach grading them. Trade Boogie, get as MUCH as you can, and get back into it in a few years.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS
Lost: SG The GOAT, PF Brandon Bass, C Roy Hibbert, SF Ryan Kelly, C Robert Sacre
Gained: SF Brandon Ingram, C Ivica Zubac, PG Jose Calderon, SF Luol Deng, C Timofey Mozgov, PF Thomas Robinson
If you’re ever planning on tanking the best thing you can do is make sure you have a top 10 all-time player on your roster. Now those aren’t always easy to obtain but if you try hard enough you can probably snag one. The Lakers stayed relevant for a couple years because of the mysticism and allure of Kobe, the L.A. faithful still came out in droves for him. We all saw that career-ending 60-pointer. That was a beautiful night. That was spectacle and grandeur on a basketball court. Too bad it was only the 17th win of the season, good for the worst Lakers record of all time. But it didn’t matter, the seats were full nearly all year and they kept showing up on national TV. It’s good to have history.
Kobe kept season ticket sales high while the Lakers rebooted a moribund roster. Two straight #2 draft picks in a row and the Lakers are hoping they won’t be too far removed from raising banner number 17. D’Angelo “ice in his veins” Russell looked good when he was given room to run last year, and he’s looking in command throughout the preseason. Former coach Byron Scott put him in a vice all year long, citing his undying need to be geriatric and old-fashioned. Scott the tank commander is out and new coach Luke Walton is in. Groomed under Steve Kerr and the rest of the Warriors management, we can only assume that Walton lets his point guards wheel and deal a bit more often, seeing how often Golden State does it. They signed his running mate Jordan Clarkson to an absolute perfect contract for his value. Between the two of them they form a high-powered offensive backcourt, albeit a little shorter than you’d want. New pick Brandon Ingram is slated to be the future star, drawing Kevin Durant comparisons already. His body is built of licorice right now, but the talent is there as he adjusts to an NBA size. Who knows what they’re going to do with Julius Randle, but he’s still got high value. He’s got a good offensive game and can muscle his way to the rim when he wants to, there’s a legitimate reason he’s baby Zach Randolph. The only issue is that he can get tunnel vision at times, dead set on taking the ball to the rack no matter how many defenders are thrown at him. He still has time to be molded into a multi-faceted defender and shooter, but if things don’t gel by the midseason, you could easily expect a trade. A high motivator behind the trade is that he’s getting pushed by Larry Nance Jr. Nance is the multitool athlete that can be the fulcrum of a team’s attack, serving as a quasi-Draymond Green for Walton’s mock GSW team. The pieces are young and they’re all on for at least two more years. Tanking can usually work.
The veteran additions were smart, in contrast to the 76ers plan the Lakers look like outright geniuses. Of course Mozgov got too much money but it’s a diluted market and it had to go somewhere. It sucks that it's for so long and that it’s completely guaranteed, but by the time that they’re ready to move back into the playoff picture he’ll be a two-year expiring that they can pass onto someone else for cap relief. Luol Deng is a stone-cold professional and he’ll be a good mentor for the up and coming Laker stars. Jose Calderon is still good for garbage minutes, Nick Young actually looks HIGHLY competent this preseason, and Lou Williams is a dumb player for this team, as he was when they signed him. They won’t feel the need to win games, as they have to stay in the top 3 to keep their draft pick away from the 76ers. One last year of 23 wins, and then the Lakers will be gunning back for the spotlight with a young hip coach and young quick athletes. You can NEVER count out the Lakers for too long.