Grading the NBA Off-Season: Western Conference Edition

Photo Credit: USA Today Sports

As usual, the NBA offseason did not disappoint. Plenty of surprises and shocks had NBA fans talking about the off-season for days. This off-season was one that changed the western conference landscape once again. From Kevin Durant joining the Warriors to Pau Gasol joining the Spurs, many teams in the west are locked in to make a deep playoff run. Some teams improved through the draft, free agency, and trades while other teams had a summer to forget. Some teams found some bargain deals and upgraded talent through value trades while other teams found themselves on the losing end of a deal.

How did your team perform in the off-season?

Northwest Division


Denver Nuggets

Maximum potential cap space: $31 million

Draft picks: Jamal Murray, Juan Hernangomez, Juan Hernangomez, Malik Beasley, Daniel Hamilton (traded to OKC), Petr Cornelie

Re-signed players: Darrell Arthur and Mike Miller

Players added through free agency/trades: None

Players lost through free agency/trades: D.J. Augustin


Drew Clark: Although they were in talks to possibly acquiring Dwyane Wade, the Nuggets have had a quiet off-season outside of draft night, which was huge for them. Being able to pick two wings that were good scorers in college and can shoot the ball will help Emmanuel Mudiay a lot on that end of the court. The problem is that they are both shooting guards and the same height (6’5) so playing one of them at small forward may be out of the question at times depending on the matchup. Bringing back Arthur is a low-key move that is huge for them as it keeps their front court depth solid with the likes of Jokic, Faried, Nurkic, Lauvergne, and Gallinari (when healthy). All have the capability of producing when given minutes so this Nuggets team could be a sleeper to make the playoffs if their young guards (Mudiay, Will Barton, Gary Harris) can continue to develop. Health is a major key, however!

Grade: B


Minnesota Timberwolves

Maximum potential cap space: $24 million

Draft picks: Kris Dunn(5)

Re-signed players: None

Players added through free agency/trades: Jordan Hill, Cole Aldrich, Brandon Rush,

Players lost through free agency/trades: Greg Smith, Damjan Rudez, Tayshaun Prince

Jordan Lundy: The Timberwolves are coming! Yes they are. The young Minnesota Timberwolves might have had one of the most underrated offseasons this year. They would have won the offseason if they had pulled off getting Jimmy Butler, who had long been linked to the Timberwolves due to new head coach/PBO Tom Thibodaux, but they brought in some much needed veteran help for their young and developing core in signing Jordan Hill, Brandon Rush, and Cole Aldrich. I expect the Timberwolves to be much improved under Thibs and in all honesty, the off-season is still going so the Timberwolves still have time to add pieces to help push this train along. I love what the Timberwolves have done and expect more to come.It will also be interesting to see how Kris Dunn will fit with the Timberwolves. Start over Rubio and play alongside Andrew Wiggins? The future is bright with this and this off-season was another step forward into a potential playoff run.

Grade: A-


Oklahoma City Thunder

Maximum potential cap space: $22 million

Draft picks: No picks. Traded for draft rights to Domantas Sabonis and Daniel Hamilton.

Re-signed players: None

Players added through free agency/trades: Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova, Domantas Sabonis, Daniel Hamilton

Players lost through free agency/trades: Serge Ibaka (ORL), Kevin Durant (GS), Randy Foye (BRK), rescinded qualifying offer to Dion Waiters


Eric Knifong: Things could not have worked it worse for the Oklahoma City Thunder this offseason. They lost half of their franchise and could lose the other half before it’s all said and done. The Thunder started the offseason with a bang that only signified the inevitability of KD returning to the blue and orange. That trade was to try and shake up the roster that was on the brink of the NBA Finals. Ibaka had become frustrated with his role and it was believed he would leave via 2017 free agency. But if we know one thing then that is the Thunder do not let guys just walk out without any return on their investment. So, they made the move to bring in Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova and rookie Domantas Sabonis from the Orlando Magic. The team seemed ready to take another shot at the Warriors next season. They got younger, bigger and stronger with the trade. There was only one problem…KD did not come back. Most NBA circles thought it was a lock for KD to return to the team that “drafted” him (we all know it was really the Sonics). Whether it was the style of Russ’ play or the nine seasons he spent watching other guys win titles, KD did not see the light at the end of the tunnel. This prompted the move to Golden State and now the question for OKC becomes: do we let Russ have the team with the possibility of leaving at the end of the year? Or do we trade him now?

Grade: D-


Portland Trail Blazers

Maximum potential cap space: $39 million

Draft picks: Jake Layman (47th overall)

Re-signed players: Meyers Leonard, Allen Crabbe

Players added through free agency/trades: Evan Turner, Festus Ezeli, Shabazz Napier

Players lost through free agency/trades: Chris Kaman


Dan Ward: After a successful season where the Portland Trail Blazers fought till the end against the eventual western conference champions Golden State Warriors, the Blazers looked to continue to improve in the off-season. Their biggest signings where Evan Turner and Festus Ezeli. With Turner, he is a solid mid-range scorer and as many Celtics fans remember, he was a reliable and clutch player in the 4th quarter. The Ezeli signing brings in size, rebounding, and championship experience. Who knows, years after being in the shadow of Green and Bogut, Ezeli could look to have a breakout season with more minutes. The Blazers also re-signed core players in Crabbe and Leonard. Blazers also signed C.J McCollum to a 4-year, $106 million dollar extension. This Blazers team is not going away any time soon and look for them to cause havoc in the playoffs once again.

Grade: B+


Utah Jazz

Maximum potential cap space: $31 million

Draft picks: Isaiah Whitehead, Joel Bolomboy,  Tyrone Wallace

Re-signed players: None

Players added through free agency/trades: Joe Johnson, Marcus Paige, George Hill and Boris Diaw

Players lost through free agency/trades: Trevor Booker, Trey Burke, and Olivier Hanlan


Steve Zavala: After a disappointing 40-42 season where many projected them to make a playoff appearance, Utah Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey had a lot of work to do to improve this team. The Jazz did cut loose on the Trey Burke experiment but the team added George Hill. The addition of Hill was a smart one by Lindsey especially after a shaky rookie season by Dante Exum and bringing in Hill will add in instant offense to a Jazz team that has been looking for a consistent point guard starter since the departure of Deron Williams. Utah also added Joe Johnson and Boris Diaw to the team to bring in a veteran presence to a young Jazz team. Overall, this was a great off-season by the Jazz and IF healthy, Gordon Hayward and the Jazz are ready to clinch a playoff spot.

Grade: A-


Pacific Division


Golden State Warriors

Maximum potential cap space: $12 million

Draft picks: Damian Jones, Patrick McCaw

Re-signed players: Ian Clark, James Michael-McAdoo, Anderson Varejao, Shaun Livingston.

Players added through free agency/trades: Kevin Durant, Zaza Pachulia, David West.

Players lost through free agency/trades: Harrison Barnes (DAL), Andrew Bogut (DAL), Festus Ezeli (POR), Brandon Rush (MIN), Marreese Speights (LAC), Leandro Barbosa (PHOENIX).

Eric Knifong: The Warriors won the 2016 offseason after signing the best free agent available and giving them two of the top three players in the world on the same team. Of course that man was Kevin Durant. The Warriors were already a scary team, but adding KD will make them virtually unstoppable. However, many people question the chemistry that this team will continue to have after losing multiple key pieces from the last two seasons. While this could be true, Golden State still a lethal eight man rotation and two former MVP’s. The signing of Zaza Pachulia could be huge. He seems to be overlooked (and for good reason) as a signing for the Warriors, but Zaza is coming off of a career year that saw him leading All-Star votes for Centers at one point last season. He should provide the Warriors a tough big that will be the enforcer down low that they lack without Andrew Bogut. The team actually got tougher than it has been in the past two years with Zaza and David West. It will be a fun season to watch Golden State even if you cannot stand what happened, you’ll be watching.

Grade: A+


Los Angeles Clippers:

Maximum potential cap space: $8 million

Draft picks: Brice Johnson and Cheick Diallo

Re-signed players: Luc Mbah a Moute, Wesley Johnson, Austin Rivers, and Jamal Crawford

Players added through free agency/trades: Marreese Speights, Brandon Bass, Raymond Felton, Diamond Stone, and David Michineau

Players lost through free agency/trades: Jeff Green, C.J Wilcox, Cheick Diallo, Jeff Green, Cole Aldrich, Pablo Prigioni, Branden Dawson

Steve Zavala: The Clippers had a solid off-season… but too bad the Spurs and Warriors had some amazing off-seasons. Even though the Clippers struck out in the race for Kevin Durant, Doc Rivers was determined in keeping the core of this team and he refused to trade Blake Griffin. The Clippers did their best to address a problem that has been burning them over the past few seasons: DEPTH. Doc Rivers brought in Raymond Felton for 1-year, minimum to back up the starting guards. Rivers also completed two bargain deals with Brandon Bass and Marreese Speights for 1-year, minimum. Bass can give you 10 points per game on 50% shooting on any night and you will always get 100% on both sides of the floor. With Speights, the Clippers get power forward/center that can back up Griffin/Jordan. Unlike with Griffin and Jordan, Speights will be able to spread the floor to hit some crucial 3-pointers and mid-range shots and he also brings in championship experience.

Even with the Warriors and Spurs being the heavy favorites to win the west, Chris Paul and the Clippers are going to give it their all and lead this team to their first NBA Finals. The depth of the Clippers is the best in a very long time and credit to Doc for getting the job done.

Grade: B+


Los Angeles Lakers

Maximum potential cap space: $62 million

Draft picks: Brandon Ingram (2nd pick), Ivica Zubac (32nd pick)

Re-signed players: Jordan Clarkson (4 yr 50 Million) , Tarik Black , Marcelo Huertas

Players added through free agency/trades: Timofey Mozgov, Luol Deng, Jose Calderon

Players lost through free agency/trades: Ater Majok (Rights), Roy Hibbert (Hornets), Brandon Bass (Clippers)

Christopher Chiquillo: The Lakers had a successful draft. They drafted the right player and did not reach for a player who might have had a good workout. The Lakers have accepted the rebuilding tag and it shows with them using their draft picks on a young prospect like Brandon Ingram who has shown to be a player to build your team around. Ivica Zubac is also a smart pick because of his post defense and rim protection. Unfortunately, the Lakers could not sign any major free agents and could not even get a meeting with Kevin Durant. With the rise in cap space, the contracts for Luol Deng and Mozgov may not seem like a big deal, but the fact that the Lakers will have to pay Mozgov over 16 million for 4 years does not bode well for their future if the will try to lure premier free agents. Calderon is a welcome addition over Marcelo Huertas. The biggest positive is how D’Angelo Russell has looked in games. D’angelo showed his range and leadership in the NBA summer league. This is what the young core needed, a point guard willing to take a leadership role. The only way the Lakers offseason could get better will be to offload Nick Young and Lou Williams.

Grade: B+


Phoenix Suns:

Maximum potential cap space: $33 million

Draft picks: Dragon Bender, Marquese Chriss, and Tyler Ulis

Re-signed players: None

Players added through free agency/trades: Jared Dudley and Leonardo Barbosa

Players lost through free agency/trades: Bogdan Bogdanovic, Mirza Teletovic, Jon Leuer, Ronnie Price, and Chase Budinger

Steve Zavala: It was a quiet but effective off-season for the Phoenix Suns. In the 2016 NBA Draft, the Suns came away with Dragon Bender, Marquese Chriss, and Tyler Ulis. With Tyson Chandler, Alex Len, Dragon Bender, and Marquese Chriss, the Suns now have a formidable group of bigs that can become an eventual threat in the west. Bender is a unique 7’1 big that can be a mid-range and 3-point shooting threat and with Marquese Chriss, he can become a solid two-way power forward that can also have a reliable 3-point shooter. In free agency, the Suns reunited with veterans Jared Dudley and Leonardo Barbosa for scoring off the bench. With the quick rise of Devin Booker and the return of Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight from injury, watch out for this Suns team over the next few seasons.

Grade: B-


Sacramento Kings:

Maximum potential cap space: $25 million

Draft picks: Isaiah Cousins

Re-signed players: None

Players added through free agency/trades: Arron Afflalo, Garrett Temple, Matt Barnes, Anthony Tolliver, Georgios Papagiannis, Skal Labissiere, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Malachi Richardson

Players lost through free agency/trades: Rajon Rondo, Seth Curry, Quincy Acy, Marco Belinelli

Steve Zavala: The motto for every off-season for the Sacramento Kings should “Build a Winning Team Around Cousins”. Looking at the Kings off-season so far, they once again failed to do so. The off-season started out with a bang as the Kings were able to bring in Dave Joerger to coach the team. Joerger did a phenomenal job with the injury-plagued Grizzlies last season as they were able to finish with a winning record. Joerger is  players coach and if he was able to get the trust and respect from the Grizzlies locker room, Kings fans should be ecstatic with what he can do with DeMarcus Cousins.

Now to the confusing aspects of the Kings off-season. The Kings selected Marquese Chriss with the #8 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. Selecting Chriss was an odd choice considering a need for a starting guard but it was justifiable due to the potential of Chriss and the ability to create a dominant duo with DeMarcus Cousins. Instead, the Kings decided to trade Chriss to the Suns and in return, the Kings received Bogdanovic and two centers. For the Kings in free agency, re-signing Rondo was one of their targets but he went off to Chicago so now, Darren Collison will take over the starting duties. The Kings also signed Afflalo and Barnes to spark up the scoring but overall, it might be looking like another upcoming losing season. If the Kings did not end up with head coach Dave Joerger, then this off-season for the Kings would be a failure. Now the hope for Kings fans should that Cousins will remain committed to the Kings future and Joerger will bring in the Memphis mentality and help this team improve on defense.

Grade: D


Southwest Division


Dallas Mavericks

Maximum potential cap space: $56 million

Draft picks: A.J Hammons

Re-signed players: Dwight Powell and Deron Williams

Players added through free agency/trades: Quincy Acy, Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut, Stanko Barac, Nicolas Brussino, Kyle Collinsworth, Seth Curry, Dorian Finney-Smith, Jonathan Gibson

Players lost through free agency/trades: Javale McGee, Jeremy Evans, Emir Preldzic, and Chandler Parsons

Steve Zavala: If there was an NBA game to describe the Mavericks offseason, it would Game 2 of the 2011 NBA Finals. The Mavericks offseason went from a total disaster to a potential playoff team thanks to the help of the Golden State Warriors. With Kevin Durant signing with the Warriors, Golden State could not afford to keep Andrew Bogut and Harrison Barnes so Mark Cuban decided to sweep in and get both of them to save their off-season. The Mavericks had hopes of a Mike Conley, Wesley Matthews, Chandler Parsons or Nic Batum, Dirk Nowitzki and Hassan Whiteside lineup but they will settle with Deron Williams as the starting point guard, Harrison Barnes as the starting small forward and Andrew Bogut as the starting center. As of now, it has been an ok off-season for the Mavericks that could have been better but a lot will depend on the growth of Harrison Barnes. With Barnes out of the shadow of the Splash Brothers and Draymond Green, can he develop into a consistent 20 points per game scorer and an efficient two-way player? While Dirk will likely not get a last run at an NBA championship,

Dirk re-signed for two years and will finish his legendary career with the Mavericks.

Grade: C+


Houston Rockets

Maximum potential cap space: $41 million

Draft picks: Chinanu Onuaku(37), Zhou Qi(43)

Re-signed players: None

Players added through free agency/trades: Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson, Pablo Prigioni, Nene Hilario

Players lost through free agency/trades: Dwight Howard, Josh Smith, Terrence Jones, Jason Terry, Andrew Goudelock

Jordan Lundy: While the loss of Dwight Howard will be felt by this team, the Rockets did exceptionally well in bringing in players that can fit into  Mike D’Antoni’s uptempo and fast paced offense. The Rockets did just that with the of signing Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson. With virtually no offense on the block, this team will rely heavily on outside shooting which shouldn’t be an issue for a team like this that ranked top 5 in threes shot and made. The veteran additions of Prigioni and Nene should help this team as well. Overall, I like the moves, but center will obviously be the glaring weakness for this team being that the center position was not covered properly.

Grade: B-


Memphis Grizzlies:

Maximum potential cap space: $38 million

Draft picks: Wade Baldwin IV and Wang Zhelin

Re-signed players: Mike Conley Jr.

Players added through free agency/trades: Chandler Parsons and James Ennis

Players lost through free agency/trades: Matt Barnes

Steve Zavala: This off-season, the Memphis Grizzlies proved that it is a new era in the NBA. Small market teams can survive in the NBA. After the confusing departure of head coach Dave Joerger, many fans believed that a possible rebuild era would commence in the NBA. Mike Conley was projected to leave the Grizzlies and it would begin the domino effect of trades with the Grizzlies potentially looking to click the restart button and move Tony Allen and Marc Gasol. Instead, the Grizzlies re-signed Conley AND brought in Chandler Parsons. The Grizzlies paid a ton of money to get back Conley and bring in Parsons but it was worth it. Parsons brings in some much needed scoring for the small forward position. Parsons has had plenty of injury issues but IF healthy, he can bring out 15 points per game on 47% shooting on any night. You can make the case that this is the best Grizzlies team in years and rookie head coach David Fizdale will now need to find a way to get this team to matchup with the superteam Golden State Warriors if Memphis aspire to make their first ever NBA Finals.

Grades: A-


New Orleans Pelicans

Maximum potential cap space: $22 million

Draft picks: Buddy Hield, David Michineau, Diamond Stone

Players added through free agency/trades: Solomon Hill, E’Twaun Moore, Langston Galloway, Tim Frazier, Terrence Jones, Alonzo Gee,

Players lost through free agency/trades: Eric Gordon, Kendrick Perkins, Bryce Dejean-Jones, Ryan Anderson

Christopher Chiquillo: Unfortunately, the Pelicans offseason began with the passing away of Bryce Dejean-Jones. Pelican players wore a BDJ patch in the Summer League to commemorate his memory, a practice that I hope continues into the offseason. With the NBA Draft, Buddy Hield fell from possible top-3 pick in the draft to the Pelicans at the 6th pick. The Pelicans lost their stretch four Ryan Anderson in free agency and now look to players like Buddy, Moore, and Galloway to stretch the defense. Alvin Gentry is known for playing an uptempo style with a lot of quick shooting and 3’s so this should point to a good year for Buddy Hield. It also points to another year in which Anthony Davis’ skill will be used on a team that will struggle to compete for a playoff spot. Playoffs are up in the air for this team and if healthy, Davis can look to carry this team to a 7th or 8th seed.

Grade: C-


San Antonio Spurs

Maximum potential cap space: $15 million

Draft picks:  Dejounte Murray (29th Overall)

Re-signed players: Manu Ginobili: 1-year contract worth $14 million

Players added through free agency/trades: Pau Gasol (2-year contract worth $30 million), Dewayne Dedmon (2-year contract worth $6 million), Davis Bertans (2-year contract worth $1.5 million), Bryn Forbes, Ryan Arcidiacono, Olivier Hanlan (Draft rights acquired from Utah)

Players lost through free agency/trades: David West (Signed with Golden State), Boban Marjanovic (Signed with Detroit), Tim Duncan (Retirement), Boris Diaw (Traded to Utah)

Carter Donahue: It has been a very ‘Spursy’ offseason to this point. Gregg Popovich’s relaxed philosophy may not have gotten them Kevin Durant, but they have signed All-Star Pau Gasol to fill the role Tim Duncan has commanded for so many years. Not only do the Spurs bring in another All-Star starter, but they add future depth with signing Bryn Forbes and Ryan Arcidiacono. The two young guards are winners. They are the type of players San Antonio loves and they have proven they will do whatever it takes to get their team W’s. However, one of the most important moves during the Spurs offseason was something that San Antonio had no part in. The assembling of SUPERteam. On the bright side, however diminished it might be, this turns Oklahoma City into a team clawing for the playoffs, rather than a title contender, making it easier for San Antonio to return to the conference finals. However, San Antonio did lose several rotational bigs, but other than Boban Marjanovic, the departures were all past their prime and declining in production. Their draft pick, Dejounte Murray, shows a lot of promise for the future and again, Arcidiacono and Forbes are two young guys that have the potential to make a difference on a day-to-day basis in the future.

At the end of the day, it’s safe to say that San Antonio’s upcoming season will be impacted predominantly by the juggernaut formed in Golden State. It was an exceptional, yet scary offseason for the Spurs and now we will see for sure just how much greatness Popovich has left up his sleeve.

Grade: A

Writer’s Note: Stats in this article are courtesy of Basketball Reference.