In the first of many offseason divisional breakdowns, we begin with the Pacific Division winners and losers (so far).
Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner:
Los Angeles Lakers
But with the Lakers it's just never that simple. They always have something up their sleeve because once you've established a winning tradition, it needs to be upheld. Especially with their co-tenants breathing down their neck. About a week ago, the Lakers traded four future draft picks (two 1st rounders, tow 2nd rounders) to the Phoenix Suns for two-time MVP, Steve Nash, forming a backcourt duo among the best in the league. Other than their two draft picks (one acquired from the Mavericks), the Lakers have thus far kept quiet otherwise, however, they brought back Devin Ebanks on a one-year deal.
It remains to be seen if they are to bring back Jordan Hill, Matt Barnes or even sign free agent Grant Hill. Either way, trading for Nash gives this offense an excitement it has sorely lacked for almost a decade. Showtime is back!
Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers had a great year a season ago. With the addition of Chris Paul and Caron Butler, the young guns bought into the system and hard work paid off as they advanced to the second round of the postseason for only the second time in franchise history. But it is now only that: history.
In order to build on success, the team entered the offseason with depth issues and some unhappy campers. Mo Williams, one of the leading Sixth Men in the league last year had made it known he was accepting the off-guard role against his will and he aspired to be a starting point guard in the league once again. The Clippers were more than happy to accomodate him as they received former Clipper, Lamar Odom in exchange. In a return home to Los Angeles, Odom should refocus and become the player everyone knows he can be in order to help this team night in, night out at around 25-30 minutes per game.
Other commendable moves were the signing and re-signing of Jamal Crawford and Chauncey Billups. Crawford, a perennial scorer throughout his career, will replace the scoring they lost in shipping Mo to Utah. Chauncey, when he returns from intense rehab, will be an instant boost in veteran presence and team morale as his Finals MVP will prove invaluable to a team trying to continue to succeed.
Now, it's tough to come out on the winning side when you trade your most valuable asset to your division rival, however, in the process, the Suns received an injection of youth and talent. Bringing back fan-favorite Goran Dragic to run the point guard show was their first win of the offseason. After spending a few seasons backing up Nash, Dragic was shipped to Houston for Aaron Brooks two years ago. When Kyle Lowry went down with an injury, Dragic picked up the slack and put together an incredible run in the 28 games he started, averaging 18 points and 8.5 assists per game.
The addition of Michael Beasely will also give this team athleticism on the wing as he has long been viewed as an extremely talented small forward who required the right coaching and system for his skills to flourish.
Drafting Kendall Marshall out of North Carolina will instantly provide the Suns with some nice point guard depth as he appears ready to contribute in the NBA right now. With Jared Dudley, Marcin Gortat and Channing Frye still under contract, the amnesty addition of Luis Scola will only give the Suns another look at the power forward position as they seem poised to push for a playoff spot in a very deep Western Conference.
When You Lose, You Lose:
Golden State Warriors
A season ago, the Warriors shipped out combo-guard Monta Ellis to Milwaukee in exchange for oft-injured center, Andrew Bogut. He did not play a game last year, however, he seems poised to prove all his doubters incorrect as he enters into a new season with a new team in the Bay Area. The former top overall pick may do battle with Andrew Bynum, DeAndre Jordan and the rest of the West big guys for years to come, but the Warriors won't be much better because of it.
Drafting Harrison Barnes as well as Draymond Green will help their toughness and outside shooting from the forward positions, but they will most likely need some time to develop under second year head coach Mark Jackson before becoming everyday impact players. In the three-team trade, which cost the Warriors Dorell Wright, they received combo-guard Jarret Jack in return from the New Orleans Hornets, and he figures to be an instant impact player at the PG position, potentially playing alongside Steph Curry. In a division where the Lakers and Clippers beefed up their rosters from a season ago, however, this offseason was a loss for the Warriors.
The Kings surprised some teams a year ago because they have loads and loads of talent on their squad. DeMarcus Cousins will one day be the top center in basketball (if he gets his head screwed on right). Marcus Thornton has proved he can be a big-time scorer in clutch moments working alongside Tyreke Evans in the backcourt. Isaiah Thomas, last seasons 60th overall pick, proved he can run the point with confidence and a necessary arrogance to be successful.
However, as talented as this team is and as bright a future as they may have, they are atrocious defensively and that will have to change in order for them to win more than 35 games this season. They're only offseason moves have been re-signing Jason Thomson, trading for utility forward James Johnson from the Toronto Raptors and drafting Thomas Robinson out of the University of Kansas. It figures to be another disappointing year for the up-and-comers out of Northern California. Defense wins, and that is exactly what this team needs to climb out of the cellar.