The free agent signings aren't complete and some moves are sure to be made still but at this point we can take a preliminary look at the Western Conference is shaping up for next season.
Thanks to community member N8lol for putting this together. Because I am a big mouth who can't leave well enough alone, I've add some of my comments below.
Analysis of this summer's movement.
Lakers (65-17) - Added Ron Artest, lost Lamar Odom, Trevor Ariza. The addition of Artest adds a great deal of depth and toughness for the Lakers. Artest showed at Houston not only that he can be a "go to guy" to create offense, but that he can take a side seat and dominate on the defensive realm. However, the loss of both Odom and Ariza is a serious blow to the Lake-Show. While neither can match Artest's defensive intensity, they both make up for it in length and rebounding/ scoring presence. This likely means that while the Lakers will grow better in defense (marginally) their offense will suffer. The effect of this on their playoff position is debatable. Since the Lakers were the highest scoring team in the league for most of the season it seems a serious blow. Combine this with the fact that their defensive presence was minimal according to several analysts and there is a case to say that the Lakers may actually fare worse than last season, though not by much.
Phx Stan: Latest word as of today is that the Lakers will try and resign Odom at about $8m per year. It is interesting that no other teams made a run at that guy. It is worth noting that between Artest, Shannon Brown and Odom (if he indeed returns) the Lakers payroll next year will be north of $90m. That's $20m over the luxury tax putting them in Yankee territory for outrageously outspending the rest of the field. At some point in the next few years that's going to come back to haunt them and they will be dumping salary left and right
Denver (54-28) - Kept Anderson. Lost no one of significance. Denver's case is unique in the West as they have not made any attempt to better themselves but have simply attempted to keep what they have. Smart or not, their team already had one of the best recipes for success this last year and may very well have been the best team in the league. The beat down they put on the Lakers was no fluke. It will be interesting to see what they can do next season.
Phx Stan: Denver made a big pick up on draft night to get Ty Lawson in return for a future 1st rd pick. The Nuggets desperately needed a back up PG so this was a nice addition. On the flip side they lost Dahntay Jones who played well for them. This might mean more minutes for JR Smith which like pretty much everything associated with JR Smith is a crap shoot. They still should be in the top 2 or 4 teams in the West though.
San Antonio (54-28) - Added Richard Jefferson, Antonio McDyess. Lost Oberto, Bowen, Thomas. The Spurs, more than anyone, have done the most with their roster in the Western Conference. Adding Jefferson was no small feat but that coupled with McDyess' small contract but big help should help the Spurs a lot. As a Suns fan, I hate all of these moves because they make the Spurs better. However, I am interested to see if Jefferson can work in the contained offense of the Spurs with Tim as the primary and Parker as the secondary. Where exactly will Jefferson fit? Second string? Surely not. Moreover, where will Ginobili fit into the system? There are only so many touches especially on the slow tempo, deliberate Spurs. However, we cannot deny the combined effect of McDyess and Duncan which will surely effect the standings this coming season. (Boo Spurs!)
Phx Stan: I agree that the Spurs got a lot better this summer. They will also be paying something like $6m+ in luxury tax so don't think their moves come without a price. Clearly, they are trying to take advantage of Tim Duncans final few productive seasons. Can't blame them...but feel free to hate them.
Portland (54-28) - As of yet, no additions or subtractions. Portland is, perhaps, one of the only teams that I believe will make a significant drop in the standings (along with NO). The potential of their roster as it stands has, perhaps, made the biggest impact it will and cannot go any further. The fall of Fernandez does not help this at all. Though there is still time to make deals (Millsap has been offerred one) unless Portland makes a major haul or trade in the coming weeks it seem unlikely that they will make an impact on their roster and will likely suffer for it in the standings. Oden has yet to make a name for himself and unless he drastically improves over the summer, the possibility that he will becomes less and less.
Phx Stan: After being left at the alter by Hedo they've pretty much done nothing. They are trying to get Milsap who would provide some nice front court and rebounding depth and is a much better fit for that team's needs then Hedo IMHO. We'll see if the Jazz match the offer. Even if they don't get Milsap or any other free agents of note I think this team will improve simply due to the natural improvement of young teams. They were good last year and they should be better this year.
Houston (53-29) - Lost Artest, Ming? Added Ariza. Houston seemed poised for a major breakthrough this year but all of that seems lost. Without Yao and Artest the Rockets cannot hope to succeed. More painful for Rocket fans is that McGrady is, yet again, in the throes of a painful recovery from knee sugery. The addition of Ariza can hardly make up for this.
Phx Stan: There's no question the Rockets are falling back to Earth with the troubles listed above. I do think Ariza is a better long term fit then Artest but without Yao and saddled with T-Mac this team is stuck with a lot of decent role players and no stars.
Dallas (50-32) - Lost Bass. Added Marion. Dallas is an intriguing case because, while it did not help its obvious deficiencies at all, it helped ones that were strained and caused problems. The loss of Bass is offset significantly by the addition of Marion (*tear) but the Mavs still have tremendous problems at the center position. Dampier is not only slow but basically useless offensively. What they will do to remedy this is unknown though they did make an attempt at Gortat. The extension of Kidd is important but it does seem that the Mavs are on the cusp of ignominy.
Phx Stan: It seemed that the Mavs were going to land Gortat until whispers from Orlando suggested they might try and match the offer. It's hard to see how the Magic could afford Gortat after getting Bass and Ryan Anderson so for now I am going to assume the Polish Hammer will be a Mav. Gortat and Marion certainly make the Mavs better but they also are going to have a huge payroll and are stuck with Jason Kidd for three more years. This is an aging team on their last legs too and Lord only knows what Josh Howard is going to do next year.
New Orleans (49-33) - I dont need to say much. NO's playoff games said all that needs to be said. During the 08 playoffs I predicted that this team was a "one hit wonder" and as the 08-09 season progressed this was revealed. NO will likely not make the playoffs next year even if Tyson Chandler (whom, apparently, even the magic of Aaron Nelson couldn't fix) returns to the court. While Paul may indeed be the PG of the future, he cannot win games by himself.
Phx Stan: Next time you are feeling really bummed out about Sarver and Kerr just remember what a mess things are for the Hornets.
Utah (48-34) - Lost no one yet. Added no one yet. It is possible that Okur, Millsap or Boozer could be moved soon. Whatever the case, the team that has served Utah so well over the last 5 years is at an end. Without any of these players Utah is not the same. They barely eeked out a playoff berth this year and next year will be no different or perhaps worse. Kirilenko is a serious drain on their abilities to make any movement financially and the complexity of Utah's system will make it difficult for any new player to become immediately adjusted leaving the already fragile playoff spot of Utah on the verge of total collapse.
Phx Stan: Okur did resign with the Jazz but there's no doubt that either Milsap or Boozer will be gone and with no real additions to speak of this team certainly got worse. The only upside for the Jazz fans is that they have a ton of injuries last season so if they can stay healthy this year they could stay about where they were.
Phoenix (46-36) - Finally. The moment of truth. Lost Shaq. Added Frye? Hill. Clark. Pavlovic. Wallace. As we all know, Pav and Ben will be out soon and Frye will be likely signed.With Amare going nowhere and Nash signing an extension this team seems to be ready to solidify its identity. With Clark playing some minutes, a better Lopez, Dudley and Dragic, the Suns may be ready to do something great. Yet most of their promise is found in Frye, Amare, and Lopez. Frye and Lopez because if there is one thing that we all know its that Amare in the center is not a recipe for success. If Frye and or Lopez can become something like Chandler this year, then we have a fighting chance at placing ourselves in a nice playoff spot and making some noise. More than those two, however, is the continued development of Amare. If he comes out ready to go and strong (without anymore injuries) then the Suns are on the way. If not, then we might have well just blown it up. Only time will tell.
Phx Stan: The more I read about Frye and think about it the more I suspect that he will play backup PF behind Amare leaving Amundson to back up Lopez like he backed Shaq last year. Lou is the best rebounder of the three and he can't shoot while Frye (despite his size) is more of a face up power forward in this league. I think it is much more likely that Frye and Lopez will play together then Amare and Frye.
What do you think?