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BSOTS Summer Recaps: Ranking the Pacific Division, including Warriors, Lakers, Suns, Clippers and Kings

Can anyone threaten the Warriors for divisional supremacy?

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Summertime in the NBA is a season full of hope, where everyone except Sixers fans has something to look forward to as they count down the days to opening night.

Every team made changes and most changes look great on paper this time of year, before the actual product is revealed on the floor and the unexpected inevitably happens. Some can't-miss signings will indeed miss, and some players that are being completely overlooked at the moment will suddenly make a name for themselves.

While we can't predict who will be this year's Hassan Whiteside or Khris Middleton, we can still have a little fun with the whole thing and act like we know what we're talking about. For this, I enlisted the Walter Matthau to my Jack Lemmon, Bright Side of the Sun's noble scribe Jim Coughenour, as we pick apart the summer moves that every NBA team has made since their season ended.

This week we examine the Pacific Division, where the pecking order figures to stay intact.


- Rollin

Golden State Warriors

2014/15 record: 67-15 (Won championship)

Arrivals: Jason Thompson, Kevon Looney

Departures: David Lee

Rollin: Well, what is there to say? The only adjustment made to the roster was effectively swapping Jason Thompson for David Lee, which probably won't have an impact on anything.

Draymond Green re-upped for $82 million over 5 years; some people here or there might say that was too much, but it doesn't matter. When you have a team perfectly constructed for the modern style of play that ranked first in DRtg, first in Pace and second in ORtg, you do anything within reason to keep the key parts intact.

With Stephen Curry giving no indication that he has any notions about playing elsewhere (, the Warriors figure to be in every Finals conversation for the next number of years.

The Golden State Warriors have built a foundation for at least 3 year championship window. You couldn't make that up.

Rollin's grade: Seven Seconds or Oakland

GSW definitely appears to be steadfast on keeping their core together. They also appear to be intent on using Phoenix as their farm system

Jim: I'm not very impressed with how the Warriors handled Draymond's contract situation.

I'm pretty sure the correct course of action for a team facing the prospect of overpaying a player who has some leverage over them is to start off with an offer they know the player won't accept, then proceed to have an interminably long period of deafening silence while talking heads are left to speculate over the ill will being fostered and the fans become absurdly intimate with said player's agent... only to up the offer significantly at the 11th hour and finally end an embarrassing situation that hung over the franchise like a black cloud all summer.

The celerity with which the Warriors handled Mr. Green's negotiations is definitely revealing in terms of the present state of affairs in Golden St. Of course, a slight overpay for Draymond is probably assuaged by the fact that MVP Curry is the fifth highest paid player on the team. That seems like pretty good value.

The Warriors are even reportedly looking to lock up Harrison Barnes to an early extension on his rookie deal, sliding a folded piece of paper that reads 4 years, $64 million across the table as a starting point.

GSW definitely appears to be steadfast on keeping their core together. They also appear to be intent on using Phoenix as their farm system, with the latest hire of Steve Nash as a player development consultant... which also lends to the question of why so many ex-Suns appear to be taking basketball jobs with other teams... and by other teams I mostly mean Golden St.

This summer may be an example of the growing vs. dying mechanic, though, in that Golden St. may have stood still while teams behind them took a step forward. It certainly appears that one or more of San Antonio, Houston, LAC and Oklahoma City might be better prepared to knock the Warriors off of their perch.

By some analytic measures the Warriors were one of the best teams in NBA history last season, but with the astounding level of play in the Western Conference I don't believe there's any kind of guarantee the Warriors will even get back to the Conference Finals.

I guess if it's not broke don't fix it, but I think a new wrinkle would have been nice.

Jim's grade: We are P H X (sorta)

Los Angeles Clippers

2014/15 record: 56-26 (and 14 games of pretty damn entertaining playoff basketball)

Arrivals: Paul Pierce, Josh Smith, Lance Stephenson, Cole Aldrich, Wesley Johnson, Pablo Prigioni, C.J. Wilcox, Branden Dawson, Chuck Hayes

Departures: DeAndre Jordan, Matt Barnes, Glen Davis, Spencer Hawes, Lester Hudson, Hedo Turkoglu, Dahntay Jones, Epke Udoh

Jim: To be perfectly honest, I had no idea that the Clippers had retooled their entire roster around Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, J.J. Redick, Jamal Crawford and Austin Rivers. I knew that they were active, just not quite to that extent.

On the surface, it seems like the nine new guys they brought in are better than the ones they shipped out. They are clearly more talented, but mental stability might be a glaring weakness... predominantly in Stephenson and Smith. Paul Pierce, who turns 38 next month, has continued to be a productive player, but a natural erosion of skill seems likely at this stage of his career.

So the bench has potential, but I really have no idea whether it's going to work out or not.

At least the Clippers are trying, though, since it's painfully apparent they just weren't capable of taking the next step.

The current poster boy of the league for not being able to take the next step, Chris Paul, still remains. In spite of all of his sexy advanced statistics he's never been able to advance to the Conference Finals. I'll continue to be skeptical that he can engineer a championship run until he actually does so.

While I laud their effort, I wouldn't want to pin my championship aspirations on properly balancing out Stephenson's medication levels.

Jim's grade: Still my vote for least likable team in the league

Blake Griffin will do just enough amazing things to make us feel like we've been underrating him this whole time, but then will get completely taken out of his game at crucial moments as we all go "oh, yeah."

Rollin: I think you pretty much nailed it.

The Clippers' bench overhaul might be the most overlooked development of the summer, but only because the previous iteration was a soft, pudgy mass of spent basketball talent. Every time the camera panned the Clippers' bench, I expected to see them passing around an 18-pack of Keystone Light.

The Clips decided this time around to fill their reserve unit with the most colorful personalities on the market. I really can't express how grateful I am that I lived to see Pierce, Stephenson and Smith in the same locker room.

Despite the talent upgrade, it still feels like we're steering towards the same conclusion. They'll look like the best team in the West at times, prompting headlines like "Why isn't anyone taking the Clippers seriously?"

They'll struggle to dominate anyone in the playoffs, and the Chris Paul Narrative will come roaring to life.

Blake Griffin will do just enough amazing things to make us feel like we've been underrating him this whole time, but then will get completely taken out of his game at crucial moments as we all go "oh, yeah."

Then they'll bow out to a more balanced team but we still have to suffer their Kia and State Farm commercials for the remainder of the postseason.

Pierce might've been the perfect player to finally take some of the weight off Paul and help this team turn the 2010.

Here in 2015, they seem guaranteed to be a well-oiled machine that still manages to seize up at the worst time.

Rollin's grade: Moichandising! Moichandising!

Los Angeles Lakers

2014/15 record: 21-61

Roy Hibbert, Lou Williams, Brandon Bass, D'Angelo Russell

Carlos Boozer, Ed Davis, Jeremy Lin, Jordan Hill, Wesley Johnson, Wayne Ellington, Xavier Henry

Rollin: Suns fans are no stranger to the concept of 'conbuilding', in which an organization tries to maintain a competitive edge while simultaneously getting younger and shedding dead weight.

What the Lakers are doing is such a grotesque form of this that I picture the two halves -- contending and rebuilding -- as two parts of a hiker that is being mauled and ripped apart by an angry bear.

The youth on this team is actually kind of impressive. There is Julius Randle, who took a mulligan on his rookie season due to an ACL tear. Jordan Clarkson and D'Angelo Russell are a tantalizing PG tandem -- Clarkson being the overlooked fundamental guy and Russell being the brash and flashy guy.

As for their veteran additions; Hibbert, Williams and Bass are all players with skills that can really help a team. I'm just not sure why they're here helping this team. I imagine they're all thrilled to be a part of the twilight of Kobe Bryant's career, who has become the NBA's Al Bundy, always reminding you about those four touchdowns in one game.

The Lakers might soar past 30 wins this season, but that won't dull the pain of realization that the allure of Los Angeles and the legacy of past greatness still isn't enough by itself to forge a path to redemption. But it'll be a new day when Kobe's contract comes off the books, and it seems inevitable that at least one of Russell and Randle becomes a solid NBA player, joining the already established Clarkson.

The future is promising, but they still have to make a lot of good decisions to capitalize. Bummer that just being THE LAKERS isn't good enough anymore.

Rollin's grade: More like the Ricki Lake Show

As soon as [Kobe] leaves someone else will come along to usher in the next era of championship basketball. There's a precedent, and no real reason to believe it won't happen again until it doesn't.

Jim: I'm pretty sure their will be more Lakers fans at the Nudie Bar (where the breasts may be fake, but man do they shake) than the Staples Center this season... although I'm sure that's probably applicable to both of those places anyway.

The Lakers have to be sweating it out to see if they still have the gravitational pull to lure stars when they lope into free agency next summer with $60 million of cap space. If they don't, this could be a humiliating stretch of basketball for the most vaunted franchise in the league. I'm still assuming the former, while pining for the latter.

I think the Kobe Bryant situation is an impossible stumbling block for the team right now. He makes a ton of money and nobody wants to deal with Kobe Bryant the person now that he is no longer Kobe Bryant the basketball player. As soon as he leaves someone else will come along to usher in the next era of championship basketball. There's a precedent, and no real reason to believe it won't happen again until it doesn't.

The Lakers are an absolute mess right now, but if you had to bet money on who would win a championship first - the Suns or Lakers - who would you pick?

Yeah. I thought so.

As for this summer, I think the Lakers may have done just enough to surrender their top 3 protected pick to the 76ers. That roster sucks and is one of only a few teams in the Western Conference which I feel I can safely put well behind the Suns. Hibbert is a waste of... something, while it seems like it will be a miracle if Bryant makes it through the season. There is some young talent on the roster, but I doubt Randle and Russell will make an impact this soon.

Meanwhile, this is what I think of the roster Mitch Kupchak is ready to roll out this season...

Jim's grade: Don't ever leave, Kobe.

Sacramento Kings

2014/15 record:
29-53 (probably a playoff team in the Eastern Conference)

Arrivals: Rajon Rondo, Marco Belinelli, Kosta Koufos, Willie Cauley-Stein, Seth Curry, James Anderson, Quincy Acy, Duje Dukan, Caron Butler

Departures: Ray McCallum, Jason Thompson, Carl Landry, Derrick Williams, Andre Miller, Nik Stauskas, Ryan Hollins, Reggie Evans

Jim: The Kings were very aggressive this summer and made a huge splash by dealing away Nik Stauskas, Carl Landy, Jason Thompson and a 2018 first round pick for cap space... which they used to sign Rajon Rondo (who used to be a pretty good player) and a couple of serviceable backups (Belinelli/Koufos).

Not exactly the kind of moves that I see putting them in the thick of things in the stacked Western Conference.

Perhaps the only thing more confusing than the Kings attempt to mortgage the future to win now might be the protection on the draft picks they sent to the Sixers. Instead of trying to explain it to you in more lucid terms I'll let you go to and spend 10 minutes sorting through it like I did. My overall take is that a team with the Kings recent track record should NOT be putting their future lottery picks at risk.

I can't help but think this is a desperate attempt to build around franchise center DeMarcus Cousins that is destined for failure. To make things worse, everyone but Rondo is locked up for 2016/17, too.

I do think WCS might be able to step in and make an immediate impact on the defensive end, so maybe this team can improve from 27th in the league in DRtg...

Jim's grade: Royally screwed

I guess it really isn't much of a mystery that even Monta Ellis was a bridge too far.

Rollin: Everything about the Kings feels incredibly strange and random.

It's like someone spun a wheel of players, coaches and executives and assembled an organization wherein not a single piece complements another.

And there are some good pieces here. DeMarcus Cousins has become the best offensive big man in the NBA this side of Anthony Davis.

Rudy Gay has become the most irrelevant 21 PPG scorer in recent memory.

George Karl has a proven track record of turning the most motley of crews into playoff teams.

Rajon Rondo was good at basketball once.

Marco Belinelli and Caron Butler make a pretty good veteran duo off the bench, but then you realize that they'll probably start a bunch of games for this team and suddenly they don't look so hot.

As good as some of these players allegedly are, for a front office to slam the door on rebuilding and make a move to the penthouse only to come away with Rondo, Butler, Belinelli and Koufos is just embarrassing. There isn't enough lipstick in the world for that pig.

I mean, their summer started with a report that Kings staffers didn't know that Vlade Divac was their boss until they heard it in the media like the rest of us. I guess it really isn't much of a mystery that even Monta Ellis was a bridge too far.

We've seen the Kings go into hibernation for years, punting on every offseason while bumbling one lottery pick after another. Now we've seen a sample of what happens when they actually try to grab a piece of the pie.

At least they can't be called boring anymore.

Rollin's grade: #HereWeStay (in the lottery)

Phoenix Suns

2014/15: 39-43 (forgot that there were still 11 games left in the season, missed playoffs)

Arrivals: Tyson Chandler, Mirza Teletovic, Sonny Weems, Ronnie Price, Jon Leuer, Devin Booker

Departures: Gerald Green, Marcus Morris, Brandan Wright, a handful of borderline NBA players that were on the roster at season's end for some reason

Rollin: It turns out that we weren't waving goodbye to drafting in the late lottery as we thought we were back in 2013. Instead, the Suns quickly bagged the planned tankfest after getting a surprise whiff of the playoffs in 2014, and are back that old familiar standard of conbuilding.

The good news this time, as opposed to the Amare-less Nash years and whatever the hell 2012/13 was, is that the there is some legitimate talent on this roster. Unfortunately, it has yet to yield that long-coveted star player, as LaMarcus Aldridge was the latest pipe dream that ultimately failed to come to fruition.

Ryan McDonough's tenure has been both shrewdly effective and disturbingly chaotic, and this summer was only the latest chapter. Free agents Tyson Chandler and Brandon Knight were locked up immediately without even sitting down with other suitors, but the Marcus Morris salary dump sent his brother Markieff into a tantrum that would last all the way until Media Day.

In fashion typical of the McDonough regime, Kieff was not given special consideration and was basically left to make an ass of himself on a seemingly daily basis. The Suns made it clear once again on Media Day that they really aren't concerned about ruffling the feathers of their players.

Seriously, these guys have an intense disregard for feathers.

Sometimes it surprises me that this isn't a more popular strategy, given how often you hear people complaining about those spoiled athletes. For better or worse, the Suns' front office are the current heavyweight champions of not spoiling athletes.

Anyway, I like each individual move they made over the summer (even warming up to Ronnie Price), but it feels like another 'incomplete' until at least an All-Star emerges. It's a bummer that the end result was what looks like another battle for an eighth seed.

But they have a decent chance if Tyson Chandler can stay healthy, and if Alex Len can improve his game overall (and also stay healthy), and if Sonny Weems' swiss-army style of play translates back to the NBA from Moscow, and if they can squeeze enough shooting out of this roster that isn't exactly populated by deadeye shooters, and if Eric Bledsoe and/or Brandon Knight can take that last step to stardom, and if they can find consistent scoring off the bench, and if the offense can get back into top ten territory, and the defense can at least be above-average.

Usually when there are this many ifs, the story doesn't end well.

Let's just hope it's entertaining for the right reasons this time.

Rollin's grade: Ruffling ALL the feathers

The Suns get an A for effort with the LMA courting, but participation ribbons can't be traded in for playoff spots.

Jim: I feel like some Suns fans are trying really hard to stay positive.

If I'd predicted back in April the Suns were going to shore up the bench by bringing in Teletovic, Weems, Price and Leuer I'm not sure a lot of current advocates would have been quite as bullish. If the Lakers would have signed those four players people on Bright Side would be ridiculing their pitiful attempt to put together a 30 win team. In fact, aren't the sum of the Lakers acquisitions over the summer better than the Suns?

Sometimes being close to a situation gives a person special insight. Sometimes it blinds them. I'm inclined to think this is the latter.

I still think the bench is a potential area of weakness and will continue to do so until they prove me wrong.

The Suns get an A for effort with the LMA courting, but participation ribbons can't be traded in for playoff spots.

While I like the Chandler signing, it is still at least somewhat disconcerting. Tyson just turned 33 today (Happy Birthday!), so now that their swing for the fences missed it seems fairly safe to assume he is never going to be a major part of a championship contending team in the desert. It's not happening this year, and a natural deterioration of skill is imminent. I don't hate the signing, I just don't see it as anywhere close to a game changer.

The Suns rid themselves of Marcus Morris (Yay!), but kept his malcontent, nincompoop brother (Boo!)... does that wash? I have absolutely no faith in Markieff's ability to clean up his act and not be a distraction... which means the front office is really opening itself up to one of the biggest "I told you so's" in franchise history if things don't work out. The Suns got themselves into a difficult situation and I'm not sure they've entirely extricated themselves from it.

Markieff aside, the Suns have lots of good players on movable contracts and still have some nice future picks coming their way. Unfortunately, like you mentioned, they have no star players and are strongest at guard in a league replete with great guard play.

Could things fall in place for the Suns, culminating in their first playoff appearance since 2010?


But how good of an offseason did the team have when they went from maybe last year to maybe this year... At least we know where to focus the draft scouting.

Jim's grade: WE ARE # 1 3

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