Roundtable: Who Won the Western Conference Offseason?
*Photo via AP
Ten teams finished the 2014-15 NBA regular season with at least 50 wins, with seven of those ten, coming from the Western Conference…wait, SEVEN?! ALL IN ONE CONFERENCE?! Welcome to the Wild, Wild West ladies and gentlemen. With so many elite rosters assembling in an Avengers style battle royal, which unit will be worthy of lifting the NBA championship?
In the second installment of our Roundtable: Offseason Winners and Losers series, we asked our staff:
Who is your offseason winner in the Western Conference?
Mike Ricci – When we discussed the Eastern Conference offseason winner, I said that the Cleveland Cavaliers were the real winners of the summer, before disregarding my opinion and awarding the best offseason to the Milwaukee Bucks. I’m a misdirecting jerk, apologies.
So let me be frank, the Minnesota Timberwolves won the offseason. I understand that the biggest piece moving cities was LaMarcus Aldridge going to the San Antonio Spurs. I am not discrediting what the Spurs did landing Aldridge and David West (a deep bargain bin David West at that). Next year and maybe 2017 the Spurs will probably reap the spoils of this free agency period more than Minnesota. But long term? How can you choose any other team but Minnesota?
It’s possible that Karl Anthony-Towns won’t amount to much in the NBA but it’s unlikely. Paired with Andrew Wiggins, Towns should anchor the Timberwolves for years to come with the most exciting interior/perimeter tandem in decades. Seriously, think about that for a moment. When was the last time a big man and a wing player were taken in back to back years that had this much potential? You’re probably going to have to go all the way back to Shaq and Penny.
I haven’t even mentioned Flip Saunders drafting hometown hero Tyus Jones. Not that Jones will play much, but hey, the Wolves even won the Public Relations championship this summer. Finally, let’s not forget the Wolves are bringing over 2015 Euroleague MVP Nemanja Bjelica.
Chris Stewart – The San Antonio Spurs won the LaMarcus Aldridge sweepstakes this summer, spearheading themselves back to favorites in the Wild West. Aldridge makes his home in Texas, and the Spurs have everything he looked for in a new team. The team of the Lone Star State has 3 championships in the last decade, the best coach in the NBA (with the longest tenure) in Gregg Popovich, a system built on sharing the basketball, and a combination of excellent role players and future hall of famers. This move should catapult Aldridge into that ladder company individually, and bring yet another championship to the Alamo City in 2015-2016. Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge will carry the traditional San Antonio Spurs torch of championships, as they look to keep their dynasty alive for many years to come.
Connor Harr – The Denver Nuggets are my offseason winner in the Western Conference. They drafted point guard Emmanuel Mudiay seventh overall and he has impressed. In addition to being in hilarious foot locker commercials, Mudiay proved he was the most NBA ready point guard in this year’s draft with his performance in the Las Vegas summer league. Sorry D’Angelo Russell. The Nuggets are optimistic that Mudiay, who oozes superstar potential, will lead their roster into the playoffs in the coming years.
The addition of Mudiay signaled the subtraction of former starting point guard, Ty Lawson. Removing Lawson from the equation indicates that the Nuggets are ready to tear it down and rebuild to become relevant again. The Nuggets also renegotiated the contracts of wings, Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari, both of whom are now locked up until the summer of 2017. With both on cap friendly deals as the salary cap explodes, the Nuggets will have stacks a mile high to go free agent shopping in the coming summers. With a roster that may compete for a playoff spot this year under new coach, Mike Malone, the Nuggets offseason moves have given the ownership and player personnel departments a lot of options on how they want to shape their team in the future.
Joe Keller – The winner of the offseason in the West is a close call between the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers, but unlike their 2015 postseason matchup, I’ll give the edge to the Spurs. The Clippers were a DeAndre Jordan emoji filled text message away from being the biggest loser of the offseason and there’s no way they can be a winner after unveiling their new logo. The Spurs were able to court the best free agent in this year’s class, LaMarcus Aldridge. Teaming Aldridge with Tim Duncan will make for a scary front court. The Spurs also went out and signed veteran forward David West for 12 million less than he would’ve gotten from the Indiana Pacers. Adding West and Aldridge will allow Duncan to get extra rest and be fresh for another deep postseason run. The Spurs also re-signed two corner stones for the future of the franchise in Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. San Antonio set themselves up to win now and for the future, in the post “Big 3” years, whenever that may be.
Kory Waldron – The Western Conference for the last decade or so, has clearly been the deeper and more talented conference. Following this offseason, that bottleneck of talent and depth will make, yet again, playoff seeding a photo finish. As many teams such as the Phoenix Suns and Houston Rockets made moves for high caliber players. The San Antonio Spurs attracted veterans at low costs and signed prized power forward LaMarcus Aldridge. However, the Los Angeles Clippers went from the biggest offseason loser, to the offseason winner in the West.
The Clippers, after looking as if they lost DeAndre Jordan to the Dallas Mavericks, and by some miracle (house arrest), were able to sway him to reconsider and to return. That right there is enough to make them winners; Jordan is a tenacious rebounder and rim protector who has progressed every year. However, this wasn’t the move that truly won the Clippers this offseason.
Lob City acquired Lance Stephenson after they shipped Matt Barnes and Spencer Hawes to the Charlotte Hornets. Stephenson was not ‘Born Ready’ for Charlotte, but Stephenson is overflowing with raw talent is one of the most versatile players in the league when focused. The Clips also signed veteran and future Hall of Famer, Paul Pierce. Pierce likely will come off the bench; however, he remains productive despite his battle with father time. His leadership and ability to call game will be vital for the Clippers.
The Clippers also improved their depth, which was lackluster last season by signing Josh Smith, Wesley Johnson, Cole Aldrich, Branden Dawson and re-signing Austin Rivers. The Clippers have now solidified themselves as a true contender in the West, October can’t come soon enough.
Parth Goradia – Only one roster added a former MVP this summer, and that’s the Western Conference offseason winner, the Oklahoma City Thunder. The return of Kevin Durant from injury brings NBA championship energy and expectations back to OKC. Waiting for Durant is a topflight roster that is ready to take off under new head coach, Billy Donovan. It’s championship or bust for the Thunder, this is their year.