Offseason grades: Pacific Division
With most of the summer already in the books, SI.com is grading each team's offseason performance and examining their best and worst moves. Below, Rob Mahoney breaks down the five teams in the Atlantic Division.
Analysis: The moves made by the Warriors this summer are promising. Livingston, though not the supporting scorer Golden State needs, is a fine complement to Stephen Curry and a capable initiator of second-unit offense. His ability to guard any of the three perimeter positions further extends the Warriors' defensive versatility; between Livingston, Andre Iguodala and Klay Thompson lies all kinds of cross-matching potential. Brandon Rush, too, could be a terrific get for the Warriors if he's able to return to form. Last season was rough on Rush, who in his first year back from an ACL tear logged time with the disjointed Jazz. Golden State should provide a bit more order, which for a three-and-D player like Rush could make all the difference.
Looming over the Warriors' offseason, though, was the deal not made. Long before Cleveland was even in the picture, Golden State reportedly had the pieces to negotiate a trade to acquire Kevin Love at the principal cost of Klay Thompson and David Lee. Thompson's inclusion, though, was divisive enough within the Warriors' front office as to nix the trade on face. That decision was explored in greater detail here, though on the most basic level Golden State opted for a quality contributor over a franchise-changing superstar. As good as Thompson is, paying him upwards of $15 million beginning next season seems a poor substitute for landing the far better Love. Should the Cavs go on to acquire Love as is now expected, the Warriors will have missed out on acquiring a second superstar whose prime and offensive game align perfectly with Curry. None of this will prevent Golden State from being a team worthy of contention this season, but any offseason evaluation need account for the opportunity lost.
Best move: Signed Jordan Farmar to a two-year, $4.2 million deal.
Worst move: None.
Analysis: The Clippers had limited means through which to add talent, but prioritized their biggest need with their largest salary cap exception. Using the full mid-level (a salary starting at $5.3 million), Doc Rivers landed Spencer Hawes -- a seven-footer with viable three-point range. Hawes is the third big that the Clippers have been waiting for. His game is pliable alongside either Blake Griffin or DeAndre Jordan, as Hawes has both the size of a traditional center and the range to offer a different kind of utility. What he lacks is any concrete defensive value; to this point Hawes has shown little interest or aptitude in coverage, limitations that could be addressed by coaching and circumstance.
This season's Clippers will easily be the best team that Hawes has ever played for and, barring some unexpected hiccup with the sale of the team, likely the most functional as an organization. He has the potential to improve as a defender based on effort alone, to say nothing of the influence of Rivers, Griffin and Chris Paul on his overall approach. Hawes would be an asset to the Clippers if he can progress even to adequacy on that end -- he needn't be a dominant rim protector, only a player capable of filling a role and maintaining his individual assignment.
With their mid-level exception accounted for, the Clippers lost the means to make a market-competitive offer to reserve point guard Darren Collison, who received that very amount from the Kings. Such was ultimately for the best; given the glut of rotation-caliber point guards and the dearth of flexible bigs on the market, L.A.'s MLE was decidedly better spent on Hawes than Collison. To wit: Replacing Collison with Jordan Farmar, who was signed for two years at $4.2 million, is an exchange that will hurt the Clippers little if at all.
Analysis: As it turns out, a post-double-recovery Kobe Bryant, what remains of Steve Nash, an unproven Julius Randle and the allure of L.A. are unsurprisingly insufficient as a lure to top free agents. That being said, it's an unmistakable positive that the Lakers, having missed out on their primary targets, didn't give in to panic. Too often we've seen teams make signings for signings' sake, in the process putting hefty, long-term contracts on the books when waiting would have better served. The pressure for the Lakers to do so seemed especially strong after Kobe Bryant inked a two-year, $48.5 million extension last season and subsequently made known his desire to compete immediately.
The Lakers, despite Bryant's insistence, will not be a competitive team this season. They did, however, manage to avoid adding much of any problematic salary. Jordan Hill was re-signed to a two-year, $18 million deal that puts the Lakers on the hook for only a single season (the second is a team option). Jeremy Lin (currently in the final year of his deal) was acquired via trade for nothing while netting an unprotected first round pick from the Rockets. Carlos Boozer was picked up by way of amnesty waivers, costing the Lakers just $3.3 million over one season. Ed Davis, a capable young big who should have registered a greater demand in free agency, was snatched up on a two-year deal starting at the veteran minimum. Along with the low-rent re-signings of Ryan Kelly, Xavier Henry and Wesley Johnson, these were all reasonable moves for a Lakers team needing to fill out its roster without splurging.
Where things went wonky was in the $21.4 million doled out to Nick Young on a four-year contract. Such a deal won't ruin a cap sheet or sink a franchise, though giving Young that much money on so long a deal does run somewhat contrary to the Lakers' other moves this summer. Swaggy P may well be so steeped in the illogical as to infect those around him.
Best move: Acquired Isaiah Thomas via sign-and-trade on a four-year, $27 million deal.
Worst move: None.
Analysis: Phoenix's offseason is still more unsettled than most, in that the Suns still have yet to reach a deal with restricted free agent Eric Bledsoe. There is, then, some lingering potential for things to go south in terms of the relationship between the two parties. More likely is a multi-year deal that favors Phoenix now that there are so few alternatives. The market has turned in a way that puts the Suns at a distinct advantage in negotiations with Bledsoe, seeing as most other plausible suitors have used up their available cap room and relatively few have a glaring need to upgrade at point guard.
Provided that Bledsoe is present and accounted for, the Suns will be set to continue on a course of pace-pushing, floor-spreading playoff contention. Head coach Jeff Hornacek has an exciting new addition, too, in Thomas -- a third ball handler who can either break down a defense or shoot from outside. The triumvirate of Bledsoe, Thomas and Goran Dragic allows Phoenix to work from a place of constant creative strength. Never will the Suns go without two plus-level shot creators in the backcourt, easing the offensive burden on the wings and bigs more suited to supporting roles.
The kicker: Thomas, himself a restricted free agent, was acquired on a very reasonable deal with a declining year-to-year salary. Should Bledsoe sign for a sub-max contract as expected, that would give Phoenix three talented point guards on movable deals, leaving open the possibility of roster restructuring. All three of Bledsoe, Dragic and Thomas would have a market via trade, keeping the Suns flexible in the case that their plans or priorities change. The present, though, still looks relatively strong. It hurts to lose Channing Frye in free agency, though $32 million over four years is a steep price for continuity. There are reasonable limits as to what a team should pay to keep the band together and the Magic's lucrative offer to Frye may have crossed beyond them.
As opposed to strict roster maintenance, the Suns now look to evolve. The form of the team should be more or less the same, as Anthony Tolliver was signed to serve a similar function to Frye at a fraction of the cost. Phoenix also agreed to a three-year, $16.5 million deal with small forward incumbent P.J. Tucker, sweetened with unguaranteed salary in its final season. Adding Thomas, drafting wisely (with T.J. Warren and Tyler Ennis) and developing from within (mind you that Alex Len and Archie Goodwin played fewer than 1,000 combined minutes last season) atop that model gives Phoenix a chance to branch out and potentially break through to the postseason. For a team already as young and competitive as the Suns, no more significant overhaul was needed.
Best move: Drafted Nik Stauskas with the No. 8 overall pick.
Worst move: Signed Darren Collison to a three-year, $15 million deal.
Analysis: While I can appreciate that the Kings are trying to steer away from conventional wisdom, this is ultimately a pretty crummy team so bloated with salary that it's forced to limbo under the luxury tax line. While in disbelief of that financial reality, consider this: Is there any team in the West that is definitively worse than Sacramento? Just last season the Kings were within three losses of the worst record in the conference. Since then most of the West's other lottery teams have added talent whilst Sacramento downgraded at point guard and did nothing to improve its defensive personnel.
There are individual pieces to like on the Kings' roster, most of all DeMarcus Cousins -- a monster of a player who continues to refine his game. Stauskas, too, should offer needed shooting on a team that ached for contributions beyond the arc. The replacement of Thomas with Collison, though, only highlights how weird and mismatched this roster really is. There are redundancies of position and skill set built upon compounding weaknesses, in all leaving a team without much inherent order. Perhaps Mike Malone can work some magic with this group yet, though little has been done this summer to make his job easier or facilitate the Kings' expedited rebuild.