It’s been a wild week in the NBA and there hasn’t even been any on-court action with the exception of the Summer League. All the news has come from free agency, with a lot of big names moving to different teams. Now that the commotion has seemed to die down, we have to sort the pieces and see where the teams stand heading into next season.
- Golden State Warriors: A 73-win team from the season before has the right to stay atop their throne, even if they didn’t win the NBA Finals. They managed to make a good case to win the next 5 Finals, though, by signing Kevin Durant away from the Oklahoma City Thunder. Personal anger from the signing aside, the addition of Durant to the Warriors makes Golden State downright frightening. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Durant in the same lineup is overkill. Yes, some pieces were lost as well, including Andrew Bogut, Festuz Ezeli, and Harrison Barnes. They lack a big man but with all of their shooting, they may not really need it. It’s hard to see how anyone in the Western Conference will be able to stop the Warriors from marching to the Finals for a third straight season.
- San Antonio Spurs: Tim Duncan sadly retired this morning but most people could see that decision coming from a mile away. The Spurs will still be great without him. Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge now will lead the team, with Pau Gasol coming as a big addition. The Spurs are probably the only threat to the Warriors in this conference, but even so, I don’t see how they could hang with them in a seven-game series.
- Los Angeles Clippers: The Clippers have been quiet in free agency and that shouldn’t be a problem for them. What will be a problem is their playoff collapses. They can’t get themselves over the hurdle until one more big name joins their cast.
- Houston Rockets: Dwight Howard bolted for his hometown Atlanta Hawks but I never was a big fan of him in Houston anyway. Keeping James Harden will be the key to all of their success.
- Memphis Grizzlies: Injuries kept the always competitive Grizzlies from being a force last year. But now that they’re all healthy and keeping Mike Conley, this could be a year in which Memphis goes under the radar and goes deep in the playoffs.
- Utah Jazz: If you really want to go under the radar, look no further than Utah, a team on the rise. They may not have big names but they have a bunch of solid players look to make a name for themselves, and in a year where the Western Conference may be at its weakest, this could be their time to breakout.
- Oklahoma City Thunder: They didn’t just lose Durant. They also lost Serge Ibaka, their best defender, to the Orlando Magic in exchange for Victor Oladipo. And now they face the reality of losing Russell Westbrook next offseason. Can we just rewind to Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals when OKC should have put away the Warriors and kept Durant on their team? It’d be a lot more pleasant for this franchise if we could.
- Portland Trailblazers: Damian Lillard was one of the best players in the league last season, although it likely went unnoticed behind all the Curry hype. C.J. McCollum also had a great year, and with the addition of Ezeli, maybe some good things are in store for Portland.
- Minnesota Timberwolves: Hungry and ready to pounce, these Timberwolves are young but good. Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins are ready to make noise for a team that hasn’t seen a good season since the Kevin Garnett days.
- Dallas Mavericks: Once again, the Mavericks got killed in free agency but not landing anyone. With the clock ticking on Dirk Nowitzki’s career, I don’t see how this can be a good year for Dallas.
- Denver Nuggets: Even landing Dwyane Wade would have kept them far from being relevant. That failure just kept them even farther.
- Sacramento Kings: Rajon Rondo is gone and sooner or later, DeMarcus Cousins will be as well. When that day comes, the Kings might as well be relegated.
- New Orleans Pelicans: Anthony Davis will be healthy and Buddy Hield is one of the big names out of the draft to watch. But a lot of development needs to be made for the rest of the Pelicans team, which means we’ll have to wait until next season to see what they’re really made of.
- Phoenix Suns: They were just awful last year and there’s nothing to convince me they won’t be this year. Next.
- Los Angeles Lakers: I laughed too hard when they signed Timofey Mozgov from the Cleveland Cavaliers for $64 million, and that’s really all you need to know about the direction the Lakers are heading in. With Kobe gone, maybe these guys can finally get the minutes they need to improve, but they’re still a dumpster fire of talent.
Credit all authors of images used in both article and as cover image : Matt Weingarten