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Thread: Western Conference offseason grades

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    Default Western Conference offseason grades

    http://www.sportsline.com/nba/story/8710502

    Offseason grades: Western Conference
    Aug. 6, 2005
    By Tony Mejia
    CBS SportsLine.com Staff Writer
    Tell Tony your opinion!

    Dallas
    Though it's still a few weeks away, the Mavericks are all but certain to part ways with longtime star Michael Finley, who has lost a step and is no longer worth the extra $50-plus million in luxury tax money Mark Cuban would have to pay to keep him. It's a difficult decision, but with Marquis Daniels ready to take on an expanded role, Dallas shouldn't feel too great a sting. The team also signed summer league star Josh Powell to its 15-man roster. The former N.C. State standout could be a steal if he continues to board well and flash a nice touch from the perimeter. There are also rumors the team could be interested in bringing back Nick Van Exel, recently let go by Portland. Grade: B.


    Denver

    Can Phil Jackson clean up the mess in L.A.? (Getty Images)
    After being the most dominant regular season team during last season's latter half, the Nuggets seemingly lacked only one major piece to truly contend: a shooting guard. So far, they've come up empty. There was reportedly a deal on the table that would send Nene to Sacramento for Cuttino Mobley, but that never transpired and Mobley subsequently signed with the Clippers. The latest rumors are that the team is holding out for Michael Finley, which is why they have not signed fellow free agents DerMarr Johnson and Greg Buckner. At this point, the only shooting guards on the roster are Voshon Lenard and recent draftee Julius Hodge. That's not going to get it done. Grade: C-.


    Golden State
    The Warriors made their big splash just prior to last year's trading deadline, scoring Baron Davis and taking off from there. As a result, expectations are high entering this season, particularly since the team addressed its need for athleticism up front through draft acquisitions Ike Diogu and Chris Taft. Golden State is still extremely young, but it has to be excited about the nucleus it has built. Grade: B.


    Houston
    It got lost in the scheme of the blockbuster five-team, 13-player deal, but the Rockets' acquisition of Stromile Swift could go down as one of the stronger moves of this offseason. When Juwan Howard went down prior to last season's playoffs, the Rockets lost that big forward presence required next to Yao Ming. In Swift, they've gotten an athletic bodyguard who can rebound and block shots and play enforcer, providing the final piece to the puzzle in order to escape the first round of the playoffs. First-round pick Luther Head struggled in summer league play and may find himself deep on the team's bench. Grade: B.


    L.A. Clippers
    The same-ol' Clippers syndrome surfaced when Bobby Simmons skipped town, but you have to give the team credit for spending some money and filling the void with free agent Cuttino Mobley. He'll undoubtedly force Corey Maggette to the small forward spot, allowing them to keep their strength on the wing intact. L.A. also spent money to keep center Zelkjo Rebraca, who does a nice job backing up Chris Kaman. There have been rumors that the team will attempt to move disgruntled forward Chris Wilcox while also shelling out money to retain point guard Marko Jaric to help assist in Shaun Livingston's development. Grade: B.


    L.A. Lakers
    Obviously, missing the playoffs didn't sit well with owner Jerry Buss and the rest of the Lakers as drastic moves were made. First and foremost was the return of Phil Jackson, given a three-year, $30 million contract to help come clean up the team's mess. His relationship with Kobe Bryant is a fractured one and clearly will be the subject of much scrutiny throughout the offseason. The team also gambled on 17-year-old 7-footer Andrew Bynum, who held his own in summer league play and should see some action as a rookie. Drafting him at No. 10 was a risk, but GM Mitch Kupchak felt the team wouldn't be in a position to get a player of his size and potential again anytime soon. We'll see about that. The Lakers also shipped out Caron Butler in exchange for another gamble in Kwame Brown, hoping that unlike what he displayed in his stint with Washington, he'll mature and commit to making himself better. Clearly, the team is taking stabs in the dark and hoping to be fortunate. Grade: C.


    Memphis
    After falling flat in the first round of last year's playoffs and carrying around a roster filled with gripers for much of the season, the Grizz decided it was time for an overhaul. Troubled Bonzi Wells and Jason Williams were shipped out in separate deals, as was the talented but injury-prone James Posey. If nothing else, acquisitions Bobby Jackson and Eddie Jones, consummate professionals, will make for a more harmonious locker room. Damon Stoudamire was also brought on board to help handle the point, an indication that Earl Watson's days might be numbered. The loss of Stromile Swift is eased by the superb performances put forth by Hakim Warrick and undrafted free agent Lawrence Roberts in summer league. Both could find their way into Mike Fratello's rotation. Grade: B.

    Minnesota
    Outside of choosing Dwane Casey to coach the team instead of early favorite P.J. Carlesimo, the Wolves haven't really done much this offseason. What has gone down hasn't been positive. Eddie Griffin was ruled to have violated his probation and spent 15 days in prison, but is expected to soon be re-signed. Latrell Sprewell, an unrestricted free agent, likely won't be. Fred Hoiberg had to undergo surgery to remove an aortic aneurysm and isn't being counted on to return next season. That puts even more pressure on top pick Rashad McCants to hit the ground running, and it didn't help that he missed all of summer league action due to a strained right groin. Grade: C-.


    New Orleans
    There was talk that the Hornets were going to deal Jamaal Magloire to Toronto on draft night, but an agreement couldn't be reached. As a result, the team's rebuilding project will continue with their big man in the middle in place, and an abundance of youth surrounding him. Top pick Chris Paul should energize the team, and will likely be handed the reins to the offense immediately despite some rocky shooting over the summer. Former first round pick Kirk Snyder, who butted heads with Utah's coaching staff, will join the rotation, as will young small forward Rasual Butler, acquired from the Heat. Arvydas Macijauskas, a Lithuanian who has been playing in Europe since he was 16, was also brought on board, giving the team another competent shooter. All in all, it was a busy offseason for New Orleans, but it's unlikely to pay immediate dividends. Grade: B-.


    Phoenix
    Quentin Richardson is gone, and Joe Johnson -- grudgingly -- will likely be next. The fun-and-gun days in Phoenix are over. The team will be forced to take a slightly more conventional approach with Kurt Thomas helping Amare Stoudemire in the post. Wings Raja Bell and Boris Diaw are most certainly a downgrade from Johnson and Richardson, and the team struck out in reported attempts to sign Lithuanians Arvydas Macijauskas and Sarunas Jasikevicius. Undoubtedly, the Suns will be weaker bunch. Grade: C-.


    Portland
    The Blazers scored a major coup in prying Nate McMillan from Seattle, and thus, their rebuilding project has some direction. Clearly, it will be a long process they plan on being patient with, as they handed McMillan major security and brought another prep star on board in highly touted shooter Martell Webster. Veterans Nick Van Exel and Derek Anderson were cut, while Damon Stoudamire was allowed to walk, leaving the point guard duties to Sebastian Telfair. The Blazers signed Juan Dixon and Charles Smith to deals to play alongside Telfair, and are committed to cultivating their young talent before spending money for free agent help. Grade: B-.


    Sacramento
    Cuttino Mobley never fit in with the Kings, so it was no surprise he didn't return. Instead of promoting Maurice Evans to fill the void, the team traded fan favorite Bobby Jackson in order to acquire Bonzi Wells. Wells is an effective scorer, yet temperamental, so if he's going well and receiving consistent minutes, he should be a valuable pickup. If he struggles and loses minutes, there will be problems. Ironically, first round pick Francisco Garcia may be the guy who takes them from him, as the Kings expect him to contribute right away. Negotiations with free agents Evans and Darius Songaila are ongoing, and the team would be best served keeping both. Jason Hart was acquired to fill Jackson's role as Mike Bibby's backup. Grade: C.


    San Antonio
    You wouldn't expect too much tinkering to be done with a championship team, and indeed the Spurs simply concentrated on keeping everything intact. Robert Horry, despite several suitors, returned for a run at a seventh ring. Their next move might be to add another point guard given Beno Udrih's struggles in last year's Finals, with the word being that there is interest in Nick Van Exel among others. San Antonio also signed another Argentine in Patricio Oberto, a 6-11 forward, likely ending hopes that fellow countryman Luis Scola will play there next year, if at all. Grade: B.


    Seattle
    The SuperSonics lost their coach, their center and one of their top reserves in a forgettable offseason that may cause a downward spiral after last season's grand revival. Nate McMillan, "Mr. Sonic," was in fact spurned by the organization, low-balled and disrespected, forcing him to flee to Portland. Jerome James keyed last year's playoff run, and it would be tragic for Seattle if after years of waiting for him to mature, he finally reaches his potential in New York. Antonio Daniels, a veteran influence and fine defender, left for Washington. The Sonics are now in recovery mode, elevating assistant Bob Weiss to try to keep some chemistry in place and signing Rick Brunson to step into Daniels' role. The greatest positive of this offseason was keeping superstar Ray Allen in place with a five-year, $85 million extension. At least they'll have their main cog to build around as they look for new pieces to replace the departing ones. Grade: C-.


    Utah
    Seeking a point guard to finally replace John Stockton where so many have already tried, Utah traded up for the opportunity to draft Deron Williams, hoping the playmaking and defense that made him one of the college game's greats translates to the pros. His arrival has the team thinking playoffs, which is why, in a puzzling move, the Jazz brought Greg Ostertag back in a package that featured one of last year's first round picks, Kirk Snyder, and once-promising but oft-injured Raul Lopez and Curtis Borchardt. The team is interested in winning now and feels the veteran big man can platoon with Mehmet Okur in the middle and be an asset come playoff time. Losing Raja Bell is a big blow, and the team is reportedly interested in adding a couple more perimeter threats to balance out its backcourt rotation. Grade: B-.

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    Default Re: Western Conference offseason grades

    The power keep on leaking to the East... The championship will too this year

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