2019-20 Pacific Division Season Preview

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2019-20 Pacific Division Season Preview 

Post#1 » by RealGM Articles » Tue Oct 22, 2019 1:31 am

Golden State Warriors


Additions: D’Angelo Russell, Willie Cauley-Stein, Glenn Robinson III, Alec Burks, Marquese Chriss, Omari Spellman, Jordan Poole, Eric Paschall, Alen Smailagic


Losses: Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala, DeMarcus Cousins, Shaun Livingston, Alfonzo McKinnie, Quinn Cook, Andrew Bogut, Jordan Bell, Jonas Jerebko, Damian Jones


2020 Projected Cap Space: None. $36 million over.


2018-19 Record: 57-25, lost in NBA Finals


Analysis: No team in the NBA is going to look as different from the previous year as the Golden State Warriors. After years of being a title contender built around superstars supplemented with a veteran bench, the Warriors have come back to the pack in a major way.


The exodus started with Kevin Durant leaving the Warriors to sign with the Brooklyn Nets. That move triggered almost the entirety of the bench turning over. Now, Golden State has a team based around three stars with precious little depth behind them.


When Durant chose Brooklyn, the Warriors made a surprise move of turning it into a double sign-and-trade with D’Angelo Russell coming to the Bay Area. Russell will immediately slot in to the starting shooting guard spot, as Klay Thompson (who re-signed to a five-year, maximum contract) recovers from a torn ACL suffered in the NBA Finals. While he’s nowhere near the defender Thompson is, Russell will combine with Stephen Curry to form one of the best offensive backcourts in basketball.


By acquiring Russell via sign-and-trade, Golden State became subject to the hard cap. With maximum contracts on the books for Curry, Russell and the re-signed Thompson, that forced the team to trade away Andre Iguodala in a salary dump. It also cost the Warriors almost all of their remaining depth, aside from re-signing Kevon Looney.


In place of the players they lost, Golden State signed Glenn Robinson III and Alec Burks to veteran minimum contracts, and added Willie Cauley-Stein for just above the minimum. In addition, the team took a training camp flyer on Marquese Chriss. Chriss’ impressive preseason, combined with injuries to Cauley-Stein and Looney, won him a roster spot. Due to the hard cap, that forced the Warriors to waive wing Alfonzo McKinnie.


Unless their veteran additions hit, or a young player emerges, the Warriors may be the shallowest team in the NBA. They’re relying heavily on unproven players at almost every position behind their starters. And those starters have played more combined regular season and postseason minutes than anyone else over the last few years.


While their offseason losses, Thompson’s injury and the lack of depth have knocked the Warriors off their lofty perch, presuming their demise is premature. Golden State still has Curry and Draymond Green with Thompson eventually returning if they remain in contention. Russell is a good player. The hard cap likely means the roster is “what you see is what you get”, but a lot of teams would kill to start with a Curry/Green/Russell core. That alone should see the Warriors in the playoffs in the first year of their new arena in San Francisco. 


Los Angeles Clippers


Additions: Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Maurice Harkless, Patrick Patterson


Losses: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Garrett Temple, Tyrone Wallace, Sindarius Thornwell


2020 Projected Cap Space: None. $38 million over.


2018-19 Record: 48-34, lost in Western Conference First Round


Analysis: The Clippers were an unexpected surprise last season as they entered 18-19 as a popular pick to miss the playoffs, and many doubled-down on that prediction when they shipped Tobias Harris off to Philadelphia at the trade deadline. Instead, Doc Rivers coached a scrappy group to the playoffs, where they fell in the first round in six games to the Warriors.


This season no one is picking the Clippers to miss the playoffs. Instead, they’re a popular pick to win the NBA title after adding Kawhi Leonard and Paul George over the summer. When Leonard was picking his next destination, he reportedly reached out to George to find out about his interest in playing together with the Clippers. With a commitment from Leonard to sign if they traded for George, the Clips quickly put together an unprecedented package of players and picks to entice Oklahoma City to trade the player they had just re-signed a year prior.


George will miss the first part of the season while recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, and Leonard will likely have an aggressive load management schedule, but when the two play together, they make up the best pair of wings in the NBA. It almost doesn’t matter who you put alongside them. What’s scary for the rest of the league, is that the Clippers have plenty of talent to complement the two stars.


The starting five is rounded out by three players who re-signed from last year: Patrick Beverley, JaMychal Green and Ivica Zubac. The thought of Beverley, Leonard and George, three of the NBA’s premier perimeter defenders, playing together has to make Rivers smile. He’s always built his defenses from the outside in. Green and Zubac are solid role players, who will fit nicely around the stars.


Sixth Man of the Year award winner Lou Williams returns, as does fellow finalist Montrezl Harrell. They’ll be joined on the bench by Maurice Harkless, who the Clippers acquired when the Miami Heat were dumping salary to bring in Jimmy Butler. When George is healthy enough to play, Landry Shamet will likely head back to the bench, where he becomes a major weapon as a shooter. The Clippers also signed Patrick Patterson and re-signed Rodney McGruder for additional depth up front and on the wing respectively.


Without much in the way of young talent outside of Shamet, and precious little in the form of draft picks over the coming years, the time is now for the Clippers. They’ve had good teams in the past, but never one that was a real preseason title contender. The Clippers have just enough remaining in the form of tradable players/contracts, that they should be able to fill any holes that crop up. Put it all together and you have a Clippers squad that could be playing deep into June.


 


Los Angeles Lakers


Additions: Anthony Davis, Danny Green, Avery Bradley, Dwight Howard, Quinn Cook, Jared Dudley, Troy Daniels


Losses: Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, Tyson Chandler, Reggie Bullock, Isaac Bonga, Mike Muscala, Lance Stephenson, Moritz Wagner


2020 Projected Cap Space: None. $21 million over.


2018-19 Record: 37-45, 10th in the Western Conference


Analysis: The Lakers got their man when they finalized a trade for Anthony Davis on the Saturday after The Finals. Los Angeles had pushed for a trade prior to last year’s deadline, but the Pelicans wouldn’t give in to Davis’ trade demand at that time. But the Lakers stayed persistent and eventually landed the Pelicans big man for a package that included three young players and two future first round picks. That’s a lot to have given up, but Davis is one of the best bigs in the NBA and he’s only 26 years old. It should be more than worth it.


Just as importantly, the Lakers couldn’t punt another season if they failed to add a second superstar to play beside LeBron James. James missed the postseason for the first time since 2004 and had no intentions of repeating that this year. The challenge for the Lakers was to fill out the rest of the roster around their superstar duo with few resources to do so, but Rob Pelinka did an admirable job.


Danny Green got most of the remaining cap space to bring a 3&D presence to wing. His experience on championship teams in San Antonio and Toronto will be a boon to the Lakers. From there, the Lakers focused on adding veteran role players while also retaining some of their own players.


Los Angeles added Avery Bradley and re-signed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Rajon Rondo for depth in the backcourt. Quinn Cook and Troy Daniels were signed to bring some consistent shooting to a guard group where that skill comes and goes. The Lakers also re-signed Alex Caruso, who won over fans as a Two-Way player last season.


Up front, Los Angeles initially signed DeMarcus Cousins to join the re-signed JaVale McGee as the team’s centers, but Cousins tore his ACL later in the summer. That injury pushed the Lakers to bring Dwight Howard back for a second run with the frnachise. While Davis will play the closing minutes at the five, it’s important that McGee and Howard can give the Lakers somewhere around 40 minutes of competent defense and rebounding each night.


The Lakers were also able to keep Kyle Kuzma out of the Davis trade, which was a major win for them. His shooting ability at the four should be a welcomed addition to a team that lacks range from its other bigs. Kuzma will start the season recovering from a foot injury sustained over the summer. When he returns, expect the Lakers to build their closing lineups around James, Davis, Kuzma, Green and whatever guard is playing best.


The Lakers’ path to title contention isn’t as clear cut as the Clippers, because their depth is a little shakier. But any team that rolls out James and Davis is a contender. Expect new coach Frank Vogel to take a conservative approach to the regular season, as their roster is heavy on veterans. That might lead to a lower seed than expected, but should have them at their best come the playoffs. And that might make all the difference for a team with championship aspirations.


 


Phoenix Suns


Additions: Ricky Rubio, Dario Saric, Aron Baynes, Frank Kaminsky, Cameron Johnson, Jevon Carter, Ty Jerome, Cheick Diallo, Jalen Lecque


Losses: T.J. Warren, Josh Jackson, Jamal Crawford, Dragan Bender, De’Anthony Melton, Richaun Holmes, Troy Daniels, Jimmer Fredette, Ray Spalding


2020 Projected Cap Space: $16 million


2018-19 Record: 19-63, 15th in Western Conference


Analysis: The Phoenix Suns’ offseason started off confusing, but cleared up to some degree as it went along. The early moves seem to contradict each other as Phoenix shed T.J. Warren’s salary, but then took on salary when they traded back in the draft with Minnesota by picking up Dario Saric. That trade also took the Suns out of range to pick one of the better point guard prospects in this draft. Then Phoenix further took on additional salary by trading for Aron Baynes, while adding another first round pick. And then Phoenix dumped more salary by shedding Josh Jackson and De’Anthony Melton.


It was a confusing set of transactions, but the result is better than the process to get there in some ways. The Suns now have their deepest and most-balanced roster in many years. They’ve eliminated a lot of the positional overlap that had plagued the team in recent years and go two-deep at every position.


With the remaining cap space they had, the Suns signed Ricky Rubio to fill their longtime hole at point guard. Rubio brings playmaking and defense beside Devin Booker’s scoring and improving playmaking. The Suns also added a couple of younger options at the positions in first round pick Ty Jerome, Jevon Carter (who came over in the Jackson/Melton trade) and Jalen Lecque. Tyler Johnson also picked up his player option. It’s not the best group of point guards in the league, but it’s better than Phoenix has had in some years.


Up front, Saric should start next to DeAndre Ayton, while Baynes and offseason addition Frank Kaminsky give the Suns a solid four-man rotation of bigs. Each brings a different skillset, which should allow new head coach Monty Williams to mix and match based on what the game dictates.


On the wing, Mikal Bridges seems to have the small forward position locked down, as Phoenix loves his potential and fit in between Booker and Ayton. The Suns re-signed Kelly Oubre Jr., who played well after being acquired in a midseason trade. And Cameron Johnson, who many suggested was drafted too early, brings shooting to the wing group. Again, it’s not going to blow anyone away, but it is quality depth.


The gap between the Suns and the other playoff contenders in the Western Conference is too big to overcome in one offseason. That said, things finally seem headed upwards for Phoenix. They should be far more competitive this coming season than in years past. That alone is a win for long-suffering Suns fans.


 


Sacramento Kings


Additions: Dewayne Dedmon, Trevor Ariza, Cory Joseph, Richaun Holmes, Tyler Lydon, Justin James


Losses: Willie Cauley-Stein, Kosta Koufos, Corey Brewer, Alec Burks, Frank Mason III


2020 Projected Cap Space: None. $25 million over.


2018-19 Record: 39-43, 9th in the Western Conference


Analysis: The Kings were the darlings of the NBA last season as they made an unexpected playoff push that faltered with only a couple of weeks to play. The young core made a major leap, and Sacramento reinforced that with some free agent commitments that complement the holdovers.


With a hole to fill up front next to Bagley, who the team has determined is best at power forward, the Kings signed perennially underrated center Dewayne Dedmon. Dedmon brings shot blocking, rebounding and some range to the position. Sacramento also added Richaun Holmes up front. The two new additions combined with returning Harry Giles and whatever minutes Bagley plays at the five, should put 48 quality center minutes together for the Kings.


In the backcourt, Cory Joseph was signed to back up De’Aaron Fox. Joseph has been a solid backup point guard for years and will fill that role well for in Sacramento. The Kings retained Yogi Ferrell as a combo option off the bench.


On the wing, Trevor Ariza should give the Kings a veteran option to come off the bench, or even start if the team chooses to go small. After re-signing Harrison Barnes, the Kings now have a deep, versatile group of forwards in Barnes, Ariza, Bagley and Nemanja Bjelica. Bogdan Bogdanovic can also play at small forward when necessary.


With a deadline looming, Sacramento signed Buddy Hield to four-year extension that will keep him in purple beyond this season. Hield has become a terrific shooter and is a perfect fit alongside Fox in the backcourt. His contract is reportedly one that declines from year to year, which should help the Kings manage a potentially expensive roster down the line.


All the pieces are in place for Sacramento to make the jump from just outside the playoffs to playing in late-April for the first time after a 13 year absence. Unfortunately, the Kings still play in the Western Conference. Several other teams in their same range have also improved this summer. This could be a season where Sacramento is better in every measurable way except for wins and losses. And that probably makes the difference in extending the postseason drought for one more season.

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