NBA Offseason Review: Western Conference

         With so much of the media focused on "The Decision", there were plenty of other note worthy signings and acquisitions like the Knicks kicking off free agency with the signing of Amar'e Stoudemire, one of the best bigs on the market. The Bulls finally getting a low-post presence in Carlos Boozer that they've lacked since Elton Brand left town, while the Jazz went right ahead and filled the void left behind with Minnesota's Al Jefferson. The Timberwolves were the most active with eight new players joining Kevin Love and Jonny Flynn.

For all the moves you missed and a recap of a hectic NBA offseason to date, looks at the summer of 2010 marked by LeBron James and Chris Bosh joining Dwayne Wade in Miami. This week, we start of with our analysis of the Western Conference…

Dallas Mavericks

Additions: Tyson Chanlder (trade), Dominique Jones (NBA Draft), Alexis Ajinca (trade)
Losses: Erick Dampier (trade), Matt Carroll (trade), Eduardo Najera (trade)

The Mavericks biggest moves this offseason was all salary cap related- some good and some bad. Getting rid of Erick Dampier's seven-year $73 million contract signed back in 2004 worth $13 million this season was good. Overpaying to resign Brendan Haywood to a six-year $55 million contract (a career 7.7 points and 6.4 rebounds per game), was not so beneficial. The team beefed up its frontcourt even further with the acquisition of Tyson Chandler in the Dampier trade with the Bobcats. Chandler has look fantastic so far this summer in his workouts with Team USA. This Mavericks run-and-gun offense could be just what Chandler needs to revive his career, as he'll also serve as the anchor to the defense on the other side of the ball.

The team was also able to reach an agreement with the face of the franchise, Dirk Nowitzki for four years. With Chandler, Nowitzki and Shawn Marion in the frontcourt and Caron Butler and Jason Kidd in the backcourt, the Mavericks have one of the league's oldest starting lineups with an average age of 31.6 years. Even though the Western Conference's number two team (their 55 wins were second best to the Los Angeles Lakers last season), Dallas should begin to worry about the future as Dirk and Kidd start to slow down and Chandler and Butler battle with their career-long injury problems.
Denver Nuggets

Additions: Al Harrington (free agency), Shelden Williams (free agency), Brian Butch (free agency)
Losses: Johan Petro (free agency), Malik Allen (free agency), Joey Graham (free agency)

With forwards Kenyon Martin and Chris Anderson suffering lingering knee injuries, Denver was desperate to bring in a frontcourt player. They landed a great fit in Al Harrington, a versatile 3/4 that can score down low, but also shoot from the outside. This should give Carmelo Anthony more room to operate on the wings and in the blocks. Shelden Williams still hasn't and never will live up to the hype of being a top draft pick, but he can come in and bang and offer some tough minutes off the bench.

This offseason wasn't what the Nuggets expected as Carmelo Anthony is still up in the air about signing a long-term extension and starters Nene, J.R. Smith and the injury plagued Martin are free agents at the end of the season. The team still needs to add some depth in order to take the next step in the Western Conference.
Golden State Warriors

Additions: David Lee (trade), Ekpe Udoh (NBA Draft), Jannero Pargo (free agency), Jeremy Lin (free agency), Dorell Wright (free agency)
Losses: Anthony Randolph (trade), Corey Maggette (trade), Kelenna Azubuike (trade), Anthony Morrow (sign/trade), Ronny Turiaf (trade), Dan Gadzuric (trade), Charlie Bell (trade), C.J. Watson (free agency)

The team finally got new owners and hopefully this will be the end of their losing tradition. Their reign under their former owner, Chris Cohan, included 15 lottery appearances in 16 seasons. The underrated acquisition of the summer may be Carlos Boozer to the Bulls, which seemingly no one talked about, as Boozer was the consolation prize to whomever didn't end up with Bosh and Amar'e, however, David Lee could take the cake here. He is mobile, athletic and plays his heart out, especially on the glass. He should be a valuable offensive weapon playing alongside Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry, especially in the pick-and-roll game and crashing the offensive glass. Unfortunately, Lee's defense is below-average, not aiding the Warriors team that finished last in the league in defense, allowing 112.4 points per contest last season.

Stephen Curry is the centerpiece as the franchise looks to rebuild and everyone else is expendable. Ekpe Udoh is a nice addition alongside of Curry; he brings a solid defensive presence, rebounding and shot-blocking alike to a team that currently has very little of both, but he still needs some time to develop. He was extremely impressive in his first year at Baylor, but will be a rotation player at best this year. Coming off the bench, Reggie Williams could be a nice option behind Curry and Ellis. Although Williams offers as much defense as the rest of the team, he can score in bunches as shown by his play late last season and his torching of the summer league.
Houston Rockets

Additions: Brad Miller (free agency)
Losses: David Anderson (trade)

After three straight 50+ win seasons, the Rockets were a tad above .500 winning 42 games in 2009-10 without their big man and star center, Yao Ming. Yao missed the entire season with a foot injury that is still lingering and may force him into retirement. Not good for the Rockets. Chuck Hayes, an undersized power forward, was the regular starter at center. If Yao's injury continues to keep him sidelines, expect Hayes to get major minutes again, but free agent signing Brad Miller, along with rookie Patrick Patterson and Jordan Hill, the former-Arizona Wildcats who showed glimpses of potential in the 2010 Las Vegas Summer League, to get time in the rotation.

In his first season as a fulltime starter, Aaron Brooks played like an All-Star, averaging 19.6 points and 5.3 assists per game, while leading the league in 3-pointers made as well. His backup, Kyle Lowry signed an expensive offer sheet with Cleveland, only to have it matched by Houston to be brought back in the same role. The backcourt should be just as good as last season while there is some new pieces in the frontcourt with Miller, Patterson and Hill who is finally looking like he is ready to contribute.
Los Angeles Clippers

Additions: Randy Foye (free agency), Ryan Gomes (free agency), Brian Cook (free agency)
Losses: Travis Outlaw (free agency), Steve Blake (free agency), Drew Gooden (free agency), Craig Smith (free agency)

The Clippers were rumored as a darkhorse to land LeBron James or Chris Bosh this summer because of their sightings in the Los Angeles area eating dinner. The Clippers had the space to land a maximum contract free agent. The stars were in the area. Could it be? Nope. The storied franchise walked away with Randy Foye, Ryan Gomes and Brian Cook instead. Los Angeles did have a strong draft securing a need on the wing with Al-Farouq Aminu, a solid athlete with great size, but still developing his actual perimeter game, Eric Bledose, John Wall's understudy at Kentucky who showed glimpses of stardom in college only to have a turnover prone summer league and Willie Warren, a player who was considered a top ten pick just one year ago but struggled so mightily in his sophomore year without his counterpart, Blake Griffin, that he fell into the later part of the 2nd Round.

The biggest hope is that Blake Griffin returns to his collegiate form and starts to fill his NBA potential in his first season in the league. They really missed out on a chance to sign a big free agent and make a big splash this summer.
Los Angeles Lakers

Additions: Matt Barnes (free agency), Steve Blake (free agency), Derrick Caracter (NBA Draft), Devin Ebanks (Free Agency), Theo Ratliff (free agency)
Losses: Jordan Farmar (free agency), Josh Powell (free agency)

The Lakers made several moves that went unnoticed and slide under the radar- they shored up their point guard spot with Steve Blake to start, a true distributor and take away minutes from the aging, but ever-youthful Derek Fisher. Although the Lakers and Kobe's first choice at adding a wing was Raja Bell, who spurned the team for the Jazz, they added Matt Barnes for next to nothing.

They didn't lose many pieces, in fact they upgraded with Barnes and Blake, and their two draft picks, Derrick Caracter and Devin Ebanks had such strong summers, it has the Lakers looking to make more moves just to ensure roster spots for the duo. Shannon Brown will likely not be welcomed back to town and Sasha Vujacic is being shopped. The one key to the 2010-11 season is the health of Andrew Bynum; he underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair the tear in his lateral meniscus in right knee recently. He'll be back on a "limited basis" by training camp in late-September.
Memphis Grizzlies

Additions: Xavier Henry (NBA Draft), Greivis Vasquez (NBA Draft),

The Grizzlies frontcourt came together last season to lead the team to 40 total wins in 2009-10, 16 more than the previous season. In his first season with the team, Zach Randolph, who many analysts thought would be a cancer in the young Grizzlies' lockeroom, turned in one of his best seasons to date, averaging 20.8 points and 11.8 rebounds per game. His 57 double-doubles were second in the league. Another big reason for the hike in team wins is center, Marc Gasol. The brother of the Laker's Pau put up 14.6 points and 9.3 rebounds to go along with 2.4 assists and 1.6 blocks per game, all while shooting 58.1% from the floor (4th in the league).

The story for the Grizz in the offseason was Rudy Gay signing the first max contract in the summer of "The Decision", a period of time that star players, like Gay, were expected to change teams. His $82 million deal with keep him with the team until the 2015-16 season. While Gay, Randolph and Gasol anchor the frontcourt, O.J. Mayo, Mike Conley and 2010 NBA Draft picks Xavier Henry and Greivis Vasquez round out the guards. Henry adds a lethal outside threat to complement Mayo's and Gay's slashing offensive style and mid-range game, while Vasquez is a dynamic playmaker despite not testing out well according to the NBA's standards. The team continues to move in the right direction.
Minnesota Timberwolves

Additions: Michael Beasley (trade), Wes Johnson (NBA Draft), Luke Ridnour (free agency), Martell Webster (trade), Kosta Koufos (trade), Lazar Hayward (NBA Draft), Sebastian Telfair (trade)
Losses: Al Jefferson (trade), Ryan Gomes (free agency), Ramon Sessions (trade), Ryan Hollins (trade), Damien Wilkins (free agency), Sasha Pavlovic (free agency), Brian Cardinal (free agency)

The Minnesota Timberwolves were by far and away the most active team on the market this offseason, however, the team not only didn't improve, but actually got worse despite acquiring nearly ten players in the summer months. Long-term trade bait, Al Jefferson, was finally shipped off and replaced with former No. 2 overall pick, Michael Beasley, a talented big man who just couldn't put it all togheter in the first years of his career. Maybe GM David Kahn and Head Coach Kurt Rambis think they can turn him around playing in the triangle offense with Jonny Flynn, Kevin Love and rookie Wes Johnson. Beasley's versatility matches Kevin Love's and both will likely play the 4, so that pushes Beasley back to the bench and questionable re-signing, Darko Milicic into the starting lineup, another former No. 2 overall pick.

A year after signing Ramon Sessions to backup Jonny Flynn and potentially Ricky Rubio at the point, the Timberwolves signed his former teammate, Luke Ridnour, forcing the team to trade Sessions. The team also acquired a third string point guard, Sebastian Telfair, to a backup role. The team traded their 2010 1st Round NBA Draft pick for Martell Webster, yet another questionable move for the rebuilding T-Wolves.
New Orleans Hornets

Additions: Craig Brackins (NBA Draft), Quincy Pondexter (NBA Draft)
Losses: Morris Peterson (trade)

The Hornets spent much of the summer out of the free agent spotlight, but in the news for the see-saw battle between the front office and Chris Paul. Is he happy or is he not? Does he want to be traded or stay with the Hornets? The Chris Paul saga stretched on like a poor man's Brett Favre-ESPN story, but in the end, Paul is still under contract with New Orleans after he signed a three-year extension in 2008 with a player option for the fourth year. Whether he stays or continues to voice his disapproval, the Hornets know they have a capable backup after the way Darren Collison; in 37 starts, the former-UCLA Bruin averaged 18.8 points and 9.1 assists per game. A fellow rook, Marcus Thornton, a 2009 2nd Rounder, excelled as the starting shooting guard. He served as the team's primary threat from deep, averaging almost 15 points and more than 1.5 3s per game.

At small forward the team should have addressed their need to replace Peja Stojakovic, whose scoring has gone down each of the last four seasons; James Posey and Julian Wright never panned out to the players the old front office thought they would be. Despite another solid season from David West and Emekas Okafor, each digressed from their regular form, so its no wonder Paul is demanding an improvement to the roster. Incoming rookies, Craig Brackins and Quincy Pondexter are NBA ready, offering good size and athleticism. Brackins is an inside-outside threat on the offensive end, while Pondexter's role as a defensive stopper could bring him immediate playing time in 2010-11.
Oklahoma City Thunder

Additions: Cole Aldrich (NBA Draft), Daequan Cook (trade), Morris Peterson (trade), Royal Ivey (free agency)
Losses: Kyle Weaver (free agency), Etan Thomas (free agency), Kevin Ollie (retirement)

The Thunder were big this offseason- completing the two moves they wanted to do from a franchise standpoint; they resigned star player, Kevin Durant, and grabbed a big man in the NBA Draft, Kansas standout, Cole Aldrich. Aldrich can be the tough, inside presence that the Thunder truly lacked and were exposed by in their playoff series against the Lakers. Along with Serge Ibaka's late-season flashes of potential and B.J. Mullens excellent summer league play, the Thunder could be a more complete team than scouts expected.

A move that could pay off right away for Oklahoma City is the acquisition of Daequan Cook, the former 3-point shooting champion, from Miami for the simple price of a 2nd Round pick. Teaming Cook up with the slashing Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant could be deadly. If their big men, including starter Jeff Green, Ibaka, Mullens and Aldrich can continue to develop along with potential minute-eaters James Harden and Eric Maynor, the Thunder could improve upon that 50-32 record they collected a year ago with a young squad.
Phoenix Suns

Additions: Hedo Turkoglu (trade), Hakim Warrick (free agency), Josh Childress (trade)
Losses: Amar'e Stoudemire (free agency), Leandro Barbosa (trade), Dwayne Jones (trade), Taylor Griffin (free agency)

With Goran Dragic's late season play, Leandro Barbosa became expendable and as Jason Richardson and Grant Hill age, it will become apparent the team needs to bring in more youthful and more skilled players. Enter Hedo Turkoglu and welcome back Josh Childress. Turkoglu was obtained in a trade with Toronto as he became disgruntled up north and Childress' rights were acquired for Atlanta, despite playing for Olympiakos the past two seasons. An underrated move was the signing of Hakim Warrick, a superb athlete at the 4 who will be an excellent fit in the Suns' offensive system.

As good as Warrick may be, he is not Amar'e Stoudemire, not many are players of his caliber, so who will replace him and how will Nash and the team adjust? How much longer will Steve Nash's body be able to handle his playing style? Will the Suns regular season success ever translate into the NBA postseason? These are questions new president Lon Babby will have to look into not just for the 2010-11 season, but beyond as well.
Portland Trail Blazers

Additions: Wes Matthews (free agency), Luke Babbit (NBA Draft), Elliot Williams (NBA Draft), Armon Johnson (NBA Draft)
Losses: Martell Webster (trade), Juwan Howard (free agency), Travis Diener (free agency)

The Trail Blazers didn't lose much this offseason but a trio of very replaceable role players in Webster, Howard and Diener. The front office and new GM, Rich Cho from Oklahoma City, have a promising team in front of them.  They managed to lure Wes Matthews from Utah by overpaying to ensure the Jazz wouldn't match, but he fits in with the team and Nate McMillan's philosophy. Also fitting in are Luke Babbit and Elliot Williams, a tandem of players that the Trail Blazers were very high on. Babbit is an inside-outside threat at the power forward, while McMillan will likely try his luck with Williams and his vast offensive repertoire at both guard spots.

Portland gets back Greg Oden to start the season and he'll be close to 100% hopefully. As insurance, the team resigned Marcus Camby, who played big minutes for them down the stretch. The next step is what to do with disgruntled guard, Rudy Fernandez, to make room for all their new backcourt acquisitions.
Sacramento Kings

Additions: DeMarcus Cousins (NBA Draft), Samuel Dalembert (trade), Hassan Whiteside (NBA Draft), Antoine Wright (free agency), Pooh Jeter (free agency)
Losses: Spencer Hawes (trade), Andre Nocioni(trade), Jon Brockman (trade)

The Kings showed improvement last year, especially with the 2010 NBA Rookie of the Year, Tyreke Evans, at the helm. Geoff Petrie and Sacramento may have found themselves another building block in DeMarcus Cousins with the No. 5 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. Cousins dominated the NBA Summer League at times, while taking plays off at other times, a reputation he was privy to in high school and college. The front office also traded for salary-cap hit, $12 million center, Sam Dalembert, giving up on third-year center, Spencer Hawes and the aging Andres Nocioni.

The Kings have started to address some of their depth concerns in the backcourt with the signings of Antoine Wright and Pooh Jeter, but is that enough behind Tyreke Evans, Francisco Garcia and Beno Udrih? The frontcourt is promising with second-year forward, Omri Casspi, Donte Greene, Jason Thompson, Carl Landry, Dalembert and rookies Cousins and Whiteside. The Kings are still a lottery team, but on their way to putting some nice pieces of talent together.
San Antonio Spurs

Additions: Tiago Splitter (free agency), Richard Jefferson (free agency), James Anderson (NBA Draft)
Losses: Ian Mahinmi (free agency)

The Spurs are a model franchise of excellence and longevity as they won 50+ games for the 12th straight season (1998-99 excluded due to the lockout-shortened 50-game season, in which the Spurs won a league-high 37 games) or in every single season since they won the NBA lottery and selected Tim Duncan in the 1997 NBA Draft. The 12-time All-Star averaged a career-low 17.9 points and 10.1 rebounds per game, while also averaging the least court time since college. That's not all San Antonio has to be worried about: Tony Parker made just 56 appearances last season. George Hill was the benefactor of Parker's injuries- sliding into the starting lineup and averaging 15.3 points and nearly 4 assists per game, demonstrating further why Parker could be rested late in the 2010-11 season, in favor of the former-IUPUI guard.

The quietest move if the offseason, which will pay huge dividends this season, was the signing of Tiago Splitter, a 6'11", 230-pound Brazilian forward/center, taken 28th overall in 2007. Splitter has been the best big man, not playing in the NBA. Splitter was the MVP of both the Spanish League regular season and finals while leading Caja Laboral to a second championship, averaging 15.4 points and 7.1 rebounds. The Spurs are counting on Splitter right away to produce and take some defensive pressure away from Duncan. San Antonio also re-signed Richard Jefferson and signed Alonzo Gee to backup Jefferson from the team's D-League affiliate, the Toros. With the starting lineup expected to be Parker, Manu Ginobili, Jefferson, Duncan and Antonio McDyess again (pulling even less minutes this time around), the Spurs have an average starting lineup age of 32 years old.
Utah Jazz

Additions: Al Jefferson (trade), Raja Bell (free agency), Gordon Hayward (NBA draft)
Losses: Carlos Boozer (free agency), Ronnie Brewer (free agency), Wesley Matthews (free agency), Kyle Korver (free agency)

The Jazz were expected to lose big man Carlos Boozer via free agency after re-signing Paul Millsap last summer, but who would think that Utah would let Brewer, Wes Matthews and Korver walk as well? Draft analysts expected the front office to fill the big man void in the 2010 NBA Draft with the likes of Greg Monroe or Ed Davis, however, the team opted for shooter Gordon Hayward instead. That pick made the free slinging Korver expendable, but the team thought long and hard about making him an offer after Portland had signed Wes Matthews, the second-year guard to a five-year $34 million offer sheet. The defensive minded Ronnie Brewer was replaced late with former-Jazz wing and Coach Sloan favorite, Raja Bell.

In the end, Al Jefferson may be a better fit for the team because he is bigger and more adept to defend the center position, while Millsap can slide into the starting lineup at the 4. Jefferson should be able to replace Boozer's production easily, and team up with Deron Williams in the pick-and-roll.