The Western Conference Offseason. Sky Rocketing or Digging For Gold?

The 2013 NBA offseason has given way for a few major and a lot of minor changes atop the Western Conference, though probability points toward many of the same faces residing above the West in the upcoming year. Things move at a blistering pace this time of year, and today is the official start to a dramatic offseason that’s seen a few teams get better, and a few embrace the wrong side of .500.

Let’s begin with this offseason’s Better or Worse

The Better

Houston Rockets

The team that made one of the biggest splashes during the last offseason might have one-upped themselves in this free agency period. The Houston Rockets were able to secure the biggest ticket on the market this offseason in the form of the “Dwightmare” himself, Sir Howard.

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Though the fit is yet to be determined, the fact of the matter is that the Rockets reeled in the game’s premier center in Dwight Howard. The past couple of seasons have displayed the 6’11” big man in negative light, but the reality tells a different tale. Dwight Howard is finally in a comfortable basketball situation, with the next four years of his basketball life taking place in a static location, with a team that has as much potential as any up-and-coming team this league has to offer. Combining Howard’s low-post game with Kevin McHale’s love for the back down game will be a joy to watch, as Howard will surely blossom in the soon to be revamped Houston offense.

Combining him with young and quickly rising players James Harden and Chandler Parsons should bode well for the Houston’s success this upcoming season. Houston is desperately shopping Jeremy Lin, presumably to give Harden heavy run at the point guard position, while allowing them to play Omer Asik alongside Howard in the frontcourt.

Regardless of the moves yet to be made, the Houston Rockets stand now as one of the most interesting teams to watch in the upcoming season. No other Western Conference team made a playing change as significant as Houston’s addition of Howard, and it will bode well for them in the coming months.

Estimated 2013-2014 Record: 50-32

Los Angeles Clippers

A lot of noise has come from down south this offseason, but the team with arguably the biggest difference-maker of the offseason is out beachside in the form of Doc Rivers. The addition of Rivers not only gave the Clippers one of the biggest coaching edges in the league, but it ensured that they kept their superstar point guard, Chris Paul.

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Doc Rivers gives the team something that hasn’t been on the table in the past: home-grown motivation. Doc, over the years, has had an immeasurable impact on team unity and overall confidence. He has already begun lighting a fire underneath one of the team’s best players, Blake Griffin. In a recent ESPN interview, Griffin had this to say to a reporter asking him whether or not he thinks he’s “soft”.

“I’ve never really worried about being called soft or people thinking I’m soft,” the star power forward told ESPN reporters. “If anybody wants to step and take that challenge I’m more than happy — off the court — because I don’t want to get suspended. It’s not something that I dwell on. I’ve never really had a problem with being soft.”

Now, this isn’t to say that Blake Griffin is going to come out throwing elbows this season, but we could see him impose a new presence on the court. If he does take a big step forward in the upcoming season, you can bet that Doc Rivers will have a lot to do with it.

The team traded away rising backup point guard Eric Bledsoe and starting small forward Caron Butler, but they replaced them with two sure-handed shooters in J.J. Reddick and Jared Dudley. Both of these players have displayed a blistering touch from beyond the arc and will surely love the opportunity to receive passes from Chris Paul. Combined with the presumed progression of Blake Griffin’s low-post game, the team will be primed for a well-spaced and well-armed team this upcoming season. They found their backup point guard in Darren Collison and their backup small forward in re-upped Matt Barnes.

The Clippers are poised to take a big step forward in the upcoming season, and LA’s new star-studded lineup will prove that they’re worth the trip for primetime ticket payers.

Estimated 2013-2014 Record: 56-26

The Worse

Denver Nuggets

The Denver Nuggets are not on this list because they made bad moves. They’re on this list because of the moves that they failed to make, for better or worse.

The key losses the Nuggets are set to incur come in the form of ex-head coach George Karl and ex-midl-level-star Andre Iguodala. George Karl was released upon the end of yet another postseason fizz-out, and Andre Iguodala left for the team that would actually offer him a contract: the Golden State Warriors. Not only has Denver lost out one of the best head coaches in the NBA, but they’ve lost out on a source of much of their defensive presence during last season. They’ve yet to attract a significant free agent, and have balked at any significant improvement whatsoever.

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It seems that the Denver Nuggets have given way to the Brian Shaw era, which isn’t really a downgrade at the head coaching position. Shaw has worked hard for his opportunity, riding one pine too many in my opinion. The problem here is, that the retooling needs to take place from the bottom up, and the simple addition of Shaw will not help Denver’s case this season. It seems that they are doomed to remain a middle of the pack team, unless they were to make a move worth talking about in the next few weeks.

Estimated 2013-2014 Record: 44-38

Los Angeles Lakers

It’s interesting to see that the team across the offices in Staples Center are on the opposite side of things in terms offseason improvement. While they missed out huge in the Dwight Howard sweepstakes, the Lakers may have actually set themselves up for future success. Regardless of that detail, though, this segment is about the 2013-14 season, and the Lakers have definitely gotten worse this offseason.

Dwight Howard bolting to what Shaq refers to as a “small town” in Houston, basically turned the upcoming season into a Wiggins-or-bust scenario for the Lakers. Unfortunately for them, they have a certain spirit in the locker room that will not allow for that sort of thinking to take place. Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol will be back and at it trying to help raise another banner on the Lakers end of Staples, but it will be in vain for reason beyond their control. This team is simply not equipped to win. The move they’re set to make in the amnesty of Metta World Peace is not for this season’s team success, it’s a financial decision handed down in order to save money for an otherwise wasted season.

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The Lakers’ only available funds were handed to Chris Kaman in the form of the team’s mini-mid-level exception. The move is solid, but it’s hardly a game changer. The team is simply too old to compete, and if they knew what were good for them, they’d take a year off and hope for better things in the next offseason, when bigger and better names become available. As much as it pains me to say, the Lakers have no plausible solution, and their season will leave high hopes tarnished in LA.

Estimated 2013-2014 Record: 40-42

Leave me any comments or questions in the comment section below. I look forward to hearing from you, for better or worse.

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About Jorge Lancerio

Just your friendly neighborhood sports enthusiast

Posted on July 11, 2013, in NBA and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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