NBA offseason grades: Breaking down the moves in the Pacific Division

NBA offseason grades: Breaking down the moves in the Pacific Division

On the cusp of a new campaign, we’re recapping the summer moves made by each NBA franchise, whether through the draft, trades, or free agency.

The Sacramento Kings will have their work cut out for them trying to top the Pacific again. The Phoenix Suns reloaded with a sensational Big Three after trading for Bradley Beal, and the Golden State Warriors capitalized on the fallout from that move by nabbing Chris Paul from the Washington Wizards.

Over in Los Angeles, the Lakers and Clippers executed vastly different offseason strategies. The former orchestrated a crucial extension for Anthony Davis and shuffled nearly all of his and LeBron James‘ supporting cast, while the Clippers, as is annual tradition, are simply hoping Kawhi Leonard and Paul George stay healthy.

Be sure to check out our breakdowns for all six NBA divisions.

Atlantic | Central | Southeast
Northwest | Pacific | Southwest (Oct. 9)

Sacramento Kings

Last season: 48-34 (.585), lost in first round.

Rocky Widner / National Basketball Association / Getty

The decision to extend Domantas Sabonis at – nearly – any cost was a given, considering how excellent the big man has been since arriving in Sacramento midway through the 2021-22 campaign.

In his first full year with the Kings, Sabonis was not only selected to his third All-Star Game but also led the league in rebounding (12.3 per game), ranked first on the team in assists (7.3), and was instrumental in snapping the franchise’s postseason drought after 16 grueling seasons. Tying him down through 2027-28, his age 31 season, was a no-brainer, but Kings general manager Monte McNair deserves plaudits for getting it done sooner rather than later (probably helped by renegotiating Sabonis’ 2023-24 salary from $22 million to just over $30 million).

Retaining a vet of Harrison Barnes‘ caliber is another step in the right direction. The 31-year-old has been the subject of trade rumors over the years, but his success as a third option behind Sabonis and De’Aaron Fox makes him more than worthy of the paltry $54-million, three-year extension he signed, which also kept him off the open market.

All in all, Sacramento preserved its main rotation while adding solid established bench pieces like Javale McGee and Chris Duarte. But the real wild card of the Kings’ offseason could be the signing of Bulgarian forward Sasha Vezenkov, last year’s EuroLeague MVP. The 28-year-old sharpshooting 6-foot-9 forward boasts a loaded international resume that includes stints in Greece and Spain. He’s never played in the NBA, but if his game translates to this side of the Atlantic, the Kings may have one of the summer’s better under-the-radar signings.

Grade: B+

Phoenix Suns

Last season: 45-37 (.549), lost in West semifinals.

Barry Gossage / National Basketball Association / Getty

Arguably no NBA franchise has seismically overhauled its roster like the Suns have.

The Suns finally prying Beal from the Washington Wizards is the obvious starting point when discussing their offseason, but there’s much more to it. Consider that only five players remain from Phoenix’s elimination in the conference semis to the Denver Nuggets: Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, Damion Lee, Ish Wainwright, and Josh Okogie. Factor in Frank Vogel stepping in for Monty Williams as head coach, and you begin to feel the pressure Phoenix, a team unmistakably all-in this season, is under to hit the ground running.

That kind of pressure isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however; with three seasoned vets in Booker, Durant, and Beal, they’re well-equipped to carry that responsibility. But general manager James Jones has also surrounded them with other experienced names like Jusuf Nurkic and Eric Gordon, who will fill crucial roles in the locker room and on the court. The Suns have the right balance of accomplished star power and young role players to find success.

The biggest question mark with the new roster is the lack of a true point guard. Dealing away Paul leaves the team without a traditional facilitator in the backcourt, but it’s not a deal breaker. Booker has shown he’s capable of occasionally handling point guard duties, but the likeliest outcome is a by-committee approach that also features Beal and Durant, which isn’t so bad.

Grade: A-

Los Angeles Clippers

Last season: 44-38 (.537), lost in first round.

Harry How / Getty Images Sport / Getty

The Clippers are running it back with the perennial hope that Leonard and George can both stay relatively healthy for an entire season. In fairness, L.A. is arguably built to withstand occasional unavailabilities from both stars. Simultaneous, extended absences represent a worst-case scenario that a team simply can’t prepare for, but the Clippers’ front office has fleshed out the roster well knowing the depth will likely be put to the test more often than usual.

Satisfied with Russell Westbrook‘s fit as a starter last season after signing him on the buyout market, the Clippers retained the former MVP on a bargain two-year pact worth just under $8 million total. Mason Plumlee, who backed up starter Ivica Zubac reasonably well after being acquired at the February trade deadline, was also brought back at an inexpensive $5 million for 2023-24. With costly decisions to be made very soon on George’s and Leonard’s next contracts, maintaining financial flexibility while deploying productive vets could be crucial for the franchise’s short-term future.

KJ Martin isn’t the kind of offseason headliner you may expect in L.A., but don’t overlook the former Houston Rocket forward’s addition to the roster. Effectively swapping the aging Eric Gordon for the 22-year-old son of former Clipper Kenyon Martin is a shrewd pickup that only cost a pair of second-rounders.

The Clippers are well-equipped for a deep postseason run if they can avoid the misfortune of years past. They could be elevated to another tier if they can eventually pry James Harden from the Philadelphia 76ers.

Grade: B

Golden State Warriors

Last season: 44-38 (.537), lost in West semifinals.

Barry Gossage / NBA / Getty Images

Facing the undeniable truth that 35-year-old Stephen Curry isn’t getting any younger, the Warriors parted with the best member of their under-25 contingent in Jordan Poole in order to grab themselves a future Hall of Famer in Paul. The 12-time All-Star is far from in his prime, but his quick thinking and play-calling on the floor is theoretically a perfect match for Curry, who should give defenders even more migraines off the ball.

The questions will come on the defensive end. While Paul has lost a step (he is 38, after all), he’s still a nuisance against opposing guards with his intricate feel for the game and quick instincts. And if there’s one team confident in its ability to shore up any of Paul’s defensive shortcomings, it’s the Warriors, who made sure to bring back eight-time All-Defensive selection and former Defensive Player of the Year Draymond Green with a $100-million contract.

Re-signing Green also keeps most of their championship core – Curry, Green, and Andrew Wiggins – together through 2025-26. Klay Thompson is an obvious absentee from that list, though all indications from both sides imply that an extension is close, which will likely keep him in the Bay Area for the rest of his career.

Golden State has quietly done a solid job fleshing out its depth. Santa Clara product Brandin Podziemski might be a quintessential Dubs pick, considering his outstanding shooting numbers in college and the concerns over his lack of size and athleticism. Vet guard Cory Joseph may not be regarded as the shooting threat Poole was, but he was actually more efficient from deep last season at 38.9% compared to Poole’s 33.6%. He should also be a much better fit on the second unit, where he’ll be tasked with getting more out of Golden State’s touted third-year duo of Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody.

Grade: A-

Los Angeles Lakers

Last season: 43-39 (.524), lost in West finals.

AAron Ontiveroz / Denver Post / Getty

To his credit, Lakers GM Rob Pelinka appears to have prioritized those who were most vital to the team’s late-season surge and subsequent deep playoff run. Rui Hachimura was stellar throughout the postseason, especially in the first round, and earned himself a $51-million deal over three seasons. Jarred Vanderbilt, who didn’t light up the scoresheet but was a lively rebounder and valuable defender, was rewarded with a four-year, $48-million contract, and Austin Reaves secured the largest commitment of the team’s supporting cast at four years and $56 million.

Even D’Angelo Russell, who had a nightmare series against Denver, was brought back on a low-risk, two-year deal topping out at $37 million (which includes a player option in 2024-25). If similar issues resurface early this coming season, the Lakers can now turn to Gabe Vincent – deftly signed in free agency with the mid-level exception – while Russell’s $17.3-million salary should be a much easier sell on the trade market.

Securing Davis through at least 2026-27 was a no-brainer, especially after James indicated his career is winding down. James is no longer considering walking away just yet, but guaranteeing Davis’ long-term service means L.A. won’t have to fret over a barren post-James landscape.

With a replenished stock of role players, the Lakers should have enough to get back to the postseason, though even that might require a significant jump from sophomore guard Max Christie and immediate contributions from rookie Jalen Hood-Schifino.

But simply making the postseason isn’t the ultimate goal, so it’s fair to question if they’ve done enough to better last season’s finish.

Grade: B-

Copyright © 2023 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Full Story »


Leave a Comment

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

More in News

Luka Doncic NBA MVP odds, best over/under prop bets 2023-24

The Mavericks built a deeper team around Luka Doncic heading ...

Rudy Gobert questions New York Knicks treatment of Evan Fournier

Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert stepped to the defense of ...

Middleton: ‘No problem’ being 3rd option behind Giannis, Dame

Khris Middleton is ready to do whatever is possible to ...

Pelicans’ Marshall (knee) to miss start of season

Pelicans forward Naji Marshall will miss the start of the ...

5 under-the-radar NBA rookies to watch

The 2023 rookie class is one of the best to ...

Trending on Basketball Chronicle

Bronny James, son of LeBron, suffers cardiac arrest

The James family confirmed in a statement on Tuesday that ...

Who Is Bronny James? Everything to Know About LeBron James’ Son

Bronny James is taking time away from the basketball court. ...

Oubre expected to sign with 76ers, sources say

Free agent guard/forward Kelly Oubre Jr. is expected to sign ...

Luka Doncic, Mavericks to play preseason game against Real Madrid

Luka Doncic is going back to where he got his ...

Bronny James discharged from hospital after suffering cardiac arrest

USC freshman Bronny James was discharged from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center ...