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2022 NBA Offseason Grades: Pacific Division

Offseason
Can Suns centre Deandre Ayton and coach Monty Williams repair their relationship? (Photo: Ric Scuteri/USA Today Sports)

2022 NBA Offseason Grades: Pacific Division

It is time to take a look back at the NBA offseason and grade how each team have performed.

In our final stop around the league, it’s time to pass judgement of the Pacific division.

Golden State: B

ESPN’s Zach Lowe periodically trots out a version of the line that whilst you were reading this sentence, the Warriors’ home, the Chase Center, printed another $5 million. It’s certainly true that the Warriors have the capability to outspend most other franchises, as evidenced by their $350 million total spend last season, estimated to push $400 million in 2023.

Even the chased up Warriors, though, have their limits. They allowed valuable reserves Gary Payton II, Otto Porter Jr. and Nemanja Bjelica to walk this offseason to Portland, Toronto and Europe, respectively.

They did bring in a pair of shrewd replacements in JaMychal Green and Donte DiVincenzo. The latter, especially, looks an excellent addition. His spot up shooting and clever cutting game should fit perfectly into the Warriors system.

Of course, it’s not just financial concerns that saw the Warriors allow those aforementioned departures. There is a hope that the Warriors succession plan starts to bear fruit in 2023.

Moses Moody and the supremely athletic Jonathan Kuminga flashed tantalising potential last season. Alongside the oft maligned and even more often unavailable former second overall pick James Wiseman, those three will be given more substantial roles this season.

In the draft, Golden State took a flyer on Patrick Baldwin Jr. He projects as a rotation level stretch big, though his horrific shooting in the summer league doesn’t bode well.

That said, this team will still go as far as it’s veterans can carry them. With Kevon Looney extended, that devastating starting unit is back to defend their crown. With their rivals dealing with all sorts of uncertainties, you won’t bet against the Dubs winning their fifth crown in nine seasons.

Los Angeles Clippers: A-

With limited financial flexibility under the cap, the Clippers only option for improvement this offseason was to retain the impressive depth that allowed them to stay afloat through the injuries that kept star men Kawhi Leonard and Paul George sidelined. Fortunately, owner Steve Ballmer has ridiculously deep pockets and a willingness to spend.

This offseason Los Angeles retained Nic Batum, Robert Covington, Ivica Zubac and Amir Coffey, whilst adding young big man Moses Brown. They did lose impressive back up center Isaiah Hartenstein to New York, though that signals that the team will play a reasonable amount of small ball, with Covington, Batum and Marcus Morris all stepping up when required.

An area that the Clippers did improve, theoretically at least, is at point guard. The team took a flyer on former All-Star John Wall, who was finally released from his Houston contract. Aged 32 and with a laundry list of lower body injuries, Wall clearly isn’t the player that earned five consecutive All-Star berths last decade. He has missed two of the past three seasons in their entirety and hasn’t played more than half a season since 2017.

His addition is clearly an educated risk, but playing in a platoon system with Reggie Jackson — it’s unclear who will start — should helpfully ease the burden on Wall’s body. If he can provide just a little of the open floor spark that defined his prime, he’ll give the Clippers another dimension.

Los Angeles Lakers: C+

The Lakers circus rolls on, unabated.

Perhaps that’s not fair. That Lakers did make some nice additions this offseason. Patrick Beverley will provide an edge on defense that hasn’t been seen since the bubble championship. Of course, there’s also the chance that he and long time sparring partner Russell Westbri… uh … Westbrook come to blows on national television. To get Beverley, LA gave up on the eternal promise of Talen Horton-Tucker.

The Lakers also signed inciting young guard Lonnie Walker IV, who has showed on a number of occasions his potential as a high scoring guard, though inconsistency plagues him. If the Lakers can get a tune out of him, they could have another Malik Monk on their hands. Unfortunately for the Lakers, their rehabilitation of Monk proved so successful that he decamped to Sacramento for more money than the Lakers were willing to pay.

The team also picked up solid, if one dimensional veterans in Juan Toscano-Anderson, Damian Jones, Troy Brown and Thomas Bryant throughout the offseason. Toscano-Anderson is a heady player who could thrive playing alongside a savant like LeBron James, whilst Bryant has flashed some rim protection and stretch potential. He could prove a solid back-up to Anthony Davis … and replacement for Davis’ inevitable injury absences.

At pick 35, Max Christie could prove a shrewd addition with time, but he can’t be expected to produce as a rookie.

Phoenix Suns: B-

The entire offseason in Phoenix was conducted under the cloud that is the ongoing saga surrounding soon to be former owner Robert Sarver.

In pure basketball-ing terms, the Suns did some reasonable work. They maxed out Devin Booker, as was expected. They also re-signed last season’s surprise packet in veteran center Bismack Biyombo, as well as bringing in Josh Okogie and Damion Lee as free agents. Australian stretch big Jock Landale was brought in via trade.

The Suns’ most talked about move this offseason was matching the offer sheet made by Indiana to Deandre Ayton. Ayton said at the Suns media day that he hasn’t spoken to coach Monty Williams since the season ended in a 33-point loss to Dallas in which Ayton found himself benched.

Given Phoenix could have (should have?) extended Ayton 12 months ago, as well as Ayton’s obvious willingness to depart for pastures anew, there appears to be quite a few fences that require mending in that relationship. Ayton’s re-signing means that he is unable to be traded until mid January. Given he was considered the prime asset in any potential Kevin Durant trade (throw in Brooklyn’s clear propensity for internal strife) there is always the thought that Ayton was retained as a trade asset more than as a primary on court option.

On paper, the Suns once again appear potent. Yet there are clear uncertainties surrounding the team. Given Chris Paul will turn 38 years old before the season ends, the Suns will want to sort out – or at least bury – those uncertainties quick smart.

Sacramento Kings: B

The Kings, as they always seem to do, make decisions that create debate and TV Talking Head fodder.

This time around the discussion surrounds their decision to take Keegan Murray with the fourth overall pick in the draft, when most expected them to go for the explosive Jaden Ivey.

Without doubt, as a sweet shooting forward, Murray’s skill set fills a much more urgent need on this roster than what Ivey provides. His Summer League MVP performance certainly hushed a few vocal critics, too. But when you’re a moribund franchise who haven’t even made the playoffs since 2006, perhaps taking the player with the chance to be special is the better option? Murray will no doubt be a serious player for a long time, but Ivey’s upside is just about irresistible.

The Kings did fill out their guard rotation with a pair of former Lakers in Malik Monk and Kent Bazemore, as well as the highly regarded Kevin Huerter from Atlanta. Murray, Huerter and Monk will provide much needed shooting punch for the Kings, which in turn should allow star big man Domantas Sabonis and quicksilver guard De’Aaron Fox more space to operate their vaunted two-man game.

Of course, this being Sacramento, there is still doubt cast over these moves. The team let Donte DiVincenzo walk to the Warriors. If healthy, he’s a better player than Monk and possibly even Huerter. At the very least the team could have saved the first round pick it cost them to acquire the former Hawk.

The Kings should at the very least be entertaining this season. A starting unit of Fox, Huerter, Murray, Harrison Barnes and Sabonis could score for fun – and so could their opponents. Does that win enough games to put them into the playoff picture?

***

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