A quick key of acronyms used in the entry: RFA = restricted free agent. PO = player option. TO = team option. ETO = early termination option.
1. Golden State Warriors
Players under contract for next season: Stephen Curry, Andrew Bogut, Andris Biedrins, Dorell Wright, Richard Jefferson, David Lee, Klay Thompson, Jeremy Tyler, Charles Jenkins
Free Agents: Brandon Rush (RFA), Mickell Gladness (RFA), Chris Wright (RFA), Nate Robinson, Dominic McGuire, Mikki Moore
|What kind of impact will Bogut have on the|
Warriors during next season and beyond?
What to expect: In the NBA Draft, I have a feeling the Warriors will select John Henson at #7. The lanky power forward has a knack for blocking shots, and will be an inside defensive presence for Golden State immediately. His offensive production will take time to develop, but Henson can benefit from playing in a rotation with David Lee and Andrew Bogut. The Warriors have already stated they plan to re-sign Brandon Rush to a new deal, and so even though they would like a young, new small forward, they can wait until next year. The team might like to bring in forwards like the Lakers' Devin Ebanks, Clippers' Reggie Evans, or Memphis' Darrell Arthur through free agency. If the team can stay healthy, they should be able to finish next season around .500 and in the hunt for a playoff spot.
2. Los Angeles Clippers
Players under contract for next season: Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Eric Bledsoe, Ryan Gomes, Travis Leslie, Trey Thompkins, Caron Butler
Free Agents: Chauncey Billups, Randy Foye, Kenyon Martin, Reggie Evans, Mo Williams (PO), Nick Young, Bobby Simmons
What they need: The Clippers were about right in the middle of the pack in most statistical categories, except rebounding. They have a bunch of decent rebounders, so I think they will be fine. What the Clippers really need is a third All Star to pair with Paul and Griffin. Paul has an expiring contract, and they need to get a veteran star who will make an impact and push this team to championship contender status. I think a very solid fit for the Clippers would be Ray Allen. He's a class act, has the championship pedigree, and is one of the best shooters in the game. On a 2-year deal, I think he'd be a good fit for the team. They also need reserve bodies down low to play behind Griffin and Jordan, so they might target players like Sacramento's Jason Thompson or Memphis' Marreese Speights.
|How far can the Clippers realistically go in the playoffs? If|
they get another All Star, they can go all the way.
What to expect: The Clippers supposedly like Billups, but he is not a shooting guard. He is a legitimate point guard, and maybe a sign-and-trade would be the best scenario for the Clippers and Billups. I expect them to bring fan favorite Reggie Evans back, and also either Randy Foye or Nick Young. Mo Williams is reportedly unhappy with the Clippers, so is it possible he could switch over to the purple and gold Los Angeles team over the summer? There's been small rumors of a possible trade for Dwight Howard but I don't think the Clippers would attempt any deal. There's also been rumors of a possible trade for Monta Ellis but I don't believe that would happen either. I think their best route would be going for Ray Allen as mentioned before, then add several effective, proven role players to the bench to give the team more depth. If the Clippers can do that, this team has a chance of contending for the championship.
3. Los Angeles Lakers
Players under contract for next season: Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol, Metta World Peace, Josh McRoberts, Andrew Goudelock, Christian Eyenga, Steve Blake
Free Agents: Devin Ebanks (RFA), Darius Morris (RFA), Jordan Hill, Ramon Sessions, Matt Barnes, Troy Murphy
What they need: A lot of things. The Lakers might be in some trouble. They are without a legitimate starting point guard, and Pau Gasol drama has been escalated to a level where they might actually need to trade him. They will also need a back up for Bryant, and a younger, talented forward to shoot and play behind World Peace, who has now become more of a defensive liability. They don't have any first round picks in the draft, but trading Gasol would probably be able to get them one.
|What shall be the fate|
4. Phoenix Suns
Players under contract for next season: Josh Childress, Channing Frye, Jared Dudley, Marcin Gortat, Markieff Morris, Hakim Warrick, Sebastian Telfair
Free Agents: Aaron Brooks (RFA), Robin Lopez (RFA), Steve Nash, Grant Hill, Michael Redd, Shannon Brown, Ronnie Price
What they need: If there is any place the Suns are nearly par at, it's in the post. Gortat has been solid for the Suns, but he will really need to step up next season if the Suns want to be relevant. Frye is doing average and still hitting treys, and Markieff Morris played nicely in his rookie season, but will need to step up to a larger role in his sophomore season. Robin Lopez is a formidable back up to Gortat, and Dudley is a sharpshooter on the wing and is starting to become a more complete player, but has to be more consistent. If Nash leaves as expected, they will need another point guard. Their shooting guard position is also in jeopardy, as both Brown and Redd are unrestricted free agents.
|The Suns are reportedly very fond of Waiters,|
but will they end up with him in the draft?
What to expect: In the NBA Draft, I expect the Suns to take Syracuse guard Dion Waiters. I believe Waiters is a stud, because of his solid work ethic. I think his value is back and forth, but he can become a steal from this draft in the long run. I'm unsure if Waiters will fall to Phoenix, but if he does, they must pick him. In free agency, I don't think the Suns will retain Nash. He likes the area, but he'll have so many suitors, and he will probably go to wherever he can win as well as make the amount of money he deserves. There are other alternates for the Suns though, including Portland's Raymond Felton, Los Angeles Lakers' Ramon Sessions, Houston's Goran Dragic or their own Aaron Brooks. They'll also need to get a legitimate power forward, because I don't think Morris has a legitimate post-up game in his repertoire yet and therefore, is not tall enough to play that position. They might target somebody like Boston's Brandon Bass or Orlando's Ryan Anderson in free agency. I expect the Suns to be a bit below average, and I think this summer will be the start of the rebuilding phase for Phoenix.
5. Sacramento Kings
Players under contract for next season: DeMarcus Cousins, Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton, Jimmer Fredette, Isaiah Thomas, Tyler Honeycutt, Hassan Whiteside, Francisco Garcia, John Salmons, Chuck Hayes, Travis Outlaw
Free Agents: Donte Greene (RFA), Jason Thompson (RFA), Terrence Williams (RFA)
What they need: They have depth, but also a lot of bad contracts. They're going to need some tough veterans on this team, who have some decent skill. Most, if not all, of the veteran players on this team are overpaid and need to be moved. For this team to become legitimate, they will need to get an All Star veteran in there, preferably at small forward or center. Several rumors insist that Memphis has Rudy Gay on the trading block, so maybe they could explore a deal for Gay? However, it seems unlikely. They also need a center. Thompson is a free agent who will field some nice offers that I don't think the Kings could match. Hayes has been riddled with some injuries lately and is a defensive liability at this stage of his career. He might be better suited for a mentoring role.
|Tyreke's tenure in Sacramento may be|
coming to an end soon.
Next I'll be looking over the Southwest Division, which has the potential to become the most competitive division in all of basketball. The Grizzlies are now looking to overtake the Spurs, while the Mavericks are trying to make a statement in free agency that can return them to the Finals. The Rockets still have a chance at obtaining Pau Gasol, but have questions at point guard with Kyle Lowry unhappy and Goran Dragic a highly foreseen free agent. Then there are the Hornets, who will presumably select Anthony Davis #1 in next week's draft to start the rebuilding process. They also have several key free agents including Eric Gordon. Can they rebuild fast enough to be competitive in this tough division? We shall find out soon enough. Stay tuned, there's much more story lines to discuss throughout the Western Conference!