We have already looked at the Eastern Conference and told you who has won and lost the offseason.
Now it is time to look at the Western Conference, which seems to get stronger and stronger every year.
How much did DeAndre Jordan’s indecision really impact the conference? Has anyone closed the gap on the defending champion Golden State Warriors?
Our staff takes a look in the Three-Man Weave.
1. Which Western Conference team has had the best offseason thus far?
CHRIS SHERIDAN, PUBLISHER: The Spurs. Hey, you add a guy like LaMarcus Aldridge, and you get Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili to come back, and you add David West for pennies on the dollar, and there you go. Yes, they need a center, but they will find one who is not named Matt Bonner. Runner-up is the Los Angeles Clippers, whose 11th hour mind-changing manipulation of DeAndre Jordan saved them from disaster. Adding Josh Smith was a nice move, too. I also give the Kings an A for effort. But I am not sold on the idea that George Karl can tolerate Rajon Rondo.
CHRIS BERNUCCA, MANAGING EDITOR: San Antonio. The Spurs hadn’t given a true max contract to a player since Tim Duncan in 2000. This summer, they gave out two, retaining Kawhi Leonard while snaring LaMarcus Aldridge. They were also able to bring back Duncan and Manu Ginobili and prevent Danny Green from sneaking away while adding David West and Ray McCallum on the cheap. The cost was Tiago Splitter, Marco Belinelli and Aron Baynes. And they are still not in luxury tax territory, although they are close. If I were the Golden State Warriors, I’d be concerned.
MICHAEL SCOTTO, COLUMNIST: The Spurs added the biggest free agent on the market in Aldridge, a huge upgrade over Splitter alongside Duncan. Along with Leonard, Aldridge gives San Antonio a core frontcourt piece moving forward after Duncan retires. Keeping Green was underrated, too. You know the Spurs have something special when David West leaves $12 million on the table to sign. A close second is the Clippers, who desperately needed to retain Jordan and did so in desperate fashion. Paul Pierce adds championship experience and a veteran locker room presence to keep all the egos in check. And Lance Stephenson and Josh Smith make them deeper, a major weakness last season.
2. Which Western Conference team has had the worst offseason thus far?
SHERIDAN: That would be Portland, which won its division last season, went out in five games in the first round and lost four-fifths of its starting lineup. They had a nice thing going there with that nucleus for a while, and it is a shame to see a known commodity get torn apart. But once it was clear that Aldridge was a goner, there was little hope.
BERNUCCA: Not Dallas, despite being left at the altar by DeAndre Jordan. And not the Lakers, despite striking out on the big names for the third straight summer. The runaway loser is Denver, which hasn’t made a good move since drafting Emmanuel Mudiay. The Nuggets ended the season below the salary floor but used that cap room to sign 2014 second-round pick Nikola Jokic, re-sign a finished Jameer Nelson and give a ridiculous $46 million extension to the inefficient Wilson Chandler. And now they have to take pennies on the dollar for Ty Lawson, his hookah pipe and his two DUI arrests in five months.
SCOTTO: The Trail Blazers lost their entire starting five minus Damian Lillard. Aldridge and Lillard were supposed to be the building blocks for the future. Now? Portland is Lillard’s team with many question marks and a lack of talent surrounding him. This team appears headed for the lottery after what appeared to be a bright young core carrying them for years to come.
3. Which Western Conference team has had the strangest offseason thus far?
SHERIDAN: That would be Dallas, the team whose owner is dropping public F-bombs like a shock jock or a gangster rapper. It is understandable that Mark Cuban is upset, but can he please show some semblance of dignity when speaking on the record and limit himself to one curse word per month? In hindsight, he might have been better off keeping Monta Ellis and Tyson Chandler. But it is not his fault that Jordan pulled off his mind-changing act the way he did. Them’s the breaks, I reckon.
BERNUCCA: Dallas, without question. In the last week, the Mavericks have gone from a legitimate contender in the West to a lottery team to perhaps something in between. After Jordan’s bizarre change of heart, they maxed out Wesley Matthews, who is coming off a torn Achilles tendon. They scrambled for Zaza Pachulia to fill the gaping hole in the middle, then watched a discounted Deron Williams miraculously land in their laps. It was a remarkable roller coaster ride, even though it likely won’t produce a playoff team.
SCOTTO: The Mavericks and the “Days of Our Lives” soap opera that became Jordan’s daily free agent recruitment. With Jordan and Matthews in the fold, the team was thinking title contention. Now? They’re stuck in transition, and overpaid Matthews. Speaking of injuries, Williams isn’t “D-Will” anymore after a series of ankle ailments. A backcourt of quantity over quality will be put to the test with Williams, Devin Harris, Raymond Felton and J.J. Barea. This isn’t what Dirk Nowitzki signed up for when he took a pay cut last summer. Remember when Dallas was one of the most efficient offenses in the league before the Rajon Rondo trade? That seems like years ago instead of months.