On Monday, our Community Shootaround discussion focused on 2016’s Eastern Conference playoff teams, as we asked which of those eight clubs is most likely to slide down the standings next season. While the Heat received the most votes, the response was hardly unanimous.
In the Western Conference, however, it seems far more likely that there would be a consensus on which team is in for the biggest slide. The Thunder, after all, lost a perennial MVP candidate in Kevin Durant, and traded a three-team All-Defensive player in Serge Ibaka. The team still has Russell Westbrook on its roster, and was widely lauded for its return in the Ibaka deal, but it’s hard to imagine Oklahoma City as a top-three team and a Conference Finals participant again in the West.
So, as we examine the West’s playoff teams, let’s not focus on which team will slide the most. Instead, let’s discuss which teams’ moves you liked and which ones you didn’t.
The Warriors, of course, made the biggest splash of the offseason when they landed Durant, but is there room for improvement on last year’s 73-win squad, or will it take some time for the team to adjust to its new-look roster?
The Spurs and Clippers have brought back most of their key pieces, but it’s the end of an era in San Antonio, where Tim Duncan has announced his retirement. Adding Pau Gasol to the mix will help, and Duncan had already been surpassed by Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge as the club’s go-to players, but this isn’t the same Spurs team that won a championship just two years ago. As for the Clippers, if their core players stay healthy into the playoffs, there’s still optimism that the team can finally get over the hump, but Chris Paul‘s not getting any younger.
It’s been an eventful summer for the other three Southwest playoffs teams, with the Mavericks bringing in Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut while losing Chandler Parsons and Zaza Pachulia. Parsons ended up with the Grizzlies, who also retained Mike Conley with the largest contract in NBA history. The Rockets, meanwhile, saw Dwight Howard walk in free agency, but landed Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon.
Finally, the Trail Blazers, one of 2015/16’s pleasant surprises, have managed to bring back key restricted free agents like Allen Crabbe and Meyers Leonard, and also made a couple more head-turning moves in free agency, adding Evan Turner and Festus Ezeli on multiyear deals.
So what do you think? Did any of the Western Conference playoff teams besides Golden State and Oklahoma City drastically improve or take a step back this offseason? Or will the storyline in the West next year simply come down to the Thunder losing their best player to the Warriors?
Take to the comments section below to share your opinions on the Warriors, Spurs, Thunder, Clippers, Blazers, Mavs, Grizzlies, and Rockets. We look forward to hearing your thoughts.