By Joshua M Hicks (@jhicks042)
The NBA is officially the league that never sleeps, especially in its off-season where numerous trades and free agent moves take place. Players have taken advantage of their opportunities to play for their respective franchises and the front offices have worked to put their respective teams into the best position to win.
There’s still more of the off-season to play out and some moves still have to be made, but these five teams have made the most noise and that should remain the case going into training camp.
Los Angeles Lakers – The Lakers completely revamped last year’s roster by trading the farm to acquire the man they’ve coveted since January in Anthony Davis, while keeping their favorite young asset in Kyle Kuzma.
To add to the madness, the team also utilized the leftover cap and roster space to fill with veteran talent, such as DeMarcus Cousins, Danny Green, Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee, Avery Bradley, Jared Dudley and Quinn Cook.
With new head coach Frank Vogel and assistant coaches Lionel Hollins and Jason Kidd running the show, along with a healthy LeBron James, the Magic-less Lakers now have added pressure to achieve the ultimate expectation of being champions while King James is in town and have created the most dynamic duo in the league. Most importantly, championship-bound or not, the Lakers have increased their chances of securing their future superstar talent, and if Davis is secured long-term (which many assume he will), his talent can increase the odds of bringing other big name stars to the bright lights of Hollywood.
The Lakers are now in good hands for years to come, and this season with the Warriors not being as talented as they was before, opens the door for them to take the crown and allows them to potentially change the narrative of what it means to be the kings of the league once again.
Los Angeles Clippers – Prior to the offseason, I talked about how players should not overlook the Nets/Clippers in free agency due to what they have to offer.
The Clippers shocked the world last season by making the playoffs in the Western Conference, which included completing the biggest comeback in NBA Playoff history without a superstar. Now they have two top 10 players on the same team, one of which includes last season’s NBA champion and Finals MVP and the other a defensive player of the year and MVP candidate.
The pairing of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard bring offensive and defensive nightmares to teams across the league, and bringing that defensive intensity next to top perimeter defender Patrick Beverly and defensive big man Montrezz Harrell, makes the Clippers the top defensive team in the league and instant title contenders behind the coaching of Doc Rivers.
This season will compile the head to head duo’s PG-13 and the Klaw vs. the King and the Brow and may very well open up the idea of a potential crosstown showdown in the city of Angels for the Western Conference Finals.
Brooklyn Nets – The Nets followed a very similar path as the Clippers. Besides the Clippers, they were another team that can offer what the Clippers could: front office stability, excellent coaching staff and rising young talent.
Now, like the Clippers, they utilized their cap space to upgrade their roster from last season with the additions of Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and DeAndre Jordan, the newest big 3 in the NBA. Yes, Durant is out for this season, but they are still playoff bound in the East. Their young talent combined with the All-Star play of Jordan and Irving can keep them afloat until they become title contenders next season with Durant fully healthy.
The Nets are now back to relevancy, and Jay-Z may one day be able to add to his legacy, just like Irving, Durant and Jordan, by bringing a championship to the second tier team in the Big Apple.
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Utah Jazz – The Jazz drastically improved their roster this season with an upgrade at the point guard position. Trading for Mike Conley Jr. brings an extra demographic in the backcourt with young rising star Donavan Mitchell.
Conley’s 3-point shooting and selective aggressive offensive skillset creates opportunities for Mitchell to flourish, and adding former Indian Pacer Bojan Bogdonavic to the mix brings extra scoring off the bench, something the Jazz lacked in big moments of the playoffs when Mitchell struggled to score the ball.
The Jazz also brought in veteran forward Jeff Green and Ed Davis, adding depth to the big man chart that can assist Rudy Gobert. In a tough Western Conference, these acquisitions will keep them afloat for a playoff spot and keep them relevant in a loaded and very talented Western Conference.
Houston Rockets – Rockets general manager Darryl Morey has always been a heavy hitter swinging for the fences in order to put the Rockets in a position to win.
After the failure of the Chris Paul experiment, Morey lived up to his reputation and made the trade to depart from Paul and create a Russell Westbrook/James Harden reunion. The duo of Harden and Westbrook makes the Rockets much more dangerous, athletic and versatile in the backcourt, and the addition of Tyson Chandler brings necessary depth to the big man chart behind Clint Capela and Nene.
The Rockets re-tooled nicely to increase their chances of returning to the Western Conference Finals and redeeming themselves from last year’s playoff meltdown. Their newest additions could be the potential pieces to get them within the top of the loaded Western Conference.
Joshua M. Hicks is a Senior Writer for WARR Media