The Skinny on the Other Western Conference Contenders

Nash was the biggest signing so far, but how much will he actually change the Lakers' fate next season?

We have analyzed and re-analyzed our own dear Spurs and their superb off-season (yes, it's been every bit of superb) following their historic 2011-2012 season. We've also watched with great trepidation as other Western Conference teams have made moves aplenty, trying to shake things up just enough and find that missing ingredient that could loft them to those mystical heights where arms, caps, and confetti are in the air at the end of one's season. Now then, let's peruse a few of the Western Conference teams (to be exact, just last year's playoff teams plus the Rockets, because they're from Texas, so they sorta matter to us) that have made some splashes and see just how much (or how little) they've actually improved.

Each team broken down after the jump...

Dallas Mavericks

Out: PG Jason Kidd, SG Jason Terry, SG Kelenna Azubuike, C Ian Mahinmi, C Brendan Haywood, PF Lamar Odom

In: PG Darren Collison, SG, OJ Mayo, PF Elton Brand, SF Dahntay Jones, C Chris Kaman, PG Jared Cunningham, SF Jae Crowder, C Bernard James (R)

Top Returnees: PF Dirk Nowitzki, SF Shawn Marion, SG Vince Carter, PF Brandan Wright, PG Roddy Beaubois, SG Dominique Jones

Quick Take: Might as well begin with our sweet neighbors to the North. This team is 9-11 meaningful players deep, but that's not necessarily a good thing, because there is hardly any separation from players 4-11 on the roster, meaning none of them are very good. No longer must we regularly endure Jet Terry's anti-Spurs rants or his dagger threes. I'm just thrilled about that. Also, let us breathe a collective sigh of relief that Dwight Howard and Deron Williams shall not be extending Dirk's career in the foreseeable future. No addition they made really excites me, and I think Cuban is just delaying the inevitable by swapping out retread hired guns until Dirk is gone and they rebuild. No elite offensive threat outside Dirk, and adding Dahntay Jones isn't going to transform their team D. What will they do about Delonte West?

L. A. Clippers

Out: PG Mo Williams, SG Nick Young, PF Reggie Evans

In: SF Grant Hill, PF Lamar Odom, SG Jamal Crawford, PF Furkhan Aldemir (R), PF Ryan Hollins

Top Returnees: PF Blake Griffin, PG Chris Paul, G Chauncey Billups, C DeAndre Jordan, SF Caron Butler, PG Eric Bledsoe

Quick Take: They go 8-10 deep, and there's some pretty solid playoff contributor types in there. I don't think anyone would say that the Clips did anything but get better this offseason. They were a stout playoff contender last year and should be even more so this year with Grant Hill's D and Crawford's O adding a punch off the bench. If their D improves and everyone's healthy going into the playoffs, they could make a deep run. I think a lot depends on how Vinny of the Black proves he can operate under that kind of pressure. What will they do about Randy Foye?

Los Angeles Lakers

Out: PG Ramon Sessions

In: PG Steve Nash, F Antawn Jamison, SG Darius Johnson-Odom (R), C Robert Sacre (R)

Top Returnees: SG Kobe Bryant, C Andrew Bynum, PF Pau Gasol, SF Metta World Peace, PF Josh McRoberts, SF Devin Ebanks, PG Steve Blake, PF Jordan Hill

Quick Take: They go 7-9 deep, which is a stretch. That's the biggest problem for LA, imo. I also am one who believes the Steve Nash signing won't end up doing that much to improve this team. He's at the end of his career and can't keep up with Parker, Westbrook, Paul, or even Rubio anymore. He's a heady player, obviously, but it will be similar to Kidd in Dallas, without the team chemistry and depth the Mavs had during their championship run. Now we turn to Dwight Howard. I think it would be silly for LA to trade everything away for him, especially knowing he'll be gone in the offseason. That's why I don't think they will. I think Dwight will be in Orlando until 2013, but I've been wrong plenty of times before. Moving on, what will they do about Matt Barnes?


Oklahoma City Thunder

Out: SG Royal Ivey, C Nazr Mohammed, Probably PG Derek Fisher

In: C Hasheem Thabeet, SF Hollis Thompson (R), PF Perry Jones (R)

Top Returnees: SF Kevin Durant, PG Russell Westbrook, SG James Harden, SG Thabo Sefalosha, C Kendrick Perkins, PF Serge Ibaka, PF Nick Collison, PG Eric Maynor, SF Daequan Cook

Quick Take: They go 9-11 deep, and it will be a better deep than it was this last year, which is disturbing for the rest of us. The Thunder figured out that they're really good and didn't need to do much of anything. They signed a couple of high-potential rookies and added a dead-beat who was supposed to be good in Thabeet. If he does anything good for them, they'll feel great about it. Having a healthy Maynor for a full year could be interesting. What will they do about Derek Fisher? (Come on, I had to put somebody here)

Houston Rockets

Out: SF Chase Budinger, C Samuel Dalembert, G Kyle Lowry, PF Luis Scola, C Marcus Camby, PG Goran Dragic, SG Courtney Lee

In: PG Jeremy Lin, C Omer Asik, SF Gary Forbes, PG Shaun Livingston, PF JaJuan Johnson, G E'Twan Moore, PG Toney Douglas, C Jerome James, C Josh Harrelson, PF Jon Leuer, C Sean Williams, PF Jon Brockman, SG Jeremy Lamb (R), C Donatas Motiejunas (R), SF Royce White (R), PF Terrence Jones (R)

Top Returnees: SG Kevin Martin, SF Chandler Parsons, PF Patrick Patterson, F Marcus Morris

Quick Take: Wow. This had to be one of the oddest off-seasons in this club's history. They seemed to throw everything in the Dwight basket from the draft on and came up short, which will probably save the future of their franchise. They actually have ended up with a great draft haul and some good young players. It remains to be seen how many of these guys will stay on the roster though. Oh, and as of right now, they go about 7-8 deep, which just means that we'll see guys we don't know trying to make names for themselves. Whatever will they do with Earl Boykins (lol)?

Denver Nuggets

Out: SG Rudy Fernandez

In: PF Anthony Randolph, SG Evan Fournier (R), F Quincy Miller (R), F Izzet Turkyilmaz (R)

Top Returnees: C JaVale McGee, PG Ty Lawson, PG Andre Miller, SF Danilo Gallinari, PF Kenneth Faried, C Timofey Mozgov, SG Arron Afflalo, PF Al Harrington, SF Wilson Chandler, C Kosta Koufos, SG Corey Brewer

Quick Take: This team is deep. Like 11-12 deep. They don't have a legit franchise player and haven't since Melo left, but that hasn't seemed to set them back much from what they were when they had Melo. They paid McGee like he's a superstar, so it will be interesting to see the return on that. Either way, they remain a playoff team. What will they do with Julyan Stone? (Ok, it's just comical now)

Utah Jazz

Out: PG Devin Harris, G/F C.J. Miles, probably Raja Bell

In: PG Mo Williams, SF Marvin Williams, SG Randy Foye, SG Kevin Murphy (R)

Top Returnees: C Al Jefferson, PF Paul Millsap, SF Gordon Hayward, PF Derrick Favors, PF Jeremy Evans, PG Jamaal Tinsley, PG Earl Watson, C Enes Kanter, SG Alec Burks

Quick Take: This team goes 9-10 deep. Swapping Harris for Williams probably won't make that much difference for the Jazz. They still remain stacked down low with 4 quality, if slightly undersized, big men. Rookie Murphy could fill a need if his penchant for scoring can translate from Tennessee Tech to the NBA. What will they do with Josh Howard?

Updated: Bringing in Foye won't force them to depend on Murphy. That's a big get for the Jazz and makes them a very well-rounded team, despite their bruising but vertically-challenged bigs.

Memphis Grizzlies

Out: SG O.J. Mayo, probably PG Gilbert Arenas

In: PG Jeryd Bayless, SG Tony Wroten Jr. (R)

Top Returnees: PF Zach Randolph, C Marc Gasol, PG Mike Conley, SG Tony Allen, SF Rudy Gay, PF Darrell Arthur, C Marreese Speights, SF Quincy Pondexter, SG Josh Selby

Quick Take: The Grizz go 8-9 deep. Even with some PPG lost with Mayo's departure, they are still a solid playoff team. Allen remains one of the top 3 perimeter defenders in the league. Gay should only benefit from Mayo being gone. Re-signing Arthur was big for them, imo. What will they do about Lester Hudson?

And that does it. If somebody else wants to dish on Minnesota, New Orleans, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento, and Golden State, they're more than welcome to. There are interesting things to say about them all, but I'm done with this piece. Y'all talk amongst yourselves.

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