While most teams in the Eastern Conference got worse through trades this NBA offseason, a few clubs in the West improved dramatically. Let’s recap some big trades that affected West teams and their 2017-18 win totals.
The Houston Rockets will be fascinating to watch this season after acquiring Chris Paul from the L.A. Clippers. Do I think that nine-time All-Star point guard is a bit overrated? Yes. The guy has never led a team past the second round of the playoffs. He’s also reportedly a very difficult teammate. Do I also worry about how Paul and James Harden will co-exist since they both are ball-dominant and Harden had a historically great season while running the point last year? Yep.
sBut if there’s an offensive mind who can make this work, it’s Mike D’Antoni, and now the Rockets will have a stellar ball-handler on the court at all times -- i.e. you will never see Paul and Harden rest simultaneously. It was a gamble for Houston to trade for Paul considering he can walk away in free agency next summer, but the Rockets weren’t beating Golden State as constructed. GM Daryl Morey might not be done, either, as Knicks star Carmelo Anthony has told his team he wants to be traded to Houston and has no interest in working things out in New York.
Houston won 55 games last year and Paul only bumped the Rockets’ 2017-18 win total to 56.5 at SBR’s top-rated sportsbooks. Anthony would add another few victories.
Speaking of gambles, the Oklahoma City Thunder traded for Pacers All-Star Paul George even though it’s well-known around the NBA that George wants to join his hometown Lakers when he hits free agency next summer. Thunder GM Sam Presti had no choice here, though, as he had to make Russell Westbrook happy – Russ also can hit free agency after next season. Is George as good as Kevin Durant? No, but Presti came about as close as he could have in replacing him without giving up much (Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis). The Thunder are given a win total of 48.5.
The biggest win differential on the NBA futures compared to what a team finished with last season belongs to Minnesota. The Wolves were 31-51 and have a total of 45.5 after trading for Bulls All-Star Jimmy Butler at the draft. I’m sure Minnesota hated to give up promising Zach LaVine, but he’s coming off major knee surgery, and Kris Dunn was no big loss. Butler can teach the young Wolves to play defense.
About The Same
The Lakers are going to be better this year perhaps just because of Lonzo Ball, their young players improving and signing Pistons free-agent guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. But just speaking of the trade of D’Angelo Russell to Brooklyn for Brook Lopez, I’m not sure that improves or weakens the Lakers any. Lopez is a good scorer but a terrible rebounder and defender for a 7-footer. L.A. gave up on Russell, the No. 2 overall pick in 2015, in order to package the terrible contract of Timofey Mozgov in that deal to Brooklyn. Russell averaged 15.6 points. 4.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds a season ago. L.A. is given a win total of 32.5 on NBA futures.
The Utah Jazz have the biggest negative differential of projected wins this year (37.5) compared to last at minus-13.5. They won 51 games and reached the second round of the playoffs in 2016-17, getting swept by Golden State. The sportsbooks are down on the Jazz because they lost All-Star Gordon Hayward in free agency. I believe the Jazz broke even on losing point guard George Hill to free agency but dealing a 2018 first-round pick to Minnesota for point guard Ricky Rubio. He’s not the shooter that Hill is but one of the NBA’s best passers and a fine defender.
Teams That Got Worse
The Clippers aren’t going to fall off a cliff after losing Paul, but they clearly aren’t as good without him. Still, the Clippers got some nice depth from Houston in guys like Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams and Sam Dekker. Plus a 2018 first-round pick. I liked the trade where L.A. acquired Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari, but it cost Sixth Man extraordinaire Jamal Crawford and that Rockets 2018 first-rounder. The Clips are given a 2017-18 win total of 41.5, which likely won’t be enough for the postseason in the loaded West.