NBA Offseason Grades: Lakers, Warriors, Suns Get Spots on the Fridge

Stephen Curry (left) and new teammate Chris Paul

Getty Stephen Curry (left) and new teammate Chris Paul

Not that we’d know much about it, but when your average grade-schooler comes home with a well-above-average report card, there’s only one thing to do: grab a magnet and stick it up on the refrigerator.

With the offseasons they’ve had–from the splashy to the sublime–the NBA bunches in the Pacific, especially the Suns, Lakers and Warriors, can feel pretty good.

Yes, August is upon us, and while it is sure that the NBA is not finished with its summer transactions–we’re still waiting on trades of Damian Lillard and James Harden–most of the deals are complete by now.

ALSO CHECK OUT: Prominent Flops in Eastern Conference Offseason Grades

With that, we’re handing out grades for the Western Conference. Here goes:

Mavs Make Puzzling Choice on Kyrie Irving Contract

Dallas Mavericks

Grade: B

Why did they give Kyrie Irving three years and $120 million? Was it to make him feel wanted? Did they feel they needed to walk on eggshells around him and figured $100 bills were close enough to eggshells? It still makes no sense—there was no market for Irving, and the Mavs bid against themselves. Which is too bad because they did well in the rest of their offseason and could yet continue to improve. Defense was the big need, and adding Grant Williams as well as rookies Dereck Lively and Olivier-Maxence Prosper was a good start. Maybe the Mavs can motivate Richaun Holmes back into productivity, too. Or maybe a deal with Atlanta for Clint Capela can finally come to fruition. The Mavs did well, but the Kyrie Irving miss is a still a big one.

Denver Nuggets

Grade: C

It was tough to lose Bruce Brown in free agency, but the Nuggets were never going to be able to match the $45 million the Pacers gave him over two years. Losing Jeff Green stings, too. But the Nuggets are hoping for increased production from second-round find Christian Braun, and are hoping that this year’s crop of rookies (Julian Strawther, Jalen Pickett, Hunter Tyson, all of whom were hard-hustling upperclassmen) produces another Braun-type who can contribute right away. All three were impressive in Summer League play, especially Tyson, who averaged 20.8 points and shot 50% from the 3-point line.

Golden State Warriors

Grade: A-

Maybe they could have done better in a Jordan Poole trade than bringing back Chris Paul, but bear in mind, Poole is just starting a $140 million contract and was coming off a rough season (33.6% on 3-pointers) and brutal postseason (10.3 points, 25.4% from the 3-point line). Paul is an odd fit, for sure, but there is a lot of upside there considering the experience and talent he brings, even at age 38. And if it does not work out, his contract is not guaranteed next year, so there’s little long-term risk. The Warriors should get some help out of free-agent signings Dario Saric and Cory Joseph, too, though the biggest boost likely will need to come from young wings Moses Moody and Jonathan Kuminga.

Houston Rockets

Grade: B

There is something to be said for bringing along young players in a winning environment and that was not in place for the Rockets last year. But when a team has the kind of money to spend that the Rockets had and needed to commit $60 million in 2023-24 salary to get Dillon Brooks and Fred VanVleet … well, that is hardly a win, is it? Team honcho Rafael Stone had a vision for the offseason and credit him for getting it done, but it was a win by blunt force, not by cunning. The Rockets have young talent, and drafting Amen Thompson was certainly a positive, as was the summer league performance of Jabari Smith Jr. Having Ime Udoka in place, too, is a plus.

Los Angeles Clippers

Grade: C-

The Clippers came into the summer seemingly bent on fixing their long-troubling point guard situation and came up with a rather uninspiring solution: Bring back Russell Westbrook. Sure, Russ had his moments in L.A. last year, but the team was close to adding Malcolm Brogdon and passed on him because they did not have time to do a physical. Oh, so now the Clippers care about how many games their players suit up for?

Lakers Ace the Offseason

Los Angeles Lakers

Grade: A

Hard to see how things could have gone much better for the Lakers. The shed players they were not using anyway, added grinders who will earn minutes with the team (Gabe Vincent, Taurean Prince), took some chances on inexpensive young guys who needed a change of scenery (Jaxson Hayes, Cam Reddish) and kept their own free agents on team-friendly contracts (D’Angelo Russell, Rui Hachimura, Austin Reaves). The big question comes now: Can the Lakers sign Anthony Davis to an extension, and for how much?

Memphis Grizzlies

Grade: B

The Grizz bizarrely put out word that they would not bring back Dillon Brooks under any circumstances, then watched as he signed a contract with the Rockets they would not have paid him anyway. Ah, well. Memphis added Marcus Smart and sent out uberbackup Tyus Jones, an upgrade in toughness and culture if not production. The 25-game suspension for Ja Morant hurts, but the Grizzlies should be able to survive.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Grade: C

They gave Anthony Edwards a contract extension, which was a no-brainer deal. Now, the future all depends on whether Edwards can bring his toughness and edge to a team that also has Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns, neither of whom has much edge to them.

New Orleans Pelicans

Grade: C

They did not trade Zion Williamson and moreover, claimed they were never going to do so. Instead, they mostly did nothing in free agency this offseason, hoping that better health can lead to sustaining the fast start they had last year. Adding Jordan Hawkins in the draft could help—even as a rookie, it is expected Hawkins’ shooting will get him on the floor sooner rather than later.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Grade: B

It was a busy summer for the Thunder, which is not unusual. Also not unusual: The number of transactions won’t necessarily reflect how many new players the team will have in the rotation this year, as OKC continues to be a convenient parking space for unwanted salaries (Victor Oladipo, Davis Bertans and Rudy Gay this summer). But there are some good young players coming aboard, including lottery pick Cason Wallace, Keyontae Johnson and European star Vasilije Micic. With Chet Holmgren looking healthy, the Oklahoma City depth chart is pretty well packed.

Phoenix Suns

Grade: A

This could be a spectacular failure, or it could be just plain spectacular—either way, it will be fun to watch and you’ve got to credit the Suns for swinging for the fences. Bradley Beal is on board now with Kevin Durant and Devin Booker, and though a trade of Deandre Ayton is still a possibility, the Suns did was well as could be expected to fill out the roster with minimum signings: Yuta Watanabe, Keita Bates-Diop, Josh Okogie, Bol Bol, Drew Eubanks, Eric Gordon. Depth is a huge issue and they should not have fired Monty Williams, but this will be fascinating to watch nonetheless.

Portland’s Lillard Waiting Game

Portland Trail Blazers

Grade: D

The Damian Lillard mess is obscuring the good and bad that the Blazers had this summer, starting with the good fortune of having Scoot Henderson fall to No. 3 in the draft and the bad decision of giving Jerami Grant (gulp) $160 million over five years. A Lillard trade could yet rescue the Blazers’ summer, but Lillard’s insistence on going to Miami has torpedoed any outside interest in him, leaving Portland with an unwelcome decision: Proceed with a lowball offer from Miami or find a way to hold onto Lillard and trade him during the season.

Sacramento Kings

Grade: C

The Kings created some cap space by dumping Richaun Holmes on draft night and then declined to use that space when they simply re-signed Harrison Barnes and agreed to an extension with Domantas Sabonis. Dumping Holmes was not a bad idea, but the Kings gave away a first-round pick to do it. Adding Chris Duarte from Indiana and European MVP Sasha Vezenkov could still make this a productive offseason.

San Antonio Spurs

Grade: B

Getting Victor Wembanyama in the draft is certainly an A-plus franchise move, but the Spurs have not yet done much to firm up what kind of team they want to have around him. They did not use their cap space to add anything just yet, only bringing on Reggie Bullock, Cameron Payne and Cedi Osman in trades that added only minimal draft assets (two future second-rounders and a 2030 first-round swap with the Mavs). The Spurs were in good position to make younger and more sensible additions, but declined to do so.

Utah Jazz

Grade: A

The Jazz lost, basically, nothing but added star forward John Collins as well as rookies Taylor Hendricks, Keyonte George and Brice Sensabaugh. The roster is suffering a good bit of imbalance—they’re stocked with bigs and light on guards—but for a rebuilding unit, they’re well-positioned to keep working on trades to get the kind of team that can contend in the West.

ALSO CHECK OUT: Prominent Flops in Eastern Conference Offseason Grades

Read More