While some teams crawl up into a fetal position and wait for the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers dynasty to break apart, there are other teams that are giving them a run for their money with their own retooling.
1. Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers improved not only through the draft, but they also made a few key acquisitions through signings and trades. Their draft picks have truly shined in summer league thus far.
With the second overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft they selected point guard Lonzo Ball, who’s a talented passer and he will be the perfect facilitator in this Lakers lineup. The next player they got through the draft was rights to the 27th pick, Kyle Kuzma who has great floor vision and elite rebounding ability. The next pick was the last 1st round selection, Josh Hart who was one of the most consistent and complete players in the draft. His great length will be an asset when he reaches the big stage.
Furthermore, the Lakers helped their frontcourt by trading to acquire Brook Lopez [20.5PPG, 5.4RPG] from the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for Russell [15.6PPG, 4.8APG] and Timofey Mozgov [7.4PPG, 4.9RPG]. This move can also be seen as a salary dump of Mozgov who has $48 Million left on his contract. The Lakers cleared a bit more cap by waiving Tarik Black and David Nwaba so they could sign Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to a 1-year deal worth $18 Million. Pope averaged a respectable [13.8PPG, 3.3RPG] while being a defensive threat on the other end.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder
After the additions of Patrick Patterson [6.8PPG, 4.5RPG] and Raymond Felton [6.7PPG, 2.4APG], The Oklahoma City Thunder put together one of their best defensive lineups in franchise history.
Patterson truly demonstrates the “three and D” big man in todays league by knocking down the three-pointer at a solid percentage of .368 throughout his career. The Thunder had issues with depth last season at both the forward and the guard position. They were forced to split the forward minutes between young players such as Jerami Grant and Domantas Sabonis. The biggest move of the Thunder’s offseason was by far the acquisition of Paul George. To acquire George they traded away the $84 Million guaranteed contract of Victor Oladipo, who averaged 15.9 PPG and 2.5 APG in his sole season with the OKC Thunder. In addition they traded Domatas Sabonis, who during his rookie season averaged 5.9 PPG and 3.6 RPG. This trade cleared up cap and added a solid defender and scorer to pair up with Russell Westbrook next season. George averaged 23.7 PPG, 6.6RPG and 3.3 APG in his most recent season with the Indiana Pacers.
Lastly, the re-signings of defensive second team player Andre Roberson at a $30 Million three-year deal, and Nick Collison for his locker room presence add another layer to this already deep lineup.
3. Houston Rockets
The Houston Rockets arguably made the biggest splash this free agency with the acquisition of Chris Paul [18.1PPG, 9.2APG, 5.0RPG, 2.0SPG]. They traded role players by the name of Beverley, Dekker, Lou Williams, Liggins, Harrell to the Los Angeles Clippers to gain the play making ability on both ends of the court that Chris Paul brings to the team.
The Rockets were fast to fill their bench slots by trading for Shawn Long [8.2PPG, 4.7RPG], Tim Quarterman [1.9PPG] and Jarrod Uthoff [4.4PPG, 2.4RPG]. Then they cleared a small amount of cap space before signing free agents, by waiving Ryan Kelly. Their first signing was Zhou Qi, who stands at 7’2″. He was only signed for a 4 year minimum deal but has been compared to Yao Ming. Their next big splash came with the signing of P.J. Tucker, who signed for $32 Million over 4-years. He will bring help to the wing. Tucker averaged 6.7 PPG and 5.8 RPG last season. The next addition was forward Nene for $11 Million over 3 years. He was a big part of the Rockets offense last season while averaging 9.1 PPG and 4.2 RPG.
The Rockets continued making moves by adding Tarik Black off the waivers, who was recently waived by the Lakers after averaging 5.7 PPG and 5.1RPG last season in 67 games. The most recent move by the Rockets was the signing of forward Luc Mbah a Moute to a minimum deal. In 22.3 MPG Mbah a Moute averaged a respectable 6.1 PPG and 2.1 RPG for the Clippers last season. Most expect this new look Rockets team to send the top of the Western Conference a run for their money.
This is set up to be an interesting 2017-18 NBA season with the improvement of these three teams.