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The extremely competitive Western Conference has been busy this off-season, with players finding new homes, and other players resigning with their current teams.
The biggest move thus far in the West belongs to the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers acquired veteran guard Steve Nash in exchange for two first-round picks, two-second round picks, and cash. The addition of Nash helps the Lakers continue to be dominant in the West. Kobe Bryant no longer needs constant control of the ball; Nash will help get whoever is on the court involved, especially young center Andrew Bynum. Bynum is coming off his best year of his career. The addition of Nash will help the powerful center improve even more. A healthy Lakers team could possibly make a run to the finals next season.
The Phoenix Suns took a significant step back with the loss of Nash. They did however rebounded with the signing of Goran Dragic. Dragic signed a four-year $30 million deal that could increase to $34 million due to player option as well as bonus options. Dragic will have serious shoes to fill but will start for the Sun next season. The Yugoslavian-born point guard is coming off his best career season, averaging 11.7 points per game, and 5.3 assists per game while only starting 28 games for Houston. The Suns also picked up Luis Scola, which definitely improves their front court.
The Houston Rockets have welcomed back point guard Jeremy Lin to a three-year $25 million deal. Lin officially became a member of the Rockets after the Knicks did not match Houston’s offer. Lin will start in Houston and have a huge impact, especially after the departure of both Goran Dragic and Kyle Lowry
Los Angeles Clippers were able to re-sign guard Chauncey Billups. The five-time All-Star was off to a good start, until his season was cut short after tearing his left Achilles tendon. They also signed guard Jamal Crawford, who will have an impact, especially with the departure of Nick Young and Mo Williams. In a multi-team deal, the Clippers also landed Lamar Odom. Odom is coming from Dallas, off the worst season of his career.
Minnesota Timberwolves have made some moves that will help improve their young talented squad. They signed guard Brandon Roy to a two-year $10.4 million deal. Roy, who retired earlier in December due to knee problems, is attempting a comeback. Although Roy may not be explosive or effective right away, the youngster could potentially restore his career. In addition, the Wolves acquired Chase Budinger from Houston in exchange for the #18th pick of the draft.
The Sacramento Kings have added guard Aaron Brooks to a two year deal, approximately worth $6.6 million. Brooks will have to work for his playing time, especially after the great play of Isaiah Thomas. Also the addition of Brooks has guard Jimmer Fredette’s playing time up in the air. The kings have tons of options to choose from to run the court next season.
After being knocked out in the first round of the playoffs, the Dallas Mavericks have attempted to piece some players together, which they hope will help in getting back atop the Western Conference. Dallas signed, center Chris Kaman to a one year $8 million deal. Kaman will start in Dallas and will likely improve being next to Dirk Nowitzki. Dallas also signed forward Elton Brand as a back-up for both Dirk and Kaman. Dallas was also able to replace Jason Kidd with Darren Collison, who joined the Mavs via trade along with Dahntay Jones. The Mavs also picked up guard O.J. Mayo, who will be an important young asset after the departure of Jason Terry.
One of the more exciting young teams to watch next season in the West will be the New Orleans Hornets. The Hornets were able to re-sign young guard Eric Gordon. The Hornets matched the Suns’ four-year $58 million offer in order to retain the essential playmaker. The Hornets were also able to acquire forward Ryan Anderson from Orlando via trade, as well as center Brad Miller via trade from Minnesota. Although these signings may not make people say whoa, let’s not forget the Hornets drafted Anthony Davis, as well as Austin Rivers, and could be a team of the future.
As for the San Antonio Spurs, who finished with the first seed in the Western Conference, they were able to re-sign Boris Diaw, Tim Duncan, Danny Green, and Patrick Mills.
Although the Western Conference did not have as many moves as the East, essential changes have been made for several teams in their efforts to improve.