NBA

Catching Up on the NBA Offseason: The Pacific Division

Which team has had the best offseason so far in the Pacific Division? Which team in LA actually got better?

A few weeks ago, we started recapping the whirlwind NBA offseason by division. So far, we've covered the Atlantic Divison, the Southwest Divison, the Central Division, the Northwest Division, and the Southeast Division. Today, we're finishing up by analyzing the Pacific Division.

In this series, our goal was to provide a one-stop spot for you to catch up on the flurry of trades and signings that have happened so far this summer, just in case you've fallen a bit behind or want an idea of the overall picture now that most of the dust has settled. For the sake of our analysis, we've been using our in-house nERD metric as a point of comparison, focusing on nERD in and nERD out for each team.

If you're not familiar with nERD, it combines several offensive, defensive, and usage factors to produce one number that is meant to project a player's overall value to his team. That final number is an estimate of how many games above or below .500 a league-average team would win over an 82-game season with the player in question as one of its starters. It's comparable to Win Shares, but is meant to be predictive (projecting an 82-game season) as opposed to descriptive (how many wins the player has contributed to his team in the past). For the sake of this study, we've been using last season's nERD scores and left out rookies entirely (since they're so dang unpredictable).

The Pacific Division has been the busiest division in the NBA this summer, with player movement galore. The Clippers, Lakers, Suns, and Kings have all performed pretty big overhauls to their rosters, with three to six guys coming in and five to seven players going out in each case. The only team in the division to stay relatively stable this offseason has been the Golden State Warriors, but that's pretty much expected from a team that's only a couple months removed from being the world champions and in the conversation for the best team of all time.

The Lakers, Suns, and Kings all have playoff aspirations in mind, but did any of them get any closer in the ├╝ber-competitive Western Conference? Did the Clippers properly address their depth issues? Are the Warriors poised to repeat as champs?

Let's find out.

Golden State Warriors

Players InHow?nERDPlayers OutHow?nERD
Jason ThompsonTrade-3.1David LeeTrade2.7
   Justin HolidayFA-0.2


nERD in:
-3.1
nERD out: 2.5
Net nERD: -5.6

For the most part, the Warriors are getting the band back together in 2015-16 for a run at repeating as NBA champs. That is, with the exception of two-time All-Star and former double-double machine, David Lee, who they shipped off to Boston in early July (for Gerald Wallace, who they later traded for Jason Thompson).

Thanks to the emergence of Draymond Green -- last year's runner-up for both the Most Improved Player and Defensive Player of the Year awards -- Lee had mostly dropped out of the rotation in Golden State. He put up career lows in games played (49), starts (4), and total minutes (904), while averaging the lowest point (7.9) and rebound (5.2) marks since his rookie season. In other words, David Lee was no longer as valuable to the Warriors as the idea of David Lee. He should have the opportunity for a solid bounceback campaign in Boston, while the Warriors should do just fine slotting Jason Thompson into his leftover minutes while contending for their second consecutive title.

Los Angeles Clippers

Players InHow?nERDPlayers OutHow?nERD
Paul PierceFA3.9Lester HudsonFA0.1
Cole AldrichFA0.4Ekpe UdohEurope0.0
Pablo PrigioniFA-0.2Jordan HamiltonFA-0.2
Josh SmithFA-5.5Matt BarnesTrade-0.6
Wesley JohnsonFA-5.9Spencer HawesTrade-2.8
Lance StephensonTrade-8.4  


nERD in:
-15.7
nERD out: -3.5
Net nERD: -12.2

It became obvious during the Clippers' second-round flameout against the Houston Rockets last year that they desperately needed to add depth to their roster. On the surface, they appear to have successfully addressed the issue this summer, swapping out a bunch of bench fodder (with the exception of Matt Barnes) for six guys who played close to 1,000 minutes or more for their respective teams last season.

That's all well and good, but it's important to note that Lance Stephenson (-8.4), Wesley Johnson (-5.9), and Josh Smith (-5.5) represented the second, 10th, and 12th worst nERDs in the entire NBA last season, respectively. Adding recognizable names and somewhat capable minute-eaters doesn't always make your team better, particularly if those players have a track record of inefficiency. With that in mind, it will be very interesting to see how the new members of this overhauled Clippers rotation gel with the established stars this season. By our metric, the Clippers actually had one of the worst offseasons in the Association with a Net nERD of -12.2, so we're not expecting great things.

Of course, DeAndre Jordan basically left for the Dallas Mavericks and came back, so his nERD of 14.1 (fifth-best in the league) more or less erases that, if you consider how bad things could've been if he had followed through and left LA.

Los Angeles Lakers

Players InHow?nERDPlayers OutHow?nERD
Lou WilliamsFA5.1Ed DavisFA5.0
Brandon BassFA2.8Ronnie PriceFA-2.4
Roy HibbertTrade0.0Jeremy LinFA-2.7
   Jordan HillFA-3.8
   Wayne EllingtonFA-4.8
   Wesley JohnsonFA-5.9


nERD in:
7.9
nERD out: -14.6
Net nERD: 22.5

The Los Angeles Lakers have easily had the best Net nERD of any team in the NBA this offseason.

Now that that statement has sunk in, let's break it down a bit before we go overboard and declare the Lakers as a team back anywhere close to playoff contention.

First of all, the Lakers have brought in only three veterans while letting six others walk. The disparity in nERD is understandable, considering how big and inefficient the outgoing contingent (other than Ed Davis) were in LA last year. Newcomers Lou Williams, Brandon Bass, and Roy Hibbert -- while solid and perfectly nERDy NBA players -- aren't exactly going to magically turn this team around overnight. The Lakers still have four rookies and four second-year players currently making up over half of their 15-man roster and a broken-down Kobe Bryant coming back to eat up 34.9% of his teams possessions and shoot 37.3% on a whopping 20.4 shots per game (assuming last year's trends continue).

Lottery picks D'Angelo Russell and Julius Randle should give Laker fans plenty to be hopeful about down the road, but even a 22.5 Net nERD this offseason is unlikely to catapult the team back into the Western Conference's elite just yet.

Phoenix Suns

Players InHow?nERDPlayers OutHow?nERD
Tyson ChandlerFA10.6Brandan WrightFA6.8
Jon LeuerTrade-0.6Marcus MorrisTrade-0.2
Ronnie PriceFA-2.4Marcus ThorntonFA-0.4
Mirza TeletovicFA-2.7Jerel McNealEurope-0.4
   Reggie BullockTrade-1.1
   Danny GrangerTrade-1.3
   Gerald GreenFA-2.4


nERD in:
4.9
nERD out: 1.0
Net nERD: 3.9

The Phoenix Suns went from expected bottom-dwellers to playoff contenders and back to "meh" so quickly in the span of two years that it's nearly impossible to know what to make of them this upcoming season. The somewhat successful Eric Bledsoe/Goran Dragic experiment has ended, giving way to the Bledsoe/Brandon Knight era. A lot of the team's depth (Brandan Wright, Marcus Morris, Gerald Green) has been turned over, while a disgruntled Markieff Morris wants out. The addition of a still-capable and very nERDy Tyson Chandler was a commendable move, but it's otherwise difficult to peg where this team is headed. Still, a 3.9 Net nERD is pretty good, and there are definitely things to like about the current state of their roster. They're one of the most intriguing "we'll see" teams out there for 2015-16. Things could go either way.

Sacramento Kings

Players InHow?nERDPlayers OutHow?nERD
Kosta KoufosFA1.2Andre MillerFA-1.2
Marco BelinelliFA0.2Derrick WilliamsFA-1.7
Seth CurryFA-0.1Carl LandryTrade0.8
Caron ButlerFA-1.6Ray McCallumTrade-3.4
Quincy AcyFA-1.7Nik StauskasTrade-3.7
Rajon RondoFA-5.1Jason ThompsonTrade-3.1


nERD in:
-7.1
nERD out: -12.3
Net nERD: 5.2

The Sacramento Kings have certainly been active this offseason, but as is often the case with their personnel decisions, it's hard to say if they know what they're doing. They went from having a glut of power forwards last season to basically having none going forward -- although I guess they'll slot a center in there somewhere, like Kosta Koufos or Willie Trill Cauley-Stein (I've been waiting all summer for the opportunity to call him that). Rajon Rondo may have been a big get for the team once upon a time, but it seems like All-Star Rondo was powered entirely by the ACL ligament that he tore in 2013, as he's been a shell of that player and in rapid decline ever since (not to mention Darren Collison seemed just fine as their starting point guard). Coach George Karl has had an ongoing public issue with Kings star DeMarcus Cousins that might be irreparable, and the team basically has Cousins and Ben McLemore to show for eight consecutive lottery picks between 2007 and 2014. The 5.2 Net nERD is certainly a positive, but the Kings are going to King, it would seem.

Conclusion

TeamnERD InnERD OutNet nERD
Golden State Warriors-3.12.5-5.6
Los Angeles Clippers-15.7-3.5-12.2
Los Angeles Lakers7.9-14.622.5
Phoenix Suns4.91.03.9
Sacramento Kings-7.1-12.35.2


Picking an offseason winner from the Pacific Division is a weird endeavour. The Lakers' Net nERD of 22.5 is far superior to anyone else in the division, but it's hard to call a haul of Lou Williams, Brandon Bass, and Roy Hibbert a winning offseason. The Clippers added all kinds of needed depth and recognizable names to their roster, but Lance Stephenson, Josh Smith, and Wesley Johnson were three of the least efficient players in the league last year and Paul Pierce's clutch shooting has to expire at some point.

The Suns and Kings are both teams that are stuck in the middle of a rebuild with no clear direction, and it's hard to know if their respective flurry of moves will lead them up or down in the standings. The Warriors barely made any moves at all, but they'll be bringing back a championship-winning squad for another go around after re-upping restricted free agent Draymond Green. I guess they win by default?

Sure, let's go with that.