Faced with the unenviable task of trying to compete with the defending NBA champion Warriors, who added a fourth All-Star in Kevin Durant last season to reach superpower status, several Western Conference general managers responded by making mega-trades to acquire top-tier talent to create their own high-level ensembles.
Given the Warriors’ record 16-1 performance in the NBA playoffs, it’s unlikely the balance of power will shift, but the landscape sure did. The Thunder started the ball rolling with a trade for Paul George from Indiana, and they leapfrogged over the Rockets to win the sweepstakes for former Knicks star Carmelo Anthony.
The Rockets previously sent a boatload of assets to the Clippers to obtain point guard Chris Paul and pair him with James Harden in an awesome backcourt. Besides receiving such useful pieces from the Rockets as guards Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams and forwards Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell, the Clippers did a sign-and-trade for Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari and signed international point guard Milos Teodosic, who was considered the world’s top non-NBA player.
Even the conservative Spurs, who were swept by the Warriors in the conference finals, made a significant move by signing free-agent forward Rudy Gay. But a coup that might have the most long-term impact was achieved by Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeaux, who traded for Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson, who played for him with the Bulls, and signed free-agent guards Jeff Teague and Jamal Crawford.
With young Karl Anthony-Towns on the verge of becoming the dominant center in the NBA and the development of shooting guard Andrew Wiggins, the T-Wolves might have the firepower and the defense to challenge the Warriors in the next couple of seasons once they get used to winning. The Lakers also are building a deep, youthful team, adding rookies Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma plus former Nets center Brook Lopez, but they need seasoning to reach playoff contention.