(PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — After a summer of plenty of activity, many of the NBA’s Western Conference lineups have been shaken up like a good martini.
For an educated opinion on which teams benefited the most by offseason moves, I sought out one-time Trail Blazer guard Steve Kerr, who offers expert analysis for TNT.
Kerr’s first mention was Portland and Houston. “Those are the two that jump out at me,” he says.
Portland General Manager Neil Olshey, as those of us in the Moda City know, acquired a defensive presence as starting center — Robin Lopez — along with veterans Mo Williams, Dorell Wright, Thomas Robinson and Earl Watson fortified what a year ago was in the conversation for the worst bench in recent NBA history.
“I love what Neil has done, adding the firepower off the bench,” Kerr says. “That’s pretty significant improvement. The Blazers have a chance to be a lot better.”
Kerr is a little more uncertain about Houston, which made the biggest splash of the offseason by landing Dwight Howard along with role players Ronnie Brewer, Reggie Williams and Marcus Camby.
“I’m really anxious to see how that works out,” Kerr says. “It’s going to be interesting to see if the pieces fit.”
My pick for the best offseason in the West is the Los Angeles Clippers, who have added J.J. Redick, Darren Collison, Jared Dudley and Antawn Jamison, along with re-signing free agent Chris Paul — the latter the most important offseason player move in all of the NBA.
“Slipped my mind,” Kerr says. “I like what they’ve done a lot. Maybe their biggest acquisition was getting Doc Rivers as coach. Everything they’ve done has the potential to get them to that next step and put them up there with Oklahoma City, San Antonio and the top teams.
“I’m a huge Jared Dudley fan. I love Redick. What they can do with him coming off screens and curls can improve their offense and get them more flow and options offensively. It’s so much harder to guard guys who can fly off screens. Think about what Doc did with Ray Allen (in Boston). They’ll be much improved.”
Kerr has mixed emotions about Golden State, which landed free agent Andre Iguodala along with Jermaine O’Neil, Toney Douglas and Marreese Speights to strengthen the bench. The Warriors, however, lost two key pieces of last year’s team in Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry.
“That’s a big move with Iguodala,” Kerr says. “That has potential. They’re on the verge, and they’re banking on him to get them to that next step. The question is, how much will they miss Jack and Landry? They relied pretty heavily on those two.”
Mark Cuban’s crew in Dallas was more active than any team in the league, adding Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon, Devin Harris and Wayne Ellington to the backcourt along with reserve center Samuel Dalembert.
“I don’t think their moves are going to matter much,” Kerr says. “They’ve spent the last few years trying to hit the home run (most recently with Howard) and weren’t able to. They hit a few singles, to be honest. They’re a borderline playoff team.”
Denver picked up JJ Hickson, along with reserve guards Nate Robinson and Randy Foye.
“Nothing to get too excited about there,” says Kerr, who points to the firing of coach George Karl as a major negative. “The biggest issue is losing George and the continuity they’ve had over the last nine years. “
The Los Angeles Lakers added four veterans for their bench — Chris Kaman, Wesley Johnson, Jordan Farmar and Nick Young.
“They’re just biding their time until next year,” Kerr says. “They’re trying to survive and keep (salary) cap room.”
Oklahoma City, San Antonio and Memphis chose to maintain the status quo. The Spurs re-signed free agents Manu Ginobili and Tiago Splitter, while the Grizzlies re-upped with Tony Allen. Sound thinking by teams equipped to make deep playoff runs next season.
Which team does Kerr see as the favorite in the West?
“I’m kind of thinking Oklahoma City,” he says. The Thunder “will come back healthy and a little angry. They have the young legs. Kevin Durant is so good and getting better.”
I’m going to go with the Clippers over OKC in the West finals. With Rivers running the show and Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan getting a boost from an influx of new talent off the bench, they’re equipped to definitively change top billing on the marquee board at Staples Center next season.