The Clippers Go West

Just as Horace Greeley once advised “Go West, young man,” that advice remains valid in the NBA for those who seek championships.  Now Clippers owner Steve Balmer has made the call which could be one of the biggest moves in franchise history given West’s Midas touch in contributing to three NBA dynasties.

West is excited about the Clipper franchise and the challenge it presents:

They have some really lofty goals over there, really lofty goals, and they thought I can help. I’m thrilled that I was wanted. I’m thrilled that they thought I could help and I’m hopeful that I can.

In the last three years, the Clippers have gone from being legitimate title contenders to the ignominy of being the first team to blow playoff series leads in five consecutive years.  (See The Rise and Fall of Lob City)   They now stand at a crossroads with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin both being prime free agent targets, just as LeBron James is hinting of finishing his career in Los Angeles.

With Doc Rivers ranked 22nd out of 30 NBA General Managers, bringing in West at this time could be the difference between returning to contention or rebuilding.  Why?  You have to appreciate West’s track record to understand.

Los Angeles Lakers

After a Hall of Fame career that spanned 14-seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers (1960-1974) which brought an NBA Championship to Los Angeles for the first time and three-seasons as its coach (1976-1979), West moved to the Lakers’ front office in 1979 as a scout.  He was elevated to General Manager in 1982, a position he held until the end of the 2000 season.

During this period, the Lakers won 9 division championships, went to 8 NBA Finals and won 4 NBA Championships – although the team West had built would win back-to-back Championships after he left.

While the deals that gave the Lakers the top draft pick in 1979 and 1982 that yielded Magic Johnson and James Worthy were made before his tenure, West still was a vital part of the Showtime era.  He vetoed the Magic-engineered trade that would have sent Worthy to Dallas for Mark Aguirre in 1986 and added key role players like Bryon Scott (G), A.C. Green (F) and Mychal Thomson (C).

When Showtime ended with the retirement of Kareem and Magic, West rebuilt the team around Vlade Divac (C) and won NBA Executive of the Year in 1995.

His biggest achievement, however, came in 1996 when he engineered the draft-day swap with the Charlotte Hornets giving up Vlade Divac (C) for the 13th pick of the draft – Kobe Bryant (G) and lured Shaquille O’Neal from the Orlando Magic.  The Shaq-Kobe era would not have been a dynasty without key role players West brought in from Robert Horry (F), Rick Fox (F) and Ron Harper (G).

69 Seasons Table
Season Lg Team W L W/L% Finish Playoffs Coaches Top WS
1999-00 NBA Los Angeles Lakers* 67 15 .817 1 Won Finals P. Jackson (67-15) S. O’Neal (18.6)
1998-99 NBA Los Angeles Lakers* 31 19 .620 2 Lost W. Conf. Semis D. Harris (6-6), B. Bertka (1-0), K. Rambis (24-13) S. O’Neal (9.0)
1997-98 NBA Los Angeles Lakers* 61 21 .744 2 Lost W. Conf. Finals D. Harris (61-21) S. O’Neal (10.2)
1996-97 NBA Los Angeles Lakers* 56 26 .683 2 Lost W. Conf. Semis D. Harris (56-26) E. Jones (9.6)
1995-96 NBA Los Angeles Lakers* 53 29 .646 2 Lost W. Conf. 1st Rnd. D. Harris (53-29) C. Ceballos (9.8)
1994-95 NBA Los Angeles Lakers* 48 34 .585 3 Lost W. Conf. Semis D. Harris (48-34) V. Divac (9.5)
1993-94 NBA Los Angeles Lakers 33 49 .402 5 R. Pfund (27-37), B. Bertka (1-1), M. Johnson (5-11) V. Divac (7.4)
1992-93 NBA Los Angeles Lakers* 39 43 .476 5 Lost W. Conf. 1st Rnd. R. Pfund (39-43) A. Green (8.6)
1991-92 NBA Los Angeles Lakers* 43 39 .524 6 Lost W. Conf. 1st Rnd. M. Dunleavy (43-39) A. Green (8.8)
1990-91 NBA Los Angeles Lakers* 58 24 .707 2 Lost Finals M. Dunleavy (58-24) M. Johnson (15.4)
1989-90 NBA Los Angeles Lakers* 63 19 .768 1 Lost W. Conf. Semis P. Riley (63-19) M. Johnson (16.5)
1988-89 NBA Los Angeles Lakers* 57 25 .695 1 Lost Finals P. Riley (57-25) M. Johnson (16.1)
1987-88 NBA Los Angeles Lakers* 62 20 .756 1 Won Finals P. Riley (62-20) M. Johnson (10.9)
1986-87 NBA Los Angeles Lakers* 65 17 .793 1 Won Finals P. Riley (65-17) M. Johnson (15.9)
1985-86 NBA Los Angeles Lakers* 62 20 .756 1 Lost W. Conf. Finals P. Riley (62-20) M. Johnson (12.1)
1984-85 NBA Los Angeles Lakers* 62 20 .756 1 Won Finals P. Riley (62-20) M. Johnson (12.7)
1983-84 NBA Los Angeles Lakers* 54 28 .659 1 Lost Finals P. Riley (54-28) M. Johnson (10.2)
1982-83 NBA Los Angeles Lakers* 58 24 .707 1 Lost Finals P. Riley (58-24) M. Johnson (12.5)
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/16/2017.

Memphis Grizzlies

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Photo CC: Streamers by Lindsey Turner

In 2002, West joined a Memphis Grizzlies franchise that had just completed its first year in Memphis and had tied their best record ever of 23-59.  West brought in veteran coach Hubie Brown and shepherded the team to three-consecutive winning season and playoff appearances before retiring at the end of the 2007 season.  He was named NBA Executive of the Year in 2004 – making him the first GM to win for two franchises.

22 Seasons Table
Season Lg Team W L W/L% Finish Playoffs Coaches Top WS
2006-07 NBA Memphis Grizzlies 22 60 .268 5 M. Fratello (6-24), T. Barone (16-36) P. Gasol (6.9)
2005-06 NBA Memphis Grizzlies* 49 33 .598 3 Lost W. Conf. 1st Rnd. M. Fratello (49-33) P. Gasol (12.0)
2004-05 NBA Memphis Grizzlies* 45 37 .549 4 Lost W. Conf. 1st Rnd. H. Brown (5-7), L. Hollins (0-4), M. Fratello (40-26) S. Battier (7.8)
2003-04 NBA Memphis Grizzlies* 50 32 .610 4 Lost W. Conf. 1st Rnd. H. Brown (50-32) J. Posey (10.0)
2002-03 NBA Memphis Grizzlies 28 54 .341 6 S. Lowe (0-8), H. Brown (28-46) P. Gasol (8.5)
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/16/2017.

Golden State Warriors

In 2011, West joined the Golden State Warriors as an executive board member reporting directly to its new owners.  The Warriors had missed the playoffs the last four years and had not won a playoff series in twenty years..

Since then the Warriors have emerged as one the most dominant teams of all time – going to three straight NBA Finals and winning 2 NBA Championships.  West was instrumental in the Warriors selecting Klay Thompson (G) in 2011 and threatened to quit over a proposed 2014 trade with Minnesota for Kevin Love in exchange for Thompson and a first-round pick.

71 Seasons Table
Season Lg Team W L W/L% Finish SRS Pace Rel_Pace ORtg Rel_ORtg DRtg Rel_DRtg Playoffs Coaches Top WS
2016-17 NBA Golden State Warriors* 67 15 .817 1 11.35 99.8 3.4 115.6 6.8 104.0 -4.8 Won Finals S. Kerr (67-15) S. Curry (12.6)
2015-16 NBA Golden State Warriors* 73 9 .890 1 10.38 99.3 3.5 114.5 8.1 103.8 -2.6 Lost Finals S. Kerr (73-9) S. Curry (17.9)
2014-15 NBA Golden State Warriors* 67 15 .817 1 10.01 98.3 4.4 111.6 6.0 101.4 -4.2 Won Finals S. Kerr (67-15) S. Curry (15.7)
2013-14 NBA Golden State Warriors* 51 31 .622 2 5.15 96.2 2.3 107.5 0.8 102.6 -4.1 Lost W. Conf. 1st Rnd. M. Jackson (51-31) S. Curry (13.4)
2012-13 NBA Golden State Warriors* 47 35 .573 2 1.32 94.5 2.5 106.4 0.5 105.5 -0.4 Lost W. Conf. Semis M. Jackson (47-35) S. Curry (11.2)
2011-12 NBA Golden State Warriors 23 43 .348 4 -2.79 92.3 1.0 105.4 0.8 109.1 4.5 M. Jackson (23-43) D. Lee (5.0)
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/16/2017.

 

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