Similar to years past (and my draft reviews, for those of you who read them), I grade offseasons on a curve based on the opportunities available to that management team. A team hampered by a years-old trade or messed up draft pick do not get further penalized for it while teams with squandered resources absolutely do.
Philadelphia 76ers: Sam Hinkie took advantage of a shockingly great opportunity to fully remake the Sixers and give them a strong core to build around. They got the best player in the draft and a future first (likely a solid lottery pick) in the best draft in over a decade for a nice but unspectacular young point guard already paid properly now that he’s off his rookie deal. Picking up compelling pieces like Arsalan Kazemi and Royce White could help Philadelphia find another rotation player as they race to the bottom of the standings and the front of the line for the insanely loaded 2014 draft class.
Houston Rockets: Signing Dwight Howard makes the Rockets the single biggest winners of the summer, but the rest of their moves deserve some attention as well. Daryl Morey built a swingman bench with Omri Casspi, Reggie Williams and the returning Francisco Garcia, while also retaining Aaron Brooks and drafting Isiah Canaan to add depth at point guard. I also love the buy low pick up of BJ Young, one of the most naturally talented players in the 2013 Draft- it could pay major dividends for them.
Brooklyn Nets: After committing to a narrow timeframe of contention in 2012 with the Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace moves, Brooklyn doubled down and risked that they can put it together in the next two seasons with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. Adding Andrei Kirilenko to the mix gives Brooklyn one of the strongest playoff rotations in the conference and few teams have the personnel to handle a Brook Lopez/KG front line for a seven-game series. Securing even more depth with Andray Blatche, Jason Terry, Alan Anderson, Mason Plumlee, and Shaun Livingston should allow Jason Kidd to give the aging starters more rest in the regular season.
Golden State Warriors: Golden State added a huge piece in Andre Iguodala while only giving up a few future firsts and a bunch of dead salary. The trade with Utah also keeps the Warriors out of the tax for another season, which should help keep the balance sheets in order leading into the next few years of spending. Losing Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry hurts, but both got deals Bob Myers should not have offered, a common occurrence after a team goes on a memorable playoff run. A surprisingly strong offseason for a team not expected to make a big splash.
Atlanta Hawks: A very nice summer headlined by the ridiculous deal for Paul Millsap. The combination of Millsap and Al Horford could work incredibly well in the short term while not carrying a ton of long-term risk or salary in case they want to break it up. Danny Ferry also added Lucas Nogueira and Dennis Schroeder in the draft, two players who have a good chance of being among the best players in the class five years from now. Adding depth to the frontline with Gustavo Ayon, Elton Brand and Pero Antic combined with bringing back Kyle Korver should keep Atlanta in the playoffs.
Memphis Grizzlies: After shrewdly swapping Darrell Arthur for Kosta Koufos, Memphis still needed to improve their depth and shooting after a strong 12-13 campaign. Retaining Tony Allen and bringing in Mike Miller, Nick Calathes and Jamaal Franklin could help in a meaningful way during the playoffs.
Miami Heat: Using the amnesty provision on Mike Miller showed the cold financial reality of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement and may end up playing a small part in deciding the next champion. Luckily for Miami, being the champs still has its perks as the team got to bring back Chris Andersen on a surprisingly cheap deal and could get more redemptive big man minutes from this year’s reclamation project: Greg Oden.
Indiana Pacers: After a disappointing draft, I was not sure the Pacers would put it together. Fortunately, they did a strong job putting a bench together by adding CJ Watson, Chris Copeland and Luis Scola. Making their team deeper without putting a ton of strain on future budgets has to be in line with their goals for the offseason. Well done.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Following the massively disappointing James Harden trade right before last season, Sam Presti did a pretty good job retooling even though Kevin Martin left for colder pastures. Steven Adams had a very high place on my Big Board because of his sky high potential and Andre Roberson’s defense and rebounding could lead to him becoming a useful piece for the team sooner than most people thing. Re-signing Derek Fisher and failing to use the amnesty provision on Kendrick Perkins leaves a few bad pieces on the board for Scotty Brooks to overplay.
Portland Trail Blazers: Unable to bring in true star power to make a stronger starting lineup, Portland corrected their most glaring weakness by putting together a truly fascinating second unit. CJ McCollum, Robin Lopez, Dorell Wright and Thomas Robinson could all play pivotal roles early on while Allen Crabbe should fit in nicely over time. Having so much more depth should make the Blazers a more sturdy playoff contender as long as Damian Lillard, LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Baturm continue to improve.
San Antonio Spurs: In classic San Antonio fashion, the Spurs replaced a nice player in Gary Neal with Marco Belinelli, while also retaining Tiago Splitter and Manu Ginobili. While the team could have gone in a more bold direction, it’s hard to argue with a team that came so close to a championship just months ago.
Phoenix Suns: They made a big bet by taking Alex Len over Nerlens Noel and they absolutely need it to pay off in order for the team to be relevant in the long term. Phoenix acquired Eric Bledsoe for a surprisingly small price (Jared Dudley and sopping up the final year of Caron Butler’s contract) so they get a chance to evaluate him and option to match whatever outlandish deal Bledsoe gets offered next summer. The Suns did well to acquire a bunch of cheap lottery tickets in Archie Goodwin, Gerald Green and Miles Plumlee- one of the benefits of proactive and forward thinking management.
Chicago Bulls: Both of their rookies (Tony Snell and Erik Murphy) make sense with what Chicago has built and Mike Dunleavy Jr. should be able to step in and contribute to a healthy squad. Losing Nate Robinson will hurt the team should Derrick Rose miss any serious time since they now lack a true take over offensive force when Rose is off the floor.
Toronto Raptors: After unloading final two seasons of Andrea Bargnani’s deal, the Raptors added two former Pacers in Tyler Hansbrough and DJ Augustin while also bringing in Summer League standout Dwight Buycks to back up Kyle Lowry. We will have to wait and see if Jonas Valanciunas and Rudy Gay’s eyesight can improve enough to make the Raptors relevant this season but it feels like Toronto is on the right path.
Los Angeles Clippers: Retaining Chris Paul and bringing in Doc Rivers should keep the Clippers relevant for years to come. They should have gotten more for valuable trade piece Eric Bledsoe since Caron Butler’s expiring contract did not weigh too heavily on the team’s future and could have even been an asset in the right deal. Adding JJ Redick and Jared Dudley makes Lob City an even more dangerous offensive team, but not fixing their problems on the interior and the defensive end could doom them in May/June.
Boston Celtics: Boston made lemonade out of the end of the Big Three era by picking up a series of first round picks. Unfortunately, Gerald Wallace’s contract combines with Jeff Green and Courtney Lee to give the Celtics a surprisingly large amount of long-term money committed to players who will not be key parts of their success. It also felt strange that despite the bold moves on draft night they still went with lower upside players in Kelly Olynyk and Colton Iverson, especially when followed up by the unceremonious dumping of last year’s pick Fab Melo. Danny Ainge may find it harder to move Wallace’s contract and using Rajon Rondo to dump it rather than accumulate assets could be a problem at the deadline. I’m also not totally comfortable with trading Paul Pierce after all he did for the franchise unless it was truly what he wanted.
New York Knicks: Joining their Big Apple compatriots in doubling down on the next few seasons, the Knicks gave up a 2016 first round pick to bring in the enigmatic Andrea Bargnani. While Il Mago has fascinating offensive potential with the team, New York moved even further away from the defensive competence necessary to be relevant in the Eastern Conference. Choosing to retain Pablo Prigioni over Chris Copeland makes little sense considering the available of backup level PG’s (especially those with limited upside) compared to Copeland’s defense and potential to improve. While they were able to take potentially useful fliers on Beno Udrih and Metta World Peace, they also gave JR Smith an ill-advised three-year contract.
Utah Jazz: In effect, Utah broke Golden State’s record for most expensive purchase of first round draft picks by taking on Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins’ expiring contracts in exchange for two eventual picks from the Warriors. Losing both Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap without any compensation puts a ton of pressure on Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward and Enes Kanter while Trey Burke will be asked to take on a ton of responsibility early on at point guard. I loved their move back into the first round to pick up Rudy Gobert though allowing him to develop a little more in Europe (and push back the rookie scale years on his contract) makes more sense than bringing him over now.
Orlando Magic: Drafting Victor Oladipo to develop alongside the surprising core Orlando has put together makes intuitive sense, but they should have done more buy low moves to take advantage of their remaining time towards the bottom of the league. It will be interesting to see if they can get something nice for Arron Afflalo because he could be much more useful on a contending team and the Magic could have plenty of interested parties as the deadline approaches.
Sacramento Kings: Like their new owner’s previous team, one of Sacramento’s best moves was not matching another team’s ridiculous bid for one of their players. The Kings did one better by actually acquiring a nice piece in the form of Greivis Vasquez who gives the team another player to try at a packed PG spot. Unfortunately, the team signed Carl Landry to a wholly unnecessary deal, giving the team an arsenal of overpaid players at the least valuable position in the entire league. Hopefully adding a fun talent in Ben McLemore and improved depth can combine with new management and coaching to get DeMarcus Cousins on track and give the team momentum for next summer and the years ahead.
Detroit Pistons: Detroit got quite a bit more talented this summer, though I cannot see how the pieces will fit together. Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith both have the ability to contribute far more than they have thus far in their careers, so hopefully good coaching and a change of scenery will help facilitate the mental adjustments. Beyond that, Tony Mitchell could be a nice fourth big man for the team while Kentavious Caldwell-Pope may have to fight the other new additions for touches and shots.
Charlotte Bobcats: Signing Al Jefferson was fine but it seems strange that the team did not use their general lack of salary to build picks and talent considering how desperate other teams were to create more space. Intriguing prospects like Thomas Robinson and Royce White were given away for nearly nothing and Charlotte has plenty of roster space to add on players like that. Taking Cody Zeller at No. 4 over Nerlens Noel made very little sense with their roster and committing two years to Josh McRoberts and three to Gerald Henderson was strange and unnecessary considering how many holes the team has to fix before players like them will make a big difference.
Cleveland Cavaliers: An incredibly strange mix of moves considering the fascinating potential of both the offseason and the team as a whole. Though they got better, no team had a greater combination of draft picks and cap space this summer, so the bar was awfully high. Taking a chance on Andrew Bynum makes a ton of sense and could yield real dividends for a franchise that has had plenty of trouble wooing high-level talent. Unfortunately, the only way Anthony Bennett makes sense as the No. 1 pick is if LeBron James comes back and Bynum stays healthy and sticks around. Otherwise, Cleveland will probably regret taking a power forward over a center in the top five for the second time in three years and passing on a high level center prospect in the three drafts in a row (Valanciunas, Drummond and Noel). While Jarrett Jack can be a good mentor to Kyrie Irving, he came at a high price for a player who unquestionably will be a backup for the duration of his deal.
Milwaukee Bucks: After being active in both free agency and trades, it feels hard to argue that Milwaukee will be meaningfully better than they were last season. Moving from a backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis to Brandon Knight and OJ Mayo does not feel like an improvement while depth pieces like Luke Ridnour and Zaza Pachulia are not enough to put the team firmly in the playoffs. I did like their inspired choice of Giannis Antetokounmpo in the draft at least.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Hard to blame David Kahn or current management for Andrei Kirilenko turning down a huge player option to play for the mini mid-level in Brooklyn. However, the team spent a ton of resources on role players like Kevin Martin, Shabazz Muhammad, Gorgui Dieng and Corey Brewer when they still have work to do above them in the rotation. At this point, it feels like the Wolves are missing one higher level piece to push everyone down on the pecking order so they can be in their proper roles and those players do not come around that often. Spending long-term money on Martin, Chase Budinger and Brewer also could have meaningful consequences if Kevin Love decides to go elsewhere in 2015 since all three could still be on the books alongside Ricky Rubio’s inevitable extension and Nikola Pekovic’s new big contract.
Los Angeles Lakers: After losing Dwight Howard for absolutely nothing, the Lakers had some tough decisions to make considering their lack of financial flexibility. Instead of going boldly into next season and taking some fliers on high-upside players, the team elected to sign some “win now” guys (Nick Young, Chris Kaman, etc) who will not help them win a whole lot now. We could see a situation where one or even zero players presently on the roster play for the Lakers in 14-15.
Denver Nuggets: While I do not blame them much for Andre Iguodala electing to leave, severing ties with George Karl and Masai Ujiri could have far reaching consequences for the franchise. The decision to trade the useful and valuable Kosta Koufos for Darrell Arthur became even harder to explain after the team signed JJ Hickson to an unnecessarily large contract. Denver still has plenty of talent and a strong homecourt advantage but lost much of what made them so fun and dangerous the last few seasons.
Washington Wizards: Being right on the precipice of a new level of success necessitates bold steps to maximize future potential. Instead of being aggressive and making a splash In either 2013 or 2014, the Wizards decided to keep what they have by overpaying Martell Webster, preemptively maxing out John Wall, and taking local product Otto Porter Jr over the higher ceiling of Nerlens Noel. Furthermore, they committed to a perimeter rotation without a clear-cut lead scorer (in crunch time or otherwise) and an elite defender in the crunch time lineup. While they can still be a playoff team in the East with what they have, the Wizards will need some major developments to get beyond that stage.
New Orleans Pelicans: They were so close to having everything in place for a slow build. A potential key franchise piece in Anthony Davis, quality supporting players, and plenty of salary flexibility. Instead, they chose to solidify around a perimeter rotation of Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans, a group who may not be able to play together in crunch time. They also surrendered their first round pick in next year’s stacked draft class in the process. On top of everything, they gave valued contributor Greivis Vasquez away in the Evans sign-and-trade without getting anything in return which is a shame.
Dallas Mavericks: Missing out on Dwight Howard and Chris Paul hurts, but the bigger problem is how the front office handled the rest of the summer. All of the weirdness can be encapsulated by the fact that the team did a solid job drafting Shane Larkin and then went out and signed three more point guards (Jose Calderon, Devin Harris and Gal Mekel). It now looks like they will start Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis together, committing significant money and time to one of the worst defensive backcourts in the history of the NBA. Depth pieces like Brandan Wright, DeJuan Blair and Shane Larkin will help but the team still lacks a path to victory reliable enough to put them in the playoffs in a deeper Western Conference.