Additions: Luke Babbitt, Marco Belinelli, Nicolas Brussino, Tyler Cavanaugh, John Collins, Quinn Cook, DeWayne Dedmon, Tyler Dorsey, Jeremy Evans, John Jenkins, Josh Magette, Miles Plumlee
Subtractions: Jose Calderon, Mike Dunleavy, Tim Hardaway Jr., Dwight Howard, Kris Humphries, Ryan Kelly, Paul Millsap, Thabo Sefolosha
2017-18 Cap Space: None. Over Salary Floor. Under Luxury Tax.
2018-19 Maximum Cap Space: $42.5 million
Analysis: The Atlanta Hawks have made the postseason for 10 straight seasons, a streak unlikely to continue in 2018. New General Manager Travis Schlenk blew up the team and is starting over. Schlenk was an integral part of building the Golden State Warriors juggernaut and will now look to do the same with the Hawks. After yet another first round exit, he determined what they had wasn’t good enough.
Schlenk's first move was to trade Dwight Howard and the over $47 million he had remaining over the next two seasons to the Charlotte Hornets. Schlenk took on three years and $37.5 million for Miles Plumlee, but the Howard move is largely addition by subtraction. Even at his reduced rate of production, Howard is a better player than Plumlee by leaps and bounds, but this wasn’t about on the court production. The Hawks became the latest in a long line of teams to sour on Howard.
Plumlee is likely Atlanta’s third center, following other moves the Hawks made, but he could be a productive player if he can get healthy. Plumlee is an active big man who does well in the pick and roll and diving to rim off penetration from the guards and wings. His contract remains one of the worst in the NBA either way, but he’s been traded twice in the last year, once again proving no one is truly untradeable.
In the same deal, the Hawks acquired Marco Belinelli. While Belinelli hasn’t been the same player as he was in his Bulls and Spurs days, he’s still a respectable scorer off the bench. Belinelli is also on an expiring contract. If he turns it around and is productive, Atlanta could have a decent trade chip.
Creating trade chips on good contracts also marks the rest of the Hawks deals, as they signed DeWayne Dedmon and Luke Babbitt, while re-signing Mike Muscala and Ersan Ilyasova. Each of those four are on very team friendly contracts and Atlanta will either get solid production on the cheap or they’ll have a tradable player.
Dedmon had a good season manning the pivot for the San Antonio Spurs before falling out of the rotation in the postseason as opponents downsized their lineups. Mike Budenholzer runs a similar system to the Spurs, so Dedmon should have a relatively easy transition. He’s also a good defender and rebounder, which Atlanta had lacked from the other centers on the roster after trading Howard.
Babbitt doesn’t do much at this point but shoot the ball, but many would be surprised to learn he’s hit for 40.6 percent for his career from behind the arc. The last three years he’s shot 51.3, 40.4 and 41.4 percent on three-pointers. When forwards who can shoot it are brought up, Babbitt is rarely mentioned, but he’s one of the best. On a partially guaranteed veteran minimum deal, Babbitt might be one of the best bargains in the NBA.
Muscala has grown into a very good offensive center, who is an underrated rebounder. He’s likely Dedmon’s primary backup and will play big minutes when the Hawks need more of an offensive approach. Schlenk comes from a place where spacing is important and Budenholzer was weaned in the Spurs space and pace systems, so Muscala is going to play and play a lot.
Ilyasova continued to do what he always has: shoot it well from deep, rebound and play solid positional defense. For one year and $6 million, Atlanta has another steal. All in all, the Hawks may have one of the best shooting big men groups in the NBA.
Unfortunately all this cheap talent might lead to a small problem: finding minutes for rookie John Collins. Collins was drafted 19th overall and early returns have Atlanta having gotten a major steal. Collins was excellent in Summer League, showing his versatile inside scoring game and soft touch from the outside. He’s also a good rebounder and only just turned 20 years old. Because of the veterans up front, he’ll be afforded some time to develop, but he’s likely to force Budenholzer’s hand eventually.
Dennis Schroder’s four-year, $62 million contract extension kicks in this year and with Paul Millsap off to Denver and Howard traded to Charlotte, there is no question that this is his team. An arrest early on in training camp isn’t a great sign of his maturation into a team leader, but his impressive run in EuroBasket was encouraging. The Hawks will hope the latter far outweighs the former going forward.
Offseason Grade: C. Losing Millsap will cost the Hawks several wins in the short-term, but it was probably time for both sides to move on. Howard is less of a concern, given the fit just didn’t seem right. In that 10-year run of postseasons, the Hawks advanced to one conference finals, and were eliminated in the opening round five times. Many question if simply making the playoffs year over year is better than bottoming out. After trying it one way for a decade, Atlanta is now trying the other approach. All the new signings were short deals and all are tradable, which is key in a rebuild.
Long-term Grade: C+. Collins looks like a steal. If Schroder can grow into a team leader, his contract is team friendly as well. Taurean Prince came on late last year and looks like a keeper. Plumlee and Kent Bazemore are deals you’d probably rather not have, but they aren’t so bad they can’t be worked around. Atlanta is taking a major step back this year, but with a relatively clean cap sheet and a clear direction from the new front office, they could quickly be back in the postseason.
Additions: Dwayne Bacon, Michael Carter-Williams, Dwight Howard, Mangok Mathiang, Malik Monk, Marcus Paige, Julyan Stone
Subtractions: Marco Belinelli, Miles Plumlee, Brian Roberts, Ramon Sessions, Briante Weber, Christian Wood
2017-18 Cap Space: None. Over Salary Floor. Under Luxury Tax.
2018-19 Maximum Cap Space: None. $14.8 million over.
Analysis: The Charlotte Hornets missed the postseason in 2017, continuing a string of make one, miss one that started when Steve Clifford was hired. Injuries played a major factor, as the Hornets were 3-17 when Cody Zeller was unable to play. For a quarter of the season, Charlotte played like one of the worst teams in the NBA. If that had been even a little more balanced, or Zeller hadn’t missed so much time, the Hornets would have been a playoff team.
This summer, possibly in part to guard against a similar fall-off without Zeller, Charlotte upgraded the center spot by trading for Dwight Howard. Such was Atlanta’s desire to move Howard that they traded him to the Hornets in the rarely seen intra-division trade. Howard isn’t the player he once was, but the Hornets hope that being reunited with Clifford, who was an assistant coach in both Orlando and Los Angeles when Howard was there, is the ticket to a productive year.
Despite being on his fifth team since his MVP-caliber days in Orlando, Howard had a solid 16-17 season. He shot the highest percentage from the floor in his career (63.3 percent), albeit on his lowest field goal attempts per game since his rookie year. He also averaged his most rebounds per game since he left the Magic. And while he’s no longer an All-Defense level of defender, he remains a better than average rim protector. The slippage has come as he’s aged and lost athleticism. Howard used to not only beat the opposing center down the floor, but he could outrun most of the guards. Those days are now gone, and since he never developed a jumper or any real post moves, Howard’s offense comes off put backs and drop-off passes from his teammates.
All of that said, he’s still a better rebounder and shot blocker than any other big the Hornets have on the roster. Combined with Zeller, Charlotte should get 48 quality center minutes per night. In addition, since both are starter caliber, Clifford can rotate them freely without putting too much of a load on either guy.
Charlotte’s other additions were in the backcourt, as they added Malik Monk at the draft and signed Michael Carter-Williams to take his turn in the revolving door at backup point guard behind Kemba Walker. The Hornets were thrilled when Monk slipped in the draft. At this point, Monk isn’t really a point guard and lacks the size of a prototypical shooting guard, but that shouldn’t matter just yet. He is one of the best shooters in this year’s rookie class and can fill an immediate need for a scoring guard in a bench role. Monk’s game harkens back to former Charlotte Bobcat Ben Gordon. He gets great lift on his jumper, which helps negate his lack of size.
Carter-Williams was signed, in part, to allow Monk to adapt to the NBA by playing off the ball and to give the Hornets a bigger option at point guard alongside the undersized Walker. Unfortunately, Carter-Williams has had lingering hip and knee issues that are likely to keep him sidelined to start the year. Because of this, Charlotte signed Julyan Stone to a guaranteed contract. Stone will likely pair with Monk to play the backup point guard minutes until Carter-Williams recovers. In addition, Nicolas Batum will do a lot of the primary ball handling when Walker is out of the game.
Charlotte picked Dwayne Bacon in the second round and he could eventually replace Jeremy Lamb in the rotation. Lamb has been given multiple opportunities to lockdown a reserve role and hasn’t been able to perform consistently enough to do so. If he struggles again, Bacon could take that spot. The Hornets thought highly enough of Bacon to give him two fully guaranteed years, which is a sign that they are hoping he can develop into a rotation piece.
Offseason Grade: B-. Given that Charlotte didn’t give up much to get Howard, you can call that trade a win for them. He brings a different look from the other centers the Hornets have. If he’s focused, and recent reports seem to confirm that he is, Howard could go a long way towards getting the team to the playoffs. Charlotte lucked out when Monk slipped to them in the draft, but they did select him. He should replace Marco Belinelli’s contributions off the bench as soon as this year. Beyond that additions were fairly low-key, but the players they got, combined with better health, should have the Hornets in the playoffs this year.
Long-term Grade: B+. Howard does carry an additional year of salary beyond this one at nearly $24 million, but Charlotte was unlikely to have cap space in 2018 anyway. Beyond getting Howard as a player, the Hornets got off an extra year of salary for Miles Plumlee, who has three years left. Monk should pay off for years to come. He looks like he can be a big time bench scorer at a minimum, not unlike Gordon was for years. With every core player signed for this year and next, the time is now for Charlotte to start winning consistently.
Additions: Bam Adebayo, A.J. Hammons, Jordan Mickey, Kelly Olynyk, Derrick Walton Jr.
Subtractions: Luke Babbitt, Chris Bosh, Josh McRoberts, Willie Reed
2017-18 Cap Space: None. Over Salary Floor. Under Luxury Tax.
2018-19 Maximum Cap Space: $35.3 million
Analysis: A year after starting over around the duo of Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside, Miami had another productive offseason. They hit the summer with the goal of adding a superstar or re-signing key role players and adding other complementary pieces. After Gordon Hayward chose Boston, Miami quickly pivoted to Plan B (or was it Plan A1?) and re-signed James Johnson and Dion Waiters to new deals, while also adding Kelly Olynyk.
Miami’s ability to re-sign Johnson and Waiters and add Olynyk was aided in part by the medical retirement of Chris Bosh. After carrying Bosh (and his $23.7 million salary) on the roster all year, while Bosh exhausted every avenue to returning to play, the situation was finally resolved. Bosh and the Heat agreed to a deal where he would retire, and in a one-time exception, the NBA and NBPA agreed that if Bosh returned to play later, Miami would not incur a cap hit. It was a sad, but inevitable, end to a great career.
With the new found cap space, the Heat re-signed Johnson to a four-year, $60 million deal and Waiters to a four-year, $47 million deal. After spending a year in the Miami organization, which stresses culture and physical fitness, Johnson and Waiters had the best years of their respective careers. Waiters was a great fit next to Dragic as the third scorer the starting lineup needed, while Johnson was a Sixth Man of the Year contender.
Having salary dumped Josh McRoberts to the Mavericks to increase their cap room, Miami had a hole up front to fill around Whiteside. And they did quite well to fill it with Olynyk. Over his four years in Boston, Olynyk became one of the better shooting big men in the league, as well as a good passer and better defender than most give him credit for. Whether he starts alongside Whiteside, or comes off the bench, Olynyk will give Miami floor spacing and passing, like what they had hoped to get from McRoberts once upon a time.
At the draft, the Heat picked Bam Adebayo, who will spend his rookie year backing up Whiteside. Given that Willie Reed signed with the Clippers in the offseason, Adebayo will get the first crack at the backup center role. He’s a bit raw, but a good athlete with a developing offensive game. For 10-15 minutes a night, he’ll be fine behind Whiteside.
Miami also made two other moves, one that should pay off this year, and the other down line. For this season, they fully guaranteed Wayne Ellington’s deal. Ellington gives them a shooter off the bench, which is a skill the other backup guards don’t really bring.
The future-based move was to sign Josh Richardson to a four-year, $42 million extension. Rather than let Richardson test restricted free agency in 2018 and potentially be forced to match a big offer (as they were with Tyler Johnson last July), the Heat signed him early. Richardson is a good combo guard and has enough size to also play the 3.
Part of the reason Miami made the moves they did, is that Tyler Johnson’s deal jumps from $5.8 million this year to $19.2 million next season, because of the structure of the Arenas Provision offer sheet he signed with the Brooklyn Nets. With Whiteside and Dragic, who is coming off leading Slovenia to the EuroBasket title, signed for at least another year, Miami was looking at a tricky cap sheet. They chose to double down on players who are proven to have had success in their system.
Offseason Grade: B+. Miami missed out on the primary target in Hayward, but recovered nicely. They now have as deep a roster as any in the NBA. That will help as they navigate the long season. Johnson and Waiters seem to have found homes and Olynyk should fit in great. While the popular narrative is to remind folks that this team finished 31-10 over the second half, it is important to remember that they went 10-31 in the first half. With better health, Miami should be closer to the group that closed strong vs the slow starters that stumbled early on.
Long-term Grade: B. While neither deal for James Johnson or Waiters is a gross overpay, both players capitalized on a breakout season in a contract year. And Johnson’s came as a 30-year-old. No matter how great of shape Miami got him in, Johnson is unlikely to be a productive 34-year-old reserve in 2021, while being paid over $16 million. Waiters deal is less risky, and he should return the value throughout the life of it. Tyler Johnson’s contract jumps way up, and while he’s a productive reserve guard, he’s not $19 million productive. That contract more than any other will make it tricky to build around Dragic and Whiteside for the next couple of year. But Pat Riley has done more with less several times before and he can probably do it again.
Additions: Arron Afflalo, Khem Birch, Jonathan Isaac, Wesley Iwundu, Shelvin Mack, Adreian Payne, Jonathon Simmons, Marreese Speights
Subtractions: Patricio Garino, Marcus Georges-Hunt, Jeff Green, Jodie Meeks, C.J. Watson, Stephen Zimmerman
2017-18 Cap Space: $549,887. Over Salary Floor. Under Luxury Tax.
2018-19 Maximum Cap Space: $21.5 million
Analysis: In the summer of 2016, the Orlando Magic traded for, signed and re-signed players to the tune of over $200 million. For that cash outlay, Orlando got 29 wins and missed the playoffs for the fifth straight season, the longest drought in franchise history. The failure to move the post-Dwight Howard rebuild forward ultimately cost Rob Hennigan his general manager job and ushered in a whole new front office.
Jeff Weltman was hired away from the Toronto Raptors and given the newly created role of President of Basketball Operations. Weltman then went to a trusted partner and hired John Hammond from the Milwaukee Bucks to fill the general manager position. Armed with a commitment from ownership and team president Alex Martins, Weltman then undertook the job of rebuilding not only the team on the court, but all facets of basketball operations in Orlando.
After big swings, and mostly misses, the Magic instead focused on smaller, targeted improvements in the offseason. Out are Jeff Green and Jodie Meeks, who were average at best in bench roles, and in are veterans Jonathon Simmons, Shelvin Mack, Arron Afflalo and Marreese Speights and sixth overall pick Jonathan Isaac.
Simmons comes over from San Antonio, where he developed from an unknown into a quality reserve. With Orlando, Simmons should have more consistent playing time, whether he starts or comes off the bench. And with that playing time he promised to “unleash the animal” at Media Day. Simmons goes all-out whenever he’s on the floor and fits in perfectly with the competitive, fighter style that Weltman wants to build and holdover head coach Frank Vogel prefers.
Mack comes in and will battle D.J. Augustin, one of Hennigan’s questionable signings from last summer, for backup point guard minutes behind Elfrid Payton. Mack, like Simmons, rose from relative unknown to rotation player in stops that have included Washington, Atlanta and Utah. He also bring more size and defense than Augustin, which seems to fit the direction the Magic are heading in.
Afflalo and Speights both signed on as veterans, but in an underrated yet important move, both wanted to be members of the Magic. Weltman termed that as “huge, with all capital letters”, as getting players who want to be Orlando is key to rebuilding. Neither player may have a huge impact on the court, but in terms of culture and leadership, both are welcomed additions.
As nice as the veteran signings are, the big move Orlando made this offseason was to draft Isaac. At 6’10’’, he fits the long, athletic mold that both Weltman and Hammond prefer in a player. He also has a versatile enough game that he should be able to play either the 3 or the 4, and if he can add enough bulk, he might even be able to play some small ball 5. Orlando has already said all they want Isaac to focus on this year is being the hardest worker on the team. With other players in front him in the rotation, he might not play a lot early, but eventually hard work combined with his talent will have him seeing regular minutes.
The Magic had two other pieces of business this offseason, but neither seems likely to resolve this year: contract extensions for Payton and Aaron Gordon. Given that the new front office is still in the evaluation stages, they may find it best to allow Gordon and Payton to hit restricted free agency next summer and handle a new deal at that point.
Offseason Grade: B-. Unlike last year’s big spending, Orlando kept it small this year. Simmons is a steal at just $6.3 million. He’ll either start or be the first player off the bench. The rest of the contracts were all good values and low risk. Last year Vogel had to teach a new system and create chemistry with a roster that saw huge turnover. This year, he has less to do on the front and can focus on getting his players to play the way he wants. Believe it or not, this is the first time in their four year careers that Gordon and Payton enter a season with the same coach they finished the previous year with. That sort of continuity alone should help them and the Magic.
Long-term Grade: B. Simmons’ deal actually declines the next two years and only $1 million of his $5.7 million salary is guaranteed in year three. Look around the league and the best teams generally have at least one of those team friendly deals around. Bismack Biyombo and Evan Fournier are both sitting on $17 million apiece for the next three years. While not great contracts, that isn’t bad value for what they bring. Most importantly, starting with the trade for Terrence Ross at last year’s deadline, this roster makes a lot more sense. It isn’t quite as flush with talent as you would like, but Weltman and crew have something to build from here. The key now is doing it.
Additions: Tim Frazier, Jodie Meeks, Devin Robinson, Mike Scott, Mike Young
Subtractions: Bojan Bogdanovic, Trey Burke, Brandon Jennings
2017-18 Cap Space: None. Over Salary Floor. $7.1 million over Luxury Tax.
2018-19 Maximum Cap Space: None. $16.6 million over.
Analysis: By the end of last season, the Washington Wizards were playing as good a basketball as anyone in the Eastern Conference not named the Cleveland Cavaliers. They extended the Boston Celtics to seven games in the second round and it was only the combined heroics of Isaiah Thomas and Kelly Olynyk that kept Washington from a conference finals appearance. This type of ascension was what the Wizards had been steadily building towards, but getting there painted them into a corner with their roster.
Because Washington had given both John Wall and Bradley Beal max contracts, along with big deals for the center tandem of Marcin Gortat and Ian Mahinmi, the Wizards financial flexibility was nil. And it couldn’t have come at a tougher time, as the team’s breakout combined with Otto Porter’s career year.
Because they lacked the cap space to replace Porter, the Wizards were faced with the unenviable decision of: just how much do you pay a previously inconsistent small forward? The Brooklyn Nets, as they did the previous summer with Allen Crabbe and Tyler Johnson, didn’t wait and forced Washington’s hand by giving Porter a maximum contract offer. Faced with being unable to replace the player they had finally groomed into a consistent starter, Washington matched the offer.
Porter is coming off nearly career-highs across the board, including 43.4 percent from behind the arc. His profile is one of steady improvement, as he’s increased every meaningful category in every season of his career. He also showed that he’s capable of playing some small ball 4, which is key versatility in the ever increasing downsizing of the NBA. $106.5 million over four years is a lot, but Washington really had no choice. If Porter continues his growth, the Wizards will be happy they matched.
Having re-upped with Porter, Washington was facing the luxury tax and limited options to improve the rotation. Bojan Bogdanovic, who had become a key reserve after being acquired at the trade deadline, left for more money and a bigger role in Indiana. The Wizards didn’t have much interest in bringing back Brandon Jennings, who also came over late in the season.
To replace Bogdanovic and Jennings, Washington signed Jodie Meeks and Tim Frazier. Meeks, provided he can overcome consistent health issues, can give Washington a bench shooter behind Beal and Porter on the wing. Frazier is the Wizards latest attempt at finding a quality backup behind Wall. Given his productive year in New Orleans, Washington might have finally hit on the right guy. Frazier can spell Wall not only in games, but give him the occasional night off when he needs one.
The Wizards also added Mike Scott as a low-cost flyer behind Markieff Morris at power forward. If Scott’s off the court troubles are behind him, he could be a low-risk, high-reward signing. He may be needed early on, as Morris recently had surgery for a sports hernia, which will keep him sidelined for the early part of the season.
Washington then took care of one last piece of business and inked John Wall to a four-year maximum contract extension using the new Designated Veteran Player Extension that starts in the 19-20 season. Wall is unquestionably the Wizards leader and best player and now they have him under contract for the remainder of his prime.
Offseason Grade: B. As covered above, Washington really had no choice but to match the offer sheet Porter signed with Brooklyn. Sure, they could have signed him to a team friendly extension in 2016, but they made him prove he was worth that much on the open market. You can’t go backwards, so making the best of a bad situation is often the best you can do. Porter should ultimately be worth the investment. Meeks and Frazier are both good additions and came at relatively low prices. Both should offer solid production off the bench.
Long-term Grade: A. Once again, Porter should prove worth his contract. More importantly, Wall is now signed until he’ll be in his early 30s, which might be the remainder of his All-Star level years. Having a talent such as Wall under contract, while also having great complementary pieces like Beal and Porter signed, makes building the rest of the roster that much easier. If LeBron James heads west, Washington will be in the mix to battle for Eastern Conference supremacy for a while.