NBA offseason is the most exciting thing about the summer, so let’s talk about what teams are making big baller moves this offseason and the teams that aren’t.
This includes anything from the offseason (includes roster moves, drafts, offseason), but it’s not fair to grade these moves in a vacuum. We must also analyze the future effects of these moves. The teams on the list don’t mean I think they will win or lose next year, but instead, are accomplishing their goals (or what I think should’ve been their goals).
Last Seasons Record: 31-51
The T-Wolves have a young nucleus that is just overflowing with potential. If you were to ask a basketball expert at the end of last season “What do you think of the current state of the Timberwolves?”, they would respond something like “Bright future, but lack veteran presence and defense”. Of course, Karl Anthony and Andrew Wiggins names would come up within the next few sentences. It’s been proven for decades that it is impossible to win rings with only young guys; and the trend of the league is without at least three stars, teams aren’t a true contenter.
They are certainly making positive moves this offseason to check those boxes. It all starts with the Jimmy Butler acquisition. Getting a top twenty NBA player is almost always a positive move. They only had to give up Zach LeVine, Kris Dunn, and No. 7. In return, the Wolves received Butler and No. 16 pick Justin Patton. That doesn’t feel like it was too much for Butler, especially when you think about the fact that Butler seems like a perfect fit in Minnesota. He brings defense and toughness that they should’ve lacked last year. He brings veteran leadership and he is an established player who has been to the playoffs and advanced out of the first round. These are qualities this young emerging squad needs.
I think Jeff Teague (Three years, 57 million) signing might be one of the most underrated moves of this summer. Teague isn’t a perfect point guard, but he does well everywhere he goes and has a few years of his athletic prime left. I still say the Hawks chose wrong picking Schroder over Teague, but that’s another conversation for another day. At the very least, he is an upgrade to Rubio and didn’t have to drastically over pay for it (Three years, 57 million).
Taj Gibson is a vet that will come off the bench and give quality minutes. He wasn’t cheap (Two years, 28 million), but his value will prove to be worth more with leadership and toughness off the bench. Jamal Crawford (Two years, 9 million) has bounced around a little this offseason and he isn’t the 6th Man of the Year that he has been in the past. He is still a streaky scorer who has playoff experience and not afraid of the moment.
This summer, the T-Wolves have built themselves into a complete team with young talent and veteran leadership. It will be an extremely competitive Western Conference, but the Wolves will be in the playoff mix for years to come. Best case scenario for Wolves fan, they are playing Game 7’s at home.
Last Season’s Record: 51-31 (2nd in East)
The Cavs are in a “peculiar” place right now and it doesn’t look in its going to get better. That’s odd for someone to say about a team coming off three consecutive final appearances and are the Eastern Conference favorite to return this year, but it is true.
The Cavs failed to make a major free agency haul after losing to the Warriors in 5 games and it was clear that the Warriors had just a little more fire power. Paul George wanted out and the Cavs lost that race to the Thunder. Jimmy Butler was available and we know how that ended. Even Carmelo Anthony’s services are being offered about the league and that’s one of LeBron’s best friends. Well, it looks like Melo is headed nowhere near the Cavaliers.
So, what have the Cavs done this summer? They resigned Kyle Korver for (Three years, 22 million) and they signed Calderon (One year, 2 million). Each deal would’ve been good ideas ten years ago, Korver (36) and Calderon (35) are just too old to count on every night. These moves are a step backwards. Yes, both are excellent shooters, but neither is at least average defenders. Both guys are old and not going to contribute much to the Cavs next season. There is a glimmer of hope for the Cavs because they did sign Derrick Rose to the veteran minimum (One year, 2 million). Rose obviously isn’t the same guy he was last year, but he is an upgrade from Deron Williams at backup point guard and he is still a decent playmaker off the bench.
Right when it felt like maybe the Cavs summer might not be a terrible one, Kyrie breaks Cavaliers’ (and LeBron’s) hearts across the world. Reports say that he wants to be traded out of Cleveland. This is coming as a surprise to most basketball fans. Kyrie has had so much success with LeBron and had very little before LeBron came back to Cleveland. If Kyrie wants out of Cleveland, this could be the end of the Warriors vs Cavaliers Finals. We aren’t going to know how bad the Cavs offseason will be until this Kyrie move happens.
Cleveland is on the loser list because they didn’t improve at all. They were the second-best team in the NBA, but needed a little more juice to beat the Warrior. While the Cavs weren’t making moves, other teams evolved to become super teams.
Los Angeles Clippers
Last Season Record: (51-31) 4th in Western Conference
The Gallinari trade would’ve been the best trade the Clippers made in years, but they made the trade a season too late. The Clippers team had almost all the pieces to make a legit run at the championship; the missing piece was a small forward. Gallinari seems like he would have been a good wing player to team up with Paul, Griffin, and Jordan.
There is only one problem: The Clippers traded away Paul to the Rockets for Lou Williams, Patrick Beverly, Montrez Harrell, and Sam Dekker. The Clippers did well to get as much as they did in return. Lou Will is the second-best bench scorer in the league and Patrick Beverly will bring undoubted leadership and toughness along with elite defense. Dekker and Harrell are both solid young assets that could morph into role players. Losing JJ Reddick hurts a little, but the Clippers would have too many guards with the new pieces acquired in the Paul trade if Reddick had stayed. In a perfect world, the Clippers could keep Paul, but it appears that his exit was inevitable. The Clippers didn’t let Paul departure ruin their summer though, they bounced back well and came out on the positive going into next year.
Griffin resigning (Five years, 173 million) is huge and it’s probably a bargain too. They couldn’t afford to lose two stars in one summer. Griffin is talented enough to carry the Clippers to playoffs and they are going to need every bit of that in CP3 absence if they are going to make a deep playoff run. Hopefully Blake can stay healthy and keep the Clippers relevant and he will surpass his original worth.
Props to the Clippers. They didn’t let losing one of best player in their history tarnish their offseason. They resigned the future of the franchise and surrounded him with complimentary pieces. The Clippers took one of the biggest losses while also finding ways to stay relevant.
Last season’s Record: (53-29) 1st in Eastern Conference
Celtics are another team that is on the loser list because they failed to live up to their potential this free agency. They were 1st in the Eastern Conference last year, Isiah Thomas balled out, they got to conference finals, and lost LeBron. That’s a great year. Coming into this offseason the Celtics had eight first round draft picks 2017-19 drafts. That’s an incredible amount of fire power, so much so that it makes every player in the league available. A top-two team in a conference is in a draft position of a team that has been tanking for years. This offseason should’ve had one goal: GET THE PIECES TO BEAT LEBRON. It was that or bust.
They lost Avery Bradley who was Isaiah Thomas’ running mate. Isiah is the heart of the Celtics, but Bradley was a close second. He was the only player left from the Big 3 Celtics team and as a rookie he should that defensive intensity that fans love to watch. His offensive game has greatly improved and now he is one of the best two way players in the game. The Celtics gave Bradley up to the Pistons for Marcus Morris. Marcus Morris is going to more than replace Kelly Olynyk, but his upgrade wasn’t worth the loss of Bradley.
Gordon Haywood (Four years, 128 million) is a big fish that most teams would have loved to acquire this summer. The Celtics needed to add another scorer to the attack to take some pressure off Isaiah Thomas and Haywood’s 20 PPG will help. Haywood has enough to make up for Bradley’s loss, but Haywood’s offense impact is dampened because Bradley is gone. In a vacuum the Haywood pick up was great for the Celtics, but in the real world he isn’t enough.
Those moves aren’t bad enough to gives the Celtics’ offseason the “Loser” label, they are here because they didn’t use their future draft picks to get a STAR. A star is defined as one of the top 20 players in the league. Haywood isn’t a star. The Celtics might have more wealth in their future picks than ANY team I have ever seen in any of the major American sports. This is the layout of the Celtics’ three years of 1st round draft: 2017- 1, 2018- 3, 2019- 4. From 2017-19 the Celtics have a mind blowing EIGHT first round picks. There is no reason why you couldn’t have transformed those picks into Paul George, Jimmy Butler, Kyrie, Boogie Cousins, the list goes on and on. Almost every player could be acquired with the picks that the Celtics have. That fact that they didn’t is a major disappointment.
I love Isaiah Thomas just like every basketball fan out there, but he isn’t enough. I hate to say it, but his just too small to lead the Celtics to a ring. Creating shots is too hard on offense in playoffs when the court shrinks and the defense is focused on one guy and that one guy is 5 9. I.T. defense is so bad, but what can really expect from someone with his size. With all that being said, Thomas is an extraordinary talent and Boston needs to surround him with stars that can defend and create on their own. The Celtics are in the perfect sweet spot of being a good team with a bright future.
Last Season’s Record: (28-54) 14th in Eastern Conference
The Sixers have an incredibly high outlook on the upcoming years. This year is the perfect year for Philly to reap the benefits of “The Process”. The Eastern Conference has lost a few teams that would normally compete for playoff spots. Chicago, Indiana, and Atlanta are all teams that were in the playoffs last year, but next year doesn’t look nearly as optimistic. Miami is the only team in the east that didn’t make the playoffs last year that should make it this upcoming year. That leaves two spots for a team like the Sixers whose upward trajectory could propel them into the playoff next year. We all know the amount of young talent the Sixers have from all those years of losing “tanking”. Between Embiid, Simmons, Saric, and Covington the Sixers future looks as bright as any other teams’ in the league. Now, it is time to turn all of those losing seasons into success.
Jahlil Okafor should’ve been moved after Dario Saric came to the NBA. Due to the time it took them to do so, I don’t imagine they couldn’t get much value for him now because teams see that he isn’t living up to his draft hype. As big as a missed opportunity this was, it’s not a part of this offseason. The piece they could’ve received for him might have been something, but now they would probably just get a low-end role player. Might as well keep him now and hope he finds his footing and develops into the player Philly thought he would be.
The Philadelphia this offseason really get that process started. The perfect complement inexperienced young talented prospects are experienced and a more seasoned veteran show them the ropes. Those guys have names: JJ Reddick and Amir Johnson. JJ is a one year $23 million deal. 23 million seems like a ton to give to 3-point specialist, but it’s not nearly as unreasonable as you may think. Philly was 25th out of 30th in 3pt shooting last year. Their best threats from long range are Covington, and Staukas. Covington only shot 33% and Staukas shot 36%, but isn’t a consistent enough player to get quality minutes a playoff team. That’s where JJ comes in. He is a better shooter than anyone on the 76ers roster and can easily take Staukas place in the rotation. The reason JJ’s contract is so large is because he is the only one on the 76ers roster that has legit playoff experience. His leadership could prove to be priceless when it comes to showing the young guys how to be professionals.
Amir Johnson (One year, 11 million) is a similar signing, but for the front court. Johnson’s basic stats don’t tell the whole story. He is an excellent team defender and team rebounder. He does all the little things that keeps teams playing through April. And he is only 29 so he could be a piece that stays and helps develop this team for years to come.
This offseason was about converting this collection of lottery picks to a playoff team. It’s still early to tell, but it looks like 76ers may be a playoff team next year. The East is obviously the weaker conference and there will be spots available because the Bulls, Pacers, and Hawks are most likely going to drop out. Philly could be the 7-8th seed. Trust the Process.
Last season’s Record: 40-42
The Nuggets’ offseason hasn’t been great to Nuggets fans around the world. The fans should feel anxious for the next few years because of the wealth of young talent. That young talent starts with Nikola Jokic. He is one of the brightest “young bigs” in the league. Karl Anthony Towns might be the only one I would take over right now. The Nuggets know how important it is to surround Jokic with young complimentary pieces like Gary Harris and Jamal Murray, so they can grow together. Success for the Nuggets goes through Jokic, Harris, Murray.
Paul Millsap’s contract doesn’t make that much sense. Millsap is an upgrade at the PF position, but he also 32. Millsap (Three years, 90 million) deal is going to really hurt the cap when he is 34-35. He isn’t going to be worth his yearly salary nor will he be easy to trade because of his contract. Next year, Gary Harris and Nikola Jokic will be up for new deals. Jokic could demand well over 100 million and Harris could wind up getting 15 million a year. With all those hefty contracts the Nuggets won’t be able to make a major splash in free agency. On top of that The Denver lost Gallo for almost nothing. Gallinari hasn’t been healthy the last few years, I understand a little hesitation to sign him to big contract, but it would be a better deal than Millsap’s. Gallinari is younger, cheaper, and already acclimated to the system and the team. The Nuggets should be playing for the future, why the Nuggets chose Millsap over Gallinari is beyond me.
The Nuggets draft. What was that? They originally had the 13th pick. The Nuggets should’ve target the PF position in the draft, and they did, and that’s about all they did right. They have a few players on the roster that could’ve been packaged to move them higher up the lottery to get Wilson Chandler and Kenneth Faried are both players that don’t really fit the Nuggets system and would be considerably more valuable as trade bait. The Nuggets didn’t find anyone to trade with. Instead, they traded back with Utah to get Trey Lyles and draft Tyler Lydon with the 24th pick. Too bad Nuggets already have a player like Lyles and Juan Hernangomez is only rookie and Lydon is even more like Hernangomez than Lyles! So, the Nuggets essentially turned their lottery pick into two players who are the same position who aren’t very different from what they already have.
The Nuggets didn’t make boss moves this offseason. It’s tough to say they moved backwards this offseason until we see the result of the Paul Millsap deal. The draft was certainly a move backwards. This could be the last year the Nuggets are a lottery team for some years and they didn’t get anything from it. I can say, they aren’t moving forward, at best, just laterally.