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Grading Every Major Move of the 2012 NBA Offseason

Zach BuckleyNational NBA Featured ColumnistAugust 27, 2012

Grading Every Major Move of the 2012 NBA Offseason

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    The 2012 NBA offseason certainly did not lack for major moves involving contending franchises.

    The past five NBA champions added significant pieces to their roster, all in hopes of dethroning the reigning champion Miami Heat.

    A look into how much these teams improved could be a precursor to how the upcoming NBA season could play out.

    The rich got richer (as is often the case in David Stern's NBA), but some borderline playoff clubs took major steps toward championship contention. Those without 2013 playoff aspirations dealt for pieces for the future, as well as financial flexibility for the present.

    Not all of these moves were in the best interest of the respective franchises, but they all will impact the immediate future of the organizations involved.

Kyle Lowry to Toronto

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    How it happened

    One of many offseason deals involving the Houston Rockets, Lowry was sent to the Raptors for small forward Gary Forbes and a future first-round lottery pick.

     

    What it means

    Lowry's availability had nothing to do with his production, and everything to do with a deteriorating relationship with Houston coach Kevin McHale.

    Lowry is a gifted scorer whose tough, physical play should mesh well with the changing face of Raptors basketball. Coinciding with the arrival of big man Jonas Valanciunas (the fifth overall pick in 2011) and rookie Quincy Acy, Lowry's addition signals a shift away from the finesse play of recent Raptor teams.

    Lowry has the ability to create his own shot, or create for his teammates.

    He's adept at running the pick-and-roll, a play that should be a main focus in coach Dwane Casey's offense. With Valanciunas' ability to finish as the roller and former No. 1 pick Andrea Bargnani's agility as a roller and outside shooter out of the pick-and-pop, Lowry will have every opportunity to increase his career-high 6.7 assists per game (set in 2010-11).

    With two years and $12 million remaining on his contract, Lowry could be the league's best addition in terms of production versus salary.

     

    Overall grade: A-

Ryan Anderson to New Orleans

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    How it happened

    Anderson set career highs in nearly every major statistical category, netting him a four-year, $34 million contract from New Orleans in a sign-and-trade that sent Gustavo Ayon to Orlando.

     

    What it means

    If Anderson can continue to play at the level he displayed last season (16.1 points and 7.7 rebounds), he could be the perfect complement to New Orleans' rookies Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers.

    Anderson has long been labeled as a marksmen, but his shooting ability had never been as clear as it was last season when he poured in a league-best 166 three-pointers.

    He's 24 years old, and if he can maintain a level close to last season, his production will come relatively cheap in by today's standards.

    And his outside shooting should work well with Rivers' ability to run pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop sets, as well as create optimum spacing with Davis' ability to knock down midrange shots.

    But Anderson's far from the first athlete to post a career season in a contract year, and those numbers are far from guarantees of future production.

     

    Overall grade: C+

Lou Williams to Atlanta

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    How it happened

    Following seven seasons in Philadelphia, Williams opted out of the final year of his deal to earn a multi-year contract with the Hawks (financial terms have not yet been disclosed).

     

    What it means

    With Joe Johnson's departure, new Hawks GM Danny Ferry needed to find a perimeter scorer to complement his talented frontcourt duo of Josh Smith and Al Horford.

    Williams enjoyed one of his better seasons last year, leading his 76ers with 14.9 points per game despite not starting a single game all season.

    Where he fits in coach Larry Drew's now-crowded backcourt (along with Jeff Teague and newcomers Devin Harris and rookie John Jenkins) especially considering his diminutive stature (6'2", 175 lbs.) is something that may play out throughout the season.

    He's not a distributor (career 3.0 assists per game) but he takes care of the basketball (career 1.3 turnovers per game), and he has a knack for getting to the foul line (he attempted nearly five free throws per game last year).

    The financial terms of the deal could change this grade, but it's hard to see Ferry limiting too much of the financial flexibility that he helped create this summer. 

     

    Overall grade: B

Luis Scola to Phoenix

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    How it happened

    Following five productive seasons with Houston, Scola became available when the Houston Rockets chose to amnesty his remaining three-year, $21 million contract.

    Phoenix won Scola's amnesty auction (which included at least the Dallas Mavericks) and will pay the big man $13.5 million over the next three seasons.

     

    What it means

    The Suns may not have Steve Nash or Grant Hill on next year's roster, but that's not to say that their roster is bereft of talent.

    Scola is not the league's most exciting player, and at 32 years old, his best basketball could well be behind him.

    But he's quietly been one of the league's most productive power forwards over the past three seasons, a span where he's posted 16.7 points and 7.8 rebounds. Not to mention he's the definition of durable, as he's missed just eight games in his five NBA seasons.

    It bears noting that his scoring (15.5) and rebounding (6.5) last season were his lowest marks in three years and that last season was the first in which his field-goal percentage dropped below .500 (.491).

    Playing alongside Marcin Gortat, he'll help give Phoenix a formidable frontcourt, even if that may not be enough for a playoff berth in the loaded Western Conference.

    But with his contract numbers in mind, there's not much to complain about with this signing.

     

    Overall grade: B

Ray Allen to Miami

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    How it happened

    The 37-year-old Allen grabbed headlines when he signed a two-year deal with the reigning champions.

     

    What it means

    Allen's body may have relegated him to being little more than a perimeter shooter, but as a shooter, he's perhaps the league's best.

    And now that he'll play alongside LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, it's hard to imagine Heat coach Erik Spoelstra needing Allen to do much more than shoot.

    The 45.3 three-point percentage he displayed last season (a career high) ranked fourth best in the NBA (tied with new teammate Mike Miller), and the 14.2 points he averaged ranked second highest among the league's top 20 three-point shooters.

    With Miller, Shane Battier, James Jones and Mario Chalmers already on the roster, Spoelstra's club wasn't exactly hurting for shooters. And it's still not entirely clear how Allen will adjust to coming off the bench (something he's done just seven times in 1,148 career regular-season games).

    But it's hard to imagine this signing not working. Allen's an experienced NBA champion joining a group of experienced NBA champions.

     

    Overall grade: B

Jeremy Lin to Houston

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    How it happened

    In a span of three months, Lin was waived twice (first by Golden State, then by Houston) then posted 11 20-plus point outbursts with New York.

    Lin turned a remarkable 25-game run into a three-year, $25 million contract with Houston.

     

    What it means

    Lin may go down as the best sports story of the decade, but that largely depends on how sustainable that 25-game run really is.

    Prior to February 4, 2012, Lin's career high was 13 points—a number he topped in all but seven of those magical 25 games.

    During his tenure with the Knicks, he showed that he's not afraid of the moment. He'll take (and make) big shots when called upon.

    He also showed a propensity to involve his teammates (he averaged 6.2 assists per game with New York), a quality that was largely projected to be underused in the slow, isolation-heavy offense of coach Mike Woodson's Knicks.

    Opportunity is often overlooked in just how crucial it can be to a player's success. It helps, to an extent, explain how a player can go from being two teams' trash to the face of New York City basketball.

    But now the question becomes has Houston surrounded Lin with enough talent to present him that same type of opportunity for success? At this point, it's hard to believe that Houston has.

     

    Overall grade: C

Jason Terry to Boston

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    How it happened

    With Mark Cuban’s continued interest in maintaining financial flexibility in hopes of luring superstar talent to Dallas, Terry was forced to explore other options in free agency, finally settling in Boston on a three-year deal.

     

    What it means

    Terry may be three years younger than Allen, but that’s a nicer way of saying he’s 34 years old.

    Still, Terry continues to hold his place among the league’s elite sixth men.

    He’s not the three-point threat that Allen was, but he’s a more-than-capable shooter (38 percent for his career from downtown), and at this stage in their careers, Terry is the better option off the dribble.

    It will be interesting to see where he fits when sharing the floor with the ball-dominant Rajon Rondo, but it’s reasonable to expect his shooting numbers to improve given Rondo’s ability to create for his teammates.

    Ideally, he gives Celtics coach Doc Rivers another capable ball-handler late in games.

    He doesn’t have the ability to consistently take over games, but he can do it in spurts, which is likely all Rivers will need given the caliber of his roster.

     

    Overall grade: B

Steve Nash to Los Angeles

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    How it happened

    Nash’s productive tenure in Phoenix never brought him that elusive ring, which he can now pursue thanks to a three-year, $27 million contract with the Lakers.

     

    What it means

    The 38-year-old Nash remains one of the league’s best distributors, managing 10.4 assists per game last season despite playing with the most talent-stricken roster he’d seen since his arrival in the desert.

    He’s not the scorer he once was, but as long as he can consistently hit from the perimeter (something that Ramon Sessions and Steve Blake struggled to do) this signing will be a success.

    He already has the respect and trust of Kobe Bryant, which should alleviate concerns about the number of touches these two demand on any given night. And Nash’s desire for a championship may make it easier to stomach Bryant’s calls for the basketball.

    Nash’s ability to create out of the pick-and-roll should help rediscover some of Pau Gasol’s confidence, as should his ability to put Gasol in areas where he can succeed.

    With Chris Paul, Tony Parker and Russell Westbrook all likely standing between the Lakers and an NBA Finals berth, Nash’s defensive shortcomings will be tough to mask, particularly given Bryant’s declining effort on the defensive end.

    But new Laker Dwight Howard (and a slew of other talented Laker defenders) should help protect the lane and the glass.

     

    Overall grade: B+

Joe Johnson to Brooklyn

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    How it happened

    Johnson’s contract looked as untradeable as any in the NBA, but given its reported impact on the return of Deron Williams, the move became as much of a no-brainer as adding this type of money can be.

     

    What it means

    Johnson detractors quickly call him a volume scorer, and while it’s true that he gets his fair share of shots each game (15.5 field goals attempted per game last season), that fails to really capture how talented he is.

    With six consecutive All-Star trips under his belt, he has the ability to affect games on both ends of the floor. He never was a defensive stopper, and at age 31 he has lost a step, but his 6’8", 225-lb. frame still allows him to harass opposing guards.

    But Johnson’s calling card is his ability to get buckets. He’s averaged better than 18 points in each of the last seven seasons, largely due to the fact that he can score from nearly anywhere on the floor.

    He’s an adept three-point shooter (career 36.8 percent), but the addition of a post-game has allowed Johnson to make use of that frame on the offensive end.

    At this point, he’ll never be much of a creator (career 4.4 assists per game), but with Williams there, he won’t have to be.

    The fact that the Nets did not have to part with any significant talent (namely second-year player MarShon Brooks) helps balance that awful contract to an extent. And again, Johnson’s impact on the return of Williams has to be weighed in any examination of this move.

     

    Overall grade: A-

Dwight Howard Blockbuster Trade

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    How it happened

    After months of speculation, Orlando finally traded Superman.

    Dwight Howard landed in L.A. along with Chris Duhon and Earl Clark. Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson went to Philadelphia. Andre Iguodala was sent to Denver. Orlando’s final haul was Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Nikola Vucevic, Josh McRoberts, Christian Eyenga, rookie Moe Harkless, three first-round picks, two second-round picks and a $17.8 million trade exception.

     

    What it means

    For L.A., their publicized chase of Howard finally paid off.

    And it didn’t even cost them Pau Gasol.

    Howard is already the superstar big man that Laker fans hoped Bynum one day would be. The only gamble in this deal is that Howard has just one year remaining on his contract, but it’s hard to imagine him walking away from what is clearly the most talented group of teammates he’s ever had.

    For Philadelphia, they finally pulled the trigger on a deal for the intriguing Iguodala, but Bynum is a far better prize than anything that had been previously rumored.

    The 76ers added their long sought-after franchise player and go-to scorer all in one deal, while adding the veteran sharpshooter Richardson to a growing bunch of Philadelphia marksmen.

    For Denver, the Nuggets added yet another piece to coach George Karl’s puzzle.

    Iguodala may be the veteran leader that can finally cash in on the tantalizing potential of new teammates JaVale McGee and Danilo Gallinari. And his ability to distribute could allow the explosive Ty Lawson to focus more on creating his own offense.

    For Orlando, their intentions are clear: They hope to bottom out the franchise and rebuild through the draft.

    There’s no denying that in this NBA it’s better to be terrible than mediocre.

    But it’s hard to praise Orlando for failing to bring back any valuable pieces in return for Howard. After this trade, Orlando’s most valuable asset remains their own draft picks.

     

    Overall grades

    Los Angeles: A+

    Philadelphia: A+

    Denver: A

    Orlando: D+

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