Re-Grading the Biggest Moves of the 2012 NBA Offseason
With two months of the NBA season gone by, now is a good time to revisit some of the biggest moves of the 2012 offseason.
With roughly a third of the regular-season games in the books, we can accurately assess the impact of the major trades and signings that happened after the Miami Heat hoisted the Larry O'Brien Trophy in June.
Of course, the final grades on these moves won't be known for months (and in some cases, years), but here is an updated barometer for the biggest personnel decisions made prior to opening night.
For the purposes of this article, we'll focus solely on players who changed teams during the offseason. It should be noted, however, that a number of stars who were re-signed by their original teams this summer (Deron Williams, Blake Griffin and Serge Ibaka, among others) have made a significant impact this year.
Note: All statistics used are accurate as of Dec. 29.
The Dwight Howard Trade
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Andre Iguodala is a definite upgrade over Arron Afflalo and Al Harrington, but the Nuggets still lack the star power needed to make a deep run in the Western Conference playoffs. Denver is better today than it was before the deal was made, so from that standpoint, the Nuggets can be considered winners.
Los Angeles: A
Anytime you can get a top-five talent in a deal and don't have to give up heaven and earth to do so, you deserve an A grade. Pay little attention to the Los Angeles Lakers' early-season struggles; they won the moment they acquired Dwight Howard.
Orlando should have made out better considering that it gave up the best player in the entire trade, but it did get a solid scorer (Afflalo), a surprisingly efficient big man (Nikola Vucevic), an intriguing wing option (Maurice Harkless) and four first-round draft picks. The true value of the deal for the Magic won't come until four-to-five years down the road.
Regardless of what Jason Richardson does for it, Philadelphia will get an F for the deal if Andrew Bynum sits out the entire season and never puts on a 76ers uniform. The trade was a calculated risk that the team would take again if it had to, but it desperately needs a healthy, franchise-defining center to make it all worthwhile.
The James Harden Deal
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The Houston Rockets didn't have a superstar before they acquired James Harden...and they still don't. But they did trade for one of the best shooting guards in the game today, and they deserve kudos for making such a bold move just before the start of the season.
Harden is a fantastic scorer and has taken well to a starting role in Houston—whether he can eventually be the focal point of a contender remains to be seen.
Oklahoma City: A-
Oklahoma City, on the other hand, hasn't missed much of a beat with Kevin Martin assuming Harden's role as the team's sixth man. Martin doesn't attack the rim nearly as much as his predecessor, but his ability to convert from deep—Martin is shooting close to 47 percent from beyond the arc this year—has been an invaluable asset to the Thunder. If Jeremy Lamb and/or the first-round picks that Oklahoma City got in the trade ever turn into key players down the road, the Thunder may actually have gotten the better of the deal.
Boston Celtics Sign Jason Terry and Courtney Lee
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Jason Terry's production for the Boston Celtics so far is pretty much in line with expectations, but the 35-year-old shooting guard has lacked consistency over the first two months of the season.
Meanwhile, fellow offseason acquisition Courtney Lee is converting better from the field than he ever has, but is shooting less than 32 percent from beyond the arc. If Lee doesn't start to knock down threes on a regular basis, he'll have his work cut out for him in terms of playing time once Avery Bradley returns from shoulder surgery.
All that said, neither Lee nor Terry is the problem with the Celtics this year. Simply put, Boston gets outworked on the boards nearly every time the team steps out onto the court, and there isn't much that the two guards can do about that.
New York Knicks Sign Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd
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The New York Knicks' two-headed backcourt monster of Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton has paid huge dividends this season. Both players have found a comfort zone in Mike Woodson's offense, and together, they're responsible for more than 47 percent of the Knicks' assists this season.
Felton has been the catalyst of the New York offense (he leads the team with 6.3 APG), while Kidd has settled into his role as one of the team's most potent long-range threats; the 18-year veteran is shooting an impressive 44.3 percent from beyond the arc.
Those Knicks fans who took Felton's exceptional play for granted this season will definitely feel his absence over the next few weeks. A fractured right pinky finger is likely to sideline the 28-year-old for at least the next month. And as good as Pablo Prigioni may be, it's hard to envision him running the New York attack as well as Felton did.
Los Angeles Lakers Trade for Steve Nash
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Steve Nash has only played in a handful of games this season, so it isn't completely fair to grade his performance as of yet. But he is a marked improvement over the Steve Blake-Chris Duhon-Darius Morris triumvirate at point guard and will likely end the year with an A grade if the Los Angeles Lakers make a run over the next few months.
His on-ball defense is still terrible, but with Dwight Howard patrolling the middle, many of Nash's sins can be forgiven. And the Lakers' cost of acquiring the 38-year-old point guard was so low (two first-round picks, two second-round picks) that it would be nearly impossible for the team not to make out on the deal.
Brooklyn Nets Trade for Joe Johnson
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With the exception of Amar'e Stoudemire, Joe Johnson had what was thought to be one of the most untradeable contracts in the NBA. But on July 11, the longtime Atlanta Hawks shooting guard was indeed dealt to the Brooklyn Nets for five players and two draft picks.
Thanks to disappointing starts by both Johnson and Nets point guard Deron Williams, the "Core Four" era has gotten off to a rough start in Brooklyn. The recent firing of Avery Johnson may light a fire under the team, but unless the Nets figure out how to maximize their assets, the acquisition of Johnson may have been largely for naught.
Minnesota Timberwolves Sign Andrei Kirilenko
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After playing last season in Russia, Andrei Kirilenko may be the biggest surprise this year in the NBA. To say that he picked up where he left off would be doing a disservice to his performance. Kirilenko is playing better than he has at any point over the past six years.
With Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio missing much of the early part of the season due to injuries, Kirilenko was instrumental in keeping the Timberwolves in the thick of the playoff race. Now that he's no longer burdened with being one of the team's primary sources of offense, expect the 31-year-old forward to slide back into that jack-of-all-trades role that fit him well during his time in Utah.
Los Angeles Clippers Sign Jamal Crawford
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Jamal Crawford is very adept at putting the ball into the basket. He isn't (and never will be) a pure shooter, but few players in the league are as dynamic on the offensive end as the 32-year-old Crawford.
The four-year, $21.35 million deal that the Los Angeles Clippers signed Crawford to this summer is borderline robbery. He very well could be the best free-agent signing of the offseason. Not only is he a huge upgrade over the Clippers' former instant-offense creator, Nick Young, but Crawford's newfound commitment to defense—his defensive rating of 105 is a career best—is an added bonus.
Miami Heat Sign Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis
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Neither Ray Allen nor Rashard Lewis are exactly lighting the world on fire, but both provide the exact type of consistent long-range threat that the Miami Heat were missing last season. With all due respect to Shane Batter and Mario Chalmers, Allen and Lewis earn a special kind of attention from opposing defenses whenever they spot up from beyond the arc.
The former Seattle Sonics teammates are only combining for about 17 points per night, but their biggest contribution so far this year is the fact that they stretch the floor for Miami's other options to operate in the half court. It's not a coincidence that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all have career-best shooting percentages this year.
Houston Rockets Sign Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin
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With each passing double-double, the three-year, $25.1 million contract that the Houston Rockets signed Omer Asik to this summer looks less and less ridiculous. After coming off of the bench for two seasons in Chicago, Asik has blossomed as a starter in Houston and continues to be one of the best defensive centers in the NBA.
Conversely, Jeremy Lin's performance this season has been something of a mixed bag. The third-year point guard has had moments of brilliance (in particular, the 38-point, seven-assist game he had against the San Antonio Spurs on Dec. 10), but he's converting less than 32 percent of his shots away from the rim.
Lin has proved that he's a starting-caliber guard in this league, but the early returns on his Houston career are slightly underwhelming to say the least.
Dallas Mavericks Sign O.J. Mayo
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It's not often that you can get a prolific scorer and one of the league's best three-point sharpshooters for $4 million per year, but that's exactly what Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban did when he signed free-agent O.J. Mayo this past July.
After a scorching hot start to this season, life with Dirk Nowitzki has proved to be a bit rough for Mayo. There's no reason to believe that the 25-year-old Mayo won't eventually settle into his niche as the Mavericks' No. 2 option, but whether the two of them can lead Dallas to the playoffs is another matter entirely.