Even in the culture of superlatives, sometimes “best” doesn’t fit.
No NBA team stands supreme in their decision-making this offseason, as many teams have made the right moves for their respective situations.
Doc Rivers' move to the Los Angeles Clippers is no more important than the Golden State Warriors addition of Andre Iguodala.
Champions of the offseason won’t be announced until after next season’s results, and while many teams have improved their chances for next season, there’s not one team that shines above the rest.
Improving in the offseason depends on context, and there are plenty of ways teams got better:
Simply loading talent
The Rockets didn’t fill a hole by adding Howard; they made the best pitch to Howard already with Omer Asik on the roster.
Still, earning the league’s elite center and the biggest target of the offseason significantly improves the Rockets’ chances in the West.
Houston piled the talents of Howard onto a core that already included James Harden, Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin and Asik. The Rockets still have plenty left to prove in terms of cohesion and it's yet to be determined whether or not Howard will be the answer to last season’s inconsistency.
The same thing can be said about the Nets, a team that added a pair of superstars in aging veterans Pierce and Garnett. These two will step into immediate leadership roles aside new coach Jason Kidd and Brooklyn should now have plenty of added juice next postseason to go along with Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson.
Both the Rockets and Nets will hope chemistry is a byproduct of collecting talent, something that worked for the past Boston Celtics and current Miami Heat but didn’t work with last season’s Los Angeles Lakers.
Adding the extra piece
The Rockets and Nets charged their lineup with superstar talent, but the other way to approach the offseason is by filling a necessary hole.
The Clippers took care of their most pressing business by re-signing elite point guard Chris Paul. Los Angeles also re-signed Matt Barnes and Ryan Hollins, and added J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley.
The biggest change this offseason, however, was adding a coach who is meant to carry the Clippers to the next level. A 56-win season, the franchise’s first Pacific Division title and a No. 4 seed in the West wasn’t enough to save Vinny Del Negro’s job.
Instead, the Clippers ushered in the offseason in a deal with the Celtics to hire Doc Rivers as their new coach. Despite a fantastic season, Los Angeles fell in the first round of the playoffs. Rivers carries with him postseason success, a .529 win percentage, and his coaching style fits the Clippers’ needs.
The Warriors looked to upgrade by entering the sweepstakes for Howard, and in doing so made an offseason move that solved a specific team need. The Warriors completed a sign-and-trade that shedded expiring contracts and sent draft picks in exchange for Andre Iguodala.
In one of the finer moves of the offseason, the Warriors upgraded their perimeter with a slasher who can also help move the ball and open up shooters. Iguodala instantly becomes the team’s best wing defender, pairing nicely alongside the strong defense of shooting guard Klay Thompson.
Iguodala’s ability to help facilitate and his veteran presence alleviates the loss of backup point guard Jarrett Jack. Shedding salary kept the Warriors out of the luxury tax and gave general manager Bob Myers the ability to fill holes by signing also signed Marreese Speights, Toney Douglas and Jermaine O'Neal.
Taking the next step
The Cleveland Cavaliers and New Orleans Pelicans accelerated their desires to win through offseason movement.
Kyrie Irving leads a Cavaliers core that is becoming more dangerous. The team landed one of the top free-agent guards in Jarrett Jack and recently added Earl Clark.
Cleveland's interior depth already included Tyler Zeller, Tristan Thompson, Earl Clark and the return of a healthy Anderson Varejao and it has now landed Andrew Bynum, according to multiple reports.
The Cavaliers could be ready to take the next step if Bynum returns to his All-Star form following his absence all last season due to knee injuries.
New Orleans is making upgrades as well, adding All-Star Jrue Holiday and former Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans to a young squad that is continuing to develop Anthony Davis. Eric Gordon is still a question mark, as the team may still seek a trade to balance out it’s logjam in the backcourt.
With Ryan Anderson in place, the Pelicans could make an earlier-than-expected jump to a winning franchise.
Taking a new approach
Though they can’t be considered traditional “winners” of the offseason, multiple teams used this summer to re-establish a new direction for the franchise.
The Philadelphia 76ers, under general manager Sam Hinkie, has ended the team's path to nowhere with a gamble in moving an established talent in Holiday for the draft rights to Nerlens Noel and a protected 2014 first-rounder. They also stayed away from adding high-priced free agents that wouldn’t add to the long-term plans.
Now, the 76ers put themselves in a good position to improve via the draft, a key to keeping economic contract under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement.
The Jazz could have pushed to bring back a remixed version of last year’s team, re-signing Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. Instead, Utah let them walk and moved Randy Foye through a sign-and-trade.
In trading, Utah collected five future draft picks in taking on the salaries of Andris Biedrins, Brandon Rush and Richard Jefferson.
The team also said goodbye to Randy Foye. Utah keeps moving forward with a youthful core of first-round pick Trey Burke and continues to develop Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter, Alec Burks and Derrick Favors.
And, of course, the Celtics moved everything they could and brought in Butler coach Brad Stevens as part of their overhaul toward the future.
The are plenty of winners this offseason, either building toward a title or re-building a new path.
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