Ranking the Winners of NBA Offseason So Far

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistJuly 11, 2013

Ranking the Winners of NBA Offseason So Far

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    While every NBA team seeks to emerge from the offseason as a winner, only a select group of franchises can actually do so. That's what happens when a limited number of quality players are available. 

    These 10 squads have shown some front-office savvy throughout the early portion of the summer. They've used trades, the draft and free agency to their advantage, all improving their chances of achieving success in either the short or long term. 

    Not all of them will challenge the Miami Heat during the 2013-14 campaign, but each of them is in a better position than they were when entering the offseason. 

    Is your favorite team a winner thus far?

10. Washington Wizards

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    The Washington Wizards continued their ascent up the ranks of the Eastern Conference simply by doing what was in their control. 

    First, the team picked up Otto Porter in the 2013 NBA draft, ensuring that the small forward from Georgetown wouldn't have to endure a lengthy move or commute on his way to work.

    The former Hoya is a perfect fit for this team. Even if he doesn't have elite upside, he's got a high floor and a tremendous amount of versatility on both ends of the court. 

    After that, the Wizards brought back Martell Webster to add more depth at small forward. Webster is valuable both as a floor-spacing three-point marksman and a fantastic locker room presence who can help mentor the bevy of young budding stars on this roster. 

    With Nene Hilario and Emeka Okafor back in the fold as well, Washington looks like it has a serious chance at playing more than 82 games during the 2013-14 season.

9. Portland Trail Blazers

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    The Portland Trail Blazers needed to do two things during the 2013 offseason: add depth across the board and find a workable center who could replace J.J. Hickson. Ideally, the big man would be someone who thrives on the defensive end of the court so he can ease the pressure off LaMarcus Aldridge's broad shoulders. 

    Both of those goals have already been met. 

    Rip City acquired Robin Lopez as part of the deal that sent Tyreke Evans to the New Orleans Pelicans. In doing so, the Blazers gained a high-quality center, even if he might not play the most glamorous type of basketball. Lopez isn't a terrific offensive presence, just a steady one. It's on defense where he thrives, particularly when he's asked to guard pick-and-roll sets.

    Somewhere, Damian Lillard is thanking his lucky stars. 

    As for the depth, Portland helped its cause by drafting C.J. McCollum and Allen Crabbe, as well as by acquiring Dorell Wright and Thomas Robinson during the offseason. There's now a capable starter and backup at each and every position. 

    The Blazers will be right in the thick of things in the Western Conference, just as they were in 2012-13. 

8. Cleveland Cavaliers

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    How do you manage to do away with any risk when signing a center with no knees who just missed an entire season? 

    I suppose the answer is: Be the Cleveland Cavaliers. 

    The Cavs inked Andrew Bynum to a two-year deal worth $24.5 million, but only $6 million is guaranteed and the second year is a team option. If Bynum isn't working out, no harm, no foul. Cleveland has pulled off the rare über-high-reward, no-risk signing. 

    Add in the acquisition of Anthony Bennett, the newest member of the No. 1-pick fraternity, and Jarrett Jack. Now you're looking at a bona fide playoff squad, one that will be led by Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters in the backcourt. 

    Cleveland still hasn't done much to shore up the small forward hole, but we can overlook that thanks to the other quality players who they've added to the roster. Jack in particular will make a major impact while backing up the oft-injured point guard from Duke. 

    After bringing in Bynum, anything short of a postseason appearance will be a disappointment for this up-and-coming squad. And if the seven-footer proves that his Philadelphia 76ers tenure was just an aberration, the Cavs will prove to be drastically under-ranked here. 

7. Indiana Pacers

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    The Indiana Pacers needed to bring back David West during this offseason. Even though he didn't receive as much attention as Paul George or Roy Hibbert during the 2012-13 season, West was the heart and soul of this team on both ends of the court. 

    Indiana re-signed the power forward to a three-year, $36 million deal, but that was by no means the only impactful move made by the franchise hoping to challenge the Miami Heat once more.

    Depth was a huge problem for the Pacers throughout both their regular-season and postseason runs. According to Hoopsstats.com, only the Portland Trail Blazers scored fewer bench points than Indiana in 2012-13. 

    One of the primary culprits was D.J. Augustin, but the Pacers have now replaced him with C.J. Watson. The former Brooklyn Net will provide steady offense off the bench and show better care of the rock than Augustin ever did. 

    Chris Copeland will also help provide bench shooting, and he fits in with the hard-nosed mentality of Frank Vogel's squad. 

    Add in a healthy Danny Granger and you're left with a roster capable of putting another serious scare into the defending champions.

6. Los Angeles Clippers

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    The most important goal of the Los Angeles Clippers offseason was just bringing Chris Paul back. If he fled for some other location—the Dallas Mavericks, Atlanta Hawks, etc.—it would have been disastrous. 

    With CP3 back in place, the Clippers are poised to take over Los Angeles and become the premier team to call the Staples Center home. That's especially true since retaining the league's best point guard wasn't their only move of the summer. 

    How about re-signing Matt Barnes, the underrated glue guy who's improving as he ages? What about acquiring Doc Rivers to pace the sideline? Adding these two NBA veterans will be crucial to L.A.'s success, but so too will the Eric Bledsoe trade. 

    The Clippers moved the high-upside floor general, as well as Caron Butler, and managed to land both Jared Dudley and J.J. Redick. So much for having trouble with the perimeter shooting. 

    Los Angeles has met all of its goals with flying colors. And those colors just happen to be red, white and blue. 

5. New Orleans Pelicans

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    The New Orleans Pelicans took major strides during the offseason, jump-starting the rebuilding process with a few aggressive moves. 

    On draft night, the Pelicans turned Nerlens Noel (their first-round pick) and a top-five-protected pick in the stacked 2014 draft into an All-Star point guard named Jrue Holiday. The deal isn't official yet, but only because the franchises are waiting on Holiday to get back from his honeymoon. 

    That wasn't enough for the former Hornets, who seemed eager to leave their losing culture behind, along with their old name. They acquired Tyreke Evans next in a sign-and-trade deal that shipped out Greivis Vasquez to the Sacramento Kings and Robin Lopez to the Portland Trail Blazers. 

    In just a short period, New Orleans went from a Vasquez-Eric Gordon-Al-Farouq Aminu-Anthony Davis-Robin Lopez starting lineup to a Holiday-Gordon-Evans-Davis-Jason Smith one. There's also a chance that the Unibrow and Ryan Anderson both start in the frontcourt. 

    It's not often that a rebuilding team can add an All-Star and a potential All-Star so easily, yet that's exactly what happened in the bayou. 

4. Golden State Warriors

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    The Golden State Warriors' pursuit of Dwight Howard failed, but that doesn't mean that the entire offseason was a failure. Quite the opposite, actually. 

    By shedding expensive contracts set to expire at the conclusion of the 2013-14 campaign and dealing Brandon Rush, the Dubs managed to clear up quite a bit of cap room. Then they used it to acquire Andre Iguodala, a swingman who will fit in quite nicely next to Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. 

    Iggy's biggest weakness is his lack of consistency shooting the ball from the perimeter, but it's not like the Warriors need more shooting. The Splash Brothers have that under control. 

    Was Golden State done after adding an All-Star to the roster? Of course not!

    They signed Jermaine O'Neal, Marreese Speights and Toney Douglas, all in an attempt to provide more depth to a stacked starting lineup. After the acquisitions, the Warriors are ready to have the aforementioned trio and Harrison Barnes come off the bench to spell a potent starting five of Curry, Thompson, Iguodala, David Lee and Andrew Bogut. 

    Yes please. 

3. Brooklyn Nets

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    The Brooklyn Nets weren't content with an early playoff exit, so they shot for the moon during the offseason. 

    First, they made Jason Kidd the youngest head coach in the NBA, hiring the former point guard fresh out of retirement. After that, the Nets made the blockbuster trade of the summer, swapping MarShon Brooks, Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries and a boatload of draft picks for Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry. 

    By drafting Mason Plumlee, re-signing Andray Blatche and adding Shaun Livingston to the roster, Brooklyn has set itself up for a remarkable season. 

    The Nets' starting five now boasts five All-Stars: Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Pierce, Garnett and Brook Lopez. And while depth might be a bit of a concern, the other moves helped alleviate some of those worries. 

    Well, at least it was a concern before the signing of Andrei Kirilenko, as reported by the New York Daily News' Stefan Bondy. AK-47 is the perfect fit for the roster, and he'll ease some of the inevitable wear and tear Pierce experiences. 

    The Nets have put themselves in position to win a championship, even if that still remains a lofty and difficult goal. They're certainly in the upper tier of NBA teams now. 

    It just remains to be seen how they'll handle the ridiculous amount of miles their starters have already logged and a head coach with absolutely no experience on the sideline.

    At the very least, it will be an exciting and compelling season to follow once we get over the shock of seeing Pierce wearing a different uniform. 

    Note: The Nets originally ranked No. 5, but the signing of Kirilenko pushed them up to No. 3. 

2. Utah Jazz

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    The Utah Jazz are going to be awful during the 2012-13 season, but that doesn't mean they weren't winners this offseason. It's possible to win by taking an immediate step backward, simply because it can set the team up for a major leap forward in the future. 

    Utah had a ton of cap space going into the offseason and used it to help the Golden State Warriors in their pursuit of stars. They took on the expiring contracts of Brandon Rush, Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins in order to receive a number of second-round draft picks from the Dubs and first-round selections in 2014 and 2017. 

    That's an unorthodox way to use cap space, but it is effective.

    The Jazz now have less than $6 million committed going into the 2014 offseason, although that number will rise significantly when the team brings back Enes Kanter, Derrick Favors, Alec Burks and Gordon Hayward, all of whom have club options or are restricted free agents. 

    Even after bringing those young players back for 2014-15 and beyond, the Jazz will have plenty of money to pursue some big names from a loaded 2014 free-agent class, and they'll also have significantly more draft picks to play with. 

    Additionally, the Jazz managed to find their point guard of the future by trading two first-round picks in 2013 to move up and select Trey Burke, the dynamic floor general out of Michigan.

    Utah is letting the young players develop by getting playing time, and while the Jazz will be awful during this next season, they'll be primed for future success. 

    Kudos to this organization for recognizing the need to commit to either winning in the present or fully rebuilding. 

1. Houston Rockets

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    This one is really quite simple. 

    The Houston Rockets landed the top player in the free-agent market other than Chris Paul, who never seemed likely to change teams. Dwight Howard may have inspired his fair share of vitriol, but it's impossible to realistically deny just how effective he is on the basketball court. 

    Thanks to the combined efforts of Slim Thug and Daryl Morey, the Rockets successfully lured in the Association's marquee center, allowing him to join forces with James Harden and Chandler Parsons. 

    Houston is now a bona fide championship contender, even in the stacked Western Conference. The Rockets have made no other moves of note, but just acquiring D12 is enough to push them up into the upper echelon of NBA teams. 

    Hate on the big man all you want. Just don't doubt his impact when healthy.