Teams are jockeying for position—not just for the upcoming campaign, but also future ones. Cap space for the stacked 2014 FA class is a goal for some teams, while others are just trying to make themselves as competitive as possible in the quest to dethrone the Miami Heat.
Here, I'll be grading each team's efforts during the free-agency period, but it's important to note exactly what goes into these grades. Free-agent signings/losses, trades and sign-and-trades matter. Trades during the draft, though, do not.
Teams are also evaluated in shifting context. Contenders need to get more competitive, while rebuilding teams need to focus on rebuilding. So, how has your squad fared so far?
The Atlanta Hawks were in a bit of a pickle this offseason. Did they want to improve and work their way into playoff contention, or was falling back and starting a rebuilding process the ultimate goal?
Now that we're well into the summer...we still don't have an answer. Everything that Atlanta has done has been a fairly solid move, however.
Signing Paul Millsap to a two-year, $19 million deal was a great signing that added another high-quality player to the frontcourt and ultimately made Josh Smith expendable. It may, in fact, be the most cost-effective move of the summer, excluding a certain Russian forward.
DeMarre Carroll, Kyle Korver and Jeff Teague were good additions/re-signings as well. The latest signing, a reported one-year deal for Elton Brand courtesy of HoopsHype.com, will help provide even more depth.
But the end result is that Atlanta remains a mid-level team, stuck in basketball purgatory. The Hawks will be competing for a seventh consecutive playoff berth, but there are no realistic championship hopes here. It's been another offseason of treading water, but at least the moves made were good ones.
The Boston Celtics have made only one major move during the offseason, and it was the trade that shipped Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce off to the Brooklyn Nets. In return for Jason Terry and the aging stars, the C's received MarShon Brooks, Gerald Wallace, Keith Bogans, Kris Humphries and a number of draft picks.
Other than that, outside of some Rajon Rondo talk, the rumor mill has been awfully quiet. Boston hasn't added any new players other than through the draft or the aforementioned trade, while Chris Wilcox and Terrence Williams remain free agents.
Expect the C's to make one or two moves as they settle more firmly into the rebuilding process, but so far they've done a decent job working their way into that stage.
It's amazing what you can do when the collective bargaining agreement doesn't seem to apply.
Although Mikhail Prokhorov still does technically have to follow the rules, he's shown no hesitation in racking up the largest luxury-tax bill in NBA history while building a championship-caliber roster for the Brooklyn Nets.
Although they had to give up some draft picks and players to do so, the Nets have done well this offseason.
The first move was hiring Jason Kidd as head coach, and reeling in Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett quickly followed that. Since then, Brooklyn has re-signed Andray Blatche and acquired Shaun Livingston and Andrei Kirilenko.
All of a sudden, the Nets have one of the best starting lineups in the NBA and the depth necessary to provide quality play while keeping the aging starters as healthy as possible. Now the only questions revolve around chemistry and Kidd's ability to manage as a first-time head coach.
The Charlotte Bobcats have made a few minor moves—most notably, bringing back Josh McRoberts and watching as Ben Gordon decided to pick up his player option—but they all pale in comparison to one acquisition.
When Al Jefferson decided to join the league's perennial bottom-feeders, he immediately became the best center in the franchise's short history. However, his three-year, $40.5 million contract has a player option for the final season, which means that his tenure with the team could be rather short lived.
Jefferson does immediately make Charlotte better, but the timing is strange.
He'll push Charlotte out of the cellar and into the lower end of the lottery, but why exactly do the Bobcats want to move further away from Andrew Wiggins and the rest of the 2014 NBA draft's elite?
If anything, signing Jefferson hurts this team long term more than it helps. It would be different if the Bobcats were poised for a playoff run to appease their fans for the first time in a while, but that still remains a pipe dream at best.
The Chicago Bulls really haven't been big players this offseason, largely because they have no financial flexibility to speak of.
Tom Thibodeau's squad waived Richard Hamilton, brought back Nazr Mohammed, and stole Mike Dunleavy away from the Milwaukee Bucks to add some long-range shooting to the roster. But those are the only positive moves.
Nate Robinson remains a free agent, as do Daequan Cook and Vladimir Radmanovic.
Marco Belinelli, however, signed with the San Antonio Spurs, making backcourt depth look a bit problematic for the Bulls.
Even when Derrick Rose returns, Chicago will be left with Kirk Hinrich and Marquis Teague at backup point guard, while Jimmy Butler and possibly Andrew Goudelock (who is on the summer league roster) make up the shooting guard rotation.
The Cleveland Cavaliers gave us a masterclass in managing risk and reward when they signed Andrew Bynum to a two-year, $24 million.
Bynum's knees make him an incredible risk, so Cleveland made it an incentives-heavy contract. Only $6 million is guaranteed during the 2013-14 campaign, while the second year is a team option.
Now, if Bynum regains his Los Angeles Lakers form, the Cavs have secured a remarkable steal. And if he flops completely, Cleveland can cut ties without major harm whatsoever. It's perfect.
That's not all the Cavs did, though.
They also brought in Earl Clark to provide some depth at small forward and signed Jarrett Jack, giving the former Golden State Warrior a chance to back up Kyrie Irving and build one of the strongest point guard rotations in the Association.
Cleveland now looks an awful lot like a strong playoff squad—not just a team that will be on the fringe of postseason contention.
It seems like the Dallas Mavericks have just added guard after guard after guard recently. After drafting Shane Larkin (who unfortunately broke his ankle), Mark Cuban's franchise added Jose Calderon, Gal Mekel, Wayne Ellington and Monta Ellis.
The former Milwaukee Buck in particular was a strange signing for a team that pays a lot of attention to more advanced metrics, as Ellis doesn't play much defense and is a notorious shot-chucker. The bigger problem, though, is Dallas' frontcourt. Are they planning on letting Dirk Nowitzki play two positions at once?
Elton Brand and Chris Kaman left, and Brandan Wright remains a free agent. But Dallas hasn't found a single replacement yet. Unless you consider Jae Crowder more of a power forwrd than a small forward, there's no backup at the 4.
And unless Dallas signs someone soon, Bernard James is currently installed as the starting center. That's not a recipe for success. For a team that went into the offseason with hopes of Dwight Howard in a Dallas uniform, this offseason has been rather disastrous.
In some ways, you have to feel bad for the Denver Nuggets. After looking very strong during the 2012-13 season (before Danilo Gallinari tore his ACL), the team has fallen apart.
Masai Ujiri has left the front office, and Andre Iguodala opted out of his contract before joining the Golden State Warriors.
Corey Brewer left as well, and the only notable additions are J.J. Hickson and Randy Foye. Those moves aren't exactly a wash.
Of course, they may have brought this upon themselves by firing George Karl fresh off a Coach of the Year award. Without Karl, the team was thrust into turmoil, and we'll never know whether Iggy would have stayed and more quality free agents would've trickled in.
Denver might have contended for a title in 2013-14, but now they'll struggle to even make the playoffs.
The Detroit Pistons have done a great job with the Chauncey Billups and Josh Smith signings. However, there are major questions about how it will all fit together.
Smoove is not a small forward. Anybody who has watched the Atlanta Hawks the last few seasons can tell you that, as lining him up at the 3 takes him away from the paint on both ends of the court.
That limits his strengths because he's prone to jacking up long two-pointers and relegates him further away from the rim on defense.
But the Pistons are going to either play Smith at SF, or they'll have to mess with their promising young frontcourt. Lining up No. 5 at PF means that either Andre Drummond or Greg Monroe has to be sitting on the bench, and that will limit the development of the two young big men.
This was a classic case of "Joe Dumars have money. Joe Dumars spend money." It's too bad it won't work out very well.
The Golden State Warriors have been very active. They traded away the expiring contracts of Brandon Rush, Andris Biedrins and Richard Jefferson to the Utah Jazz to free up some cap space, then completed a sign-and-trade for Andre Iguodala.
Losing both Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack hurts, but acquiring Iggy, Toney Douglas, Jermaine O'Neal and Marreese Speights helps make up for it. It's not easy to add an All-Star to the roster, particularly when you aren't giving up any star players in the process.
The Dubs have made quality moves all offseason, and they've been rewarded with one of the most promising lineups in the league. Not many starting fives can compete with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Iguodala, David Lee and Andrew Bogut, particularly since Harrison Barnes and the other aforementioned signings will be providing depth.
Golden State's postseason run was quite entertaining, and now we're set up for an encore.
The Houston Rockets have quite obviously been winners.
That's what happens when you land the biggest fish in the free-agent pond—one who meshes perfectly with the rest of the roster. Dwight Howard will thrive protecting the rim and running the pick-and-roll with James Harden and Jeremy Lin.
Bringing back Francisco Garcia also helps considerably, as the Rockets can now surround D12 with even more shooters. That was the recipe for success with Howard in Orlando, and it will be once more in Houston. Between Garcia, Chandler Parsons and Harden, there will be plenty of shots from behind the arc.
Houston would've emerged an offseason winner even if Howard was the only acquisition. He's that impactful, and a healthy season from him will leave us remembering why he was universally considered a top-five player only a calendar year ago.
Re-signing David West was the biggest priority for the Indiana Pacers. The power forward served as the heart and soul of the Eastern Conference power throughout 2012-13, even if he often ceded the media headlines to Paul George and Roy Hibbert.
Well, West was brought back for three years, which automatically qualifies the summer as a successful one. But the Pacers weren't done yet.
Depth was a problem for Indiana last season, particularly in the backcourt. D.J. Augustin didn't bring much to the table, but C.J. Watson spent the year with the Brooklyn Nets proving that he was more than capable serving as a No. 2 point guard. Now he'll have a chance to further prove it while backing up George Hill.
Indiana also added Chris Copeland, bringing defensive intensity, energy and three-point shooting to the roster. The former New York Knick was a terrific signing, even if it flew under the radar.
The Los Angeles Clippers have done everything right this summer, starting with the Doc Rivers acquisition.
That led to the re-signing of Chris Paul, which was really the only thing that mattered for the Clippers. You could say that CP3 was priority No. 1, 2 and 3 this offseason.
However, L.A. wasn't done making moves after retaining the All-Star floor general.
They completed a three-way trade that brought in Jared Dudley and J.J. Redick in exchange for Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler, then signed Darren Collison as the new backup point guard. In one fell swoop, they remedied all of its problems from long range.
The Clippers also re-signed both Ryan Hollins and crucial energy/glue guy Matt Barnes, who only continues to improve with age.
Grading the Los Angeles Lakers is a tough task. On one hand, the summer was a disaster.
Dwight Howard spurned a Lakers team that is still well over the cap and with no way to add significantly more talent. And amnestying Metta World Peace, while a smart financial decision, hurts the team's overall chances as well.
On the other hand, however, Mitch Kupchak has made other great moves on the market. Using the mini mid-level exception and veteran's minimum to secure Chris Kaman, Nick Young and Wesley Johnson is quite impressive.
Those three can all be quality contributors, and their signings give clear indication that L.A. is not prepared to throw in the towel for the coming season. It will be a struggle once more for the Lake Show to simply make the playoffs, but it's not out of the realm of possibilities thanks to the savvy signings.
However, the Lakers still lost Howard...
The Memphis Grizzlies haven't done anything to improve. They kept Jerryd Bayless and re-signed Tony Allen to a four-year contract, but Jamaal Franklin and Kosta Koufos are the only new faces who should make any noticeable impact.
That's not what the Grizz wanted in a Western Conference that is only getting increasingly perilous. It's still a solid team, but Memphis can't receive a good grade since no high-impact moves have been made.
The Miami Heat, unlike the Memphis Grizzlies, could afford to stand still on the market. After all, that's a luxury afforded to NBA champions.
So long as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all remain in South Beach, the Heat are in fantastic shape. And yet, they have so many more pieces to work with, especially with Ray Allen, Mario Chalmers and Chris Andersen all returning.
While Miami hasn't added a single new piece, it hasn't needed to.
If Greg Oden ends up signing with the back-to-back champs, the Heat will only get hotter, as he'd be a perfect fit on the roster in limited minutes.
I have to admit that I don't understand what the Milwaukee Bucks are doing. Their two big offseason signings have been O.J. Mayo, who is basically a different version of Monta Ellis, and Zaza Pachulia, who will fill a position that was...already filled.
How exactly are Larry Sanders, Ekpe Udoh and Zaza going to share minutes at center while leaving space for John Henson, Drew Gooden and Ersan Ilyasova to play power forward? The bigger problems come at small forward and point guard, though.
Milwaukee still has no quality starting floor general after the Atlanta Hawks matched their offer sheet for Jeff Teague. And at this point, it looks like too many bridges have been burned for any chance at a happy reunion with Brandon Jennngs.
Does that mean Nate Wolters is going to start, or is Luke Ridnour going to slide back to the 1?
At small forward, the Bucks traded Luc Richard Mbah a Moute to the Sacramento Kings for two second-round draft picks. You know, because that's what a young small forward is worth when he's quickly becoming one of the best wing defenders in the league.
Now Milwaukee is left with either Giannis Antetokounmpo or Ilyasova starting at the 3. Yikes.
The Minnesota Timberwolves haven't technically re-signed Nikola Pekovic yet, but the two sides are reportedly close to a four-year, $50 million extension.
And if the Montenegrin big man returns, the Wolves have had a successful offseason. Sure, losing Andrei Kirilenko hurts, but Minnesota had bigger fish to fry this summer.
Flip Saunders desperately needed to add size and outside shooting on the wings, and acquiring both Corey Brewer and Kevin Martin certainly helps solve that problem. The two new Timberwolves complement each other nicely, as K-Mart is a potent outside shooter without much athleticism or defensive ability. Brewer is the exact opposite.
This wasn't the most glamorous offseason, but it was a good one. Unless the injury imp gets bloodthirsty again, Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and Co. are set for a playoff berth.
The New Orleans Pelicans will feature a completely revamped backcourt next season.
After trading Nerlens Noel and their first-rounder in 2014 for Jrue Holiday, the former Hornets completed a sign-and-trade that essentially shipped off Greivis Vasquez and Robin Lopez for Tyreke Evans. All of a sudden, the Pelicans look like they could fly right into the postseason.
Center Greg Stiemsma is the only other notable signing, but NOLA is set up for success. A starting lineup of Holiday, Eric Gordon, Evans, Ryan Anderson and Anthony Davis sounds like a potent one, especially if the Unibrow can take the next step and Gordon stays healthy.
It's been a dramatic turnaround for a franchise hoping to leave both its old name and losing ways in the past.
When Masai Ujiri comes calling with a trade offer, you should be especially careful. Andrea Bargnani was not worth Marcus Camby, Steve Novak, Quentin Richardson, a 2016 first-round pick and two future second-rounders.
The Bargnani transaction does free up some cap space for 2015, but is that really the organization's goal right now?
The New York Knicks also brought back J.R. Smith and Pablo Prigioni, but they lost Chris Copeland and have had trouble signing anyone else, despite showing interest in virtually every player who can capably dribble a basketball with either hand.
Fortunately, Metta World Peace saved their offseason by agreeing to a two-year deal. He'll add depth at small forward, but the Knicks are still left scouring a depleted free-agent market for ways to shore up the center position.
It's not looking good, but then again, that's what happens when you spend a boatload of money on just the starting lineup.
The Oklahoma City Thunder have only lost free agents this offseason. Kevin Martin went to the Minnesota Timberwolves in a sign-and-trade, and the Thunder have yet to re-sign either Derek Fisher or Ronnie Brewer. Instead, they're hoping to replace the lost production internally.
If Jeremy Lamb breaks out—who's looked great during summer league—then there won't be a problem. But that's an awful big if for the second-year pro.
OKC will be better simply by virtue of having a healthy Russell Westbrook and improved young players, but that doesn't excuse the complete lack of activity in free agency.
Cutting ties with Hedo Turkoglu was a good thing, but that's literally all the Orlando Magic have done.
General manager Rob Hennigan is just biding his time and waiting for the youngsters to develop rather than make a risky splash in the free-agent pool.
I'd still like to see the Magic retain Beno Udrih, one of the more underrated point guards in the league, but anything could happen there.
The Philadelphia 76ers' big offseason move happened during the draft when they traded Jrue Holiday for Nerlens Noel and a 2014 first-round pick. However, as mentioned earlier, that doesn't count here.
As a result, Philly's biggest move is...wait for it...re-signing Kwame Brown. I'll just let that sink in a moment.
Other than that, the news revolves around trading future draft picks for Furkan Aldemir and Royce White.
The Phoenix Suns are another team that has done absolutely nothing on the signings front. However, they did make a big move in on the trade front.
In trading away Jared Dudley, the Suns managed to land a high-upside guard who could be the point guard of the future: Eric Bledsoe. It was a fantastic move, even if it will cause a bit of tension with Goran Dragic in the short term.
The Portland Trial Blazers needed to do two things during the offseason: add depth across the board and find a capable starting center.
They've done both, though not in particularly exciting fashion.
By signing Earl Watson and Dorell Wright, as well as by acquiring Thomas Robinson, the Blazers have added workable backups across three positions. Drafting C.J. McCollum and Allen Crabbe helps as well, but not for this grade.
As for the J.J. Hickson replacement, Rip City found one by helping facilitate the Tyreke Evans sign-and-trade. They were able to land Robin Lopez, who isn't exactly glamorous, although he's certainly effective.
The worse of the Lopez twins, Robin is a fantastic pick-and-roll defender who plays efficient offense. He'll help Portland out quite a bit, particularly as Meyers Leonard continues to develop, but he won't push them over the top.
The Sacramento Kings have made two major moves. First, they signed Carl Landry to a four-year, $26 million pact. He enjoyed a fine season off the bench with the Golden State Warriors, and now he'll do the same and thrive with the Kings.
Sacramento also traded a few second-round picks to the Milwaukee Bucks for Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, who should immediately start at small forward and help out the defense quite a bit.
The only problem is that Sacramento still doesn't have a second star to complement DeMarcus Cousins, and there's almost too much depth. With a logjam at every position, there aren't enough minutes to go around.
Unsurprisingly, the San Antonio Spurs have quietly put together another nice offseason.
After Patty Mills and Boris Diaw both chose to remain, general manager R.C. Buford re-signed Tiago Splitter and Manu Ginobili, keeping together the squad's core for at least one more season. San Antonio also brought in Marco Belinelli and Jeff Pendergraph to provide even more depth.
While the Spurs could have chosen to pursue one of the more exciting options—think Josh Smith or Monta Ellis, for example—they instead went the safe route and ensured that the team's vaunted chemistry and depth remains intact.
Expect another deep playoff run for this veteran squad in 2014.
The Toronto Raptors haven't done much, but the moves they did make were largely positive and will aid the team's depth going forward.
Trading Andrea Bargnani for Steve Novak, Quentin Richardson, Marcus Camby and three draft picks, one of which comes in the first round, was a genius move by new GM Masai Ujiri. I still think he must have hypnotized the entire front office of the New York Knicks. Perhaps the NBA should look into this.
Signing Tyler Hansbrough was another quality move, as the former UNC standout will provide energy and intensity off the bench each and every time he sees the court.
Toronto's big move, acquiring Rudy Gay, came last year, but this offseason allowed the Raptors to continue on in the right direction.
Even though the Utah Jazz haven't added many quality contributors this free-agency period, you have to love what they did with their cap space.
Using financial flexibility to help facilitate moves for the Golden State Warriors, the Jazz picked up the expiring contracts of Brandon Rush (who might actually help the winning cause), Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins.
Now they have plenty of money to spend during the more stacked free-agency class that will hit the open market in 2014.
Utah also picked up some draft picks in the process and kept rotation spots open for the myriad young players on the roster. Now this team belongs fully to the young guns, who will all be thrown into the fire and learn on the job.
The Jazz didn't improve much, but they're handling things the right way.
The Washington Wizards added only one new free agent—Eric Maynor, who will back up John Wall at point guard—but they managed to retain all the important guys.
Trevor Ariza, Emeka Okafor, Garrett Temple and Martell Webster will all be returning to D.C. to help the team in its inevitable playoff push.
Of all the aforementioned names, Webster will be the most important. He might not play as much as Okafor, but his three-point shooting and leadership in the locker room are both vital to a team featuring so many young players while still hoping to remain competitive.
Washington couldn't afford to spend much, as extending John Wall is the priority, but the Wizards have definitely made some savvy moves thus far.