Handing Out Awards for 2013 NBA Offseason

Luke PetkacFeatured ColumnistAugust 16, 2013

Handing Out Awards for 2013 NBA Offseason

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    The 2013 NBA offseason is winding down. Sure, there may be a few more moves made, but it's hard to imagine anything really significant happening until the season starts.

    While it's tough to accurately grade an offseason until all the dust settles, you can at least get a sense of who's done a good job and who's left something to be desired. So keeping that in mind, let's hand out the offseason awards.

Most Improved: Detroit Pistons

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    There are some questions as to how well the new Detroit Pistons will fit together. But they came into this offseason looking to up their overall talent level first and foremost, and they certainly did that.

    Detroit's decision maker, Joe Dumars, more or less addressed this fit problem himself, telling Grantland's Zach Lowe:

    We just thought we needed to get better from a pure talent standpoint. And that's where Smith and Jennings and KCP [rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope] and Chauncey [Billups] come in. That was first and foremost — just to raise the talent level.

    And signing Josh was mostly about the upgrade of talent he brings. You know, we hear now about position-less basketball, and how you don't worry so much about position as you do about putting your best talent on the floor. When we decided to pursue Josh, we had that in mind. The talent upgrade can allow you to play position-less basketball and not have to worry so much.

    Dumars nailed it. The Pistons were a 29-win team that needed help in a lot of places. In a situation like that, it's better to forget about fit and just try to bring in as much talent as possible.

    Sure, the lineup has some holes, but the Pistons have transformed from a doormat into an athletic, potentially scary team with some very good bigs and a solid pick-and-roll creator to get them the ball. That shouldn't be taken for granted.

    Dumars has plenty of time to make more moves if need be. The important thing is that the Pistons finally have the talent to build around.

Best Move: Houston Rockets

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    The Los Angeles Clippers re-signing Chris Paul is a close second, but the Houston Rockets claimed this award as soon as they inked Dwight Howard.

    Howard's reputation has taken a hit recently, but when healthy, he's arguably one of the three best players in the league and a destructive defensive force. He should be a perfect fit with James Harden. It's hard to beat that.

    Howard proved with the Orlando Magic that he can carry a team made up of shooters, and he's never played with a pick-and-roll partner/shot-creator anywhere near as good as Harden.

    There are a few minor concerns surrounding the signing—most notably, will Howard really accept playing under essentially the same system he scorned with the Los Angeles Lakers?—yet overall, Howard's a franchise-changing acquisition.

Best Short-Term Move: Brooklyn Nets

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    The Brooklyn Nets may have mortgaged their future in trading with the Boston Celtics, but it was still a good move, particularly if Mikhail Prokhorov is serious about winning a title right now.

    The pre-trade Brooklyn Nets looked eerily similar to the Atlanta Hawks of a few years back—good enough to snag a fourth or fifth seed every season, but not good enough to make any serious noise in the playoffs. That's dangerous ground and can be a tough situation to get out of, barring the type of move the Nets made.

    There are some questions to be answered in terms of fit, but make no mistake, the Nets are a deep, talented team with the ability to get out of the Eastern Conference if all goes well. The Nets' window will only be open for a year or two, but considering how bleak the team's title outlook was just a few months back, Brooklyn fans will take that in a heartbeat.

Weirdest Move: Milwaukee Bucks

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    Zaza Pachulia's deal—around $16 million over three years, per ShamSports—isn't all that bad.

    It's just strange that the Milwaukee Bucks chose to target him.

    The Bucks have a pretty crowded frontcourt—just look at their roster. Pachulia is a very good backup, but you have to wonder why Milwaukee didn't just sink that money into another wing.

    The decision is also puzzling when you consider the direction the Bucks are going. It seems almost as if Milwaukee is attempting to rebuild while staying relatively competitive, and that's almost always a ticket to NBA disaster. With the most star-studded NBA draft in years fast approaching, the Bucks could have used the 2013-14 season as a developmental year for their young players and gone for a top-five pick.

    But hey...Zaza Pachulia!

Sneakiest Signing: Atlanta Hawks

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    The Atlanta Hawks got a steal here. Paul Millsap is arguably the better of the two Utah Jazz bigs that were available in free agency. He may not post numbers that can match Al Jefferson's, but he's far more versatile and a better defender and passer to boot.

    Millsap's not a great shooter, but he hit around 40 percent from mid-range and beyond last season (excluding three-pointers, per Basketball-Reference). Couple that with his efficient post game, and the Hawks should have the freedom to move Al Horford around in a way they couldn't when Josh Smith was in Atlanta (per Synergy Sports Technology).

    Millsap's a steal at $9.5 million a season, and a two-year deal gives the Hawks plenty of flexibility moving forward (per ShamSports). Atlanta is going to stay relevant despite losing Smith, and Millsap is a big reason why.

Biggest Spenders: Brooklyn Nets

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    Pencil the Brooklyn Nets into this spot for the next decade or so. As long as Mikhail Prokhorov owns the team, they'll be spending like crazy.

    The Nets are going to be shelling out over $102 million in salary next season (per ShamSports).

    That's salary alone.

    Throw in a mind-blowing luxury-tax bill of over $87 million (well over what many teams will be paying, period), and that means Prokhorov will be shelling out nearly $200 million (per ESPN's Marc Stein). For just this year.

Best Executive: Daryl Morey

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    This marks the second offseason in a row that Daryl Morey has landed the Houston Rockets a superstar, and that makes him a shoo-in for the “Best Executive” award.

    Convincing Dwight Howard to come to Houston was obviously Morey's biggest move, but he did a few small things to shore up the Houston roster that are worth mentioning, too. He re-signed Francisco Garcia for cheap after Garcia had a brilliant postseason (11 points per game on 46 percent from three), and took flyers on Marcus Camby and Aaron Books.

    Morey's signings of Omri Casspi and Reggie Williams, shooters who have gone cold over the past few seasons, are just the icing on the cake. There's a decent chance that one or two of those four (excluding Garcia) become solid rotation players, and even if they don't, there's no risk in signing them. Morey has a major decision ahead concerning Omer Asik, but he's the offseason MVE (Most Valuable Executive) at this point.

Worst Hypothetical Executive: Carmelo Anthony

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    Yeah, yeah, Carmelo Anthony isn't actually an executive. And that's probably a good thing considering what he recently said about the New York Knicks' trade for Andrea Bargnani.

    Anthony said (per ESPN New York's Ian Begley), "I thought that was a steal. I hate to lose Marcus Camby and Steve Novak, but you get something like that back in return, it's kind of a win-win situation."

    Obviously this award is a bit of a joke—Anthony would never say anything bad about his new teammate, and Bargnani's not a terrible fit for New York. But still, going so far as to call the trade a steal is pretty funny.

    Bargnani's played a total of 66 games in the past two seasons, shot 30 percent from three in that span, and calling him a “poor defender” would be extremely generous. Keep in mind, the Knicks gave up three draft picks (including a first-rounder) and a major contributor for this guy.

    I mean...what on earth would Anthony have been willing to give up for Bargnani if he thought that trade was a steal?

    The point to take from all of this—even if Anthony was just trying to be nice, he should never be trusted to run an NBA team. Ever.

Gutsiest Trade: New Orleans Pelicans/Philadelphia 76ers (tie)

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    Both the New Orleans Pelicans and Philadelphia 76ers rolled the dice on their draft-day trade, and it'll be interesting to see who eventually comes out on top.

    The 76ers are betting:

    • that the Pelicans will miss out on the playoffs next season.
    • that Nerlens Noel will be a future star/impact player.
    • that they'll be bad enough to secure a top-five pick next season (a very good bet).

    On the other hand, the Pelicans are betting:

    • that Anthony Davis grows into a legitimate superstar.
    • that they'll secure a playoff berth next season.
    • that Jrue Holiday will flourish under a less restrictive offensive system.

    It's a fascinating deal, especially when you consider just how potent a Davis-Noel frontcourt might have been. We won't know how the deal ends up for a while, but it has the potential to be league-changing.

Biggest Step Up: Jared Dudley

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    This one goes out to Jared Dudley, who's moving from the last-in-the-West Phoenix Suns to the offensive juggernaut that will be the 2013-14 Los Angeles Clippers.

    Over the last two seasons, the Suns won just two more games (58), than the Clippers won last season alone (56). Dudley's two best teammates are now Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, rather than Goran Dragic and Marcin Gortat, and he's literally going to spend 90 percent of next season just standing in the corner and shooting the ball when it comes to him. 

    Sounds like a big step up to me.

Upside Signing: Miami Heat

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    With all due respect to the Cleveland Cavaliers' signing of Andrew Bynum, the most clunky-sounding award on the list goes to the Miami Heat, who recently signed former No. 1 overall pick Greg Oden to a one-year deal worth the veteran's minimum (per ShamSports).

    This signing could easily amount to nothing. Oden hasn't played professional basketball since the 2009-10 NBA season, and he's only played 82 games over the course of his entire career. There's a decent chance he plays no more than a handful of minutes this season, and the two go their separate ways.

    But, if (and keep in mind this is a huge “if”) Oden can stay healthy and give the Heat something like 15 or 20 minutes a game, he could swing the title. No kidding. For all the bust talk that surrounds Oden, he was a monster when he was actually on the court.

    In the 2009-10 season, Oden averaged 17 points and 13 rebounds per 36 minutes, posted a PER of 23 and helped the Portland Trail Blazers outscore opponents by nine points per 100 possessions (per Basketball-Reference).

    LeBron James made Chris Andersen look like an All-World player when they were on the court together. Just imagine what he could do with someone like Greg Oden. It would be must-watch basketball.

    The Oden signing was literally a no-risk move. But the potential benefits are staggering. Teams with great bigs have given the Heat a lot of trouble recently, and Miami may have just had the ideal rim-protector/rebounder fall right into its lap.

    Remember this if Oden's putting up double-doubles in the Finals 10 months from now.

Most Polarizing Decision: Los Angeles Lakers

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    You can sort of understand why the Los Angeles Lakers didn't choose to simply tank this coming season. Kobe Bryant's only got a few years left in him, and they want to be competitive for those.

    But at the same time...it almost feels like the Lakers are throwing away a golden opportunity. Kobe's coming off a very difficult injury for someone his age to recover from, and even if he does make it all the way back to his former self, Los Angeles still doesn't project to even make the playoffs.

    The Lakers did just enough in free agency to ensure that the team will stay afloat, but they're certainly not a title contender.

    The question is, why do that at all? As it stands, the Lakers are counting on next year's free-agency period to act as a lifeboat and appear to have no “Plan B.” Why not let Kobe rest for the better part of this year, snag a very good player in the upcoming draft and then test your luck in free agency?

    It honestly would have been best for both parties—Kobe and the Lakers organization. Clearly, Los Angeles thought otherwise, but it may not have made the wisest decision.

Most Depressing Photo: Boston Celtics

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    There's a good chance you've seen this picture by now, but if not, then you're in for one of the sadder moments of the 2013 offseason.

    It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize the journey on which these players are about to embark is going to be a living hell.

    MarShon Brooks' face is just heartbreaking.

Weirdest Highlight Reel: Spencer Hawes

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    Of all the people to put up a 50-point Pro-Am performance...Spencer Hawes? This guy? He had to be pretty far down on the “NBA players who will light it up over the summer” list, right?

    Props to Hawes for having such a great game, even if some of the guys he was playing with did look a little high schoolish. After seeing Hawes burn defenders with behind-the-back dribbles, I'll be thoroughly disappointed if he's not running point-center for the clearly tanking Philadelphia 76ers.

    Make it happen, Brett Brown!