2013 NBA Offseason Awards
Who cares about the MVP, Sixth Man of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year trophies when you can hand out virtual recognition in the form of offseason awards?
A lot of people? Darn.
Well, we're still going over the offseason because nothing has happened during the 2013-14 season yet, meaning we can't start analyzing the races for the awards that actually exist. We can only preview them.
But instead of doing that here, we'll be looking at the biggest free-agent moves, draft picks, surprises, positives and negatives during a busy summer in the NBA.
For each award, I'll also be naming an honorable mention, so make sure you check out the bottom of the slides to see everyone who deserves recognition.
Without further ado—or a glamorous host for my virtual awards show—let's start handing out trophies.
Best Move: Dwight Howard to the Houston Rockets
Dwight Howard was the biggest fish in the free-agent pool, and he went to a team that's perfectly suited to maximize his talents. Don't let personal feelings cloud your analysis of the big man, as he's still a completely dominant player when healthy.
Even while playing through back pain and the tumultuous stint with the Los Angeles Lakers, D12 was one of the premier big men in basketball. Now he's going to a team that will put him in a more familiar situation, even if he's never been on the Houston Rockets before.
Dwight was able to find success in Orlando because the Magic surrounded him with shooters, thereby taking plenty of offensive pressure off those massive shoulders. It's the same system used by Kevin McHale in Houston, except James Harden is far better than anyone Dwight played with on his first team.
The Rockets are now set to run the most dominant pick-and-roll game in the NBA, and Dwight's innate ability to protect the rim will help compensate for the porosity of the backcourt's defense.
It's a perfect fit, which is something you can't always say about the biggest name on the move. Far too often, teams try to fit square pegs into round holes just because the square peg looks really, really appealing.
Honorable Mention: Andre Iguodala to the Golden State Warriors
Worst Move: Zaza Pachulia to the Milwaukee Bucks
The Milwaukee Bucks' acquisition of O.J. Mayo drew some strong consideration here, but signing Zaza Pachulia—who has played with the team before—to a three-year, $15.6 million deal is just egregious.
Pachulia will remain an Atlanta Hawks fan favorite for a long time thanks to his proclivity for working hard and maximizing his physical talents.
But still, that's way too much money given the current composition of the Milwaukee roster.
Pachulia isn't going to play much, and if he does, he'll be stealing minutes away from Larry Sanders, John Henson and Ekpe Udoh. The Bucks should be focusing on the future, which means allowing their young players to learn on the job and begin realizing their lofty potential, not finding stopgaps who can put up solid but limited production.
The money itself isn't too problematic. $15.6 million is a lot for a backup center of Pachulia's ilk, but it wouldn't be that bad for a contender.
Last I checked, the Bucks weren't even in shouting distance of being contenders.
Honorable Mention: Josh Smith to the Detroit Pistons
Best Draft Pick: Dennis Schroeder to the Atlanta Hawks
The Atlanta Hawks lucked out when they landed Dennis Schroeder outside the lottery. In fact, the German point guard slipped all the way to No. 17, and a dominant summer league showing confirmed that he has the potential necessary to become the best player in this draft class.
Schroeder is one of those rare international prospects who has the skills to immediately step into a large role in the NBA. There won't be any more of an adjustment period than that faced by all rookies.
Although he doesn't possess a consistent jumper (yet), Schroeder is blindingly quick off the dribble, especially with his first step. He can get to his spots, and he has both the court vision and finishing ability necessary to make a multifaceted offensive impact while remaining a nagging presence on defense.
Trey Burke is still the favorite to emerge as the best point guard from the 2013 NBA draft, but don't be surprised if Schroeder strongly inserts himself within that discussion as soon as this year.
Honorable Mention: Nerlens Noel to the Philadelphia 76ers
Worst Draft Pick: Alex Len to the Phoenix Suns
Alex Len was already a risky pick when he was recovering from a stress fracture on his left ankle. Things got worse when he had preventative surgery on the right one because there were warning signs of another stress fracture.
If there's any medical staff who can properly nurse the big man back to health, it's the Phoenix Suns' magicians. But still, drafting a player with this many red flags at No. 5? Color me skeptical.
What makes the pick worse is who was left on the table.
The Suns could have used Nerlens Noel or Ben McLemore, two players who were in the conversation to be drafted first for much of the 2012-13 season. Instead, they passed on both players in favor of the riskier option who just isn't as good anyway.
While Phoenix's offseason was a largely successful one, primarily due to the acquisition of Eric Bledsoe, this was still an unfortunate move.
Honorable Mention: Anthony Bennett to the Cleveland Cavaliers
Most Surprising Move: The Brooklyn-Boston Trade
Paul Pierce was one of those select few players who I never thought I'd see in another jersey. Period. There was nothing that could change that.
So even when the rumors started emerging that he could be on the way out, I was highly skeptical. The Truth meant too much to the Boston Celtics, and he'd almost certainly retire before joining a different team. Right?
On draft night, Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry were moved to the Brooklyn Nets for a package that included MarShon Brooks, Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries and some draft picks. Even though that trade had been building steam, the actual execution of it was a shock.
Quite frankly, I'm still not sure I've wrapped my head around the image you can see up above.
Honorable Mention: The Jrue Holiday trade
Most Surprising Draft Pick: Anthony Bennett to the Cleveland Cavaliers
Let's have Bill Simmons take it away here.
Maybe you weren't as shocked as Simmons, but you still had to feel at least a twinge of surprise when the Cleveland Cavaliers bucked convention and made Anthony Bennett the newest member of the top-pick fraternity.
I can't recall a single reputable mock draft that had Bennett as the No. 1 pick. That was supposed to be between Nerlens Noel, Alex Len, Ben McLemore and Victor Oladipo. Bennett wasn't even in the conversation.
To put it in perspective, I was running Bleacher Report's draft grades at the time and had prepared write-ups for each of the aforementioned players to get a little bit of a head start. It didn't even cross my mind that the UNLV product had an outside shot at being the No. 1 pick.
This one is still shocking.
Honorable Mention: Cody Zeller to the Charlotte Bobcats
Strangest Decision: Hiring Jason Kidd
The Brooklyn Nets have an aging roster with a limited title window, one that is going to firmly shut in the near future as the standout players continue to rack up the miles on their tires. They've also been dealt a hand that includes plenty of new faces, and each of them needs to build chemistry with his teammates.
How do the Nets balance the minutes of Paul Pierce and Andrei Kirilenko? How do they ensure that Deron Williams stays happy and healthy? How can they make sure that Kevin Garnett and Brook Lopez get enough touches, but without taking too many away from Joe Johnson?
There are a lot of questions, even if the Nets have a supremely talented roster.
It sounds like a situation that would be best left to a veteran head coach with plenty of experience determining and sticking to rotations. But instead, Brooklyn hired Jason Kidd before the ink even dried on his retirement papers.
Kidd doesn't have any coaching experience, and yet he's being tasked with this difficult situation.
While the former point guard may very well develop into a great coach, it's not the type of roster to entrust him with as he embarks on the next stage of his basketball career.
Honorable Mention: Denver Nuggets letting go of George Karl
Highest Potential Signing: Tie Between Greg Oden and Andrew Bynum
There's no way to pick just one of these big men as the signing with the highest potential. And by the way, how crazy is it that we actually have visual evidence of the two oft-injured centers squaring off?
Greg Oden landed in a great situation with the Miami Heat, as he doesn't have to do anything more than focus on his defense and rebounding. Best case, he regains around 75 percent of his old form, stays healthy and becomes a key contributor.
Seventy-five percent of vintage Oden is still enough to make him one of the better centers in basketball.
Worst case, Oden gets hurt again and the Heat's minimal investment doesn't pay off. It was a great risk-reward signing.
But speaking of risk-reward, the signing of Andrew Bynum by the Cleveland Cavaliers was essentially a masterclass in risk management. Only $6 million of Bynum's potential two-year deal is guaranteed, so the Cavs either get a great player or they cut ties quickly.
And if he's even close to the player he was with the Los Angeles Lakers, then you may as well pencil Cleveland into a playoff spot right now.
Honorable Mention: Don't get greedy. I already gave you two.
Biggest Steal: Andrei Kirilenko to the Brooklyn Nets
Andrei Kirilenko opted out of an eight-figure guarantee and then watched as the market dried up, taking his earning potential along with it. Then he signed a two-year deal with the Brooklyn Nets worth $6.5 million, one that was so much of a steal that the NBA's general managers wanted it looked into.
The Russian forward is by no means a reserve player. He's a starting-caliber player who is only going to play the sixth man role because the Nets' starting five is just that stacked.
It makes more sense for Paul Pierce to remain in the top unit so that AK-47 can use his versatility off the bench, capably stepping into any number of roles whenever one of the starters needs a breather.
Immediately after Brooklyn acquired Pierce and Kevin Garnett, two primary concerns popped up: a lack of depth and too much age. In a way, the two concerns are linked, as the veteran starters need even more careful handling than normal.
But Kirilenko assuages those fears. He makes the Brooklyn bench a rather strong entity, and while he isn't exactly the model of youth, he's got plenty of quality minutes left in the tank.
Honorable Mention: Paul Millsap to the Atlanta Hawks
Team That Had the Worst Offseason: Denver Nuggets
While signing Nate Robinson and J.J. Hickson were both quality moves by the Denver Nuggets, it's not enough to minimize the negativity surrounding this franchise after another early postseason exit.
George Karl, the Coach of the Year, was let go of in favor of Brian Shaw. Former Executive of the Year Masai Ujiri escaped to the front office of the Toronto Raptors. Andre Iguodala, easily the best player on the roster until Ty Lawson inevitably takes a massive step forward, signed with a conference rival.
There wasn't much positive in Denver, especially when you factor in the exorbitant contract Timofey Mozgov signed so that he can keep sitting on the bench.
The Nuggets are barely one of the Western Conference's playoff teams. And that's more than some people—like B/R's Joel Cordes—think after this disaster of an offseason. Unless Danilo Gallinari returns earlier than expected and immediately plays like he was before tearing his ACL, it's going to be tough to muster up anything more than a spot as a sacrificial victim in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.
But it gets worse.
Ujiri was the man responsible for building this team. Every single player—except for Ty Lawson—who played at least 18 minutes per game in 2012-13 was acquired by the Nigerian general manager, and he also inked Lawson to a bargain of an extension.
Without his roster-building skills, there's no guarantee of a more promising future.
Honorable Mention: Milwaukee Bucks
Team That Had the Best Offseason: Brooklyn Nets
Kevin Garnett should be smiling. He was part of the best offseason haul put together during the summer of 2013, as the Brooklyn Nets went from a middle-of-the-pack playoff team to being bona fide contenders to hold up the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
Brooklyn gave up role players like Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries and MarShon Brooks, and it was able to acquire two key starters: KG and Paul Pierce. Both players are on the downside of their careers, but they still have plenty left in the tank for the 2013-14 season.
Additionally, Brooklyn drafted a nice, safe big man (Mason Plumlee) and added quite a few quality players to the bench. Andrei Kirilenko has already been profiled as the biggest steal of the offseason, but let's not overlook the re-signing of Andray Blatche or the acquisitions of Shaun Livingston and Alan Anderson.
Everything the Nets did was positive, and the Eastern Conference can no longer afford to look past these residents of the Barclays Center.
Honorable Mention: Houston Rockets