10 NBA Offseason Moves Guaranteed to Have Biggest Impact in 2013-14 Campaign
If you think the last few NBA seasons have been the best since the days of Michael Jordan, get ready for 2013-14. It comes on the heels of one of the most exciting offseasons ever.
Some moves beefed up the rosters of contending franchises, instantly putting them in the title conversation. Other signings may have the power to put long-lost franchises on the map.
Even one of the best coaches in the league was traded, while one of the best point guards ever will be taking a shot at coaching on the biggest basketball stage.
Some teams will be getting shots at redemption. The Detroit Pistons are one of many bad teams gone good, practically overnight, thanks to some shrewd front-office maneuvers this past summer.
Dwight Howard is one of many star players getting a chance to make an impact on a new team. But which of these players are guaranteed to do so?
These offseason moves will have the biggest impact on the upcoming campaign. Whether or not these “guaranteed” moves turn out as predicted, I can guarantee you this: It is going to be a competitive NBA season, with more parity than ever.
10. Marcin Gortat to the Washington Wizards
The increasingly pesky Washington Wizards, a team on the rise with a budding All-Star in point guard John Wall, started last season 5-28 without Wall—then finished a widely unnoticed 24-25 after his return.
If the Wiz continue that .500 pace into and through 2013-14, their winning percentage will guarantee them a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Mark your calendars for a postseason game in Washington, D.C.
The Wizards were the most competitive of the bottom-feeders last season, giving the best teams fits.
They took down the champion Miami Heat, the 60-win Oklahoma City Thunder, 57-win Denver Nuggets (twice), Chicago Bulls (twice), New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers.
Not many good teams can boast such a list of victims.
The Wizards were already one of the better rebounding teams in the league, and now they have added center Marcin Gortat in a trade with the Phoenix Suns.
The new Washington frontcourt pairing Gortat with Nene at power forward will protect the glass with a 15-rebounds-per-game wall, which should be enough to compete with the likes of the Pacers and the Bulls.
9. Andre Iguodala to the Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors made themselves true Western Conference contenders when they picked up swingman Andre Iguodala in a three-way deal with the Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz—throwing their name in the ring with the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers.
The Warriors finished with 47 wins in 2012-13 and were the only team out West to defeat the Spurs in the postseason.
Now, they have improved an already potent offense and an average defense in one move, putting them in position to win at least 50 games and compete for a conference title.
The Warriors got little out of the 3 from starter Harrison Barnes in the regular season last year: 9.2 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game.
In Iguodala's average season with the Nuggets, his line looked like this: 13 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game (plus 1.7 steals).
Sports Illustrated’s Ben Golliver had this to say about Iguodala’s fit with Golden State:
One of the league’s elite perimeter defenders, he is also an excellent finisher in transition and should mesh well with his new Warriors teammates. He joins a roster that’s teeming with offensive talent and that can always use another stopper. Iguodala should be able to get in where he fits in, allowing Stephen Curry and David Lee to remain as focal points.
8. Al Jefferson to the Charlotte Bobcats
The Charlotte Bobcats franchise has had one winning season in nine years. Two years ago, they finished with the worst record in NBA history at 7-59 (.106 winning percentage). Last year, they tripled their wins to 21 (.256).
This season will be another step forward if Al Jefferson has anything to say about it (read: can stay healthy).
The Bobcats got to keep six of their top seven scorers from last season, including their top four in Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson, Ramon Sessions and Ben Gordon. Now they’ve added an impact big man in Jefferson, who will likely out-score—and out-rebound—all of his teammates.
What's more, Jefferson and backup center Bismack Biyombo combine statistically for 4.2 blocks per 36 minutes over their careers.
While there’s no hope of making the playoffs, Charlotte could make the roads for other teams more treacherous by playing the role of spoiler down the stretch.
Either way, the Bobcats will no longer be an easy out.
7. Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans
On draft night, the New Orleans Pelicans were involved in a shocking deal that landed them one of the most dynamic and continuously improving point guards in the NBA.
“No one saw this coming. Absolutely no one,” wrote Bleacher Report’s Dan Favale when it went down.
Jrue Holiday had the best season of his young (four-year) career in 2012-13, scoring 17.7 points per game and adding 8.0 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game, yet the Philadelphia 76ers still chose to flip the face of their franchise for No. 6 overall pick Nerlens Noel.
New Orleans suddenly boasts potentially one of the highest scoring backcourts in the NBA, pairing Holiday’s numbers with either shooting guard Eric Gordon’s 17 points per game or Tyreke Evans’ 15.2.
Like the Bobcats, the Pelicans' chances of making the postseason are slim, but it’s getting to the point where there are almost no pushovers left in the league.
6. J.J. Redick, Jared Dudley to the Los Angeles Clippers
The Los Angeles Clippers won 56 games last season without a strong starting shooting guard. All the slack at the No. 2 was picked up off the bench by elite sixth man Jamal Crawford (who will remain in that role this season if he’s not traded).
The Clippers picked up J.J. Redick from the Milwaukee Bucks to start at the 2—a 10-point upgrade at the position over Willie Green—and for insurance, Jared Dudley from the Phoenix Suns.
The Clippers are still a little shaky at center with DeAndre Jordan, but the moves give them a trading chip in Crawford. The Clips could wind up taking care of their big-man problem around the February deadline.
Grantland’s Zach Lowe summed up the Clippers' offseason upgrades:
The added shooting should make the Clips a real threat to jump over Oklahoma City and Miami as the league's best offensive team. The Clips know they need another big, and they will likely sign one shortly, while the four-man wing combination of Crawford, Dudley, Redick, and Matt Barnes should allow Doc Rivers to play a lot of small ball.
5. Metta World Peace and Andrea Bargnani to the New York Knicks
The New York Knicks had an underrated offseason in the shadow of their upstart neighbors, the Brooklyn Nets.
The Knicks looked handcuffed in terms of roster flexibility heading into the summer. They were stuck with a bloated payroll and seemed destined for another early playoff exit thanks mostly to Amar’e Stoudemire's wasted money.
It’s remarkable, and a bit lucky, what they’ve pulled off—two moves that may not have involved the best players in the league, but players that plug holes perfectly.
Andrea Bargnani has the potential to cure what ails Stoudemire, filling in minutes and offense at either center behind Tyson Chandler or by starting at the No. 4.
Metta World Peace—and his union with Iman Shumpert—gives the Knicks a different identity, and one that makes them more competitive in the bruising Eastern Conference.
No longer are the Knicks an offensive team led by Carmelo Anthony with Chandler anchoring the defense. They have become a defensive team led by Chandler, World Peace, Shumpert and coach Mike Woodson, anchored by Anthony on offense.
Those defensive specialists are all capable of scoring double digits a game too, giving the Knicks their most well-rounded squad since the days of Patrick Ewing.
4. Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings to the Detroit Pistons
In the top-heavy Eastern Conference, there are likely three playoff spots that are up for grabs. The Detroit Pistons are one of the teams in contention for one of those spots.
They significantly helped their chances in July when they succeeded in signing Josh Smith from the Atlanta Hawks via free agency.
President of basketball operations Joe Dumars said at the time, via ESPN:
Josh was the No. 1 guy we went after in free agency. The primary reason was because of his versatility. He's a 6-9, athletic forward who can play both positions and at both ends of the floor.
Smith will boost a weak offense that scored under 95 points per game in 2012-13 and join Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond to form a rebounding machine in the frontcourt.
The Pistons then brought back Detroit hero Chauncey Billups next, the perfect veteran presence to push the inconsistent Rodney Stuckey.
However, the coup of the offseason was trading for Brandon Jennings to replace the three-headed underachieving committee of Brandon Knight, Jose Calderon and Will Bynum at the point.
3. Dwight Howard to the Houston Rockets
The most anticipated move of the offseason and what turned out to be the biggest splash, of course, was Houston winning the Dwight Howard sweepstakes.
The probability is that Howard will once again lead the league in rebounding with upwards of 12 or more boards a game. He should also average nearly 20 points per contest.
The Rockets will be better with Howard and should be able to top 50 wins, but the Western Conference was so talent-heavy already—with five teams winning at least 50 games last season—that there is little room at the top.
The Rockets won 45 last season and squeaked into the playoffs, two games ahead of the Utah Jazz.
Howard's impact on the Los Angeles Lakers was negligible at best, some might even say negative. This won't be the case in Houston, where he will not have to worry about Kobe Bryant or the L.A. spotlight, which is an environment more suited to his ego.
Still, this guarantee is tempered, thanks to the competition, Howard's psychological baggage, his ability to play well with others and lingering questions about his recovery from back surgery.
2. Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce to the Brooklyn Nets
Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce not only bring Hall of Fame talent and leadership to the Brooklyn Nets, they bring a complete change of identity for the team, helping to transform the franchise from perennial, soft losers to tough title contenders.
More than anything, it was the Nets' mental makeup that failed them at the end of 2012-13. Their effort in Game 7 of their first round playoff matchup against the Chicago Bulls was severely lacking, as they were worn down by a Bulls team that was decimated by injuries.
The Nets won 49 games last season with Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace and Reggie Evans manning the positions that the far superior Garnett and Pierce will now be taking over. That's a statistical upgrade across the board, practically guaranteeing a 50- to 55-win season.
The Nets are the favorites to finally take the Atlantic Division and at the worst a No. 3 seed in the East.
1. Doc Rivers to the Los Angeles Clippers
The offseason move guaranteed to have the biggest impact in 2013-14 doesn't involve a player, but a coach.
The Boston Celtics traded head coach Doc Rivers to the Los Angeles Clippers for a 2015 first-round draft pick.
While player moves upgrade or shore up a position or two, inserting a head coach affects, and could potentially improve, every position on the team.
Coming off of a 56-win season, the Clips added one of the best coaches of the last decade.
Look for 60 wins and a hijacking of the Western Conference by a team from the City of Angels, and for once it won't be the Lakers.
It will be the Clippers vying for the No. 1 seed right beside the Oklahoma City Thunder.