Analyzing Early Returns on Biggest NBA Offseason Moves
It's going to take another couple of months before we can make any conclusive judgments on how some of the NBA's biggest offseason transactions have paid off.
But after a few short weeks, we have enough information to form some early opinions on everything from Dwight Howard's complicated fit with the Houston Rockets to Andre Iguodala's transforming effect on the Golden State Warriors.
The summer of 2013 saw a ton of superstars change addresses, and a handful of big names signed hefty extensions with their current teams. So, we'll take a look at how Paul George and DeMarcus Cousins' new deals are working out, too.
Oh, and just as a cautionary piece of advice, you might want to skip this article entirely if you're a Detroit Pistons fan. It's not going to be pretty for Motor City loyalists.
Andre Iguodala's Impact: Off the Charts
Warriors head coach Mark Jackson loves to use the term "off the charts" to describe some of his players' best skills.
Stephen Curry's pull-up jumper? Off the charts.
Andrew Bogut's rim protection? Off the charts.
The inexplicable hesitation on Jermaine O'Neal's free throws? Off the charts.
You get the idea.
In a lot of ways, Iguodala's impact on the Warriors falls into that unquantifiable realm to which Jackson so often refers. He's the king of intangibles.
But there are some pretty basic charts that provide information on how significant his presence has been for the suddenly elite Warriors.
Per NBA.com, Golden State ranks among the NBA's top seven teams in offensive and defensive efficiency, and Iguodala has been instrumental in elevating the Warriors in both areas. Defensively, he's a terror on the ball and in passing lanes. Few wings are as disruptive to an offense as he is.
And on the other end, Iguodala's ability to handle the rock has turned the Warriors into a pass-happy outfit that generates a ton of open threes and easy looks at the rim. His willingness to facilitate gives Golden State a major weapon.
In all, it's hard to imagine how the Warriors' acquisition of Iggy could have possibly worked out better.
Dwight Howard's Mixed Bag
There's no question that Howard looks better this season than he did for the Los Angeles Lakers last year.
He's a little bouncier and a little more willing to integrate himself into his team's schemes, and he hasn't yet jammed a foot in his mouth while talking to the media.
On the year, he's averaging 18.2 points and 14.9 rebounds, both improvements over his numbers from last season.
What's troubling, though, is that his influence on the Rockets defense hasn't been as significant as Houston would have hoped. Per NBA.com, Kevin McHale's club actually allows about three fewer points per 100 possessions when Howard is on the bench. That's a trend that might have something to do with Omer Asik's solid play in relief of Howard, but it's still pretty surprising.
It's safe to expect the Rockets and Howard to get more comfortable with one another as the season progresses, but right now, there are still some bothersome chemistry issues preventing the match from working out perfectly.
Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were supposed to help push the Brooklyn Nets over the top. A little over two weeks into the season, neither has done much to get Mikhail Prokhorov's expensive experiment off the ground.
Brooklyn currently resides just a half-game above the cellar in the East, and after an embarrassing 107-86 loss to the Sacramento Kings on Nov. 13, things are looking grim.
Garnett is posting career lows across the board and hasn't looked anything like the game-changing defender he was with the Boston Celtics.
In fact, aside from Brook Lopez and Shaun Livingston, nobody on the Nets has been very impressive. As a result, desperation is already setting in.
Per Sam Amick of USA Today, Jason Terry said:
When it started, it looked good on paper, but can we figure it out as a group? We like to say, "Stay even keel," but for us right now this is desperation. Everyone that steps on the floor on Friday (at the Phoenix Suns) should feel desperation, and come out and play with a sense of urgency. If you don't, you'll be looking at another loss. That's what it is.
This is a team built to win titles, so perhaps we should grant them a bit of leeway as they slog through the first part of the season. It's entirely possible that this veteran bunch just won't be motivated to bring premium effort until after the All-Star break.
If things keep going the way they are, though, it might be too late by then.
Jury's Still out on Cousins...Sort Of
When the Sacramento Kings maxed out DeMarcus Cousins, they did so with the hopes that new ownership and a new coaching staff would help the talented big man develop into a more complete player.
Numbers were never a problem for DMC, and he's putting up better ones than ever this year. His 22.3 points per game and 48 percent field-goal shooting are both career highs.
But he's still a liability on defense, and he remains a volatile, easily distracted player.
Per NBA.com, the Kings currently boast the sixth-worst defensive rating in the NBA. Franchise big men are supposed to be able to affect the game on both ends, and so far, Cousins has remained a one-way player.
Maybe there's still room for him to mature. But right now, Cousins' Kings are stuck at 2-5, and the big man has done nothing to justify the money Sacramento paid him.
Trouble in Detroit
Everyone talked about the offensive spacing issues the Detroit Pistons would face with Josh Smith joining Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond in the frontcourt. In theory, Brandon Jennings and a capable shooting guard would help alleviate the problem, but there was still justifiable concern for the Pistons' ability to run a balanced offense.
Nobody expected Detroit to turn into a sieve on defense.
With the league's worst defensive rating (by a wide margin), the Pistons have surprised in the worst way. That vaunted front line has allowed opponents to convert 66.1 percent of their field-goal attempts in the restricted area. Only the Washington Wizards and Los Angeles Clippers have been more generous.
Not all of Detroit's shaky defense is attributable to Smith, but it's becoming clear that this is not a roster that fits together. The issue came to a head when head coach Maurice Cheeks benched J-Smoove for a huge chunk of the second and third quarters against the Golden State Warriors on Nov. 12.
In short, the early returns on the Pistons' biggest offseason move aren't positive.
Paul George Got a Raise, Needs Another One
Is it possible for the Indiana Pacers to pay Paul George more than the league-mandated max?
If so, he could already initiate renegotiations on his contract without anyone telling him it was undeserved.
George has been a true superstar so far this season, improving his scoring average, upping his shooting percentages and still defending at an elite level. In leading his Pacers to a perfect 8-0 record, George (who really needs a nickname, by the way) has barged in on the MVP conversation and probably won't be leaving anytime soon.
I was critical of Indy's decision to max out George before the season—mostly because the Pacers would have had the ability to match any offers he received on the restricted free-agent market this summer—but now I'm on board.
Paul George deserves every penny of his big extension. Indy got this one right.
The Tyreke Evans Disaster
There's probably room to criticize the New Orleans Pelicans' decision to swap a lottery pick (which became Nerlens Noel) for Jrue Holiday. But without knowing how good a player Noel will become, it's best to give the Pels a temporary pass for now.
But there's no way to justify the contract New Orleans generously bestowed upon Tyreke Evans. Granted, the four-year, $44 million agreement was technically signed between the Kings and Evans, but New Orleans readily assumed the onerous contract as part of a sign-and-trade deal.
Evans has been awful, averaging nine points on 36 percent shooting in just 24 minutes per game. Worse still, he's little more than a duplicate addition to a team that already has Holiday and Eric Gordon.
For reference, New Orleans is paying Evans the same amount of money that the Warriors are giving Stephen Curry.
It appears the Pelicans now have an albatross of a contract on their books.
All Over the Map in Los Angeles
Retaining Chris Paul on a max deal was a no-brainer, but I suppose we have to mention it here as a good move the Clippers made this past offseason.
In addition, the acquisitions of Jared Dudley and J.J. Redick have both paid dividends. Paul now has the floor-spacing shooters to make his forays into the lane that much easier. And of course, getting Doc Rivers from the Boston Celtics was a coup.
But not everything has worked out perfectly for L.A.
Byron Mullens and Antawn Jamison haven't been nearly as effective off the bench as the Clips hoped, which has put extra pressure on the starting frontcourt to play extended minutes. Given the number of big leads the Clips have generated in the early going, a lack of depth up front hasn't been a significant issue.
It will be, though. Especially in the playoffs, when the action gets intense and foul trouble becomes a real issue for DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin.
Overall, the Clippers did more good than harm in the offseason. But don't be surprised if they try to pull off a couple of in-season additions to make up for the weak bigs they brought in over the summer.