Every NBA Team's Biggest Offseason Change
The dog days of the NBA are upon us, which means the bulk of the offseason moves are in the past. Not every team has seen a monumental shift in personnel, but for some (see: Cleveland Cavaliers), 2014-15 will be the start of a new era.
While a team like Cleveland has unquestionably had a successful summer, not all who have seen changes will benefit from those moves. Sometimes a change occurs because a team can't retain someone in free agency, and sometimes a questionable acquisition can shake things up in the wrong direction.
Regardless of which moves were made, no team will look exactly the same next year. There are a handful that will look pretty darn close, but even those organizations have one move we can point to as sparking change at this juncture.
Thabo Sefolosha on the perimeter
The Atlanta Hawks entered the 2014 offseason with plenty of cap space and hopes of bringing in a marquee free agent.
Unfortunately, that hope never turned into a reality, and the team has had to settle for modest signings such as Thabo Sefolosha and Kent Bazemore.
As B/R's Alec Nathan wrote in his evaluation of free agency:
The Hawks gained enough momentum this summer to be considered contenders for one of the Eastern Conference's playoff spots, but disappointment regarding the front office's inability to lure a big name overshadows some of the nice progress they've made.
A healthy Al Horford will do wonders for this roster, but as it pertains to newcomers, Sefolosha and his menacing defensive presence are what Atlanta fans are looking forward to seeing next season.
We're going to be generous and call what the Boston Celtics have "depth."
More accurately, it's a crowded roster with players to cut and minutes to share, but the team has options, which is all you can ask for from a rebuilding organization.
This summer, the C's have acquired players such as Evan Turner, Tyler Zeller and Marcus Thornton. They also drafted Marcus Smart, who can presumably play either the 1 or 2 in Brad Stevens' system.
This team has a number of new additions, and while none of them will likely impact the roster in grand, immediate fashion, all of them have a chance to contribute within the rotation. Boston fans have a whole slew of new players to cheer for, and that's not something most fanbases can say.
Lionel Hollins as head coach
The Brooklyn Nets have seen a lot of change over the past few seasons. Coaches, players, venues—they've all changed relatively quickly, and as you might have expected, the 2014 offseason proved to follow the same narrative.
While you can make an argument that Paul Pierce's departure is the biggest change, a stronger case can be made for the head coaching spot. Jason Kidd's move to Milwaukee was both swift and unexpected, and it led to the hiring of Lionel Hollins, who coached the Memphis Grizzlies to three straight playoff appearances between 2011 and 2013.
Knowing what we know about Hollins, you can expect a strong emphasis on defense moving forward. As B/R's Dan Favale put it, "This time around, the Brooklyn Nets got their guy. The right guy."
Lance Stephenson signing
In reality, the biggest change this organization will see can be found on the front of its new jerseys. The team formally known as the Bobcats has officially transformed into the Charlotte Hornets, and the new aesthetics have fans feeling nostalgic about the past, while simultaneously excited about the upcoming season.
On the back of those same jerseys, you'll find one significant name that wasn't there in 2013-14: Stephenson. That, of course, is for Lance Stephenson, who signed with the team this summer.
At 23 years old, the former University of Cincinnati product has proven that his maturation process isn't yet complete. He made headlines this past year for his "antics" more than once, but Michael Jordan and crew are hoping that he can put those things in the past and focus on becoming an elite defender and All-Star-caliber swingman.
As Stephenson stated after inking his new deal, "I bring more to the table than blowing in someone's ear." That quote comes courtesy of The Charlotte Observer's Rick Bonnell, and it's exactly what fans want to hear with the youngster officially on board.
Swapping Carlos Boozer for Pau Gasol
The Chicago Bulls couldn't land a big-time free agent as it pertains to top-tier players, but they upgraded the power forward position by using their amnesty provision on Carlos Boozer and bringing in Pau Gasol.
Gasol, 34, has experience that no one else on the roster can match. He's a two-time NBA champion, and more importantly, he helps round out an incredibly deep big man rotation—one that also comprises Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Nikola Mirotic.
The problem, of course, is that the Bulls now have three, if not four, starting-caliber bigs. But as Tom Thibodeau put it on The Game 87.7 FM, "It's a great problem to have."
Chicago will be improved in 2014-15, and as long as Derrick Rose can stay healthy, it'll be in contention for a title when the regular season comes to an end.
LeBron James is coming home
The Cleveland Cavaliers have had a monumental summer. It's not often that you sign a new head coach and draft a potential star with the first overall pick in a single offseason.
What else could an organization ask for?
Oh yeah. How about LeBron James?
In James' own words, courtesy of the essay he wrote (as published by Sports Illustrated's Lee Jenkins), "I’m ready to accept the challenge." The challenge, of course, will be starting fresh, as well as guiding a young, unproven team to a well-deserved championship.
No, not two championships; not three; not four (you get the idea). This is about bringing home a title to the city of Cleveland—a championship that won't be as easy to come by for LeBron as it was in Miami, but a championship that will mean just as much (if not more) to the fans who have been starved for success for so many years, even if it's just one.
The Dallas Mavericks have had a busy offseason. Newcomers include Tyson Chandler, Chandler Parsons, Raymond Felton, Jameer Nelson and Richard Jefferson, and the 2014-15 starting lineup is projected to include three of those new members.
At center, you've got the return of Chandler. His value was obvious when the team won the 2011 championship, and subsequently even more obvious when he left the next season for the New York Knicks.
On the perimeter, Parsons has come over from the Houston Rockets, while Jameer Nelson is ready to play for his first team not named the Orlando Magic.
Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki will be the two returning members, and they'll presumably be the offensive leaders of the team next season. This group has retooled quite efficiently, and improvements should be obvious when the new year officially tips off.
Adding Arron Afflalo
The Denver Nuggets haven't made many headlines this offseason. Their biggest acquisition has been Arron Afflalo, as the seven-year veteran will make his Mile High return in 2014-15.
Coming off of a career year, Afflalo must be ready to accept a bit of a role change. He's proven he can be a go-to scorer, as evidenced by his 18.2 points-per-game average on 42.7 percent three-point shooting last season, but the Nuggets are about as deep as it comes, and he must be prepared to participate in a scheme that runs an offense by committee.
Aside from Afflalo, this group is going to look almost identical to the group that took the floor last year. That said, the roster will ideally be healthy, which would be the biggest, most important change of them all.
Stan Van is now the man
If the Detroit Pistons allow Greg Monroe to walk in free agency (or send him away in a sign-and-trade scenario), that will be the biggest change for this organization. The makeup of the roster would allow Josh Smith to play the 4, but the absence of a potential All-Star would be a tough pill to swallow.
For the time being, we shift our attention to the sidelines. Stan Van Gundy is the new head coach of the Pistons, and he's ready to compete at a level Detroit hasn't seen in nearly a decade.
"It is an honor to be chosen to help Tom Gores build the Pistons into a team that competes for championships," Van Gundy said in a statement back in May, courtesy of ESPN's Marc Stein.
Detroit is still a ways away from competing for a Larry O'Brien Trophy, but bringing in Van Gundy signifies that the Pistons aren't content with where they've been. They have bigger goals in mind, and they're not happy with simply compiling talent and hoping for a shot at the playoffs.
Golden State Warriors
Mark Jackson out, Steve Kerr in
If the Golden State Warriors end up winning the Kevin Love sweepstakes, that becomes the biggest change of the offseason. It will mean a monumental shift for the current roster, and it will edge the Warriors closer to the top of the rankings in a brutally tough Western Conference.
For now, the biggest change we've seen for Golden State took place on the sidelines. Mark Jackson was fired back in May, and Steve Kerr was hired later that month to take over the head coaching position.
What does Kerr bring to the table? To be honest, we can't fully answer that question quite yet. We've never seen him on the sidelines in this capacity, and his track record is a blank slate as he prepares for his inaugural season as the lead man.
What we do know is that expectations for Golden State are high, as evidenced by Jackson's firing after a 51-win season. As B/R's Zach Buckley put it, "Kerr is getting ready to start out on his own path. The only way to fully shed Jackson's shadow is to climb higher than his predecessor could."
Chandler Parsons out, Trevor Ariza in
The 2014 offseason did not go as planned for the Houston Rockets.
Consider the following: The team missed out on every big-name free agent it had interest in (LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh). It also traded away Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik, and while that creates cap flexibility, that cap space wasn't utilized as expected this summer.
On top of all else, Chandler Parsons is now a member of the Dallas Mavericks.
Looking on the bright side, Trevor Ariza, whom the team signed in free agency, should be a better 3-and-D guy than Parsons ever was for Houston. Defense has been an obvious struggle for this group in the past, and while Parsons has a higher ceiling than Ariza, he lacked the ability to lock down the perimeter which is something that Ariza has had for much of his career.
Fans in Houston are disappointed that there wasn't a monumental acquisition this summer, but not every offseason leads to a Dwight Howard- or James Harden-like signing. The Rockets are still talented, and they're still built for winning now.
No more Lance Stephenson
Lance Stephenson is out. He's no longer a member of the Indiana Pacers, and Larry Bird is disappointed.
"I really feel bad about losing him,'' Bird said, via Bob Kravitz of USA TODAY Sports. "I hope it doesn't interfere with our relationship. But I did what I could possibly do to keep him here."
Bird continued, saying:
Even if he didn't have any other offers, I was committed to giving him that $44 million because I believe in the kid. If you look at our roster, we have five or six guys in the last year of their deals, plus David (West) and Roy (Hibbert) can opt out, so don't you think I wanted to keep Lance and Paul (George) locked into long-term deals?
Stephenson ultimately took less money to play with the Charlotte Hornets but not for righteous reasons. According to Kravitz's report, he and his agent were seeking a deal in the $10-plus million-per-year range, but as it turned out, he simply wasn't worth that much on the open market.
Now the Pacers have to deal with replacing the 23-year-old while hopefully returning to contention in 2014-15. Their second-half slump planted a seed of doubt in everyone's mind, and it's time to see how they bounce back next year.
Los Angeles Clippers
Spencer Hawes off the bench
The Los Angeles Clippers finally have a true backup center.
With the signing of Spencer Hawes over the summer, L.A. can send DeAndre Jordan to the bench knowing it has a big man who can step in and be productive. It's true that the former Washington Husky won't be the dominant rim-protector the team needs in the second unit, but his 1.3 blocks per game from last season shouldn't be completely overlooked.
From an offensive perspective, Hawes shot 39.9 percent from deep last season while knocking down 78.2 percent of his free throws. He's going to help the Clippers spread the floor, and he's going to accept a role off the bench for a shot at a title.
The 26-year-old signed a deal worth $23 million over four years, making him an integral part of the Clippers' rotation both short- and long-term.
Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers have seen myriad changes this summer. Pau Gasol is no longer with the organization, Jeremy Lin is the newest point guard and Carlos Boozer, Julius Randle and Ed Davis have bolstered the frountcourt.
The biggest change, however, can be found on the sidelines, as Mike D'Antoni is out, and Byron Scott is officially in.
After months of missing a coach, the team has come to terms on a four-year, $17 million deal with Scott, according to ESPN's Ramona Shelburne. As B/R's Josh Martin put it, "Patience will be the order of the day, both in terms of short-term play and long-term development. To that end, Scott's voice will be invaluable."
The search for a new lead man has been a long one, but Scott ultimately outlasted all other candidates. The Lakers are still a ways away from contention, but moving onto a new era is Step 1 toward returning to relevancy.
Adding Vince Carter
Vince Carter may not be the high-flying, electrifying figure that he was at the start of his career, but he's learned how to adapt his game to his age, and he's going to provide consistent shooting from the perimeter for the Memphis Grizzlies.
At 37 years old, Carter is coming off of a season that saw him score 11.9 points per game in less than 25 minutes per contest. He knocked down nearly 40 percent of his three-point attempts, and he recorded a PER of 15.97 in his role off the bench.
As B/R's Stephen Babb put it, "Only the basketball gods know exactly how much Carter has left in the tank, but if recent history is any indication, there's just enough to make an impact when it matters."
For the Grizzlies, that impact will come in the form of three-point shooting and a scorer's mentality: two things they needed from someone last season.
A very specific absence
The Miami Heat aren't going to be a bad team in 2014-15. They still have Chris Bosh, and they still have Dwyane Wade.
And if we're perfectly frank, they're still in the Eastern Conference.
The problem is that there's one player missing from the successful runs of the past four years. That player is LeBron James, and there's simply no replacing the best individual player on the planet.
In place of James, you'll see players such as Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger next season. You'll also see Luol Deng, who will round out a perfectly capable starting lineup comprising himself, Bosh, McRoberts, Wade and Mario Chalmers.
Unfortunately, none of these players is James, and none makes the Heat the hands-down favorites entering the new season.
They have a Rookie of the Year candidate
Jason Kidd as head coach, or Jabari Parker as a Rookie of the Year candidate?
Take your pick as what you think the biggest change for the Milwaukee Bucks will be in 2014-15.
While you can't deny there will be a new look to the Bucks with Kidd calling the shots, we'll give the nod here to Parker. The former Duke Blue Devil has a legitimate shot at taking home some hardware at the end of the year, and without putting too much pressure on him too early, he has a chance to establish himself as one of the best players on the roster.
Milwaukee has been rebuilding for a while now, and while the procurement of talent has been successful to a point, winning games hasn't come along with the individual acquisitions. Now is the time where we can put tanking talks behind us, as everything moving forward should be about winning games and escaping mediocrity as quickly as possible.
Flip Saunders in as head coach (again)
The 2014 offseason has been the summer of Kevin Love. However, until something actually happens, we can't consider what we've seen thus far to be anything resembling a real-life change.
What has changed for the Minnesota Timberwolves is who is running the show game in and game out. Rick Adelman has retired after 23 seasons in the NBA, and Flip Saunders has returned to the organization that gave him his first coaching job back in 1995.
Although Saunders (obviously) hasn't received anywhere near the attention LeBron James has for "coming home," he is returning to a franchise that he led to eight straight playoff appearance between 1997 and 2004. Unfortunately for Saunders, he was only able to get past the first round once during that stretch, but those are the only eight postseason appearances in franchise history, giving him a special place in the organization.
New Orleans Pelicans
Anthony Davis is already one of the NBA's elite defenders, but as we saw this past season, he simply can't do it all on his own.
In 2013-14, the New Orleans Pelicans were 19th in points allowed. What's more concerning is that they were 26th in defensive efficiency, according to ESPN's Hollinger stats, and one reason why is because they were 20th in opponents points in the paint, per TeamRankings.com.
With the addition of Omer Asik, this group will see an improvement down low on the defensive end. In fact, it's not unreasonable to assume they'll be one of the most intimidating tandems league wide when it comes to protecting the rim.
The Pelicans have improved over the past few seasons, and they're continuing to do so with 2014-15 around the corner. Making the playoffs out West isn't easy, but this group is one step closer to making that happen.
New York Knicks
Derek Fisher as head coach
It's been since the 1995-96 season that we haven't seen Derek Fisher put on a jersey and play in the NBA. For fans of the former point guard, his floor presence will be missed, but for fans of the New York Knicks, you'll see plenty of the 39-year-old on a nightly basis.
From a roster perspective, you could look at point guard or center if you're seeking other changes. Jose Calderon is in at the 1, while Samuel Dalembert will presumably start in place of Tyson Chandler at the 5.
But while the roster has seen a bit of a shakeup, re-signing Carmelo Anthony was the biggest concern, and since that ultimately took place following LeBron James' decision, all eyes will be on the first-year head coach during his inaugural season.
Oklahoma City Thunder
No more Thabo Sefolosha
Between the 2008-09 season and the 2013-14 season, Thabo Sefolosha started every game he played in for the Oklahoma City Thunder, except for one. That's 367 regular-season games, and now the team has a hole to fill, as the shooting guard has left the Western Conference and will play for the Atlanta Hawks next year.
At this point, OKC has three options when it comes to filling the vacant 2-guard spot. The first is Reggie Jackson, and while his size (6'3", 208 pounds) would place him on the smaller side of the position, his skill set would blend well in the starting lineup alongside Russell Westbrook.
The other choices are Anthony Morrow and Jeremy Lamb. This team has tried to have a consistent scoring guard off the bench for years now, and with these two potentially capable of filling that role, one could slide into the first five of the rotation, leaving the other to take on that desired role.
Saying goodbye to Jameer Nelson
From a player productivity standpoint, the biggest change for the Orlando Magic will be at power forward. The franchise drafted Aaron Gordon with the fourth overall pick this summer, and it also acquired Channing Frye, whom the team signed to a four-year, $32 million contract.
All that said, the biggest change isn't about who is new to the organization, but who is no longer with it.
For the first time since the 2004-05 season, Jameer Nelson will not be suiting up for the Magic. He's now a member of the Dallas Mavericks, and his departure is emblematic of the fact that this organization is taking its rebuild seriously.
Nelson has always been appreciated in Orlando, so seeing him in a visitor's uniform should call for nothing but applause. Nelson is no longer with the Magic, but his time there has been greatly appreciated.
Nerlens Noel in the lineup
The Philadelphia 76ers had no interest in winning basketball games last season, and it appears that they'll once again follow that theme in 2014-15.
Considering this organization's biggest summer acquisition was a rookie big man who is out with an injury, let's acknowledge that having Nerlens Noel (another big man who came to this organization as a rookie with an injury), is the true biggest addition. He missed all of last season with a torn ACL, and he'll be making his debut when the new season kicks off.
Although we don't know how good Noel can be just yet, we do know this: His defensive ceiling is as high as his hair. He's a great rim-protector who excels at blocking shots, and if he can keep that at the professional level, he'll find a place in the league as one of the best of his kind.
Isaiah Thomas signing
The Phoenix Suns have been very smart this offseason. Not only have they diligently played the waiting game with Eric Bledsoe, but they managed to sign Isaiah Thomas, who is coming off of a breakout season, to a surprisingly reasonable contract.
At four years, $27 million, Thomas should be a great value. The Suns, despite being as unexpectedly good as they were last season, had minutes to give, and these two parties should equally benefit from the pairing.
Of course, we won't know what Phoenix's biggest change is until the Bledsoe situation comes to a finish. Losing him to an organization that is willing to overpay would mix things up in the desert, but even so, this group is used to playing without him.
Bledsoe missed nearly half of 2013-14, and while the organization wants him back, you get the feeling that moving on won't be a devastating or unmanageable situation.
Portland Trail Blazers
A true center off the bench
The Portland Trail Blazers haven't made many changes, but the signing of Chris Kaman gives them something they didn't have last season: an experienced big man off the bench.
In 2013-14, Rip City got decent production out of Joel Freeland early in the year, but when he went down with sprained right MCL, time at backup center had to be split between Thomas Robinson and Meyers Leonard. LaMarcus Aldridge would occasionally slide up to the 5 as well, but the point is that there was a significant lack of production and experience in the post from the second unit.
Now, with Kaman on board, the team has someone it can trust when Robin Lopez goes to the bench. Keeping the 32-year-old healthy will be the biggest task, but as long as he's on the floor, Portland will be better off in the post than it was last season.
Isaiah Thomas out, Darren Collison in
Nobody quite knows what to make of the Sacramento Kings. They've done a decent job compiling individual talent the past few seasons, but they've yet to turn that talent into anything that remotely resembles team success.
In 2014-15, we'll see how the Darren Collison experiment plays out. He signed a fully guaranteed deal worth $16 million over three years with the Kings, and he'll be replacing Isaiah Thomas.
Aside from the switch at point guard, expect this group to look virtually the same as last year. There's a chance Nik Stauskas could steal some of the spotlight that Ben McLemore is hoping to earn, but until that happens, Collison in the starting lineup earns the nod.
San Antonio Spurs
Patty Mills out with a torn rotator cuff
The San Antonio Spurs' summer was headlined mostly by non-changes. Greg Popovich and Tim Duncan are returning. The team re-signed Boris Diaw and Patty Mills.
San Antonio was even a rumored destination for Pau Gasol, but that pairing never panned out.
Simply put: This roster is almost the exact same one that made the rest of the league look foolish last season, and that's good news for the reigning champions.
The biggest difference between June and October will be that Patty Mills is no longer backing up Tony Parker. The reserve point guard is out with a shoulder injury, which is disappointing considering how well he played throughout his breakout 2013-14 season.
Luckily for Mills, San Antonio didn't hesitate to re-sign him in free agency despite his injury. The two came to an agreement on a three-year deal that should ease the pain of recovery for the point guard.
Addition of Lou Williams
When you look at what the Toronto Raptors have done this summer, you'll see a short list of quiet, subtle moves that should pay dividends in 2014-15. The biggest change they'll see will be their competition, as the only two teams to finish ahead of them in the rankings last year are now dealing with the departures of Lance Stephenson and LeBron James, respectively.
Considering how few headlines the Raptors have made, their biggest change comes in the form of Lou Williams. The 27-year-old is a versatile scorer who can play minutes at both the 1 and the 2, and he's a clear upgrade over John Salmons, whom the team traded in order to acquire Williams.
Toronto has a deep backcourt that also comprises Kyle Lowry, Greivis Vasquez and DeMar DeRozan. Finding minutes could be tough, but assuming this team improves upon its success from last season, winning should make up for a minute or two lost now and again.
Dante Exum in the backcourt
The Utah Jazz will look largely the same in 2014-15. However, when they drafted Dante Exum with the fifth overall pick, they picked up a potential star to place alongside Trey Burke in the backcourt.
The question here is: How will the two guards be used together? Will Exum be a permanent backup to the former Michigan Wolverine? Will he eventually take his teammate's spot in the starting lineup?
Or will Utah find a way to utilize Exum's size and athleticism by sticking him at the 2?
These questions have yet to be answered, but when the two take the court next season, one thing is for sure: Exum brings a whole lot of talent to a team that finished just 25-57 last year.
Paul Pierce at small forward
In 2014-15, Paul Pierce will be playing for his third team in three seasons, and that team will be the Washington Wizards.
Everything about that just sounds strange, doesn't it?
As strange as it might be to see Pierce suit up for Washington at the start of next season, he's going to be an instant contributor. We don't know what kind of role he'll play when it comes to minutes and shot attempts, but we know for certain that his experience, drive and presence in the locker room will be invaluable for a team that is only getting better.