Biggest Losers of the 2014 NBA Offseason
It seems like it was just yesterday we were waiting on LeBron James' announcement to head back to the Cleveland Cavaliers, but believe it or not, that was well over a month ago.
What was certainly the most exciting offseason since James took his talents to South Beach in 2010 is finally drawing to a close, and you know very well what we all do after any offseason ends: pick winners and losers.
For now, let's focus on those who got the short end of the stick.
Because this summer was so eventful, there is no shortage of them. The ballclubs that simply did not get the job done in improving their rosters. The players whose plans didn't quite materialize as they hoped.
It's a long list.
Fast forward one year later, and circumstances are quite different for Mikhail Prokhorov and Co.
Gone is Pierce, who unexpectedly signed a two-year deal for the mid-level exception with the Washington Wizards (per ESPN's Marc Stein). The Nets could have matched the Wizards' offer, but ironically, the formerly free-spending Prokhorov passed due to the fact it would have cost him over $20 million in luxury taxes (per Tim Bontemps of the New York Post).
Andray Blatche, who was a very useful player for Brooklyn during his two years there (and who will be mentioned later on in this article), is also out the door. So is Livingston, who inked a deal with the Golden State Warriors (per Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports).
The Nets were able to land Jarrett Jack in a three-way deal (first reported by Stein), but that seems like a hollow victory.
Perhaps the most interesting thing that happened in Brooklyn over the past couple of months was Jason Kidd bolting for the Milwaukee Bucks and being replaced by Lionel Hollins. That could be seen as an upgrade, but let's be honest here: how much is a coaching change going to matter if Brook Lopez can't get healthy and Deron Williams' ankle problems persist?
If all goes well, meaning if Lopez and Williams are able to stay on the floor and if Garnett plays like he did in the second half of last year throughout the entire 2014-15 campaign, the Nets should find at least themselves in the playoffs.
It just seems like that's asking an awful lot to break right at this point.
Greg Monroe wanted a big contract from someone. Anyone. It didn't happen, and Monroe was ultimately forced to accept the Detroit Pistons' $5.5 million qualifying offer (per Jeff Zilgitt of USA Today).
It must be a pretty awful feeling for Monroe, whose agent pushed for sign-and-trades with several teams, including top-flight Western Conference clubs like the Oklahoma City Thunder and Portland Trail Blazers (per Michael Lee of the Washington Post).
Now, Monroe will risk depreciating his value further this coming season, as another season of playing in an incongruous frontcourt alongside of Andre Drummond and Josh Smith will surely take its toll.
Due to the fact neither Drummond nor Smith can shoot the basketball, the Pistons' floor spacing is absolutely catastrophic, making Monroe's job that much more difficult.
The proof is in the statistics, as Monroe averaged only .106 win shares per 48 minutes last year.
You also cannot discount the possibility of injury. Should Monroe suffer such an unfortunate thing, then what?
When Monroe exhaled at the end of a disastrous 2013-14 campaign and prepared to enter free agency, this scenario likely wasn't what he envisioned.
Entering the offseason, Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey expected to make a run at the likes of LeBron, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh.
Given the fact Houston is a big market and a team on the rise, you would think the Rockets would have a chance to land one of those three players.
Not only was Houston not able to corral any big-name free agents, but it lost Chandler Parsons to the Dallas Mavericks (per Wojnarowski) and traded Omer Asik (per ESPN's Brian Windhorst), Jeremy Lin and a first-round pick in the process (per Wojnarowski).
Bosh recently said he was "close" to leaving the Miami Heat for the Lone Star State (per ESPN.com), but "close" doesn't help the Rockets.
Houston was able to snag Trevor Ariza to help compensate for the loss of Parsons (per Sam Amick of USA Today), but while Ariza is a better defender, he will simply not provide the versatility Parsons did.
The Rockets went from potential title contenders to possibly fighting for a low seed in the loaded Western Conference.
It's not just that Houston didn't add another star, either. It's that it did nothing to address its bench, which finished 26th in scoring last season.
This was not exactly an ideal summer for the Rockets.
I mentioned earlier that Blatche would find his way onto this list.
The big man resurrected his career in Brooklyn, enjoying two solid seasons and putting together a couple of very nice playoff performances.
Blatche posted 11.2 points and 5.3 rebounds in 22.2 minutes per game in 2013-14, shooting a solid 47.6 percent from the floor. Most importantly, he kept his head on straight and did not cause any trouble in either of his two years with the Nets.
However, the former Wizard has been unable to turn those positives into a contract this summer, and it's definitely strange.
You would think a lot of teams would be more than willing to add a 6'11" interior player with Blatche's kind of talent.
The only thing I can draw from this is that Blatche must be asking for a fairly hefty deal and is holding out until a team comes along and approaches what he demands.
Fortunately for Blatche, Washington is still on the hook for one more year and will pay him $8.5 million next season regardless of whether the 28-year-old signs anywhere. Remember, the Wizards amnestied Blatche in 2012.
The thought here is Blatche will end up somewhere before the season starts. He is just too good of a player.
It's difficult to truly put into words just how fast and hard the Indiana Pacers have fallen since the calendar flipped to 2014.
After getting off to a dominant start last season, the Pacers limped into the playoffs, were nearly ousted by the eighth-seeded Atlanta Hawks, managed to get by the Washington Wizards and were then decimated by the Miami Heat in the conference finals.
Two months later, Indiana has lost two of its best players, one to free agency (Lance Stephenson, per Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer) and one to a gruesome injury during a televised Team USA practice before the FIBA World Cup (Paul George).
So, the Pacers went from a title contender to a team that probably won't even make the playoffs.
Stephenson's departure and George's injury also puts an incredible—and unfortunate—amount of pressure on Roy Hibbert, who went through what was likely the most difficult time in his basketball career during last year's second half.
The one "big" move Indiana made this summer was essentially replacing Stephenson with Rodney Stuckey, per Amick. Hardly anything to get excited about.
Even in a weak Eastern Conference, it's hard to imagine the Pacers doing much more than maybe sneaking into the postseason as a low seed.
It's such a shame.
There isn't a single member of the Pacers who will be under more pressure than Hibbert this coming season.
You might think Frank Vogel would be more heavily scrutinized, but seeing as how George is out for the season, he will likely be given a pass even if Indiana fails to make the playoffs.
Hibbert, on the other hand, is playing for his reputation, and because Stephenson left for the Charlotte Hornets and George is now sidelined, the 7'2" center found his way onto this list.
Hibbert had a miserable second half of the 2013-14 campaign, enduring a stretch where he missed 25 of his last 28 shots over the last four games of the season.
The big man then proceeded to post back-to-back doughnuts in Games 5 and 6 of the first round against the Atlanta Hawks and followed that up with another zero-point outing in Game 2 of the second round vs. the Washington Wizards.
With two of his best teammates from last year gone, Hibbert will be carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders this season.
He'll either revitalize his career or continue his dramatic downward spiral into obscurity.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Oklahoma City Thunder have been considered title contenders dating all the way back to the 2010-11 campaign, but each and every year, they have come up short.
Most recently, the Thunder were waxed by the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs, and while there is no shame in that (I mean, who wasn't waxed by the Spurs last season?), it's what they did—or didn't do—this offseason that has me flummoxed.
It was painfully clear this past year that while the Thunder may have the game's best one-two punch in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, they just don't have enough depth to win a championship. Not in the stacked West.
Seriously, who is the team's No. 3 scorer? It seems like Serge Ibaka has been given that title, and while Ibaka is certainly a fine player, he cannot be your third-best weapon offensively.
So, Oklahoma City went into the summer with a golden opportunity to better its roster. But what was its big move? Signing Anthony Morrow to a three-year, $10 million deal (first reported by Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman).
Nothing against Morrow, because he is a nice role player who can shoot the lights out, but let's be honest here: does that acquisition really move the needle for OKC against San Antonio?
The answer is no.
The Thunder needed to A) find another reliable scorer to put alongside Durant and Westbrook, and B) add some dependable veterans to a bench that ranked just 15th in scoring last season.
They did neither, and this has become a recurring theme for this organization.
We all like to make Scott Brooks the scapegoat for Oklahoma City's failures, but maybe it's time we start pointing the finger where it really belongs: at the front office.
Portland Trail Blazers
The Portland Trail Blazers were the biggest surprise of the NBA last season, winning 54 games and earning a trip to the second round of the playoffs.
Still, there were a couple of clear issues with the Blazers.
First of all, they finished 19th in defensive efficiency. It may seem odd because Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum are considered by many to be good wing defenders (although Batum is a bit overrated on that end of the floor), but numbers do not lie.
Secondly, Portland was dead-last in bench scoring, and for the second straight year, too.
The reason the Blazers are on this list? They did very little—if anything at all—to rectify either problem.
As a matter of fact, they actually lost their most reliable reserve scorer in Mo Williams. They compensated for his loss by signing Chris Kaman and Steve Blake (per Wojnarowski), but now Portland has no one off the bench who can create their own shot.
While the Blazers undeniably boast one of the best starting lineups in the league, their lack of depth and probable inability to consistently get stops will once again be their downfall.