Every NBA Team's Best and Worst Offseason Moves so Far
The red pens and gold stars are coming out.
Without fail, each of the NBA's 30 teams made at least one praiseworthy move during the 2017 offseason. Finding one is tougher for some franchises than others, but it's impossible to go through the entire summer without doing some positive things for an organization. If a front office was failing to clear that low of a bar, it would be gutted before you could blink.
On the flip side, ill-advised moves also pervaded the offseason. A handful of squads managed to avoid making decisions with negative repercussions, but those were few and far between.
For the purposes of this article, we're interested in tangible moves. Players must trade hands or be allowed to leave. Draft picks must be used. Ambiguity will not suffice, so don't expect to see teams dinged for failures to chase after certain positions, just as an example.
Best Move: Drafting John Collins
A successful rebuild requires high-upside players, and the Atlanta Hawks appear to have found one in John Collins. Selected with the No. 19 pick of the 2017 NBA draft—he was actually the second Collins chosen—the Wake Forest product didn't take long to assert himself during summer-league play.
The 19-year-old averaged 15.4 points, 9.2 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 0.6 blocks per game against largely inferior competition, shooting 59.3 percent from the field and turning the rock over just once per contest. And it still wasn't the numbers that led to a rising stock, so much as the effortlessness with which he played. Whether he was rising for a thunderous slam or rotating to the right spot on defense, he looked like he belonged.
"Talk about a promising first step in filling the instant need for big men in Atlanta. Collins opened with three consecutive games of double-digit rebounding while scoring eight, 22 and 15 points and shooting a combined 60 percent," Scott Howard-Cooper wrote for NBA.com while moving Collins up to No. 3 on the rookie ladder. "He could finish first among the entire Las Vegas field, not just rookies, on the boards."
Alas, he fell behind Matt Costello, Caleb Swanigan, Cheick Diallo and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson by the end of the experience. But don't let a meager top-five finish in boards per game take away from the legitimate excitement he generated.
Worst Move: Trading Dwight Howard for a minimal return
Parting with Dwight Howard is fine. Dealing him for pennies on the dollar is an acceptable result when you're trying to clear cap space and open minutes for younger players, essentially shifting into a full-fledged rebuild.
But the Atlanta Hawks accepted pennies on the dollar and gave up another piece.
They only received Marco Belinelli and Miles Plumlee for the big man's services, neither of whom should serve as anything more than back-end rotation members and likely won't be around when the team is ready to climb back up the Eastern Conference ladder. Additionally, the Hawks actually had to move down in the draft to facilitate the deal.
Whereas the Charlotte Hornets received the second-round pick that turned into Frank Jackson at No. 31, the Hawks got back the No. 41 selection (Tyler Dorsey). When you're already sloughing off the most talented player in deal for such a meager return, you don't want a draft downgrade to occur in conjunction with it.
Best Move: Signing Gordon Hayward
"I don't have the five positions anymore," Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens recently explained, per Kareem Copeland of the Associated Press. "It may be as simple as three positions now, where you're either a ball-handler, a wing or a big. It's really important. We've become more versatile as the years have gone on."
That versatility only increases with the addition of Gordon Hayward.
Will the former Utah Jazz swingman be enough to push the C's past the full-strength Cleveland Cavaliers when games count? At the very least, he makes Boston quite a bit more dangerous, especially because he can fit so ideally into Stevens' stratagems.
Hayward is one of the NBA's 30 best players—in my end-of-season rankings, I had him at No. 26—and he'll thrive in a system that will allow him to make use of his myriad skills. No longer does he need to focus on leading the team in scoring on a nightly basis (thanks, Isaiah Thomas!) and can instead show off his versatile defense and off-ball work while flitting between a number of the traditional positions that are so outdated in present-day Beantown.
Worst Move: None
What can you complain about?
Losing Avery Bradley stings, but parting with him (on an expiring deal, no less) facilitated the Hayward acquisition and allowed Marcus Morris' defensive versatility and spot-up shooting to factor into the equation. Trading down from No. 1 prevented the Celtics from landing Markelle Fultz, but then Jayson Tatum blossomed in summer league.
Oh, and Boston now has another asset in its ever-growing coffers.
Sure, you could point out that the Celtics missed on both Jimmy Butler and Paul George. But they recovered nicely from those non-events and are now poised to thrive both in 2017-18 and beyond. Everything worked out nicely, even if the process wasn't always smooth.
Best Move: Trading for D'Angelo Russell
Acquiring talent is of paramount importance, and the Brooklyn Nets managed to dramatically increase their upside even without many conceivable ways of doing so. They didn't have free-agency appeal without offering to overpay by significant amounts, and they boasted no elite draft picks.
Instead, they used their space to absorb Timofey Mozgov's contract, parted with Brook Lopez (ending the perpetual rumor cycle in the process) and landed D'Angelo Russell as recompense. No matter how quickly he fell out of favor with the Los Angeles Lakers, the combo guard is still just 21 years old and brimming with potential.
"Betting on Russell was a no-brainer," ESPN.com's Zach Lowe posited. "He has a chance to be a star on offense. He should be able to hit three-pointers off the dribble, crucial for drawing double-teams on the pick-and-roll that unlock everything else, and he reads the floor well. He has good size and insists he will defend better."
At the very least, Russell should be an upper-tier playmaker who makes growth easier for the talents surrounding him. And that's a helluva lot more than Brooklyn could've reasonably expected as it entered the 2017 offseason.
Worst Move: Tying up cap space for Otto Porter Jr.
Blaming new general manager Sean Marks for this is tough, but he made so few negative moves that we have to pick at some nits.
While the Nets had their cap space tied up in a max offer sheet signed by Otto Porter Jr., they could've been negotiating with more realistic options. The Washington Wizards were always going to match this deal, even after some strange inclusions, per Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post:
"In addition to the usual goodies placed in such a deal — a 15 percent trade kicker and a player option for the fourth season, allowing Porter potentially to become a free agent again in 2020 — sources said the Nets also included an unusual provision: having half of Porter’s annual salary delivered to him by Oct. 1 of each season. That is the maximum amount allowed under the league’s collective bargaining agreement. In the end, though, the sheet is for the same amount of money — just with a larger chunk of it coming up front."
Faulting the Nets for trying is tough, no matter how little success they had with the Allen Crabbe venture one year earlier. But opportunity cost is a real thing, and there's no telling which bargain-basement free agents they could've landed while the Wizards were taking their time exercising the right of first refusal.
Best Move: Trading for Dwight Howard
If any head coach can revitalize Dwight Howard—who, it should be noted, was better last year with the Atlanta Hawks than his reputation might hint at—it's Steve Clifford. The Charlotte Hornets signal-caller has already worked with his new big man during their mutual time with the Orlando Magic, and the team's schemes fit well with Howard's skill set.
"With a deterrent and dominant rebounder like Howard, Charlotte's defense will be able to extend just a little more off the ball and use that swarm mentality without worry of what goes on behind it. The big man has found a home where his defensive value is absolutely maximized," Adam Spinella wrote for NBA Math while breaking down the potential rebirth in light blue and teal.
Best of all? This experiment barely costs anything.
Giving up just Marco Belinelli and Miles Plumlee won't hurt the Hornets' long-term hopes, especially because doing so allowed them to move up 10 slots in the second round of the 2017 NBA draft and add Frank Jackson.
This was a flat-out steal that could pay off in a big way.
Worst Move: Entrusting Michael Carter-Williams with backup 1-guard responsibilities
The Hornets desperately needed to shore up the rotation behind Kemba Walker.
During the 2016-17 campaign, they outscored opponents by 3.5 points per 100 possessions when the All-Star floor general was playing. Without him, the net rating plunged to a putrid minus-6.6—arguably the main reason Charlotte missed the playoffs in a weak Eastern Conference.
And the effects were far-reaching. Not only did the second unit hemorrhage points and squander leads, but the decline placed more responsibilities on Walker's already encumbered shoulders. He wore down midway through the year, and a late surge wasn't enough to carry his troops out of the lottery.
Will adding Michael Carter-Williams actually help?
Well, the dip without Walker occurred almost entirely on the offensive end; the defensive rating got worse, but only by a meager 0.9 points per 100 possessions when he wasn't playing. And that doesn't mesh with the addition of a point guard who flat-out can't shoot.
ESPN.com's real plus/minus (RPM) had Carter-Williams sitting at Nos. 74 and 5 among the 78 qualified point guards on offense and defense, respectively. He's simply not going to fix the bench's biggest problems, which makes relying on him as the lone backup point guard a dicy proposition, regardless of how much he's improved defensively.
Best Move: Re-signing Cristiano Felicio
Cristiano Felicio's name might not register among casual fans quite yet, and that's perfectly understandable. As a sophomore big man for the Chicago Bulls, he played only 15.8 minutes per game.
But that will change.
The recipient of a four-year deal worth $32 million, Felicio is about to receive far more opportunities. Though he might not start over Robin Lopez, he'll spend far more time on the floor. And already, he's coming off a year in which he averaged 10.9 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.4 assists per 36 minutes while shooting 57.9 percent from the field.
Felicio doesn't have a glamorous game. He rarely overextends himself on the offensive end, preferring to play efficient basketball and focus his energies on cleaning the glass and playing high-quality defense. He's exactly the kind of gritty player you want to set the tone for a young team learning how to win and play together.
Worst Move: Selling Jordan Bell
The Bulls didn't have any reason to sell a draft pick.
You're rebuilding and looking for talent. Use the No. 38 pick of the 2017 NBA draft, a prospect parade purported to be quite deep, on an actual player instead of making a selection for another team. And yet, the latter is exactly what Chicago did, picking Jordan Bell for the Golden State Warriors and trading him for $3.5 million.
Adding insult to injury, Bell then exploded during summer league, living up to the draft-steal billing with a five-by-five against the Minnesota Timberwolves in a double-overtime loss. It just made this decision even more unjustifiable. Steve Aschburner wrote about the move for NBA.com:
"Rounding up as much young talent as possible on NBA rookie contracts should be at least Job No. 2 for any rebuilding team (losing a bunch of games to improve lottery chances is Job No. 1, to get the dreary process underway anyway). The fact that Chicago threw in that first-rounder in the [Jimmy] Butler deal earlier in the evening and doesn’t have its second-rounder in 2018 either due to the Doug McDermott trade with OKC in February were two more reasons keeping Bell as their own might have been the wiser move."
Giving up a first-rounder in the Butler trade is bad. But this was worse, signaling a lack of cohesion throughout the organization and a startling set of misplaced priorities.
Best Move: Landing Derrick Rose on a one-year, prove-yourself deal
Figuring out Derrick Rose's true value is a conundrum.
He's most certainly not a max player. He proved that throughout his time with the New York Knicks by commandeering possessions, shooting inefficiently and serving as little more than a turnstile on defense.
But he's also not a minimum player.
Rose has enduring cachet with fans, and he brings certain on-court skills. He does have scoring talent and an impressive ability to get to the hoop—though it would be nice if he kept his eyes up and found open teammates on the perimeter when defenses crashed around his drives. Perhaps in a smaller role, he could even use some of his physical traits to become a better stopper.
This is a solid gamble by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Whether he takes over as a starting point guard after a Kyrie Irving trade or sits and waits for an opportunity to run with the second unit, he'll exceed the value of a one-year, prove-yourself deal worth just $2.1 million.
Worst Move: Parting ways with David Griffin
Pro tip: Don't part ways with your general manager right before the draft.
And yet, that's exactly what the Cavaliers did. They didn't even have a contingency plan, since the first replacement option (Chauncey Billups) declined to sign with the organization. Instead, they were left without anyone officially leading the charge during the selection process or in the immediate aftermath.
Koby Altman, formerly the director of pro player personnel, has since taken over, but at what cost? No matter how great a job Altman might do, he's now dealing with an organization that has frustrated its biggest star (LeBron James) and is still dealing with Irving's trade request.
And it was all avoidable, so long as team owner Dan Gilbert was willing to pony up and pay the architect of a championship team. Alas, he instead decided not to re-sign David Griffin, allowing the now ex-GM to follow in the footsteps of all those who previously held the role under his supervision.
Best Move: Drafting Dennis Smith Jr.
Dennis Smith Jr. can flat-out ball.
The No. 9 pick of this year's draft, Smith averaged a whopping 17.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.2 steals per game during Las Vegas Summer League, shooting 45.7 percent from the field, 34.6 percent from three-point territory and 70.5 percent at the stripe. He showed off just about every tool in the arsenal—and remember, shooting percentages are typically depressed this time of year, especially for first-year guards.
"I've loved him since he was in high school. He's athletic, skilled and always in attack mode," an anonymous scout told Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman. "Reminds me of Steve Francis and Baron Davis. If he stays healthy, he will be special."
The Dallas Mavericks are rebuilding—to some extent, at least. Given their lack of top-tier talent, they can't compete for much in the loaded Western Conference, no matter how much they'd like to end Dirk Nowitzki's career on the highest of notes.
But with Smith, they landed that upside they were craving, and he should immediately leap to the top of the depth chart to form a potent one-two punch at point guard with Yogi Ferrell.
Worst Move: Holding on to Wesley Matthews
Again, the Mavericks are rebuilding.
They shouldn't have much attachment to Wesley Matthews, given his short stay with the franchise. Shopping him would be the right decision, which they apparently did prior to the draft, per ESPN.com's Tim MacMahon.
But they never pulled the trigger.
Matthews is already 30 years old and on the wrong side of an Achilles injury. Though he remains a potent shooter (36.3 percent from beyond the arc on 6.6 attempts per game in 2016-17), his developmental timetable simply doesn't overlap with what the Mavericks are trying to do. By the time their young pieces are ready to compete for trophies, he won't be playing at nearly the same level.
Maybe the potential deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves wasn't the right move. But pulling him off the trade block entirely was the worst move of a solid offseason—unless Dallas and Nerlens Noel never come to terms.
Best Move: Landing Paul Millsap
Sometimes, everything works out perfectly.
Complaining about Paul Millsap's deal with the Denver Nuggets is impossible, unless you're a fan of a rival franchise that tried and failed to land the All-Star power forward. Not only is he a perfect fit alongside Nikola Jokic, but the negative repercussions of the financial commitments are mitigated by the team option for the third year.
And it still gets better for the Nuggets.
For years, they've tried and failed to land big-name free agents. This was a game-changing acquisition, essentially confirming their status as a franchise on the rise that can continue to lure talent and pair it with the plethora of growing youngsters.
Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Wilson Chandler, Millsap and Jokic make for one heck of a core, and Denver still boasts upside off its bench in the forms of Emmanuel Mudiay, Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernangomez and the offseason's other new additions.
Worst Move: Further crowding frontcourt rotation with Tyler Lydon and Trey Lyles
Unfortunately, not everything about those new additions is positive.
In a vacuum, Tyler Lydon and Trey Lyles are talented power forwards who could further lift the ceiling in the Mile High City. The former is an intriguing prospect out of Syracuse with the bounce and floor-spacing ability necessary to make a significant impact, and the latter has shown flashes of brilliance despite largely floundering with the Utah Jazz.
But basketball isn't played in a vacuum.
The Nuggets were supposed to decongest their roster this offseason. Instead, they acquired Millsap, Lydon and Lyles (all of whom play the same position) without getting rid of anyone significant other than Danilo Gallinari. The aforementioned forwards, Hernangomez, Chandler, Kenneth Faried and Darrell Arthur are all comfortable lining up at the 4, but not all of them will get the necessary minutes.
Maybe more moves are coming?
Best Move: Signing Anthony Tolliver
Forget about Anthony Tolliver's age (he's 32).
The veteran power forward was acquired for just $3.3 million, and he fits perfectly with the Detroit Pistons' schemes. Head coach Stan Van Gundy loves him some stretchy power forwards, and Tolliver fits the bill, even if he became massively underrated during his time with the Sacramento Kings.
Despite coming off the SacTown bench and ceding touches to plenty of youthful teammates, Tolliver took 3.5 three-point attempts per game and shot 39.1 percent from beyond the arc. Combine that with defensive versatility, which allows him to guard multiple positions and switch on screens, and he's quite the useful backup 4 in any system, much less ones that crave players with his exact skill set.
Tolliver isn't a big name. He's only on a one-year deal. He's not going to magically improve at 32 and likely won't be part of Detroit's long-term plans.
But he was still a great signing for an organization eager to get over the hump and make the playoffs in a weakened Eastern Conference.
Worst Move: Hard-capping themselves with Langston Galloway
If you're looking for a crash course in how not to manage your cap space, look no further than the Pistons' offseason.
But regardless of how you feel about acquiring Avery Bradley on an expiring contract, parting with an underrated Marcus Morris or letting Kentavious Caldwell-Pope walk to the Los Angeles Lakers on a one-year balloon deal, one fateful decision engendered them all. Landing Langston Galloway so early in the free-agency period hard-capped the Pistons.
They could have been patient and gotten a similar player (Ian Clark) on a cheaper deal. They could have waited for the market to settle and then gone after a lengthy contract extension with Caldwell-Pope. But instead, they signed a player whose skill set overlaps with the incumbent backcourt members and limited their options for the rest of the offseason.
Golden State Warriors
Best Move: Everything
Buying a pick from the Chicago Bulls and watching as Jordan Bell thrived in summer league? Check. Adding Nick Young as a perfect fit for the second unit? Bingo. Landing Omri Casspi and stocking the bench with yet another overlooked, productive player? Of course.
The Warriors just keep getting deeper.
Perhaps their best move was simply remaining the Warriors.
Worst Move: LOL
Best Move: Chris Paul-James Harden Combo
Though the Houston Rockets may have preferred to part with fewer pieces while facilitating a Chris Paul deal, they can't complain about the outcome. Pairing the Point God and James Harden, fresh off a runner-up finish in the 2016-17 MVP voting, figures to boost them even further up the Western Conference hierarchy.
If they're not the second-best team in basketball now, they're not far off.
Head coach/point-guard whisperer Mike D'Antoni now has two of the league's elite floor generals at his disposal, ensuring Houston will always have a top-rate facilitator on the floor for important moments. And even more crucial is how they fit together.
In a word? Wonderfully.
Both Paul and Harden can thrive in spot-up situations, which means they can break down overmatched defenders while the other team is more spaced out than it might prefer. Barring injuries or a shocking lack of chemistry, they could end up gunning for quite a few offensive records.
Worst Move: Giving P.J. Tucker a four-year deal
Acquiring P.J. Tucker was a strong move, since the Rockets really should be trying to surround their two 1-guards with as many high-quality wing defenders as possible. Despite a declining three-point stroke, the former Toronto Raptor has proved himself exactly that, thanks to his hard-nosed tenacity, underrated work on the glass and willingness to do the little things.
Unfortunately, Tucker was brought in on a four-year deal worth $32 million.
That's a reasonable monetary tally for the crucial glue guy. He'll never make more than the $8,349,039 he's set to earn in 2019-20.
However, the length of the contract is a bit problematic.
To be clear, this isn't a big issue. The Rockets enjoyed a near-perfect offseason, so we're left picking between the least-good moves. But Tucker is already 32 years old, which means Houston has now committed to paying him when he's on the wrong side of 35, likely (at least partially) bereft of the athletic tools that help make him a defensive asset in the present.
Best Move: Cheap deal for Cory Joseph
Acquiring talent on the cheap is a great way to facilitate a rebuild, and the Indiana Pacers did exactly that by making a move for Cory Joseph. Less useful to the Toronto Raptors because of their depth at the position with Kyle Lowry and Delon Wright, the backup 1-guard was had for nothing more than Emir Preldzic—the No. 57 pick of the 2009 NBA draft who's still playing abroad.
Joseph hasn't blossomed into a star, but he's back to looking like the quality player he once was for the San Antonio Spurs.
In 2016-17, he averaged 9.3 points, 2.9 rebounds and 3.3 assists while shooting 45.2 percent from the field, 35.6 percent from downtown and 77.0 percent on free-throw attempts. Perhaps even more importantly, he's continued to play high-quality defense whenever he gets run, and that should pair nicely with Myles Turner cleaning up behind him for the Pacers.
Joseph will probably begin the 2017-18 campaign on the bench while Darren Collison draws starts. But this was still the exact type of move Indiana should be making: acquiring as much talent as possible and counting on players to realize at least some potential.
Lest we forget, Joseph will be just 26 years old at the start of the upcoming season.
Worst Move: Meager return for Paul George
The Pacers did not have to trade Paul George. And even if they felt they needed to, they easily could've waited for a bigger return. Worst-case scenario, they let him begin the 2017-18 campaign by reminding everyone of his talent while he wears the same jersey, then ship him off to the highest bidder. Maybe it even comes out that he's not due for a guaranteed departure in the summer of 2018.
Instead, Indiana received nothing more than Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis for his services. Not a single draft pick. Not another player. Just an intriguing combo guard on an unpalatable contract and a big man coming off a rookie year filled with struggles.
This simply wasn't an even deal, and the Pacers could feel pangs of regret for quite some time.
Los Angeles Clippers
Best Move: Salvaging the Chris Paul situation
Chris Paul didn't have to throw the Los Angeles Clippers a bone. He could've easily opted out of his contract and signed a deal with the Houston Rockets, leaving his old franchise out to dry and forcing his new organization to make external space-clearing moves that would facilitate his arrival.
But he threw that bone anyway.
The resulting sign-and-trade netted Los Angeles an unexpected treasure chest of potential riches. Patrick Beverley is a useful—and largely underrated—guard capable of locking down opposing floor generals and serving as an elite spot-up threat on the other end. Lou Williams will be featured right away. A first-round pick never hurts, even though it's likely to come at the tail end of the 2018 NBA draft's first 30 picks. Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell could easily develop into something more than end-of-rotation pieces.
Acquiring all those assets allowed the Clippers to keep pushing toward respectability. Maybe Blake Griffin would have fled for a new location if he'd seen the roster depleted. Perhaps Milos Teodosic and Danilo Gallinari would have chosen to sign elsewhere, citing desires to win right away, which wouldn't be possible with a threadbare group in the Staples Center.
This was more than a silver lining; it was a sign-and-trade that allowed the Clippers to remain in the thick of the hunt for a coveted Western Conference playoff spot.
Worst Move: Losing Chris Paul
On the flip side, watching Paul depart is quite painful, no matter how much Los Angeles was compensated for his services. The point guard has been the fearless leader of Lob City ever since his arrival back in 2011, emerging as one of the best players in franchise history and remaining near the top of his position's hierarchy.
Sure, he's spent a bit of time injured and wearing a tailored suit. The playoff failures have been hard to stomach, even though it's tough to place too much blame on his shoulders when he's been so dominant as an individual.
But losing Paul hurts.
Lest we forget, the Clippers saw their net rating decline by a staggering 19.6 points per 100 possessions when he was on the bench in 2016-17. And that's no fluke. One year earlier, the drop-off stood at 16.6. In 2014-15, it was 20.9.
Replacing the Point God is an impossible task, no matter how well the Clippers restocked in the immediate aftermath of his decision to depart.
Los Angeles Lakers
Best Move: Drafting Lonzo Ball
Every once in a while, a player comes along who can truly change a franchise.
Maybe that's Lonzo Ball, whom the Los Angeles Lakers selected with the No. 2 pick of the 2017 NBA draft. Maybe it's not. But even if he fails to become an on-court superstar, he's already brought back excitement to the historic organization that has spent the last few years floundering at the bottom of the Western Conference.
Ball—and, by extension, his father—have created a buzz around the Purple and Gold. He became a sight to behold in summer league, and not just because of his play. While he showed off his ridiculous passing vision (even as his shot failed to find its target and he struggled to prevent dribble penetration), the rafters were lifted by the fans' vociferous cheering.
The Lakers have accumulated plenty of talent, enough that they boast significant upside at every position. But Ball is the new face of the franchise, for better or worse.
And right now, we have no reason to believe it'll be the latter
Worst Move: Using D'Angelo Russell as trade bait
As we've stated over and over, acquiring talent is of paramount importance for rebuilding organizations.
The Lakers are rebuilding. Therefore, they should be stocking their arsenal with as much upside as humanly possible. And that's...not what they did during the summer of 2017.
No matter how much D'Angelo Russell wore out his welcome with the organization through his off-court actions and purported lack of leadership, the Lake Show needed to try making him work alongside Ball. Even if they weren't an ideal fit, it's not like his trade stock was going to decline below its eventual placement.
The Lakers didn't just trade Russell. They had to use him as a sweetener while shipping off Timofey Mozgov's albatross contract, getting back only Brook Lopez (an expiring contract) and the No. 27 pick of the 2017 selection process, which was later used on Kyle Kuzma.
Even if Kuzma becomes a massive steal, that doesn't make this a quality trade. Russell is still just two years removed from falling behind only Karl-Anthony Towns in the 2015 draft, and he's shown more than enough upside to justify continued excitement about his long-term prospects.
Best Move: Ben McLemore flier
Ben McLemore is now out for about 12 weeks after going under the knife to repair a non-displaced fracture of the fifth metatarsal in his right foot. But that doesn't change the strong nature of this move by the Memphis Grizzlies.
For years, the grit-and-grind organization has desperately needed an infusion of shooting talent. Even after trying to acquire some, it ranked just No. 14 in three-point attempts per game and No. 17 in three-point percentage during the 2016-17 campaign.
The former Kansas standout has largely disappointed during his four-year NBA career, but he's still coming off a season in which he connected on 38.2 percent of his 2.8 long-range tries per game. He might not have developed into the defensive stalwart he was for the Jayhawks, and his athleticism hasn't allowed him to even flirt with stardom. He can still shoot the basketball, though.
Whether a change of scenery allows him to break out or he remains a limited player who can thrive as a floor-spacing option off the bench, McLemore is the ideal acquisition for this Grizzlies roster, especially as it parts with some of the veterans who helped give it the prior identity. Best of all? He comes aboard for practically nothing after signing a two-year deal for $10.6 million.
Worst Move: A departing identity
Differentiating between the departures is a tough proposition, so allow us to cheat a bit. The combination of Vince Carter and Zach Randolph leaving for the Sacramento Kings was painful, and that'll be doubly true if the franchise ends up watching Tony Allen sign a new contract with a different organization.
These veterans are no longer star contributors on the court.
Carter was, shockingly, a two-way asset during his age-40 season, but only while playing just 24.6 minutes per game. Randolph's game has been declining for a while, and he shot just 44.9 percent from the field last season. Allen (again, should he leave as an unrestricted free agent) continues to struggle immensely on offense.
But these players gave Memphis its longstanding identity. They were grit-and-grind.
The Grizzlies will be just fine with Mike Conley and Marc Gasol continuing to lead the squad, but what happens if the toughness erodes and they stop exceeding the underlying metrics they've outpaced for so many years?
Best Move: TBD
Worst Move: TBD
Does anyone actually know?
While drafting Bam Adebayo, letting Luke Babbitt walk and trading Josh McRoberts to clear up cap space were all significant moves, the Miami Heat's offseason was defined by three contracts handed out to James Johnson, Dion Waiters and Kelly Olynyk. It's hard to predict if any of them will flop or pay off.
Johnson re-signed for four years and $60 million, which might seem like an outrageous sum for a 30-year-old forward only just breaking out. But at the same time, his delayed arrival as an impact contributor occurred because previous coaches couldn't figure out how to use him, and Erik Spoelstra broke that trend.
Waiters benefited from a small sample of games in which he thrived as a drive-and-kick initiator, and the Heat rewarded him with a four-year contract worth $52 million. The 25-year-old 2-guard could easily prove worth that money and continue the development he started midway through 2016-17, or he could regress to his old shot-happy, defense-free habits.
Then there's Olynyk, who parlayed low-minute success with the Boston Celtics into a four-year contract that owes him $50 million. Maybe he'll blossom into a true star, leaning on his sharp-shooting ability and understated defensive presence. But he could also fold under the pressure of elevated expectations and become little more than a rangy big off the bench.
Miami is paying an inordinate sum to a trio that lacks guaranteed stardom. And the expenditures only increase when factoring in Tyler Johnson's ballooning contract.
The gambles could pay off, or they could set the franchise back significantly, dooming it to expensive mediocrity through the foreseeable future. And until we get any indication of which route the Heat will travel down, it's impossible to determine which were the best and worst moves.
Best Move: Re-signing Tony Snell
The Milwaukee Bucks continue to lock up young talent.
Don't make the mistake of looking at Tony Snell's overall numbers. He struggled to emerge while playing with the Chicago Bulls and spent the first portion of 2016-17 trying to adjust to his new teammates. Then, before continuing his newfound flame-throwing habits during the postseason, he began to break out after the All-Star break.
During his final 26 appearances, he averaged 9.2 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game while shooting 44.8 percent from the field, 41.5 percent from downtown and 90.5 percent at the stripe. It's those efficiency numbers that are most appealing, since Snell profiles as an elite off-ball threat who can supplement the drive-and-kick games of Malcolm Brogdon and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Best of all? Re-signing him cost only $46 million for the next four years—below market value if he continues improving, and right in line with expectations if he keeps serving as an off-ball stalwart. Oh, and it doesn't hurt that he consistently assumed some of the team's toughest defensive assignments in an effort to preserve Khris Middleton and Antetokounmpo.
Worst Move: Selling Sindarius Thornwell
The Bucks didn't make many moves this offseason, so finding a bad one is actually a tough proposition. And though keeping him would've only added to their plethora of wings, the leading candidate remains Sindarius Thornwell and his sale to the Los Angeles Clippers for $2 million in cash.
A standout at South Carolina, Thornwell fell to No. 48 in the NBA draft, largely because he was already 22 years old and didn't break out until his senior season with the Gamecocks. But break out he did, showcasing his tenacious defense, rebounding chops, playmaking from the wings and ability to finish drives around the hoop with impressive consistency.
According to NBA Math's total points added (TPA), Thornwell finished his final season with South Carolina ranked No. 1 in the entire NCAA, narrowly edging out Lonzo Ball, Ethan Happ and Jordan Bell. For that statistical superiority alone, the Bucks would've been best-served holding on to him and hoping he'd become a second-round gem.
Best Move: Trading for Jimmy Butler
Jimmy Butler is a bona fide star, coming off a season with the Chicago Bulls in which he averaged 23.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 1.9 steals and 0.4 blocks per game while shooting 45.5 percent from the field, 36.7 percent on three-point attempts and 86.5 percent on his free-throw tries.
His presence, which cost the Minnesota Timberwolves Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and a few slots in the 2017 NBA draft, immediately elevates the ceiling in his new location. Not only is he capable of drawing defensive attention away from Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, but he also gives head coach Tom Thibodeau a legitimate defensive stalwart to shore up the team's efforts on the less glamorous end.
And it gets better.
Butler is already intimately familiar with Thibodeau's defensive principles, thanks to their mutual time in the Windy City. He should fit in seamlessly, helping the 'Wolves grow on both ends and imbuing them with even more star power.
The additions of Jeff Teague and Taj Gibson help, but Butler's presence is likely the main reason ESPN.com's Kevin Pelton projected them to take a massive leap to 50 wins.
Worst Move: Signing Jamal Crawford
What does Minnesota desperately need from its second-string players? Defense and floor-spacing ability.
The arrivals of the aforementioned players will help with the former, but the 'Wolves can't possibly feature enough stoppers after finishing No. 27 in defensive rating in 2016-17. Towns and Wiggins could grow into assets on defense but they were both sieves last year, and Thibodeau would be foolish to count on that immediately changing.
The potential spacing issues, meanwhile, have been well-documented.
But Jamal Crawford, who was brought aboard for the next two years at a reasonable price ($4.3 million in 2017-18 and a player option for $4.5 million in 2018-19), fixes neither issue. In fact, he's been a demonstrably negative presence as he continues to age, now coming off a year in which he finished 10th-to-last in NBA Math's TPA and No. 407 of 468 in ESPN.com's RPM.
Crawford's porous defense is one thing, but his ball-dominant (and often ineffective) offense that relies upon commandeering possessions and taking risky jumpers won't mesh well with Minnesota's key pieces. It also doesn't help that he shot just 36 percent from behind the arc last year, as well as only 35 percent on catch-and-shoot treys.
New Orleans Pelicans
Best Move: Re-Signing Jrue Holiday
Say hello to one of the league's perpetually underrated players.
Jrue Holiday has been a distinct asset when he's healthy enough to play. It's just the injuries that have held him back and depressed his stock, forcing the world to forget that he was a legitimate All-Star in 2013 and is still only 27 years old. Now coming off a year in which he played 67 games and has no lasting limitations, he could be primed for a bounce-back season in which he reasserts himself as a top-tier floor general.
But best of all? Holiday works with the key incumbent pieces.
When he played alongside DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis, the New Orleans Pelicans outscored opponents by 3.9 points per 100 possessions. Granted, we're talking about a 376-minute sample, but that was still the eighth-most-used three-man lineup in which Holiday appeared.
For perspective, NOLA as a whole posted a minus-1.6 net rating, and a 3.9 mark would've left it trailing only the Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, Toronto Raptors, Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers.
Worst Move: Adding Rajon Rondo
The Holiday, Cousins and Davis triumvirate is potent, but the Pelicans have struggled to surround those three with legitimate talent. And they only compounded the issues by allocating some of their cap space toward Rajon Rondo.
Rondo proved he was still a useful player during his late-season run with the Chicago Bulls, but that doesn't make him a good fit by the bayou. Not only do the Pelicans need to win now before worrying about a potential Cousins departure—something that will be tougher to do while Holiday and Rondo are trying to gain on-court chemistry while playing outside their customary roles—but the newest point guard doesn't space the floor.
The Pelicans desperately need shooters who can draw defenders away from their dominant post players. With Rondo and Holiday likely to form a dual-point guard lineup, the options are even more limited. And they're further limited still by the inability to find quality wings in free agency.
Heading into the year with E'Twaun Moore, Jordan Crawford, Solomon Hill and Quincy Pondexter (if he ever plays) is less than ideal. Far less, in fact.
New York Knicks
Best Move: Firing Phil Jackson
Sometimes, it's just time for an era to end.
And when that era is filled with perpetual losing, the isolation of a franchise icon (Carmelo Anthony) and frustration from the new cornerstone (Kristaps Porzingis), the need for an end becomes even more obvious. Though some might try to defend Phil Jackson as the unfortunate sufferer of undue misfortune during his tenure with the New York Knicks, the reality is far simpler.
Jackson just made one bad decision after another. His insistence on running the triangle offense and his personality battles with key players hindered the organization, to the point that it had to move on and attempt to rebuild with a different front office.
Unfortunately for Steve Mills, Jackson's replacement, he'll still have to deal with some of the longstanding effects of the Jackson era. Anthony may still want out, and Joakim Noah's contract isn't going anywhere.
Worst Move: Tim. Hardaway. Jr.
Bleacher Report's Dan Favale, please step to the podium:
"The Knicks are the only party worth crucifying here. Close to 17 percent of their cap is going to a player who didn't crack the top 75 in any kitchen-sink metrics last season and who has never been a plus-defender.
"Justin Holiday received a two-year, $9 million deal from the Chicago Bulls. Andre Roberson grabbed a three-year, $30 million contract from Oklahoma City. Tony Snell got $46 million over four years from the Bucks. The Utah Jazz made the biggest leap with Joe Ingles, and he's only on a four-year, $52 million pact. Hardaway was not worth $71 million in this summer's market.
"Excuses to the contrary are invalid. Bazemore, Crabbe and Fournier earned their money when it was raining hundy sticks in 2016. The Knicks paid Hardaway long after that illusion came crashing down.
"Restricted free agents must be overpaid for outside suitors to have a chance, but the Hawks didn't want to fork over more than $48 million, according to ESPN.com's Zach Lowe. There isn't a shill job in the world that can justify the Knicks going $23 million higher."
That entire excerpt, stemming from Favale's rankings of the worst contracts in the league, is well worth reading because it highlights not only how Hardaway's game indicates he's overpaid, but also the market standards established this summer. The newest member of the Knicks now boasts—by far—the NBA's worst contract at his position.
And that's not even the most damning part, since this signing was made after the Jackson firing.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Best Move: Yes
I refuse to pick.
Landing Paul George while only giving up Victor Oladipo's bloated contract and Domantas Sabonis was downright unfair. So too was landing Patrick Patterson on a bargain of a contract (three years, $16.4 million) when he fits in perfectly with the other pieces. And we can't forget signing Andre Roberson to a three-year deal worth only $30 million, ensuring that he'd still be there to surround Russell Westbrook with yet another stalwart defender.
Everything general manager Sam Presti touched turned into gold, helping the Thunder enjoy arguably the NBA's best offseason.
Worst Move: Reaching for Terrance Ferguson
In the interest of avoiding a cop-out on both Thunder sections, we'll pick at some nits.
Oklahoma City is presumably trying to win right away. Westbrook still isn't signed to a long-term deal in spite of overtures from the franchise, and George remains a flight risk next summer. He could very well be a one-year rental in OKC before joining the Los Angeles Lakers, though that's by no means guaranteed.
So with that in mind, shouldn't the organization have used its first-round pick on a rookie who was ready to contribute right away? It could've reached for Josh Hart, Caleb Swanigan or Frank Jackson (among others) rather than spend the No. 21 selection on Terrance Ferguson.
Maybe Ferguson's long-term growth will give Presti yet another draft-day steal. But that's not the point. The 19-year-old just isn't ready to contribute, and he'll likely spend the 2017-18 campaign gaining some seasoning in the G-League.
Best Move: Signing John Hammond
Quality roster building starts from the top and works its way down.
The Orlando Magic's rebuild has struggled in large part because the front office lacked a cohesive vision. Former general manager Rob Hennigan acted as if he wanted to collect as much talent as possible without regarding fit, and the result was a log-jammed roster with a distinct lack of shooting. In fact, many of the previous moves felt as if a bunch of different voices were haphazardly clamoring for attention, making decisions in a vacuum without regard for chemistry with other pieces.
But a new brain trust is in charge now.
Hiring John Hammond as the Orlando general manager should help turn this franchise around, if his tenure with the Milwaukee Bucks is any indication. Not only is he willing to take chances in the draft (that often pay off), but he's demonstrated an ability to formulate an identity and make sensible moves.
As Paolo Uggeti wrote for The Ringer, "The Magic's recent years have been riddled with mediocrity, misdirection and a lot of weird roster moves. Though Orlando’s emergence from the NBA's doldrums is far from assured, with [John] Weltman and Hammond now in the fold, there's a sense of a fresh identity as well as some much-needed expertise at the helm."
Worst Move: Signing Shelvin Mack
The new brain trust still wasn't infallible.
Shelvin Mack is a point guard worthy of playing a rotation role, though he should not be tasked with major minutes or counted upon in key situations. So at first glance, his two-year deal with the Magic worth a combined $12 million is more than palatable.
But that first glance won't tell you everything.
First, Mack doesn't help with Orlando's persistent spacing concerns. For his career, he's connected on his three-point attempts at a 32.1 percent clip, and he's coming off a year with the Utah Jazz in which he hit only 30.8 percent of his looks from beyond the rainbow.
Second, the Magic are now paying either him or D.J. Augustin ($7.25 million each of the next three years) to serve as the third-string point guard, behind the other and Elfrid Payton. That's too much for a third-stringer. And this comes after waiving C.J. Watson and agreeing to stretch his remaining $1 million over the next three years.
Best Move: Trading up
When you desperately want a player, go get him.
That's exactly what the Philadelphia 76ers did, trading the No. 3 pick in the 2017 NBA draft and a future first-round selection to the Boston Celtics for the top overall choice, which they subsequently spent on Markelle Fultz.
Fultz, a perfect fit alongside Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid thanks to his slashing offense and ability to shoulder diverse scoring responsibilities, immediately elevates the potential of these Sixers. They're a distinct playoff threat in the weakened Eastern Conference and now feature immense upside (or established production) at every position.
Just imagine the five-man lineup featuring Fultz, JJ Redick, Simmons, Dario Saric/Robert Covington and Joel Embiid.
Worst Move: Keeping Jahlil Okafor
At some point, the Sixers just have to bite the bullet and trade Jahlil Okafor. The return doesn't matter.
If they're dealing him to the Chicago Bulls and getting back Cameron Payne and David Nwaba, as I've suggested before, that's great. If even that is asking too much, whatever. Pul the trigger anyway, allowing the franchise to move on and Okafor to potentially blossom in a new location rather than continue to get buried on the bench.
The Duke product isn't a good fit for this roster, especially now that the presences of Simmons and Fultz will likely up the tempo and make his plodding, half-court style look even more outdated. And yet, Philadelphia may feel it has to keep playing him because of the draft-day investment it previously made.
Each minute comes at the expense of players such as Richaun Holmes and Amir Johnson who can make a far bigger impact with this roster.
Best Move: Re-signing Alan Williams
Alan Williams will likely continue to toil away in relative obscurity, just as he did throughout the 2016-17 campaign, so allow us to give him a little bit of (well-deserved) shine.
The 6'8" big man isn't a glamorous player. He rarely scores in double digits—just 21 times in 47 appearances last year—and doesn't have much range on the offensive end. Instead, he prefers to do the little things, sacrificing box-score statistics to help out the Phoenix Suns in unquantifiable ways.
He is, however, a phenomenal rebounder.
Williams averaged a staggering 14.8 boards per 36 minutes during his sophomore season, which left him trailing only Andre Drummond, DeAndre Jordan, Hassan Whiteside, Dwight Howard and Tyson Chandler among men who logged at least 700 minutes on the year. He also held opponents to 49.6 percent shooting at the rim while facing 5.1 attempts per game as an undersized power forward/center.
Bringing him back for three years and $17 million was a steal.
Worst Move: Extending a qualifying offer to Alex Len
Maybe you consider the Suns' inability to land Kyrie Irving their worst move. If they'd just be willing to include Josh Jackson in a package that also features Eric Bledsoe and a first-round pick, they'd likely have a new superstar point guard.
But that deal is still possible. The Cleveland Cavaliers may even cave if the Suns are indeed willing to offer Dragan Bender instead of Jackson—and they might be, per Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN.
Nevertheless, that's not technically a move. So instead, we're focusing on something they tangibly did: offering Alex Len an offer sheet and allowing him to remain a restricted free agent.
At this point in his career, the big man is a sunk cost. The Suns have better options on the roster in Williams, Bender and Marquese Chriss, and it's bad news if Len can't find a reasonable deal, opts to play in the desert for one more year and waits to depart in the summer of 2018.
"It's up to Alex and his agent. Obviously, that's on the table," general manager Ryan McDonough said about the qualifying offer, per ArizonaSports.com's Kevin Zimmerman. "We'd like to have him back. We're certainly open to discussing different scenarios, potentially. But one way or another, we'd like to have him back."
Would they? Would they really, when his inevitable minutes would come at the expense of other players' development?
Portland Trail Blazers
Best Move: Moving Allen Crabbe for space
This isn't about last summer.
The Portland Trail Blazers' decision to match the Brooklyn Nets' over-the-top offer sheet for Allen Crabbe backfired. That much is indisputable. But it's also a choice firmly rooted in the past, and nothing Rip City did during the hottest months of 2017 was going to change something that took place one year prior.
Instead of accepting the lofty payouts and crippling the team's cap space for years, Portland took action. It dealt Crabbe to the same Nets who signed him to that original offer sheet, getting back only Andrew Nicholson, who has three years remaining on a four-year contract worth $26 million.
From a talent standpoint, this is a downgrade. But the Blazers opened up a bit more flexibility to make future moves, and that's more valuable than anything Crabbe was offering a franchise with plenty of capable shooters.
Worst Move: 2017 NBA draft
Portland entered the offseason with a nearly full roster, which drastically limited the number of moves it could make. Here's the entire list:
- Drafted Caleb Swanigan and Zach Collins
- Traded Tim Quarterman to the Houston Rockets for cash
- Waived Festus Ezeli
- Traded Allen Crabbe for Andrew Nicholson
That's it. Literally.
Nothing here stands out as particularly bad, though the combination of draft-day decisions is a bit less than ideal. Individually, Caleb Swanigan and Zach Collins were solid picks (despite the latter's summer-league struggles). But together, they further crowd a swamped frontcourt.
The Blazers are heading into 2017-18 with those two rookies, Nicholson, Al-Farouq Aminu, Noah Vonleh, Jusuf Nurkic, Meyers Leonard and Ed Davis set to line up at power forward and center. And that's simply too many big bodies.
Best Move: Long-term deal for Bogdan Bogdanovic
No, this is not Bojan Bogdanovic. It's Bogdan Bogdanovic.
"Bogdanovic was three years removed from being drafted by Phoenix, so his contract was not under the constraints of the rookie salary scale," Jason Jones wrote for the Sacramento Bee while reporting the three-year, $36 million deal that's now the largest rookie contract in NBA history.
"The [Sacramento] Kings were about $52 million below the projected salary cap of around $99 million, giving them plenty of spending power to lure Bogdanovic, who they believe will improve their perimeter shooting."
Bear with me, because it may not be readily apparent how this is a better move than drafting De'Aaron Fox, bringing in George Hill as an on- and off-court mentor or continuing to add other talents to Sacramento's expanding coffers.
But it is.
Bogdanovic's arrival was by no means guaranteed, as opposed to the inevitability of adding a high-impact rookie from the 2017 NBA draft. Now that he's aboard, the Kings can feel even better about their long-term ceiling, if only because the 24-year-old is coming off a season with Fenerbahce Ulker in which he averaged 14.8 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.2 steals while shooting 48.5 percent from the field, 37.6 percent from long range and 87.4 percent at the line, per RealGM.com.
"He won't be the point guard — and he's at his best when functioning as a spot-up shooter on the perimeter — but the Serbian's ability to create for others and initiate the offense is incredibly valuable for somebody who could develop into one of the more viable scoring threats in this year's rookie class," Christopher Kline wrote for Cowbell Kingdom while arguing Bogdanovic could not only be the Kings' best rookie, but also grow into the team's leading scorer.
Worst Move: Adding Zach Randolph
In the interest of full disclosure, the decision to include Zach Randolph as the team's worst move was made before the latest news.
The veteran power forward can still be a quality rotation piece, but adding him in addition to George Hill and Vince Carter was just overkill. The Kings never needed that many aging pieces to supplement their youngsters, and Randolph's game made him a questionable fit. Even if he performed well, he'd be taking minutes away from the plethora of frontcourt options—Skal Labissiere, Harry Giles, Willie Cauley-Stein and Georgios Papagiannis chief among them.
But now, this move looks even worse.
Per TMZ Sports, Randolph was arrested Wednesday night in Los Angeles for possession of marijuana with intent to sell—charges that stemmed from him having "roughly two pounds" of marijuana in a "large backpack."
What will come of these charges is still unknown, but it's not a good look for a player signed by the Kings both for his post-up play and ability to serve as a mentor for the younger members of the roster.
San Antonio Spurs
Best Move: Re-signing Patty Mills
When Patty Mills was riding the bench for the San Antonio Spurs in 2016-17, the team still managed to outscore the opposition, but only by 4.9 points per 100 possessions. That number skyrocketed to a whopping 11.6 when he played.
Was this effect partially because of the lineups in which he found himself? Of course. But ESPN.com's RPM helps confirm the overall trend, since Mills' score of 1.27—stemming largely from his offensive prowess—was a top-20 mark among the league's 78 qualified point guards.
The Australian combo guard's shooting is vital to the current San Antonio system. His ability to knock down triples off the bounce and in catch-and-shoot scenarios opens up windows for Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge and everyone else with whom he plays.
Shocking that a 41.4 percent clip on 4.4 three-point attempts per game is valuable, right?
Now, San Antonio has locked up this crucial piece for a while longer—and without breaking the bank, at that. Especially given the current cap climate, a four-year deal worth $50 million is a flat-out bargain.
Worst Move: Pau Gasol's lengthy contract
Retaining Pau Gasol is fine.
The veteran big man remains a valuable player within the Spurs' ever-churning system of sustained production. Head coach Gregg Popovich knows how to use him perfectly, mitigating the ill effects of his limited athleticism by reducing the amount of space he's asked to defend on any given possession.
But Gasol is still 37 years old. And now, he's operating on a three-year deal worth $48 million. Even if San Antonio waives him before the start of the 2019-20 campaign, it'll still owe him a guaranteed $6.7 million.
Obviously, that's not ideal. The 2019-20 go-round will be his age-39 season, and there's no telling how immobile he might be at that stage.
Best Move: Retaining Kyle Lowry
This one is simple.
If the Toronto Raptors wanted to remain within shouting distance of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards, they had to keep Kyle Lowry. And they did, re-signing the veteran point guard to a three-year deal worth up to $100 million.
Forget about nuance here. Lowry's age may be more advanced (31) than the Raptors would prefer, but they simply couldn't afford to lose him.
In 2015-16, their net rating declined by 7.3 points per 100 possessions when he was off the floor, whether resting or sitting out with an injury. In 2016-17, it dropped by 8.6 points during the same average span.
Why expect anything different in 2017-18?
Worst Move: Letting Patrick Patterson walk for cheap
The Raptors are now staring in the face of a questionable rotation at power forward.
Serge Ibaka is locked in as the starter, but Pascal Siakam will likely serve as the primary backup until OG Anunoby heals and is ready to challenge for more minutes. And that's less than ideal, considering they'd rather not experience a large drop in production whenever the Congolese 4 needs a breather.
But this was avoidable (maybe). Retaining Patrick Patterson wouldn't have cost a lot. He signed with the Oklahoma City Thunder for an average annual salary of $5.5 million.
Perhaps Toronto would've had to pay quite a bit more money to lure the underrated power forward back into the fold. As Ryan Wolstat reported for the National Post, Patterson was unhappy enough with his declining minutes at the end of 2016-17 that he skipped his exit interview.
However, making an argument Patterson is worth double what he's being paid isn't impossible. His ability to do the little things and contribute to the win tally more than he does the box score isn't going anywhere.
Best Move: Drafting Donovan Mitchell
As Chris Johnson wrote for Sports Illustrated, Donovan Mitchell won't replace Gordon Hayward, but he'll sure help assuage the wound:
"The Jazz’s deal to move up and snag Mitchell looked like a prudent move on draft night, and it feels like a home run after watching Mitchell kill it during summer league. His promising performance was exactly what Utah needed to get over the letdown of losing Gordon Hayward to the Celtics. Mitchell can’t replace Hayward, but he should be able to help keep the Jazz in the hunt for a postseason berth in the loaded West."
Over the course of three summer-league appearances, Mitchell averaged 15.3 points, 2.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 3.3 steals while shooting 43.9 percent from the field, 38.5 percent from downtown and 83.3 percent at the free-throw line. He simply looked capable of contributing in every category, whether he was serving as a primary ball-handler, an off-ball defender or a spot-up shooter.
Mitchell should immediately push Rodney Hood and Alec Burks for playing time, and the 2017 lottery pick's emergence as a legitimate contributor would go a long way for their playoff push in the loaded Western Conference.
Worst Move: Acquiring questionable depth behind Rudy Gobert
Rudy Gobert was Utah's best player in 2016-17, edging out Hayward with his two-way play. He became so much more than a basket-protecting stud thanks to his newfound patience around the hoop and ability to thrive as a rim-running threat.
Now, following Hayward's flight to the Boston Celtics, there's no question he's top dog in Salt Lake City.
But the Jazz have to keep him healthy and ensure they don't experience significant declines in production when he's on the bench. To do so, they're turning to...Ekpe Udoh and Tony Bradley. That doesn't inspire confidence.
Gobert played in 81 games and averaged 33.9 minutes last year before going down in his first career playoff appearance and struggling to get back to full strength against the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors. He's not invulnerable, and the Jazz can't task him with logging even more run because their backups are less than appealing.
Best Move: Inking John Wall
Retaining Otto Porter Jr. was great, but the Washington Wizards couldn't afford to allow John Wall any room to escape. Signing him to a four-year super-max extension was the best move imaginable, because it eliminated any possibility of falling into a rebuilding period throughout the foreseeable future.
Wall remains one of the Association's 20 best players. He's unquestionably an elite point guard who will keep making All-Star squads and flirting with All-NBA recognition.
And now, he'll keep doing so for the Wizards.
This doesn't have to be complicated.
Worst Move: Mike Scott-Jodie Meeks combo package
According to HoopsStats.com, the Washington bench finished the 2016-17 campaign ranked No. 28 in offensive efficiency and in the exact same spot for the defensive counterpart. Obviously, that's not a good thing.
Far too often, the powerful quintet comprised of Wall, Bradley Beal, Porter, Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat stormed out to a sizable lead, only to watch that turn into a deficit while the second unit was on the floor, attempting not to squander all that the starters had earned.
That's not going to change in 2017-18.
Rather than exercise patience and see if any underrated free agents fell into their lap, the Wizards used their roster spots and cap space to trade for Tim Frazier (understandable, given the futility behind Wall in previous seasons), then sign Jodie Meeks (two years, $6.7 million) and Mike Scott (one year, minimum money). The last two moves are the confounding ones.
Both players possess palatable contracts. But neither is the difference-maker the Wizards need, especially with Bojan Bogdanovic fleeing for the Indiana Pacers one year after Washington used a first-round pick to trade for him.
Adam Fromal covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @fromal09.