Ranking the 10 Most Underrated Moves of the NBA Offseason

Greg Swartz@@CavsGregBRFeatured Columnist IVAugust 23, 2022

Ranking the 10 Most Underrated Moves of the NBA Offseason

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    Kevin Huerter and Victor Oladipo. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

    Between Rudy Gobert's trade to the Minnesota Timberwolves, Dejounte Murray joining the Atlanta Hawks and players such as Bradley Beal, James Harden, Zach LaVine, Deandre Ayton and Kyrie Irving returning to their respective teams, there's been plenty of big news swirling around the NBA this summer.

    As a result, many smaller transactions have flown under the radar. However, some could have significant impacts on the 2022-23 season and beyond.

    Be it key free-agent signings or smart trades or extensions that should age well, these are the top 10 underrated moves of the offseason.

    This ranking is based on the estimated impact these moves will have this season and beyond as well as what was given up in the trade or the cost of the contract or extension.

10. Pistons Get Alec Burks, Nerlens Noel and Picks for Free(ish)

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    Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images

    The New York Knicks pulled off one of the biggest moves of the offseason by signing Dallas Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson in free agency. Before doing so, they needed to shed some salary first.

    The Detroit Pistons served as a facilitator in that regard. They took on the contracts of Alec Burks and Nerlens Noel while also getting their own 2023 second-round pick back and adding a 2026 second-rounder via either the Knicks or Minnesota Timberwolves.

    The Pistons sent essentially nothing back to the Knicks in return. They parted with only the draft rights to Nikola RadičeviΔ‡ and a top-55-protected 2025 second-rounder.

    While the rebuilding Pistons aren't likely to be playoff contenders this year, adding two useful veterans to the rotation and locker room should only help their young core's growth. Burks is a multi-positional defender who hit 40.4 percent of his threes last season, which is important for a Detroit team that finished 29th in three-point efficiency (32.6 percent) last season.

    Both Burks and Noel have team options for next season for $10.5 million or less, giving the Pistons two low-cost veterans to help guide their young roster or use as trade bait at the deadline. This wasn't the most headline-grabbing trade this summer, but it could end up paying big dividends for the Pistons.

9. Bruce Brown Signs with the Nuggets

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    Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

    Rather than re-sign with the drama-ridden Brooklyn Nets, Bruce Brown decided to sign a two-year, $13.3 million deal with the Denver Nuggets in free agency.

    Denver should be a championship contender this season if Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. can stay healthy. Brown projects to be a valuable rotation player who can fill in the gaps and do whatever the Nuggets need.

    Brown hit 40.7 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes last season, and that number should only go up now that he's playing alongside Nikola Jokic. He also ranked in the 91st percentile as a transition scorer and can defend multiple positions with his 6'4", 202-pound frame.

    Brown was one of the sneaky-best signings of the offseason. The Nuggets should be thrilled to have landed him with their taxpayer mid-level exception.

8. Kenrich Williams Inks Extension with OKC

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    Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images

    Kenrich Williams may not be a household name, but few role players have impacted winning as much as he has recently. The 27-year-old has been among the league leaders in efficiency differential over the past two years, per Cleaning the Glass, thanks to his hustle, switchability on defense and floor-spacing.

    Williams was entering the final season of his contract in 2022-23, which could have decreased his trade value. The Oklahoma City Thunder thus wisely engaged him in extension talks this offseason.

    The outcome couldn't have gone much better for them, as Williams agreed to a four-year, $27.2 million contract that includes a team option. The deal opens at only $6.2 million in 2023-24, which means Williams should be incredibly easy to move to a contender when he becomes trade-eligible again on Jan. 18.

    There isn't a team in the NBA that couldn't use a high-level wing defender, especially on a reasonable contract. The Thunder made out like bandits here.

7. Jalen Smith Re-Signs with Pacers

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    Dylan Buell/Getty Images

    Why did the Phoenix Suns decline Jalen Smith's third-year option, exactly? The 2020 No. 10 overall pick showed his promise following a trade to the Indiana Pacers, and he rewarded their faith in him by signing a team-friendly, three-year, $15.1 million contract this summer.

    The Suns' loss is the Pacers' gain, as Smith averaged 13.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.0 blocks in only 24.7 minutes while shooting 53.1 percent overall and 37.3 percent from deep in his 22 games following the trade. The 22-year-old has already been named the starting power forward in Indiana and is only starting to scratch the surface of his potential.

    This is the kind of smart, low-risk free-agent signing that rebuilding teams need to make, much like when the Brooklyn Nets picked up Joe Harris and Spencer Dinwiddie in 2016.

    Smith's $4.7 million salary next season could turn out to be one of the biggest steals in the NBA. He gave the Suns and Pacers $9.4 million worth of production primarily as a reserve last year, per ProFitX.com.

    Indiana might not win a lot of games this season, but Smith could make Phoenix look foolish for cutting ties so early with him.

6. Hawks Get Kings' 1st-Rounder, Justin Holiday and Moe Harkless for Kevin Huerter

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    Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

    What, this isn't the Atlanta Hawks trade you were expecting? Their deal for Dejounte Murray grabbed the headlines, but wasn't the only smart trade that they pulled off this summer. Atlanta also sent Kevin Huerter to the Sacramento Kings for a protected 2024 first-round pick, Justin Holiday and Moe Harkless.

    Huerter is a good player, but he was about to become an expensive backup behind Murray. He's heading into the first season of a four-year, $65 million extension, which the Hawks should have been eager to dump with De'Andre Hunter needing to get paid next summer and Murray likely requiring a max deal in 2024.

    Getting a first-rounder (especially from the Kings) was terrific value, even if the pick is lottery-protected in 2024, top-12-protected in 2025 and top-10-protected in 2026. If it hasn't conveyed by then, the Kings will send 2026 and 2027 second-rounders instead. After parting with three first-round picks to get Murray, this trade gives the Hawks another valuable trade asset to use if needed.

    Holiday is also a nice addition, as Atlanta needs all of the wing defenders it can get around Trae Young. He should be in the rotation and is on an expiring $6.3 million deal. Harkless was out of place as a starter in Sacramento last season, but he can still be another solid reserve for the Hawks.

    Cutting payroll, picking up a pair of wing stoppers and getting a first-round pick after trading away three was a terrific move as a follow-up to the Murray deal.

5. Cavs Bring Back Ricky Rubio

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    Ron Schwane/Getty Images

    Ricky Rubio's importance to the Cleveland Cavaliers last season can not be understated.

    The 31-year-old point guard connected the dots for Cleveland's offense whether he was running the second unit or playing alongside Darius Garland. When Rubio shared the floor with Garland, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen, the Cavaliers had a net rating of plus-24.5.

    Cleveland had the league's 13th-ranked offense before Rubio tore his ACL in late December, but it fell to 23rd overall after his injury. With Rubio sidelined, the Cavs had to rely on 36-year-old Rajon Rondo for big minutes during the play-in tournament.

    While Rubio will likely miss the first few months of the 2022-23 season as he recovers from his ACL injury, the Cavs signed him to a three-year, $18.4 million deal. If he doesn't look like the same player upon his return, the final season of his contract is only partially guaranteed.

    For a Cleveland team that needed playmaking and veteran leadership while trying to break into the crowded Eastern playoff picture, re-signing Rubio was huge.

4. Sixers Trade for De'Anthony Melton

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    Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

    Joel Embiid, James Harden, Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris will largely carry the load for the Philadelphia 76ers this season, but De'Anthony Melton's presence as a sixth man, playmaker and pesky defender could push them over the edge as a true title threat.

    The Sixers traded the 23rd overall pick and Danny Green (who tore his ACL and LCL during the playoffs) to the Memphis Grizzlies for Melton on draft night. He gives them real depth at point guard behind Maxey and Harden.

    The 24-year-old can lock down opposing guards on the perimeter, and he finished second behind only new teammate Matisse Thybulle in steal percentage (3.0) last season. Melton also hit 40.6 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes, making him a great fit next to Harden.

    With two years and $16.3 million remaining on his contract, Melton is a low-cost, big-impact rotation member who was one of the smartest offseason trade acquisitions.

3. Victor Oladipo Re-Signs with Heat

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    Michael Reaves/Getty Images

    Victor Oladipo might not immediately come to mind when thinking of the Miami Heat, but he could end up having one of the biggest impacts on their championship hopes.

    The 30-year-old played only eight games during the regular season, but he carved out a regular role in Miami's playoff rotation. Oladipo then re-signed with the Heat on a two-year, $18.2 million deal and seems motivated to return to his All-Star form.

    "I'm one of the best players in the world, period," he said on The VC Show with Vince Carter. "I think that my injury has kind of built a misconception of who I am as a player. ...

    "I'm itching just thinking about it. It's so crazy. It's like a rebirth. ... And being in my 10th year, it feels like I'm in Year 1 all over again, you know what I'm saying? But it's like a Year 1 with a little bit of experience."

    Since Miami might move Tyler Herro into its starting lineup, Oladipo's presence as a scorer and playmaker off the bench will be key for a team that ranked 12th in offense last season.

2. T.J. Warren Signs for the Minimum with Nets

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    T.J. Warren has played only four games over the past two seasons because of a foot injury. He figured to sign a one-year, prove-it deal in free agency, but he seemed likely to get more than a veteran-minimum contract given his upside.

    The soon-to-be 29-year-old averaged 19.8 points while shooting 53.6 percent overall and 40.3 percent from deep during his last healthy season in 2019-20. He was one of the breakout stars of the NBA bubble when he averaged 31.0 points on 57.8 percent shooting and 52.4 percent from three-point range during the seeding games.

    Given the uncertainty surrounding the Brooklyn Nets, it was surprising to see Warren sign with them. A Kevin Durant trade could have a major impact on his role (and his potential future earnings as a result).

    Meanwhile, the Nets could have the steal of free agency if Warren makes a full-time return to the court. For a team already facing a luxury-tax bill north of $90.5 million, getting Warren on a minimum deal with a cap figure of only $1.8 million was a huge win.

1. Donte DiVincenzo Joins the Champs

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    Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

    Twenty-nine other NBA teams should hate this signing. Donte DiVincenzo finding his way to the defending champs is a perfect fit between player and franchise.

    The Sacramento Kings opted against giving DiVincenzo a $6.6 million qualifying offer. The Golden State Warriors then swooped in and snagged the 25-year-old on a two-year, $9.2 million contract using part of their taxpayer mid-level exception.

    DiVincenzo should thrive as a floor-spacer alongside Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Jordan Poole, Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green, feeding off wide-open looks with defenses focusing on so many other weapons. He's also a willing passer and pesky defender who should parlay his time in Golden State into a bigger payday next summer, much like we saw from Gary Payton II and Otto Porter Jr. this offseason.

    After losing Payton to the Portland Trail Blazers in free agency, the Warriors added an even more talented offensive threat to their backcourt. The reigning champs should be right back in the title mix this season.

    Stats via Basketball Reference and NBA.com unless otherwise noted.


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