Report Card Grades for Every NBA Team's 2015 Offseason
The frenzy of free agency is over now, giving way to the closest thing there is to a lull in the NBA's year-round schedule.
For a few restorative weeks, we get to catch our breath.
And we also have a chance to survey the league's altered landscape. The signings, the trades, the draft picks, the coaching moves—everything each team has done to improve its fortune for next year or, in some cases, stick to a multi-season rebuilding plan that doesn't necessarily prioritize immediate success.
Grades will be based on how a team handled its offseason relative to the options it had available. The Philadelphia 76ers, for example, didn't sign any major free agents. They didn't even meet with any. That doesn't mean the Sixers get a failing grade.
They'll score well because they made smart moves that were part of a coherent plan.
Offseasons aren't successes or failures based solely on how many big names sign up to play for you, though the San Antonio Spurs will score nicely precisely because they landed one such name.
Everything factors in to the final marks, including the overall harmony and logic of a team's moves.
The Sacramento Kings might want to watch out for that part.
It's probably an oversimplification to say the Atlanta Hawks had to choose between DeMarre Carroll and Paul Millsap, but that's pretty much the way things worked out. Millsap shunned a bigger offer from the Orlando Magic, returning to the Hawks on a three-year, $59 million deal that helped make up for the bargain rates he accepted over his last two seasons.
Carroll's exit to the Toronto Raptors means Atlanta must now turn to Thabo Sefolosha for its wing-defense needs, unless Kent Bazemore or recently acquired Justin Holiday (clearly Atlanta is poaching former end-of-bench players from the Golden State Warriors) take steps forward.
Retaining Millsap makes sense; he's got the longer track record of success. But losing Carroll is going to hurt.
Fortunately, the Hawks should get stronger up front by replacing Pero Antic in the rotation with Tiago Splitter, who came over from the San Antonio Spurs in a salary dump.
Splitter's injury history is significant, and he missed 57 games over the last two seasons. But he's a strong defensive player who can guard both power forwards and centers while doing all the little things on both ends.
On balance, the Hawks feel a little weaker than they were last season. But because they handled their toughest decision well and shored up their depth in other ways, they still grade out above average.
The Boston Celtics' stockpile of assets, which included a bunch of picks in the 2015 NBA draft, didn't turn into the franchise-altering player they were hoping for. Chris Forsberg of ESPN.com reported the Celtics badly wanted to trade up into a spot that would have allowed them to take Duke's Justise Winslow.
No big free-agent acquisitions, either.
Boston locked in Jae Crowder at a dirt-cheap $35 million over five seasons, hoping he continues to develop as a gritty 3-and-D rotation piece. And it inked former Raptor Amir Johnson to an extremely team-friendly two-year deal in which the second year is nonguaranteed.
Overall, though, this offseason has to rate as a disappointment for the Celtics. They had the assets to make a big move but couldn't find a buyer. Rookies Terry Rozier, R.J. Hunter, Jordan Mickey and Marcus Thornton give Boston more young talent that will develop, but they're now part of what looks like another holding-pattern year.
Boston will make its big swing eventually, but it didn't do it this offseason.
That's a missed opportunity.
Deron Williams is gone, bought out and relocated to his hometown Dallas Mavericks, which is good news for the Brooklyn Nets' books. Unfortunately, the Nets offset that cost-cutting move by bringing back Brook Lopez on a three-year, $60 million contract.
That's a perfectly fine rate for Lopez if he's on the floor, but his history of foot injuries means his health is always going to be an issue.
Thaddeus Young also got a new deal for four years and $50 million, locking in Brooklyn's 4-5 combination for the foreseeable future. If Young's three-point stroke is for real (he shot 38 percent from deep in 28 games for the Nets last year), that's a proposition you can live with.
The Nets went with 6'7" forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson in the draft, which should help their 24th-ranked defense, per NBA.com, improve in time.
"We didn't draft him to go in and score 20 points a game," Brooklyn assistant Jay Humphries told Roderick Boone of Newsday. "What we need him to do is to muck up the game a little bit. Defensively, get out and be able to guard some of their best players and just be a force that way."
Dumping Williams is a big deal, as it helps the Nets chip away at what would have been a massive luxury-tax bill. But losing both Mirza Teletovic and Alan Anderson was different; both were relatively low-cost, useful players. Toss in the dangerous deal for Lopez and Young's above-market payout, and the Nets' offseason looks like a real mixed bag.
An average grade just feels right.
If you're not going to hit free-agency home runs, the best alternative is making smaller moves that don't preclude you from swinging for the fences in the future.
The Charlotte Hornets did well on that front, preserving their flexibility while adding talent this summer.
The biggest move was a subtraction: Lance Stephenson, who flamed out spectacularly last year, won't be back. The Los Angeles Clippers sent Matt Barnes and Spencer Hawes to Charlotte in exchange for Stephenson, who shot a ghastly 17.1 percent from three last season.
Barnes moved on to the Memphis Grizzlies in another deal, which allowed Charlotte to bring in Nicolas Batum from the Portland Trail Blazers.
Batum cost Charlotte Noah Vonleh and Gerald Henderson, and the versatile wing could simply leave as a free agent next year. But Batum has plenty to prove after a down season, and he's a valuable facilitator who should boost the Hornets' anemic scoring attack.
Remember, too, that Hawes is only a year removed from a very high-volume season of 41.6 percent three-point shooting in 2013-14. His partnership with the Clips felt doomed from the start, and he's a good low-risk play who could fill the Hornets' long-range-shooting void.
It's unclear what Jeremy Lin offers a team in need of reliable scoring from the perimeter, but he came cheap. Rookie Frank Kaminsky should help the offense (alongside Hawes), and maybe Jeremy Lamb, brought over in a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder, will finally realize his potential.
If you're looking for reasons to criticize the Hornets, it's probably fair to say they've prioritized near-term success a little too soon. Giving up so soon on a former lottery pick in Vonleh is a strange move for a team that isn't anywhere close to contention. At this stage, young, inexpensive talent should be what the Hornets want.
Then again, Charlotte plays in the East, which means being just better than average could lead to the fifth or sixth playoff seed. That's the Hornets' ceiling with this roster.
The Chicago Bulls will return in 2015-16 with the same personnel they had the year before. They'll be led by new head coach Fred Hoiberg who, in theory, will get more out of the roster's offensive talent than predecessor Tom Thibodeau.
Given Thibs' consistent success, it's difficult to say losing him makes the Bulls better. But it was clear that Chicago had to change in a few key areas if it wanted to take another step, and it didn't appear Thibodeau was going to alter his approach.
The risk is big, but Hoiberg's upside as a more offensive-minded, analytically friendly coach is significant.
In terms of the on-court personnel, the Bulls maintained the status quo.
Jimmy Butler signed a max deal that will keep him in Chicago through the rest of his prime at an average annual value of around $18 million. That's a strong move for the Bulls.
As was inking Mike Dunleavy to a three-year, $14.4 million pact. A veteran who defends well in a good scheme, hits threes and moves the ball effectively, Dunleavy is a great value.
Oh, and Aaron Brooks is back on a one-year deal.
Injuries will determine Chicago's ceiling, just as they always do. But the talent is locked in, and Hoiberg might do a better job of keeping it healthy.
There's nothing to complain about here, unless you were hoping for a steal with the mid-level exception or a bigger shakeup via trade.
Hey, big spenders.
With LeBron James around, the championship window is open. Period.
No wonder, then, that the Cleveland Cavaliers are spending extravagantly in efforts to capitalize. After spending roughly $200 million on new contracts for Kevin Love, Iman Shumpert and James, the Cavs will also spend another huge chunk on Tristan Thompson as soon as the two sides agree on terms.
Initial reports had Cleveland offering $80 million over five years to the big man.
The Cavaliers also inked Mo Williams to a two-year deal, shoring up their backcourt rotation in case J.R. Smith and/or Matthew Dellavedova don't return. If Cleveland brings both of those players back, a rotation that got frighteningly thin in last year's playoffs suddenly looks deep.
It's rare to see a team disregard payroll norms this egregiously.
If Thompson gets $16 million per season, Smith and Dellavedova come back on deals worth a combined $10 million next year, and Brendan Haywood's contract returns a $10.5 million asset in trade, the Cavaliers could wind up paying as much as $255 million in salary and tax penalties in 2015-16, according to Michael Schwartz of ESPN.com.
Credit the Cavs for doing everything possible to add and retain their talent. The moves they've made have all been shrewd.
But man have they been costly.
Losing out on DeAndre Jordan is an unmitigated disaster. There's no other way to put it.
Yes, the Dallas Mavericks snagged Wesley Matthews. But they drastically overpaid him (four years, $70 million) given his Achilles injury.
Yes, getting Williams to take over the point at around $5 million per season is a good deal. But he's a consolation prize.
Basically, everything Dallas did after losing Jordan to the Los Angeles Clippers at the 11th hour was a panicked reaction to a deal gone wrong. And it shows.
Monta Ellis, Tyson Chandler, Al-Farouq Aminu and Amar'e Stoudemire are gone, and all played good minutes for the Mavs last year. Rajon Rondo won't be back either, and letting him leave may be the only move Dallas made all summer that looks like an unequivocally good one.
Maybe the Mavs weren't going to be contenders with Jordan. But without him, and without top-end talent in his place, they're not even a playoff team.
This is an epic bummer for Dirk Nowitzki, who took less money on his last contract so the Mavericks could sign marquee talent. Now, it appears Nowitzki's twilight years are going to be dark ones.
The Denver Nuggets didn't do very much this offseason until Sunday's Ty Lawson megadeal, and that's not a great look for a team that needed to make substantial changes to get off the mediocrity treadmill.
New head coach Mike Malone is something of a wild card. His reputation suggests he'll instill structure and accountability, but it's difficult to draw any strong conclusions based on his brief, tumultuous time with the Sacramento Kings.
The best you can say is that the things that went wrong there were more likely a product of organizational dysfunction than they were reflective of his faults as a coach. In short: the jury's out on Malone.
Getting Emmanuel Mudiay at No. 7 was a steal; he looks like a potential star.
"The 6-5 Mudiay averaged 12 points, 5.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds in four Vegas games and displayed a varied skill set," wrote USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt. "He has court vision, explosiveness, is a strong passer with both hands, can make difficult cross-court passes, has a good sense of controlling tempo and has strength to absorb contact and get to the foul line."
And there's nothing wrong with signing Wilson Chandler to a reasonable four-year, $46 million extension that will look like a below-market rate when the cap rises. Whether Chandler is a long-term piece or trade bait, he's a good asset at that price.
Between the Mudiay pick and Jameer Nelson's new deal, Ty Lawson (who, in July, picked up his second DUI arrest this year) was destined for the exit. Denver got decent value for Lawson in the form of Pablo Prigioni, Nick Johnson, Joey Dorsey and a protected first round pick, according to Adrian Wojnarowski.
A few solid moves don't make up for one terrible one, which is why the Detroit Pistons get one of the poorer offseason grades we'll see.
Stanley Johnson looks like a do-it-all wing who should be a starter sooner than later, so the Pistons did well in this year's draft. Detroit also made some smart plays on the trade market, getting in on a salary dump to snag Marcus Morris from the Phoenix Suns and adding Ersan Ilyasova to stretch the floor a little.
Aron Baynes, signed for $20 million over three years to replace some of the frontcourt minutes voided by Greg Monroe's free-agency exit, is probably making too much money. But he's a big body who'll be fine as a backup to Andre Drummond.
It's the Reggie Jackson contract that kills the Pistons' grade.
After giving up assets to get him at the deadline last year, Detroit effectively bid against itself (and a market that may not have even existed) to give Jackson a five-year, $80 million contract. It's not just that Jackson is an inefficient scorer, an inaccurate shooter and an inattentive defender. It's that the Pistons could have just matched whatever deal Jackson signed as a restricted free agent.
Wasting money like that isn't fatal in the era of the rising salary cap, but it's still a mistake. And it's one that turns over leadership duties to a player who hasn't shown any fitness for such a role to this point.
Detroit will regret the Jackson deal.
Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors didn't have to add anybody to maintain their status as obvious contenders next season. Their goals were more modest, and they made for an uneventful offseason marked by predictable successes.
David Lee's contract is off the books, which will provide luxury-tax savings, and if the Warriors use the stretch provision on Gerald Wallace (the return from Boston for Lee), they'll be in even better shape.
New contracts for Draymond Green and Leandro Barbosa were finalized quickly and quietly, and No. 30 overall pick Kevon Looney flashed offensive promise and rebounding chops in summer league that made it easy to understand why some had him pegged as a near-lottery pick.
Maybe the Warriors could have gotten aggressive and sought out a ring-chasing veteran willing to sign for the minimum. But outside of that, there wasn't much else for the defending champs to do.
Nothing to see here, folks. Last year's best team just took care of business with surprising ease.
Josh Smith played a key role in the Houston Rockets' surprising defeat of the Clippers in the Western Conference semifinals, and losing him to those very same Clips could hurt Houston's offensive flexibility. But if Donatas Motiejunas had been healthy during the playoffs, it's possible Smith wouldn't have seen much court time at all.
And other than that, the Rockets' offseason went very well.
Patrick Beverley headlines the returners, and he's back on a startlingly affordable four-year, $25 million contract. One of the league's best on-ball defenders and a capable three-point shooter, Beverley is an ideal fit in an offense where James Harden dominates the ball.
Sunday night, the Rockets dealt for backcourt insurance in troubled guard Ty Lawson, sending Kostas Papanikolaou and an assortment of non-guaranteed contracts and a protected first-round pick. Given Beverley's borderline-reckless style of play, the move makes sense for Houston.
Rookies Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell should both see time this year, with Harrell profiling as an intriguing run-and-gun big man in uptempo lineups.
With a tight cap situation and limited options, Houston managed to get younger, retain its key pieces and, overall, not lose any ground after reaching the West Finals.
Things are going to be different for the Indiana Pacers this year.
West opted out of over $12 million to leave Indiana for the San Antonio Spurs, and the Pacers decided it was time to move on from Hibbert, sending him to the Lakers for a small return. Now, rookie center Myles Turner and Paul George figure to occupy big minutes at the 4 and 5.
And if George isn't keen on playing some small-ball power forward in uptempo attacks, that's too bad.
"He don't make the decisions around here," team president Larry Bird told reporters.
Monta Ellis, newly signed for four years and $44 million likely will make some decisions as a primary ball-handler in what should be a well-spaced pick-and-roll attack. He's a risk given his lack of defense and checkered track record, but he provides Indiana exactly the kind of lead guard it needs.
George Hill will be perfectly fine as an off-ball threat who defends the tougher backcourt matchup.
Assuming Turner is the floor-stretching, shot-swatting force he appeared to be in summer league, the Pacers have a lot of intriguing talent.
And a completely new identity.
For a contending team that had reached the end of the line, this is a solid on-the-fly pivot.
Los Angeles Clippers
Let's just lay it out there: This was a big, fat, neon-lit F until Jordan did his last-minute about-face to rejoin the Clippers.
J.J. Redick said so himself on Bleacher Report radio: "Listen, we had one priority this summer, and that was to re-sign D.J., and we missed out on that. So barring some miracle, [the] makeup of our team is completely different now...Having him leave for Dallas gives us a failing grade."
But Jordan didn't leave in the end, which changed everything.
And despite having no flexibility whatsoever, the Clips managed to haul in Paul Pierce, Josh Smith and Stephenson to shore up a ridiculously thin rotation. Even someone like Wesley Johnson, who has never lived up to his draft slot, is a terrific value at the minimum.
Los Angeles saved its status as a contender by keeping Jordan, and then it got markedly stronger by adding help on the wings.
Virtually everyone the Clips added has question marks—Pierce is old, Stephenson may not fit and Smith is inefficient—but L.A. had no wiggle room. Getting anyone who could potentially help was a massive achievement.
And considering how bleak things looked, the fact that the Clippers ended up getting markedly better this summer stands as one of the most A-worthy efforts in the league.
Los Angeles Lakers
It feels mean to pick on the Los Angeles Lakers who, once again, couldn't entice a single difference-making free agent to sign on. But they deserve it.
Getting Lou Williams for three years and $21 million would be fine for most teams, but the Lakers already have plenty of all-offense, low-efficiency gunners on the roster—Nick Young and Kobe Bryant chief among them. The Lakers don't need what Williams offers.
DeAngelo Russell, the No. 2 overall pick, has great instincts and terrific feel. But what's he going to do with those gifts in the stilted, anachronistic offense in L.A.?
The rest of the Lakers' offseason moves replaced one stopgap with another. Brandon Bass tags in for Ed Davis, and Hibbert is in for Jordan Hill.
It's a mess, and ESPN.com's Kevin Arnovitz goes deep on the systemic troubles that keep leading to free-agency flunks: "In 2015, elite free agents seem far more concerned about roster composition and basketball blueprint than legacy and urban lifestyle. And the Lakers are an unsteady, tone-deaf franchise with a couple of nice prospects, but they offer a serious basketball star little in the way of a coherent organizational philosophy."
The good news: Kobe Bryant's contract comes off the books next year. Maybe that will change the team's fortunes.
Getting Marc Gasol back was a foregone conclusion. The best center in the league never did anything to indicate he'd join another team, and a max deal from the Grizzlies was never in doubt. I guess you have to credit the consistent success and culture Memphis built, both of which obviously appealed to Gasol.
But it's not like the Grizzlies had to put on a hard sell. Gasol was never going anywhere.
Brandan Wright will come off the bench to assist Gasol next season, as he inked a three-year, $18 million deal that might be among the best bargains of the summer. Wright is a terrific finisher around the rim, catches lobs with ease and can alter shots with his length on the other end.
He'll easily replace Kosta Koufos' production as a backup big.
You've got to like Barnes coming over via trade as well. The gritty small forward seems like he was born to play in Memphis.
Unfortunately, the Grizzlies didn't address their biggest weakness—the one they had to fix in order to move up toward serious contention.
They needed shooters, and they didn't get any.
Memphis attempted only 15.2 three-pointers per game last year, hitting at a 33.9 percent clip. Both figures were second worst in the league. Heading into this season, the Grizz will again operate in a cramped halfcourt offense with little chance of going on big, three-fueled runs.
Even though the overall talent on the roster increased, the failure to get better where they needed to knocks the Grizzlies grade down significantly.
The worst thing you can say about the Miami Heat's offseason is that they it locked up so much talent that it will be difficult to retain Hassan Whiteside as a free agent next year. Because Miami doesn't have his full Bird rights, it can't go over the cap to sign him. It needs room.
There's plenty of time to figure that out, though.
For now, the Heat can content themselves with keeping Goran Dragic on a five-year market-rate deal, signing Dwyane Wade for $20 million make-good dollars and getting Luol Deng to opt into the final year of his contract for just $10 million.
Winslow looks like a possible star, Gerald Green is on the books for the minimum and Stoudemire offers low-cost scoring off the bench.
The Heat did everything right this summer. With reasonably good health, they should be among the top four teams in the East.
The Milwaukee Bucks struck a blow for small markets everywhere when they signed Greg Monroe to a three-year, $50 million contract. Both the Lakers and New York Knicks were after the big man, but Milwaukee's up-front sales job was too much for Moose to resist.
"It wasn't like they were just pitching stuff at me," Monroe said, via Fox Sports Wisconsin. "They came and they were just real laid back and comfortable and conservative and they just talked to me."
The Bucks have reason to be comfortable. Their young roster is loaded with promise and, critically for Monroe, a ton of good defensive players. Monroe isn't a rim protector, but the Bucks' length on the perimeter will hide that weakness. And the team desperately needs the big man's scoring touch.
This is a perfect match, even if Monroe is an imperfect player.
There were losses: Zaza Pachulia, Jared Dudley and Ilyasova won't be back. But Milwaukee compensated by adding Greivis Vasquez and Caron Butler. Maybe that's a net loss of talent, but the Bucks can bank on organic growth from young stars like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker and Khris Middleton (re-signed for $70 million).
The Bucks are going to be a playoff team again next season. The only question now is: How high up the postseason ladder will they climb?
The Minnesota Timberwolves didn't screw it up.
Believe it or not, that's meant as a compliment.
Never in a position to attract free agents and notorious for draft gaffes, the Wolves managed to avoid overpaying for middling talent while making good use of their picks. Granted, having the top overall selection makes it harder to miss, but Minnesota need look no further than its own roster (hi, Anthony Bennett!) to see that even No. 1 picks aren't foolproof.
Karl-Anthony Towns was the easy selection, and Minnesota made it. That's good.
Tyus Jones ran the point for the national champion Duke Blue Devils, and he's from Minnesota. Getting him at No. 24 was another nice move.
Kevin Garnett, who debuted in the NBA before Towns or Jones were born, signed up for two more years as well. The Timberwolves will have a mentor for their young talent.
And that's where the Wolves are: Young, talented and seemingly content to grow at a reasonable pace. This is a rebuild that needs to go right, and Minnesota didn't do anything to gum up the works. Considering the franchise's track record, that's pretty impressive.
New Orleans Pelicans
If you want to get painfully simple about the New Orleans Pelicans' offseason, you could focus only on Anthony Davis, who signed a maximum extension assuring he'll be in New Orleans for at least the next five years. Davis has an option after the fourth year, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.
As long as Davis is around, New Orleans is in good shape. He might be the league's best player right now and if he's not, he will be soon. Locking him in, especially in a small market, is critically important.
Just as vital: finding a head coach who'll maximize Davis' value going forward. Alvin Gentry might be that guy, and he's the man the Pellies picked to run the show.
Gentry figures to pick up the pace, utilizing Davis' perimeter skills in a stretched-out offense that should make the Pelicans much harder to guard. As long as that philosophy doesn't stunt Davis' growth as a rim-protector, Gentry seems like the ideal candidate to mold the Brow.
Omer Asik's five-year, $60 million deal is the only significant blemish on an otherwise perfect summer. His presence indicates Davis might not get to play as much center as we thought, and on a more basic level, Asik just didn't show much last year.
But he's a relatively small (if overpaid) piece. The Pelicans got the big moves right.
New York Knicks
It's tempting to lump the Knicks in with the Lakers as big-market failures, but there's a key distinction between these two metropolitan squads that gives the Knicks an edge.
They signed actual NBA players to reasonable deals after missing out on big names—something the Lakers failed to do.
Robin Lopez might be marginally overpaid, but he's a strong defender and rebounder who could start for half of the teams in the league.
Arron Afflalo's best years are behind him, but his deal is only for two years and a reasonable $16 million overall.
Kyle O'Quinn isn't a household name, but he's a bulky frontcourt presence who can pass and knock down a jumper. At $4 million per year, he's a steal.
And Derrick Williams may officially be a bust, but it was worth a $10 million gamble to find out for sure.
Those signings, plus the high-upside play on No. 4 pick Kristaps Porzingis show how the Knicks mixed a measured short-term approach with a bold long-term plan. There was nothing spectacular about New York's offseason, but it was, dare we say, pretty darn solid.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Matching Enes Kanter's four-year, $70 million offer sheet was the single worst decision of the entire offseason.
The Oklahoma City Thunder paid top dollar for a player whose only value is as a scorer when they already had Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook to lead an elite offense. Maybe there's a case to be made that OKC needed to show Durant their willingness to spend on talent, but if that was the goal, it should have spent on talent that actually helps a team win.
Kanter doesn't do that.
He's a net-negative player whose horrible defense makes him a constant target for pick-and-roll sets. He can't defend the rim either.
Look at the way the Utah Jazz took off after trading Kanter last season. Look at the way the Thunder were worse with him on the floor than off, per NBA.com.
The evidence is clear, and Kevin Pelton of ESPN.com pegs Kanter's value as well below what the Thunder are paying him: "Let's start with the obvious: Kanter is not worth $70 million, even as the cap rises. As I wrote Friday, based in part on his poor rating in ESPN's real plus-minus last season (-2.7, 58th among centers), I project Kanter's value at $21 million over the next three seasons."
The only things that save OKC from a failing grade are the reasonable five-year, $25 million deal it gave Kyle Singler and the years-overdue decision to move on from head coach Scott Brooks.
Scott Skiles was the big move in a mostly quiet Orlando Magic offseason.
The retread coach has yet to prove he can lead a team to the highest level, but his emphasis on defense and accountability is exactly what a young Magic team needs at this early stage of its development. Skiles should get much more out of the talent on this roster than former coach Jacque Vaughn ever did.
Beyond that, the only notable personnel moves were Tobias Harris' four-year, $64 million contract and the selection of Mario Hezonja at No. 5 in the draft.
The Harris signing is somewhat dubious, as the scoring forward doesn't move the ball and hasn't shown much interest in defense. But perhaps Skiles will coax better team play from him on both ends.
Hezonja is a big, 6'8" wing with a dangerous offensive game and an even more dangerous level of confidence. There is real J.R. Smith potential here, and that's true in all possible senses.
Orlando didn't do anything world-altering, but it kept its stable of young talent together and gave it a new coach who should make a difference...until he wears out his welcome in a few years, as has been his custom.
If you're impatient, you're not cut out to be a Sixers fan.
Philly sat out the free-agency derby, even though it had oodles of cap space. Then it spent that cap space in a creative way that will bring no short-term chance at success. It was one of the best moves of the offseason, but only if you have the patience and trust in process to appreciate it.
Instead of spending, the Sixers absorbed $25 million in salary (in the form of Carl Landry and Jason Thompson) to get a first-rounder, the right to swap picks in two future drafts and Nik Stauskas. They used their space to effectively buy better odds at high draft picks.
If you're not contending, this is exactly what you should spend your cap space on.
Like it or not, at least the Sixers know who they are: a long-term rebuild project, hoarding lottery tickets," wrote Grantland's Zach Lowe. "They are the only team with cap room that has zero interest in winning this season, and that give-no-F’s policy was the key to nailing this deal."
Philadelphia's rebuilding process has been going on for two full seasons now, roughly as long as the Lakers has. Maybe this sounds controversial, but it shouldn't: The Sixers, based on the assets they have, are far closer to turning things around than L.A. or any other quick-fix artists out there.
Oh, and Philly also nabbed Jahlil Okafor with the No. 3 overall pick. He looks ready to be their offensive hub as a rookie.
*Joel Embiid's second lost season is a massive disappointment, but his slow-to-heal foot isn't a factor here because we're only judging what the Sixers did this past summer. If you want to ding them for drafting Embiid, that's a 2014 issue.
The Suns aren't afraid to make big changes if they feel like they have even a slight chance at landing a big name.
Case in point: They split up the Morris twins, sending Marcus to the Pistons in a cost-cutting measure that may have been part of a play for LaMarcus Aldridge. Acquiring Tyson Chandler for four years and $52 million (a curious move with Alex Len needing more opportunities to play) was also a good ploy to snag Aldridge, who prefers to play alongside defensive centers.
Aldridge didn't pick the Suns, which wasn't surprising. Now, Phoenix figures to remain outside the playoff picture in the West next year, and may have even taken a step in the wrong direction over the long haul. Chandler's health is a concern, and Brandon Knight will have to play much better than he did last year to justify the five-year, $70 million contract the Suns lavished on him.
There were tradeoffs all over the place. The Suns lost Wright, but got Mirza Teletovic. They lost Green, but drafted sharpshooter Devin Booker.
This offseason wasn't necessarily a disaster, and you've got to admire the Suns' go-for-it spirit. But it's hard to get excited about Phoenix's moves.
Portland Trail Blazers
Pity prevents me from giving the Portland Trail Blazers an outright F for their offseason performance.
They lost four of their five starters (Aldridge, Batum, Lopez and Matthews), brought in a collection of low-priced, generally unproven players as part of a start-over plan and gave Damian Lillard a maximum extension that his on-court production doesn't quite justify.
In other words, the Blazers have suffered enough. Giving them a failing grade feels like piling on unnecessarily.
Besides, much of what happened to Portland would have been difficult to prevent. And we have to save the worst grades for the teams that actively sabotage themselves.
Where to start?
Sacramento's sad circus is the product of a disjointed front office and ownership group that alienated the organization's best player, DeMarcus Cousins, by firing one of the only coaches he ever liked. That was last year, and it doesn't factor into this offseason's failing grade, but it helps explain the kind of leadership that botched things even worse more recently.
Had the Kings simply taken Mudiay with their pick in the draft (they went for Willie Cauley-Stein, who cannot score and will congest the heck out of the paint alongside Cousins), they wouldn't have had to mortgage their future in that Philly trade—which happened partially because the Kings wanted to open up cap space to sign Rajon Rondo.
They also got Marco Belinelli and Koufos. Yay.
Rondo, of course, was pursued by nobody after flaming out with the Mavericks, and no team in the league would have given him anywhere near the $10 million Sacramento did.
Quick recap: The Kings traded a first-round pick, the rights to swap two more and last year's lottery selection for Rondo, Belinelli and Koufos—three players who won't get the Kings anywhere close to a playoff spot, let alone contention.
The Kings could have used the stretch provision on Landry or Thompson. They could have drafted Mudiay. They could have done a hundred other things that would have made more sense than giving up their valuable future assets for tiny present improvements.
Sacramento has no idea where it is in its franchise trajectory, and the moves it made assure it'll remain in no-man's land for a long, long time.
Nobody had a worse offseason than the Kings.
San Antonio Spurs
Alphabetical order provides the greatest contrast imaginable in our report cards, as the top-graded San Antonio Spurs follow the hapless laggards in Sacramento.
The Spurs kept Kawhi Leonard on a deserved max deal, re-signed Danny Green on perhaps the biggest bargain of the summer and added Aldridge to a core that was already a contender last year. The fact that West, who took an $11 million salary reduction to sign for the minimum, rates as the fourth-best move the Spurs made says everything you need to know.
Do we even need to talk about how Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili will return for rates that come nowhere close to reflecting their value?
Should we mention that Ray McCallum came over from the Kings for a second-rounder?
“Sitting at home watching the offseason unfold, then finding myself thrown into that group of Spurs players, it’s like a dream come true," McCallum said, per Spurs.com.
Why even bother going into the finer details?
The Spurs always do everything right, and they did it again this summer.
Carroll is a solid signing at four years and $60 million, and his versatility should help compensate for Amir Johnson's absence. Though the former Hawks wing can't cover up for Johnson's interior presence, he'll give the Toronto Raptors the option to go smaller and pick up the pace without sacrificing too much on D.
Other than that, the Raptors brought on Cory Joseph to back up Kyle Lowry at the point. And every typical caveat about players who look promising in the Spurs' system applies to Joseph, who, for now, looks like a useful defender and developing three-point shooter.
We'll see if his growth continues for the Raptors.
If Joseph's production merely stays at the level it was in San Antonio, he'll be a fine replacement for Vasquez in the second unit.
In all, Toronto was fairly conservative in its moves. But it's fair to say that between Carroll, Joseph and ready-to-play rookie point guard Delon Wright, the Raptors are marginally better than they were at the end of last season.
The Utah Jazz grade out well because of what they didn't do.
They could have traded Derrick Favors for a floor-stretching big who would have better complemented defensive monster Rudy Gobert. They could have panicked after Dante Exum's horrid rookie season and paid big money for a veteran point guard to take his sophomore minutes.
But they didn't.
Utah stood firm, drafting Trey Lyles at No. 12 and re-signing Joe Ingles in a bench role. Other than that, the Jazz did nothing of consequence, which isn't always the easiest course.
It was the right one for Utah, though, because this is a franchise that recognizes the progress that's taking place with the current roster.
The Jazz posted the best defensive rating in the league by a ridiculous margin after the All-Star break last year, per NBA.com, and there's legitimate offensive talent that should continue to develop under Quin Snyder. Exum just turned 20 years old, Gobert is a star and there's a chance Gordon Hayward takes another step.
By not tinkering, the Jazz did everything they needed to do.
Losing Pierce, who was integral to the playoff spacing that enlivened the Washington Wizards' offense, hurt. But adding more shooting in the form of Gary Neal, Jared Dudley and Alan Anderson helps.
In fact, Dudley may even be able to reprise the undersized-4 role Pierce played in the postseason.
These are modest improvements, but the Wizards didn't have many opportunities to make bigger tweaks because they have significant money wrapped up in Nene ($13 million and $11 million next year, respectively) to sign any needle-movers.
All things considered, Washington addressed its need for shooting at a relatively low cost—which isn't an easy thing to do in a market where capable marksmen are only getting more expensive.
Free-agent signing information via ESPN.com's free agency tracker.