Every NBA Team's Biggest Offseason Regret
Every NBA team enters the offseason aiming for perfection, hoping it can look back on its regular-season furlough as one shaped by infallibly executed plans and tales of epic conquests and cotton-candy storylines.
Reality would now like to chime in for a minute.
Perfect summers are, by and large, a myth. Over the course of a typical offseason, every team will come to regret something it did or didn't do, or another thing that almost was but wasn't.
These nostalgic pangs are sometimes immaterial, just a blotch on an otherwise stellar summer. Think along the lines of the Boston Celtics not turning one of their bajillion first-round draft picks into a high lottery prospect or established impact player. Or the San Antonio Spurs landing LaMarcus Aldridge and re-signing Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili but failing to nab LeBron James at the veteran's minimum.
Other cases are more extreme—the Dallas Mavericks having but not really having DeAndre Jordan, for instance. Rehashing these past failures and what-ifs, however minor, can be difficult, sometimes unpleasant. But, as we cycle through the Association's minefield of offseason dirges, just remember things could be worse.
It could still be the middle of August, and opening night, now less than 40 days out, could still feel forever away.
Biggest regret: The NBA's collective bargaining agreement
I'm not one for calling NBA head coaches fibbers. And in the interest of remaining true to that moral ground, let's just say Mike Budenholzer's explanation of why the Atlanta Hawks couldn't keep both DeMarre Carroll and Paul Millsap is misleading.
From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Chris Vivlamore:
I don’t know if I would characterize it that you had to choose one or the other. It may just be word play, but ultimately there is not enough for everybody. I think we value DeMarre, and he was a big part of our success. We will miss him. But sometimes you have to make hard decisions. I guess it’s part of the NBA of having a good team and having players who play well and deserve opportunities. I don’t like to think of it as picking one over the other. I like to think of it as sometimes there is not enough for everything that you want.
Allow me to translate: The Hawks had to pick one or the other.
It wasn't as if they wanted to reach that point, for the record. The Hawks didn't own the Bird rights to Carroll and Millsap because both were coming off two-year deals, so they couldn't go over the cap to re-sign either of them. Thus, they had a decision to make: Sell off huge chunks of salary to make room for both Carroll and Millsap, or retain only one.
Well, Millsap is back in Atlanta, Carroll is now the Raptors' highest-paid player, and the starting five of a 60-win Hawks team has been dealt a huge blow. What a shame.
Biggest regret: Failing to consolidate assets
Can't find one or, in the case of the Brooklyn Nets, more of your team's future first-round picks? Check the office of Celtics president Danny Ainge.
Between 2016 and 2018, the Celtics could have as many as nine first-rounders, including their own. And that's after selecting twice in the opening round of this year's draft.
No rebuilding team needs that many picks—especially one that mustered a playoff berth in the wide-open Eastern Conference last season. The Celtics should be in consolidation mode, looking to turn their fully stocked draft-day cupboard, as well as their personnel logjam, into established impact players, disgruntled superstars or other prominently placed picks.
To Ainge's credit, that's actually what he's tried to do, albeit unsuccessfully. According to ESPN.com's Marc Stein, The Celtics are forever linked to DeMarcus Cousins, and according to ESPN.com's Chris Forsberg, they apparently offered the Charlotte Hornets six picks, including four first-rounders, for the right to draft Justise Winslow at No. 9.
At least Boston appears to be trying. But, when your biggest offseason additions are Amir Johnson and David Lee, merely trying isn't always comforting enough.
Biggest regret: The point guard situation
Cutting Deron Williams loose was a totally justifiable move by the Nets. He was clogging up their financial pipeline, and his pay grade hasn't matched his production since he first arrived in Brooklyn.
But the Nets' big follow-up to waiving Williams was signing Shane Larkin, who has just 124 games of NBA experience. Jarrett Jack is now their starting floor general, and he doesn't even rank in the top 30 at his position.
Continued playoff contention is still a priority in Brooklyn; otherwise the Nets wouldn't have thrown wads of cash at Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young in free agency. And while you can't fault them for not spending cap space they don't have on a high-end point man, their not-so-subtle short-term goals make you think something unsavory: They would have been better off keeping Williams for at least another year, cost be damned.
Biggest regret: Declining Boston's trade offer
So yeah, we're not letting this one go.
The Hornets passed on four first-rounders just to draft Frank Kaminsky. It doesn't matter which picks the Celtics offered. Declining that deal is not OK.
This isn't even about Kaminsky not being worth that price tag. He's a floor-spacing big in a floor-spacing big's league. If there was ever an era in which someone like him could set the NBA on fire, it's this one.
What the Hornets actually passed on is the chance to reconfigure an uneven roster. Though they need shooting, they didn't need it up front. Al Jefferson has good range for a center, Marvin Williams can fire away from deep, and they traded for Spencer Hawes.
Charlotte needs outside offense elsewhere—like at point guard, where Kemba Walker is a lifetime 31.8 percent shooter from deep. Or at shooting guard and small forward, where Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has drilled just three treys for his entire career.
Walking away from four first-rounders is inexcusable in the Hornets' situation. They've inexplicably embraced a short-term view with the acquisitions of Nicolas Batum, Tyler Hansbrough, Hawes, Kaminsky and Jeremy Lin, electing to take a stab at mediocrity over the prospect of building something better down the road.
Biggest regret: Enabling the frontcourt logjam
Rare is the team that laments what amounts to incredible depth. But the Chicago Bulls are special. They have too much frontcourt talent for their own good.
New head coach Fred Hoiberg won't be able to find adequate playing time for all of Pau Gasol, Taj Gibson, Doug McDermott, Nikola Mirotic and Joakim Noah. Rookie Bobby Portis better hope the Bulls break character and designate him for D-League action, lest his debut season consist solely of leaving derriere imprints on the bench.
Hoiberg could attempt to mitigate the damage by trotting out McDermott and Mirotic at small forward, but that's more of a last resort. Compared to the time they spent at the 4 last season, both players fared markedly worse at the 3, according to 82games.com.
There is but limited room for traditional bigs in Hoiberg's offense as well, which leaves much to be determined with Gasol, Gibson and Noah. They will see touches off pick-and-pops and slip screens, but only so much. And Gasol won't have the freedom to post up as often as he did last season (28.4 percent of the time).
Something will have to give eventually. The Bulls are prime candidates for a midseason blockbuster or two. But rather than let the logjam live on, even if only for a few months, they should have looked to address it before bruised egos and ill-fit lineups become part of the equation.
Biggest regret: Tristan Thompson saga
Tristan Thompson's foray into restricted free agency was supposed to be simple. The King of Ohio wants him back, and the Cleveland Cavaliers do not have the financial plasticity to sign outside replacements.
Alas, this entire situation has devolved into a full-fledged debacle.
"The Tristan Thompson contract talks are not progressing with the Cavs," wrote ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst. "It's pushing toward that qualifying offer. Thompson believes he will get max offers next summer. That's why he can tell the Cavs to offer him a max deal."
Signing his qualifying offer, playing out next season and entering unrestricted free agency in 2016 wouldn't preclude Thompson from returning to the Cavaliers. They could still offer him more money than any other team. But Thompson's agent, Rich Paul, told Sportsnet's Michael Grange that his client will leave Cleveland next summer if a max deal isn't hammered out now.
Maxing out Thompson would cost the Cavaliers more than $90 million over the next five years—before factoring in luxury taxes. They're currently offering the forward between $75 million and $80 million, per the Plain Dealer's Terry Pluto, which puts the two sides pretty far apart.
Regardless of what happens, the Cavaliers kind of, sort of lose. They either let Thompson sign his qualifying offer and wave goodbye to him next summer, or they shell out max money and pay up the wazoo in luxury taxes for a player who, on his own, isn't max material.
Biggest regret: Pursuing DeAndre Jordan
Investing time and a lucrative verbal commitment in Jordan seemed like a good idea for the Mavericks until it wasn't.
After agreeing to join forces with Wesley Matthews, Dirk Nowitzki and Chandler Parsons, Jordan pulled the Jersey Shore dip, returning to the Los Angeles Clippers amid a highly entertaining, albeit mostly manufactured, social-media rumpus.
Smart people know that hindsight is a luckless luxury. Time machines, to the best of my knowledge, aren't a thing yet. (If you have one, please email me at email@example.com). It's easy to say Dallas should have never chased Jordan now, when all is already said and done.
Still, courting Jordan cost the cap-rich Mavericks a shot at serenading other high-profile centers. Maybe they could have persuaded Tyson Chandler to stick around for less than the $52 million his new team, the Phoenix Suns, gave him. They could have, at minimum, grabbed face time with Marc Gasol, Brook Lopez and Robin Lopez. It could have been them, not the Los Angeles Lakers, who absorbed Roy Hibbert's contract from the Indiana Pacers.
Instead, the Mavericks devoted themselves to a lost cause, and the end result speaks for itself. Here's to the beginning of the JaVale McGee and Zaza Pachulia eras in Dallas.
Biggest regret: Not trading Ty Lawson sooner
Ty Lawson's trade value was at an all-time low when the Denver Nuggets sent him to the Houston Rockets. They only received a lottery-protected first-round pick and salary-cap flotsam, and they were probably lucky to get that much.
At the time, Lawson was fresh off his second DUI arrest in less than six months. And beyond that, as yours truly previously unpacked, it was no secret that his relationship with the Nuggets was damaged beyond repair, which left the organization with no leverage in negotiations.
Flipping him ahead of his most recent off-court problems, though, would have allowed Denver to net more for his services—as in, anything.
On the heels of last February's trade deadline, Bleacher Report's own Howard Beck revealed that Sacramento Kings head coach George Karl was smitten with the idea of obtaining Lawson. Had the Nuggets talked turkey with the Kings ahead of the trade deadline, or any time before Sacramento signed Rajon Rondo, they could have feasibly extracted more value out of their point guard.
I mean, we all saw what the Kings gave the Philadelphia 76ers just to open some cap space, right?
Biggest regret: Whiffing on Tobias Harris
Just so we're clear, the extent of this regret means the Detroit Pistons actually had a pretty good offseason. It just would have been so (read: sooooo) much better if they had poached Tobias Harris from the Orlando Magic.
Detroit, along with Boston, was initially considered a favorite to land the 23-year-old combo forward, according to RealGM. And had Orlando not been willing to throw him $64 million over the next four years, we might be left to talk about something else.
Harris would have been perfect for the Pistons. They lack individual shot creation outside of Reggie Jackson, and Harris has shown that, in addition to attacking off the dribble, he can play off the ball. He put in 38 percent of his catch-and-shoot triples last season, which made him an ideal complement for Jackson's drive-and-kicks and Andre Drummond's still-developing-but-also-defense-collapsing post-ups.
Coach and president Stan Van Gundy still pieced together an interesting small forward and stretch-4 rotation with the acquisitions of Ersan Ilyasova, Stanley Johnson and Marcus Morris. But the Pistons would have gone from fringe playoff hopeful to legitimate Eastern Conference threat with Harris.
So, we lament.
Golden State Warriors
Biggest regret: Losing Alvin Gentry to the New Orleans Pelicans
In the case of the Warriors, the rich didn't get richer. The super, ridiculously, unfathomably rich just stayed super, ridiculously, unfathomably rich.
Nitpicking naysayers do, however, have one foot—more like a shoddily crafted peg leg—on which to stand: The Warriors lost assistant head coach/offensive architect Alvin Gentry to a head coaching gig with the Pelicans. And that stings.
Gentry had a hand in some of the top offenses during recent years. He was an assistant with the efficiency-leading Clippers in 2013-14, and during his time as Phoenix's head coach between 2008 and 2013, the Suns ranked outside the top 10 in points scored per 100 possessions only once, in 2012-13, when Gentry was fired midseason.
Perhaps the Warriors don't miss a beat without Gentry. Their championship core is firmly intact, and they have everything they need to remain one of the league's premier point-piling machines.
Nevertheless, it's hardly ideal that one of the individuals responsible for their top-two offensive finish now calls another locker room home.
Biggest regret: Losing Josh Smith to the Clippers
Here's another great-team-stays-mostly-the-same situation.
Some might bemoan the loss of Kostas Papanikolaou, the intriguing small forward prospect out of Greece with the fun-sounding name. But he was the most valuable asset Houston gave up for Lawson. And Lawson is a fringe All-Star. There is no room for regret.
Josh Smith is the better bet. It's because of him that the Rockets outlasted the Clippers in Game 6 of their second-round playoff matchup, paving the way for a series-clinching victory in Game 7. And more than that, he represented frontcourt insurance Houston could still need.
Dwight Howard missed more games last season than through his first 10 campaigns combined. Donatas Motiejunas underwent season-ending back surgery just before the playoffs. Terrence Jones appeared in fewer contests than Howard did.
Smith was that extra body the Rockets could play at the 4 and 5 without worrying about compromising their defense. Opponents shot 4.2 percentage points below their season average when being defended by him, and, statistically, he ranked as a better rim protector than Anthony Davis, Andre Drummond and DeAndre Jordan, among so many others.
If the Rockets are anything but fully healthy, they're going to miss Smith.
Biggest regret: Deconstruction of a stingy defense
Forget about criticizing the Indiana Pacers for trying to get smaller and faster. They have the right idea. But their retooling project has come at the expense of defensive certainty, and that's unsettling.
Even amid his rapid fall from grace, Hibbert remained a staunch defender. Last season, he ranked fourth in opponent field-goal percentage at the rim among all players to contest five point-blank looks per game, trailing only Serge Ibaka, Rudy Gobert and Andrew Bogut. And now he's on the Lakers.
David West is gone, too. He left more than $10 million on the table to join the Spurs. Not known for his defense, he was a key part of a Pacers era founded upon first-rate points prevention.
Paul George is recognized as an elite perimeter defender, but he's still working his way back from a broken leg. There's truly no predicting how he'll fare during his first full season back.
Monta Ellis has only been a part of one team that's ranked inside the top half of defensive efficiency his entire career (2012-13 Milwaukee Bucks).
Maybe none of this will matter. The Pacers haven't ranked worse than 10th in points allowed per 100 possessions since 2010-11. Everything could be fine in the end. They just can't know for sure.
And that's the problem.
Los Angeles Clippers
Biggest regret: Hanging onto Jamal Crawford
Jamal Crawford's rumor mill seemed to reach DEFCON "He's Definitely Leaving" levels after Jordan broke bread with the Mavericks. Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders had the Clippers using him as bait to land another center. But then Jordan flip-flopped, and the chatter petered out.
Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe reported at the end of August that Los Angeles was still dangling Crawford in trade talks. This runs contrary to what head coach and president Doc Rivers told The Beast 980 in Los Angeles, per Dan Woike of the Orange County Register.
"Jamal's a Clipper," he said, "and I'd be very surprised if he's not a Clipper at season's end."
Right. Sure. High-fives and stuff.
Here are the facts: The Clippers now have two ball-handlers behind Chris Paul in Pablo Prigioni(!) and Austin Rivers. They added Wesley Johnson, Paul Pierce and Lance Stephenson to the perimeter rotation. J.J. Redick is still in town, too.
Playing time will be sparse for Crawford, who hasn't averaged fewer than 25 minutes per game in more than a decade. Chances are the rumor mill will reignite at some point this season, which would be an unnecessary distraction for a championship contender that should have nipped this awkward setup in the bud months ago.
Los Angeles Lakers
Biggest regret: Whatever the heck happened with Aldridge
Aldridge needed two meetings with the Lakers to shoot them down. That's both good and bad.
On the one hand, it says a lot about the Lakers' continued mystique that they were able to land multiple sitdowns with a coveted free agent. On the other hand, they didn't come out of that process looking particularly good.
Apparently, the Lakers, the first team to meet with Aldridge, didn't focus enough on basketball during the first go-round, according to ESPN.com's Baxter Holmes and Calvin Watkins. Months before free agency, ESPN.com ranked them as one of three analytics "non-believers," so, naturally, Aldridge's basketball critique helped feed firestorms of snark.
The Lakers have since revamped—and reintroduced—their analytics efforts to the public, per USA Today's Sam Amick, no doubt hoping to reverse outside perception. But for a franchise so heavily vested in rebuilding through free agency and attracting superstars, this typecasting, justified or not, doesn't help future offseason matters.
That is why the Aldridge hiccup, whatever it actually was, checks in as a bigger regret than the Lakers' inability to strike gold this summer.
Biggest regret: This whole hating three-pointers thing
Some teams aren't entirely aware of their biggest offseason regret, mostly because certain actions are so deliberate that they have no reason to lament them. The Memphis Grizzlies, czars of three-point aversion, are one of those teams.
Bleacher Report's Grant Hughes will now be grabbing the mic:
The NBA is increasingly a shooter's league, and the Grizzlies have been slower to acknowledge that fact than most. They finished 29th in three-point attempts per game last season, connecting on just 33.9 percent of their long balls. In the playoffs, the Warriors exposed the Grizzlies' lack of shooting, collapsing the paint and utterly ignoring Tony Allen on the perimeter.
To address the issue this past offseason, the Grizzlies went out and totally overhauled their perimeter rotation, adding a glut of shooters who'll surely space the floor and bring Memphis' offense into step with modern trends.
Kidding. They traded for Matt Barnes.
Memphis' defense will still be among the league's best. Re-signing Gasol and snatching up Brandan Wright assures it of that much.
Yet, after all these early playoff exits, with mountains of evidence to the contrary, the Grizzlies have yet to learn their lesson. Shooting matters.
Biggest regret: Staying in luxury-tax territory
Footing steep luxury-tax bills for a surefire championship-chaser is one thing. But the Heat's pursuit of a title in 2015 is not foolproof.
While promising on paper, they firmly fall into the "we might be contenders, so long as everything breaks right" category. And yet, as of now, they're taking a bath on the luxury-tax scale.
With $91.1 million in guaranteed contracts on the books, the Heat will be at least $6.4 million over the $84.7 million luxury threshold. And if they don't find a way to evade that line, they'll be penalized at the NBA's dreaded repeater rate, bringing their total tax bill north of $16.2 million.
Completely ducking the tax is admittedly still possible. Mario Chalmers' and Chris Andersen's expiring pacts should make for easy dumping, and Miami has loads of time before it's assessed any penalties.
For now, though, the Heat are slated to pay more than $105 million in player salaries and taxes—all for the right to field a collective maybe.
Biggest regret: Forging a starting lineup of non-shooters
Railing against the Bucks' decision to sign Greg Monroe is pointless. They ranked 25th in offensive efficiency last season and needed another threat. As someone who scored more points in the post than Milwaukee's entire team, Monroe qualifies as a legitimate threat.
But the Bucks' projected starting five is now almost devoid of outside shooting.
There is Monroe, who shot 37.2 percent outside five feet of the basket last season. There is Giannis Antetokounmpo, who shot 7-of-44 from beyond the arc and now avoids three-pointers by design.
There is Michael Carter-Williams, who is shooting 25.2 percent on deep balls for his career. There is Jabari Parker, who is working his way back from an ACL injury and isn't known for his long-ball acumen.
Khris Middleton, who found nylon on 40.7 percent of his treys last year, is the Bucks' only projected starter with a proven three-point touch. Even if you're counting on O.J. Mayo and Greivis Vasquez to torch twine off the bench, Milwaukee's opening-tip arrangement figures to be an offensive problem all season.
Biggest regret: Endorsing epic logjams
For the most part, the Minnesota Timberwolves did what they needed to do over the summer. They drafted another cornerstone in Karl-Anthony Towns, re-signed Kevin Garnett to a two-year, please-stay-and-growl-at-our-youngsters deal and didn't ask the mothership to come bring Andrew Wiggins home.
These are all good things. The Timberwolves didn't need to make a ton of changes. They're not ready to contend for championships, but their futures lies with talent already on the roster.
Now, about that roster...here's a look at Minnesota's pre-training-camp depth chart:
|Ricky Rubio||Kevin Martin||Andrew Wiggins||Kevin Garnett||Karl-Anthony Towns|
|Andre Miller||Zach LaVine||Shabazz Muhammad||Adreian Payne||Gorgui Dieng|
|Tyus Jones||Tayshaun Prince||Anthony Bennett||Nikola Pekovic|
|Lorenzo Brown||Damjan Rudez||Nemanja Bjelica|
Roster cuts will need to be made for the regular season, and interim head coach Sam Mitchell isn't about to start Andre Miller over Ricky Rubio. But this is too much.
Veterans such as Kevin Martin, Miller, Nikola Pekovic and Tayshaun Prince shouldn't even be on the ledger, if only so an innate obligation to give them even some playing time doesn't creep up. And it's not like the Timberwolves need them to be mentors. That's why they have Garnett.
No team is about to bite on the three years and $35.8 million remaining on Pekovic's deal, and Miller might be able to help Rubio. But with so many Timberpups in need of extensive exposure, Minnesota's current depth chart could end up being disingenuous overkill.
New Orleans Pelicans
Biggest regret: Failing to clone Anthony Davis Re-signing Omer Asik
Look, clearly the Pelicans don't regret re-signing Omer Asik. It was their decision, after all. They can't sing the blues over someone they voluntarily chose to keep.
Five years and $58 million is entirely too much for Asik. Especially when he doesn't fit Alvin Gentry's uptempo offense and especially when the Pelicans handed $20 million to backup center Alexis Ajinca.
Ajinca, not Asik, is the better complement to the NBA's new overlord, Anthony Davis. The Pelicans outscored opponents by 10.4 points per 100 possessions when Ajinca and Davis shared the floor. With the caveat of knowing Asik and Davis spent more time together, New Orleans was a less impressive plus-4.6 when that dyad took the court.
Retaining Asik also means the Pelicans have some cap-clearing to do before enjoying max space in time for next summer's free-agency bonanza. They have the most attractive building block in the league on which to sell star free agents such as Kevin Durant, and they need to make the most of this recruiting window.
New York Knicks
Biggest regret: Striking out on free-agent whales
The New York Knicks had a pretty good offseason by most standards. Robin Lopez isn't Marc Gasol, and Kyle O'Quinn isn't LaMarcus Aldridge, but the Knicks spent their money wisely in free agency, and it's reflected in their depth chart.
Pairing Carmelo Anthony with another superstar has been the primary goal since Phil Jackson took over as team president, though. Why else would a rebuilding team such as the Knicks hand an over-30 Anthony a near-max deal in 2014?
Ostensibly shifting course on a whim deserves positive recognition, but the absence of a second superstar has opened the hearsay floodgates.
If ESPN's Stephen A. Smith isn't claiming that Anthony is trying like mad to pitch Durant on New York (via CBS Sports' James Herbert), Grantland's Zach Lowe is intimating that the Knicks and their All-Star forward could move toward a mutual separation by way of trade.
Until the Knicks either have their next superstar or make it unmistakably clear they plan on rebuilding from the ground up, with or without Anthony, they will remain rumor-mill fixtures. And given how much progress they've made, going as far as drafting a long-term project in Kristaps Porzingis, that's unfortunate.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Biggest regret: Matching the Portland Trail Blazers' offer sheet for Enes Kanter
Fancy this. The Pelicans have a commiserating partner.
Forking over $70 million for Enes Kanter wasn't a good move by the Oklahoma City Thunder. Sure, they couldn't spend that money on anyone else. And yes, matching Portland's offer sheet proved that the Thunder were willing to dip into the luxury tax, which is a good message to send with Durant speeding toward free agency. But they're wasting that message on the wrong player.
[Insert obligatory James Harden reference here.]
Kanter isn't a good fit for the Thunder. Their defense was noticeably worse with him in the game last season, and he cannot play without Steven Adams or Serge Ibaka, both of whom are best suited at Kanter's position (center).
Above all else, Kanter is valued for his offense, for what he can do with the ball in hands. And rumor has it Durant and Russell Westbrook like to have the ball in their hands, thus marginalizing Kanter's greatest asset—the same redundant asset that will cost Oklahoma City $70 million over the next four years.
Biggest regret: Trading Moe Harkless for...absolutely nothing
Moe Harkless clearly didn't have a future in Orlando. He averaged just 15 minutes per game last season, and playing time would have been even harder to come by in 2015-16 with Evan Fournier, Harris and Mario Hezonja all on the roster.
It's not like Harkless' trade stock was unbelievably high, either. He has never posted an above-average player efficiency rating, and the Magic didn't need him. But he's still a first-round pick whom the team gave away.
Portland technically sent a second-round pick to Orlando, but it's slotted for 2020. It's also protected for selections 31 to 55—almost the entire second round. Ergo, the Magic shipped out Harkless for nothing.
Indeed, if that's all there is to truly fuss over, they're doing something right. The Magic, much like the Timberwolves, have their foundation for the future in place. But they're also selling fans on a playoff chase next season, per the Orlando Sentinel's Brian Schmitz. And teams hoping to win now don't offload first-round prospects for artificial rights to a second-round pick.
Biggest regret: Missing out on D'Angelo Russell
Jahlil Okafor is a fantastic NBA prospect.
I repeat: Okafor is a fantastic prospect.
This has less to do with him and more to do with the Sixers' needs. Okafor gives them three centers. And even though Joel Embiid's debut has been delayed another year, Philadelphia will still need Nerlens Noel and Okafor, centers by craft, to function as power forwards for long stretches.
Then, when Embiid returns in 2016-17, the Sixers will have three star-level 5s crammed into their rotation. They can try to trade away one or two of their big men, but that's incredibly inconvenient—not mention insanely difficult this early into their careers, when the Sixers don't have a strong grasp on their ceilings.
Lucking into D'Angelo Russell during this year's draft would have made things easier. The Sixers actually need a point guard. They traded Carter-Williams at last February's deadline and are now left to throw out some combination of Isaiah Canaan, Kendall Marshall and Tony Wroten Jr.
Biggest regret: This Markieff Morris nonsense
According to AZCentral.com's Paul Coro, Markieff Morris' standoff with the Suns can be summed up as follows: Morris wants out of Phoenix, in large part because the team traded his brother, Marcus Morris, to the Pistons. The Suns, however, have no plans to move the remaining Morris twin.
Right now, this appears to be a marriage beyond saving. It's also not clear if the Suns could have prevented anything. They were well within their rights to split up Marcus and Markieff.
At the same time, you have to question the Suns' handling of players in general. They took forever to re-sign Eric Bledsoe last summer, and they dealt away Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas under less-than-cordial circumstances ahead of the trade deadline. On top of that, Marcus has freely lambasted the Phoenix organization since arriving in Detroit.
Worst of all, this Markieff disaster looks like it will follow the Suns into next season. And that's a bad look for everyone involved.
Portland Trail Blazers
Biggest regret: Free-falling out of contention
Four members of the Blazers' everyday starting five from last season will be suiting up for new teams in 2015. That's quite the demolition, one that has left a 51-win (fringe) contender to exist at the bottom of the NBA's food chain.
There is nonetheless something almost reassuring about the deliberateness with which the Blazers carried themselves this summer. They didn't beg Aldridge to sign with San Antonio, but they also didn't desperately overpay Matthews and Lopez to stay. And it was their decision to trade Batum to the Hornets.
Portland is prepared for this rebuild. Damian Lillard is under contract through 2020-21. Meyers Leonard is just the ninth player to post 50/40/90 shooting slashes through 800 minutes of action. C.J. McCollum spent time working out with future Hall of Famer Steve Nash over the summer, per the Oregonian's Mike Richman.
All of that matters. But so, too, does the twinge of longing Portland will feel during the regular season, when the Blazers are mentioned alongside bottom-feeders instead of contenders.
Biggest regret: Anything related to George Karl and DeMarcus Cousins
The Kings were hardly the billboard for franchise harmony before now. But the he-said, he-said shenanigans involving DeMarcus Cousins and Karl have been especially discomforting.
Rumors exist in volume at this point, to the degree that it's become common practice for those involved to address them publicly.
"We have a lot of time to get back on the same page," Karl said in August, per Washburn. "Summer talk and summer drama, I’ve always thought, is hype and so much of it is untrue. I’m not going to get into it but Cous and I have to work together to get back to together, and we will."
That Karl even had to acknowledge there were issues between him and Cousins paints an ominous picture of the team's inner workings. There are even some, like Beck, who have since heard that Karl still wants to trade Cousins.
Hopefully, for the Kings' sake, these tenuous circumstances, exaggerated or otherwise, dissipate soon. They haven't cleared 30 victories since 2007-08 or made the playoffs since 2005-06, and they sorely need to justify their offseason decision to sell off Nik Stauskas and first-round goodies for the right to sign Marco Belinelli, Kosta Koufos and Rondo.
San Antonio Spurs
Biggest regret: Literally nothing—except maybe realizing that Duncan cannot, in fact, play forever
Signed Aldridge? Check.
Re-signed Danny Green? (And that Kawhi Leonard guy.) Check.
Kept Duncan and Ginobili at unimaginable discounts? Check.
There's absolutely nothing to dislike about the Spurs' offseason. Nothing at all.
Pessimistic Pamelas might argue that signing Aldridge cost San Antonio valuable role players such as Belinelli, Cory Joseph and Tiago Splitter. But the Spurs have enough shooting to replace Belinelli, Patty Mills negates Joseph's departure, and David West is a bargain for the veteran's minimum.
Talk of Aldridge failing to fit in, both on and off the court, is even overblown. As Lowe so eloquently explained: "I mean, these are the Spurs! Gregg Popovich has already reinvented them at least twice over, and their team-first ethos, from Duncan on down the roster, gets all kinds of personalities pulling in the same direction."
Active dynasties tend to inoculate themselves against extensive criticism. They can even be mythologized to some degree. But not these Spurs. They're perfectly prepared for what comes next, just like always.
Biggest regret: Complicating their presumed chase of Kevin Durant
Signing Jonas Valanciunas to an extension and making Carroll their highest-paid player puts the Raptors in financial limbo when looking ahead to next summer.
They, like most teams, will have ample wiggle room. But with $56.4 million in guaranteed salary on the books, creating enough space to offer Durant a max contract won't be easy.
Durant's next deal will pay him around $25.5 million in its first year, per Lowe. Strictly tacking that onto the $56.4 million figure would suggest the Raptors are fine. But they also need to consider DeMar DeRozan's free agency, as well as Terrence Ross' restricted free agency.
DeRozan could exercise his player option worth just over $10 million, which would ensure Toronto doesn't have to go on a contract purge. Then again, if Carroll, a career role player, is starting out at $13.6 million in 2015-16, an All-Star like DeRozan will almost assuredly scour the market for more than $10 million.
To be sure, the Raptors didn't do anything wrong here. They'll wind up saving money on Valanciunas' deal in the long run, and Carroll is a good get. Should he hit the open market, DeRozan's cap hold will also be less than $15.1 million until he signs a new contract, and Toronto can unload other players to squeeze Durant in under the cap.
Most importantly, it's not as if Durant is a lock to join the Raptors. Plenty of other teams will be vying for his services. Toronto just now has more obstacles to clear before becoming one of them.
Biggest regret: Dante Exum's ACL injury
Dante Exum is expected to miss all of 2015-16 after suffering a torn ACL, and though the should-be sophomore posted a PER of only 5.7 during his rookie season, he was an integral part of the Utah Jazz's defensive success.
In the 29 games following the trade deadline, the Jazz maintained a league-best defense, and it wasn't even close. And not only was their defense even better with Exum on the floor during that time, but he recorded a better net rating than Trey Burke, Gordon Hayward, Rodney Hood and Gobert.
Alec Burks' return and Hood's quasi-late-season breakout should help soften the blow of Exum's absence. The Jazz can also hope the third year is a charm for Burke.
Still, this is a Utah team that's supposed to be growing together—one that, based on its performance after moving Kanter, could contend for a playoff spot immediately. And now the Jazz are charged with living up to that post-trade-deadline status without an important part of both their present and future.
Biggest regret: Losing Paul Pierce to the Clippers
If we're being honest, there was probably nothing the Washington Wizards could do about Pierce's decision to bolt for the Clippers. That warm and fuzzy storyline wrote itself.
Pierce was born in Oakland. He attended high school in Inglewood. He played under Rivers for nine years in Boston. Those two won a championship together. The Clippers were one win away from a Western Conference Finals appearance, while the Wizards were two away from an Eastern Conference Finals bid and the rights to be throttled by the Cavaliers.
But the inevitability of Pierce's departure doesn't make it any less difficult to accept. The Wizards rebounded nicely, picking up Jared Dudley and drafting Kelly Oubre Jr., but Pierce was crucial to their small-ball lineups during the latter half of the season.
Among all Washington players to appear in more than one playoff tilt, he ranked second in win shares per 48 minutes, averaging more than both Bradley Beal and John Wall. So no matter how you slice it, losing Pierce—even a soon-to-be 38-year-old Pierce—is big.
Washington can only hope that some combination of Dudley, Oubre and Otto Porter turns his departure into something resembling a non-issue.