NBA Offseason Grade for Every Team
September is here, which means the frenzy of free agency is done and that NBA training camps are right around the corner. After months in a fluid state, we have a solid picture of every team's offseason moves.
In August, we handed out a mark for each club's performance in free agency, focusing only on signings and departures while ignoring the draft and trades. Everything's fair game now, and in some cases, the broader scope will improve a low mark. In others, non-free-agent moves will send grades in the wrong direction.
We're evaluating teams on whom they added and subtracted while considering each organization's resources and opportunities. Not everybody had a chance to sign LeBron James, for example. Long-term goals and overall team-building visions vary across the league, so there will be cases in which inaction (in the interest of preserving space for a 2019 spending spree) may be a positive.
As we gear up for a new year, we can finally take stock of how all 30 teams put themselves together (or took themselves apart) over the summer.
The Worst of the Worst
Cleveland Cavaliers: F
If you're persuaded LeBron James' exit was a foregone conclusion, you still have to acknowledge that the Cleveland Cavaliers helped create that situation. A rocky relationship between the star and team owner Dan Gilbert, as well as a roster that wasn't ready to contend, made James' decision easier than it otherwise might have been. In that sense, Cleveland bears some blame for his departure.
Collin Sexton was a reasonable pick at No. 8 in June, but it remains to be seen whether he's a franchise pillar or merely a serviceable point guard. At least he'll have shooting and veteran influences around him as he adjusts to running an NBA offense. Sam Dekker, Channing Frye and David Nwaba, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com, join Collins as newcomers.
Aside from James' departure, Kevin Love's new four-year, $120 million extension stands out as the most impactful move. Why Cleveland felt compelled to give Love a deal that'll pay him like a star into his mid-30s is a mystery, particularly when Love would have been much easier to trade on his old deal. It's not like Love had the Cavs over a barrel. There's a decent chance his contract proves immovable and becomes known as one of the worst deals in the league.
Sacramento Kings: F
The best thing that happened to the Sacramento Kings this summer was the Chicago Bulls' decision to match that ridiculous four-year, $78 million offer sheet for Zach LaVine. It's not exactly a positive sign when another team's bad choice bails you out of your own.
Taking Marvin Bagley III was a mistake with Luka Doncic still on the board, and if the Kings knew they wanted Bagley, they could have easily traded down and added an asset to get their guy. We know the Dallas Mavericks were open to moving their 2019 first-rounder...because they did. Why couldn't the Kings have beaten Atlanta to the punch and pocketed an awesome asset for their trouble?
Nemanja Bjelica and Yogi Ferrell are upgrades, but neither has significant potential to improve. And Bjelica figures to spend a lot of time out of position at the 3. Sacramento's small forward spot might be the weakest single position in the league.
Considering they don't have their first-round pick in 2019, you would have thought they might prioritize adding a first-rounder.
The Kings still have cap space and several expiring contracts, luxuries that could allow them to swing deals during the season. But this is a grade for the offseason, and Sacramento's stunk.
Charlotte Hornets: D-
Rather than take on Timofey Mozgov's 2018-19 and 2019-20 salary (which they flipped into two years and $34 million for Bismack Biyombo), the Charlotte Hornets could have bought out Dwight Howard. And rather than sign Tony Parker to a two-year deal for $10 million over two years, Charlotte could have grabbed a better player—think Shabazz Napier, Seth Curry or Ferrell—for far less money.
At least the second year on Parker's contract isn't guaranteed.
Miles Bridges, taken 12th after Charlotte got two second-rounders from the Clippers to move down one spot, will go a long way toward determining the offseason's success. If No. 11 pick Shai Gilgeous-Alexander develops in L.A., the Hornets will have made a major mistake—and at a position of need if Kemba Walker bolts in free agency.
New head coach James Borrego is an unknown, as his short interim tenure with the Orlando Magic doesn't tell us much about how he'll differ from the departed Steve Clifford.
Several of Charlotte's moves felt like obvious mistakes, and there's not one that stands out as a clear win.
San Antonio Spurs: D
Over a barrel, the San Antonio Spurs got DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a 2019 first-rounder that may morph into two second-rounders for Kawhi Leonard. Maybe their leverage was more depleted than anyone knew, but to move Leonard (and Danny Green!) without getting younger talent like OG Anunoby or Pascal Siakam in return felt like a blunder.
The Spurs committed instead to staying competitive in the short term.
They also wisely let Kyle Anderson and Parker walk, opening up more time for 25-year-old Davis Bertans, Bryn Forbes (also 25) and Dejounte Murray (turns 22 in mid-September). At least in that way, San Antonio is skewing younger. Marco Belinelli's two-year, $12 million contract is hard to understand, especially with wing alternatives like Treveon Graham going for the minimum.
Finally, Manu Ginobili's retirement cast a pall over the entire summer. The NBA is a darker place without him Eurostepping through it.
Phoenix Suns: D+
I guess the Phoenix Suns have had enough of tanking.
Veteran additions Trevor Ariza and Ryan Anderson figure to see significant time alongside Devin Booker—newly rich, thanks to a five-year, $158 million extension—Josh Jackson and top overall pick Deandre Ayton. Whether that group is good enough to crack .500 remains to be seen, but it seems clear the Suns aren't angling for another spot atop the lottery.
That might be a mistake, as Booker remains a one-way player who has yet to demonstrably prove he can make teammates better. He's also 21 years old, getting better and a clear top-option scorer. There's ample time for him to live up to his contract. Still, the Suns could use another difference-maker prospect before they commit to going for it with this group.
New head coach Igor Kokoskov is well-regarded but unproven in this particular job and at this level of competition.
Finally—and maybe this is just personal preference—but the Suns may have erred by passing on Doncic with the top pick. Ayton might have been a no-brainer in the days of conventional pick-and-roll defense, but in a league increasingly prizing versatility, skill and shooting, Doncic profiles as the more sensible modern option.
The C-Minus Crew
The Miami Heat kept sniper Wayne Ellington on a one-year deal worth $6.3 million and upgraded Derrick Jones from a two-way contract to a standard NBA agreement. Other than that, the Heat did nothing.
Capped out and bereft of picks, Miami's options were limited. If the itch had been strong enough, the Heat could have shaken up a roster made stagnant by all the mid-tier contracts they handed out in 2017. Or, if the opportunity had been there, Miami could have cut ties with Hassan Whiteside—though that would have likely required sending out draft assets the Heat were already short on.
It'd be easy to say Miami did fine under the limiting circumstances it found itself in...but this team is responsible for its own constraints. It created this inertia. If there's not a franchise-altering trade on the horizon, the Heat are in for a few years on the mediocrity treadmill.
Not a lot to see here, as the Detroit Pistons' big moves included replacing Stan Van Gundy with Dwane Casey and some uninspiring veteran shuffling on the fringes of the rotation.
Anthony Tolliver's departure may hurt, but he wasn't going to make or break the season. If Glenn Robinson III can give Detroit decent shooting on the wing, he'll replace much of what Tolliver provided—albeit at a different position.
The Pistons had little flexibility because of major commitments to Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson. Relative inactivity was the expectation. Of course, when you're a lottery team trying to win 40 games while hoping for the eighth seed, inactivity is still disappointing.
Tolliver shot 43.6 percent from deep last year, a conversion rate he almost certainly won't match with the Minnesota Wolves. He's still a reliable source of threes, though, as evidenced by his career mark of 37.6 percent.
His fit is strange, as the Wolves badly needed wing depth and addressed it by signing a player best utilized at power forward. That's where Tom Thibodeau favorite Taj Gibson tends to soak up minutes and finish games.
If rookies Josh Okogie and Keita Bates-Diop pan out, they could shore up the wing spots behind Jimmy Butler and Andrew Wiggins. But Bates-Diop might be more of a 4, and though Okogie's athleticism and defensive potential could endear him to Thibs, we're still talking about a rookie here. Those guys don't tend to get fair shakes from Thibodeau.
In the end, Minnesota had a clear need on the wing and didn't directly address it.
Dwight Howard should be out of chances by now, but the Washington Wizards saw fit to give him one more. It only cost them $5 million, but the real toll may come in the locker room.
John Wall and Bradley Beal have had their differences, nobody's ever gotten along with Howard, and now Austin Rivers is also in the mix. There's talent here, but the potential for things to go off the rails from a chemistry standpoint is immense. Somebody get Scott Brooks a raise.
You can't spell combustible without a C.
The Philadelphia 76ers were one of a handful of teams with the resources to go star hunting, which is what head coach Brett Brown indicated they'd do in free agency.
There was some roster turnover in Philly, as Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala (both acquired via trade) came aboard to absorb minutes vacated by Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova. But other than those acquisitions, the Sixers merely retained JJ Redick, TJ McConnell and Amir Johnson.
The Bryan Colangelo mess was a bad look, and Zhaire Smith may not see much action following a Jones fracture in his left foot.
On balance, the Sixers had resources that went untapped and ran into a combination of dysfunction and bad luck. This is still a potential top-three team in the East, just as it was a year ago. But it's hard to escape the feeling that Philly missed an opportunity to improve.
Decidedly Average (C)
The Houston Rockets got marginally worse, and that's a problem for a club that was a hair's breadth away from a Finals trip last season. A tiny step backward could mean they're not serious contenders anymore.
James Ennis and Carmelo Anthony aren't as valuable as Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute, particularly on defense. And when you consider the switching scheme that Houston deployed to great effect against the Warriors, it's difficult to overstate the loss of two wings custom-made for that exact strategy.
Clint Capela's five-year deal will be worth $80 million to 90 million depending on which incentives he reaches. It counts as team-friendly regardless and will age far better than the four-year, $160 million pact the Rockets struck with Chris Paul.
Houston also moved on from Ryan Anderson, trading him and rookie De'Anthony Melton to the Suns for Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss, two intriguing flyers. Knight, coming off a torn ACL, might be washed. And Chriss has shown no signs of delivering on his draft pedigree.
The Rockets spent big but might not have spent enough. Such is life in the era of Warriors dominance.
Wendell Carter looks like a guy who'll start for years in Chicago, but it's hard to know how much credit to give a team for picking the guy everyone knew should come off the board at No. 7 overall. All it really proves is the Bulls were on board with the consensus.
Matching a four-year, $78 million offer sheet for Zach LaVine was a mistake. Chicago could have let him become the Sacramento Kings' overpaid, defense-averse problem, but perhaps the team wasn't willing to let the key piece of the Jimmy Butler deal walk for nothing. David Nwaba left for the minimum, which means the Bulls lost one of their best backcourt values and kept one of their worst.
Jabari Parker is a fine risk-reward play at two years and $40 million, as Chicago has a team option on that second season. That's a gamble worth taking on a former No. 2 pick with top-option scorer upside.
Los Angeles Lakers
Landing LeBron James should have given the Los Angeles Lakers a surefire "A," but virtually everything they did after adding the league's best player dragged the overall mark down. Well, almost everything. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is a fine signing at one year and $12 million.
Lance Stephenson, Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee, Michael Beasley—all non-spacing vets who come with baggage.
If the Lakers are insistent on planning for 2019, that's their prerogative. Waiting a year for the Warriors to possibly come undone is a defensible strategy, and having James around only ups the free-agent appeal. They may get a better crack at building a superteam in a year. But James is entering his 16th season and has been to the Finals eight straight times. He may be superhuman, but nobody's prime lasts forever
There's a chance the Lakers' decision to treat 2018-19 as a stopgap goes down as a massive mistake. It may be the last truly great year of James' career, and they may be wasting it.
Portland Trail Blazers
Why replace Shabazz Napier and Pat Connaughton with Seth Curry and Nik Stauskas?
Why let Ed Davis, a vet vocally beloved by both Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, walk?
Why commit four years and $48 million (in a market suddenly hostile toward centers) to Jusuf Nurkic, a throwback big man who shouldn't see the floor against the West's best undersized playoff lineups?
The Portland Trail Blazers got swept out of the first round last season and didn't improve over the summer. Particularly glaring was the team's refusal to address its lack of forward depth. Rookie Anfernee Simons might pop, but if he doesn't, it looks like another year fighting for a playoff spot as Lillard wonders whether he might have a better chance to win big elsewhere.
The Atlanta Hawks were busy this offseason, adding Jeremy Lin, dumping Dennis Schroder as part of a deal that also made Carmelo Anthony one of the shortest-tenured Hawks in history, trading Mike Muscala, hiring Lloyd Pierce to replace Mike Budenholzer, and snagging Kevin Huerter at No. 19 in the draft.
But combine all of that, and it still doesn't matter as much as the deal the Hawks struck on draft night.
If Luka Doncic is a superstar and Trae Young isn't, the Hawks will regret this offseason for years. Atlanta dealt Doncic to the Mavs for Young and a top-five protected first-rounder in 2019. Picking up an additional first just for moving down two spots sounds fantastic, but the particulars of this scenario make it a massive risk.
It could pay off if Young is a cornerstone, but his summer-league play revealed the exact shortcomings his detractors worried about. Lacking burst and struggling to create separation, clean looks were hard to come by for Young. He flashed excellent passing vision, but if he can't generate his own offense from the perimeter, Young is in for a rough ride.
Rather than cop out and wait until we know more about the Doncic-Young dynamic, we're going with an average grade. At the very least, the Hawks followed a clear vision under GM Travis Schlenk by adding assets and signing up for a deliberate rebuild. Most clubs skip steps, so kudos to the Hawks for what appears to be extreme patience.
Good Enough to Hang on the Fridge
Boston Celtics: B-
Marcus Smart's four-year, $52 million contract might be a slight overpay, but the Boston Celtics couldn't afford to lose an elite defender with playmaking skills—not when they're primed for contention.
It was probably a mistake to give Aron Baynes a second guaranteed year (two years, $11 million) in today's deflated center market, but he'll also be a rotation mainstay behind Al Horford. As was the case with Smart, Baynes' value to Boston's "right now" push probably influenced how much the team was willing to pay.
Otherwise, Boston did little.
No. 27 pick Robert Williams wasted no time validating critics who questioned his maturity. He slept through his introductory conference call and wasn't at Boston's first summer-league practice because he missed his flight. Until he proves otherwise, it seems fair to assume he's not serious about being a professional.
Perhaps Boston's decision not to take a big swing for the first time in a few summers creates a sense of disappointment. But this contender didn't need to get much better.
Memphis Grizzlies: B
It's scary to imagine what a slower Kyle Anderson might look like (would time start to move in reverse?), but that's effectively what the Memphis Grizzlies signed up for by inking him to a four-year deal that'll cover the latter half of Anderson's 20s.
Slow-Mo is a smart passer and a good defender, but he won't spread the floor, and the aging curve might be cruel. At $37 million total, Memphis probably could have done more with its money.
Garrett Temple is a nice get on the cheap. Brought over from the Kings for dead money and a pick, he'll defend on the wing, hit open threes (39.2 percent in a badly cramped Kings offense last year) and bring professionalism to an already stable and vet-heavy locker room.
Memphis' biggest move of the offseason was drafting Jaren Jackson Jr. at No. 4, a pick that looked brilliant almost immediately, as Jackson canned eight threes in his first summer-league game.
Jackson profiles as a modern 5, capable of switching across several positions, defending the rim and spacing the floor. He's got lots of growing to do, but the Grizzlies seem to have reeled in a keeper. As the Mike Conley-Marc Gasol era peters out, the Grizzlies now have a bridge to the future.
Milwaukee Bucks: B
Brook Lopez at $3.4 million represented one of the offseason's best signings, and new head coach Mike Budenholzer should easily constitute the biggest coaching upgrade made by any team.
If the Milwaukee Bucks had stopped there, we might be talking about a grade in the "A" range. But three years and $21 million is a bit rich for Ersan Ilyasova, and No. 17 overall pick Donte DiVincenzo feels like a reach fueled by an over-his-head NCAA tournament performance.
Pat Connaughton came aboard on a two-year deal for the minimum, and he could offer serviceable play in a pinch.
There's also Jabari Parker to consider. Rather than cave and commit to a player with a long injury history, little defensive interest and a clunky fit alongside megastar Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks simply let Parker walk for nothing. That's something few organizations have the stones to do with a No. 2 overall pick, and it speaks to the sort of rational front-office approach that you hope to see from good teams. It was the right decision, but it must have been difficult.
New York Knicks: B
Kevin Knox generated buzz with a summer-league performance that revealed more offensive versatility than expected, and Mitchell Robinson turned in one of the defining highlights of the offseason: an all-over-the-floor defensive sequence that illustrated the 7-footer's speed, length and hustle. Maybe the New York Knicks won't wind up with the steal of the 2018 draft, but they've got two excellent cracks at it.
David Fizdale might or might not be an upgrade over Jeff Hornacek, but he's definitely a breath of fresh air. That counts for something.
If Mario Hezonja resurrects his career, everyone will be excited. But the Knicks only signed him to a one-year deal, which means stellar play from the former lottery pick could generate a price tag too high to pay in 2019, when New York plans to hunt big free-agent game.
Orlando Magic: B
Aaron Gordon looks like a bargain at four years and $80 million, though the Orlando Magic will have to sort out a crowded frontcourt that also includes Jonathan Isaac and Mo Bamba to get the most out of him at the 4.
Orlando didn't sufficiently address the point guard spot, which has been an issue for years. D.J. Augustin looks like the starter, and that puts a cap on the Magic's potential. Maybe Jerian Grant, acquired from Chicago, will make a difference.
New head coach Steve Clifford will get Orlando to take care of the ball and control the defensive glass. Charlotte, Clifford's last team, was always excellent in both areas, leading the league in 2017-18. Orlando, in contrast, ranked dead last in rebound rate and 17th in turnover percentage a year ago. Clifford is the perfect hire to get this team to clean up the little things.
Indiana Pacers: B+
Victor Oladipo needed help, and the Pacers got him some.
Last season, the Indiana Pacers' offensive rating dipped by six points whenever Oladipo sat, so Tyreke Evans and Doug McDermott were badly needed additions. Sure, Indiana could have taken a big swing at someone on the restricted market, perhaps getting in the mix for Aaron Gordon.
But Evans profiles as a terrific creator alongside or in relief of Oladipo, and McDermott's gravity will open driving lanes. The offense should improve, and at a modest cost that doesn't totally hamstring Indiana going forward.
The Pacers could have gone for broke if they'd declined guarantees on Darren Collison and Bojan Bogdanovic, but both played important roles on last year's 48-win team, and both come off the books in 2019 anyway. Aaron Holiday (No. 23 overall) and Alize Johnson (50) offer youth but may not see minutes on a deeper Pacers team that won't miss Al Jefferson, Glen Robinson III or Lance Stephenson.
Kyle O'Quinn is a quality player, but his fit is a bit strange on a team that already has Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis ready to eat up minutes at the 5. His beard remains lustrous.
Denver Nuggets: B
The salary dumps cloud an otherwise stellar offseason, as the Denver Nuggets' proximity to the luxury tax meant they had to shed Kenneth Faried, Darrell Arthur and Wilson Chandler with picks attached. Those were financial moves dictated by ownership, not basketball decisions.
The decision to retain Nikola Jokic for five years and $148 million was easy, and there's a lot to like about Isaiah Thomas on a minimum deal. Will Barton is probably overpaid; four years and $53 million is too much for a player best utilized as a bench spark plug.
Finally, Denver's willingness to take a flier on Michael Porter Jr. at No. 14 works as a high-upside play. The Nuggets probably need another star to get this core into the contender conversation, and though Porter's health is a question mark, he's got a better shot at reaching that level than anyone drafted in the middle of the first round.
Utah Jazz: B
The Utah Jazz made sure Dante Exum's leap, if it's coming, wouldn't happen on someone else's roster, inking the injury-plagued but promising guard to a three-year deal worth $33 million. Continuing their efforts to keep the band together, the Jazz also kept Derrick Favors, Raul Neto and Georges Niang around on new deals. Favors' contract, which includes just one guaranteed year, gives Utah significant flexibility.
Grayson Allen may struggle to crack the rotation with Exum, Ricky Rubio, Donovan Mitchell, Alec Burks, Joe Ingles and Neto in line to do most of the playmaking in the backcourt, but the No. 21 overall pick's passing, shooting and experience should render him playable if the opportunity arises.
Utah was quietly the best team in the league for half of the 2017-18 season. Over their final 41 games, the Jazz posted a league-leading plus-9.8 net rating, a figure fueled by tremendous defense. That's half the year!
The Jazz were wise to trust in-house growth. This team didn't need to make many changes.
New Orleans Pelicans: B+
The New Orleans Pelicans showed restraint by letting DeMarcus Cousins go without making a reckless offer, and that judicious approach (which ran the risk of upsetting superstar Anthony Davis) allowed them to haul in Julius Randle on a two-year, $17 million contract.
Randle is an imperfect player. Prone to tunnel vision and a suspect shooter, the 23-year-old forward is still a terrific fit in the Pelicans' uptempo attack. There aren't many better grab-and-go bigs than Randle, who treats defenders like bowling pins when he's got a head of steam and is a better passer than you think—as long as he takes the time to survey the floor. He can slot in as a small-ball center on second units or occupy a frontcourt spot alongside Davis or Nikola Mirotic.
Elfrid Payton is a cheaper facsimile of Rajon Rondo, whom New Orleans was also wise to let walk.
The Pels avoided the pitfall of keeping unreliable veterans and added high-upside youth that fit the club's fast-paced preferences. Though short on volume, New Orleans' transactions all made sense.
Golden State Warriors: B+
The DeMarcus Cousins signing sent ominous rumbles through the league, seemingly signaling the rich would forever get richer. But it's worth asking how much of a difference he'll really make. Cousins, still recovering from a torn Achilles and not exactly known as a conditioning fiend, probably won't be back for the first couple months of the season. And the Warriors have no incentive to rush him.
If he's ready to rock for the playoffs, he probably won't finish games over Andre Iguodala. This means the Golden State Warriors used their mid-level exception on someone best deployed off the bench in contests that matter. That's a fine use of resources under normal circumstances, but we also have to consider the possibility that Cousins simply isn't the same guy and can't help the Warriors—even in a limited role.
Draftee Jacob Evans didn't look like a rotation player in summer league, and his hitchy release will have to improve before the team trusts him to make shots in games. That's an issue because Golden State didn't otherwise address last year's key weakness: a lack of shooting off the bench.
Jonas Jerebko is a proven vet, but he's not a wing. Unless Patrick McCaw, still unsigned, comes back and shows a greater willingness to fire off treys, Golden State will again struggle to space the floor whenever its starters sit.
The Warriors probably didn't think they could turn down the Cousins windfall, but they might have been able to spend their limited resources on players who'd actually fill a need.
That said, the Warriors retained Kevin Durant and locked up head coach Steve Kerr. They got the big stuff right.
Dallas Mavericks: A-
There's something to be said for getting your guy, and the Dallas Mavericks got theirs, surrendering the No. 5 pick and next year's first-rounder (unless it's in the top five) for Luka Doncic.
It's a wing's league, and Doncic profiles as the guy best equipped to move the needle. Even Deandre Ayton, physically skilled as he is, may not be able to match the impact of a versatile, facilitating, intuitive wing like Doncic anymore.
The league is changing, and Dallas got the player who looks most like the difference-maker of the future.
DeAndre Jordan on a one-year deal works fine, and it's good to see the Mavs kept Dirk Nowitzki around for one more year at just $5 million.
The Mavericks lost rotation talent when Ferrell and Doug McDermott left, and their draft outside of Doncic doesn't look great. But in the end, Dallas got Doncic and added Jordan without tying up long-term cash. That's enough for a stellar grade.
Los Angeles Clippers: A-
The Los Angeles Clippers turned the page this offseason, moving on from DeAndre Jordan and sending Austin Rivers to the Washington Wizards in a deal that brought back Marcin Gortat.
Avery Bradley signed a two-year deal worth $25 million, but only the 2018-19 season is guaranteed. Montrezl Harrell's two-year, $12 million contract stands out as one of the best of the summer, as Harrell quietly developed into a premier backup big last season. His mobility, off-the-dribble game and active style may often make him a better closing option than Gortat.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander could be a steal at No. 11, and Jerome Robinson gives L.A. a second exciting young backcourt option.
The result of a busy offseason that also included signing Luc Mbah a Moute and Mike Scott, the Clips now have an exceptionally deep roster populated by quality players on affordable contracts. Danilo Gallinari is the only onerous commitment left, and even he's only on the books through 2020. Better still, the Clippers are in position to have two max-salary slots open in 2019.
Brooklyn Nets: A
Despite entering the offseason with just $10 million in usable cap space, the Brooklyn Nets put together one of the best summers in the league.
Brooklyn dumped Timofey Mozgov on the Hornets for Dwight Howard, whom they bought out for $5 million less than his 2018-19 salary. The result: nearly $17 million cleared from the books going forward. The Nets also sent Jeremy Lin's $12 million salary to the Hawks and used the room that move created to add some unwanted money from Denver with draft assets attached.
Toss in the signings of Ed Davis, Joe Harris, Shabazz Napier and Treveon Graham at fair or below-market rates, and you've got an absolute masterclass in maximizing resources.
The Nets increasingly look like one of the league's highest-functioning front offices, as evidenced by a high volume of opportunistic moves. If there's any room to criticize Brooklyn, you could argue it created too good of a roster for the upcoming season, in which it'll have the rights to its own first-rounder for the first time in almost a half-decade.
Brooklyn added tons of quality players on the cheap, ditched bad contracts and cleared massive space for 2019. No team did more with less during the offseason.
Oklahoma City Thunder: A
Nobody gave the Oklahoma City Thunder much chance to keep Paul George through the 2018 offseason—not with the Lakers out there, and not with George effectively getting himself traded by the Pacers because he planned to sign in L.A.
Yet somehow, without much drama at all, OKC retained George on a four-year, $137 million deal. That makes the offseason a colossal win, and that's before considering the departure of Carmelo Anthony, the arrival of Nerlens Noel and Dennis Schroder and the retention of Raymond Felton and Jerami Grant.
None of this happened in a vacuum, either. Oklahoma City got markedly better at a time when the Rockets took a step in the other direction. Houston may still be the biggest in-conference threat to the Warriors, but the Thunder have at least closed the gap.
Considering everyone thought this offseason would be about OKC coping with the loss of George, that qualifies as much more than a pleasant surprise. And it also renders lineup fits and the contributions of three picks between No. 45 and No. 57 secondary concerns.
Toronto Raptors: A
If Leonard is healthy, the Toronto Raptors, a conference-leading 59-game winner last year, just added the best player in the East.
Danny Green offers shooting and excellent defense, which should give the Raps a fearsome trio of wing stoppers who can all play together. Opponents should be quaking at the thought of Leonard, Green and Anunoby's collective tentacles squeezing the life out of every offensive possession.
Fred VanVleet is back on a two-year deal that would have been better if it'd been longer. With Kyle Lowry entering his age-32 season, the time for a changing of the point guard could come sooner than later. As it stands now, the Raps have one of the top backups in the league at a fair price.
If head coach Nick Nurse leans on what should be an elite defense and finally gets the ball movement he wants with DeRozan gone, Toronto could blow the East away and reach the Finals for the first time in franchise history.
So, yeah, nice little offseason up north.