NBA Offseason Report Cards for Every Team
After a whirlwind opening to the NBA offseason, the transaction tumult has finally slowed enough for us to take a deep breath and drink it all in. And with this time to reflect on trades, free agency and draft decisions comes the itch to pass some kind of verdict—to provide a form of finality.
Report-card grades it is, then.
Teams are being judged relative to individual situations. Giving full marks to the New Orleans Pelicans does not imply they're as good as the Los Angeles Clippers, who landed both Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. It means the Pelicans could not have hoped for a better offseason under the circumstances.
Expectations for each squad lay the groundwork for this concept. Did they underachieve? Overachieve? Make questionable moves? Hit on the right opportunities? Is their immediate trajectory better off? How about their big picture? Does the roster line up with their direction? Did they overpay for too many players? And so on and so forth.
Let's break out the red pens.
Note: Select non-guaranteed, two-way and Exhibit 10 contracts are included in the overview of each team's offseason. These are only listed when they feel noteworthy and do not have a major impact on grades.
Atlanta Hawks: B
Notable Additions: Allen Crabbe; Bruno Fernando; Cam Reddish; Chandler Parsons; Damian Jones; De'Andre Hunter; Evan Turner; Jabari Parker; Ray Spalding
Notable Exits: Dewayne Dedmon; Deyonta Davis; Jaylen Adams; Justin Anderson; Kent Bazemore; Miles Plumlee; Omari Spellman; Taurean Prince; Vince Carter
Notable Re-signings: None
Falling in and out of love with the Atlanta Hawks' summer is perfectly acceptable. It might even be the standard.
Nothing they did stands out for the wrong reasons. They added talented youth, namely De'Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish, to a promising young core headlined by John Collins, Kevin Huerter and Trae Young.
Losing Kent Bazemore, Dewayne Dedmon and Taurean Prince stings but isn't the end of the world. Atlanta did Bazemore a solid by sending him to the Portland Trail Blazers for Evan Turner, picked up a first-rounder from the Brooklyn Nets for Prince and will have dual-max room next summer after not bankrolling his extension or Dedmon's new deal.
Some of the Hawks' other decisions are harder to reconcile. The Jabari Parker flier is fine, but did they really need to give him a player option? Hunter profiles as a nice frontcourt running mate for Collins in smaller lineups, but did they give up too much to get him? They forked over what amounted to Jaxson Hayes (No. 8), Nickeil Alexander-Walker (No. 17), Marcos Louzada Silva (No. 35), cap space and, probably, two second-round picks via the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Letting Dedmon walk is defensible, but the Hawks didn't actually replace him. The Omari Spellman-for-Damian Jones swap was weird, even after factoring in the 2026 second-round pick they received from the Golden State Warriors.
Maybe Atlanta's center rotation speaks to its plan for Collins, faith in rookie Bruno Fernando and Alex Len or some combination of everything. It doesn't matter. The Hawks' offseason adds up to a series of incremental risks, right down to needing Evan Turner to play backup point guard.
Boston Celtics: B-
Notable Additions: Carsen Edwards; Enes Kanter; Grant Williams; Kemba Walker; Romeo Langford; Tacko Fall; Tremont Waters; Vincent Poirier
Notable Re-signings: Brad Wanamaker; Daniel Theis
Perspective is everything to the Boston Celtics' offseason. Their summer looks a lot worse if you think they could've salvaged the situations with Al Horford and Kyrie Irving. It plays much better if you believe both were goners before free agency.
"When we got done with the draft and we started our preparation for free agency, as we started planning for Plan A, our Plan A was Kemba Walker and Enes Kanter," team president Danny Ainge said, per Tom Westerholm of MassLive.com. "We were very fortunate that they chose the Boston Celtics."
This is fair. Irving was window-shopping before the playoffs. Ainge had a "pretty good idea" he was leaving by "March or April," per Westerholm. Horford's wandering eyes came later, but still before free agency.
Adding Walker is a good primary contingency. He is one of the 25 or 30 best players in the league and won't grate on the youngsters like Irving. The Celtics had a reasonably good draft, as well. Grant Williams is among the highest-IQ rookies, Carsen Edwards is undersized but deft at creating space and Romeo Langford is the Danny Ainge special: a long guard with a questionable jumper.
Boston's frontline is more difficult to get behind—unless you're an opposing scorer. Head coach Brad Stevens has a handful of wing-sized power forward options, and Williams might be able to log time as a small-ball 5, but no one on the roster begins to fill the void left by Horford.
Kanter will be targeted in the pick-and-roll. Portland cobbled together some adequate defensive stands with him in the middle, but he remains a pushover in most cross-matches. Boston will feel the drop-off in the starting five and doesn't have a sure thing coming off the bench.
Daniel Theis is sneaky switchable. Robert Williams III is long and bouncy. Semi Ojeleye can benchpress a submarine. Vincent Poirier is nasty around the rim. Tacko Fall can touch the moon on his tippy toes. The Celtics need one of them to be defensive-anchor material. (And summer league diehards need to hope Fall makes the roster.)
Brooklyn Nets: A
Notable Exits: Allen Crabbe; D'Angelo Russell; DeMarre Carroll; Ed Davis; Jared Dudley; Rondae Hollis-Jefferson; Shabazz Napier; Treveon Graham
Notable Re-signings: None
Imagine giving the team that landed both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving anything less than an "A."
Brooklyn's coup is not without risk. Durant probably won't suit up until 2020-21, and Irving will be a test of the organization's top-shelf culture. But the Nets didn't mortgage their future to get here.
They got back Taurean Prince and a second-rounder for Allen Crabbe's bloated salary and two firsts. And in the aggregate, they turned D'Angelo Russell into Durant and a first.
Giving DeAndre Jordan four years and $40 million isn't the greatest look. It also isn't the worst. Durant and Irving took less for the Nets to sign him. Jordan's arrival can be re-litigated if he pushes Jarrett Allen to the bench, but paying him is otherwise the cost of bagging two megastars.
Every other move Brooklyn made is a win. David Nwaba is one of the best under-the-radar signings this summer. He can defend positions 1 through 4 and hit enough of his wide-open threes last year (35.7 percent) to play more than a bit part. And like Nwaba, Prince, Wilson Chandler and Garrett Temple all fit the multiposition mold.
No, the Nets have not fully approximated Durant's value. That isn't possible. They will not contend for a title without him. But they have the depth to make real noise—particularly if Caris LeVert continues along the All-Star trajectory he flashed at the start of last season.
Charlotte Hornets: F
Notable Additions: Cody Martin; Jalen McDaniels; PJ Washington; Robert Franks; Terry Rozier
Notable Exits: Frank Kaminsky; Jeremy Lamb; Kemba Walker; Shelvin Mack; Tony Parker
Notable Re-signings: None
Rock-bottom grades are not handed out lightly. This is meant neither as a troll nor hyperbole. The Charlotte Hornets screwed up.
Refusing to give Kemba Walker the supermax is not without merit. That deal would've clocked in at five years, $221.6 million and crippled the Hornets' already messy books. But they might not have even offered him the regular max (five years, $189.9 million), according to ESPN's Stephen A. Smith (h/t NBC Sports' Dan Feldman).
Don't accept that as a fact. Maybe they peddled something better than "in the ballpark of $160-plus million." It doesn't change anything if they did.
Walker's free agency did not sneak up on the Hornets. They may not have banked on his supermax eligibility, but they knew it was a possibility. If they weren't prepared to give him the regular max or slightly above it, they should've moved him at one of the past two trade deadlines.
Charlotte at the very least needed to play its hand better. Don't begin the offseason saying "we'll do everything that we can to bring him back here" and then later wax about the importance of evading the luxury tax.
It doesn't help that the Hornets also lost Jeremy Lamb, their second-best scorer, for absolutely nothing. Drafting PJ Washington is a worthwhile dice roll on a big combo wing, but he isn't enough to spare them from our red pen's wrath.
Offseasons don't happen in a bubble. Extenuating circumstances are always at play, and we never know the full story. That doesn't help the Hornets. Walker wanted to stay. Something changed, and it probably wasn't him. That Charlotte failed to anticipate his cost or departure and then failed to capitalize on his exit beyond overpaying Terry Rozier is a farce.
Chicago Bulls: B+
Notable Additions: Adam Mokoka; Coby White; Daniel Gafford; Luke Kornet; Thaddeus Young; Tomas Satoransky
Notable Exits: Robin Lopez; Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot; Wayne Selden; Walter Lemon Jr.
Notable Re-signings: Ryan Arcidiacono; Shaquille Harrison
Surprised to find yourself endorsing the Chicago Bulls' offseason? You're not alone.
Thaddeus Young's three-year, $43.6 million deal is the one move that comes close to being a head-scratcher. He needs to play the 4, as does Lauri Markkanen. Otto Porter Jr.-at-power-forward arrangements will be harder to come by, and Chicago remains light on wings overall.
Whatever. Young is worth his price tag. He can set the tone for an entire team on defense and is among the NBA's best leaders. The Bulls need that work ethic and mentorship. Less than half his salary in 2021-22 is guaranteed anyway.
Coby White was the "duh" pick at No. 7, but Chicago deserves a pat on the back for thinking outside the box and signing Tomas Satoransky. He has the vision of a floor general, the size of a wing and the experience playing off the ball to work beside both White and Zach LaVine.
General shot creation might still be a problem. The Bulls have not totally relieved LaVine of his overtaxing burden. But Porter showed at the end of last season he can handle more off-the-bounce responsibility, and between Satoransky, White and Ryan Arcidiacono, Chicago should have enough secondary table-setters to sniff replacement-level point guard play.
Cleveland Cavaliers: B-
Notable Additions: Darius Garland; Dean Wade; Dylan Windler; J.P. Macura; Kevin Porter Jr.
Notable Exits: Channing Frye; David Nwaba; JR Smith; Marquese Chriss; Nik Stauskas
Notable Re-signings: None
Many won't be impressed with the Cavaliers' offseason so far. They haven't done much, and yet, they somehow still have all the guards.
Cleveland's relative inaction isn't worth panning. It was implied. The Cavaliers were and remain too close to the luxury tax to spend any real money.
Flipping JR Smith's partially guaranteed salary never made sense unless they were getting a primo asset in return. Waiving him instead is not a fundamental failure. They convinced him to extend the guarantee date on the off chance an opportunity popped up. That's due diligence enough.
Dissecting the Cavaliers' draft is fair. Darius Garland is an awkward selection with Collin Sexton on the docket, and burning four second-rounders to take Kevin Porter Jr. renders the backcourt rotation that much more congested and, well, weirder.
Lamenting the Cavaliers' crop of youngsters still goes too far. It matters more that they actually have a crop of youngsters.
Teams absent cornerstones cannot be in the business of drafting for fit. Cleveland took dare-to-be-great swings on Garland and Porter, both of whom, at their peaks, might be able to blend high-end shot creation with nice off-ball touch.
Dylan Windler, meanwhile, may already be a steal at No. 26. His range and rebounding shined in Las Vegas, and he'll offer value as a playmaker once he gets used to passing against NBA length.
If anything, the biggest blotch on the Cavaliers' offseason is the departure of David Nwaba. He was their best defender last season, and they're going to miss him.
Dallas Mavericks: B
Notable Additions: Boban Marjanovic; Delon Wright; Isaiah Roby; Seth Curry
Notable Exits: Devin Harris; Dirk Nowitzki; Kostas Antetokounmpo; Salah Mejri; Trey Burke
Notable Re-signings: Dorian Finney-Smith; Dwight Powell; J.J. Barea; Kristaps Porzingis; Maxi Kleber
Knocks against the Dallas Mavericks' offseason are more about what they didn't do. Entering free agency with max cap space and an eye on Kemba Walker and exiting with Seth Curry, Boban Marjanovic, Delon Wright and a bunch of re-signings, including a maxed-out Kristaps Porzingis, won't win the front office any awards.
Penalizing the Mavericks for their smaller splashes only makes so much sense. They have never been a, ahem, Plan A destination for the biggest names. Prioritizing Walker over, say, Kawhi Leonard showed self-awareness, and teams cannot be killed for looking at players almost everyone should want. (More than a few will maintain Dallas dodged disaster by not signing Walker.)
Perhaps the Mavericks spent a tad too much on bigs. They have $49 million invested in Porzingis, Boban, Maxi Kleber and Dwight Powell next season. But that number is skewed by Porzingis' max salary, and everyone from that quartet except Boban can soak up time at the 4.
All the Mavericks' other moves are solid. They may have waited out the market too long (see: Danny Green going to the Los Angeles Lakers) and definitely lack switchability on the perimeter, but their new faces fit. Wright diversifies their defense, and Curry's return promises dead-eye shooting and an extra grinder on the less glamorous end.
Porzingis' five-year, $158.3 million pact is the riskiest investment made by the Mavericks. They cannot be 100 percent sure he'll regain his superstar trajectory following recovery from a torn left ACL, but lowballing him wasn't a viable option. Another team would've thrown him a four-year max they felt compelled to match. Dallas ensured goodwill between player and organization by taking him off the market early.
Denver Nuggets: A
Notable Additions: Bol Bol; Jerami Grant
Notable Exits: Isaiah Thomas; Trey Lyles; Tyler Lydon
Notable Re-signings: Jamal Murray (extension)
Fifty-four-win teams assembled around players predominantly in or entering their primes with very few free agents don't need to do anything drastic. The Denver Nuggets were no exception. What little they did, though, is worth applause.
Properly sized wing defenders who can shoot remained their biggest need. Jerami Grant doesn't just fit the bill. He exceeds it, and the Nuggets only needed to give up next year's first-rounder to get him (top-10 protection).
Grant can defend four positions at a minimum. He is best suited at power forward, but the Nuggets have the requisite playmakers, shooters and off-ball trickery to use him at the 2, 3 or 4. And while he needs to turn in consecutive sweet-shooting seasons before he's declared a sniper, he buried 39.2 percent of his three-point attempts last year, including 39.7 percent from the corners and on catch-and-fire looks.
Bol Bol was a no-brainer draft pick. Denver is set at center (Nikola Jokic!), but he was a top-seven prospect before suffering a stress fracture in his left foot. Taking him at No. 44 amounts to zero risk.
Jamal Murray's five-year, $169.7 million was the Nuggets' most debatable investment. That money implies superstardom, and the jury is still out on his ceiling. It would've made some sense to carry his smaller cap hold into restricted free agency if they were just going to max him out.
But the 2020 free-agency class is super shallow. Another team would've offered Murray a four-year max. Locking him up now builds goodwill without delaying the inevitable while giving the Nuggets a better idea of what (or whether) they can afford to pay Grant (player option), Malik Beasley (restricted) and Paul Millsap next summer.
Detroit Pistons: C+
Notable Additions: Christian Wood; Deividas Sirvydis; Derrick Rose; Jordan Bone; Louis King; Markieff Morris; Sekou Doumbouya; Tim Frazier; Tony Snell
Notable Exits: Glenn Robinson III; Ish Smith; Jon Leuer; Jose Calderon; Wayne Ellington; Zaza Pachulia
Notable Re-signings: None
Congratulations to the Detroit Pistons for piecing together one of the toughest-to-read offseasons. They didn't cannonball into anything detrimental, but they don't look appreciably better.
Sekou Doumbouya is a nice gamble outside the lottery. He just doesn't project as an immediate contributor; his 19th birthday isn't until December. Tony Snell is a wing who can shoot threes, which means he's an asset Detroit didn't have last season after trading Reggie Bullock.
Markieff Morris is an intriguing flier at his price point (two years, $6.6 million), but the Pistons will have to get creative for him to have a genuine impact. He shouldn't be playing the 3, and Blake Griffin monopolizes time at the 4. Head coach Dwane Casey should consider running Griffin-Morris frontcourts when Andre Drummond is catching a breather.
Too much of Detroit's offseason is tethered to Derrick Rose. Two years and $15 million is a lot for an injury-prone point guard on the verge of turning 31 who has reached 60 games just twice since 2011-12.
Aside from his availability, Rose's success hinges on sustaining an improved three-point clip. As Sports Illustrated's Rob Mahoney wrote ahead of free agency:
"Can a career 29.6% three-point shooter, without the slightest warning, make the jump to 37%? Rose’s future role in the league may depend on the answer. It’s one thing to dominate the ball against second-unit defenses and put up points in the process. It’s quite another to space the floor well enough to be a legitimate combo guard, expanding a team’s lineup options in the process."
Rose has not earned the benefit of the doubt. Last year's uptick was skewed by a scorching-hot November. He shot 25.0 percent the rest of the way—a 31-game sample, mind you, that accounted for more than 60 percent of his total appearances.
Golden State Warriors: B
Notable Additions: Alec Burks; Alen Smailagic; D'Angelo Russell; Eric Paschall; Glenn Robinson III; Jordan Poole; Omari Spellman; Willie Cauley-Stein
Notable Re-signings: Damion Lee; Kevon Looney; Klay Thompson
Metrics hate the Warriors' offseason. They rank 26th in wins above replacement (WAR) differential, according to Bleacher Report's Andrew Bailey. Only the Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets, Oklahoma City Thunder and Toronto Raptors are having more unflattering offseasons by that measurement.
Big whoop. The Warriors lost Kevin Durant, one of the league's five best players. They were never going to come out of this summer better for wear. That inevitability matters. Durant was deemed a goner more than a year ago.
Blaming the Warriors for his departure implies they could've done something to turn him. What else were they supposed to do beyond positioning themselves to win titles in volume? Not make a joke about his years of service at a championship parade? Get Draymond Green to apologize, again, for their November scuffle? Do a better job of handling his postseason calf injury that became a ruptured Achilles?
The latter is a genuine sticking point. But again: Almost everyone believed Durant was out the door before then. The Warriors' offseason must be weighed against that irreversibility.
Really, their entire summer comes down to whether D'Angelo Russell is worth more to them as a player or eventual trade asset than Andre Iguodala and two first-round picks. That's not an easy call. Russell ran more pick-and-rolls per game last year than anyone except Kemba Walker. Golden State doesn't play that way, and it could get even harder to integrate him once Klay Thompson returns from his torn ACL.
Still, Russell is a 23-year-old All-Star. Gambles can get worse. The Warriors assume plenty of risk, and we must hedge accordingly. But he elevates their post-Durant ceiling, either as a trade asset or keeper, without lowering their floor.
From getting Russell to retaining Thompson and Kevon Looney to taking cheap fliers on Alec Burks, Willie Cauley-Stein and Glenn Robinson III, Golden State did a respectable job navigating the loss of an all-time great and the dissolution of a dynasty.
Houston Rockets B-
Notable Re-signings: Austin Rivers; Danuel House; Gerald Green
Impressions of the Houston Rockets' offseason are very much in the eye of the beholder.
Acquiring Russell Westbrook is a pure talent play. His style remains divisive, but he is sheer force incarnate. Houston is effectively wagering two first-rounders, two pick swaps and an extra year of max salary that he'll retain his superstar impact alongside Harden, and that said influence will eclipse the next three years of Chris Paul's on- and off-court value.
Stepping out on this limb is not irrational. Westbrook has earned All-NBA honors each of the past five years, and his contract takes him through his age-34 season. Paul is 34 now and hasn't made one of the three All-NBA squads since 2015-16.
But this reunion between Harden and Westbrook doesn't figure to be seamless. They want to play together. That means something. They have also, quite literally, become the two highest-usage players in NBA history without one another. Their partnership is complicated even further by Westbrook's lack of utility off the ball.
"The Harden-Paul combination worked so well in part because Paul is lethal on catch-and-shoot threes," ESPN's Zach Lowe wrote. "Westbrook is not. Westbrook has hit about 33 percent of such shots combined over the past three seasons, per NBA.com. He is one of the worst high-volume three-point shooters in NBA history."
Winding up in a preferred destination on a team with better spacing has a way of incentivizing players to change. Maybe next season, Westbrook's 12th, is the year he tightens up his shot selection and hits threes at a league-average clip. Harden might be willing to cede a chunk of offensive control. Houston's just can't know.
Surrendering so many assets should result in guaranteed improvement. The Rockets do not have that assurance. Their grade is both a nod toward that uncertainty and an acknowledgment that two MVPs in their primes have the capacity to figure it out.
Indiana Pacers: B+
Notable Additions: Brian Bowen; C.J. Wilcox; Goga Bitadze; JaKarr Sampson; JaKeenan Gant; Jeremy Lamb; Justin Holiday; Malcolm Brogdon; T.J. McConnell; TJ Warren
Notable Exits: Bojan Bogdanovic; Cory Joseph; Darren Collison; Kyle O'Quinn; Thaddeus Young; Tyreke Evans; Wesley Matthews
Notable Re-signings: Edmond Sumner
Embracing the Indiana Pacers' summer is a process.
They lost Bojan Bogdanovic, but the Utah Jazz probably overpaid him by more than a hair, and the Pacers were compensated by the Phoenix Suns to take on TJ Warren. He and Jeremy Lamb offset Bogdanovic's scoring and then some, and they'll earn just $5.3 million more between them.
Indiana doesn't have a primary floor general, but that's nothing new. Darren Collison and Cory Joseph were not traditional offensive captains, and the Pacers are teeming with secondary playmakers in Lamb, Malcolm Brogdon, Justin Holiday and T.J. McConnell—not to mention Aaron Holiday, Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.
Securing more general shot creation was the bigger priority. Oladipo needs more self-sufficient face-up attackers around him once he returns from his torn right quad. The Pacers have more than filled that quota.
Awarding them higher marks would be overly ambitious. The offense continues to want for high-volume and off-the-dribble three-point shooters.
Brogdon is lights-out from beyond the arc, but off-the-bounce treys aren't in his bag. Lamb is an average outside shooter at best. Warren needs to hit threes at an above-average clip in consecutive seasons before he's billed as a sniper.
Doubling down on the Domantas Sabonis-Myles Turner frontcourt is likewise iffy. The Pacers offense hasn't thrived when they share the floor, and the margin for error is thinner than usual until Oladipo rejoins the rotation.
Los Angeles Clippers: A+
Notable Additions: Amir Coffey; Kawhi Leonard; Mfiondu Kabengele; Maurice Harkless; Paul George; Terance Mann
Notable Exits: Danilo Gallinari; Garrett Temple; Shai Gilgeous-Alexander; Sindarius Thornwell; Tyrone Wallace; Wilson Chandler
Notable Re-signings: Ivica Zubac; JaMychal Green; Patrick Beverley; Rodney McGruder; Johnathan Motley
The Clippers entered the summer without a top-25 player on the roster. They'll begin next year with two top-15 stars, one of whom, Kawhi Leonard, has a majority stake in the "Best Player Alive" debate.
Now that's an offseason.
Prying Paul George from the Oklahoma City Thunder came at a steep cost. The Clippers sent out Danilo Gallinari, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, five first-rounders and two pick swaps. Guess what? They make that trade 11 times out of 10. No regrets. They weren't just dealing for George; they were acquiring him and Leonard.
Both players entering free agency in 2021 is cause for some concern, though not extraordinary angst. Leonard's two-plus-one set him up for a larger payday, and shorter windows are now part of the superstar experience. Los Angeles is sitting prettier than most because both he and George want to play at home.
Re-signing Patrick Beverley, JaMychal Green, Rodney McGruder and Ivica Zubac is the stray well-done onion ring in the extra-large order of fries that has become the Clippers' offseason. Ditto for the addition of Maurice Harkless, who is both usable and responsible for netting Los Angeles one of the first-round picks shipped to Oklahoma City.
Teams aren't supposed to add two superstars while preserving their depth. The Clippers did. They barely turned over 55 percent of last year's roster relative to minutes played. That is absurd.
Nitpickers are free to note the Clippers don't have a conventional floor general. They'll get over it. They didn't have one last year, they employ an embarrassment of secondary initiators and the Lou Williams-Montrezl Harrell pick-and-roll is better than most traditional 1-5 connections.
Los Angeles Lakers: A-
Notable Additions: Aric Holman; Anthony Davis; Avery Bradley; Danny Green; DeMarcus Cousins; Devontae Cacok; Jared Dudley; Kostas Antetokounmpo; Quinn Cook; Talen Horton-Tucker; Troy Daniels; Zach Norvell Jr.
Notable Exits: Brandon Ingram; Isaac Bonga; Jemerrio Jones; Josh Hart; Lance Stephenson; Lonzo Ball; Mike Muscala; Moritz Wagner; Reggie Bullock; Tyson Chandler
Notable Re-signings: Alex Caruso; JaVale McGee; Kentavious Caldwell-Pope; Rajon Rondo
Downplaying the Lakers' offseason is for the retweets, not in-depth discussions among reasonable people.
Waiting for Kawhi Leonard to make his decision was not a mistake. A one-in-three chance at landing a top-five player is worth the risk every time. And from the sound of things, it may have been more like a one-in-two shot.
Even those who were in favor of the Lakers chasing depth from free agency's jump have to give them props. They surrounded Anthony Davis and LeBron James with a contender-caliber supporting cast and no longer have to worry about their floor spacing.
Lingering qualms are immaterial on their own. Fusing those concerns together precludes the Lakers from getting top marks.
The price they paid for Davis should not be among the objections. They gave up a boatload. Move past it. They cannot lose a trade in which they acquired a 26-year-old superstar (unless he leaves in free agency next summer).
Letting Davis play most of his minutes at power forward would be a different story. That appears to be the plan. Davis wants it, and the Lakers didn't sign DeMarcus Cousins to log afterthought reps. The ramifications of that minutes distribution are real. LeBron James is positionless, but giving him and Kyle Kuzma more time at the 3 is dicey territory.
This point becomes moot if the Lakers close with Davis at the 5. Their wing rotation will remain spotty either way. Danny Green can take on some of the bigger forwards. But after him, they're looking at James, Kuzma, Jared Dudley and rookie Talen Horton-Tucker. Dudley is the most consistent defender of the bunch.
And beyond all that, it must be asked: Why is Rajon Rondo on this team?
Memphis Grizzlies: B+
Notable Additions: Andre Iguodala; Brandon Clarke; De'Anthony Melton; Dwight Howard; Grayson Allen; Ja Morant; Jae Crowder; John Konchar; Josh Jackson; Miles Plumlee; Solomon Hill; Tyus Jones
Notable Exits: Avery Bradley; Chandler Parsons; C.J. Miles; Delon Wright; Jevon Carter; Joakim Noah; Mike Conley
Notable Re-signings: Jonas Valanciunas
Credit the Memphis Grizzlies for pouncing on the opportunity to start over in style.
Pretty much everyone was too quick to declare the Mike Conley trade a huge steal for the Utah Jazz. They definitely won the deal. So did the Grizzlies.
Jae Crowder is a plug-and-play defender they can flip for something else at the deadline. They already used Kyle Korver to get compensated for taking on Josh Jackson, the No. 4 pick in 2017. Grayson Allen's stock has plummeted, and he continues to carry himself like a goon, but he's barely a year removed from getting selected 21st overall by one of the NBA's smartest teams.
Netting two additional first-rounders on top of that is big time. The Grizzlies already used one of them (Darius Bazley) to trade up for Brandon Clarke, who was named MVP of summer league and looks like a steal for his defense alone.
Taking on Andre Iguodala's expiring deal in exchange for a distant (2024), lightly protected pick (top four) from the Golden State Warriors is obnoxiously shrewd. It looks even better if Memphis can reroute him for additional stuff. Turning Chandler Parsons' cap hit into two more manageable expiring contracts is a lower-key victory.
Bringing in Tyus Jones at three years and $26.4 million ($23.9 guaranteed) is a questionable move. Memphis could have kept Delon Wright, a more versatile defender and better playmaker, for similar money. But Jones is younger, and the Grizzlies nabbed a pair of second-rounders from the Dallas Mavericks.
Inking Jonas Valanciunas to a three-year, $45 million is similarly debatable. He is 27 and doesn't fit perfectly within their timeline, and his contract won't be an intriguing trade chip for at least another year. It might not say much that the Grizzlies' two iffiest moves were their only major signings, but neither warrants serious concern.
Miami Heat: B
Notable Additions: Jimmy Butler; Kendrick Nunn; Kyle Alexander; KZ Okpala; Meyers Leonard; Tyler Herro
Notable Exits: Dwyane Wade; Hassan Whiteside; Josh Richardson; Ryan Anderson; Udonis Haslem
Notable Re-signings: None
Making sense of the Miami Heat's summer is all sorts of rough.
On one hand, they entered the offseason with negative cap space while staring into the luxury tax and still landed a superstar. Jimmy Butler's standing relative to his peers is up in the air after taking on a diluted role with the Philadelphia 76ers, but he proved to be their most capable closer, was running point for them by the end of the playoffs and firmly entrenched himself in the top-10 discussion during the 2017-18 campaign with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Miami didn't forfeit an unruly amount of value to get him, either. Josh Richardson is a standout defender and secondary scorer, but he's not Jimmy Butler. Parlaying him, a 2023 first-rounder (lottery protection), Hassan Whiteside and $5.2 million of cap space per year through 2021-22 (Ryan Anderson) into a top-10 or -12 star is hardly foolish.
On the other hand, the Heat must reconcile the same uncertainty faced by the Houston Rockets after their latest blockbuster acquisition: How much better are they, if they're better at all?
Butler means more to Miami than Russell Westbrook does to Houston. The Heat needed a primary option. The roster didn't have an authentic No. 1. Butler has carried teams in Chicago and Minnesota, and Miami's supporting cast isn't barren.
It still feels like the Heat are a massive piece short of being special. Maybe Tyler Herro is a quick-firing, sweet-shooting half-court initiator out of the gate. That won't be enough. Nor will a third-year breakout from Bam Adebayo. A Chris Paul trade might do the trick, but a Goran Dragic renaissance would be just as valuable on offense.
Another leap from Justise Winslow in combination with everything else is probably the baseline for Miami going from playoff footnote to purposeful threat.
Milwaukee Bucks: B
Notable Additions: Cameron Reynolds; Dragan Bender; Frank Mason III; Kyle Korver; Luke Maye; Robin Lopez; Thanasis Antetokounmpo; Wesley Matthews
Notable Exits: Jon Leuer; Malcolm Brogdon; Nikola Mirotic; Pau Gasol; Tim Frazier; Tony Snell
Notable Re-signings: Brook Lopez; George Hill; Khris Middleton
Championship-contender upkeep isn't easy. The Milwaukee Bucks figured that out sooner than most. Their first season as powerhouses was followed by a score of difficult decisions.
Milwaukee did not fail its offseason test. Khris Middleton was always coming back, but retaining Brook Lopez (a non-bird free agent) and George Hill (who the Bucks first waived) softened the blow of Malcolm Brogdon's exit. But they do not entirely override his departure. Nor does the lottery-protected first-rounder (and two seconds) they received from the Indiana Pacers.
Brogdon was the Bucks' second-best player for stretches in the playoffs. Electing not to pay him—the Pacers gave him four years, $85 million—displaces pressure onto a handful of maybes and probably nots.
Replacing his outside stroke isn't an issue. Kyle Korver and Wesley Matthews are bargains at the minimum. (Milwaukee will have to overcome Matthews' occasional half-court hijackings.) Making up for Brogdon's absence will be harder on defense. The Bucks are betting Hill can match his postseason performance over an entire regular season and that Sterling Brown can play an everyday role.
Matching up with bigger wings could pose similar issues. Milwaukee is thin behind Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo after trading Tony Snell to the Detroit Pistons. Thanasis Antetokounmpo might get a chance to crack the rotation.
"Who cares? They should've sucked it up, kept Brogdon and paid the tax!" is a fair response to the Bucks' offseason. They were supposedly willing to foot the bill ahead of the summer. That sentiment rings hollow now unless Brogdon was secretly desperate for a change of scenery.
Torching Milwaukee for pinching pennies is ultimately unfair. Certain teams aren't that open to paying the tax. That's the reality. And the Bucks, in all honesty, took enough leaps of faith. Deals for Lopez (four-year, $52 million) and Middleton (five years, $177.5 million) aren't guaranteed to age well.
During an offseason in which they could've gotten a lot worse, the Bucks managed to tread water—or come pretty close to it. That isn't nothing. Their summer would look worse if Kawhi Leonard didn't leave the Toronto Raptors and the Boston Celtics remained fully intact. But he did, and they didn't.
Minnesota Timberwolves: B+
Notable Additions: Jake Layman; Jarrett Culver; Jaylen Nowell; Jordan Bell; Naz Reid; Noah Vonleh; Shabazz Napier; Treveon Graham; Tyrone Wallace
Notable Exits: Anthony Tolliver; Cameron Reynolds; Dario Saric; Derrick Rose; Luol Deng; Taj Gibson; Tyus Jones
Notable Re-signings: None
Uneventful offseasons aren't sexy, but they work for certain teams. Minnesota is one of them.
New president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas didn't rush the Timberwolves into any all-in wagers. Their dalliance with D'Angelo Russell doesn't count. They didn't get him, and pursuing an All-Star guard who aligns with Karl-Anthony Towns' window is nothing if not sensible business.
Consolidating Dario Saric and the No. 11 pick (Cameron Johnson) into Jarrett Culver does not have the same vibe as the Atlanta Hawks dealing for De'Andre Hunter. It is safer.
Minnesota didn't sacrifice nearly as much for Culver, who could be an ace defender at every wing position, including versus smaller 4s, and has second-scorer potential if he can generate enough separation off the dribble. The overall downside is inherently lower with Saric tracking toward restricted free agency next summer.
Rosas and friends deserve props for their moves on the margins. Noah Vonleh is coming off a career year and is an interesting fit beside Towns. Jordan Bell has vertical pop and might work next to KAT, as well.
Jake Layman is miscast. He's more fringe big than wing but doesn't forecast as an impact defender at either the 3 or 4. But he's hell to cover off the ball, and Minnesota can get by with him at a wing spot if he ups his three-point clip.
Absorbing Treveon Graham and Shabazz Napier from the Golden Stae Warriors was next-level savvy. Graham is like a brickier-shooting David Nwaba. That is both an offensive problem and a defensive revelation (he can defend up to certain 4s). And for anyone who cares: The Tyrone Wallace Fan Club is still accepting new members.
New Orleans Pelicans: A
Notable Additions: Brandon Ingram; Derrick Favors; Jaxson Hayes; JJ Redick; Josh Hart; Lonzo Ball; Marcos Louzada Silva; Nickeil Alexander-Walker; Nicolo Melli; Zion Williamson
Notable Exits: Cheick Diallo; Anthony Davis; Elfrid Payton; Julius Randle; Solomon Hill; Stanley Johnson
Notable Re-signings: Darius Miller
New Orleans traded Anthony Davis, lost Julius Randle on the heels of his career year and...still ranks 11th in offseason WAR differential, per Bleacher Report's Andy Bailey. What a wonderfully weird flex by Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin.
Sticklers will argue teams that cough up a superstar without getting another cannot win the summer. They're entitled to their opinion. They're wrong, but they can wax incorrectness as much as they please.
Davis wasn't coming back to New Orleans, and his intentions were known. He preferred to land with the Los Angeles Lakers or New York Knicks, severely limiting his market. The Pelicans extracted a king's ransom for his services anyway, from a team that, on some level, was bidding against itself.
It cannot be overstated how smart the Pelicans were to offload Davis before the draft. Some (me) suggested they let it leak into free agency when certain teams might get more desperate. Davis' value would've been nuked had Griffin allowed the situation to drag past the Los Angeles Clippers' formation. Both Paul George and Kawhi Leonard were poster boys for why suitors not on Davis' wish list shouldn't go after him. They both left, in a span of hours, for the same big-market team.
This is a roundabout way of saying the Pelicans couldn't have hoped to get more—especially after Kyrie Irving's relationship with the Boston Celtics imploded. This sentiment doesn't change unless both Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram flop.
Gripes are impossible to find beyond that. If you're upset the Pelicans turned De'Andre Hunter into cap space, Jaxson Hayes, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Marcos Louzada Silva and either a first-round pick (unlikely) or two seconds (likely), please watch this video of Alexander-Walker drilling a step-back three so gnarly it would have James Harden shook.
Dotting the young core with high-character veterans is a stroke of genius by the Pelicans. Derrick Favors is really good, and JJ Redick's arrival speaks to what's being built. New Orleans might be short on shooting, but that's why you overpay Darius Miller: for his slow-release threes (and contract-matching value at the trade deadline).
Failing everything else: Zion Williamson, anyone?
New York Knicks: C
Notable Additions: Bobby Portis; Elfrid Payton; Ignas Brazdeikis; Julius Randle; Marcus Morris; Reggie Bullock; RJ Barrett; Taj Gibson; Wayne Ellington
Notable Exits: DeAndre Jordan; Emmanuel Mudiay; Henry Ellenson; Lance Thomas; Luke Kornet; Mario Hezonja; Noah Vonleh
Notable Re-signings: N/A
Devout defenses of New York's offseason have become trendy in recent weeks. They're not off-base.
Faced with striking out on the superstar market, they didn't panic-spend. They handed out a series of two-year deals with $1 million guarantees for 2020-21. Their biggest investment was Julius Randle's three-year, $62.1 million deal, and only $4 million of his 2021-22 salary is guaranteed.
New York is primed to chase more big names each of the next two summers. All its two-year agreements become tantalizing trade anchors in mid-December if kicking the can to 2021 free agency is on the table and the front office is open to taking back unwanted money. RJ Barrett is potentially a franchise player.
Make no bones about it: This summer qualifies as progress in Madison Square Garden. That does not change why the Knicks are here, or what they didn't do.
Sending Kristaps Porzingis to the Dallas Mavericks was not about getting two first-round picks and Dennis Smith Jr. They cleared the deck for two superstars. Not one. The Knicks had a path to one max slot with Porzingis' cap hold. They banked on bagging two.
Final verdicts should be holstered until Porzingis makes his return from a torn ACL and the Knicks know what they have in Smith and the Mavericks' picks. They still swung and missed on a two-star plan at the expense of their best prospect in decades. They do not get a pass for that right now.
And let's not pretend they're suddenly a higher-functioning franchise. They could've been the team that took on Andre Iguodala or Maurice Harkless for a first-round pick. Heck, they've could've taken on both if not for their placeholder binge.
Revisionist history is the luxury of armchair general managers. Could-haves and should-haves are not cut and dry. But the Knicks whiffed on the Harkless situation if nothing else. Everyone and their imaginary friend's alter ego knew the Miami Heat needed to get off money to push through Jimmy Butler's arrival.
Maybe Porzingis is never the same, the Mavericks are worse than expected and the Knicks look like geniuses. Or maybe Reggie Bullock (eventually), Wayne Ellington, Taj Gibson, Marcus Morris, Bobby Portis and Julius Randle cut into the development of Barrett, Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson. Maybe they enhance it. Who knows.
In the end, the Knicks did fine. They didn't lower their outlook's variance, but they showed a semblance of self-awareness and foresight.
Oklahoma City Thunder: A
Notable Additions: Chris Paul; Danilo Gallinari; Darius Bazley; Luguentz Dort; Mike Muscala; Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Notable Exits: Jerami Grant; Markieff Morris; Paul George; Russell Westbrook
Notable Re-signings: Nerlens Noel
How you interpret Paul George's trade request matters here. Did the Thunder disenchant him by suffering two first-round exits? Is there something they could've done to make playing with Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City a more attractive opportunity than joining forces with Kawhi Leonard in Los Angeles?
"I know [George] used the term mutual" general manager Sam Presti said, per the Oklahoman's Maddie Lee. "I don't necessarily agree with that. ... I fully respect the way it was handled."
Oklahoma City's attempts to shed salary prior to George's departure aren't winning any press conferences. A small market paying the repeater tax last season was impressive, perhaps admirable, but curbing costs around two contend-now superstars is uninspiring.
It would be foolish to believe that wallet-watching somehow drove George into the arms of Leonard and the Clippers. He saw a unique opportunity and seized it. He might have done the Thunder a favor in the process. They were up against a hard ceiling with their payroll and, mainly, Westbrook's contract. Now they get to start over with a boatload of assets.
Future picks are romanticized beyond reason. Not all of the Thunder's draft selections will be cornerstones. But they already have one building block in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and odds are good they'll nab another. They have 15 first-round picks and four swap rights (two in 2025) through 2026. They've armed themselves with enough bites at the apple to find their face(s) of the franchise via the draft, trades or both.
Chris Paul and the $124.1 million he's owed over the next three years don't fit into this vision, but the Thunder will deal. His trade market should open up in mid-December when teams can start flipping free agents who signed contracts this summer, and keeping him wouldn't be a nightmare scenario.
Flattened draft-lottery odds have diminished the value of tanking at least a little bit, and Oklahoma City is a fringe playoff team with Gilgeous-Alexander, Paul, Steven Adams, Danilo Gallinari, Dennis Schroder and (a hopefully healthy) Andre Roberson.
Orlando Magic: C
Notable Additions: Al-Farouq Aminu; Chuma Okeke; Josh Magette
Notable Exits: Timofey Mozgov
Notable Re-signings: Khem Birch; Michael Carter-Williams; Nikola Vucevic; Terrence Ross
More long wings with questionable jumpers are playing for the Orlando Magic? You don't say.
Al-Farouq Aminu is a typical Magic addition. He's shooting 35.3 percent from deep over the past four seasons, but defenses don't care about leaving him alone, and his efficiency cratered in last year's playoffs.
Chuma Okeke fits Orlando's eye for length and hard-working defense, but with more of a jumper. He drilled 39.1 percent of his treys on 4.7 attempts per 40 minutes as a freshman at Auburn and increased his volume as a sophomore (5.1) without sacrificing efficiency (38.7). His uncertainty for next season (ACL) has a minor impact on the team's grade.
Housekeeping defined the rest of the Magic's moves. Reinvesting in a 42-win nucleus that didn't make it out of the first round is underwhelming, but they didn't overdo it. Nikola Vucevic's four-year, $100 million pact is on a declining scale, and Terrence Ross' four-year, $54 million deal ($50 million guaranteed) dips in dollar amount after 2020-21.
Markelle Fultz's future is still doing too much heavy lifting. The Magic don't know when he'll take the court or what to expect once he's back. A point guard rotation of D.J. Augustin and Michael Carter-Williams, both of whom were good last season, doesn't move the needle in the interim.
Orlando will need Okeke, Jonathan Isaac and Wesley Iwundu to generate offense off the dribble. That's not a comfort. The Magic didn't have to redirect their mid-level exception into a point guard with Fultz on deck, but they should've made a cheaper acquisition for depth's sake. Think Tim Frazier or Isaiah Thomas.
Philadelphia 76ers: B
Notable Additions: Al Horford; Josh Richardson; Kyle O'Quinn; Marial Shayok; Matisse Thybulle; Norvel Pelle; Raul Neto; Trey Burke
Notable Exits: Amir Johnson; Boban Marjanovic; Greg Monroe; Jimmy Butler; JJ Redick; Jonathon Simmons; T.J. McConnell
Notable Re-signings: Furkan Korkmaz; James Ennis III; Mike Scott; Shake Milton; Tobias Harris
So much has changed in Philly since last season that it's difficult to make heads or tails of the resulting product. Ben Rohrbach of Yahoo Sports did a good job parsing through the crux of the fallout:
"The Sixers did well to salvage [Josh] Richardson in a sign-and-trade from [Jimmy] Butler’s exit, and adding [Al] Horford serves them threefold—making the Boston Celtics worse, removing one of [Joel] Embiid’s most difficult matchups from consideration and adding an All-Star glue guy who does everything well and asks for little in return (save for a contract that will pay him $29 million in the final year of his new deal at age 36). Coach Brett Brown can also stagger Embiid and Horford, saving the former’s legs.
"All that said, the Sixers lost Butler, whose closing ability transformed them from pretender in 2017-18 to serious contender last season. The loss of [JJ] Redick is no small shakes, either, as his shooting ability opened the floor for [Ben] Simmons and served as another late-game weapon in an offense that lacked them in crunch time. Richardson represents a significant upgrade defensively, and he can shoot, but not in the never-lose-sight-of-this-guy way that Redick strained opposing defenses."
Juggling the Embiid-Horford dynamic is a welcomed problem. The Sixers blasted opponents by 10.7 points per 100 possessions and posted an elite defensive rating last season in the extensive time Embiid spent with Mike Muscala before the latter was traded. He now gets to play with Horford.
The upshot: Almost 70 percent of the Muscala-Embiid reps (707 possessions) came with Redick on the court. The Sixers don't have anyone to replace his combination of shooting, handling and off-ball motion. Spacing will be tight if Simmons doesn't bust out a jumper.
Manufacturing offense down the stretch of tight games could be equally problematic. Guards and wings who can face up and stroke jumpers off the dribble are the most dangerous half-court weapons. Three of Philly's most valuable players—Embiid, Horford, Simmons—don't meet the criteria. Richardson is more of a secondary option. Tobias Harris is almost first-option material, but even he is more accustomed to riding shotgun. Danilo Gallinari was the Los Angeles Clippers' best player before the trade deadline.
Even so, this team is brimming with basketball IQ and deeper than last season. Jonah Bolden, Trey Burke, James Ennis III, Furkan Korkmaz, Raul Neto, Kyle O'Quinn and Mike Scott give the Sixers plenty of veteran options off the bench, and the offense will be more dynamic if they hit on Shake Milton or Zhaire Smith.
Phoenix Suns: C
Notable Additions: Aron Baynes; Cameron Johnson; Cheick Diallo; Dario Saric; Frank Kaminsky; Jared Harper; Jalen Lecque; Jevon Carter; Ricky Rubio; Ty Jerome
Notable Exits: De'Anthony Melton; Dragan Bender; Jamal Crawford; Jimmer Fredette; Josh Jackson; Kyle Korver; Ray Spalding; Richaun Holmes; TJ Warren; Troy Daniels
Notable Re-signings: Kelly Oubre Jr.
Phoenix is having two different offseasons depending on who you ask.
Offseason A: The Suns are better! They finally have a point guard who can alleviate Devin Booker's on-ball workload! And more than 1.5 above-average shooters! The Kelly Oubre Jr. deal (two-year, $30 million) is a win for both sides!
Did you know that Dario Saric does more than knock down standalone jumpers?!?! That he dribbles and can pull up and passes more than TJ Warren and everything?!?! Aron Baynes is going to give Deandre Ayton a mean streak! Ty Jerome would've been the Suns' best point guard last season! And they did all of this without overspending or surrendering anything or anyone more valuable than Milwaukee's 2020 first-round pick (top-seven protection)!
Offseason B: Er, did the Suns really cough up too many assets, mismanage their cap and overpay Ricky Rubio just to belch out another sub-25-win season? Why would they opt for the older-than-Devin Cameron Johnson and about-to-get paid Saric over Jarrett Culver?
Did they actually need to give up an asset (No. 32) to get off Warren? Is it possible they should've whipped out a calculator so they didn't have to use De'Anthony Melton and two second-rounders to clear off Josh Jackson and open the space necessary to overpay Rubio and carry Oubre's cap hold?
Both versions of the Suns' offseason have their merits. Others will be harsher in their assessments.
Failing Phoenix because its summer didn't fit the idealistic mold is unfair. The Josh Jackson dump is the only move impossibly hard to defend, and it doesn't break the Suns' future.
They are a better team than they were last year, and it isn't close. They pass—not with flying colors, but they pass all the same.
Portland Trail Blazers: C+
Notable Additions: Anthony Tolliver; Hassan Whiteside; Kent Bazemore; Mario Hezonja; Nassir Little; Pau Gasol
Notable Exits: Al-Farouq Aminu; Enes Kanter; Evan Turner; Jake Layman; Meyers Leonard; Maurice Harkless; Seth Curry
Notable Re-signings: Rodney Hood
Definitive support of the Blazers' offseason is in scant supply. FiveThirtyEight's projection model has them finishing in the lottery one year after earning a trip to the Western Conference Finals.
This overstates the gravity of the Blazers' situation. They lost key players and will be without Jusuf Nurkic as he continues recovering from his leg injury, but they feel more like a postseason shoo-in than not.
Functionally speaking, Portland upgraded its wing rotation. Al-Farouq Aminu and Maurice Harkless are defensive worker bees who at times feigned league-average shooting in the regular season, but their absence of volume and efficiency dips during the playoffs made them liabilities.
Aminu is the bigger loss, but after his outside touch held serve each of three previous postseasons, even he proved unplayable by the end of the 2019 Western Conference Finals. Neither he nor Harkless were good for much from-scratch offense.
The Blazers now have wings who can both dribble and shoot: Kent Bazemore, Rodney Hood, even Mario Hezonja. Nassir Little should stick to catch-and-shoot jumpers for now but has a higher on-ball peak than Aminu and Harkless.
All that extra playmaking could come at the expense of Portland's defense. Bazemore is their best perimeter stopper, and he doesn't have the bandwidth to cover larger wings and smaller bigs. Hood has the size but not the length or strength.
Backup point guard is an issue without Seth Curry and Evan Turner. Anfernee Simons deserves a bigger role, but having him steer the offense seems like an overextension. The Blazers will need to stagger the minutes of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum more meticulously or try to get by with two of Bazemore, Hood and Simons. Maybe they're ready to call in Point Hezonja, too.
Trading Harkless and Meyers Leonard for Hassan Whiteside has a boom-or-bust feel. Portland has to believe he'll be a top-15 center under head coach Terry Stotts. Why make the move otherwise? The Blazers aren't hard up for roster spots, and Whiteside added money to the payroll.
It is fair to wonder whether they'd be just as well off with a big-man rotation of Harkless, Leonard, Zach Collins, Pau Gasol, Anthony Tolliver and a flier on Nene, Joakim Noah, Thabo Sefolosha or Dwight Howard (can the Memphis Grizzlies waive him already?).
Sacramento Kings: B
Notable Additions: Cory Joseph; Dewayne Dedmon; Justin James; Kyle Guy; Isaiah Pineiro; Richaun Holmes; Trevor Ariza; Tyler Lydon; Vanja Marinkovic
Notable Exits: Alec Burks; Ben McLemore; Corey Brewer; Frank Mason; Kosta Koufos; Troy Williams; Willie Cauley-Stein
Notable Re-signings: Harrison Barnes
Props to anyone mustering strong feelings on the Sacramento Kings' offseason business. Their moves are mostly lateral or slight nudges in the right direction, with a tinge of "Does Vlade Divac want Marvin Bagley III playing the 2 sometimes?" added in for good measure.
Initial numbers on contracts for Trevor Ariza (two years, $25 million), Dewayne Dedmon (three years, $40 million) and Cory Joseph (three years, $37.2 million) rubbed many the wrong way. Their deals are innocuous at second glance.
All three have partial guarantees in the final year. Their average annual values fall on the higher end, but the Kings are not suddenly a hot destination. They have to overpay for quality players. Ariza, Dedmon and Joseph are just that. This isn't Vince Carter-George Hill-Zach Randolph circa 2017. Ariza is the most likely addition to grouse if the going gets crappy, but Sacramento isn't the flop candidate it was in 2017-18.
Harrison Barnes is a whiz at navigating free agency. He cashed in during the 2016 offseason and hit the market at just the right time to secure another massive deal, this one a four-year, $85 million agreement.
His is the contract that's most unnerving, in part because the Kings aren't set up to play him at the 4 too often. About 38 percent of his minutes in Sacramento came there last season. It'll be a stretch to match that mark with Bagley, Dedmon, Nemanja Bjelica, Harry Giles and Richaun Holmes in tow.
Sacramento's offense can hold up under any lineup structure. Viva la De'Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield. Bagley and Dedmon unlock super-huge five-out arrangements if they both keep hitting threes like they did at the end of last year. And the defense evaded catastrophe with Barnes at the 3 after the trade deadline. The Kings are not oversized satire.
At the same time, Ariza and Barnes are their only true wings. That doesn't make for a matchup-proof defense. The Kings are going to score so much they just might not care.
San Antonio Spurs: B-
Notable Additions: DeMarre Carroll; Keldon Johnson; Luka Samanac; Quinndary Weatherspoon; Trey Lyles
Notable Exits: Dante Cunningham; Davis Bertans; Quincy Pondexter
Notable Re-signings: Rudy Gay
Holding the Marcus Morris debacle against the San Antonio Spurs is pointless. He was well within his rights to renege on the verbal agreement, and they didn't grossly mishandle the situation by trading Davis Bertans and reworking the DeMarre Carroll agreement to make room for him.
Rewarding the Spurs with the equivalent of a "Chin up, Chuck!" also doesn't carry much sway. Morris would have diversified their wing rotation in a way worthy of lopping them into the Western Conference's contender jumble. Ending up with Trey Lyles instead will invite lottery predictions.
Free advice: Resist them.
Lyles isn't a terrible pivot from Morris, even if he's not a wing. He's working off a season to forget, but he was an offensive firecracker in 2017-18. He finished in the 77th percentile for spot-up efficiency and the 89th percentile for points scored per post-up possession. His pull-jumper never took, but he has an operable floor game from face-up positions. The Spurs should put him in the running for backup 5 minutes in addition to power forward duty.
Getting Carroll and re-signing Rudy Gay are wins for the wing rotation. They now have two viable small-ball 4s, and Carroll is at least someone they can throw on superstar 3s as more than a sacrificial lamb.
Missing out on Morris is still difficult to stomach when they can't undo the Bertans trade. He was one of their few outside shooters who effectively blended volume with his efficiency. Among the 41 players last season who averaged at least seven three-point attempts per 36 minutes, only Stephen Curry and Danny Green hit a higher percentage of their looks.
Rookies Keldon Johnson and Luka Samanic may need to play a role right away if the Spurs are interested in upping their long-range volume. They'll definitely lean on Lonnie Walker IV more in his sophomore season. The defensive ramifications of relying on youngsters could be stark, but Dejounte Murray's return helps ease the burden, and the Spurs have more offensive optionality than they did last year.
Toronto Raptors: B
Notable Additions: Cameron Payne; Devin Robinson; Dewan Hernandez; Matt Thomas; Rondae Hollis-Jefferson; Stanley Johnson; Terence Davis
Notable Exits: Danny Green; Jeremy Lin; Jodie Meeks; Kawhi Leonard
Notable Re-signings: Patrick McCaw
Kawhi Leonard's departure is not baked into the Raptors' grade. It can't be. It doesn't sound like they could've done anything to re-sign him—short of relocating to Southern California, of course.
Whether they could've paid Danny Green enough to keep him out of Los Angeles is anyone's guess. His fit was not tied to Leonard's fate. Retaining him made all the sense if the world if Toronto planned to run it back with everyone else.
Then again, the Raptors aren't positioned to make that promise. It looks like they'll give the incumbents a chance to get their rings as members of the team. How long that victory lap will last is up for debate. The Leonard trade was made last summer under the guise that team president Masai Ujiri would eventually hit reset.
That still feels like the plan. The Raptors have squeaky-clean books each of the next two summers. They can play out 2019-20 without committing to a direction. They can also blow it up closer to the trade deadline. Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka and Kyle Lowry are on expiring contracts and too old to headline a gradual reinvention.
Ujiri hasn't exactly hedged against every conceivable outcome. He stocked the roster with question-mark wings, some of whom aren't shooters. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Stanley Johnson and Patrick McCaw keep in theme with the Raptors' defensive malleability, but they crimp the floor balance. Terence Davis and Matt Thomas must prove they can let it fly in an NBA setting.
In the absence of cap space, though, loading up on defense-first wings isn't a bad strategy. The Raptors obliterated opponents last season through the 324 possessions Lowry and Pascal Siakam played without Green and Leonard. Sustaining the offensive output over the long haul will be tough. But with a full year of Gasol and the additions of Hollis-Jefferson and Johnson, they have the tools to ride a gritty defensive identity back into the playoffs—and maybe even the top four of the Eastern Conference.
Utah Jazz: B+
Notable Additions: Bojan Bogdanovic; Ed Davis; Emmanuel Mudiay; Jarrell Brantley; Jeff Green; Justin Wright-Foreman; Mike Conley; Miye Oni; Nigel Williams-Goss; Stanton Kidd; William Howard
Notable Exits: Derrick Favors; Ekpe Udoh; Grayson Allen; Jae Crowder; Kyle Korver; Raul Neto; Ricky Rubio; Thabo Sefolosha
Notable Re-signings: None
Try naming a team that will have a better regular-season record than the Jazz. You'll start to run out of locks after two or three squads, if you even get that far.
Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic are everything Utah needed on offense. Donovan Mitchell is no longer the sole square-one shot creator. Both Conley and Bogie can get their own looks, and the former gives the Jazz a primary playmaker who commands attention off the ball. (I.E. The Anti-Rubio.)
Having those extra options will trickle down to the rest of the roster. No one aside from Mitchell benefits more than Joe Ingles. Gone are the days he needs to be the facsimile of a second or third option. Rudy Gobert might reach the 99th percentile of pick-and-roll diver efficiency.
But the Jazz's newly weaponized offense wasn't assembled without collateral damage. The timing of the Conley trade cost them. Valuable salary fodder came off the books—Rubio and Thabo Sefolosha—and forced Utah to ship out Jae Crowder and Kyle Korver, in addition to Grayson Allen and a pair of first-round picks.
That price does not average out to an overpay. Korver couldn't stay on the court in the playoffs, and Allen has yet to show anything outside his 2018 summer league stint. First-round picks aren't nothing, but Crowder's inclusion hurts the most. He unlocked ultra-dangerous four-out lineups around Gobert that would've steamrolled opponents in the Conley era.
Utah can still eke out similar offensive formations. Bogdanovic and Ingles are interchangeable at the 3 and 4. There might be a defensive trade-off. The Pacers didn't suffer when using Bogdanovic at power forward...until the playoffs. The Jazz will face a similar dilemma.
Neither Bogdanovic nor Ingles is the ideal wing to cover Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jimmy Butler, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James, Paul George (2018 postseason notwithstanding), et al. Not every team has those players, but Utah will have to get through some of them to survive the West.
Jeff Green can almost mirror Crowder's defensive impact if he hits enough of his threes to stay on the court. Royce O'Neale has the length to play up, and the Jazz are open to starting him at power forward, according to The Athletic's Tony Jones. This might be a non-issue. It is worth monitoring in the meantime.
Washington Wizards: B-
Notable Additions: Admiral Schofield; CJ Miles; Davis Bertans; Garrison Mathews; Isaac Bonga; Isaiah Thomas; Ish Smith; Jemerrio Jones; Jordan McRae; Moritz Wagner; Rui Hachimura; Tarik Phillip
Notable Exits: Bobby Portis; Chasson Randle; Devin Robinson; Dwight Howard; Jabari Parker; Jeff Green; Jonathon Simmons; Sam Dekker; Tomas Satoransky; Trevor Ariza
Notable Re-signings: Thomas Bryant
Necessarily Unspectacular: The Story of the Washington Wizards' Offseason.
ESPN's Kevin Pelton revealed the nuts-and-bolts perspective:
"The Wizards are still in Year 1 of austerity resulting from the free-spending ways of former GM Ernie Grunfeld. That process began with the [Otto] Porter trade before Grunfeld was fired in April and continued under interim replacement Tommy Sheppard, who was promoted to GM as part of a front-office restructuring earlier this week. Working with a limited budget because of the looming luxury-tax line, the Wizards let [Jabari] Parker and Bobby Portis walk in free agency and traded [Tomas] Satoransky to the Bulls rather than matching an offer sheet to the restricted free agent.
"Using a variety of trade exceptions, Sheppard dealt for Davis Bertans and CJ Miles—both of whom might end up starting—and the Lakers' package of Isaac Bonga, Jemerrio Jones and Moritz Wagner. Washington also signed point guards Ish Smith (two years, $12 million) and Isaiah Thomas (one year, veteran's minimum) to fill in for injured John Wall and re-signed starting center Thomas Bryant for three years and $25 million."
Rui Hachimura is the only make-or-break decision the Wizards have made under Sheppard. Some will maintain he was a superfluously risky selection with Cam Reddish, PJ Washington, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and others still on the board.
Push-back should subside following Hachimura's summer league performance. He needs to do more playmaking if he's going to control the ball, but he flashed a nice feel for the game in the half-court. Washington will remain laughably light on wings if he or Admiral Schofield doesn't stand out from the get-go.
Bradley Beal has the power to considerably beef up the Wizards' grade. They offered him a three-year, $111 million extension as soon as he became eligible for it, per The Athletic's David Aldridge. He'll be on the books for a grand total of five years and $167.6 million if he accepts. That would be unreal value for a player of his ilk in the current salary-cap climate.
Bet against Beal putting pen to paper. Waiting makes him more money. He'll be eligible for a five-year, $253.8 million supermax if he makes an All-NBA team next season. Failing that, he'll be up for a five-year, $217.5 million regular max as a free agent in 2021.