NBA offseason’s are crazy compared to other sports as so many big names go to new places. However, the offseason is much more than just who got the most well known player. This article ranks the order of which teams had the best offseason.
30.) Charlotte Hornets:
The Hornets were in a tough situation this offseason as they would have to pay Kemba the super max, or go into a rebuild. They chose the rebuild, which was the right decision, but made the worst decision of the offseason after that. They signed former Celtics point guard Terry Rozier to a 3 year $56.7 million contract. Rozier’s resume is limited as his biggest accomplishment was in his 3rd season in the playoffs where he averaged 16.5 ppg, 5.7 apg, and 1.3 spg helping his team make it to game 7 of the eastern conference finals. That season, Rozier also recorded the 18th best defensive rating in the NBA at 103.7. Despite his accomplishments, I don’t see him as a franchise point guard. He hasn’t shot 40% from the court in any of his first four seasons. He is not a “true point guard” averaging only 4.6 assists per 36 minutes this past year. It’s also important to factor in the fact that Brad Stevens has elevated so many player’s games such as Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, and Jae Crowder. Then when they leave, they became significantly less versions of themselves. I wouldn’t have mind if it was a one year prove it deal, but this contract handicaps them for who they can draft in the future. The Hornets need a star to build around and need to go after the best player available in the draft. Next year’s class has a couple point guards towards the top, and if they draft one, it could lead to chemistry issues and tension with Rozier as we saw what happened with him and Kyrie. The Hornets also would be stuck with that contract, because no one else was going to pay Rozier that kind of money. “Scary Terry” is fun to watch and no moment is too big for him, but I don’t see him as a franchise point guard. Furthermore, I don’t have anything against the pick of P.J. Washington as a player as he’s a hard worker that can be a 4 that does a little bit of everything and will be a great leader for a young team.
29.) Toronto Raptors:
The defending champs went all in and didn’t make any moves until Kawhi made his free agency decision. Unfortunately, Kawhi didn’t come back to Toronto, so the Raptors options were very limited as most of the mid tier free agents had already signed a contract by that time. The Raptors went out and signed Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Stanley Johnson to inexpensive deals. The problem is that these two players and 3rd year player OG Anunoby are similar players, and having even two of them on the court at the same time would be difficult for spacing. The Raptors are stuck with Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, and Serge for one more year, so the Raptors didn’t have flexibility to spend money in this year’s free agency. They did not own a draft pick this year, so in the Raptor’s defense, there wasn’t much they could do.
28.) Minnesota Timberwolves:
The Timberwolves had the #6 pick in the draft and took a wing with Jarrett Culver instead of point guard Coby White. Personally, I had Coby White higher on my board than Culver and the Timberwolves needed a point guard. Jarrett Culver is a good player and will play whatever role that will help the team win, but if the Timberwolves want to build around Karl Anthony-Towns, then they need to surround him with shooters and relatively soon. With player mobility being bigger now more than ever, you can’t keep waiting until the day your super star demands a trade. Jarrett Culver has a hitch in his jump shot, so surrounding KAT with guys like Culver, Jeff Teague, Josh Okogie, and Gorgui Dieng will not work. I think their main goal was to sign D’Angelo Russell in the offseason, but it didn’t work and didn’t have a viable plan B. Head coach Ryan Saunders wants to rebuild the culture, which he did to some extent, but they didn’t accomplish much else.
27.) Orlando Magic:
The Magic were busy this free agency. They resigned Terrence Ross to a 4 year $54 million contract. This was the best move they made this offseason as Ross was a great 6th man that fit their system and shot 38.3% from 3 on 7 attempts per game. The Magic also resigned Nikola Vucevic to a 4 year $100 million deal, which is confusing. In the 2018 draft, the Magic got center Mo Bamba at the 6th pick overall. Bamba looked good and showed real potential this past season until he got a stress fracture in his leg, which caused him to miss the 2nd half of the season. Even though Vucevic was a big reason they made the playoffs this year, I thought Bamba was still the future at center. Now though, Bamba won’t even have a chance to start in his rookie contract as neither are quick enough to keep up with PF’s in today’s game. In the draft, the Magic took Chuma Okeke who will be out for this upcoming season, but is a solid player. He projects to be a floor spacer that plays hard. I don’t think he was the best player on the board though, and the Magic have too many players that will practically play the same role in Jonathan Isaac, Okeke, and Al-farouq Aminu. They also have Aaron Gordon who will take up a lot of minutes at forward. I think they have a lot of solid players they aquired, but it doesn’t look like they are going to give their young players the playing time to develop. The only young guy the Magic is going to trust it looks like is Markelle Fultz who had the worst hitch in his jumpshot I had ever seen last year. Hopefully he has gotten back to the player he was before the injuries, because then this will significantly change the way I see the Magic.
26.) Denver Nuggets:
The Denver Nuggets have made very little moves, but made the right ones. The Nuggets weakest link in their late game lineups was Paul Millsap. He isn’t the same player offensively anymore and the Nuggets realized that. They traded their 2020 1st round pick for Jerami Grant. Grant is a 6’9, lengthy forward who’s a plus defender and can play fast. Jokic needs to play with a guy like Grant who is athletic, can be a weakside rim protector, and can space the floor well enough to allow Jokic to find cutters. Furthermore, the Nuggets took a chance at the 44th pick in the draft to take Bol Bol who was a top 10 talent, but injuries and questionable work ethic led to him to fall. I have no problem with the Nuggets taking him at that point because it was a low risk, high reward pick. Also, the Nuggets were proactive and signed Jamal Murray, their second best player, to a 5 year $170 million deal. Murray is a major part of their future, so even though it looks risky, it’s a risk the Nuggets have to take. I rated their offseason this low because they didn’t make many changes, but that doesn’t mean they had a bad offseason.
25.) Washington Wizards:
The Wizards did not have a lot of flexibility this offseason as the Wizards have a couple of bad contracts including John Wall’s super max deal. Despite this, the Wizards actually made one of the most underrated signings of the season. They were able to resign center Thomas Bryant on a 3 year $25 million deal. This past year, Bryant came out of no where and caught people off guard. He is undersized as a center at 6’10, but makes up for it with his physicality. Bryant averaged 18.2 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per 36 minutes. He can shoot from 3 as he shot 33.3% from there and has decent mechanics as well as good timing as a shot blocker. In this year’s draft, the Wizards drafted Rui Hachimura who I’m not quite as high on as many, but he will play well in the 2 man game with Bradley Beal. Wizards signed former Spurs stretch 4 Davis Bertans who should be a nice floor spacer. Additionally, rookies Admiral Schofield and Justin Robinson could be players that could make an impact especially if the season goes down hill. Overall, this offseason will be defined by how good Rui Hachimura becomes, so only time will tell.
24.) Detroit Pistons:
Similarly to the Wizards, the Pistons had very little flexibility financially. This required the Pistons to be smart with how they spent their money. Their big free agent was former MVP Derrick Rose, signing him to a 2 year $15 million deal. At this point in his career, you can only count on him for one thing and that thing is to score. Last year, Rose averaged 18.0 ppg off the bench, which is very impressive considering the obstacles he’s faced in his career. The fact of the matter though is that he is bad defender, so you just hope he can outscore whatever he lets up on the other end. In the draft, the Pistons got Sekou Doumbouya who will be a project. Sekou has gotten comparisons to Pascal Siakam. This is relevant, because Dwayne Casey was Siakam’s coach when he was drafted, so if he saw the same raw skillset and potential, then I am an even bigger fan of this pick. The Pistons are stuck in mediocrity, so they need to swing for the fences when they get the chance.
23.) Milwaukee Bucks:
The Bucks stayed loyal to their players this offseason, even if it meant overpaying them. Kris Middleton signed a 5 year $177.5 million deal to stay with Milwaukee. I think of Middleton more as a 3rd best player on a championship caliber team so paying him $35.5 million per year on average seems too high. The Bucks also resigned Brook Lopez on a 4 year $52 million deal. I do think it’s necessary to have a center that can shoot from 3 with Giannis so the fit is undeniable. The problem is paying him for 4 years when he’s 31 years old. The Bucks also resigned George Hill to a 3 year deal when he is 31 years old. It’s nice to see loyalty from an NBA organization, but I think it’s to a fault at times including the Eric Bledsoe extension in the middle of the year. Despite their willingness to overpay returning players, I do like the Robin Lopez signing to a 2 year $9.77 million deal. I like what Robin can offer off the team’s bench especially when the game slows down in the playoffs, Lopez is a consistent threat with his back to the basketball. In addition, the Bucks got a steal in signing Kyle Korver to a 1 year 2.6 million deal. Korver is still one of the best shooters in the game so having someone like him paired with Giannis should elevate both of their games.
22.) Cleveland Cavaliers:
The best move the Cavaliers made this offseason was snagging head coach John Beilien from Michigan. Beilein ran an NBA type offense as he valued spacing and would run a 5 out offense at times. I also like that he doesn’t have to coach a ton of veterans as his team is fairly young to make the transition easier for him. Despite this, their is some confusion in how all his players are going to fit. All 3 of the Cavalier’s first round pick’s were not bad picks in terms of value. The 30th pick overall, Kevin Porter Jr., will most likely be a 6th man type of role especially if the Cavs move off Jordan Clarkson. Dylan Windler will most likely compete to start as the SF with Cedi Osman as he is 6’8, plays the right way, and fits Beilein’s system very well. Darius Garland is where it gets interesting as both him and Sexton are point guards, but Beilein thinks they will fit well next to each other. I see where he’s coming from as Garland is a better dribbler and shooter, while Sexton is more of a hard nosed defender that projects to be a better driver. Unfortunately, neither are great facilitators at this point in their career and are undersized at 6’2. I expect Sexton to guard most two’s with his 6’6 wingspan and higher motor, but I don’t know if I can see the two coexisting together in the long run. With that said, that would conclude that one of these lottery picks may not fit with Cleveland’s longterm plans.
21.) Oklahoma City Thunder:
The Thunder went into a total rebuild trading Paul George and Russell Westbrook, which I thought was a good move. They control the Clippers draft for the next 7 years and got a nice young guard in Shae Gilgeous-Alexander. I think they have the right coach for the way they want to play with Billy Donavon. The thunder want to play fast and want to have length and versatility defensively. Last season, the Thunder ranked 9th in pace and 1st in opponent turnover percentage. I personally think they have not done a good job over the years of aquiring shooters, so hopefully they will improve in that area. It was time to tear it down though, because I don’t think a team can win with Westbrook as their point guard. Even with the 10 apg, Russell is not a natural passer. He improved at deffering more in the regular season and limiting his shot attempts, but when clutch moments occur or when the pressure is on, Westbrook goes back to his old habbits of being the guy who plays too hard to a fault and trys to be the drive or take tough two’s and becomes out of control. The one area that I don’t like is having Chris Paul. I know it was necessary to get rid of Westbrook, but I would have tried trading him for next to nothing or take on a bad deal from a player. Having Chris limits the amount of time Shae Gilgeous will spend at point, which could stall his development. In addition, Paul would help them win more games than they want to win. With spending their 1st round pick on Darius Bazley, they invested in a project. He fits the profile for being long and playing fast, and it is hard for me to evaluate him considering he didn’t play college basketball. Overall though, the Thunder should have the draft capital to hand pick the players they want to build around for the future.
20.) Miami Heat
After Dwayne Wade retired, the Miami Heat decided to retool this offseason rather than rebuild. They traded for Jimmy Butler, who is very talented, but comes with a lot of baggage. Part of this decision was most likely because Pat Riley is getting older and I don’t think he wants to watch a bunch of first and second year players get 25 wins a season. Jimmy has the talent to carry a team in the eastern conference and get them in the playoffs. I think for Butler, it’s the perfect fit. He will play with a lot of veterans, and Miami is known for having grinders that will work hard all the time. Also, Miami was willing to pay him, which definitely factored into it. I am a huge fan of trading Hassan Whiteside primarily because Bam Adebayo is ready to step in and play a bigger role. I like the aqusition of Meyers Leanard especially since Spoelstra values big men that can space the floor. Then in the draft, the Heat took guard Tyler Herro who is a basketball junkie, but lacks physical size for an NBA wing. The thing that the Heat do though is that they don’t play with a real point guard a lot of times as Josh Richardson and Justice Winslow would bring the ball up last season. It was evident in the summer league that they are planning on using him as a point guard. I did not think Herro was the best player available, but the Heat know how to use shooters and he will work hard, so I do like the fit. The reason why I have the Heat so low is that they are going to be stuck in mediocrity with signing Butler. At best, this team will maybe win a playoff series in the next couple years, and never be real championship contenders.
19.) Brooklyn Nets
The Brooklyn Nets most definitely made a big splash this offseason signing some of the most talented players in the NBA in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. As many know, Kevin Durant tore his achilles in the NBA finals so he will be out for a good majority of this upcoming season. If you want the more in depth analysis of this situation, please read my “Battle of New York” article, but basicallly, you can’t trust Kyrie. I think he’s a more of a me guy and less of a we guy. Similar to Jimmy Butler, Kyrie can be impatient with younger players. Nets have a similar situation that Kyrie walked into last year with the Celtics and we saw how that went. I expect Kevin Durant to come back as mostly the same player offensively especially when it comes to his jumpshot. That part of his game isn’t going anywhere. What I question is if he’ll be the same player defensively coming off the achilles injury and the fact he is turning 31 years old. The Nets also signed DeAndre Jordan for 4 years worth about $40 million total. While Jordan is very solid at what he does, he is 31 years of age. The Nets already have a young and talented center in Jarrett Allen who is the same type of player as DeAndre Jordan. Adding Jordan to the mix doesn’t make sense, because the Nets can’t put them on the floor at the same time and centers that can’t shoot are being outdated when it comes time for the playoffs anyways. The Nets aquired Taurean Prince and Garrett Temple, which were both solid two way wings on reasonable deals. Then with the 31st pick in the NBA Draft, the Nets took Nicolas Claxton. Claxton moves very well for his size as well as impressive handles. I see potential in him as a modern 4, but he is definitely a project and will take time. This team will be good, but down the line, the Nets are going to regret tearing up the rebuild and rushing the process for a high matenance Kyrie and a Kevin Durant coming off an achilles injury. A core centered around Kyrie and KD will win games, but will never win a title.
18.) San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs had a confusing offseason to say the least. In the draft I really like the Luka Samanic pick at 19, because he will fit with the Spurs really well. I wasn’t super high on Keldon Johnson, but he fell further than I was expecting so the Spurs got good value for him. Also, the Spurs are one of the best organizations when it comes to developing young players. I thought the Spurs had a solid draft, but in free agency, the Spurs signed veterans in Rudy Gay and DeMarre Carroll to add to the group of DeMar Derozen, LaMarcus Aldridge, Patty Mills, and Marco Bellineli. There is no clear direction for this team right now, which is why I have their offseason this low, despite having an impressive draft.
17.) Houston Rockets
The Rockets got desperate. With the Warriors losing Kevin Durant, they saw their chance to win the title, so they knew they had to make a trade. Chris Paul got traded for Russell Westbrook. The Rockets definitely improved as Chris Paul looked like he was getting older by the minute in the playoffs, but I can’t see this working out. I don’t think you can win with Russell Westbrook. At the end of the day, he is who he is. He’s going to play really hard, out of control, with tunnel vision. I can’t trust him in the playoffs. I also think the Rockets need another 3 and D forward, because they don’t have much outside P.J. Tucker that can play both wings. This isn’t too concernning as Darryl Morey does a great job at the trade deadline and in the buyout market, so once the playoffs come, this problem should be resolved. Furthermore, the Rockets were able to bring back Austin Rivers on a team friendly deal as well as Tyson Chandler. I don’t envision this ending well, but they will have an underdog mentality. Russell Westbrook has taken a lot of heat for losing in the first round of the playoffs 3 years in a row, James Harden has a reputation for choking in the playoffs, and Mike D’Antoni wants to prove his “system” can work in the playoffs. The world is going to see them on their best behavior in the regular season, but once May comes around, Russell is who he is and I don’t see that changing.
16.) Dallas Mavericks:
This offseason was about putting the right players around Luka Doncic and they did just that. In free agency, Dallas signed Seth Curry and Courtney Lee who can both score without the ball and should be nice complementary players. Also, Rick Carlisle is great at using smaller guards to his advantage; players like Devin Harris, J.J. Barea, and Jalen Brunsen’s skillsets become amplified so expect Seth Curry to be a good fit. The Mavericks also signed Delon Wright to a very reasonable 3 year $28 million deal. He’s got good size at 6’5 with almost a 6’8 wingspan and can play either guard position. He knows how to play on or off the ball despite not having a great jumpshot. He is a plus defender that can create turnovers having the 9th best steal percentage in the league this past year. In addition, the Mavericks resigned two very solid role players in Maxi Kleber and Dwight Powell. Powell is a great role man that can play above the rim with the best of them having the highest offensive rating in the NBA two straight seasons in a row. With Kleber, you get a guy that plays hard. He is comforterable on the perimer and athletic enough to burn his man on a cut. The Mavericks did not have a first round draft pick, but got a steal in Isaiah Roby who is someone to keep an eye on. He’s a versatile defender that finds ways to make winning plays. The mechanics of his jumpshot look good, but it’s a matter of being more comforterable and being shot ready when he gets the ball on the perimeter. Also, they decided to pay Porzingas, which is hard for me to say it was a bad move, because the Mavericks are the ones who have seen him this offseason, and if he is healthy and commited, he can form a scary duo with Luka Doncic. The Mavericks didn’t swing for the fences, but made many solid moves to justify having a successful offseason.
15.) Phoenix Suns:
A lot of people have criticized the Suns offseason, but I am going to justify most of the moves they made. In the draft, they traded back to pick 11 to take Cam Johnson. This pick was a reach as Cam Johnson has had up and down shooting seasons, doesn’t offer versatility to guard PF’s as he is too thin, and has had lingering ankle issues in college. He will be someone who a defense will have to respect from 3 and will help the culture though. Later in the draft, they took Ty Jerome. This pick will not be a bust. Jerome will be able to lead a backup unit and is a player that people respect, because he plays the right way, can space the floor, and plays with an edge. He was also was one of the leaders at Virginia, who won the national title, and I expect him to help the culture. In free agency, the Suns payed Rubio a good chunk of money at 3 years for $51 million. Despite this, I think it was the right move. The Suns have two cornerstone pieces in Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton. Booker is already getting the max, and the Suns smartly matched the length of Rubio’s contract with Ayton’s rookie contract. Rubio will give the Suns stability at point guard, which the team hasn’t had since they started the rebuild. In addition, the Suns have a lot of guys that can score, but no one to put them in the position to score before Rubio. Devin Booker will now not have to be the only ball handler in the offense, which will help his efficiency as he shot a career low 32.6% from 3. Once the season ended, the Suns aggressively wanted Monty Williams to be there coach. Monty Williams has been an assistant for good teams and has a reputation among NBA circles of being a great human being. Every single move the Suns made was to fix the culture of this team. Phoenix was able to find shooters to allow Ayton more room to work as well as find good people. The Suns got it right this offseason.
14.) Sacramento Kings:
The Sacramento Kings were very aggressive this offseason and was not shy about spending money. First, they resigned Harrison Barnes to a 4 year $84 million deal. Since winning the NBA finals with the Warriors, he has not lived up to the potential or the money. Despite this, the Kings want to take a chance on him. He’s a solid all around scorer where he shot 39.5% from 3, can put the ball on the floor, and can play with his back to the basket. With all that said, he has not recorded a positive box plus minus since his 3rd year in the league. He will be a nice vet for this team, but when you have to pay De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, and Marvin Bagley in a few years, it could become problematic. The Kings continued to invest heavily in strengthing it’s young team with Dewayne Dedmon, Trevor Ariza, and Cory Joseph. Starting off with the big man, Dedmon is a center who transformed his game and became a stretch 5 as he shot 38.2% from 3. In addition to this, he is a solid defensively at 7’0 ft averaging 1.5 steals and 1.6 blocks per 36 minutes. He was a very underrated pickup and having the ability to run a 5 out with De’Aaron Fox as your point guard sounds scary. Furthermore, Trevor Ariza is getting up there in age, but still knows how to be effective in a 3 and D role. With Cory Joseph, he will be a mentor to Fox as he has been on many winning organizations. His contract sounds bad at 3 years $37 million but the 3rd year is partially guranteed so it’s matched up with De’Aaron Fox’s contract if the Kings decide to opt out. The Kings did a good job of spending their money to put more shooting around Fox and manangement is setting the mindset of being aggressive and that they want to make the playoffs this year.
13.) Golden State Warriors:
The Golden State Warriors obviously lost one of the NBA’s best in Kevin Durant, but they showed us why they are one of the smartest franchises. Even when they knew Durant was gone, they made a trade with the Nets to get back D’Angelo Russell. While Klay Thompson will be sitting out the first half of the season, D’Angelo will be playing an open tryout for 31 teams. The Warriors out smarted the system again, and they are going to be able to trade Russell at the trade deadline for most likely length, shooting, and/or depth. Besides that move, the only new signing I think that will benefit the Warriors will be Willie Cauley-Stein as he will be a good rim runner, protect the rim, and catch more lobs than I can count. The Warriors also signed Alec Burks who is an average 3 point shooter at 37.2%, but has never been a positive box plus minus player in his career. Overall, the Warriors extended Draymond Green as well as signed Klay Thompson, so the original big 3 is still together for the next 4 years. This core will still be good enough to compete with the NBA’s best.
12.) Atlanta Hawks
Last year’s offseason was about building the chemistry and reshaping their identity. This year, Atlanta took De’Andre Hunter with the 4th pick overall. He is someone that should fit in with the Hawks very well as he will sit in the corner and space the floor while Trey Young runs a pick and roll up top. Defensively, Hunter is undersized for a 4 at 6’7, but he has broad shoulders and a 7’2 wingspan to make up for it. De’Andre is not going to be a game changing defender, but is very good fundamentally and does a good job of staying in front of his man without fouling. This doesn’t sound like a home run when being picked 4th overall, but he is expected to contribute right away, and there was a significant drop from the top 3 picks to the rest of the lottery. Later in the draft, the Hawks selected Cam Reddish at the 10th pick. I wasn’t a huge Cam Reddish fan coming into the draft, but I think this is a great gamble for Atlanta. The Hawks have a great culture in place and if Reddish is going to succeed anywhere, I can’t think of a much better opportunity. Then, to make up for the loss of Dewayne Dedmon, the Hawks selected Bruno Fernando in the early second round. Fernando is someone who learns with experience so their will be growing pains, but he should be a good player for them down the road with his ability to protect the rim, catch lobs, and developing jump shot. Late in free agency, the Hawks signed Jabari Parker to a 2 year $13 million deal with a player option on the second year. This reminds me of the Julius Randle deal last year as no one is questioning their talent, but can they fit in today’s game. Team’s want to see him improve from the 3 point line as well as he only shot 31.3% last season. He is also a below average defender, so this is a prove it year for Parker. The Hawks also took on a few expiring contracts to gain more draft assets, which is smart because they don’t have to pay a substantial amount of money anyone this year.
11.) Chicago Bulls:
The Chicago Bulls made a lot of moves that fit around the pieces they have in place. In the draft, the Bulls caught a break when Coby White fell to them at the 7th pick overall. At North Carolina, White was the engine for them as they played at one of the fastest paces in college basketball last season. Coby White is a shooter with solid size at 6’5. He is not going to be a great defender, but with how important shooting is in today’s game, expect him to be the starting point guard of the future. In free agency, they added role players in Thadeus Young and Tomas Satoransky. Thadeus Young is a veteran and the Bulls could use someone like him and his leadership. Young is a tough guy that takes pride defensively as he ranked 13th in defensive win shares this past season. Also, expect Young to be in end of game lineups with him and Markkannen as the big men so they can switch defensively and have more spacing offensively. I don’t love how much the Bulls are paying Young at his age, but the third year is partially guranteed and he will help instill a winning culture for a group of young players that don’t know how to win at this level. With Satoransky, the Bulls are getting a 6’7 combo guard that has the versatility to play on or off the ball and space the floor shooting 39.5% from 3. The Bulls also drafted Daniel Gafford in the 2nd round who should be an upgrade over Felicio as the backup center just on his athletic profile alone. This team was also able to retain Ryan Arcidiacono, someone who plays incredibly hard and is a good guy to have in the locker room. The one thing I would have like to have seen the Bulls do is trade Kris Dunn. I’m guessing they have been, but he probably doesn’t have many suitors with the way he played last year. The Bulls were very solid and smart with the players they picked and the way will fit the pieces they have in place.
10.) Memphis Grizzlies:
The Memphis Grizzlies went into a full rebuild this offseason trading the last piece to the “Grit and Grind” era in Mike Conley. Fortunately for the Grizzlies, the rebuild is off to a good start. Memphis had some luck in the lottery getting the 2nd pick in the NBA draft to select Ja Morant. The Murray State product is a phenominal driver who is flashy and will reenergize this franchise. Morant is also a great passer as he led the nation in assists last season, but he isn’t always a willing passer especially in higher pressure moments. Later in the draft, the Grizzlies selected Brandon Clarke, which was an absolute steal. Clarke is older at 22 years old, but has a high IQ, good insticts defensively, and has a 40 in. vertical. Brandon Clarke and Jaren Jackson will be one of the best defensive tandems in the NBA. Ja Morant showed an inability to play any defense in the tournament so the combination of the 2 bigs should make up for it. The resigning of Valanciunas was a fair signing especially since they front loaded the deal. Additionally, Jae Crowder is a nice 3 and D vet, and the aquisitions of Grayson Allen and De’Anthony Melton are both fine as well. Josh Jackson has some serious issues outside of basketball so I’m not a fan of that move, but worse case scenario, they move off of him after this year. A key aquisition to this team’s success could be the hiring of former assistant to Mike Budenholzer (current Bucks and former Hawks Head coach), Taylor Jenkins, but he has a few good pieces in places for future of the Grizzlies.
9.) New York Knicks:
Most people think that the Knicks had a terrible offseason when they didn’t sign any stars, but they most definitely didn’t. They may not have won the lottery with Zion, but R.J. Barrett is more than just a consolation prize. Barrett is a very good driver who knows how to read angles well and exploit it. His jump shot is definitely a work in progress, but I don’t think it’s not fixable. It wouldn’t surprise me if R.J. struggled this year, especially when it comes to being efficient. In the long run though, expect R.J. to become a very complete offensive player. The Knicks also drafted Ignas Brazdeikis, someone who will probably play right away for them off their bench as a versatile scorer. In the offseason, the Knicks signed a plethora of power forwards, but they are all on short term contracts and can play multiple positions. The Julius Randle signing was a good one, because Randle is a very hard working player that is really talented and has improved his jumper to fit in this league. I am not a huge fan of having two point guards in Elfrid Payton and Dennis Smith who both can’t shoot. Overall though, the Knicks signed a lot of veterans on reasonable deals for the most part, which will help the Knicks be competitive and can be trade assets at the deadline to contenders. Knicks fans will feel better about this offseason in the future, they just don’t see it now.
8.) Indiana Pacers:
The Pacers lost a lot of their veterans this offseason, but they got younger and more talented. The big signing for them was Malcolm Brogdon. Indiana signed him to 4 years for $85 million total. While this does seem very expensive, it is hard to attract big free agents to come to Indiana. Brogdon is the expected starting point guard and will be a very good one. Brogdon can fit with anyone whether he is playing on or off the ball, will be a plus defender, and will fit in with the Pacer’s culture. Expect Brogdon to become a fringe all star caliber player in this system and will help keep the Pacers relevant in the east. Wings Jeremy Lamb and Justin Holiday were both signed to reasonable deals and should be contributors right away especially with Oladipo out the first part of the season. The Pacers traded a 2nd round pick to get T.J. Warren. I am not a huge fan of his game, but the Pacers could really use him when it comes time for the Playoffs and when the game slows down. Indiana was horrific offensively against the Celtics in the playoffs only scoring above 96 points once in 4 games. This was with Oladipo out, but they could still use Warren’s shot creating ability nonetheless. In the draft, the Pacers selected a big man from overseas named Goga Bitadze who has a solid mid range game, and shows signs of potential as a shot blocker and a 3 point shooter. Bitadze will likely serve primarily as a rim runner early in his career, but expect him to develop into a nice big man for them in the future. With the fact of the Pacers improving their team as well as the culture they have in place, expect them to be a top 4 seed in the East.
7.) Boston Celtics:
The Celtics underachieved in many people’s opinion last year as they had the talent to be the best team in the East, but didn’t meet expectations largely due to a lack of chemistry. I don’t blame all of it on Kyrie Irving, but a good amount goes to him. Without him, expect this team to be more like the team we saw 2 years ago making it to game 7 of the conference finals. To replace Kyrie, the Celtics brought in Kemba Walker. Kemba and Kyrie aren’t on the same level talent wise, but Kemba is still an all star who is a better leader and is more selfless than Kyrie Irving. Additionally, we have seen players that buy in to Steven’s system look better than they actually are. Isaiah Thomas is a perfect example as both him and Kemba are undersized guards, and Thomas is not as talented as Kemba, but Thomas still had a near MVP level season. Furthermore, the Celtics signed Enes Kanter for 2 years for about $5 million per year with the 2nd year being a player option. Kanter is effective at what he does as a rebounder and post up scorer, but I have a hard time seeing him in their late game lineups with his inability to switch or space the floor. In the draft, the Celtics were busy. With the last pick in the lottery, Boston took Romeo Langford, a guard from Indiana. Langford is someone who I am not as high on as many, but in Brad Steven’s system, I don’t see him being a total bust. Later in the draft, the Celtics took 2 guys in P.J. Williams and Carsen Edwards; both players who I think were good value picks. In Williams, you get an undersized big man who is tough, is a good defender, and has a high IQ. I also think there is potential with him to become a capable 3 point scorer, but watching Williams, it’s hard to not like the way he plays. In Edwards, the Celtics are getting possibly the best shooter in the draft. In March Madness, Edwards was the most impressive player in the tournament, making shots that not many other players can make. Edwards is about 6’0 ft, but has a 6’6 wingspan as well as a coach in Stevens who knows how to disguise liability’s on the court defensively. In the pickup of Tako Fall, it’s possible we see him this year with his massive 7’6 frame and surprisingly good coordination for some his size, but it also wouldn’t surprise me if the Celtics are patient with him. The Celtics have improved their team for the better this offseason even if they aren’t as talented with the losses of Kyrie. The player the Celtics will miss is Al Horford as he was a good leader and could do a lot of different things to help his team.
6.) Utah Jazz:
The Utah Jazz were more aggressive this offseason as we’ve seen in years past. The Jazz traded the 21st pick in this year’s draft for point guard Mike Conley. Conley is a vet as well as a great person to have on your team as he won teammate of the year last season. In addition, Mike has never been an allstar, despite having a couple of all star caliber seasons when Memphis was in the prime of the “Grit and Grind” era. The point of this is that he is a very selfless player that will be a leader and a mentor in ways to Donavon Mitchell and will do whatever it is to help his team. The biggest concern with Conley is durability as he hasn’t been as healthy as one would like to have seen the last 4 years. The other big move the Jazz made was signing Bojan Bogdonavic to a 4 year $72 million deal. Bogdonavic is a high IQ player that will be a floor spacer for the Jazz. I don’t think it was a good idea to sign him for that long or that amount of money, but he will be a decent fit for them in this system. On the bench, they added Jeff Green and Ed Davis. Both of these players are veterans that will provide some leadership. Green is a forward that is very versatile defensively that can switch, while still being a threat offensively with his ability to cut and also has a respectable 3 point shot. Ed Davis is someone who will do the dirty work. He will clean the glass effectively despite being undersized for a center and is a plus defender. He should be a solid backup to Gobert. I expect the Jazz to be busy at the trade deadline and the waiver market, because they need a guard or wing off their bench that can shoot. The Jazz needed to do a little more for their bench, but the Jazz are trying to be agrressive and make a push now, and they did a good job of getting players that will fit around each other and fit the culture they have in place.
5.) Los Angeles Lakers:
The Lakers finally were able to aquire Anthony Davis, while keeping the young player that compliments LeBron the best. Him and Kuzma fit very well, because LeBron likes to play with alpha scorers and Kuzma fits that description the best. Despite missing out on Kawhi, the Lakers did a good job of making the most of the situation and got players to compliment LeBron. They got shooters in Danny Green, Troy Daniels, and Quinn Cook to space the floor for LeBron. They also added another wing in Avery Bradley for depth and will be one of the team’s perimeter defenders. An underrated move the Lakers made was to get Rondo back on a very cheap deal who really is a great leader and facilitator to back up LeBron and their paying only about $2.6 millian for one year. I do think the Lakers gave up a ton of assets in the Davis trade, but LeBron and Lakers management created too much friction with the young players, so it was probably the right decision to move off of them at this point. Anthony Davis is the most talented big man LeBron has ever played with, but I do have concerns whether he will be playing the 4 or the 5 as LeBron works best with having a pick and roll with a big and 3 shooters. We saw Love and Bosh having to sacrifice their games and just become stretch 4s. I like this situation a lot more if the Lakers decide to play Davis as the 5 so him and LeBron can play and do what they do best and surround the 2 of them with shooters. Unfortunately, it does look like the Lakers will go that route to atleast start the season. Overall, the Lakers are being aggressive and doing everything to make LeBron happy, which is probably the right way to go. I don’t know how I like signing Frank Vogel as the head coach as he hasn’t adapted to the 3 ball era, which you have to do to some extent.
4.) Portland Trailblazers:
The Trailblazers felt like the cinderella team of the playoffs last year surpassing many people’s expectations, so it would have been easy to just roll with the same group of players. Instead, Portland was very aggressive in upgrading their team for this year with Lillard and McCollum enterring the prime stages of their career; the Blazers know this is their window of opportunity. Portland aquired Hassan Whiteside who is a bit of a wild card as their was friction with him and the Heat for a couple years, but Portland can afford to take on his ego. Whiteside was one of best bigs in the league at one point as he averaged a ridiculous 3.7 bpg in the 2015-2016 season and the following year averaged 17 ppg and 14.1 rpg. A big reason why his numbers dipped these past couple seasons is because the Heat really like Bam Adebayo and saw him as the center of the future. This led to Whiteside playing only 23-25 minutes per game the last 2 seasons. Despite this, Hassan ranked first in the NBA in defensive rating, defensive rebound %, and total rebound %. His prescence could really help this team defensively. The Hawks also aquired Kent Bazemore who is a solid defender on the wing, but has been inconsistent from season to season from 3. In the draft, the players got a very raw player, but it was really good value in Nassir Little. If Nassir can become more of a perimeter player than he was in college, then that should benefit the Trailblazers in the long run. Right now, he can probably serve as an energy guy off the bench. A big steal Portland got in free agency was resigning Rodney Hood for 2 years for about $6 million per year with the second year being a player option. He’s a nice spark for them off the bench. The Trailblazers are generally a little too loyal to their players, but I think they made a lot of good risks this offseason to higher their ceiling and become real contenders possibly.
3.) Philadelphia 76ers:
The 76ers are going into full win now mode as they signed Al Horford, who’s 33 years old, to a 4 year contract with $97 million guarenteed is risky. Also, one of Horford or Embiid is going to have to guard PFs. Embiid would most likely hold his own better against PFs, but that also eliminates his ability to protect the rim. The 76ers also signed Tobias Harris to a massive 5 year $180 million deal. Harris is a nice player, but there is a reason he has been on 5 different teams. He isn’t a guy who can be a top 2 player on a championship team. Now he won’t be for the 76ers, but they are paying him like he is. The 76ers view him as a spot up shooter primarily, but that isn’t his game. With the Clippers, he was ball dominant and they ran pick and rolls through him. He needs to be consistently involved as we saw him shoot 42.6% from 3 with the Clippers, but only 32.6% with the 76ers. The best decision Philadelphia made this offseason was trading for Josh Richardson. A lot of people are going to learn who he is this year if they don’t already. Richardson had a breakout year with the Heat last year averaging 16.8 ppg while shooting 35.6% from 3, but on 6.2 attempts per game with no one setting him up. He is also on a very reasonable contract worth about $10.5 million per year for the next 2 seasons. The 76ers bench is fairly weak with Mattise Thybulle, Zhaire Smith, Trey Burke, and Mike Scott, but the 76ers have one of the best starting 5s in the NBA now. The 76ers have to win now in order for this offseason to look like a success or else, they are going to have a few really bad contracts and nothing to show for it.
2.) New Orleans Pelicans:
The Pelicans may have lost one of the best bigs in the NBA, but they most certainly did not lose the offseason. The Pelicans added Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, and Brandon Ingram in exchange for Anthony Davis. Lonzo Ball is a big reason this trade could look very good or very bad. When healthy, Lonzo is a very good point guard with one of the highest IQ’s in the NBA. He plays the game the right way and knows how to orchestrate an offense. I have little doubt that he won’t succeed in the NBA as long as he’s healthy. In Hart, you get another player someone who plays hard and is an average 3 point shooter at 36.1%. He isn’t somone a franchise can build around, but he is a solid bench player that will compete every time he steps on the court. In addition, the Pelicans added Brandon Ingram who knows how to score averaging 18.3 ppg in this past season. On the negative side, he isn’t the most efficient offensive player as he is sort of ball dominant and most comforterable in the mid range. On NBA T.V. though, New Pelicans GM David Griffin raved about how much he liked Ingram when he was working as an analyst this past summer. Ingram can definitely put up points in this league, and hopefully this blood clot issue they can get past so he will be on the court to start the year. The Pelicans also got 3 picks in the top 17 picks. They got Zion Williamson, who will be a great leader in this league and most likely an all star level player. With Jaxson Hayes, you get a center who looked very raw at Texas, but can make plays people his size shouldn’t be able to do. I think he can be one of the best pick and roll, rim running bigs in the NBA offensively, but I think he will need time and his role is limited to that. Pelicans later drafted Nickeil Alexander-Walker who is very underrated. Walker is a high IQ player who will be able to play either guard spot eventually, can space the floor as a catch and shoot threat, and is a very good passer. I look at him as a good 3rd guard, because he is so versatile, and can even guard an opposing team’s best guard with has length at 6’6 with 6’9 wingspan. The Pelicans were also able to add J.J. Reddick and Derrick Favors who will be two solid veterans for this young team. This team has a bright future, but the main concern is availability in Lonzo, Ingram, and even Zion will dictate how far this team will go in the future.
1.) Los Angeles Clippers:
This is an easy one. The Clippers not only added two superstars to an already 48 win team, but they got two of the NBA’s most low matenence stars in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Kawhi is one of the best two way players in the league, while George is a terrific offensive player that can shoot the ball very well and knows how to score without being ball dominant. The Clippers did give up a ton of draft capital as the Thunder can basically control their draft for the next seven years, but the Clippers are already the favorites to win the championship, so it seems like it will be a gamble well worth it. Los Angeles also resigned Patrick Beverly who is one best defensive guards in the NBA and will be mostly a 3 and D type of player. The Clippers also added Patrick Patterson who is a vet who knows his role. Then in the draft, Los Angeles took two players from one of the most unselfish college programs in the nation at Florida State. Clippers drafted former Seminoles Mfioundu Kabengele and Terrance Mann. Unfortunately for announcers, the one with the harder name to pronounce is more likely to make an immediate impact as the Clippers only have him and Zubac at center. Kabengele is already a better shooter and rim protector than Zubac so it’s definitely possible two players will split time evenly. The Clippers had the mindset that no one player is bigger than the team last year, and they did a great job of adding talent that will fit in with their culture.
Article Written by Bradley Patten
For rookie in depth analysis, please read my article on grading every first round pick (https://bsscouting.com/2019/08/17/nba-draft-2019-1st-round-grades/)
Photo credit to Ajay Rose (https://www.plugsville.com/2019-nba-free-agency-review-summer-madness/)
All NBA team and player stats as well as player contracts found on Basketball Reference (https://www.basketball-reference.com/)
All rosters found on NBA Media Ventures (https://www.nba.com/teams/)