The National Basketball Association offseason activity is commencing, as the Draft happened shortly after the Golden State Warriors were crowned NBA champions, and then the top free agents signed very pricey deals to try and be in the exact same spot the Warriors were. We dig into, in the draft and free agency collectively, what teams improved and what teams might have taken a step back.
Winner: San Antonio Spurs
Gained/Retained: LaMarcus Aldridge, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, David West, C Nikola Milutinov (1st-rd pick)
Lost: Marco Belinelli, Cory Joseph, Tiago Splitter
I’ll start with the obvious here. The Spurs have obviously made the moves necessary to contending in the troublesome Western Conference. Many want to talk about the LaMarcus Aldridge signing, as will I, but it began with retaining the players they already have in place. Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili for veteran leadership and the crucial contributions with their play on the court, Danny Green for his 3-point shooting that makes coaches around the league stress, and most importantly, Kawhi Leonard for the next 5 years which may just see another Finals MVP.
We are looking at starting 5 of Parker, Green, Leonard, Aldridge, Duncan, with a bench consisting of Manu Ginobili and David West. The only thing that worries me is their age and the transition Tim will need to make to play center in today’s NBA. Age? They have Gregg Popovich, who somehow managed minutes to get the Spurs to a NBA Championship. So really, if Duncan can overcome the likes of Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan and DeMarcus Cousins to contend with inside and grab the boards, this team will be more than okay.
Loser: New York Knicks
Gained/Retained: Arron Afflalo, Robin Lopez, Kyle O’Quinn, Derrick Williams, Kristaps Porzingis (1st-rd pick), Jerian Grant (1st-rd pick)
Lost: Tim Hardaway Jr, Shane Larkin, Jason Smith, the chance at every superstar on the free agent market
This is an organization where, right now, it is hard to get behind. You want to because it has a superstar (Carmelo Anthony) and a basketball genius (Phil Jackson), but you don’t see eye-to-eye with the pawns they’re moving around on the chessboard. I believe this began with the team drafting Kristaps Porzingis and the poor kid wiping tears from his eyes in Brooklyn, chanting along with his dad “We want Winslow! We want Winslow!”… Unfortunately, fans in the Big Apple aren’t concerned with who will be good in 3 years, rather than who will be good now and help this once-promising organization out of its long rut. So since Towns, Russell, nor Okafor dropped, they went with Porzingis over Cauley-Stein, Kaminsky, or Winslow, and had the heated debate on what man inside the Knicks will represent the team at next year’s Lottery.
You then have to look at free agency. Who were they targeting, exactly? I’d imagine they made pitches to all the big names like LaMarcus Aldridge, DeAndre Jordan, and so forth. They landed none of them. They had to go out for Plan B or C or D with their free agent signings. I don’t exactly see Afflalo and Lopez lifting them up to the playoff race.
So we’d imagine this starting lineup consists of Afflalo, Lopez, Anthony, Porzingis/Williams, and I have no idea who their PG is going to be. It’s safe to say if the Knicks are going to do anything this year, it’ll be towards the end of the season when they get themselves out of a good position for the #1 pick as they attain some sort of chemistry together. Just overall, a sad offseason where they didn’t get the people they wanted, whether that be in free agency or the draft.
Winner: Memphis Grizzlies
Gained/Retained: Matt Barnes, Marc Gasol, Jeff Green, Beno Udrih, Brandan Wright, Jarell Martin (1st-rd pick)
Lost: Kosta Koufos
Whaaaa? Well, I’ll be honest, there’s not that big of a focus on any other team “winning” the offseason aside from the Spurs. But the Grizzlies, who strangely remind me of a younger-version of the Spurs, have done what they needed to this offseason to stay relevant in the West, while we’ve seen a couple teams there give up. But to put all the troublemakers to sleep and sign Marc Gasol while teams like the Lakers and Knicks were “viable contenders”, that was huge, to keep your franchise centerpiece. Then to convince Jeff Green and Beno Udrih to opt-in to their contracts. They somehow pulled a trade off to get Matt Barnes from the Hornets, which will prove to be a valuable role player. On top of all that, they signed Brandan Wright who bounced around last season, but the Mavericks fans were saddened for weeks they traded him to Boston.
Memphis’ draft wasn’t significantly great, picking at 25, but their free agency more than makes up for it, and perhaps they pick that high next year. A starting five of Conley, Allen, Green, Randolph, and Gasol might just be what gets them over.. especially with a bench consiting of Barnes and Wright, who could start on quite a few teams around the league.
Loser: Phoenix Suns
Gained/Retained: Brandon Knight, Tyson Chandler
Lost: Reggie Bullock, Danny Granger, Marcus Morris, Brandan Wright
I wish for someone to explain to me, what is so special about Phoenix. I always hear this team in the contention for the hottest free agents. It was LeBron James last year, and it was LaMarcus Aldridge this year, but why? If this is truly correct and it wasn’t the sports media trying to play mind games with us, they have failed to lure in the best free agents. What noise have they made in free agency? Re-signing Brandon Knight in an already full backcourt? Not a bad re-signing, but still.. They then go and sign Tyson Chandler, and I’m heavily against Chandler getting 12-million per season. Why? Chandler was a Maverick last season, where he averaged a double-double (great). But what’s that to ya? When in years 3 and 4, when he’s racking up a 8-figure salary, that he’s a shell of his former self and you’re stuck no longer vying for these top free agents. — Plus, Dallas wanted Chandler back because he was apart of the ’11 NBA Championship team. If they don’t want him back, why should anyone at a price as high as $12 million? I’d pay this man half of that, TOPS! (at this stage in his career)
Now that I’ve ranted about the Chandler signing, I must look at the draft, where they took Devin Booker. While I must say, Booker has been compared to Klay Thompson coming out of the University of Kentucky, this is a terrible selection for the Suns at 13 and an even worse fit. This means another guard for the already loaded Suns at the 1 and 2 positions. When you have Sam Dekker, Bobby Portis, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and Kevon Looney still on the board, you don’t have to take Booker. We’ll see Portis (if given the opportunity) make instant contributions to the Chicago Bulls’ playoff run, but we won’t see Devin Booker making the same impact, if he even plays that much his rookie year. I understand completely that guys like Kaminsky and Lyles were off the board, but they could have done much better with their lottery selection. This doesn’t look good, especially when you find out they traded three forwards to the Motor City (and talking about moving a fourth).
If I had to name a starting five for Phoenix, I’d probably say Brandon Knight, Eric Bledsoe, PJ Tucker, Tyson Chandler, and no idea whatsoever for the power forward spot. This doesn’t seem like a good recipe to compete in the West where great big men galore.
Winner: Minnesota Timberwolves
Gained/Retained: Kevin Garnett, Karl-Anthony Towns (1st-rd pick), Tyus Jones (1st-rd pick)
Lost: Chase Budinger, Gary Neal
This team is a winner in ways other than free agency. Before I go on, let me remind you the draft is apart of the offseason, and this is the NBA’s offseason winners and losers. With that said, the Timberwolves might have struck gold more than any other team. The worst team from last season got the #1 overall pick, the first team to do so in years, so you know with the depth in this year’s draft, it’s hard to miss. I had the privilege of watching Karl-Anthony Towns during Summer League as I write this article, and I was like “Wow, this guy may be the real deal”. Questions arose when he declined all private workouts, thinking he had something to hide, but if his summer league work is anything, he’ll be a player worth everyone’s while.
Then we have a look at Tyus Jones, the hometown boy who is coming home. Must I say, as a Duke fan, I couldn’t be happier for Tyus, as he lands in the absolutely perfect and ideal situation anywhere. He leaves Duke where he had a polished offensive big man in Jahlil Okafor and an athletic beast in Justise Winslow, to a polished offensive big man in Karl-Anthony Towns and an athletic beast in Andrew Wiggins. Even if Tyus wound up in Cleveland and Kyrie suffered a torn ACL in Week 1, he still wouldn’t be in the best position to succeed and thrive his rookie year. This way, Tyus will have an easier transition than most to the pro level, if he gets a chance to shine behind Ricky Rubio (injury prone) and Zach LaVine (could get time at the 2).
But all in all, the T-Wolves improved vastly just by those two picks.
Losers: Portland Trail Blazers
Gained/Retained: Al-Farouq Aminu, Ed Davis, Gerald Henderson, Mason Plumlee, Noah Vonleh, Pat Connaughton (2nd-rd pick)
Lost: Arron Afflalo, LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Steve Blake, Robin Lopez, Wesley Matthews
Where do I begin with this team? Is it where I began at the top of this article when LaMarcus Aldridge signed with the San Antonio Spurs? Or do I mention Robin Lopez and Arron Afflalo’s trip together to the Big Apple? Or must I begin with Nicolas Batum leaving town? Am I even allowed to mention the fact that Wesley Matthews is headed for Big D?
Just like that paragraph, there’s tons of questions surrounding this Blazer team headed into next year. After all, they only bring back one of their starting 5, and even lose their 6th man in the process. I question what team this is going to be. Do I appreciate some of their acquisitions? Noah Vonleh, Gerald Henderson, Mason Plumlee, Al-Farouq Aminu, and Ed Davis will all be headed to play for the Portland Ducks. Now it’s unknown to many if this franchise is openly tanking, trying to make the playoffs with a brand new team, or is a dump that their players can’t wait to get out of. But what I do know, is I’m making sure this team is known as a “Loser” of the NBA offseason.
Winner: Cleveland Cavaliers
Gained/Retained: LeBron James, Kevin Love, Mike Miller, Timofey Mozgov, Iman Shumpert
Lost: Nobody yet
May it be known to all how much it pains me to say this, but the Cavaliers are winners this offseason. It wasn’t accomplished with the draft, a place Cleveland fans have relied on their entire fanhood. I wouldn’t even go as far as to say it is from luring people to come to play with LeBron. No, it is doing something not many deemed possible… They kept their own that made it to the NBA Finals.
Let’s start off with LeBron James, who wasn’t even quick to announce where he was going, but as far as I’m aware, he never met with another team. He only signed for 1-2 years, but that’s LeBron, who will engage but never marry. Then the more shocking of it all, is Kevin Love turning down the Lakers to take care of “unfinished business” and re-sign with the Cavs. Mike Miller, Timofey Mozgov, and Iman Shumpert all coming back for next year. The only ones left in doubt are JR Smith (who wants to come back), Tristan Thompson (who has agreed but not signed on the dotted line), and Matthew Dellavedova (could capitalize on his Finals performance).
Basically, the Cavaliers have done what they NEEDED to get done and what many (especially I) didn’t expect to get done.
So here are my winners and losers this offseason. Let me know in the comments selection below if I missed any team you felt vastly improved or significantly dropped off this