Most of the dust is just beginning to settle on a historic NBA offseason, which means its a great time to declare a few winners and losers. Championships are never won in July, but score enough points in the offseason and the path to playing in June becomes a lot clearer.
Golden State Warriors
I mean, this doesn’t really need an explanation does it? Any team that adds one of the three best players in the league a year after winning 73 games has to be considered a winner.
Los Angeles Lakers
This was about as brutal an offseason as the Lakers could have had. They managed to get the ping pong balls to bounce well enough to keep their draft pick, but everything else was a head-scratcher. They didn’t get a meeting with Kevin Durant, and, perhaps in their panic, agreed to pay Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov to a combined $136 million over the next four seasons. There are ways to argue those deals will be fine – the Lakers clearly need to appear relevant again- but four-year deals for Deng and Mozgov are difficult to spin. Neither fits the Lakers’ needs particularly well and both bring the potential to hinder the development of younger players. The Lakers will probably be better, but they will still be long shots to make the playoffs and their first round pick goes to Philadelphia if it falls outside of the top 3.
The Warriors may have snagged the summer’s top prize, but Al Horford is a nice consolation. Horford fills a lot of the Celtics’ needs – rim protection, shooting, another offensive fulcrum- and opens the door for future free agents to follow him to Boston. His contract may not look so good in its final two years, but the chance, however slim, that another star will want to play with Horford is worth it. The Celtics don’t lose a ton of flexibility, they got the second best player on the market and still have a ton of future assets.
Portland Trail Blazers
For the life of me, I do not understand the Evan Turner signing. He’s a nice player coming off the best season of his career, but he does not fit the Blazers at all. Portland had plenty of offense already and needed to improve its rim protection and shooting. Turner does neither of those things.
He needs the ball in his hands to be effective and the Blazers have not one but two players who are dynamite with the ball. Is Turner going to spot up around CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard drives? That sounds like a bad idea. I’d much rather play Moe Harkless and Allen Crabbe.
New Orleans Pelicans
For the first time in a few years the Pelicans appeared to understand their needs. They needed help on the wing and more shooting and got two of the potential sleepers of the period in E’Twaun Moore and Solomon Hill. Their contracts may cause some jaws to fall, but, in this new economic climate, they are both reasonable. Both are smart players with room to grow and could finally provide Anthony Davis some much needed help.
Make it five years in a row now that the Mavericks have unsuccessfully tried to lure a top-tier free agent. Mark Cuban chased Hassan Whiteside, Mike Conley, Chandler Parsons and others and only managed to end up with Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut and Seth Curry. Paying Dirk Nowitzki could curry favor with other players in the future, but its hard to be anything other than disappointed with this offseason in Dallas. Cuban needs to find an alternate route back to title contention, because the Mavericks’ current standing as the leverage team simply isn’t working.
The Jazz might have had the best under-the-radar offseason in the league. Their biggest issue last season was depth and the Jazz responded by putting together a team that can go 10 deep.
PG: George Hill/Exum/Neto
SF: Hayward/Joe Johnson
C: Gobert/Boris Diaw
That’s a very intriguing roster that will be able to play very good defense. Hill fits the team perfectly and Exum and Burks coming back will provide more scoring and shooting. If healthy, the Jazz will be very good next season and reaching the 3 seed isn’t out of the question.
Los Angeles Clippers
Roc Divers strikes again! Since last February the Clippers have lost Cole Aldrich, Jeff Green and the first round pick they gave up to get Jeff Green. Their proposal to Durant, to create a “big four,” was interesting, but one of the longest shots the league has seen in a while. The Clippers enter 2016-17 with less depth, older players and less hope for the future. If inner turmoil rears its head again the Clippers could be in danger of missing the playoffs and again falling into obscurity.
Another offseason has come and gone and no Eastern Conference team has risen up to challenge LeBron James. The Celtics will be better, but still lack a secondary creator and could struggle to win battles on the glass. The Hawks could be better in some ways, but the ways in which they could regress- dribble penetration, defense, shooting- are precarious. The middle tier – Miami, Charlotte, Indiana – is interesting, but nonthreatening. A seventh straight trip to the Finals isn’t only in play, it’s LeBron’s most likely outcome. All hail the King in the East.