Grading the offseason
The Nets put themselves in better position to contend in the Eastern Conference.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
With the majority of impact free agents in new homes, or re-upping leases on their current ones, it seems like as good a time as any to see who did well, and who didn't.
Yes, there are still names floating out there who could help teams. Guys like Monta Ellis, Brandon Jennings, Gerald Henderson, Mo Williams and Nate Robinson are still lingering, but chances are, they won't move the dial too terribly.
Like almost all immediate analysis, there's no way to accurately predict success for years. I don't have years. I have deadlines and a frisky mind, so let's grade each team's offseason.
The Hawks figured to be major players in this offseason with money to burn and drafts galore. It never got off the ground.
The Washington Generals were as much in play for Dwight Howard and Chris Paul as the Hawks were. Josh Smith bolted to Detroit, Jeff Teague signed an offer sheet with the Milwaukee Bucks, but, good news, Kyle Korver is back.
Actually, the Hawks may have signed the best free-agent contract in the offseason with a two-year, $19 million deal for Paul Millsap. That's bargain- basement prices for a quality combo forward.
Their draft netted some projects with big upsides in Dennis Schroeder from Germany and Brazilian center Lucas Nogueira. Mike Budenholzer was a great choice for head coach. He's a Gregg Popovich disciple. That's a strong apprenticeship.
Still, the Hawks wanted to make a splash and what they did could mildly be construed as a ripple.
The rebuild is on with the Celtics. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were thanked in the Boston Globe for their years of service. It's now Rajon Rondo's team, assuming they don't trade him (that's a 50/50 proposition - I can see both sides of though).
Their draft was eh. Kelly Olynyk could be a really deft big man for a number of years or he could sell insurance packages in Seattle in four years.
Brad Stevens was an inspired choice as head coach by Danny Ainge. Can you think of any coach, at any level, who has built a program better than Stevens over the last five years?
Problem for the Celtics is, this rebuilding plan is halfway at best. In the Garnett/Pierce trade, they took on longer salary in Gerald Wallace. Rondo and Jeff Green make money and I actually believe with those three, Avery Bradley, Olynyk and Jared Sullinger, this team won't be historically bad.
In an attempt to make a title run, they brought in Pierce and Garnett, and, as detailed a paragraph earlier, they shed Wallace's three-year, $30 million contract. And, if things don't work with the aging Hall of Famers, they'll both be gone in two seasons.
Pierce and Garnett join Brook Lopez, Joe Johnson and Deron Williams as a starting five that's all made the All-Star team. They make more money than a Harry Potter movie, but when your owner is loaded and bored, you pay the luxury tax.
The trade with the Celtics was a no-brainer, but Brooklyn did a great job with other additions. Andrei Kirilenko for two years on the mid-level exemption is larceny. Andray Blatche was a solid re-sign and Shaun Livingston is an adequate backup guard. Even first-round draft choice Mason Plumlee looked great in Summer League action.
Jason Kidd as the coach is going to be a work in progress, but he will earn respect if nothing else.
The Nets put themselves in better position to contend in the Eastern Conference.
There's a phenomenon I can't explain.
Despite several explanations from people smarter than me, I'll never understand how the impact of walking or running can dislodge a knot and untie your shoelaces.
Much like my shoelace theory, I'll never understand the Charlotte Bobcats.
Steve Clifford - decent choice as head coach.
Patrick Ewing - excellent choice as assistant coach.
Cody Zeller drafted fourth overall - biggest stretch since Sophia Loren fell in love with Walter Matthau in "Grumpier Old Men."
Gerald Henderson, an emerging shooting guard, about to walk - live with it.
Al Jefferson for three years, $41 million - good numbers, but his teams' combined record is 281-441 for a winning percentage below .400. It's absurd to put that all on him, but he was a major part of those teams in seven of his nine years. So, Jefferson's not a culture-changing signing by a team desperately in need of one.
And Monta Ellis isn't, either.
If Henderson walks, that will mean, prior to Zeller, the Bobcats, perennially a team with a top-10 draft pick, will have three players they drafted on their roster - Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Jeffery Taylor.
This team needs better return on what it does. It's a joke.
The Charlotte Shoelaces.
Derrick Rose will be back. They will be fine.
They lost Mario Belinelli to the San Antonio Spurs and replaced him with Mike Dunleavy. He's not a better shooter than Belinelli, but he's a better all- around player.
Tony Snell was a curious draft choice with better shooters on the board.
Believe me, no one is worrying about the state of the Chicago Bulls.
Anthony Bennett was a bit of a stretch with the No. 1 pick in the draft. Sergey Karasev, a Russian wing man, was a great sleeper at No. 19.
Jarrett Jack was a great signing. He was brilliant for the Golden State Warriors last season and I'd bet Mike Brown uses him in clutch time more often than Dion Waiters.
And now, we get to Andrew Bynum.
When it was reported the Cavs were going to offer Bynum two years, I poured water on my face. Who would give a man who can't bowl without paying a price a two-year contract?
But, when you see that Cleveland is only on the hook for $6 million, and if things don't work out, they can part ways after a season, this seems very low- risk.
There was a time when players would fist-fight to join the Mavs.
Those times are gone.
Dallas was a non-factor in the Dwight Howard sweepstakes and signed Jose Calderon (four years, $28 million is too much), Devin Harris and Wayne Ellington. That has to burn when you wanted the best available free agent.
Their draft was decent with Shane Larkin and Ricky Ledo.
But Mavs fans are in for another rough go. They can't totally rebuild as long as Dirk Nowitzki is around and the Mavs try to do everything right. They make sound decisions on short contracts to free up cap space.
Problem is, no one wants to go there right now. That's not an easy woe to overcome and will take time to do so.
Last season, the Nuggets won a franchise-best 57 games, which was the fourth- best in the NBA.
Since then, they've fired NBA Coach of the Year George Karl and let Executive of the Year Masai Ujiri go to the Toronto Raptors.
And, without those stewards, the Nuggets lost Andre Iguodala, Corey Brewer and Kosta Koufos. To replace them, they added Randy Foye (journeyman's journeyman), Darrell Arthur (decent) and J.J. Hickson (one good season, but $5 million per isn't horrendous).
The draft didn't bring anyone useful, but they chose a great head coach in Brian Shaw, who should become a very strong leader.
But that 57-win record of last season is safe for a while.
This offseason will either be great or a disaster in the same vein as the Lone Ranger movie.
Josh Smith was atop the second tier of free agents and Detroit gobbled him up. Chauncey Billups will return to provide some much-needed leadership for a group is talented enough to make the postseason.
Mo Cheeks was named coach. He has been decent at best in stops in Portland and Philly.
After months of extolling the virtues of Brandon Knight as a shooting guard, they took Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, a shooting guard, in the draft. So, Knight might be moving back to the point.
Here's the Pistons rotation: Knight, Caldwell-Pope, Smith, Greg Monroe, Andrew Drummond, Billups, Rodney Stuckey, Will Bynum and Kyle Singler. It's thin up front and point-guard heavy, but that group should be able to make the playoffs, right? Assuming Drummond doesn't regress, the answer is yes.
Also, the hiring of Rasheed Wallace as an assistant coach is inspired.
This could go horribly wrong on Detroit, but call me cautiously optimistic (worth noting, I picked them as the best worst team in the league last season and they went 0-8 to start the season).
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
The Warriors may have had the best offseason in the NBA.
Andre Iguodala cost them seldom-used Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins; Brandon Rush, two first-rounders and three second-rounders. That is a lot of picks, but Iguodala is a perfect fit for Golden State. He's an elite wing defender, great slasher and smart, solid teammate.
Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry are gone. To replace them on the bench will be whichever player doesn't start among Iguodala, Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes, and free-agent signings Toney Douglass, Jermaine O'Neal and Marreese Speights.
The draft pick doesn't matter.
The Warriors made themselves contenders.
The Rockets signed Dwight Howard. That's a good offseason, even if I don't think it makes them contenders (http://tinyurl.com/ca6jmnp).
Isaiah Canaan was a steal in the second round. Francisco Garcia emerged in the playoffs and was a nice re-sign by Houston.
No complaints from this guy.
Larry Bird returned after being away for a year. He had one job - re-sign David West. Mission accomplished.
The Pacers' draft choice of Solomon Hill was a reeeeaaaacccchhhh, but Indiana is a top-five team in the NBA, so who cares how much Hill will contribute. C.J. Watson is a capable backup point guard.
They didn't have much to do and got it all done.
Grade: B (West was huge, but Hill was bold in a bad mustard kind of way.)
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
- Re-sign Chris Paul. Check.
- Acquire shooters. Traded for J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley, drafted Reggie Bullock. Check.
- Improve coaching situation - Traded for Doc Rivers. Check.
- Get backup point-guard help since they traded Eric Bledsoe. Signed Darren Collison. Check.
- Big-man help. No check.
- Jettison the growingly useless Caron Butler. Sent to Phoenix. Check.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS
Where do we begin?
The Lakers begged Dwight Howard to return. He spurned them, despite the fact the Lakers could offer about $30 million more than the Houston Rockets.
L.A. can no longer get free agents by saying, "We are the L.A. Lakers. Sign here and initial here." That is a huge problem for an old team that is staring the lottery in the face next season.
They amnestied Metta World Peace. That's fine, but what does it ultimately do to improve them?
They drafted Ryan Kelly, who could actually be all right in Mike D'Antoni's system.
They signed Chris Kaman, who I like more than almost everyone short of the extended Kaman family, Jordan Farmar (?) and Robert Sacre.
The Lakers have taken it on the chin hard in the offseason. How they fix the problem of attracting free agents could be remedied next offseason if they can land LeBron James, but for now, this was a bad couple of weeks.
The Grizz were part of this odd trend of firing good coaches this offseason. Lionel Hollins is gone, but they replaced him with the architect of the great Memphis defense, David Joerger.
The transition should be seamless. They brought back Tony Allen, who is crucial to their identity as a defensive wrecking crew. Memphis traded for Kosta Koufos, who will be a much-needed backup for both Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.
Jamaal Franklin in the second round of the draft was theft. He has first-round talent, but some baggage. The veterans of Memphis will aid with that.
Sometimes, keeping pat is the play.
They re-signed Chris Anderson.
Drafted James Ennis.
Whatever. They're still favored to win it all.
Man, the Bucks have undergone a huge makeover.
Gone are head coach Jim Boylan, Samuel Dalembert, Mike Dunleavy, Marquis Daniels, J.J. Redick and Luc Mbah a Moute. Probably gone are Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings.
In are new head coach Larry Drew, O.J. Mayo, Luke Ridnour, Carlos Delfino, Zaza Pachulia and draft pick Giannis Antetokounmpo. Probably in is Jeff Teague.
Are they better? Doesn't seem so, but who can tell?
The main focus off Minnesota's offseason was retaining the services of center Nikola Pekovic. If the big man, who looks like the mute strongman/bad guy in "Superman II," comes back, this was a really strong couple of weeks.
The T'Wolves have extended him an offer. He wants to stay. It'll happen.
Minny wanted to improve its shooting. It drafted Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng and neither will help on that front, but that doesn't make them bad choices.
In free agency, the Wolves went bonkers for shooting guards, signing Kevin Martin, Chase Budinger and Corey Brewer. They traded Luke Ridnour, which will help sure their rotation in a more natural way, two point guards and a few shooters and wings.
Losing Andrei Kirilenko for about $7 million less than he could've earned with the Timberwolves is a blow. Kirilenko is just a solid professional basketball player, but Brewer can soften that blow a bit, maybe even Muhammad, too.
Flip Saunders is in charge. Rick Adelman stayed and the reality is, if the Wolves didn't resemble a MASH unit last season, their talent is playoff-ready. Martin isn't an elite scorer anymore, but these moves definitely didn't hurt their playoff hopes.
Now that Pekovic signing needs to happen and I'll pencil the Wolves into the postseason.
NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
The Pelicans did some good things, and some dumb things.
Trading Nerlens Noel, a huge prospect with huge upside, for 23-year-old point guard Jrue Holiday is a very solid move. Holiday won't ever be great, but he's better than Greivis Vasquez and has a very reasonable contract (four years, $41 million).
The signings of Anthony Morrow and Greg Stiemsma were low key, but solid. I'm pro Al-Farouz Aminu, too.
Now, for the dumb. Giving Tyreke Evans four years and $44 million is not wise. Pelicans' brass would've been better off hopping on a riverboat and playing craps.
Here are Evans' numbers during his NBA Rookie of the Year season back in 2009-10:
20.1 ppg/5.8 apg/5.3 rpg
Here are Evans' numbers last season:
15.2 ppg/3.5 apg/4.4 rpg
Granted, playing in Sacramento recently was like getting sentenced to that pit prison in "The Dark Knight Rises," but that's a pretty precipitous decline. His shooting numbers all improved and he'll fit in as a wing player. Not a shooting guard, point guard, or small forward, just a wing player.
Vasquez is now gone; so, too, is the slightly underrated Robin Lopez.
Holiday/Eric Gordon/Evans/Ryan Anderson/Anthony Davis is a nice core. But it's nowhere near the first steps of building a championship contending team.
NEW YORK KNICKS
Had the Knicks stood pat and just re-signed J.R. Smith, the NBA Sixth Man of the Year, and Pablo Prigioni, this would've been a decent offseason. They drafted Tim Hardaway Jr., a solid prospect who won't see much time.
But the trade for Andrea Bargnani was curious.
If, the Knicks keep their best lineup, with Carmelo Anthony at the power forward spot, it's a nightmare to match up with them. However, there won't be much time for any big man off the bench after Amare Stoudemire.
If, the Knicks move Anthony to small forward, and Stoudemire starts, then Bargnani could spell Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler, get 25 minutes and pay some dividends.
Either way, including a first-round pick in a deal for Bargnani is way too much.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
It's easy to forget about the Thunder. They had the second-best record in the NBA last season, but lost Russell Westbrook to a knee injury in the playoffs and got bounced in the second round.
They've done a great job in recent years of acquiring talent with the intent on cultivating them and bringing them into the rotation when the time is right.
For one, the time is now.
Kevin Martin left via free agency. The sixth man role falls to Jeremy Lamb, who came to OKC in the James Harden trade. He can score and they'll need it to replace Martin.
Martin was the only significant loss for the Thunder. They drafted Steven Adams, who will be another big-man project in the vein of Hasheem Thabeet and Perry Jones.
The Thunder are one of a handful of teams with legit title aspirations. They didn't need to do much, and they didn't do much. It's a little surprising OKC wasn't more aggressive trying to get NBA-ready help, but don't pay any heed to the Thunder. They're still one of the best.
Victor Oladipo was a safe pick at No. 2 in the draft. The Magic have him playing some point guard in the NBA Summer League and he's been pretty darn impressive.
That concludes our offseason report on the Magic. They haven't done anything else.
Grade: B (I'm very pro Oladipo.)
What is going on with this team?
Trading Jrue Holiday, a good but not great point guard for Nerlens Noel and a 2014 first-round pick (protected through the top five) was brilliant. Drafting Michael Carter-Williams was smart.
The plan is to be bad, to start over. It's sound.
But where are the Sixers this offseason?
Doug Collins resigned on April 18. It has been three months and the Sixers DON'T HAVE A HEAD COACH YET! They've interviewed some people, apparently. This new Sixers' regime headed by Sam Hinkie is tighter-lipped than a loyal mafia capo in an interrogation room at the local precinct.
As crazy as the notion of not yet having a head coach, have you heard or read anything about the Sixers being involved in free agency? They have money and seven players under contract - Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young, Jason Richardson, Spencer Hawes, Lavoy Allen, Kwame Brown and Arnett Moultrie (eight when the Royce White deal happens).
They are clearly not going for broke this offseason. It's actually not a bad strategy, but it's impossible to gauge what's going on with the Sixers. The plan is still years away from coming to fruition, but hello? Anyone home in Philly?
Much like the Charlotte Bobcats, what's the plan in Phoenix?
The roster is devoid of talent, they drafted Alex Len - a project at best - and their trade for Eric Bledsoe was fine, but their best player is Goran Dragic, another point guard.
Jeff Hornacek was a smart choice for head coach.
This team hasn't improved a lick.
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
Fifteen players scored more points per game than the 18.5 ppg the Portland bench managed last season. To say they needed to upgrade the second unit is embarrassingly obvious.
They drafted C.J. McCollum and Allen Crabbe; acquired Robin Lopez and Thomas Robinson in trades for nothing; and signed Dorell Wright, an underrated shooter.
Job well done, Blazers brass.
J.J. Hickson left to Denver, but Lopez will take his place and produce less, but not by much.
Once the ownership and moving situation was settled, the Kings got to business.
When New Orleans signed Tyreke Evans to that offer sheet, the Kings privately popped the champagne. He's gone, to be replaced by Ben McLemore, a steal at the seventh pick.
The Kings got Greivis Vasquez from New Orleans when Evans took off for the Big Easy. They signed Carl Landry as a free agent and obtained Luc Mbah a Mute for peanuts from the Milwaukee Bucks.
(Sacramento should amnesty John Salmons now.)
This is true improvement. Mike Malone was a wise choice for head coach. There's now stability. I'm buying.
SAN ANTONIO SPURS
The Spurs lost a heartbreaking NBA Finals to the Heat.
Then they did what they always do, brought back necessary pieces, drafted guys no one has ever heard of - who you know will contribute in three years - and upgraded.
Mario Belinelli can shoot. The Spurs need shooters.
Manu Ginobili will be back for two years and, hopefully, all it took was a bottle of tequila to forget about that playoff performance. Tiago Splitter getting $9 million a season is madness, but that's the price of doing business.
They had no draft picks, but by bringing in Masai Ujiri to run the franchise, they improved dramatically.
The fact he got a first-round pick for Andrea Bargnani gives him a leg up on the competition for back-to-back Executive of the Year trophies.
The Tyler Hansbrough signing was even solid. This team lacked toughness, but perhaps Ujiri's best move was standing pat on the rumored deals of Rudy Gay for the expiring contracts of Rodney Stuckey and Charie Villanueva.
The Raptors are always going to struggle to sign free agents. They need to be built from within. That cap space probably would've gotten them nowhere.
This team could make the playoffs next season in the pathetic bottom three spots of the Eastern Conference.
The Jazz elected to let Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap go via free agency. They will go with the young big man dup of Derrick Favors (terrifies me how good I think he can be) and Enes Kanter.
It's a pretty simple strategy - the Jazz are going young.
Gordon Hayward and Marvin Williams are still in Salt Lake and the draft day trade for point guard Trey Burke solidifies the most important position on the floor.
There will be growing pains, but give them time and they'll be in the playoff mix in two, three years. Plus, they got Brandon Rush and two first-rounders and three second-rounders in the Andre Iguodala trade that brought on expiring contracts. All that loot was for Randy Foye, by the way.
Otto Porter was the only lock to go in the slot he did in the draft. He went third to the Wizards and he could start right away.
Eric Maynor is a slightly below-average backup point guard, but here's the best for last - the Martell Webster signing.
Four years, almost $20 million for a player who has averaged slightly under nine points for his career (yes, he scored 11.4 ppg last season and made 42 percent of his 3-pointers).
I wish I was taller.