Grading Every NBA Team’s Free Agency

Whew, what an offseason.

Just when you thought one team had pulled off a game-changing move there was another, or several others to follow. After a slew of trades, deceptions, coups, betrayals and a whole lot of Knicks being the Knicks the NBA power structure and the way free agency is handled is forever changed.

Atlanta Hawks:

Signings: Jabari Parker, Chandler Parsons (via trade), Damien Jones (via trade)

Departures: DeWayne Dedmon (Sacramento), Kent Bazemore (Portland Via Trade), Taurean Prince (Brooklyn Via Trade), Omari Spellman (Golden State Via Trade), Solomon Hill (Memphis Via Trade), Miles Plumlee (Memphis Via Trade)

Objectively, the haul of Allen Crabbe and Evan Turner, both acquired early in the offseason from teams trying to clear space, isn’t as good as the players they shed in DeWayne Dedmon, Kent Bazemore and Taurean Prince. But Atlanta isn’t playing for next season, they’re playing for the next decade.

By taking on Crabbe’s bloated contract, the Hawks got trade assets, which they used to move up in the draft to land De’Andre Hunter. Turner and Bazemore are both overpaid guards, but Turner is a better fit. Bazemore saw his role in Atlanta diminishing, while Turner has shown he can be a secondary ball-handler coming off the bench.

Jabari Parker has looked like a bust on recent stops in Chicago and Washington, but Atlanta may be the perfect place to rehabilitate his image. For the Hawks, it’s a low-risk, high-reward signing.

With both Turner and Crabbe’s contracts coming off the books in 2020, the Hawks will look to make moves around their promising young core next summer.

Grade: B-

Boston Celtics:

Signings: Kemba Walker, Enes Kanter; Resigned Daniel Theis, Brad Wanamaker

Departures: Kyrie Irving (Brooklyn), Al Horford (76ers), Terry Rozier (Hornets), Aron Baynes (Suns via trade), Marcus Morris (New York)

The NBA’s messiest divorce is finally done and dusted.

By the end, most Celtics fan would have been happy to drive Kyrie right to Brooklyn. With Irving gone and Kemba Walker in tow, the Celtics faithful hope that they can regain some of the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals magic and stave off irrelevancy.

While he’s no Kyrie, Kemba may be exactly what the young Celtics need to run it back. The three-time All-Star has never had close to the amount of talent that’s on the Celtics roster. Assuming Kemba can be a better leader than Kyrie, which is a pretty low bar, Jayson Tatum, Jalen Brown and the Celtics haul of rookie guards should be able to feed off Kemba. The fact that they could shed the disgruntled Terry Rozier in the process is the cherry on top.

That being said, the loss of Horford could be catastrophic. He was the Celtics heart, soul and defensive backbone. To lose him to the rival 76ers rubs salt in the wounds. Enes Kanter can be a dominant low-post presence, but is also one of the worst defenders in the NBA. Without Horford, their frontcourt is suddenly sparse.

Grade: B-

Brooklyn Nets

Signings: Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, DeAndre Jordan, Garrett Temple, Wilson Chandler

Departures: DeAngelo Russell (Golden State via sign-and-trade), Allen Crabbe (Atlanta via trade), Ed Davis (New Orleans), Traveon Graham (Minnesota via sign-and-trade), Shabazz Napier (Minnesota via sign-and-trade), Jared Dudley (Lakers), DeMarre Carroll (San Antonio)

There’s a new Mecca in town.

Brooklyn may not have the fanbase, the history, the prestige or even the stadium, but they do have the super team that the New York Knicks have worked 50 years to try to develop. The fact that they stole Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving right under big brother’s nose adds insult to injury. The Knicks can grumble about history and legacy, but New York basketball runs through Brooklyn from here on out.

Of course, not everything is perfect about the deal. Irving is certainly a superior talent than the departed Russell, but let’s not forget he was just run out of Boston for not gelling with their young core. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that even with a change of scenery we’ll still get the same moody Irving. Russell was well-liked and seemed to be a perfect fit with the young core’s timeline. Irving will surely shake up the status quo. Bringing in DeAndre Jordan as part of the package deal can also stunt incumbent big man Jarrett Allen’s growth.

Without Durant for a year, the Nets will only be fringe contenders, but assuming KD returns to full strength, New York has it’s first super team.

Grade: A+

Charlotte Hornets

Signings: Terry Rozier

Departures: Kemba Walker (Boston), Jeremy Lamb (Indiana), Frank Kaminsky (Phoenix), Tony Parker (Retirement)

While Kemba Walker is undoubtedly the franchise’s greatest player and their only chance at relevance, the decision to resign him was by no means without downsides. As dominant as Kemba has been at times, his teams have only reached the playoffs twice and have never reached the second round.

With an All-NBA season he was in line for $220 million over five years, meaning he would make well over $40 million in his age-34 season. We’ve seen this version of the Hornets, locking up Kemba to the supermax would force them further to the fringes, and any improvement from the mediocre team scratching the surface of the playoffs would be doubtful.

But the Hornets still had to try. Kemba was the only chance this pitiful organization had at retaining some semblance of relevance.

Kemba said all the right things. He wanted to retire a Hornet. He’d take less to stay a Hornet. But the offer Michael Jordan and co., limped in with was insulting. Charlotte reportedly only offered Kemba five years, $160 million, less than the max he would be eligible if he had not made an All-NBA team and been eligible for the super-max, and less annually than the four year, $140 million deal Boston inked him to.

To disrespect the face of the franchise is one thing, to try and save face by bringing in Terry Rozier — a career 38% shooter — to a fully guaranteed three-year $56.7 million contract is laughable.

Losing their second leading scorer, Jeremy Lamb, to a team-friendly contract is the cherry on top.

Grade: F

Chicago Bulls

Signings: Thaddeus Young, Tomas Satoransky (via sign-and-trade), Luke Kornet; Resigned Ryan Archidiacono

Departures: Robin Lopez (Milwaukee)

The Bulls had a lot of money to spend this summer, kudos to them for not spending for the sake of spending. Landing two solid veterans is no small feat either.

Tomas Satoransky is a steadying presence at the point guard position, filling a glaring hole in the Bulls starting lineup. Thad Young is the ultimate glue guy. Nothing he does is glamorous, but his toughness and defensive savvy could be key for a young, developing core.

Young and Satoransky will most likely eat up minutes from Wendell Carter Jr. and Koby White, which if they aren’t careful can stunt their development, but having veteran leadership cannot be undervalued, especially after losing Robin Lopez.

Grade: B

Cleveland Cavaliers 

Signings: None

Departures: None

No signings to date doesn’t necessarily mean the Cavs are non-players in upcoming deals. Kevin Love still may be in play for contenders looking to make a deal down the line. Other veterans like Jordan Clarkson, John Henson, Brandon Knight and Tristan Thompson could be moved.

For now, all is quiet is Cleveland.

Grade: Incomplete

Dallas Mavericks

Signings: Extended Kristaps Porzingis, Maxi Kleber, JJ Barea, Dorian Finney-Smith, Dwight Powell; Signed Boban Marjonavic, Delon Wright, Seth Curry

Departures: Dirk Nowitski (Retired)

The Mavs had bigger plans this offseason. Dallas was reportedly players for Tobias Harris, Kemba Walker and Danny Green. They also reportedly turned down a deal that would have sent Goran Dragic to Dallas in the Jimmy Butler deal.

Despite missing out on all of the marquee free agents, the Mavs have a young core that can develop into one of the Western Conference contenders and are fringe playoff players next year.

Resigning Kleber, Powell and Finney-Smith gives the Mavs plenty of intriguing assets outside of their oversized unicorns. Filling out the roster with veterans Wright, Curry, Marjonavic and Barea shows Dallas’ commitment to winning right away.

Most importantly, Dallas locked up Porzingis to a max five-year $158 million deal. KP comes with a number of red flags. A 7’3 player who’s coming off a torn ACL and has been accused of rape is far from a sure thing. But should KP be the guy the Mavs traded for, Dallas will have two of the top five young players in the NBA in-house — a combo that brings back memories of a young Steve Nash- Dirk Nowitski combo.

Grade: C+

Denver Nuggets 

Signings: Jerami Grant (via trade) ; Extended Jamal Murray, Opted in Paul Millsap’s Team Option

Departures: Isaiah Thomas (Washington), Trey Lyles (San Antonio)

Denver were one of the few contenders from last year who chose to run it back. For a team that was so close to a Western Conference Finals bid, has a young core that will only continue to improve and are about to throw in major wild cards in the form of former #1 recruit Michael Porter Jr. and 7’2 Bol Bol, who can blame them?

Extended Jamal Murray, who has yet to find his consistency, to a five-year $170 million deal is certainly risky, but in today’s day and age is a necessary gamble to solidify their core for the future. Millsap’s $30 milion paycheck will be a lot to swallow, but as the veteran leader to the young guns and the defensive backbone, Millsap will be integral to a playoff run.

Adding the rangy Jerami Grant, courtesy of the Thunder fire-sale, fills a matchup hole against the Western forward stars.

Grade: B

Detroit Pistons 

Signings: Derrick Rose, Markieff Morris, Tim Frazier

Departures: Glenn Robinson III, Ish Smith, Wayne Ellington

For a capped-out team, the Pistons could do worse than Rose, Morris and Frazier. Rose is particularly interesting. Should he continue his redemption tour he could supplant Reggie Jackson in the starting lineup. Signed for only a two-year, $15 million deal contract that could be a sneaky good signing.

Detroit still has no shooting. With no spacing around Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, their offense will continue to be stale at times. Detroit can always add via trade or the buyout market, but without another couple shooters the Pistons will continue to be an expensive Eastern Conference afterthought.

Grade: D

Golden State Warriors

Signings: Resigned Klay Thompson, Kevon Looney; Signed D’Angelo Russell via sign-and-trade, Willie Cauley-Stein, Glenn Robinson III, Alec Burks, Omari Spellman (via trade)

Departures: Kevin Durant (Brooklyn), Andre Igoudala (Memphis via trade), DeMarcus Cousins (Lakers), Jordan Bell (Minnesota), Quinn Cook (Lakers), Damian Jones (Atlanta via trade), Shaun Livingston (Waived)

The Warriors dynasty is dead. The losses of Kevin Durant and Andre Igoudala, as well as Klay Thompson’s recovery from an ACL tear made sure of it. However, that doesn’t mean Golden State are not relevant.

Landing D’Angelo Russell showed that the Warriors aren’t interested in a rebuild, but rather a retool. Russell isn’t a neat fit into the Warriors. He thrives in the pick-and-roll, a playing style antithetical to the way Golden State plays. Not to mention that a backcourt of Russell and Steph Curry would be ugly on the defensive end.

But the Warriors didn’t lose Kevin Durant for nothing. Russell is a 23-year-old All Star who can energize a core that has too many miles on their legs. Should the basketball fit be too awkward, the Warriors could flip him for assets.

The dynasty may be dead, but the Warriors are still clinging to life in an ever-changing Western Conference.

Grade: B

Houston Rockets

Signings: Russell Westbrook (via trade), Tyson Chandler ; Resigned Austin Rivers, Danuel House, Gerald Green

Departures: Chris Paul (Thunder via trade)

Let’s not forget that only two years ago the Rockets were that close from winning game seven against the Warriors in the WCF and probably beating the Cavs in the finals. But, as has been the story of his entire career, Chris Paul went down with an injury and the Rockets collapsed at destiny’s door.

That era is closed with Paul’s unceremonious dumping to Oklahoma City; but the Rockets, smelling blood in the water with the Warriors collapse, are still alive.

Westbrook is a better player than Paul at this point, there’s no disputing that, but Paul was the more natural fit next to James Harden and in Mike D’Antoni’s offense. Westbrook can’t shoot, is inefficient, ball-dominant and, at least recently, isn’t a great free throw shooter.

Question is, can he adapt? Westbrook won MVP only two seasons ago, he’s still great. He also should be lauded at his unselfish play last season that nearly lifted Paul George to MVP.  Ultimately, though the Rockets have to adapt or convince Westbrook not to shoot so many threes. Last season Russ chucked up 5.6 threes a game, but only made an anemic 29% of them. If he continues to be a world-class chucker, the Rockets are in trouble. But if any can get through to him, it may be his good friend and former teammate, Harden.

At this point, the Rockets are shaking up to head to one of two extremes. The Brodies 2.0 could turn into a disaster, resulting in the timid end to the D’antoni era and likely ending in Houston reshipping their next star to a new home, without most of their future assets. Or maybe, just maybe, Russ and Harden can rediscover their chemistry and develop the dynasty they couldn’t in Oklahoma City.

Grade: B

Indiana Pacers

Signings: Malcolm Brogdon, Jeremy Lamb, T.J. McConnell, T.J Warren (via trade); Resigned Edmond Sumner

Departures: Bojan Bogdanovic (Jazz), Thaddeus Young (Bulls), Wesley Matthews (Bucks), Daren Collison (Retired), Cory Joseph (Kings), Kyle O’Quinn (76ers)

Throw in another hat to the Eastern Conference race. Malcolm Brogdon isn’t a star, but is the kind of unselfish, ultra-efficient player that can take a team to the next level. A Oladipo/ Brogdon back-court will be one of the most versatile, two-way back-courts in the league.

Losing Bogdanovic stings though. The 30-year-old forward took the reins of the Pacers scoring load after Oladipo went down. However, Bogdanavic was the necessary collateral in the Brogdon deal, and the Pacers replaced him with younger forwards, who can more than pick up the scoring load that was lost.

T.J. Warren in particular was a steal. The 25-year-old averaged 18 PPG on 42.8 % 3-point shooting, and was acquired for essentially cash. Thanks, Suns.

Grade: B+

Los Angeles Clippers

Signings: Kawhi Leonard, Paul George (Via trade), Mo Harkless (via trade), Rodney McGrudey; Resigned Patrick Beverley, Ivica Zubac, JaMychal Green

Departures: Wilson Chandler (Nets), Garrett Temple (Nets), Danilo Gallinari (Thunder via trade), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Thunder via trade)

In the NBA Game of Thrones, Kawhi Leonard, the silent assassin, ended up on the Iron Throne. While all eyes were on LeBron James attempting to pull off another coup by  landing both Anthony Davis and Leonard, Leonard took some notes from the master. By leading the Lakers on, he was able to quietly pull off one of the biggest trades in NBA history, and hurt the local competition in the process.

The Paul George trade on it’s face is a massive overpay. George is one of the best two-way players in the game, but no one’s worth the draft package of a fringe All-Star player in Danilo Gallinari, a point guard with loads of potential in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, along with five first round picks (four of them unprotected) and two pick swaps.

It’s a little more manageable when you realize the deal netted George as well as Leonard. George and Leonard create a match-up nightmare. There isn’t a team that has the size and the switchability to effectively shut both of them down, while both of the forwards are all-world defenders capable are shutting down anyone. With Patrick Beverly back and tenacious forwards Rodney McGruder and Mo Harkless signed, the Clippers are nasty on defense.

The long-term impact of the trade will have to wait. For now, the Clippers are the favorites to win multiple titles.

Grade: A+

Los Angeles Lakers

Signings: DeMarcus Cousins, Danny Green, Troy Daniels, Jared Dudley, Quinn Cook, Avery Bradley; Resigned Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, JaVale McGee, Rajon Rondo, Alex Caruso

Departures: Mike Muscala, Reggie Bullock

Let’s not shed too many tears for the Lakers, they still have two of the top five players in the NBA on the roster.

That being said, they were absolutely played this free agency. While they were courting Leonard, all of their other options were dropping like flies. The talent was worth waiting for, but while Kawhi was making plans to move to the Lakers’ stunted brother, their plan B, C and D were falling off the board. When the dust was settled D’Angelo Russell, Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson, Tobias Harris and Jimmy Butler were all gone.

The Lakers were left with the corpse of DeMarcus Cousins and an overpaid Danny Green. The $4 million dollar trade kicker that Anthony Davis gave up, which was supposed to go to any max deal, was spent on players like Jared Dudley and Avery Bradley. With even most of the role players off the board, LA was forced to fill out their roster with the exiles from last year’s failed experiment.

It’s naive to think that this is a finished product. LA could acquire players from the buyout market or broach a deal for useful veterans such as Andre Iguodala, but for now the Lakers are second-best in their own city.

Grade: D

Memphis Grizzlies

Signings: Andre Iguodala (via trade), Dwight Howard (via trade), Josh Jackson (via trade), DeAnthony Melton (via trade), Tyus Jones; Resigned Jonas Valanciunas, Solomon Hill (via trade), Miles Plumlee (via trade)

Departures: Delon Wright (Dallas via sign-and-trade), Kyle Korver (Phoenix via trade), Jevon Carter (Phoenix via trade), Avery Bradley (Lakers), C.J. Miles (Washington), Chandler Parsons (Atlanta via trade)

The Grizzlies were hardly players on the free agency market, after all a rebuilding team trying to rediscover their identity is hardly attractive, but they were able to swing some savvy moves. Andre Iguodala won’t be long for Memphis, as it won’t be long before a competitor comes knocking on their door. The Grizzlies will smartly not buy him out and wait to flip him. They probably will do the same with Dwight Howard, if there even is a market for the big man anymore.

Josh Jackson has had a rough couple of years in the desert, but he’s still only 22 and leaving Phoenix could do wonders for his development. As a big man who can’t shoot or switch on perimeter defenders, Jonas Valunciunas was overpaid, but he could be a solid short-term partner next to Jaren Jackson Jr.

Grade: C

Miami Heat

Signings: Jimmy Butler (via sign-and-trade), Meyers Leonard (via trade),

Departures: Josh Richardson (via trade with 76ers), Hassan Whiteside (via trade with Portland), Ryan Anderson (waived)

Pat Riley is a modern-day Houdini. How else would you describe someone who coming into free agency, had no space, limited assets and bad contracts, but still managed to land a deal for a coveted star player. He was even able to do it without sacrificing Justise Winslow, Bam Adebayo or Tyler Herro, simultaneously shed the gigantic salary of Hassan Whiteside and was able to stretch and waive Ryan Anderson instead of having to ship out Goran Dragic.

Pat still has a little magic left in him.

The basketball fit is perfect. Butler fits “Heat Culture” to a tee — maniacally hard-playing basketball-fanatic that is committed to perfection. Of course, this move doesn’t make the Heat contenders. Butler has shown when he’s the #1 option (in Chicago and to a lesser extent Minnesota) the team doesn’t have much potential past a quick playoff exit.

But the move makes Miami relevant again. And who knows? If Riley can pull another rabbit out of his hat, or any of their young players develop into stars, Miami could be a player again.

Grade: B+

Milwaukee Bucks 

Signings: Robin Lopez, Wesley Matthews; Resigned Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez, George Hill

Departures: Malcolm Brogdon (Pacers via sign-and-trade)

When you have the Greek Freak and you were only two games away from the Finals, it only makes sense to run it back, but the Bucks are in dangerous territory. Giving Khris Middleton the max could prove costly. If Middleton’s All-Star 2018-19 season appears to be an aberration rather than the norm, he’ll be an expensive role player, even if he’s a damn good one.

Losing Brogdon wasn’t shocking, the Bucks weren’t willing to dive into the luxury tax to keep this core together, which effectively priced them out of Brogdon’s return, but it hurts their title hopes. Without Brogdon they lose a large chunk of their versatility. Brogdon served as a shut-down perimeter defender, secondary ball-handler and primary scoring option.  Bringing back Brook Lopez and George Hill on small deals, or that Milwaukee was able to secure a few draft picks from Indiana, does little to mitigate his loss.

When Kawhi left the East, the door swung wide open, it’s strange the Bucks didn’t bite at the chance and strengthen their contention odds.

Grade: D

Minnesota Timberwolves

Signings: Shabazz Napier (via trade), Treveon Graham (via trade), Noah Vonleh, Jake Layman (via sign-and-trade), Jordan Bell

Departures: Derrick Rose (Detroit), Tyus Jones (Memphis), Taj Gibson (New York), Anthony Tolliver (Portland)

At one point, the T-Wolves were the front-runners for D’Angelo Russell. D’Angelo could have been the missing piece to lead the young pups out of the spin of mediocrity. Instead, Russell was shipped to Golden State and Minnesota were again left at the altar. With Derrick Rose and Tyus Jones both leaving in free agency, Minnesota’s point guard situation made up of Jeff Teague and Shabazz Napier looks as bleak as ever.

The T-Wolves did get younger in the frontcourt, with one-year prove-it deals on intriguing forwards Noah Vonleh and Jordan Bell. Jake Layman could also be an underrated sign. For only three years, $11.5 million his versatility could make for a useful rotation piece.

However, without bringing a game-changing piece, the Timberwolves are still stuck in neutral.

Grade: C-

New Orleans Pelicans

Signings: J.J. Redick, Derrick Favors, Nicolo Melli; Resigned Darius Miller

Departures: Julius Randle (New York), Elfrid Payton (New York)

David Griffin has done no wrong during his time as GM. Building off the trade haul for Anthony Davis and the draft that brought in Zion Williamson, the Pelicans added the kind of dynamic players around their new star that they failed to add around their old one.

At this point, J.J. Redick’s legacy is cemented as one of the greatest shooters in NBA history. In his past few stops, he has been crucial to postseason runs in LA and Philly. While he’s not a great defender, he stretches defenses with his shooting ability.

Derrick Favors is a solid defender and interior scorer, who can start alongside Zion or serve as a valuable rotation piece off the bench. Nicolo Melli, the former EuroLeague power forward, is a versatile forward who can shoot the three ball, similar to a fellow European forward who headed the opposite direction this summer, Nikola Mirotic.

Signing the trio of veteran contributors show that New Orleans is serious about playoff contention right away.

Grade: B

New York Knicks

Signings: Julius Randle, Taj Gibson, Bobby Portis, Reggie Bullock, Wayne Ellington, Elfrid Payton, Marcus Morris

Departures: DeAndre Jordan (Nets), Mario Hezonja (Portland), Emmanuel Mudiay (Utah), Noah Vonleh (Minnesota)

It would be one think if Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant simply left the Knicks hanging. It happens all the time. But how the Knicks bungled the situation so completely, so aggressively is quite a sight to behold.

Let’s review:

  • The Knicks shipped away their 23-year-old franchise player Kristaps Porzingis, which cleared enough cap room for two max players, presumably so they could land both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Oops.
  • DeAndre Jordan, good friends of both Irving and Durant, who the Knicks as the incumbent team had the first shot at, became disenchanted with the Knicks after he fell out of the rotation in favor of younger players. Both Durant and Irving took less to secure Jordan’s place in Brooklyn. You figure if the Knicks had sensed Jordan’s importance to Irving and Leonard they could have prioritized his happiness during his time at MSG.
  • Durant admitted that he didn’t want to go to the Knicks without another star coming along. But his preferred star partner, Kyrie Irving wasn’t recruited heavily by the Knicks and was quickly swayed by the Nets.
  • Fearing his recent Achilles tear, the Knicks weren’t prepared to offer Durant the max offer. Durant wasn’t willing consider an offer below the max. Oh, Knicks.
  • Durant signed with the Nets without even meeting with the Knicks.
  • In order to save face, the Knicks leaked that they had no intention on signing KD with the max after the Achilles injury, but come off reeking of desperation.
  • The coup de grâce: The Knicks used a majority of the cap space that they’ve accumulating through rigorous tanking and trading away their superstar on Julius Randle, Bobby Portis and Taj Gibson.

The New York Knicks, ladies and gentleman.

Grade: F

Oklahoma City Thunder 

Signings: Chris Paul (via trade) Danilo Gallinari (via trade), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (via trade), Mike Muscala

Departures: Russell Westbrook (Houston via trade), Paul George (LA Clippers via trade), Jerami Grant (Nuggets via trade), Markieff Morris (Detroit)

The NBA moves fast. Just a few weeks ago everything was fine and dandy in Oklahoma City. They brought in veterans Mike Muscala and Alec Burks in an attempt to run it back. Then George asked for a trade, was shipped out for one of the largest hauls we’ve ever seen, Burks signed with the Warriors, and their franchise’s brightest light and last member of their would-be dynasty, Westbrook was sent to the Rockets.

The stars that this young franchise was born into are now all gone, but their future is still intriguing. The Thunder now have eight first rounders in the next few years.

The OKC faithful may be in mourning, after all Presti held off rebuilding for so long and they’ve never really known any team that wasn’t a winner, but have to appreciate the haul Presti was able to cobble together.

More than anything now the Thunder have options. Should they not be able to flip Paul’s contract, which they shouldn’t if they have to have to attach a sweetener, they can at least stay competitive with a core of Gallo, Paul, Gilgeous-Alexander and Stephen Adams. They could use some of the assets they acquired in a deal for another star like Bradley Beal. Or, they continue the demolition and build around SGA and a load of future assets.

Before Kawhi blew up the NBA, the Thunder were already looking to move Stephen Adams and Dennis Schroeder, some part of Presti and probably even Westbrook had to have known that this core had reached it’s peak. Sometimes the best step forward is hitting the reset button.

Grade: B+

Orlando Magic 

Signings: Resigned Nikola Vucevic, Terrence Ross, Khem Birch; Signed Al-Farouq Aminu, Michael Carter-Williams

Departures: N/A

If the definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result, what would you call the Orlando Magic? After hitting the brick wall over and over again, Orlando finally made the “breakthrough” with a 42-win season and a first round playoff exit as the East 7th seed. That may be their peak.

The Magic got there largely on the back of a standout season from Nikola Vucevic. Vucevic had career highs in PPG (20.8), RPG (12.0), PER (25.53) and TS% (57.3). When players have a breakout season at 28-years-old it very rarely indicates a new norm and is typically an outlier. Vooch will unlikely replicate or grow on his All-Star form.

Even if he does, he doesn’t have a star partner. By resigning Vooch to the max they might as well trade one of Mo Bamba or Jonathan Isaac. The frontcourt logjam hasn’t worked and prevented any real growth from their young assets. Aaron Gordon has been forced into an unnatural position at the 3, while Bamba’s and Isaac’s development has been stunted by the lack of minutes. The Magic now not only have Vooch and Gordon locked up in massive deals, they brought in Al-Farouq Aminu, drafted Chuma Okeke and resigned Khem Birch.

By resigning Ross to a $54 million dollar deal, its apparent Orlando has faith that this team can improve. They wouldn’t invest so much money into a team that’s content middling around fringe playoff status — right?

They also still haven’t figured out the point guard position with only veteran journeyman D.J. Augustin and young project/bust Markelle Fultz as options. Does someone need to tell them that the point guard position is sort of important?

Grade: D

Philadelphia 76ers

Signings: Al Horford, Josh Richardson (via sign-and-trade), Raul Neto, Kyle O’Quinn; Resigned Tobias Harris, Mike Scott, James Ennis III

Departures: Jimmy Butler (Miami via sign-and-trade), T.J. McConnell (Indiana), Boban Marjanovic (Dallas), JJ Redick (New Orleans)

Sometimes you can’t change a player’s mind when it’s set. Philly offered their postseason hero, Jimmy Butler, the max (five-year, $190 million), but was rebuffed by Butler’s desire to play in Miami for four-year, $142 million. Butler also reportedly turned down the opportunity to play with Kawhi in LA.

It’s really not you Philly, it’s Jimmy.  The pull to play in the bright lights of Miami where he’d be the undisputed “guy” was too strong.

By losing Butler they lose their clutch-time scorer. The Sixers responded by doubling down on Tobias Harris, who was resigned to a max deal, and Ben Simmons, who was offered a max extension. Harris looked to be like a more natural fit than Butler, due to his shooting and offensive versatility, during his brief regular season stint, but folded in the postseason. Simmons is an other-worldly talent, but still can’t shoot and doesn’t appear to be an organic fit with franchise-staple Joel Embiid.

So that’s where the Sixers sit, without a closer, with loads of talent full of loads of questions. Where will they get shooting, especially following the loss of Redick? Who will close games out? Will Simmons ever find a shot? Is Harris a nice role player or an All-Star worthy of the max?

The addition of Al Horford makes things easier. Horford next to Embiid is the most ferocious interior combo in the NBA. Horford’s leadership, defensive tenacity as well as passing ability more than make up for the fact that he’ll be making $29+ million in his age-36 season.

Josh Richardson is also a nice consolation prize for losing Butler as well.

Grade: B 

Phoenix Suns

Signings: Ricky Rubio, Frank Kaminsky, Kelly Oubre Jr., Javon Carter (via trade)

Departures: T.J. Warren (via trade to Indiana), Josh Jackson (via trade to Memphis), DeAnthony Melton (via trade to Memphis), Richaun Holmes (Kings), Troy Daniels (Lakers)

Does anyone know what the Suns are doing at this point? Do they? After a bizarre draft, the Suns doubled down with an even worse free agency. They traded T.J. Warren, the teams second leading scorer in 2018-19 and a player who was only 25, for what amounted to cap space. Then abandoned the Josh Jackson reclamation project and DeAnthony Melton for Javon Carter, Kyle Korver (who was waived) and a few second rounders. Jackson was the number four overall pick just three years ago, and is only 22, while Melton, also only 21, was one of the Suns best options at point guard last year.

All of those trades were used to sign “big-name” free agents Ricky Rubio and Frank Kaminsky. A few things here:

  • Bringing in veterans like Rubio and Kaminsky are usually done by teams ready to put their final touches on a roster to make a push in the playoffs; the Suns haven’t won 25 games in a season since 2014.
  • The Suns could have used the extra cap space to pursue a 23-year-old All-Star D’Angelo Russell, who’s good friends with franchise player Devon Booker and just led a similarly young core into the playoffs. Instead, they signed 28-year-old Ricky Rubio, who has a career eFG% of 43.3% and has never averaged more than 13 PPG. They signed him to a three-year $51 million deal.
  • Oh, and Kaminsky couldn’t even break the Hornets rotation last year, but the Suns are still giving him $10 million.

Even with the Knicks debacle this summer, the Suns still reign supreme as the NBA’s worst run team.

Grade: F

Portland Trail Blazers

Signings: Hassan Whiteside (via trade with the Heat), Mario Hezonja, Anthony Tolliver, Kent Bazemore (via trade with Atlanta); Resigned Rodney Hood, Extended Damian Lillard

Departures: Meyers Leonard (via trade to Heat), Mo Harkless (via Trade to Clippers), Jake Layman (via sign-and-trade to Minnesota), Seth Curry (Mavericks), Enes Kanter (Boston), Al-Farouq Aminu (Orlando)

Portland shouldn’t be resting on their laurels now that they have franchise player Damian Lillard signed to a super-max extension worth four years, $191 million. Anthony Davis, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard have shown that no contract is secure if the star is dissatisfied. Now, the Blazers must do everything they can to keep Dame secure. They’ll have to do it with limited cap space, in a conference that now has four or five true contenders.

To start, they landed Whiteside to serve as man in the middle while Jusuf Nurkic recovers from devastating compound fractures. Whiteside can provide comparable offensive output to the departed Enes Kanter, while Whiteside is miles better on the defensive end. Whiteside’s mammoth $27 million contract, however, is a lot to chew. Good news is it’s expiring after the season and could even be used as a trade chip as an expiring contract should Portland look to move him after Nurkic comes back.

Their wings are now young and more versatile with the return of Rodney Hood and the trade for Kent Bazemore. However, their depth is hurt with the loss of bench players Leonard, Layman and Curry.

Decent offseason for the Blazers, all things considered, but not enough to move the needle in the wide-open West.

Grade: C

Sacramento Kings

Signings: Resigned Harrison Barnes; Signed Trevor Ariza, Cory Joseph, Richaun Holmes, DeWayne Dedmon

Departures: Willie Cauley-Stein (Warriors), Alec Burks (Warriors)

The Kings spent A LOT of money in the offseason. Between veterans Trevor Ariza, Cory Joseph and DeWayne Dedmon, the Kings dropped over $100 million. They also resigned Harrison Barnes to a four-year, $85 million contract.

They blatantly overpaid for nearly all of their free agents. Ariza is still a useful rotation piece, but certainly not worth $12.5 million a year at this point. His PER the last few seasons dipped well below league average of 15, sitting at 12.08 last year. Barnes is paid like a star, but he’s never been anything more than an average starter, with a PER barely higher than Ariza last year, at 12.81.

Both are solid pieces, however. Barnes can be a decent tertiary scorer, in the same way he was originally at Golden State. Ariza’s defensive acumen and shooting is still valuable on a good team, while Dedmon and Joseph have been valuable role players in their last few stops.

The difference between Sacramento and other over-payers like the Suns or Knicks, is the Kings actually have a core worth building around, and close enough to the playoffs that one final push with veteran contributors could be enough to slide into a deep Western Conference playoff field.

Grade: B-

San Antonio Spurs

Signings: DeMarre Carroll (via trade), Rudy Gay, Trey Lyles

Departures: Davis Bertans (Washington via trade)

With every passing year, the Spurs become less and less relevant in a re-imagined Western Conference. Despite Gregg Popovich always managing to get the most out of a limited roster, and a post-season breakout from Derrick White, the Spurs are in danger of not even making the playoffs next year in a loaded West.

That being said, the Spurs are making very Spurs-y additions. DeMarre Carroll could the perfect Spur. Even though Carroll’s offensive efficiency has dipped the past few years, he’s still a capable defender and is still is a decent catch-and-shoot player. Should Pop get the most out of him, he could again be an effective three-and-D starter.

On the other hand, the Marcus Morris news is embarassing. The fact that Morris spurned his agreement for the Spurs for a pairing with the New York Knicks makes it that much worse.

Grade: C-

Toronto Raptors

Signings: Matt Thomas, Stanley Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson; Resigned Patrick McCaw

Departures: Kawhi Leonard (Clippers), Danny Green (Lakers)

The Raptors are the anti-Knicks. Whereas the Knicks gave Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving every reason not to go to New York, the Raptors gave Kawhi every reason to stay in Canada. Outside of the Lakers, the Raptors offered his best chance of immediate success. And, unlike the Lakers, Kawhi would be the man in Toronto, Kawhi wouldn’t be the scapegoat if anything went wrong, and Kawhi has already achieved sainthood in Canada.

While the Raptors couldn’t offer the star that the Lakers and Clippers could, they have one of the deepest veteran cores in the NBA that just proved can win a championship with young breakout assets in Pascal Siakim, Fred Van Vleet and, to a lesser extent, OG Anunoby and Norman Powell. Coming out of the East would have been a significantly easier path as well.

What else could the Raptors have done? Kawhi received a king’s welcome when he landed in Toronto for a meeting with Masai Ujiri.

But Kawhi wasn’t sold by the sentimental approach, which moves Toronto back to square one. Without Kawhi, common sense would say Ujiri will began to sell their veterans, starting with Marc Gasol, Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka, to the highest bidder as they begin the long rebuild.

Grade: D

Utah Jazz

Signings: Bojan Bogdanovic, Ed Davis, Jeff Green, Emmanuel Mudiay

Departures: Ricky Rubio (Suns), Raul Neto (76ers)

The Jazz have to be kicking themselves with how this offseason panned out. At the beginning of the offseason, Utah had to be feeling good about their chances. Golden State was on the precipice of exploding and they had just landed Mike Conley — the West seemed vulnerable.

Of course, the Jazz weren’t the only one’s who smelled blood in the water. Following a feeding frenzy, the West is as loaded as ever. Leonard and George will be battling for LA supremacy with LeBron and Davis, former MVPs are joining forces in Houston, even Golden State isn’t quite ready to die with their addition of D’Angelo Russell.

That being said, the Jazz had a hell of an offseason. Mike Conley is an upgrade over Rubio is every conceivable way and the established star Utah have been craving ever since Gordon Hayward left. The combination of Conley and Donovan Mitchell will be one of the best backcourts in the NBA, an advantage they can exploit from the forward-heavy lineups of the Lakers and Clippers.

Bogdanovic is a huge addition as well. First of all, he’s a sniper from deep. He was 14th in 3pt % at 41.9% and only trailed Joe Harris, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Danilo Gallinari, James Harden and Kawhi Leonard in TS% for players who attempted at least 400 threes. He’s also no slouch on defense either, with the 24th best Defensive Rating for players who played at least 60 games.

Surrounding Conley with Bogdanovic, Ingles and Mitchell is a dangerous combination.

Grade: A

Washington Wizards

Signings: Ish Smith, Isaiah Thomas, Davis Bertans (via trade), C.J. Miles (via trade), Moritz Wagner (via trade); Resigned Thomas Bryant

Departures: Tomas Satoransky (Chicago via sign-and-trade), Trevor Ariza (Sacramento), Bobby Portis (New York), Jabari Parker (Hawks), Jeff Green (Utah), Dwight Howard (Memphis via trade)

This free agency will be defined on more who departed, than who the Wizards resigned. All of their midseason acquisitions (Ariza, Portis and Parker) departed, which means Washington have nothing from the Kelly Oubre Jr. deal, and only a protected 2023 second-round pick from the Otto Porter Jr. deal.

Oubre was due for an overpay, but could have been an intriguing prospect on a rebuilding team. Porter Jr. could have been an acceptable loss, if Washington had landed deals for Portis or Parker as short-term fliers. Again, they were left with nada. Green was having a resurgent season so his loss stings as well.

Without the departed forwards, Washington has the worst forward rotation (Rui Hachimura, Davis Bertans, Troy Brown Jr., Wesley Johnson, Sam Dekker, Admiral Schofield and Jemerrio Jones) and one of the weaker rosters in the NBA.

Of course, they can’t bring in any big-time free agents until John Wall’s mammoth $171 million contract comes off the books in 2023. Wall probably won’t be able to play for a majority of the season as he recovers from an Achilles tear, but will still make $38 milllion.


Grade: D

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