It’s been a strange NBA offseason. Now into the second week of August, there are still big names and restricted free agents lingering that could change the scope of the league. At the same time, it’s unclear if or when any of those dominoes will fall. So we’re going to hand out some offseason grades, even if there are still some moves left on the table. Let’s start in the Eastern Conference.
Put me down as a skeptic of the Dejounte Murray trade. While Murray’s talent may not be in question, his fit next to Trae Young is for me. And three first-round picks makes that move a big swing. Additionally, there’s still a little bit of a logjam in the frontcourt with Clint Capela, John Collins and the emerging Onyeka Okongwu. In the backcourt, the Kevin Huerter trade felt like a premature salary dump, and losing Delon Wright is not insignificant. This offseason will ultimately come down to the success of the Murray-Young pairing. I’m not sure how high they can lift the team.
Boston added two playoff-ready veterans to a team that just made the Finals (after dominating the second half of the season) without giving up anyone from its playoff rotation. It’s hard to have a much better summer than that. Malcolm Brogdon slots in perfectly in the team’s switch-all defensive scheme, and at his best, he’s a better version of Derrick White on both ends of the floor. And even if Danilo Gallinari may present a defensive weak link, his shooting will make defending Boston incredibly tricky. Boston’s moves give Ime Udoka a flexibility he lacked during the Finals run, and he can likely still coax more improvement from the likes of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Robert Williams III and Grant Williams. It’s hard to see how the Celts won’t be the favorites to make it out of the East next season. (And this is all without Kevin Durant, who the team is reportedly still in play to trade for. Boston may be the one team better off not rocking the boat for KD, though.)
It is impossible to judge this team until we have some more clarity regarding Durant and Kyrie Irving. If both stay, the team is decent, and the loss of Bruce Brown is somewhat offset by the addition of Royce O’Neale. The T.J. Warren signing is also a worthy gamble. Still, the frontcourt depth is lacking AND THEIR TWO BEST PLAYERS ARE SEEKING TRADES. I’m done trying to make sense of this team.
Assessing this team on a basketball level is ultimately pointless until there is some kind of resolution/path forward regarding Miles Bridges, who was charged with three felony counts of domestic violence in July.
Chicago kept Zach LaVine and added Goran Dragić and Andre Drummond without giving up any important rotation players. A sensible summer after last year’s dramatic one. Healthy seasons from Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso would likely help this team more than making moves for the sake of moves.
The Cavs are basically keeping the good times rolling, bringing back everyone of note from last season, including reacquiring Ricky Rubio in free agency after he was traded in the Caris LeVert deal. The Darius Garland extension was a no-brainer, and Robin Lopez should provide some valuable backup minutes during the regular season. The Collin Sexton restricted-free-agency saga still needs to come to a conclusion. But so far, so good.
Detroit’s maneuvering this summer put the team on solid ground. Shipping Jerami Grant to Portland gave the Pistons enough draft capital to move back up to draft Jalen Duren. Taking bad contracts from the Knicks gave them some more picks. Jaden Ivey was selected with the fourth pick, and he projects to be an exciting backcourt mate for Cade Cunningham. Though the Pistons ultimately didn’t create any havoc with their gobs of cap space, they’ll have an opportunity to create plenty more again next summer if they so choose. Aside from an eyebrow-raising Marvin Bagley III contract, the Pistons seem to be building steadily around an emerging star in Cunningham.
Indiana mostly treaded water this summer. The Brogdon trade ultimately only net one first-rounder and, depending on how you feel about Aaron Nesmith, not a lot of exciting talent. The Pacers swung and missed on Deandre Ayton and now need to figure out what to do with the eternally-rumored-to-be-traded Myles Turner. We’ll have a clearer picture of this team’s rebuild if and when Turner and Buddy Hield (another oft-discussed trade chip) are finally moved.
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The Heat got worse while their principal foes—Boston, Milwaukee, Philadelphia—should all have better playoff rosters compared to this year. Miami has a massive hole at power forward after losing P.J. Tucker to the Sixers. While his stats don’t scream All-Star, Tucker’s defense and leadership were vital to Miami’s playoff success. Meanwhile, the team has to decide what to do about a Tyler Herro extension after his dispiriting showing in the postseason. With Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry entering the later stages of their career, Miami needed to find a way to buttress the pieces around them. So far, the Heat have taken a clear step back as their biggest rivals have taken clear steps forward.
An uninspiring offseason for Milwaukee. This team is getting old. Wesley Matthews, Brook Lopez and now Joe Ingles are all in their mid to late 30s. All are important rotation pieces and all have dealt with serious injuries in their careers. Banking on Khris Middleton’s health is dicey when so many of the other players on this team are old. Milwaukee may not have had a lot of room to maneuver, but the front office ultimately did little to make life easier for Giannis Antetokounmpo.
I really like the moves here! Jalen Brunson is just 25, and his four-year deal will take him through only the middle of his prime. He’s also a massive upgrade at point guard for a Knicks team that struggled at that position last season. Isaiah Hartenstein is one of the better under-the-radar signings of the summer. And New York also positioned itself to acquire Donovan Mitchell by adding draft capital to its trade arsenal. Getting better should be the goal for nonplayoff teams. The Knicks did that while remaining in a position to grab an All-NBA talent.
Adding No. 1 pick Paolo Banchero to an intriguing young crew makes this summer a memorable one for the Magic. While it will be years before that pick can be put in the proper context, it’s a good start for an Orlando team that has some budding talent. Bringing back Mo Bamba and Gary Harris was smart management also, as both are useful rotation pieces who could also be part of potential trades. Solid, not spectacular, is where the Magic need to live right now. Their offseason fulfilled that mission.
Stealing Tucker from the Heat was incredibly shrewd. And acquiring De’Anthony Melton in exchange for a late first and Danny Green made the team younger and more dynamic on the wing. On top of all that, James Harden agreed to re-sign for well under a max contract. Ultimately, Philly did a great job of supplementing its stars in preparation for a deep playoff run.
Love the Otto Porter Jr. signing here. He fits in seamlessly on a team filled to the brim with long, athletic players who can shoot and defend. Toronto also looms as a possible Durant destination. Even with the additions of D.J. Wilson and Christian Koloko, the team could still use some more bulk in the frontcourt.
I don’t know. I guess bringing back Bradley Beal is exciting. Still, it feels like the Wizards are overdue for a reset instead of continuously shuffling the deck. Maybe next season is the one Kristaps Porziņģis finally stays healthy, and adding him to Beal and some capable vets makes Washington an exciting team. For now, it’s difficult for me to be hyped up about anything going on here.
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