The Winners and Losers of the NBA Offseason
It's been a whirlwind of a shortened NBA offseason since the Lakers won the NBA title in the bubble in October. We've seen the Bucks make a statement by making moves for Jrue Holiday and almost Bogdan Bogdanovic (who nixed the sign and trade) to try and convince Giannis to stay in Milwaukee, Daryl Morey resign from his role as GM in Houston, only to take the same job with the Philadelphia 76ers a few weeks later, James Harden request a trade from the Rockets, Russell Westbrook and John Wall get traded for each other, Gordon Hayward leave Boston for Charlotte, the Lakers reload by adding Dennis Schroeder, Montrezl Harrell, Wesley Matthews, and Marc Gasol, and the Suns adding Chris Paul to try and make the playoffs in the competitive West.
There's a whole lot to parse through, and perhaps even more important news to come before the season begins (Will Giannis sign his super max extension in Milwaukee or will he play out his last year and enter freee agency in 2021?) Let's get down to the 3 biggest winners and losers of this crazy, abbreviated NBA offseason.
Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers didn't just sit on their hands since winning the Larry O'Brien trophy in Orlando just a few months ago.
They aggressively traded their first round pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder for G Dennis Schroeder, who was arguably one of the best 6th men in the NBA last year, forming a devastating backcourt with SGA and Chris Paul. Schroeder will be an important playmaker for the Lakers and a guard to run the offense while Lebron is taking a rest as well as play along side him in crunch time.
Then the Lakers bolstered their front court, grabbing the real 6th man of the year, Montrezl Harrell, from their crosstown rivals, the Los Angeles Clippers. Harrell is a player that has his own faults, but for what the Lakers will ask him to do, Harrell will be just fine with the Lakers, providing energy, scoring, rebounding, and an edge.
In addition to Harrell, the Lakers also brought in highly respected veteran big Marc Gasol, who still has plenty left in the tank to give LA quality depth at center. The Lakers going from Dwight Howard to Marc Gasol is an unquestionable upgrade.
In addition to their new signings, Lebron re-upped on a 2 year max deal and Anthony Davis signed a new 5 year max deal, with a player option for the last year. They are deeper, stronger, and unquestionably the favorite to repeat as the champions in 2020-2021.
I love what Portland did this offseason to re-tool and give themselves a chance to compete for a top 4 spot in the West. They added Robert Covington from Houston, which is exactly what they needed- a big wing that can shoot the 3 and guard the likes of Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Luka Doncic, Lebron James, and more in the loaded West. The Blazers can close games with Dame Lillard, CJ McCollum, Robert Covington, Zach Collins, and Jusef Nurkic- that's a 5 that nobody wants to see, especially in the playoffs.
Portland also added several sneaky productive role players, including Enes Kanter, Harry Giles, Rodney Hood, retaining Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Jones Jr. and getting free of Hassan Whiteside's um, locker room presence.
This team has very good depth behind it's strong starting 5, and they look pretty complete. They'll be able to score, defend, they've got size, and plenty of playoff experience to boot. I love the look of this team.
I'm a huge fan of the transformation of this Sixers roster around Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid already- last year, this team was a total cluster. They were poorly coached, they couldn't shoot, the roster was poorly built, and they were the most disappointing team of the season, unsurprisingly getting ousted in the first round of the playoffs.
Enter Daryl Morey- in no time at all, Morey has been able to get off of Al Horford's terrible contract, added much needed shooting in the form of Seth Curry and Danny Green, and hired Doc Rivers.
Rivers deserves his share of the blame with the Clippers last year, but remains a stark upgrade on Brett Brown. They also added one of my favorite prospects late in the first round of the 2020 NBA Draft, adding guard Tyrese Maxey out of Kentucky. Maxey is going to contribute right away off the bench for Philly, giving them another option to go to.
I think this roster is built much better than last year's team. They still have a ton of size, but they will be able to space the floor much better around Simmons and Embiid. They're also lurking in the weeds for a certain unhappy superstar looking to leave Houston. There's finally stability in the front office and on the bench for Philadelphia, and I anticipate they'll take a step forward into contention for the Eastern Finals in 2020-2021.
What the heck are Detroit doing??? This offseason was chaotic, bizarre, and leaves the Pistons with a strange roster going into 2020-2021. New GM Troy Weaver made a flurry of moves, starting with trading Bruce Brown to Brooklyn for Dzanan Musa, a worse player.
Then, they drafted Killian Hayes over Tyrese Halliburton, reached for Isaiah Stewart in the first round, traded away young guard Luke Kennard, let talented, breakout big Christian Wood walk to the Houston Rockets, paid Jerami Grant 20 million/year, gave Mason Plumlee almost as much as what Wood signed for, signed yet another center in Jahlil Okafor, acquired promising former 1st round pick Zhaire Smith from Philadelphia, and then waived him... for some reason.
What's left is a strange roster that doesn't seem to fit at all. I really like the Saddiq Bey pick, but I disagree with every other move they made, using up their cap space on mediocre talent, letting several promising players go in Kennard and Wood, and overpaying for Jerami Grant. They're likely not a playoff team but also not intentionally tanking- no man's land.
For the second straight offseason, the Boston Celtics lost a max free agent for nothing, when Gordon Hayward left Beantown for the Charlotte Hornets on a 4 year deal. Strangely, there were reports that the Celtics turned down a sign-and-trade with Indiana centered around talented center Myles Turner. The Celtics rejected it, and instead lost Hayward for nothing.They now hold a trade exception for almost 30 million dollars, but it's bizarre that the Celtics passed on the chance to add a promising young center, which was exactly what they needed. Instead, they settled on Tristan Thompson to fill that need.
Boston is still in great position moving forward with young stars such as Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who will both take steps forward and continue to ascend in the game. However, the opportunity was there this offseason to leap into contention for the 1 seed in the East, and it passed them by. It's also a worrying trend to see stars walk out the door in back to back offseasons with nothing to show for it. They worked hard in recent years to buck the stereotype that big time free agents wouldn't come to Boston- losing Kyrie and Hayward will not help that reputation.
Another concern for Boston will be Kemba Walker's health, who has struggled with injury and is just one year into a 4 year max deal- he doesn't look ready to start the season for Boston and is receiving stem cell treatment in his injured knee, never something you want to hear about your undersized point guard. This team is likely a top 3-4 squad in the East, but I am not sure they're building enough around their young stars to make the NBA Finals.
It was a tumultuous offseason in Houston in all facets, from the front office to the bench, to the very cornerstone of the franchise. It all started with Daryl Morey finally leaving the organization for greener pastures (in this case, Philadelphia). Morey's stint in Houston will ultimately be looked at as a success, but Morey leaves the Rockets without a ring and in dire straits in terms of cap flexibility and future assets. He's been replaced by Rafael Stone.
Mike D'Antoni also departs from the Rockets, who joined Steve Nash's bench as an assistant in Brooklyn, tasked with maximizing the ever-changing duo of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Say what you will about MDA, but he was a vital part of the Rockets continued success and will be missed. His replacement, Stephen Silas, didn't exactly inspire the two star players on the team.
Now to the player personnel- departed are Robert Covington to the Trail Blazers, Russell Westbrook to the Wizards (in a swap for John Wall, who hasn't played NBA basketball in 2 years), and oh yeah, James Harden requested a trade out of Houston. The most iconic Rocket since Hakeem the Dream wants out, and the Rockets are left with the unenviable position of finding a new home for their franchise cornerstone.
Even worse, their draft assets are largely controlled by Sam Presti and the Oklahoma City Thunder for a number of years, so they will not even gain the benefits of tanking in the coming years. Harden reportedly would like to be reunited with his pal KD in Brooklyn, but the best package available to Houston may be centered around Ben Simmons from the Philadelphia 76ers. Will The Beard be traded? Time will tell.