Friday, August 16, 2013

NBA Off-Season Grades

It's been around two months since the Miami Heat beat the San Antonio Spurs in an epic seven game series and since then we've seen players drafted, traded, released and signed. As the Summer wraps up NBA rosters are almost complete and the only signings left are some veteran minimum deals. With around a month and a half until NBA teams begin to start their training camps here are the off-season grades for every single NBA team.

Atlanta Hawks
Major Additions: Elton Brand, Paul Millsap, Dennis Schroeder (drafted), Lucas Nogueira
Major Losses: Josh Smith, Zaza Pachulia

Hawks general manager Danny Ferry's master plan of clearing cap room to be able to entice major free agents such as Dwight Howard and Chris Paul fell through. As we know Paul stayed with the Clippers while Superman flew to Houston. Ferry decided that he didn't want to keep the two-way player in Josh Smith because he didn't feel he was worth  a near max contract. Instead Ferry got Millsap at a bargain, one of the best signings of the summer, resigned Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver and drafted Dennis Schroeder, a point guard from Germany who looks like Rajon Rondo and had an impressive Summer league. Overall the Hawks managed to somewhat salvage their miss of Chris Paul and Dwight, but are left in NBA's no man's land of a late seed playoff team.
Grade: B

Boston Celtics
Major Additions: Kris Humphries, Marshon Brooks, Gerald Wallace
Major Losses: Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry

General Manager Danny Ainge cut the chord; he finally ended the Pierce-Garnett time in Boston, but that couldn't have been completed without Doc Rivers' departure to the Los Angeles Clippers. With Pierce and Garnett gone and the acquisition of three draft picks from the Nets, the Celtics are poised for a rebuild. Additionally, with new coach Brad Stevens from Butler University, it remains to be seen how much success this team will have or wants to have. If the Celtics do truly want to rebuild though, they will probably need to get rid of all-star point guard Rajon Rondo. Rondo is one of the most competitive players in the game and "tanking" for the next few years is not what he wants. Furthermore, the Celtics still have Jeff Green, Avery Bradley and Brandon Bass, so this team is not a playoff team, but unless it hits the lottery jackpot, prized Kansas freshman and supposed number one pick in the 2014 draft Andrew Wiggins, is not in their future.
Grade: B-

Brooklyn Nets
Major Additions: Kevin Garnett, Andrei Kirilenko, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry, Mason Plumlee
Major Losses: Gerald Wallace, C.J. Watson, Marshon Brooks, Kris Humphries

Since this is a Nets blog I saved to write this grade for last. As everyone has noted, 1-5 the Nets have arguably the most talented starting five. With Deron, JJ, Pierce, Garnett and Brook the Nets have players that can consistently score at every position. Additionally, by resigning Blatche, drafting Plumlee and signing Kirilenko, Livingston, and Alan Anderson as well as trading for Terry the Nets are also much deeper. They also have a new coach in Jason Kidd, with three new assistants including ex-head coach Lawrence Frank. Frank is an X factor on this coaching staff because has a great relationship with KG during his time as a Celtics assistant coach. Kidd will have to be able to manage the minutes of this aging team and Deron Williams needs to come to camp in shape. With all this said, the Nets had one of the best off-seasons in the NBA. As I wrote in a previous column, they are different from the 2012 Lakers team that they are compared with because they are deeper. Furthermore this team is committed to defense, especially with Frank as the team's defensive coordinator. It remains to be seen how Kidd will run the offense, but given all the talent he has there should not be that many problems.
Grade: A-

Charlotte Bobcats
Major Additions: Cody Zeller (drafted), Al Jefferson
Major Losses:

Besides the Cavaliers' selection of Anthony Bennett as the first pick, Michael Jordan's selection of Cody Zeller at number four was the second most shocking pick. The rap on  Zeller is that he is athletic and can run the floor, but he doesn't have a high ceiling. Nerlens Noel would have been a better pick here. Fortunately or unfortunately, the Bobcats tried to salvage the off-season by dramatically overpaying for Al Jefferson. With a starting five of Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson, Michaek Kidd-Gilchrist, Cody Zeller and Al Jefferson the Bobcats will be somewhat improved, but that all depends on the maturation of Walker and Gilchrist. The Bobcats are destined for a run at Andrew Wiggins.
Grade: C+

Chicago Bulls
Major Additions: Mike Dunleavy Jr.
Major Losses: Nate Robinson, Marco Bellineli

The Bulls team from last year will be almost the same as this year's roster except the re-emergence of umm, DERRICK ROSE. Rose is finally healthy and with an improved Jimmy Butler, the Bulls are destined for a top seed in the playoffs. Nate was obviously incredible, especially in the playoffs, but with Rose back his role is not as needed. Still, the question remains for Chicago, can they beat the Heat with no real second star. History tells us no and that forward in Miami is only getting better.
Grade: B-

Cleveland Cavaliers
Major Additions: Anthony Bennett (drafted), Andrew Bynum, Jarrett Jack
Major Losses: Marreese Speights

If you're a Cavalier fan you have to be excited. Anthony Bennett is getting comparisons to Larry Johnson, Andrew Bynum signed with the Cavs on a great deal that has almost no guaranteed money and Jarret Jack will be able to mentor Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters like he did for Curry and Thompson in Golden State. With Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson, as well as a healthy Anderson Varejao, the Cavaliers are looking to get back into the playoff mix. Also, Chris Grant, their general manager, has done a great job with the team's finances so that they can make a run at Lebron James in the Summer of 2014.
Grade: A-

Dallas Mavericks
Major AdditionsMonta Ellis, Jose Calderon, Devin Harris
Major Losses: Elton Brand, O.J. Mayo

The Mavericks story sounds similar to the Hawks; clear cap room and strike out. Owner Mark Cuban won't rebuild and get rid of Dirk, so the team is still in win-now mode. Unfortunately they don't have the roster make up to make the playoffs in an incredibly deep Western Conference. The Monta Ellis signing is relatively cheap and Calderon and Harris will give better guard play than what they had last year with Collison, but coach Rick Carlisle is not left with a lot of talent.
Grade: C+

Denver Nuggets
Major Additions: J.J. Hickson, Nate Robinson
Major Losses: Andre Iguodala, Corey Brewer

Losing Andre Iguodala is a huge loss, but what may be greater is the non-roster losses that the Nuggets suffered. George Karl "resigned" as coach and Masaj Ujiri, an incredibly young GM left for Toronto. The short term future is not as bleak as the long-term because Nate Robinson and J.J. Hickson are both incredible signings. Hickson had one of his best seasons last year and Robinson will give the already energetic Nuggets more energy and instant offense.
Grade: B

Detroit Pistons
Major Additions: Brandon Jennings, Josh Smith, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Chauncey Billups
Major Losses: Brandon Knight, Jose Calderon

The notion that people don't see the Pistons in the playoffs is ludicrous. With a starting five that includes Jennings, Smith, Monroe and Drummond this Pistons team will surprise everybody. The hatred for J-Smoove and Brandon Jennings is so strong that it now masks how these two players are actually incredibly talented. Combined with the fact that Chauncey Billups will be there to player-coach, this Pistons team will mature and make the playoffs. Also, watch out for Caldwell-Pope, he was easily the best shooter in this past draft and with the attention that Monroe and Drummond will get, he is destined for some wide open looks.

Golden State Warriors
Major Additions: Andre Iguodala
Major Losses: Jarret Jack, Carl Landry

The saying "addition by subtraction" is used a lot in sports, most notably with whatever team Stephon Marbury used to leave. The signing of Andre Iguodala is not "subtraction by addition" by any stretch of the imagination, but I do question the signing given that it moves Harrison Barnes into a 6th man role. Barnes showed great strides in the playoffs and pushing him to a more reserved role does not make much sense. Still, Iguodala is a complete animal that runs the floor, plays defense and passes well. However, the losses of Landry, their best rebounder/defender and Jack, a sixth man of the year candidate are huge losses.
Grade: B

Houston Rockets
Major Additions: Dwight Howard
Major Losses: Carlos Delfino

The Rockets caught the biggest fish in the NBA free agency sea in center Dwight Howard. The combination of Howard and Harden will be compared to Kobe-Shaq constantly during the season. General Manager Daryl Morey gambled, acquiring picks and young players and giving up talent such as Kyle Lowry, but it all paid off and he's made all of us look silly. Along with Chandler Parsons the Rockets have a great core. Still there needs to be skepticism. As I wrote a few days ago, regarding why the Lakers collapsed last year, a lack of bench, the Rockets look like they might have similar problems. They will have a bench consisting of Patrick Beverly, Francisco Garcia, Greg Smith, Marcus Camby and Terrence Jones. It's a mediocre bench and with Jeremy Lin who had a disappointing year in Houston, the Rockets are left with a mediocre point guard, a mediocre bench, and an unhappy forward in Omer Asik. Furthermore, if Asik backs up Howard and Greg Smith starts the starting lineup will be even less efficient. Let's see if Morey trades Asik for a solid point guard.
Grade: A-

Indiana Pacers
Major Additions: Luis Scola, C.J. Watson, Chris Copeland
Major Losses: D.J. Augustin, Tyler Hansbrough

The Pacers had possibly the best off-season. Besides the fact that they are getting back former all-star Danny Granger from injury, they addressed their needs during this Summer. In the playoffs they noticed that their bench was completely ineffective and they combated this problem by obtaining Luis Scola, who will provide valuable off the bench minutes in place of David West or Roy Hibbert, they signed Chris Copeland to have another instant offense scorer and upgraded at the backup point guard spot by getting C.J. Watson and getting rid of D.J. Augustin. This team is deep, defensive-minded and has a perennial superstar in Paul George. The Pacers might be the most likely Eastern Conference team to dethrone the Heat.  
Grade: A

L.A. Clippers
Major Additions: Jared Dudley, J.J. Redick
Major Losses: Eric Bledsoe, Caron Butler

Far more significant than their acquisition of two sharpshooters in Redick and Dudley is the arrival of coach Doc Rivers. Finally the Clippers will have a coach who knows how to run a team, unlike the inept Vinny Del Negro. Moreover, Doc, who is known for getting the most out of his superstars, will try to get the most out Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan. Acquiring Redick and Dudley should not go unnoticed at all because one of the Clippers largest holes was outside shooting. With the Duke and B.C. standouts the Clippers will be able to attack inside and outside. Still, the Clippers did not address the need for a strong interior defensive presence. Along with Griffin and Jordan's horrific foul shooting, the Clippers might be the best team in the NBA... for the first 45 minutes of a game.
Grade: B+

L.A. Lakers
Major Additions: Nick Young, Chris Kaman
Major Losses: Dwight Howard, Metta World Peace

For all the talk that Dwight Howard is a baby for not sticking it out in Los Angeles, one item remains true, he made the right call. With an injured Kobe, a broken down Nash, a confidence-less Pau and possibly the most stubborn and ineffective coach in the NBA in Mike D'Antoni, Howard is in a far better place. The Lakers made a lot of one year deals in Kaman and Young so that they can be mediocre this year and try to swoop Carmelo Anthony or Lebron James in free agency. The Lakers will be boring next year and depending on when Kobe comes back they might be pretty bad. At least they got rid of MWP who served no purpose on the roster.
Grade: C

Memphis Grizzlies
Major Additions: Mike Miller
Major Losses: Darrell Arthur

The Grizzlies were one of the hottest teams in the NBA until they hit the Spurs in the playoffs. In the playoffs the Spurs showed the Grizzlies that they could leave Tony Allen and Tayshaun Prince wide open and double team Randolph and Gasol. The result of this genius decision by Coach Popovich was a sweep. The Grizzlies some what addressed the need for outside shooting with the injury-plagued Mike Miller, but they could still use more shooters. The loss of Coach Lionel Hollins will also not be easy on some of the players, though his relationship with Z-Bo was tense, so Coach David Joeger will have to pick up from where the Grizzlies left off, a top 4 Western Conference team.
Grade: B

Miami Heat
Major Additions: Greg Oden
Major Losses: Mike Miller

Four words; Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh. If these two guys want Lebron to resign they better get healthy and honestly better during this off-season. They were one Ray Allen missed three pointer away from being 1/3 in the Big 3 era. The loss of Mike Miller will not hurt and reports say that Greg Oden will be ready by mid-season. If Oden can be effective at all, this team will be better next year than they were this year. Oden will be able to provide interior relief against Roy Hibbert, David West, Brook Lopez, Kevin Garnett and Joakim Noah.  
Grade: B

Milwaukee Bucks
Major Additions: O.J. Mayo, Brandon Knight, Zaza Pachulia, Luke Ridnour
Major Losses: Monta Ellis, Brandon Jennings, J.J. Redick

While the Pacers had arguably the best off-season, the Bucks had the most perplexing off-season. They got rid of Jennings, Ellis, and Redick and one would assume that they were completely starting over and trying for a youth movement through the draft. Instead, the Bucks acquired Mayo, Pachulia and Ridnour. Pachulia may now have one of the worst contracts in the league. At least the Bucks have some pieces in Brandon Knight, Larry Sanders and John Henson. Still, it appears that their owner won't allow for a rebuild and is instead dying for the 8th seed.
Grade: C-

Minnesota Timberwolves
Major Additions: Shabbazz, Muhummad (drafted), Kevin Martin, Gorugi Dieng (drafted)
Major Losses: Andrei Kirilenko, Luke Ridnour

Unlike what most might think, the Timberwolves actually had a solid off-season. With all his antics, Shabbazz is undoubtedly a talented player; he would have been a top 5 pick if he could have come out of high school. Additionally, Gorugi Dieng will provide more interior post presence, similarly to what Greg Stiemsma did. Though the loss of Andrei Kirilenko hurts, Kevin Martin will provide instant scoring. With a potential starting lineup of Rubio, Martin, Budinger, Love and Pekovic and Barea, Shabbazz, Dieng and Derrick Williams on the bench, the T-Wolves have a pretty complete roster.
Grade: B+

New Orleans Pelicans
Major Additions: Tyreke Evans, Jrue Holiday
Major Losses: Robin Lopez, Grevis Vasquez

The Pelicans have had one of the most controversial off-seasons. For starters, they are now called the Pelicans. Beyond the name-change, the Pelicans could have had Nerlens Noel and Anthony Davis, but instead decided to trade Noel and a pick for Jrue Holiday. They then signed Tyreke Evans and got rid of Robin Lopez and Grevis Vasquez. This Pelicans team has a ton of talent with Evans, Holiday, Davis, Ryan Anderson, Austin Rivers, Aminu and Eric Gordon. The question is if Monty Williams can manage all these youngsters. Still, I like the Jrue Holiday trade and Tyreke needed a change of scenery.
Grade: B+

New York Knicks
Major Additions: Andrea Bargnani, Tim Hardaway Jr. (drafted), Metta World Peace, Beno Udrih
Major Losses: Chris Copeland, Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby

The Knicks have received a lot of criticism for a supposed awful off-season. However, the Knicks undoubtedly got more talented this Summer with the acquisition of Bargnani, MWP and Hardaway Jr. Kidd and Camby were ineffective as the season wore on and Mike Woodson clearly had no faith in Chris Copeland. The Knicks desperately need J.R. Smith to come back healthy to start the season and the same should be said for Amare Stoudemire. Carmelo is going to have to carry almost all the weight on this Knick roster, unless Shumpert improves his game dramatically during the Summer. In what could be Carmelo Anthony and Mike Woodson's last season in New York, the Knicks are going to have to overachieve.
Grade: B-

Oklahoma City Thunder
Major Additions: Steven Adams (Drafted)
Major Losses: Kevin Martin

From this time last year to right now, the Thunder have gotten dramatically worse. Harden-Martin-Jeremy Lamb is a devastating transition at the shooting guard position and they will still be starting Kendrick Perkins. The Thunder are going to need Westrbook and Durant to have their best seasons if they want to compete for an NBA title because right now this team is not as deep as the Spurs or the Clippers and they don't have a good enough third scorer. Steven Adams is very raw and a total work in progress.
Grade: C

Orlando Magic
Major Additions: Victor Oladipo (drafted)
Major Losses:

The consensus is the Magic got the best player in the draft in Victor Oladipo and I completely agree. With Oladipo, Vucevic, Maurice Harkless and Tobias Harris, there is some quality youth on this team. They are going to be bad again next year and that's not a bad thing considering how loaded this upcoming draft is. Also did I mention that they will have two picks in this next draft.
Grade: B+

Philadelphia 76ers
Major Additions: Nerlens Noel (Drafted), Michael Carter-Williams (Drafted)
Major Losses: Jrue Holiday, Dorrell Wright, Nick Young

The Sixers completely started over by trading Jrue Holiday for Noel and a 2014 first round pick. They now have a young center in Noel and a young point guard in Michael Carter-Williams who has drawn comparisons to Shaun Livingston. They are going to be bad next year and if the Hornets don't make the playoffs they will have two lottery picks in an unreal draft. If you're not going to be great you might as well start over and that is exactly what the Sixers did. The question that remains is if Evan Turner is in the Sixers future.
Grade: B+

Phoenix Suns
Major Additions: Eric Bledsoe, Caron Butler, Alex Len (drafted)
Major Losses: Jared Dudley, Luis Scola

The Suns got a great young athletic guard in Eric Bledsoe and drafted a talented big in Alex Len. Like the Sixers, the Suns will be vying for that number one spot in the lottery so that they can draft Andrew Wiggins. The Suns are making strides in the transition out of the Steve Nash era. I would expect a Goran Dragic trade who doesn't serve a role now that Bledsoe is there.
Grade: B+

Portland Trailblazers
Major Additions: C.J. McCollum (drafted), Thomas Robinson, Robin Lopez
Major Losses: J.J Hickson

Whether Lamarcus Aldridge wants to be a Blazer remains to be seen, but the squad in Portland is young and talented. C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard will be great together and they acquired Thomas Robinson, a talented top five pick for nothing.They will absolutely be battling the Timberwolves for one of the last playoff spots in the West. If McCollum blossoms, this team could be incredibly dangerous. Furthermore, the Trailblazers replaced Hickson with Robin Lopez who is coming off his best season. With starting five of Lillard, who spent the Summer learning defense from fellow Oakland native Gary Payton, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, Aldridge and Robin Lopez and McCollum, Robinson, and Myers Leonard on the bench, this team could be good for years to come.
Grade: A-

Sacramento Kings
Major Additions: Carl Landry, Ben McLemore (drafted), Grevis Vasquez
Major Losses: Tyreke Evans

The Kings needed to move on from the Tyreke Evans era and did a good job replacing him with McLemore. McLemore will be in the conversation for Rookie of the Year and Carl Landry will hopefully be able to mentor and teach Demarcus Cousins. Additionally, Grevis Vasquez will provide relief at the point guard position for Isaiah Thomas. Overall a solid offseason.
Grade: B

San Antonio Spurs
Major Additions: Marco Bellineli
Major Losses: Gary Neal

The Spurs resigning of Tiago Splitter for 5 years 45 million dollars seemed completely out of character for general manager R.C. Buford, especially given his abysmal finals. Still, Bellineli will be an upgrade over Gary Neal and Leonard and Danny Green will only get better. The Spurs had an uneventful, but successful off-season.
Grade: B

Toronto Raptors
Major Additions: Steve Novak, Marcus Camby
Major Losses: Andrea Bargnani

The Raptors had to get rid of Andrea Bargnani as his time with Toronto was up, but at least they were able to get a first round pick and Steve Novak for him. The Raptors have young talented players who all happen to play the same position in Derozan, Gay and Terrence Ross. With Masaj Ujiri as the new general manager, it seems that Derozan and/or Gay's time in Toronto will not be for much longer. Ujiri is all about efficient players which Derozan and Gay are notoriously known for not being.

Utah Jazz
Major Additions: Richard Jefferson, Trey Burke (drafted), Andres Biedrins
Major Losses: Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap

The Jazz acquired some picks this Summer and decided to completely rebuild. They are finally leaving the Jefferson and Millsap era and are entering the Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors era... finally. Both have incredible potential and both should not have wasted the last few years backing up those two. Trey Burke could be a homerun of a pick or it could be a disaster, no one knows how his game will translate in the NBA and his doubters are smiling after a terrible Summer league performance. Like the Sixers and Suns, the Jazz are rebuilding the right way.

Washington Wizards
Major Additions: Otto Porter (drafted)
Major Losses:

For some reason I am completely on the John Wall train. He turns the ball over and can't shoot well, but the team also played immensely better when he returned last season. They rewarded him for this play with a new contract. The Wizards pick of Otto Porter was the only obvious pick going into the draft and scouts do not love him because he doesn't do anything great. He also had a pretty brutal Summer league performance. Still, with a healthy John Wall and the maturation of Bradley Beal, the Wizards will battle the Cavaliers, Pistons and Hawks for those last playoff spots.
Grade: B

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