This past NBA offseason provided the most drama and excitement in recent memory, the summer of 2017 had many winners and losers, Some teams positioned themselves to make a serious run in their division, while others look lottery bound after 2017 playoff campaigns. This week, we will take a look at the winners and losers from the NBA offseason.
Having narrowly missed out on the playoffs in 2017 the Denver Nuggets seemed poised to become a legitimate playoff team in the Western Conference. Mike Malone and company were somehow able to keep their promising young core of: Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Gary Harris intact, while adding All-Star 4 man Paul Millsap into the mix. Millsap should benefit greatly from Nikola Jokic’s passing ability, and Denver should feature a healthy amount of highlow action, between these two bigs. In addition, Millsap should be a serviceable mentor to Jokic, as well as Tre Lyles. Going forward, Denver must decide whether or not Emmanuel Mudiay is the long term answer at the point guard position. All things considered the Denver Nuggets are a force to be reckoned with, and Mike Malone should make a serious push for Coach of the Year.
A draft night trade blessed the Timberwolves with the scariest two way wing tandem (Andrew Wiggins & Jimmy Butler) in the NBA. They were also able to add Jeff Teague, a clear upgrade over Ricky Rubio. The additions of Jimmy Buckets and Jeff Teague combined with Karl Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins will make the Timberwolves a nightmare to defend in transition. The reunion of Jimmy Butler and Tom Thibodeau should bode very well for both parties, and I frankly would not be surprised if Jimmy Butler has a career season. Karl Anthony Towns continues to look more and more like a generational big man each day, it will be interesting to see what KAT has added to his bag this offseason. The Wolve’s lack of depth at the guard and wing spots, should be addressed at some point. I believe this will hinder them in being a legit contender for the Western Conference Finals. Bottom line, the Timberwolves youth and new additions could create second round playoff headaches for Western Conference heavyweights like the Spur and Warriors.
Similar to the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Celtics were able to keep their bright future relatively intact, while making a superstar acquisition. Although I believe the Cavs are slightly better off post-trade, it is hard to ignore the impact Kyrie Irving will have in Boston. Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward will give the Celtics the level of star power they’ve been missing, since the departure of the Big 3. With Amir Johnson gone to Philly, Marcus Morris will provide a boost at power forward for the Cs. Newly arrived rookie Jayson Tatum is just 19, but should provide a veteran level of polish and scoring off the bench, from the first day of training camp.
Despite the promising acquisitions, I do believe Celtics fans do have some things to be concerned about. The departure of Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder leaves the Celtics without their two best perimeter shooters and defenders. Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart should fill these roles, but only time will tell. Furthermore, it remains to be seen how the Celtics will address their lack of rebounding and rim protection, which was never more evident than during LeBron James’ assault on the rim in the Eastern Conference Finals. Al Horford seems much more comfortable in pick and pop situations, than protecting the rim in help-side defense. Despite their shortcomings the Celtics are in an extremely unique position, relative to other NBA teams. They can make a potential finals run now, and at the same time have arguably the brightest future in the NBA, with young talent and a slew of draft picks. It will be interesting to see what moves Brad Stevens and Danny Ainge make going forward and also how Gordon Hayward and Irving mesh together offensively.
Honorable Mention: Sacramento Kings, Oklahoma City Thunder, Phoenix Suns, Philadelphia 76ers, Cleveland Cavaliers.
Los Angeles Clippers:
Chris Paul is arguably the best and the most consistent point guard of this generation. Unfortunately he will be in a Houston Rockets uniform this October, and with his departure the lob city era in Los Angeles is officially over. The Clippers will have to play a completely new starting backcourt this season, as JJ Reddick is gone as well. Milos Teodosic, Patrick Beverly, and Louis Williams are new additions at guard, and I do not believe any will provide a long term solution given their advanced ages. That being said I am a HUGE fan of Juwan Evans and am interested to see what he brings to the table in his rookie campaign.
The Clippers also signed: Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and Danilo Gallinari to massive contracts this offseason. Blake Griffin quietly had one of the best statistical seasons by a power forward in NBA history, so it is difficult to bash his new contract. On the other hand, CP3’s departure will reduce DeAndre’s impact to strictly rim protection and rebounding, which are important but do not warrant his new contract. Finally Danilo Gallinari will be making about 20 million dollars this year. That seems like a lot for a 29 year old injury-prone forward, who does not provide much outside of shooting. Not to mention he is coming off a broken hand, after snuffing an opponent at EuroBasket (he and Blake should get along great). It is possible the Clippers overpaid Gallo, to make up for all the shooting JJ Reddick took to Philly this summer. It will be up to Doc Rivers to keep building the momentum the Clippers have established over the years, and prevent them from going back to being “the other team in LA”.
After letting Jimmy Butler walk for next to nothing, the Bulls now have more guards than they know what to do with. On the roster they currently have: Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, Cameron Payne, Denzel Valentine, etc. Zach LaVine is the only one in the group that demonstrated any signs of long term ability. The Bulls also must figure out what to do with Dwayne Wade. DWade had a very solid season given his age, but does not provide much trade value for the Bulls to work with. Basketball fans in the Windy City are in for a long season. It is unfortunate that the Bulls will digress from a 40-win, playoff team last season to a team that will be in serious contention for the No.1 overall pick in 2018. The Chicago Bulls front office and Fred Hoiberg are going to be stuck with an interesting problem to solve, come this October.
Unfortunately Quinn Snyder and company will not be able to be able to build off of last season’s playoff run. The departure of Gordon Hayward and George Hill does not leave Utah much to compete with in the present. This leaves the Jazz with a core of: Joe Ingles, Rudy Gobert, Rodney Hood, and Joe Johnson. That being said there seem to be good things in store for rookie guard Donovan Mitchell, just not today. For what it is worth, Boris Diaw will not be playing this season in the NBA, he will spend it playing in his home country of France. Also third year guard Dante Exum seems like he will not pan out to be the player most people expected. Obviously some of this can be attributed to injury, and the rest due in large part to pre-draft hype. The moral of the story is be VERY careful when selecting international guards. Bottom line, similar to the Chicago Bulls the Utah Jazz appear to be an ex-playoff team bound for the 2018 lottery. A heavy dose of ISO-Joe and Rudy Gobert’s rim protection will keep them in a few games, but the faithful fans in Utah are in for an extremely long season.
Honorable Mention: Orlando Magic, New York Knicks, Indiana Pacers.
By Jefferson Akers