Though there still might be some moves and signings left that could have large impacts (Jonathan Simmons and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are still sitting out there, amongst others), we've hit a bit of a lull with the NBA off-season as we head into the start of the Las Vegas Summer League. Thus I thought I'd share some of my thoughts on the movement and changes that happened during NBA free agency.
Minnesota Timberwolves The Timberwolves might have improved their team the most during this part of the offseason. First, the Timberwolves bring in Jimmy Butler for Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn (a pretty favorable return for the Timberwolves) and followed that by trading away Ricky Rubio and signing Jeff Teague and Taj Gibson. When Gibson was traded to the Thunder at the trade deadline last offseason from the Bulls, it flew a bit under the radar and his move to the Thunder was underappreciated and under considered. But Gibson is a player who can be a contributor for a good team and should see an uptick in usage under his former coach Tom Thibodeau. I also like the Teague acquisition and think he's a bit more of a complete player relative to Rubio and should allow for the team to be even more dynamic than they'd been in previous seasons. Building around a core of Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins with Gibson and Teague and coupled the continued development of Gorgui Dieng could make this the year that the Timberwolves finally make the leap to being a playoff team.
Denver Nuggets Rumored to be a part of a three-team-trade that would net them Cavaliers F Kevin Love, the Nuggets passed and instead of giving up their many young assets signed former Atlanta Hawks F Paul Millsap to a 3 year $90 million deal. Adding Millsap, a veteran player yet still very relevant and able to contribute, to a young team with the likes of Gary Harris, Nikola Jokic, and (maybe) Emmanuel Mudiay (who needs to bounce back from a less than stellar 2016-17 season), the Nuggets could be joining the Timberwolves in pushing to make the Western Conference playoffs this season.
Sacramento Kings Some of this might have to do with the Kings draft as well but the Sacramento Kings have, surprisingly, had themselves what I would define as a pretty good offseason. Drafting De'Aaron Fox, Justin Jackson, and Harry Giles was a solid draft haul but when coupled with the signing of George Hill, Zach Randolph, and Vince Carter for reasonable contracts and I like the direction of the Kings. I don't think the Kings are going to contend for a playoff spot any time soon (certainly not next year) but I like the moves and direction that the Kings have taken and that's not something you could have said about previous Kings offseasons.
Golden State Warriors I won't spend too much time on them since they're the defending champs, but bringing back everyone (including, and most notably, Kevin Durant on an extremely discounted deal) as well as adding some very interesting pieces to the bench for a reasonable price in the form of Nick Young and Omri Casspi and the Warriors had about as great an offseason as a team with all the particulars and peculiarities of the Warriors can have.
Los Angeles Clippers After trading away Chris Paul for a pretty substantial haul of assets, the Clippers appears to be moving towards a strip down and rebuild period until they re-signed F Blake Griffin for 5 years at $173 million. Though the haul from the Chris Paul trade was a decent one, the clear move for the Clippers was to go for the full rebuild. I also question whether Blake Griffin can be the driving force of a team that wins. Not that he can't be the best player or anything like that, but I feel like if you don't have some kind of perimeter force to go with Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, the Clippers don't really work.
New Orleans Pelicans Giving that much money to Jrue Holiday does not seem like the wisest move to make (though I understand the need to bring it talent to surround Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins). Perhaps if the Pelicans were banking on the fact that a training camp and a full season together would help Cousins and Davis play better together and make a push for the playoffs, but committing major resources to Jrue Holiday does not seem like the best way to do that. Holiday is a good player but you don't want to be paying him a 5 year, $126 million contract. Jonathan Tjarks at The Ringer discussed this in much greater detail than I ever could so go check out his piece.
New York Knicks There's not much that I can say that hasn't already been said so I'll let Zach Lowe say it all:
The Good and Bad
Oklahoma City Thunder This is one that could have ended up in the "Good" column. Landing Paul George for a reasonable price is a big get for the Thunder though who knows if he would re-sign there and you're just renting him for an entire year. Also moving away from the Victor Oladipo contract and deal is probably a smart move to make at this point for the Thunder. The signing of Patrick Patterson is a nice addition to go along with George, though I'm a bit skeptical about re-signing Andre Roberson who is a good wing defender but whose offensive liabilities and struggles are almost too great to overcome. This will be a very interesting season of the Thunder and GM Sam Presti has put together a team that should, if all things go according to plan, be in the top half of a very competitive Western Conference. But what happens after that and the ways in which it might go very wrong very quickly does make me question whether these moves were the best ones to make.
Boston Celtics This is another one that I could put in the positive camp given that they did finally land a marquee free agent as Gordon Hayward signed a four-year $128 million contract. After missing out on Jimmy Butler and Paul George, GM Danny Ainge was finally able to bring in a star to play alongside Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford. I also think that having Jaylen Brown move to the bench for the time being, letting him get his legs under him and used to playing in the NBA, will be helpful as well. What gives me pause with the Celtics is just how big of an impact Hayward can have. It's also being reported that, as part of the movies required to clear cap space to sign Hayward, the Celtics are going to trade Avery Bradley to the Pistons for Marcus Morris. Though I do understand that moves needed to be made to accommodate Hayward, I don't know that trading Bradley (a strong backcourt defender) is the one you want to be making.
Toronto Raptors I'm tempted to put the Raptors in the negative column because I do think they overpaid a bit to keep Serge Ibaka and the questions about Kyle Lowry are getting to be a bit louder and more credible. But I think letting both of them walk, but especially Lowry, would be disastrous for the Raptors especially when the East is losing talent. The Pacers, Bulls, and Hawks are all poised to take big steps back (and for the Pacers and Bulls, who were the 7th and 8th seeds in the playoffs last year, that could be a huge drop off) and thus the East is a bit more wide open than one might have thought. The Ibaka deal does give me pause, given that his production has really diminished since leaving Oklahoma City but he's also been a high level player for many seasons before and the deal, while on the larger side, is not as bad as a bad deal could be.
The I Don't Know Yet
Philadelphia 76ers Any review of the 76ers offseason is contingent upon that most important of variables-- the team's ability to stay healthy. Amir Johnson is probably better than his reduced role in Boston would lead you to believe and signing J.J. Reddick to a one-year deal gives them a good locker room presence and someone who can hit shots when the time calls for it. The core of the Sixers, with Embiid, Simmons, and Fultz, was already there so it was just a matter of building on and around that. But if that core is not able to stay healthy or to develop, then these signings will not look as great. But, as it is the offseason and hope springs eternal (and we all want the Sixers to be healthy and fun/relevant again), I'm choosing to take a more positive stance and say that this was a good offseason for the Sixers. We might finally see the fruits of The Process realized on the court.