Okay folks, I know I am probably catching you guys right as we’re about to head right in to the annual American brain damage festival we call football season but for the most part even as someone that thrives on the minutiae of transactions I’m finally calling an end to this off-season.
This summer was filled with quite a bit of excitement as we saw some teams throw down the gauntlet and some pack it up to wait out the storm. There’s no fault in either of these approaches but the important part of it is how it’s being done. Luckily I was here with you guys every step of the way. For the uninitiated y’all can catch up here, here and here. But as always, there were teams that stood out for better or worse.
Golden State Warriors
I know, huge surprise here. But sometimes the hardest thing to do is maintain excellence. This was their main aim going into the summer and they seized on it quickly. After Kevin Durant restructured to free up cash everything fell into place. KD selflessness allowed the Dubs to sign Stephen Curry to the Designated Veteran Extension and bring back role guys Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, David West and Zaza Pachulia. They also straight up fleeced the Bulls by purchasing their second round pick that they turned into uber-athletic big Jordan Bell out of Oregon.
But quite possibly my favorite move of theirs was getting Omri Casspi for the league minimum. Casspi would be a starting 3 on a handful of teams right now and the fact that the Dubs got him on the cheap is genius. This is what I’m talking about when I say that championships are built in July. Oh, and of course the Nick Young signing, because swag.
The Rockets made a bang early in the summer by acquiring future HOF point guard Chris Paul via trade. Houston gave up quite a bit for CP3 leading many (myself included) to wonder how they were going to fill out the roster to put a team around their two superstars. Never fear, Dork Elvis is here! GM Daryl Morey did a great job refilling their roster.
While Chris Paul was clearly a home run the other signings were singles and doubles. Nothing flashy but keeping the momentum going. Getting PJ Tucker using the MLE added another wing defender to pair with Ariza or anchor a second unit. They smartly snatched up Tarik Black from the Lakers on a great deal and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute gives them more defense. They extended Troy Williams to help provide some bench shooting. Nothing signals throwing your hat in the bag like addressing one of the few weaknesses you had. And they most definitely did that.
Thibs ain’t playing y’all. First he swindled the Bulls by getting top 5 wing and former player Jimmy Butler for an injured Zach LeVine, a disappointing Kris Dunn and a pick widely expected to be the bust of the draft in Lauri Markkanen. If that wasn’t enough they went from Ricky Rubio to Jeff Teague at the point (no shots at Rubio, Teague is just a better fit). They nabbed promising big man Justin Patton of Creighton with the 16th pick obtained from the Bulls in the trade. The Taj Gibson move may baffle some but I see it as giving them flexibility going into the season with Gorgui Dieng and Crawford while an awkward fit can still light it up on the second unit. This team is going to be a tough out.
ANARCHY! ANARCHY!!! Okay, I know they suck. But they are sucking the right way. Don’t worry I’ll give you an example of a team that sucks at sucking later. I fell in love with their role as supreme saboteur this summer. As they did last year they forced a team’s hand to sign a guy to a large contract after throwing out a huge offer sheet. This year’s victim was the Washington Wizards and the beneficiary was Otto Porter Jr., a sweet shooting yet defensively averse small forward that averaged 13 points per night that is now making $26.5 million per year. Say it with me! “ONLY IN AMERICA!”.
Besides that master move by the Nets they traded for D’Angelo Russell and Timofey while unloading Brook Lopez and picking up some picks. They took on DaMarre Carroll from Toronto and got both of their picks in next year’s draft for their troubles. And to cap it off they finally got their hands on Allen Crabbe a year after forcing Portland to sign him to a contract that they gladly would have paid. Sure, non of this will result to many wins on the court but Brooklyn appears to have mastered the art of falling back.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Not happy with seeing their reigning MVP point guard Russell Westbrook carry the entire team on his back just to get ousted in the opening round of the playoffs GM Sam Presti made it his mission this summer to get Russy some help. I’d say adding Paul George is help. OKC added PG-13 via trade sending out Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis to Indy. And the kicker? They saved money doing it! They re-signed defensive stopper Andre Roberson to a decent deal, they added Patrick Patterson on a steal of a deal and finally got an adequate reserve point guard by signing Raymond Felton to the minimum while they work in hot prospect Terrence Ferguson taken by the Thunder with the 19th pick in this year’s draft.
It’s kinda hard for the Bulls because their reputation of being a trash fire of an organization kinda makes it hard to objectively analyze them. But they did lose an All-Star for nothing currently tangible and that’s bad enough. The rest of their moves were okay I guess. But that all depends on what kind of team the Bulls want to be moving forward. The trade screams tank to me as well as them still having cap space available (although I expect this will be used to re-sign Nikola Mirotic) but smart moves like signing Justin Holiday and Christiano Felicio may indicate something different. However, this is another case of a team either not being sure what they want to do or having a vision and just doing a horrible job at bringing it to fruition.
New York Knicks
Sometimes these summers go awry for reasons not related to the actual signings per se but due to the toxic environment of management. The end of Phil Jackson’s tenure with the Knickerbockers should have marked a turning point for the organization, a fresh start if you will. After drafting a young yet enigmatic and unproven point guard Frank Nkilitina and the gross mishandling of both of the teams stars it was obvious that they needed to go in another direction.
In the interim Steve Mills immediately made an impact by offering average at best Atlanta Hawks Tim Hardaway Jr, a 4 year $71 million dollar deal. When Atlanta politely said nah the Knicks bought themselves an expensive new shooting guard despite having a decent and cheaper shooting guard in Courtney Lee. But this summer will be remembered for failing (again!) to move a clearly over it Carmelo and quite possibly squandering any goodwill they had with future of the franchise power forward Kristaps Porzingis. Not a good look.
It’s not very often that you would see a conference champion mentioned amongst some of the poorer performing teams in the off-season. However, the Cavs are dangerously close to all out shitting the bed this summer. First was the unceremonious ousting of GM David Griffin and what followed was a series of questionable moves that on its face did not get them closer to beating the Dubs or hell even widening the gap in the East at all. For as old and slow the Cavs looked in the Finals it’s curious at best that they would then re-sign 36 year old Kyle Korver for three years, 35 year old Jose Calderon for a year, and they fell for the Jeff Green trap. Sure these signings are on the cheap but it kinda made them worse. The Rose move is okay if he’s healthy. And if you’ve been following the NBA over the past few years you know that this is one of the biggest ifs in the league.
Then there’s the recent tumult between the Cavs and All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving. Brand spanking new GM Kody Altman has a big decision to make here and to be completely honest no matter what he does he’s gonna get killed over it (welcome to the big leagues Kodes). But the return (no matter how unfavorable it will be amongst fans and media) will be the most important move for this team going forward. Whatever haul they get back can help soften the blow of these bad summer signings. Then they can not trade him and have him unhappy, because that always works out.
I’m not sure what the Pacers are doing but whatever it is they’re doing a pretty shitty job at it. The TJ Leaf pick ain’t bad but it ain’t great either. But they got worked in the aforementioned Paul George trade and the signings of Darren Collison combined with trading for Cory Joseph leads to confusion at the point guard spot. Especially when you factor in that they gave away projected starter CJ Miles for him. Teams lose top players in trades all the time but it is how an organization conducts themselves in the wake of such a seismic event the defines its competency. The Pacers don’t seem to have handled the aftermath very well.
San Antonio Spurs
I know, I KNOW! I, more than anyone should know better than to doubt the Spurs. And I will preface this by stating that I think the product on the court this upcoming season will be just fine but they had a TERRIBLE off-season. First, the good. The Derrick White pick was great. He was born a Spur. Now, *sigh*. The Pau deal baffles me. He was due $16 million this year and when he opted out it was expected that he would go low to free up space for the Spurs to operate. Nope, Pau hit them up for two additional years at the same price. Wait, WHAT? The Rudy Gay signing looks exponentially worse with the departure of Jonathan Simmons who walked for $6 million a year. Yes, 6 per year.
Dewayne Dedmon signed with Atlanta for $14 million over 2 taking almost all of their rim protection with him. The Joffery Lauvergne signing does nothing in the current. Their inability to move LaMarcus Aldridge was also a fail and while the number for Patty Mills is fine they got talked into a fourth year. The Spurs will be fine this season but they probably can’t survive another summer like this. Let’s hop this is a blip on the radar and not a sign of things to come.