With the majority of the moves from the NBA offseason all wrapped up, I’ve decided to give some sort of award to all 30 teams. We will go in A-B-C order.
Best Sequel Award (or so they hope)
The problem with going for sequels is the second movie typically isn’t as good as the first. Two years ago Atlanta signed DeMarre Carroll to a two-year contract worth about $5-million. Carroll developed into a high-level wing with the Hawks leading to him getting a massive contract from the Raptors this summer. The Hawks are trying this angle again to replace Carroll as they traded for the underachieving Tim Hardaway Jr. and signed Justin Holiday. Hardaway is entering his third season and has some physical tools that haven’t translated to positive results. Holiday is older than the 23-year-old former first round pick at the age of 26, but he has the length and defensive potential to make an impact. If his shooting comes along it would seem the dart throw with Holiday has more potential to be the next Carroll.
The Middle of the Pack Award
General manager Danny Ainge is in a somewhat dangerous position with the Celtics. They’ll have cap space like every other team in the NBA in the coming seasons, but they’re lacking high end talent. Ainge brought in David Lee and Amir Johnson to add to the front court, re-signed Jae Crowder and Jonas Jerebko, traded for Perry Jones III and drafted R.J. Hunter, Jordan Mickey and Terry Rozier. Brooklyn bottoming out took a hit when they brought back Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young and Boston’s chance at a top lottery selection doesn’t look like it’s in the cards. What’s their path to a player to build around if Marcus Smart doesn’t reach that level?
Reel it Back in Award
The litany of Nets mistakes is tough to re-hash — in the simplest terms they could have a core right now featuring Derrick Favors, one of Damian Lillard or Andre Drummond, and pick your choice of who you would have taken with the third pick in the 2011 draft. Add in having the rights to one of your draft picks before 2075 instead of having Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett for a season apiece. Alright, so that’s not good.
With as bad as all of that is, general manager Billy King put the organization back on the right path this offseason. He didn’t let past moves dictate what he was planning on doing in the future. Given the organization’s position, re-signing Lopez and Young made sense because there is no point in going for a top lottery pick. The important aspect in the Nets’ re-development was starting to infuse young athletes into the roster, using first round picks on Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Chris McCullough. These are baby steps, but this is what the Nets needed to do.
The only major negative was signing Andrea Bargnani. He’s not good at basketball.
Going Deep Award
I hit on this in a story earlier in the offseason, so I’m not going to go in-depth here. Last season the Hornets were a terrible three-point shooting team. They added Nicolas Batum, Jeremy Lamb, Frank Kaminsky and Spencer Hawes. Now they won’t miss as many from deep.
Jeremy Lin was a weird fit and signing for this roster.
Running in Place Award
The Bulls didn’t do much this offseason besides stand pat. They re-signed Jimmy Butler like they had to, didn’t get cheap on Mike Dunleavy to bring him back in the fold, and will hope Tony Snell continues to develop. Chicago is banking on the idea that the coaching change from Tom Thibodeau to Fred Hoiberg gives them the boost they need. That seems unlikely, unless Derrick Rose magically returns to MVP form.
Making it Rain Award
Cavaliers Dan Gilbert basically opened up a checkbook to LeBron James and said here, you go do whatever you want. There’s probably still more to be spent if (when) they come to terms with J.R. Smith and Matthew Dellavedova. Cleveland is clearly the team to beat in the Eastern Conference and arguably the only group that has a chance to compete in an NBA Finals matchup versus the West.
Swing and a Miss Award
Good try, good effort, Mark Cuban and Chandler Parsons. You came oh so close to landing DeAndre Jordan. In the end all that matters is that it didn’t happen. It’s sad that Dirk Nowitzki’s last years are going to rot away with mediocrity, most likely for a high lottery team. He deserves this to all end better. Cuban has been using a bad process to try to salvage the end of Dirk’s career, and it’s coming back to haunt him in a big way.
Moving On Award
It’s officially a new era with the Nuggets as they dealt Ty Lawson to the Rockets for scraps. This is Emmanuel Mudiay’s a team and we’re going to get to see what he can do as a rookie. I will be interested to see how Kenneth Faried handles the idea of a rookie being the headliner. I don’t worry about Danillo Gallinari reacting negatively to it. I’m excited to watch Mudiay and second-year guard Gary Harris in the backcourt together.
Going Out on the Limb Award
Stan Van Gundy has put his eggs in the Reggie Jackson basket and most people don’t agree with him. The 25-year-old point guard received a five-year, $80-million max deal. I’m here to defend the signing and will do so in a weird way. I’m actually in the camp that Jackson isn’t anything overly special as player, but this is more about context and fit. I believe Detroit will get its money’s worth because Van Gundy’s offensive system puts Jackson in the best position to succeed. Jackson at point guard, with Drummond at center, surrounded with three shooters, is going to end up working. In almost any other situation I’d be on the other side of the argument.
Golden State Warriors
The We’re Still Here Award
Nothing is changing in the Bay Area. Coming off a historically good season that resulted in an NBA championship, the crew is returning for round two. Draymond Green re-signed and the entire core is back besides the lightly used David Lee. One thing to watch is who makes more of an impact out of their youth: rookie Kevon Looney or James McAdoo.
Deepest Team in the NBA Award
With acquisition of point guard Ty Lawson, I think it’s fair to say the Rockets have the deepest team in the NBA. Lawson, Patrick Beverley, James Harden, Trevor Ariza, Corey Brewer, K.J. McDaniels, Sam Dekker, Terrence Jones, Donatas Montiejunas, Dwight Howard and Clint Capela. That’s 11 legitimate NBA-level rotation players if you project Dekker to be that type of player.
The Overhaul Award
No more slow and plodding with the Pacers. Roy Hibbert is gone and the organization has made clear its intention to pick up the pace. Signing guard Monta Ellis will be a vehicle to help implement the new style, and pairing him with George Hill puts in him position to succeed. Hill complements Ellis’ game on both ends of the court. Rookie center Myles Turner brings the potential to stretch the floor and rim protection, a rare skill set in a big, but how much he’s ready to contribute in year one is a question. Paul George has the opportunity to thrive as a small-ball four despite his opposition to the position. The Pacers are going to be a fascinating experiment this season.
Los Angeles Clippers
Swing for the Fences Award
While general manager Doc Rivers hurt himself last offseason, it was a different story this offseason. He addressed the Clippers’ most pressing needs by adding a versatile wing defender in Lance Stephenson, luring a big time bench piece in Josh Smith as the third big man, and obviously bringing back DeAndre Jordan. Getting Paul Pierce to come in as the starting small forward is a nice little bonus too. They rounded into a legitimate championship contender in ’14-15, and you shouldn’t expect anything else in ’15-16.
Los Angeles Lakers
Shoulder Shrug Emoji Award
I’m not exactly sure what’s going on here. The Lakers signed Lou Williams, who is going to take valuable minutes from D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson. The same can be said with Brandon Bass and Julius Randle. I get taking a shot at Roy Hibbert, but because of his defensive ability he might put better odds on Los Angeles losing its top-three lottery-protected draft pick. With Kobe Bryant in the last year of his contract, it’s probably one more season until we start to see the real direction of the NBA’s flagship franchise.
Holding onto Hope Award
The Grizzlies are trying to extract every ounce of production they can from this core. Marc Gasol is 30, Zach Randolph is 34 and Tony Allen is 33. They added a 35-year-old Matt Barnes in free agency. Jeff Green didn’t help them like they expected in a midseason trade, and probably shouldn’t play many minutes with Allen, Barnes and Courtney Lee in the mix at the wing position. Green’s best use on this roster is as a small-ball four off the bench, with Brandan Wright at center running spread PnR. I think Memphis is a little bit below the first-tier teams in the West (Warriors, Spurs, Rockets, Thunder and Clippers), but I could definitely be wrong about that. Still, this is a very talented roster.
Weirdest Roster in the League Award
This team is weird to me. There’s a ton of talent here with Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Goran Dragic, Luol Deng, Josh McRoberts, Chris Andersen, Mario Chalmers, Justise Winslow and Hassan Whiteside. If anyone knows where I can place bets on lineups featuring Gerald Green and Amar’e Stoudemire having the worst defensive rating in the NBA this upcoming season, please let me know. How good this team can be rests on the health of Wade, and on the real identity of Whiteside, something we don’t yet know.
The Lucky we’re in the East Award
Because the Bucks are in the Eastern Conference, they have what looks like a fun and intriguing group of players. If they were in the West, they’d be rebuilding and trying to climb their way up. The big pickup in the offseason for Milwaukee was center Greg Monroe, a perfect fit with the youth and athleticism already found here. Guys like Khris Middleton, Jabari Parker, Michael Carter-Williams and Giannis Antetokounmpo will help accentuate Monroe’s strengths and hide his flaws for a variety of reasons. They should be back in the playoffs.
The Hope we’re the next Thunder Award
The Timberwolves are hoping they’re following the path of the Thunder. They have elite young talent in Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, much as the Thunder did with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Now Minnesota will see if they develop and grow together to form a devastating combo for the next eight to 10 years. It’s going to be fun to watch this story play out.
New Orleans Pelicans
The Anthony Davis and Pray Award
The Pelicans have put together a team of Anthony Davis and a bunch of question marks for this season. Can Eric Gordon raise his level of play? Will Jrue Holiday stay healthy? Can Ryan Anderson get back to being himself? Is Tyreke Evans going to learn how to balance his offensive talent? Is Omer Asik’s defense good enough on defense to overcome his offensive flaws? The answers to these will determine whether New Orleans ends up back in the playoffs for a second straight season.
New York Knicks
The Slow and Steady Award
The Knicks’ offseason wasn’t sexy, but it was needed. Robin Lopez and Kyle O’Quinn solidified the front court. I didn’t love the Arron Afflalo signing, yet at the price I can live with it. Derrick Williams was a reach with New York betting on being able to develop what it viewed as an under-utilized talent. They took Kristaps Porzingis and Jerian Grant in the draft, who should help them function as a more modern offense. If Carmelo Anthony stays healthy, New York should be a respectable team in a weak conference. Will that be enough to help them take the more difficult jump the following season? That remains to be seen.
Oklahoma City Thunder
We Might Have Ruined a Good Thing Award
I question whether giving Enes Kanter a max contract takes the Thunder from contender status to non-contender status in a tough West. I fully believe if they just let him walk and gave his minutes to Mitch McGary, Steven Adams, and small-ball lineups, the Thunder would have created a better roster. Kanter hurts a team’s defense that much. If Kanter is playing 25-30 minutes a night, they’re not in the top tier despite the elite talents of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka.
Hoping for the Jump Award
I don’t think there’s a roster in place in the NBA waiting for a larger group of players to make a leap. Elfrid Payton, Aaron Gordon, Victor Oladipo and Tobias Harris are all at a point and age where they’re going to start to show the early signs of their career arcs. There’s a wide-ranging possibility for all of them. This has the potential to be a solid team, with Nikola Vecevic, Channing Frye and Evan Fournier also on the roster. Mario Hezonja has the possibility of being the most fun rookie if given enough playing time.
Still Waiting Award
The process. The process. The process. The process. The process. The process. The process. The process. The process. The process. The process. The process. The process. The process. The process. The process. The process. The process. The process. The process. The process. The process. The process. The process. The process. The process. The process. The process. The process. The process. The process. The process. The process. The process. The process. The process.
The Balance Award
The Suns are basically the opposite of the 76ers. Phoenix is trying to develop young talent and compete at the same time. The majority of the Suns’ core is in its early to mid-20s, but they also signed the soon to be 33-year-old Tyson Chandler this offseason. They have the potential to build a top-five defense with Eric Bledsoe at the point of attack, P.J. Tucker harassing wings, and Chandler anchoring it on the back end. The Suns are in the mix for a playoff spot in the West.
Portland Trail Blazers
The Trail Blazers didn’t bomb their roster — they nuked it. The only starter left is Damian Lillard, with LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews and Robin Lopez moving on in free agency, plus Nicloas Batum being traded. There are intriguing pieces in place: The Blazers added Al-Farouq Aminu, Ed Davis, Gerald Henderson, Noah Vonleh, Mason Plumlee, and Maurice Harkless to join C.J. McCollum and Meyers Leonard. They should be a fun bad team to watch.
The Dysfunction Award
This was the easiest award to give out. It’s probably not a good sign that your best player and head coach would prefer to not be in the same room. DeMarcus Cousins and George Karl have to get their situation figured out or Karl has to go. Adding Rajon Rondo to the mix and the trade with the 76ers were LOL-worthy. The rest wasn’t so bad — Kosta Koufos was a shrewd signing and Marco Belinelli brings some much needed shooting. There’s some talent here, but this type of dysfunction rarely breeds success.
San Antonio Spurs
We Won the Offseason Award
I’m not a huge LaMarcus Aldridge fan, but there’s no doubt adding him to the mix was a huge victory for the Spurs. He, along with Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, will be the linchpins to build another era of excellence once Manu Ginobili/Tim Duncan hang it up and Tony Parker declines. Getting David West for nothing was a strong bonus. R.C. Buford and Gregg Popovich have built a monster of an organization.
We Came out of Nowhere Award
The DeMarre Carroll signing by the Raptors might have been the most surprising free agent signing, and it sprang up shockingly. Cory Joseph’s contract looks a little extreme now, but it won’t in two years, as Joseph continues to develop. Joseph will allow Dwane Casey to pace Kyle Lowry more, which was a big need after his play fell off as the 2014-2015 season went on. What Jonas Valanciunas turns into continues to be the bellwether of what this Raptors team can become.
Silent but Deadly Award
The Jazz didn’t sign any major free agents this offseason, with good reason. They’re going to see how far the core of Rudy Gobert, Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks, Rodney Hood and Dante Exum can take them. This is one of the best young teams in the NBA. We will see if they’re able to build on their strong play to close last season.
Waiting for Next Year Award
Hoping for Kevin Durant.