As preseason is inching closer and closer and the 2016-17 NBA team season schedules have been released, it’s time to reflect. What happened during the months after LeBron James fulfilled his promise to Cleveland and brought the Larry O’Brien trophy home, up until now?
There are definitely teams that will benefit and teams that will suffer following choices made in the offseason.
Thinking back to the past few months while the NBA was inactive, all that comes to mind is dollar signs. Max contracts were being handed out left, right, and center. But looking back at the draft picks, trades, and free agency acquisitions made, there are a few teams that stand out when it comes to the winners and losers of the offseason.
No surprise here, but a big loser this offseason was the LA Lakers. It was an offseason that was used to try and rebuild after losing the legendary Kobe Bryant and trying to shake off their most tragic season yet. They re-signed Jordan Clarkson, brought veteran Luol Deng and drafted Brandon Ingram with the second pick in the 2016 draft. Ingram will be able to help out in two of the team’s desperate areas: three-point shooting and perimeter defense, he’s a prolific offensive player. What makes it feel as though the 2016-17 season will be another one to drag starts off with overpaying Timofey Mozgov $64 million for four years. Yes, $16 million per season for Cleveland Cavaliers, the reigning NBA Champs’ 10th man. He only played 17.4 minutes a game and averaged 6.3 points a night, and in the finals, those numbers went way down to 5.8 minutes and 1.2 points a game in the Finals. The purple and gold also added Centre Tarik Black to their roster and are paying him about $6.2 million this season. That’s a lot of money for someone who could be a third-string center, behind Mozgov and rookie Ivica Zubac.
The team that had the most miserable offseason goes to the Miami Heat. Pat Riley had big decisions to make due to a plethora of free agents and not too much cap space to cover, even though the majority of the teams in the league had enough room to make a max offer. What could Riley do to ensure his team remained a powerhouse in the Eastern Conference? To him, it was by keeping it 100, literally, with Hassan Whiteside. Last season he was signed to a contract of $980,000, and his new contract has him making a grand total of $98,000,000. That’s great for Heat fans, as he has the ability to make an impact on both ends of the floor. This contract now makes Whiteside the #1 option, and face of the Miami Heat. He has a history of some serious pride and bad attitude, so this could go up or down. What really made this offseason miserable, though, was Dwayne Wade’s departure from South Beach. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that he would stay in Miami for the length of his professional career and get his jersey retired there. He won three rings and was the most respected player on the team. This team is going to look very different now. Pat Riley, alongside many others in the league, tried to reach out to the top free agent in 2016: Kevin Durant. It’s understandable, you can’t blame him. But prioritizing KD and Whiteside, the organization managed to push Wade into the arms of his hometown’s team, the Chicago Bulls. Heartbreak for Heat fans. Wade said Riley: “didn’t call or email or text or nothing like that to try to sway me or try to get me back.” It’s awfully hard for Heat fans to feel good about this summer when the greatest player in their franchise’s history is gone for no good reason, but lack of communication and interest. Over the course of the 2016 offseason, Miami lost Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Joe Johnson, Gerald Green and Amare Stoudemire, while bringing in Dion Waiters, Derrick Williams, Wayne Ellington, Luke Babbitt and James Johnson to replace them. History will remember the Heat’s refusal to pay Wade for his unabashed loyalty this past offseason, and it left a pretty nasty taste in Miami fan’s mouths.
In relation to Pat Riley chasing Kevin Durant, that’s exactly what the team that drafted him failed to do. The Oklahoma City Thunder failed their team by being unable to make KD stay in OKC. What makes it more depressing is that they lost him to the superstar team in the West that defeated OKC’s chance at a finals appearance last season after being up 3-1 in the conference finals: The Golden State Warriors. The Thunder did all they could to keep their franchise player, and his departure left them with no backup plan. Oklahoma City also lost Serge Ibaka in a trade to Magics that saw Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova and the draft rights to Domantas Sabonis head to OKC in a move not alot of people seen coming. During the 2016 draft, they used their 56th overall pick on Daniel Hamilton, a 6’7″ wing out of UCONN. He can play multiple positions and could be a solid pick for the Thunder, but this team is filled with players just like him. A bright side in this state of depression was Russell Westbrook showing long-term loyalty to the franchise that drafted him. He’s hurt over Durant’s — who used to be his right-hand man on and off the court — decision to leave, and every game he plays will be an entertaining one due to the chip on his shoulder. But this young team will have trouble repeating what they did last year in the playoffs if they even make it at all.
With that being said, it’s easy to deem the Golden State Warriors as a winner of the offseason. Due to free agency, however, they did lose Leandro Barbosa, Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut and a few others that served a significant role on the superstar team, but the team will be just fine. The Warriors signed Centre Damian Jones, and ESPN’s Marc J Spears referred to him as: “the most athletic big man in the draft and was an engineering major in college,” for bonus points. He’s only 20, an elite athlete, jumps high, weighs a solid 245 lbs has a 7’4” wingspan. This is a great addition for a team that likes to shoot, to have someone down in the post. He shot 74% on cuts and was a threat with shooting 80% on rolling to the rim last season. But July 4th, 2016 caused lots of spiel and controversy in the NBA. Bob Myers, the GM for the Warriors, told the most desired free-agent Durant: “Without you, we can win another title or two. Without us, you might win too. Together? We’ll win a bunch.” It must have been persuading enough, because Golden State signed a top-three player, to an already superstar team. The Warriors will go from the 2015-16 “Splash Bro’s” o the 2016-17 “Splash Team.” Some say this move was unfair, some say as a competitor you shouldn’t join your rivals and some said it will make things more interesting. But one thing is for sure, and it’s that the Golden State Warriors definitely won during this offseason.
Another team that used their offseason to the fullest was the Milwaukee Bucks. They’re a team that is never really a topic of discussion, but that will change this 2016-17 NBA season. It was a shock to everyone during the draft because the Bucks chose “alleged” 19-year-old (he really is), Thon Maker at the 10th pick. He’s 7’1”, with a 7’3” wingspan and a 9’1” standing reach. He’s got a great work ethic and for his height moves really well. He made his presence known at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, averaging 14.2 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game. Although he does need to get stronger, the team is not solely depending on Maker to make a difference this season. At pick 26, the Bucks drafted Malcolm Brogdon. A 6’5” shooting guard, who is an all around solid player and with add depth in the backcourt. Another smart move was signing Mirza Teletovic, who averaged 12.2 points per game, and shot 39.3% from the three-point line. In Phoenix last season, he attempted as many threes as a reserve, as the Bucks made as a team! For $30 million, they got a quality shooter who will vamp up their offense to a new element. A better addition was that of Matthew Dellavedova, who averaged 24.6 minutes last season with the Cleveland Cavaliers who won it all last season. That team developed him as a well-rounded point guard and defender. Something interesting about this team is the height. With only two guards under 6’6”, this team will be a threat to shorter and younger teams during the season. Add some chemistry and strength, and this team will make noise this upcoming season.
Another team that stands out as a winner easily are the Boston Celtics. Although they lost Jared Sullinger and Evan Turner, the face of Beantown’s Isaiah Thomas said: “for the most part, we’re still together.” They drafted Jaylen Brown at the third pick, who CBS Sports’ Ananth Pandian called “the top rookie performer in summer league.” The Celtics also added free agent Gerald Green, who with 10 years of experience in the league career averaged 10.0 points, 2.5 rebounds per game and has shot 36.1 percent from long range. The best addition would have to be Al Horford. Horford is one of the game’s best centers, as his dominance on both ends of the floor will help Boston level up this season as a contender in the East.
There will be many changes seen during the 2016-17 season due to the offseason, and it can’t start soon enough.