One of the longest offseasons in NBA history is over and so is the illusion that comes with it -- the belief that almost every team in the league can be a winner with a little offseason luck. You know the feeling: If my team can just make a big trade or a huge free-agent acquisition or hit a home run in the lottery, maybe next season will be different.
This year, the dream lasted longer than expected thanks to a prolonged lockout. But once the two sides agreed, the deals have been coming in fast and furious.
With the NBA's abbreviated exhibition season now upon us, fans are settling into either the exciting or harsh realities of what their team did this offseason.
Unlike last season, when seismic changes happened across the league (thanks in part to LeBron James), this year things have been relatively quieter. Chris Paul was the only star to change teams and a few other potential key players, including Tyson Chandler, David West and Eric Gordon also changed addresses. But overall the landscape of the NBA hasn't changed that much. Everyone is still wondering what will happen with Dwight Howard, but the Magic seem determined to wait until the trade deadline to make a decision about him.
A less-than-stellar NBA draft, led by overall No. 1 Kyrie Irving, also has played a role in reshaping rosters. So have a few coaching changes, a couple of front office shake-ups and a major ownership change in Philadelphia.
Now that the preseason is under way, it's time to grade each NBA team on what it did this offseason.
I'm a college professor in my day job and I understand that this exercise really is the equivalent of giving a student a final grade after the first day of class -- there's so much we just don't know about how these changes will pan out. In other words, these grades are totally subjective and completely unfair. In truth, you cannot really grade an offseason until you get to the postseason.
The grades below take into account how each team in the league has performed so far in remaking its roster, considering both the opportunities it had and the moves it has made. The grades are not a ranking of which are the best teams in the league, just a device to track which teams appear to have improved and which teams haven't.
Key additions: Tracy McGrady (FA), Vladimir Radmanovic (FA), Keith Benson (draft)
Key subtractions: Jamal Crawford, Damien Wilkens
The Hawks seem to be stuck in limbo. They have a good core of Al Horford, Joe Johnson and Josh Smith, but those three just haven't been able to push the Hawks over the top.
Every year management and ownership say the same thing: Just give them a little more time. So, not surprisingly, the team hasn't done much to change the fortunes of the franchise this offseason either. Super sixth man Jamal Crawford is gone, replaced by an older, less-effective Tracy McGrady. And that's about it.
The Hawks are still capable of getting to the second round of the playoffs. But for them to make the next step, something, anything, has to change.
Key additions: Brandon Bass (trade), Keyon Dooling (trade), Marquis Daniels (FA), Chris Wilcox (FA), JaJuan Johnson (draft), E'Twaun Moore (draft)
Key subtractions: Jeff Green (injury), Glen Davis, Nenad Krstic, Delonte West, Von Wafer, Troy Murphy
How bad did Danny Ainge want Chris Paul?
With the team's title window quickly closing due to the declining games of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, the Celtics spent much of the first two weeks of December trying to deal Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green -- the two youngest players of their core -- to get him.
But once it was clear Paul wouldn't be wearing Celtics green, Ainge started to piece together a supporting cast for the season. He re-upped Green for a year, swapped Davis for Bass (better player, cheaper contract) and acquired Dooling, Daniels and Wilcox to fill the bench. Unfortunately, that plan is already falling apart. The Celtics learned on Saturday that Green needs heart surgery and will be out for the season. While the team will be able to void his contract, giving them some cash to spend, it's unlikely they'll find a player with Green's talent to replace him.
Nevertheless, the Celtics should continue to be contenders in the East this season. Ainge has made sure of that. But their long-term future has never been a bigger question mark than it is right now.
Key additions: Richard Hamilton (FA), Jimmy Butler (draft)
Key subtractions: Keith Bogans, Rasual Butler, Kurt Thomas
The Bulls' core of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng continues to make Chicago one of the top two threats in the East. They made that threat a bit stronger with the addition of Hamilton.
Hamilton's shooting ability in both the midrange game and from beyond the arc is the weapon this team sorely lacked last season. While Hamilton is far from his prime, he should be able to carry the load the Bulls are asking him to shoulder without a problem.
As for Butler, he's probably not the type of player who would be a household name if it wasn't for his miraculous "Blindside"-esque story. Drafting him has to be good karma for Chicago.
Key additions: Kyrie Irving (draft), Tristan Thompson (draft), Omri Casspi (trade)
Key subtractions: Baron Davis, J.J. Hickson, Joey Graham
The Le-pocalypse is over. LeBron has moved on. Cavs owner Dan Gilbert ... not so much. But the team's reward for last season's suffering was two picks in the top four of the draft. Sadly for Cavs fans, it wasn't the strongest draft in recent memory and the team didn't land the next LeBron with the No. 1 pick.
Nevertheless, the Cavs did get better. Point guard Kyrie Irving has the potential to be an All-Star someday. He's quick and smart and he has a nice balance between scoring and distributing. Tristan Thompson was a bit of a gamble at No. 4 -- especially with Jonas Valanciunas still on the board -- but the team feels that his athleticism, offensive rebounding and emerging offensive game will be a good fit. I'm skeptical he'll be better than Valanciunas, but you can make a solid argument he will be. Omri Casspi adds some toughness at small forward.
Using the amnesty clause on Baron Davis was also a solid move. Davis is talented when he's motivated and a distraction when he's not. Most likely, he would've been a major distraction in Cleveland this season.
While the Cavs will still dwell in the Eastern Conference basement, things are looking up. With another top draft pick and a free-agent pickup or two next summer, the team should be back on track.
Key additions: Corey Maggette (trade), Kemba Walker (draft), Bismack Biyombo (draft), Reggie Williams (FA), Derrick Brown (FA), Rich Cho (GM)
Key subtractions: Stephen Jackson, Shaun Livingston, Kwame Brown, Dominic McGuire
For more than a year, our Future Power Rankings have had the Bobcats ranked dead last. Last season, in fact, the team even got a little worse. But this season, there are finally some signs of life.
Although I didn't like the Corey Maggette-for-Stephen Jackson swap -- that was, at best, a wash for the Bobcats -- the rest of the moves they've made give the Cats hope. If Kemba Walker lives up to his potential, he could be the star they've been longing for. Bismack Biyombo also has heaps of upside and, while I'm skeptical he can live up to it, was probably worth the gamble as the seventh overall pick. Reggie Williams, meanwhile, gives Charlotte a much-needed sniper on the perimeter.
The biggest addition to the team, however, might have been new GM Rich Cho. The team has been badly mismanaged over the past few years and I expect that to change under Cho. Cho's ability to manage the cap, negotiate favorable contracts and put a professional organization in place can't be overstated. The Bobcats have screwed up just about everything they've touched. If they're going to get better, especially in a small market, they have to be smarter than the other guys. For the first time in a while, they finally have that chance.
Key additions: Lamar Odom (trade), Vince Carter (FA), Delonte West (FA), Brandan Wright (FA)
Key subtractions: Tyson Chandler, Caron Butler, J.J. Barea, Rudy Fernandez, Corey Brewer
Fresh off winning an NBA championship, Mark Cuban stunned many when he decided not to bring back the key cog in the Mavs' championship run, Tyson Chandler. But the Mavs owner has a plan. It wasn't that the Mavs didn't want Chandler or didn't think he was valuable, it's that Cuban knew he had a small window to rebuild this team on the fly next summer. Signing Chandler to a huge, multi-year deal would have destroyed those chances. So Cuban decided to take it on the chin for the chance to land a Deron Williams or Dwight Howard down the road. Hard to fault him.
After working out a sign-and-trade for Chandler, Cuban then made another heist using the trade exception he just received in the Chandler deal to land the Lakers' disgruntled Lamar Odom -- the best player he could probably land who also happened to be in the last year of his contract. Odom isn't Chandler, but with him on the floor, the Mavs can play some seriously potent small ball. And if Vince Carter can give them anything, the Mavs will still have a shot at repeating while retaining maximum flexibility next summer.
Under the new CBA, having smart ownership and management will be a must. Cuban and GM Donnie Nelson just put on a master class for the rest of the NBA to learn from.
Key additions: Nene (re-signed), Andre Miller (trade), Rudy Fernandez (trade), Kenneth Faried (draft), Jordan Hamilton (draft), Corey Brewer (trade), DeMarre Carroll (FA), Michael Ruffin (FA)
Key subtractions: Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler, J.R. Smith, Kenyon Martin, Gary Forbes
The Nuggets have rebounded better than expected in the post-Carmelo era. Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri got decent value for Melo at last season's trade deadline and the team went on to be more effective without Melo than with him.
This offseason, the task was simply not to screw things up. After Nene flirted with a number of teams in free agency, he returned home to Denver and was met with open arms. The Nuggets also added Andre Miller, who gives the team a veteran presence at the point; Fernandez and Brewer, who were cheap pickups; and draft picks Faried and Hamilton, both of whom I really like. Faried has boundless energy and is a great rebounder. Hamilton is a pure scorer who should help the Nuggets while they await the return of Wilson Chandler from China.
If the team can lock up restricted free agent Arron Afflalo to a long-term deal, the Nuggets have a shot of being better than they ever were with Carmelo Anthony. I'm not sure that should inspire a lot of confidence in Knicks fans.
Key additions: Rodney Stuckey (re-sign), Brandon Knight (draft), Tayshaun Prince (re-signed), Jonas Jerebko (re-signed), Tom Gores (owner), Lawrence Frank (coach), Damien Wilkens (FA)
Key subtractions: Richard Hamilton, Tracy McGrady, Chris Wilcox, Mike Woodson (assistant coach)
The Pistons had another quiet offseason. After winning just 27 games in 2009-10 and 30 games last season, you'd think Pistons president Joe Dumars would be in the middle of a major overhaul in Detroit. Although the Pistons' lack of moves were easy enough to explain last year when the team was for sale and management's hands were tied, many thought the Pistons would be more aggressive this offseason with new owner Tom Gores on board. Instead, the team worked to bring back Prince, Jerebko and Stuckey on multiyear deals, keeping intact most of the core of last season's team.
Still, three things have changed for the better in Detroit. (1) The Pistons waived Richard Hamilton, who had become unhappy in Motown, freeing him to leave for a contender. They made the move as a buyout and saved nearly $8 million in the process. Talk about addition by subtraction. (2) The team drafted Brandon Knight who, while still a little raw, has terrific upside. Put him on the floor with Stuckey, Greg Monroe and Austin Daye, and the Pistons suddenly have a nice, young core. (3) The team made yet another coaching change, bringing in former Nets coach Lawrence Frank to run the show. Frank has a great reputation around the league and is promising a more disciplined, hardworking team in the future.
While those moves won't particularly wow anyone, the Pistons are moving in the right direction again. This team could win 35 games and start to win back fans who left the team over the past few years.
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
Key additions: Mark Jackson (coach), Jerry West (executive), Bob Myers (assistant GM), Klay Thompson (draft), Kwame Brown (FA), Charles Jenkins (draft), Jeremy Tyler (draft), Dominic McGuire (FA), Bradon Rush (trade)
Key subtractions: Coach Keith Smart, Reggie Williams, Charlie Bell, Vladimir Radmanovic, Al Thornton, Jeremy Lin, Acie Law, Louis Amundson
After a season of the same Warriors status quo, new Warriors owner Joe Lacob has begun to make changes. Mark Jackson is in as head coach, respected player agent Bob Meyer is being groomed to be the new GM and Jerry West is back as a consultant. That's the good news after years of mismanagement on the part of the Warriors' old regime.
The bad news? The changes on the court haven't been nearly as bold unless you think Kwame Brown is going to take Golden State to the next level. And while the Warriors' draft landed them two big-time scorers in Thompson and Tyler, overall the team still seems to be a player away from being a true playoff contender.
Key additions: Kevin McHale (coach), Marcus Morris (draft), Jonny Flynn (trade), Chandler Parsons (draft), Jeremy Lin (waivers)
Key subtractions: Rick Adelman (coach), Yao Ming, Chuck Hayes, Brad Miller
Last offseason, GM Daryl Morey made a strong pitch at Chris Bosh -- but his creative approach, iPad included, didn't seal the deal. After trying several other alternative deals, he took a simpler approach to this past offseason: Wait and see.
Then Morey went all out to land Pau Gasol in December only to see David Stern crush his hopes again. They went to Plan B, with Marc "I'm not as good as Pau, but close" Gasol only to have the efforts thwarted by the mighty Grizzlies. With the free-agent pool dwindling, the Rockets just decided to sit back and wait again.
Eventually, Morey will be able to pull off a major deal. Until then, Rocket fans will have to placate themselves with a large measure of Kevin McHale and rookie Marcus Morris. I think McHale is a pretty good coach, though I thought Adelman was a very good one. Meanwhile, Morris has a solid chance of being a good NBA player -- but he's not going to turn the Rockets around by himself.
Those last two sentences really seem to sum up the Rockets -- pretty good and solid. Whether they'll ever amount to any more depends largely, it appears, on having a little bit of luck.
Key additions: David West (FA), George Hill (trade), Jeff Pendergraph (FA), Louis Amundson (trade)
Key subtractions: Mike Dunleavy, T.J. Ford, Josh McRoberts, James Posey, Brandon Rush
The tenure of team president Larry Bird and GM David Morway has been defined by patience. The two have been carefully and methodically rebuilding the Pacers from the ground up after the Ron Artest debacle. They entered this offseason loaded with young talent and cap room -- a covetable position few NBA teams ever reach -- and desperately needed an upgrade at the 4 and a reserve guard who can get his own shot.
Awash with cash in a shallow free-agent pool, Bird and Morway did what they always do -- they waited. And once again, it paid off. They patiently plugged and plugged away for more than a year until the San Antonio Spurs finally surrendered Indy-born George Hill. Then they waited until impatient teams overpaid the more overhyped free agents on the market and signed West to a very reasonable two-year, $20 million deal. Both players fit their needs perfectly without breaking the bank.
Meanwhile, the Pacers still have about $14 million in cap room to play around with during the season. With so much player movement expected closer to the March trade deadline, the Pacers are perfectly positioned to be major players in the trade market while still boasting a roster that's as deep as any team in the East. Even if Indy doesn't make another move, it's not inconceivable that this team could be a top-five team in the East this season.
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
Key additions: Chris Paul (trade), Chauncey Billups (amnesty), Caron Butler (FA), DeAndre Jordan (re-signed), Trey Thompkins (draft), Travis Leslie (draft)
Key subtractions: Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, Al-Farouq Aminu, Craig Smith, Jamario Moon, Ike Diogu
The Clippers grew up on Dec. 14, 2011. After years vacillating between pathetic and mediocre the team finally and boldly landed a star. Chris Paul is the type of player that can turn around a franchise. Pair him with a frontcourt of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan and the Clippers, for the first time in history, have the makings of a future championship contender.
To land Paul, the Clippers paid a huge price. The loss of Eric Gordon especially hurts. But ultimately, if CP3 stays in LA, he's worth it. One of the Clippers' other moves, the shrewd pick-up of Chauncey Billups off the amnesty waiver wire, should also shore up their backcourt. Yes, they overpaid for Jordan and Caron Butler. But when you look at the long-term future of this team, it's as bright as any in the NBA.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS
Key additions: Mike Brown (coach), Josh McRoberts (FA), Jason Kapono (FA), Darius Morris (draft), Andrew Goudelock (draft), Troy Murphy (FA)
Key subtractions: Phil Jackson (coach), Lamar Odom, Shannon Brown
The Lakers are on dangerous ground. They've been good for so long it's easy to forget what happens to great teams that hang on too long. With Phil Jackson out the door and Kobe Bryant now 33, things are about to change in LA.
The Lakers made an attempt to get a jump-start on the rebuilding process by making strong moves for both Chris Paul and Dwight Howard in December. Were in not for a last-second David Stern intervention, Paul would be a Laker, not a Clipper, right now. Nevertheless, the Lakers still look like they have the best offer on the table (Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol) for Howard. If the Magic decide to let go, the Lakers' building process gets a huge boost.
Until then, it's going to be messy. The Lakers inexplicably gave away Lamar Odom to the Mavs for what amounts to a cap dump. There's been some talk about the Lakers using the trade exception they received in another deal, but to date it's not clear exactly what that deal would be. The Lakers' incoming class of Josh McRoberts, Jason Kapono and Darius Morris is anemic by Laker standards and this may be the year the Lakers slide from elite status in the West.
If all of this mess ends with Dwight Howard in a Laker uniform all will be forgiven. But if he stays in Orlando or goes to the Nets, it's not out of the question that Kobe will force his way out and the Laker rebuilding process will be on the slow boat to lottery land for the next few years.
Key additions: Marc Gasol (re-signed), Josh Selby (draft)
Key subtractions: Shane Battier
The Grizzlies are good. I know, it's hard to believe. After watching what they did to teams in the playoffs last season without Rudy Gay, it's plausible they are a title contender with him.
So Michael Heisley did what any competent owner would do. He signed Zach Randolph to a contract extension before last season ended and locked up Marc Gasol to a big contract in December. He now has his full core of players to go compete for a championship. For most owners all of this would be a no-brainer. But for Heisley? There was a considerable amount of uncertainty about whether it would actually happen.
The Grizzlies still have holes in some places and a glut of players in others. But if they can catch the magic they had last April and May again this season, it's not out of the question that this team could win a title. Heisley fulfilled his part of the deal. Now it's up to Gay, Gasol, Randolph, Mike Conley and Tony Allen to do their part.
Key additions: Shane Battier (FA), Mario Chalmers (re-signed), Norris Cole (draft), James Jones (re-signed), Eddy Curry (FA)
Key subtractions: Mike Bibby, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Jamaal Magliore
Last season, the Miami Heat were coming off possibly the greatest summer in the history of the NBA. With LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in the fold, the Heat rounded up the best trio of players in the NBA.
This offseason was much more muted. Their big free-agent acquisition was Shane Battier, who has a stellar rep as a no-stats All-Star, but his effectiveness has waned with age. Still, he provides the Heat with important depth, leadership and defense behind LeBron.
The other move of note has to do with the departure of Mike Bibby. Bibby was way past his prime, but it's hard not to have some trepidation with Mario Chalmers running the point all the time. But if the Heat don't add another veteran in the backcourt, watch out for rookie Norris Cole. The Cleveland State product was one of the biggest draft sleepers and has been impressive in camp. He can score and distribute, and he rarely makes mistakes. He isn't an elite athlete, but when you factor in who's on the floor with him, he doesn't have to be.
Key additions: Stephen Jackson (trade), Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (re-signed), Beno Udrih (trade), Shaun Livingston (trade), Mike Dunleavy (FA), Tobias Harris (draft), Jon Leuer (draft)
Key subtractions: Corey Maggette, John Salmons, Keyon Dooling
The Bucks went from the surprise team in the East in 2009-10 to one of the most disappointing teams of 2010-11. Injuries played a major factor, but a series of questionable offseason moves by the normally steady-handed John Hammond didn't help things.
This offseason, Hammond moved quickly and decisively to right his wrongs. His two biggest acquisitions last year -- John Salmons and Corey Maggette -- are gone. The question is whether their replacements -- Stephen Jackson, Beno Udrih and free agent Mike Dunleavy -- will be any better. Jackson should provide a stronger scoring kick and Udrih gives them one of the better backup point guards in the league. Combine them with a (hopefully) healthy Andrew Bogut and Drew Gooden, and the Bucks should move back into playoff contention in the East.
Key additions: Rick Adelman (coach), Derrick Williams (draft), Ricky Rubio (draft), J.J. Barea (FA), Brad Miller (trade), Malcolm Lee (draft), Robert Vaden (trade)
Key subtractions: Kurt Rambis (coach), Tony Ronzone (assistant GM), Sebastian Telfair, Lazar Hayward
For the first time in two years, GM David Kahn didn't completely blow it. The talent on this year's Wolves team is impressive. And coach Rick Adelman, one of the most underrated coaches in the game, seems like a perfect fit for what looks like a turbo-charged squad.
Ricky Rubio is finally here, too, and should be a really nice fit with this team, while Derrick Williams and J.J. Barea should add more firepower to an already potent offensive team.
Still, the question on everyone's mind is, while a number of the individual parts look stronger than they have in a couple of years, will the team win enough games to matter? Give Kahn credit for amassing a number of assets over the years, but at some point assets have to turn into players and players into wins.
NEW JERSEY NETS
Key additions: Shawne Williams (FA), Marshon Brooks (draft), Jordan Williams (draft), Shelden Williams (FA)
Key subtractions: Travis Outlaw, Brandan Wright, Sasha Vujacic
Last year I wasn't too kind to the Nets and their summer haul of Derrick Favors, Travis Outlaw, Anthony Morrow and Johan Petro. That group seemed a galaxy away from last year's target -- LeBron James. But what do I know? The Nets had assets and somehow found a way to package them together to land All-Star point guard Deron Williams at the trade deadline.
Now the plan is to use their assets this season to get an even bigger fish. The Nets desperately want Dwight Howard and Howard wants them too. They offered center Brook Lopez and a whopping five first-round draft picks to the Magic to try to get him in December. They even offered to take back Hedo Turkoglu's toxic contract. But the Magic balked. Still, the question is whether they'll be so stubborn in March when the possibility of Howard walking away for nothing gets more real.
So you'll have to forgive the Nets if their offseason haul looks a bit bare. Yes, ideally they would've managed to find a way to surround Williams with talent now. But if they land Howard in March ... the Nets will have the most potent point guard-center combo in the league. It's hard to fault them for being patient.
NEW ORLEANS HORNETS
Key additions: David Stern (owner, GM, head coach, starting PG), Eric Gordon (trade), Chris Kaman (trade), Al-Farouq Aminu (trade), Carl Landry (re-signed)
Key subtractions: Chris Paul, David West, Aaron Gray
David Stern won't win many awards for his performance as NBA commissioner this year. Another prolonged lockout combined with PR disaster after PR disaster will taint his legacy. But as an NBA GM? He's doing just fine.
Stern, violating the spirit -- if not the letter -- of conflict of interest rules, shocked the NBA by getting in the middle of Hornets GM Dell Demps' attempts to trade Chris Paul. Whether he did it on the insistence of the 29 other owners in the league (as every GM I know believes he did) or on his own as an independent owner of the Hornets, it was bad form for the NBA to meddle. His intervention is the sort of pulp that conspiracy theorists have suckled on for years.
Yet, when viewed purely from the realm of negotiating strategy, Stern forced the hand of the Lakers and Clippers and got New Orleans a better return for their star. The haul of Eric Gordon, the Wolves' unprotected No. 1 pick, Al-Farouq Aminu and Chris Kaman was as good as they were ever going to get.
Now Stern's Hornets are loaded with young assets that Demps can use as he pleases. Whether he ultimately keeps Gordon (who I'm hearing desperately wants out of New Orleans), Kaman or Aminu is irrelevant. They are all chips that can bring back their own bounty.
The product on the court won't be the same without Paul (and his longtime running mate David West) flying up and down the floor. But the Hornets' future in New Orleans, thanks to Stern, is a bit brighter than it was a month ago.
NEW YORK KNICKS
Key additions: Tyson Chandler (trade), Baron Davis (FA), Mike Bibby (FA), Iman Shumpert (draft), Jerome Jordan (draft), Josh Harrellson (draft)
Key subtractions: Donnie Walsh (president), Chauncey Billups, Ronny Turiaf, Shawne Williams, Shelden Williams, Derrick Brown, Anthony Carter, Roger Mason, Andy Rautins
The Knicks didn't get their ultimate prize last summer -- LeBron James -- but the two star players they did land over the course of last season (Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony) have made the Knicks a prime-time destination again.
For much of this offseason, the next move on the Knicks' rebuilding chessboard was clear -- land Chris Paul. The problem? The Knicks didn't have the cap room to sign him as a free agent, nor did they have the assets to make a trade for a player like Paul.
Credit interim GM Glen Grunwald for doing something bold. Convinced his chances of landing Paul were small, and knowing that the Knicks' biggest need was in the middle, he abandoned Paul, gave amnesty to Billups and lured Chandler to New York. While Chandler isn't a star, he is a massive upgrade in the middle and gives the Knicks their first real defensive presence at center since Patrick Ewing owned MSG.
The move left the team very weak in the backcourt, however, which the Knicks have since addressed by adding veterans Baron Davis and Mike Bibby. If the motivated version of Davis shows up in New York (likely, if he's healthy) and if Bibby has any juice left (I don't think he does), the Knicks should be fine at the point when you also factor in third-year guard Toney Douglas. And if Landry Fields reverts back to his rookie form or if Iman Shumpert is as good as his pre-draft hype New York will be very, very dangerous.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
Key additions: Reggie Jackson (draft), Daequan Cook (re-signed), Lazar Hayward (trade)
Key subtractions: Robert Vaden
The Thunder tend to be overly conservative during the offseason. In their case, it's a virtue. Too many teams panic and believe they have to spend all of their money or the offseason is a failure. GM Sam Presti waits and waits and waits for the right deal to come to him. When it does (like the Celtics offering him Kendrick Perkins for Jeff Green at the trade deadline) he pounces.
The truth is that there wasn't a lot for Presti to do this summer. He has a team that is my pick to be the best team in the West this season and possibly for the next five years. Kevin Durant is locked up. Russell Westbrook will be shortly. Their supporting group of James Harden, Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison and Eric Maynor is strong.
Their only major addition is rookie Reggie Jackson, who has enormous talent and slipped in the draft because of injury issues. If he blossoms the way some NBA scouts think he could, he could be one of the steals of the draft.
Key additions: Glen Davis (trade), Jason Richardson (re-signed), Justin Harper (draft), Von Wafer (trade)
Key subtractions: Gilbert Arenas, Brandon Bass
The Magic had a pretty bad offseason. The question is, will it progress to Armageddon?
GM Otis Smith continues to bumble his way through this job in a way that would make Peter Sellers proud. At one point the Magic had a team that looked like a Finals contender for the next five years. Now? It's a mess: Dwight Howard and a bunch of overpaid, underperforming role players.
At the heart of this year's problems is the fact that Howard is pushing for a trade. The Magic are, rightfully, turning down lousy offers, but at this point it appears unlikely they'll be able to get the same haul for Howard that the Hornets got for Chris Paul.
Right now the team's two best scenarios involve the Lakers (Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol) or the Nets (Brook Lopez and a plethora of first-round picks). Neither trade gives the Magic back fair value, but it's probably as good as they'll get.
On the periphery are a number of recent head-scratching moves. The team brought in Gilbert Arenas and Hedo Turkoglu at last season's trade deadline. A few months later, they regretted that $96 million indiscretion badly. The Magic gave amnesty to Arenas in December, choosing to eat the remaining three years, $62 million on his contract. And now they're insisting that whoever takes Howard takes Turkoglu and his $34 million contract with them.
On top of that, the team re-signed the aging Jason Richardson to a reported four-year, $25 million deal despite the fact he didn't appear to have any other serious suitors. This, as Magic fans know, is a Smith special. He signs players to big deals without context. The second was trading Bass for Davis. Bass made less money and is a better player. Go figure.
Key additions: Thaddeus Young (re-signed), Spencer Hawes (re-signed), Nikola Vucevic (draft); Josh Harris (new owner)
Key subtractions: Jason Kapono
The Sixers took a major step forward last season thanks to one significant move in the offseason -- hiring head coach Doug Collins. Collins took a Sixer team that most predicted would win around 35 games and got them the seventh seed in the East playoffs.
Can he repeat the feat this season? He must be pretty confident because the Sixers did very little to change up their team. They re-signed two of their young players -- Thaddeus Young and Spencer Hawes -- and got USC big man Nikola Vucevic in the draft.
Vucevic gives the team some much-needed size, but it's unclear exactly how much he'll be able to contribute as the rookie. What the Sixers are banking on is that Young, Jrue Holiday, second-year wing Evan Turner and Hawes all make improvements this season. With time, the new Sixers ownership team may get more aggressive, but for now, there's not much here to celebrate.
Key additions: Grant Hill (re-signed), Shannon Brown (FA), Markieff Morris (draft), Ronnie Price (FA), Sebastian Telfair (FA)
Key subtractions: Vince Carter, Aaron Brooks, Gani Lawal
The sun continues to set in Phoenix. Steve Nash, the heart and soul of the Suns, is still plugging away at age 37, but the rest of his mates from the original run-and-gun Suns are long gone. The 39-year-old Grant Hill is back to provide support and big man Marcin Gortat was a very good pickup last season.
The rest of the team, however, is a mess.
Owner Robert Sarver made most of the quagmire himself. When he wasn't ripping up a successful roster, he was alienating players this summer with his hardline stance during the lockout. Sarver has since come out claiming he was actually a dove -- a reversal that only a politician could pull off with a straight face.
The Suns' free-agent haul this year won't do much to inspire Suns fans. It consisted of Shannon Brown, Ronnie Price and Sebastian Telfair. Of the three, Brown is a legit pickup, albeit a role player. Their draft pick, Markieff Morris, is big and can shoot, but the chances of him being a starter in the NBA, let alone a franchise savior, are slim.
At some point the Suns will get around to realizing they should have traded Nash two years ago when he still had enormous value. At this point, with Nash in the last year of his deal, they won't get much. When he leaves, the team will likely be among the worst in the NBA.
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
Key additions: Jamal Crawford (FA), Greg Oden (re-signed), Nolan Smith (draft), Craig Smith (FA)
Key subtractions: Brandon Roy, Rich Cho (GM)
No one had a rockier offseason than the Blazers. First, owner Paul Allen inexplicably fired Rich Cho one year into his tenure as GM. Then Allen almost single-handedly prolonged the lockout. And in the course of a single day in December, the Blazers learned that Brandon Roy was retiring for medical reasons, Greg Oden had yet another setback in his rehab and LaMarcus Aldridge's heart irregularities were acting up again.
Aldridge looks like he'll be fine in a couple of weeks, but you can't say the same about the rest of the Blazers roster. Two years ago we thought the Blazers had the pieces to be a championship contender. Now? The second-best player on their team is either Gerald Wallace or Raymond Felton.
The Blazers have enough pieces to be solid, but that's about it. Jamal Crawford will provide a scoring boost off the bench, but I'm not sure that translates into wins. Nolan Smith seemed like a bit of a reach in the draft. Craig Smith was a steal in free agency, but a 6-6 power forward isn't the missing piece of the puzzle.
Key additions: Jimmer Fredette (draft), Marcus Thornton (re-signed), John Salmons (trade), J.J. Hickson (trade), Chuck Hayes (FA), Travis Outlaw (amnesty pick-up) Tyler Honeycutt (draft), Isaiah Thomas (draft)
Key subtractions: Samuel Dalembert, Beno Udrih, Omri Casspi, Marquis Daniels, Darnell Jackson
The Kings have a high batting average when it comes to the draft and, for the third year in a row, they may have hit paydirt. In 2009 they drafted the Rookie of the Year, Tyreke Evans. Last season Kentucky big man DeMarcus Cousins proved that when he's focused and not brawling with assistant coaches, he has the potential to be a dominant big man.
This year the rookie of the moment is Fredette. There's no logical way to evaluate Jimmer. You either love him or hate him. The Kings, apparently, love him.
Jimmer should be a Paul Westphal-type of player. He lets it fly from anywhere on the floor and has more point guard skills than most fans know about. Whether there will be enough basketballs to keep Fredette, Evans and Cousins all happy is a different story entirely.
When it comes to things other than the draft, however, Kings GM Geoff Petrie hasn't been as hot. The Salmons-for-Udrih deal may have been the single worst deal of the offseason. The Hickson-for-Casspi one was OK. And last season's Thornton-for-Landry deal may be the one that pays off the most. Signing Chuck Hayes, meanwhile, looked like a good move at the time, but he's currently undergoing tests for a heart abnormality. And adding $12 million long-term to the payroll for the rights to Travis Outlaw seemed like overkill.
The Kings have a number of talented young players at every position. They have cap flexibility in the future and they received a stay from leaving for Anaheim. Whether any of this amounts to winning actual basketball games is, perhaps, a better question.
SAN ANTONIO SPURS
Key additions: Kawhi Leonard (draft), T.J. Ford (FA), Cory Joseph (draft), Gani Lawal (FA)
Key subtractions: George Hill
The Spurs are old. Tim Duncan is 35. Manu Ginobili is 34. Richard Jefferson, who signed an excessive four-year, $39 million deal two summers ago, is 31. Even Tony Parker turns 30 in May.
Yet it's hard to break up a team that still performs the way the Spurs do.
Spurs GM R.C. Buford has talked about blowing things up for the past few years, but he doesn't have the heart to do it. When he finally made a trade to move up in the draft and nab Kawhi Leonard, he did it by trading the team's best young player (and one of coach Gregg Popovich's favorite players) -- George Hill.
The Spurs' thinking was that the team wouldn't be able to afford to keep their core together and pay Hill this summer, so they cut bait and landed Leonard, a super-talented, high-energy combo forward instead. Leonard was a good pick, but when you factor in what they gave up for him combined with the rest of their haul this offseason, it just feels like the Spurs are still going in the wrong direction.
Key additions: Jonas Valanciunas (draft), Gary Forbes (FA), Rasual Butler (FA), Aaron Gray (FA), Anthony Carter (FA), Jamaal Magloire (FA)
Key subtractions: Sonny Weems
GM Bryan Colangelo got a second lease on his job this offseason. With the pressure off, he is wisely preaching patience as he rebuilds the Raptors in the wake of Chris Bosh's defection last year.
The team got off to a great start when it landed what could be the steal of the draft, Lithuanian big man Jonas Valanciunas, with the No. 5 pick. The Raptors took a gamble, knowing Valanciunas can't play in the NBA this season. But he is worth the risk. The team is in dire need of help in the middle, and when he comes over, he should be a franchise type of center.
The Raptors will try to repeat that haul in the 2012 draft -- widely considered one of the strongest in the past five years. They won't be very good this season, but a high draft choice will be balm to that wound. The Raptors are eyeing about $15 million in cap space next summer too (even more if they choose to grant amnesty to Jose Calderon or Linas Kleiza then) and feel that next year's free-agent class has a lot more potential.
Key additions: Enes Kanter (draft), Josh Howard (FA), Alec Burks (draft)
Key subtractions: Andrei Kirilenko, Ronnie Price
Jazz GM Kevin O'Connor never gets the credit he's deserved all of these years in Utah. No one has figured out how to completely rebuild a roster as quickly and thoroughly as O'Connor has. O'Connor made the boldest move of anyone at last season's trade deadline when he abruptly traded Deron Williams to the Nets for Derrick Favors and draft picks.
O'Connor used one of those assets to draft Enes Kanter with the No. 3 pick. Then he used his own pick to bring in Alec Burks. Put those two players together with Favors and last year's lottery pick Gordon Hayward and the Jazz suddenly have one of the best young cores in the NBA. All four players have the ability to be All-Stars if they live up to their potential.
What makes O'Connor one of the best in the business is that he's doing the rebuilding while still putting a respectable team on the floor. He has solid veterans like Devin Harris, Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson still on the roster and added more depth by getting Josh Howard on a super cheap deal.
It's rare that you'll find a team that can compete for a playoff spot and be developing four excellent prospects at the same time. O'Connor has pulled that off this year.
Key additions: Jan Vesely (draft), Ronny Turiaf (trade), Chris Singleton (draft), Roger Mason Jr. (FA)
Key subtractions: Josh Howard
The Wizards, still basking in the afterglow of landing John Wall with the No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft, appear content to bask a little longer.
The team did nothing of significance in the offseason. Rookie Jan Vesely is the closest thing to an impact player among the players added to the roster. He's a high flyer and he should be great in the open court, but he's not turning around the season single-handedly. Turiaf, Singleton and Mason all provide a level of toughness to a team that lacked backbone last season. But let's not kid ourselves. The evolution of Wall and big man JaVale McGee means the Wizards will be better, but it's hard to see them cracking 30 wins this season.