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ESPN Insider: Offseason Grades

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ESPN Insider: Offseason Grades

Grades from Chad Ford.

ATLANTA HAWKS | GRADE: C+

Additions: Paul Millsap (free agent), Jeff Teague (re-sign), Kyle Korver (re-sign), Dennis Schroeder (draft), Elton Brand (FA), DeMarre Carroll (FA), Gustavo Ayon (waiver claim), Lucas Nogueira (draft), Jared Cunningham (trade), Pero Antic (FA), Mike Muscala (draft), Mike Budenholzer (coach)

Subtractions: Josh Smith (Pistons), Larry Drew (Bucks), Zaza Pachulia (Bucks)

The Hawks, with their loads of cap room, were poised to make a big splash this summer. Instead, it was a fairly quiet affair.

They lost their second-best player, Smith, via free agency but made up for the loss in large part with the signing of Millsap, whose two-year, $19 million deal was widely regarded as one of the better values of the summer. While Millsap doesn't provide the athletic sizzle of Smith, he plays a mistake-free game that Hawks fans will appreciate.

The situation at point guard may be the most interesting this season. The team drafted Schroeder, a super-quick German who reminds scouts of a young Rajon Rondo. Schroeder isn't ready to take the reins right away, though, and the Hawks reluctantly matched the Bucks' offer sheet for Teague. Atlanta tried to work a sign-and-trade with the Bucks for about a week, but the Hawks' demands were high. If Schroeder is the player the Hawks believe he is, Teague could be moving on as soon as next summer.

The hiring of Budenholzer was regarded as a steal. While Drew did an admirable job in Atlanta the past few years, Budenholzer is a Spur and GM Danny Ferry is trying to re-create the San Antonio culture in Atlanta.

Overall, the Hawks didn't do a lot to move the needle in either direction. I doubt they crack the top five in the East next season, but they should still be in the playoff hunt. Atlanta should have cap room again next year to make a substantial offer to another free agent, and if Schroeder progresses, they'll have a trade chip in Teague. While the future is not incredibly bright, there are still opportunities to get better.

BOSTON CELTICS | GRADE: B-

Additions: Gerald Wallace (trade), Kelly Olynyk (draft), Kris Humphries (trade), MarShon Brooks (trade), Keith Bogans (trade), Phil Pressey (FA), Vitor Faverani (FA), Brad Stevens (coach), Nets' first-round draft picks in 2014, 2016 and 2018 and the right to swap first-round picks in 2017

Subtractions: Kevin Garnett (Nets), Paul Pierce (Nets), Jason Terry (Nets), Doc Rivers (Clippers), D.J. White, Kris Joseph, Terrence Williams

While it may be painful for fans to lose the heart and soul of the franchise, it was clear that the Celtics had to begin rebuilding sooner or later. With an exceptional draft coming next summer, now was the time to do it.

Danny Ainge didn't get a lot in return for Garnett and Pierce. In fact, he had to swallow the remaining $30 million on Wallace's deal to make the trade work. But he did get three future first-round picks from the Nets. The pick in 2014 will be marginal, but with the Nets mortgaging their future to win now, the hope in Boston is the picks in 2016, 2017 and 2018 will be much higher.

With Rivers now in Los Angeles, the Celtics brought on Stevens, who was the brightest young mind in college hoops and is the perfect fit for a rebuilding team. I met him in Maui in November at a tournament, and I don't think I've ever been as impressed with a young coach. College coaches often struggle to make the transition to the NBA, but I think Stevens is going to be great.

Olynyk was one of the sharpest players in the Orlando Summer League in July and may become a fixture on the new-look Celtics. The 22-year-old is one of the most skilled big guys you'll come across, but don't blow all your money on his rookie card just yet. Olynyk still lacks both elite athletic abilities and length. I'm skeptical he produces at the level he showed this summer as a rookie in the NBA.

The Celtics' real future will likely be determined by how bad they are in 2013-14. While Ainge might insist that his teams don't tank, it's in Boston's best interest to lose a lot of games this season. The 2014 draft is stacked, and if the Celtics can land a top-five pick, they'll likely get their hands on a franchise cornerstone to jump-start the rebuilding process.

BROOKLYN NETS | GRADE: B+

Additions: Kevin Garnett (trade), Paul Pierce (trade), Andrei Kirilenko (FA), Andray Blatche (re-sign), Jason Terry (trade), Shaun Livingston (FA), Alan Anderson (FA), Mason Plumlee (draft), Jason Kidd (coach)

Subtractions: Gerald Wallace (Celtics), Kris Humphries (Celtics), MarShon Brooks (Celtics), Keith Bogans (Celtics), C.J. Watson (Pacers), P.J. Carlesimo (coach)

The Nets are clearly going for it. And they went all-in to get there.

Adding Garnett, Pierce and Kirilenko gives Brooklyn huge upgrades at critical positions. Should KG's and Pierce's health hold up, the Nets will sport one of the most devastating and experienced starting fives in the league. This team can compete with anyone in the East or West.

But two big questions remain: Will the chemistry come together, and how long can they keep the title window open?

Having this many alpha dogs could cause problems. The Celtics' vaunted chemistry was overrated, as anyone with a Rondo versus Ray Allen story can tell you. In Brooklyn, it's going to take some selflessness on the part of everyone for this to work. Will a rookie head coach like Kidd be able to keep everyone together at the first sign of trouble?

They won't have long to figure it out. Garnett is 37. Pierce and Terry are 35. Joe Johnson and Kirilenko are 32. They have depth and will use it to keep Garnett's and Pierce's minutes down, but clearly this isn't a roster that's been put together for the long haul. Some doubt it can last through next season.

If the Nets can get two great title runs out of this team, it was probably worth the risk. If they don't, the Nets are stuck in salary-cap hell for a while with little wiggle room to fix it.

CHARLOTTE BOBCATS | GRADE: C-

Additions: Al Jefferson (FA), Cody Zeller (draft), Gerald Henderson (re-sign), Josh McRoberts (re-sign), Steve Clifford (coach)

Subtractions: Tyrus Thomas, Byron Mullens (Clippers), Reggie Williams (Rockets), DeSagana Diop, Mike Dunlap (coach)

Good news, Bobcats fans. You are no longer the favorite to be the worst team in the NBA.

The bad news? It has more to do with the historic tank job happening in Philly than anything Charlotte did this summer.

Adding Jefferson gives the Bobcats the strong low-post scoring option that they have lacked the past few years. Zeller gives them a young stretch 4 who could be a terrific complement for a player like Jefferson -- if Clifford can become the first coach in the NBA to persuade Big Al to pass the ball out of the block.

But the Jazz let Jefferson walk this summer exactly because their young players couldn't make the next leap with him on the floor. While he and Zeller, combined with the handful of East teams in bad shape, should equal a few more wins this season, it will come at a cost. Getting marginally better won't push the Bobcats into the playoffs, but it will take away pingpong balls in the best draft of the next decade.

What the Bobcats really need is a star to build around. No one on the roster is up for the challenge, and their summer strategy appears to be hurting their odds of adding that guy next year.

CHICAGO BULLS | GRADE: C

Additions: Mike Dunleavy (FA), Tony Snell (draft), Nazr Mohammed (re-sign), Erik Murphy (draft)

Subtractions: Marco Belinelli (Spurs), Nate Robinson (Nuggets), Richard Hamilton

The Bulls' biggest addition was already under contract. A healthy Derrick Rose will do wonders for the Bulls next season. The rest of Chicago's approach to the summer can be summed up as such: stay the course and add some shooters.

Dunleavy has shot at or close to 40 percent from 3 the past two seasons. Snell is a streakier shooter, but his length and athleticism could make him a potent backcourt partner for Rose. Murphy is a stretch 4 who shot a sizzling 45 percent from 3 during his senior season at Florida.

If Rose, Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng all stay healthy this season, the Bulls will contend for the Eastern Conference crown. I'm just not sold they did anything to move the needle much this summer, hence the grade.

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS | GRADE: B+

Additions: Anthony Bennett (draft), Andrew Bynum (FA), Jarrett Jack (FA), Earl Clark (FA), Sergey Karasev (draft), Carrick Felix (draft), Mike Brown (coach)

Subtractions: Shaun Livingston (Nets), Wayne Ellington (Mavericks), Marreese Speights (Warriors), Omri Casspi (Rockets), Kevin Jones, Chris Quinn, Byron Scott (coach)

For the second time in three years, the Cavs had the No. 1 pick in the draft. Unfortunately, this one wasn't full of future All-Stars and the guy they selected didn't exactly set Cleveland on fire with anticipation.

I'm a Bennett fan. He's a versatile forward who can do everything. The Larry Johnson comparison seems just about right. But he was a compromise pick for the Cavs.

Nerlens Noel and Ben McLemore had more upside than Bennett, but neither was ready. Others like Victor Oladipo and Otto Porter were better fits but had lower ceilings. Ultimately, the Cavs tried to thread the needle to get a guy with both upside and the ability to play now, which serves the mandate from owner Dan Gilbert to make a push for the playoffs this season.

The rest of their summer followed that edict. If Bynum is healthy and motivated -- which he should be, given that his contract is filled with incentives -- he and Anderson Varejao, along with Tristan Thompson and Bennett, should give the Cavs a formidable front line.

Jack gives them a stellar backup for Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters who can play both positions and provide instant offense off the bench. Clark had a solid season in L.A. before flaming out in the playoffs. Karasev, likely the future at the 3, is a deadly shooter who has significant experience playing in the Russian pro league. His defense needs work, but he can score and has a high basketball IQ.

Overall, the Cavs should seriously contend with the Hawks, Wizards, Bucks and possibly the Pistons for one of the last three playoff spots in the East. While they are likely out of the running for another high draft pick, they should have enough flexibility next summer to make a run at a certain Akron native if he feels so inclined to return home.

DETROIT PISTONS | GRADE: B

Additions: Josh Smith (FA), Brandon Jennings (S&T), Chauncey Billups (FA), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (draft), Will Bynum (re-sign), Luigi Datome (FA), Tony Mitchell (draft), Maurice Cheeks (coach)

Subtractions: Brandon Knight (Bucks), Jose Calderon (Mavericks), Jason Maxiell (Magic), Slava Kravtsov (Bucks), Khris Middleton (Bucks), Kim English, Lawrence Frank (coach)

The Pistons have been in lottery purgatory for the past four seasons, and Joe Dumars has had enough. The team signed Smith to a huge contract, added Jennings as its new starting point guard, brought back Billups and added two intriguing shooters in Caldwell-Pope and Datome. The hope is the new additions, combined with the emerging talents of Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe, will be enough to crack the top eight in the East.

That hope waxes or wanes depending on how you feel about Smith and Jennings. Defensively, Smith should give the Pistons one of the biggest, most athletic front lines in the league. Offensively, the concern is he exacerbates Detroit's spacing issues. If Smith is jacking up long 2s, he can hurt the Pistons as much as help them.

Jennings has his fair share of issues as well. He still can play out of control despite the fact that he's been in the league four years, and his maturity level still hasn't caught up to the talent. But the Pistons felt he was an upgrade over Knight and desperately wanted to add a true point guard to the team. Jennings is blessed with remarkable athleticism and talent, and the Pistons acquired him at a fair price. If new coach Cheeks can get through to him, Jennings suddenly make this team much more dangerous.

The Pistons' spacing issues should somewhat be mitigated by Caldwell-Pope and Datome, an Italian sharpshooter who won the MVP of the Italian League last season. If both players can sink shots, they should be in pretty good shape.

I understand the push to end the rebuilding phase, especially since they're obligated to send next year's first-round pick to the Bobcats if it falls outside of the top eight. I think the Pistons probably should have waited one more year to make the push, but if the team really does jell with Smith and Jennings and makes a run in the playoffs, then it was clearly worth it to try to make the leap now.

INDIANA PACERS | GRADE: A-

Key additions: David West (re-sign), Luis Scola (trade), C.J. Watson (FA), Chris Copeland (FA), Solomon Hill (draft), Donald Sloan (FA), Larry Bird (president)

Subtractions: Tyler Hansbrough (Raptors), D.J. Augustin (Raptors), Gerald Green (Suns), Miles Plumlee (Suns), Jeff Pendergraph (Spurs)

After pushing the Miami Heat to the brink in the Eastern Conference finals, the Pacers had a clear agenda: re-sign David West and shore up a woefully ineffective bench.

They receive mixed reviews on the first count. Given West's age (33 in August), a three-year, $36 million deal is a bit much. But their window for winning is now, and West is their leader. The deal shouldn't really come back to bite them until its final year.

On the bench front, the Pacers landed a huge score in Scola, who, while also aging, is a massive upgrade over what the Pacers had coming off the bench last season. The fact that they were able to send out Green as part of the deal was a bonus.

Watson is a slightly better version of Augustin and came on a reasonable deal. Copeland, they are hoping, is more than just a one-season wonder. And Danny Granger is expected to make a full recovery, allowing Lance Stephenson to give their reserve unit additional help.

They weren't as successful in the draft, though. The Pacers passed on a number of players with more upside to get their hands on Arizona's Hill, and they traded away their 2012 first-round pick, Plumlee, and their 2014 first-round pick to Phoenix to land Scola.

But overall, the Pacers have gotten stronger this summer. Whether they've gotten strong enough to get by four other teams with significantly larger payrolls is the only real question remaining for the lone small-market team left among the elite in the East.

MIAMI HEAT | GRADE: C-

Additions: Chris Andersen (re-sign), James Ennis (draft)

Subtractions: Mike Miller (Grizzlies)

After winning back-to-back NBA titles, Heat president Pat Riley is tripling down on the idea that this Heat roster has enough juice to pull off a third straight championship. To date, the only real change the Heat made was waiving Miller.

While it's difficult to second-guess a team that has made it to three straight NBA Finals, the Heat's decision to sit on their hands is mildly surprising given the moves the Pacers and Nets have made this summer.

Of course, when you have LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, you don't have to sweat too much. But with Wade slowing down with age and injuries and the Heat looking vulnerable to teams that can pound them inside, Miami is far from a forgone conclusion to make it back to the Eastern Conference finals.

Riley's faith in his Big Three is admirable. He also has an eye on the summer of 2014, when the Heat will be flush with cap space to make adjustments if they need to. Instead of panicking, the Heat will try to ride this out one more season knowing that in 2014, if they can retain LeBron, they can build another superteam to last for the next three or four years.

MILWAUKEE BUCKS | GRADE: C+

Additions: O.J. Mayo (FA), Brandon Knight (trade), Giannis Antetokounmpo (draft), Gary Neal (FA), Zaza Pachulia (FA), Carlos Delfino (FA), Luke Ridnour (trade), Slava Kravtsov (trade), Khris Middleton (trade), Miroslav Raduljica (FA), Nate Wolters (draft)

Subtractions: Monta Ellis (Mavericks), Brandon Jennings (Pistons), J.J. Redick (Clippers), Samuel Dalembert (Mavericks), Mike Dunleavy (Bulls), Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (Kings), Drew Gooden, Gustavo Ayon (Hawks), Jim Boylan (coach)

The Bucks continue to be stuck in NBA purgatory -- good enough to eke into the playoffs from time to time, but never good enough to make a leap to contender. Don't blame GM John Hammond. His owner, Herb Kohl, hates the rebuilding process and has given the Bucks marching orders to make the playoffs every year.

What the Bucks need is a star, but the only way they'll get one is through the draft, and their draft position has been too low from year to year to get a real shot at one. That's why Hammond swung for the fences this time around with Antetokounmpo at No. 15. He is one of the rawest prospects to come into the NBA in a decade, but the tools he has are tremendous. He is long and athletic, can shoot and really passes well for a player his size (6-foot-9, 205 pounds). If he ever develops, Antetokounmpo, Larry Sanders and John Henson will be one of the best front lines in the NBA.

The Bucks' biggest move outside of the draft was the trade of Jennings to the Pistons for Knight, Kravtsov and Middleton. Jennings privately told the team he either wanted the max or out of Milwaukee, prompting the Bucks to sign Jeff Teague to an offer sheet, which the Hawks matched. Jennings didn't want to play there and the Bucks didn't really see him as their point guard of the future, so a trade was inevitable.

Knight, his replacement, is a high-character player who can shoot and defend. But the Pistons had serious issues with him as their point guard, and with Mayo locked in at the 2, the Bucks are likely going to have to keep him at the 1. Knight has talent, but trading for him doesn't seem to jibe with some of their other moves, which fit the Bucks' playoff goals.

Mayo isn't the scorer that Ellis is, but he is a better shooter and will offer far better chemistry. Neal isn't quite the shooter that Redick was, but he comes at a fraction of the cost. Pachulia takes the place of Dalembert backing up Sanders. Delfino gives the Bucks some shooting at the 3. Ridnour is insurance at the point. The team also picked up multiple second-round picks in several trades.

At the end of the day, I'm not sure if the Bucks didn't just score a wash this summer. The roster has better character guys on it, but I'm not sure the talent level is considerably higher. If Knight is good enough, the combination of him, Mayo, Ersan Ilyasova, Sanders, Henson, Neal and Delfino should put them in the running for the eighth seed in the East. But like the past few years, they're likely to get routed in the first round.

NEW YORK KNICKS | GRADE: D

Additions: J.R. Smith (re-sign), Andrea Bargnani (trade), Metta World Peace (FA), Kenyon Martin (re-sign), Tim Hardaway Jr. (draft), Pablo Prigioni (re-sign), C.J. Leslie (FA)

Subtractions: Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby (Rockets), Steve Novak (Raptors), Chris Copeland (Pacers), Quentin Richardson (Raptors), James White

Despite their finish with the second-best record in the East, an early exit at the hands of the Pacers in April combined with the strong summers of their rivals leaves the Knicks in a precarious situation. Capped out and without much in the way of assets, their only choice appears to be to double down on an old roster and hope that their veterans limp through the season. In some cases, that's literal.

Smith was their biggest signing of the summer and indicative of the problems in New York. There was no way to replace him on the open market given their cap situation, so the Knicks overpaid and announced a few days later that he'll be out three to four months after patellar tendon surgery.

They also added Bargnani in a trade that didn't cost them much in the way of assets but seems like a questionable fit. Soft big men who try to do most of their damage on the perimeter are not exactly what the Knicks are going to need to compete in the East.

World Peace isn't soft (I love that I just wrote that), but he adds another strong personality to a team filled with them. Though World Peace has been on his best behavior lately, his game is in serious decline.

Even their draft appeared to be more about show than substance. Hardaway is a solid wing player, but if his name wasn't Hardaway, I doubt he goes as high as he did on draft night.

The Knicks appear to be heading in the wrong direction and spending themselves into a deeper and deeper hole in the process. Knicks fans have seen this movie before. It doesn't end well.

ORLANDO MAGIC | GRADE: B-

Additions: Victor Oladipo (draft), Jason Maxiell (FA), Ronnie Price (FA), Romero Osby (draft)

Subtractions: None

The rebuilding Magic scored the potential star of this year's draft and then sat on their hands the rest of the summer. The goal is to be bad enough to grab a high draft pick in 2014, and to that end, they achieved their goal.

Oladipo, my favorite player in the draft, is NBA ready and has huge potential. Defensively, he can lock down multiple positions. Offensively, he is still a work in progress -- especially after the Magic decided to try him out at point guard in the summer league -- but he is a hard worker, has all the physical tools to succeed and has a track record of improving year to year.

The rest of the team is filled with young players with average to above-average potential and a handful of veterans -- Hedo Turkoglu, Al Harrington and Jameer Nelson -- who are likely in their last season with the team (if not less).

My only qualm with the Magic was that they missed an opportunity to land Eric Bledsoe. With the Clippers pushing for a trade for Arron Afflalo, the Magic balked and missed a chance to get a potential point guard of the future.

PHILADELPHIA 76ERS | GRADE: A

Additions: Nerlens Noel (trade), Michael Carter-Williams (draft), Royce White (trade), James Anderson (FA), Tim Ohlbrecht (FA), Sam Hinkie (GM), Pelicans' 2014 first-round draft pick

Subtractions: Jrue Holiday (Pelicans), Andrew Bynum (Cavaliers), Nick Young (Lakers), Doug Collins (coach), Tony DiLeo (GM)

If you've been watching the 76ers closely since Hinkie took over as GM, you've been given a front-row seat to one of the most blatant tanking jobs in the NBA. Over the past six weeks, they've traded away their young All-Star point guard, let their trade prize of last season (Bynum) walk and haven't really lifted a finger to field a more competitive team. They haven't even bothered to hire a coach.

And I love it.

If you are going to be bad, be really bad. Fill your roster with young guys with potential. Let them get the stuffing beat out of them. Position yourself to add cornerstone players quickly. And end the affair as quickly as it began.

The Sixers set the whole project in motion on draft night. They shipped Holiday to the Pelicans in return for the draft rights to Noel and the Pelicans' 2014 first-rounder. That one trade gave them the player with the most upside in the 2013 NBA draft and a shot at a second lottery pick in the coveted 2014 draft. Noel is a long, athletic big man who likely would have gone No. 1 had he not torn his ACL in February. If he recovers, he has the chance to be a dominant big man.

The team also got the point guard with the most upside of anyone in the draft in Carter-Williams. He needs to learn how to shoot, but he has elite size, athletic ability and court vision.

With the Sixers' own lottery pick (likely to be in the top four) and the Pelicans' (likely to be somewhere between seven and 15), Philadelphia can add two more young stars next summer and still have $30 million in cap room to add free agents.

By next summer, the Sixers could have four young cornerstone players with the potential to add even more help. They could go from being the league doormat this season to a dangerous playoff team the next. Few teams can pull off that feat that fast. If everything goes right for Philly, the Sixers are perfectly poised to pull it off.

TORONTO RAPTORS | GRADE: D+

Additions: Tyler Hansbrough (FA), D.J. Augustin (FA), Steve Novak (trade), Dwight Buycks (FA), Quentin Richardson (trade), Masai Ujiri (GM), Knicks' 2016 first-round draft pick

Subtractions: Andrea Bargnani (Knicks), Linas Kleiza, Alan Anderson (Nets), John Lucas III (Jazz), Bryan Colangelo (GM)

The Raptors' biggest moves this summer came in the front office. After years at the helm, Colangelo is out, and his former protégé, Masai Ujiri, has come to help turn things around. It was a tough few years for Colangelo. The Raptors really never recovered from losing Chris Bosh and have been perpetually in the "bad, but not bad enough" category the past few years.

Based on his moves, or lack thereof, this summer, it appears Ujiri isn't in any hurry to make the playoffs. Toronto's two biggest acquisitions, Hansbrough and Augustin, were both part of a much maligned Pacers bench last season. Thrusting them into bigger roles in Toronto doesn't exactly scream "We're going for it!"

The problem for the Raptors is that they aren't bad enough to grab a lion's share of pingpong balls, nor are they good enough to compete for a playoff spot. And next year they aren't likely to have much in the way of cap room. So either Ujiri waits this out until the 2015 season or someone like Rudy Gay, DeMar DeRozan or Kyle Lowry should keep his bags packed this season.

WASHINGTON WIZARDS | GRADE: B

Additions: Otto Porter (draft), Martell Webster (re-sign), Eric Maynor (FA), Glen Rice Jr. (draft), Garrett Temple (re-sign)

Subtractions: None

The Wizards were woeful coming out of the gate last season but caught fire once everyone got healthy and looked like a potential playoff team. GM Ernie Grunfeld clearly agrees.

Their biggest addition was Porter, the type of all-around player who can affect a game without taking 20 shots a night. No, he wasn't great in summer league, but his game wasn't suited to the environment. He can do a little of everything and is an unselfish, high-character player. He's not going to put up huge numbers, but he's a perfect fit in an offense that has plenty of gunners. Pair him with an emerging John Wall and Bradley Beal and the Wizards have quietly built one of the better young cores in the East.

Other additions, including re-signing Webster and drafting Rice (who dominated the D-League last season), shore up their wing positions.

The problem is that as strong as the Wizards' backcourt and wings are, their frontcourt is shaky. Any real success this season will rely on the perpetually injured Nene and an aging Emeka Okafor to anchor that front line. Their backups, Jan Vesely, Trevor Booker and Kevin Seraphin, don't inspire much confidence.

As hard as it is to say, it might be a blessing in disguise if Nene goes down yet again. Next year they could land another top pick in a draft filled with intriguing bigs. Okafor and Ariza come off the books, and they don't have to pick up Vesely's option. Even after a Wall extension, they should have enough cap room to try to add a big-time power forward next summer.

DALLAS MAVERICKS | GRADE: D+
Additions: Monta Ellis (FA), Jose Calderon (FA), Samuel Dalembert (FA), Brandan Wright (re-sign), Shane Larkin (draft), Ricky Ledo (draft), Devin Harris (FA), Wayne Ellington (FA), Gal Mekel (FA), DeJuan Blair (FA), Bernard James (re-sign)

Subtractions: O.J. Mayo (Bucks), Chris Kaman (Lakers), Darren Collison (Clippers), Elton Brand (Hawks), Anthony Morrow (Pelicans), Josh Akognon (Grizzlies), Nick Calathes (Grizzlies)

Two years ago, Mark Cuban made the unorthodox decision to break up a title team so that the Mavs could dip into the free-agent pool a year later and grab a superstar or two.

But Deron Williams and Chris Paul both re-signed with their respective teams, and Dwight Howard chose the Rockets. So instead of giving Dirk Nowitzki a high-priced running mate, two years later, Dallas ended up with Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon.

Best-laid plans, indeed.

Ellis is a high-volume scorer who can be electric getting to the basket, but lacks efficiency, basketball IQ or a well-rounded game. Like Ellis, Calderon's best days are behind him, and while he understands the game well, his ability to get by anyone or guard anyone has waned significantly. That the Mavs spent $54 million on these two speaks to how desperate they are to be relevant again.

Dalembert was their third big score, and frankly, he may be their best. The 32-year-old is still a force on the defensive end, and two years for $7.4 million was a bargain contract for a big man. The team also re-signed a key reserve in Wright, who shockingly didn't get bigger offers despite being 25 years old and coming off a season in which he had a player efficiency rating (PER) of 21.

Mekel is an NBA-ready prospect who intrigued several teams after a terrific season in Israel. Larkin is a great athlete who can really shoot the basketball (though his lack of size is a question mark). And Ledo has as much raw basketball talent as anyone they acquired, but he will need to make significant improvements in the maturity department if he's going to stick in the league; the Mavs should go find out what the Pacers did with Lance Stephenson and replicate it.

Despite the flurry of deals, the Mavs should have significant cap space next summer assuming Nowitzki is willing to take a big pay cut on his next deal. Perhaps fortunes will turn in 12 months, and the Mavs will land the free-agent stud they've been looking for. If not, this is what they are left with.

DENVER NUGGETS | GRADE: D+
Additions: J.J. Hickson (FA), Darrell Arthur (trade), Nate Robinson (FA), Randy Foye (S&T), Timofey Mozgov (re-sign), Tim Connelly (GM), Brian Shaw (coach)

Subtractions: Andre Iguodala (Warriors), Kosta Koufos (Grizzlies), Corey Brewer (Timberwolves), Julyan Stone (Raptors), Masai Ujiri (GM), George Karl (coach)

A quick first-round exit in the playoffs was just the opening salvo in the Nuggets' horrific summer. Ujiri, fresh off winning Executive of the Year, left for the Raptors after the Nuggets refused to match an offer. His right-hand man, Pete D'Alessandro, left a few weeks later to take the Kings' GM job. Head coach George Karl was fired. And their key summer acquisition of last season, Andre Iguodala, bolted for the Warriors.

So in the space of a few weeks, the Nuggets lost their key architect, their Hall of Fame head coach and their best player. Ugh.

New GM Tim Connelly has since tried to right the ship, but Denver's books have kept his hands relatively tied. So instead of trying to replace Iguodala's leadership, passing and defense, Connelly acquired talented backups in Arthur, Hickson and Robinson to take his minutes.

The Nuggets' best move came on the coaching front with the hiring of Shaw, who figures to become one of the top young coaches in the league. He has huge shoes to fill, but he has the talent to pull together this diverse, starless squad and keep them in the hunt for a playoff seed in the five to eight range.

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS | GRADE: A-
Additions: Andre Iguodala (S&T), Jermaine O'Neal (FA), Toney Douglas (FA), Marreese Speights (FA)

Subtractions: Jarrett Jack (Cavaliers), Carl Landry (Kings), Andris Biedrins (Jazz), Richard Jefferson (Jazz), Brandon Rush (Jazz), Scott Machado

The Warriors continue to show what a difference smart ownership and management can make for a team. Golden State has been on a roll ever since owner Joe Lacob took over and revamped the team's front office, and this summer was no different.

Through a series of creative cap maneuvers -- primarily via getting the Jazz to swallow the final years of Biedrins, Jefferson and Rush in exchange for draft picks -- the Warriors were able to address their biggest weakness with the addition of Iguodala. With two gunners in the backcourt and talented scoring options in the frontcourt, Iguodala is the perfect glue guy to hold this team together. The move also strengthened their bench, as Harrison Barnes can now move to a sixth-man role.

The move came at a price, though. The Warriors couldn't afford to keep Jack and Landry, and they gave away two future first-rounders. But they're right in the title conversation now -- a remarkable feat for a team that was still stuck in the lottery last summer.

HOUSTON ROCKETS | GRADE: A
Additions: Dwight Howard (FA), Aaron Brooks (re-sign), Isaiah Canaan (draft), Reggie Williams (FA), Marcus Camby (FA), Omri Casspi (FA), Francisco Garcia (re-signed), Robert Covington (FA), B.J. Young (FA), Kostas Papanikolaou (rights), Marko Todorovic (rights)

Subtractions: Thomas Robinson (Blazers), Carlos Delfino (Bucks), Royce White (76ers), James Anderson (76ers), Tim Ohlbrecht (76ers)

You have to hand it to Les Alexander. Virtually every other owner in the league would've fired Darryl Morey and given up on his Celtics-inspired plan to stockpile middling assets in an effort to land a couple of star players via free agency or trade. For too many years, the Rockets looked like they would tread water forever.

And then, pay dirt.

The Rockets first landed James Harden in a trade last October and then followed it up this summer by scoring Howard's signature. In about nine months, the Rockets went from milquetoast to one of the most dangerous teams in the NBA.

Some of the Rockets' success had to do with luck. Had the Thunder not panicked about their looming luxury tax bill or had the Lakers hired Phil Jackson instead of Mike D'Antoni, Morey is probably looking for a job this summer. They easily could've been in the same predicament as the Mavericks.

But sometimes all it takes a little luck, and right now, the Rockets have it.

None of the rest of the acquisitions inspires much enthusiasm. Canaan was one of the steals of the draft, and I could see him cracking the rotation at some point this season. Williams and Garcia give the Rockets a couple of snipers, Casspi provides toughness off the bench and Camby will be largely serve as a mentor.

There are still holes. I'm not sold on Jeremy Lin as a championship-caliber point guard (though Mario Chalmers didn't stop the Heat), and they still have some question marks at the 4 (Omer Asik? Terrence Jones? Donatas Motiejunas?). But with Harden, Howard and Chandler Parsons leading the way, the Rockets should contend for the Western Conference crown for the next three to four seasons.

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS | GRADE: A+
Additions: Chris Paul (re-sign), J.J. Redick (S&T), Jared Dudley (trade), Darren Collison (FA), Matt Barnes (re-sign), Byron Mullens (FA), Reggie Bullock (draft), Ryan Hollins (re-sign), Doc Rivers (VP & Coach)

Subtractions: Eric Bledsoe (Suns), Caron Butler (Suns), Grant Hill (retired), Chauncey Billups (Pistons), Ronny Turiaf (Timberwolves), DaJuan Summers, Vinny Del Negro (coach)

Much has been made of the Rockets landing Howard, but you could argue that the Clippers made the two biggest moves of the summer.

First they somehow convinced Rivers to leave Boston. Say what you will about Rivers, bitter Celtics fans, but he can coach and knows how to fit alpha dogs into a cohesive whole. The Clippers needed a coaching upgrade if they were going to take the next leap, and the team landed the best one available.

Rivers' arrival also went a long way in convincing Paul to re-sign. The All-Star point guard was the best free agent on the market, and the Clippers found a way to keep him in L.A.

They weren't done there, though. The Clippers added Redick to shore up their shooting, Dudley to serve as an all-around glue guy, Collison to back-up Paul for just $1.9 million a year and a bouncy, face-the-basket big man in Byron Mullens.

I even loved their draft pick, Reggie Bullock, who was one of the best shooters in this year's class and should be able to immediately step in and play minutes.

They did all of this without going over the luxury tax (for now) and lost just one first-round pick (in 2015).

As good as the summer was for the Rockets, I think the Clippers that were the NBA's biggest winners. Not only will they field a true title contender next season, but they are now well-positioned to be competitive for years to come.

LOS ANGELES LAKERS | GRADE: C
Additions: Chris Kaman (FA), Nick Young (FA), Jordan Farmar (FA), Wesley Johnson (FA), Robert Sacre (re-sign), Ryan Kelly (draft), Elias Harris (FA)

Subtractions: Dwight Howard (Rockets), Metta World Peace (Knicks), Earl Clark (Cavaliers), Andrew Goudelock (Russia), Chris Duhon

It was the best of times and the worst of times in Los Angeles this summer. And for once, it was the Clippers who were celebrating. While Donald Sterling's crew was landing Doc Rivers and re-signing Chris Paul, the Lakers stood by and watched their dynasty crumble.

Dwight Howard bolted and, with him, went any sense of future security for the Lakers. This upcoming season might not be a total disaster. Perhaps Kobe Bryant (if he can recover from his Achilles tear), Steve Nash and Pau Gasol will rally for one last postseason push. Kaman, Young and Farmar are three veterans who might be able to help them creak by the younger, more energetic upstarts in the West. Unlikely, but perhaps.

But after this season? The Lakers are facing the cleanest slate they've had in over a decade. Next season they figure to have just one significant contract on the books (Nash) and roughly $40 to $45 million in cap space.

While I personally think they should've tried to move Gasol and Nash and then tried to bottom out for a high draft pick, at least they aren't trying to piece together a team of veterans for a two- to three-year run.

In 2014, the Lakers are going to look much, much different. Kobe will be back if he wants to be and is physically able to be, but the rest of the team is up for grabs. The Lakers are confident that they'll be at the front of the line for top talent like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh. If they can land any of those guys, this summer will be a one-time setback in an otherwise super-bright future.

MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES | GRADE: C
Additions: Tony Allen (re-sign), Kosta Koufos (trade), Mike Miller (FA), Jon Leuer (re-sign), Nick Calathes (trade), Jamaal Franklin (draft), Josh Akognon (waivers), Dave Joerger (coach)

Subtractions: Darrell Arthur (Nuggets), Austin Daye (Raptors), Lionel Hollins (coach)

The Grizzlies made most of their major moves at the trade deadline and appear content to take another swing at a Western Conference title with their team largely intact.

Their biggest move was replacing Hollins with Joerger. Much has been written about the divergent worldviews of the Grizzlies' new front office and their now-former head coach. Hollins was a good coach, but clearly the team felt they needed a coach more aligned with their new philosophy. Joerger doesn't have much of a track record by which to judge him, but sources all around the league are confident he has the makings of a very good head coach.

Memphis' big move, roster-wise, was to re-sign Allen, their defensive stopper, at a bargain price (four year, $20 million dollar). Otherwise, the Grizzlies focused on upgrading their bench. Koufos provides some much-needed depth behind Marc Gasol. Miller, if healthy, is still a lethal shooter and should provide a big boost coming off the bench behind Tayshaun Prince. Franklin, an uber-athletic wing who led San Diego State in points, rebounds, assists and steals as a junior, is the type of junkyard player who could earn minutes next season.

And they might not be done yet. Sources say they continue to explore trades scenarios involving Zach Randolph, and they have shown interest in free-agent point guard Mo Williams.

I don't think the Grizzlies are the favorites in the West. But if everything goes right for them? They could still run the table.

MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES | GRADE: C-
Additions: Kevin Martin (S&T), Chase Budinger (re-sign), Corey Brewer (FA), Shabazz Muhammad (draft), Gorgui Dieng (draft), Ronny Turiaf (FA), Lorenzo Brown (draft), Flip Saunders (GM)

Subtractions: Andrei Kirilenko (Nets), Luke Ridnour (Bucks), Brandon Roy (retired), Greg Stiemsma (Pelicans), Malcolm Lee (Suns), David Kahn (GM)

I'm tempted to give the Wolves an "A" here just for firing Kahn, but the rest of the summer was a mixed bag for new team president Flip Saunders.

We're assuming the Wolves will eventually reach a deal with Nikola Pekovic, a restricted free agent, since there isn't a team with cap room left that has interest, and the Wolves want to retain him.

Minnesota has been looking for an answer at the 2 for years, and Martin gives them a veteran who can make an impact right away. But $27 million over four years is crazy for a player whose game is slowly starting to wane. Add in $15 million for three years of Budinger and $14 million for three years of Brewer, and the Wolves spent $56 million on role players. Maybe the team didn't fire Kahn after all.

Their other big addition was Muhammad, a player many scouts felt would be one of the top three players in the draft last July. However, an uneven year at UCLA exposed many of his flaws and his draft stock plummeted. Did the Wolves get a steal when they drafted him with the last pick of the lottery? If his Summer League performance gives any indication (and many times it doesn't), the answer is no. Dieng, meanwhile, gives them a big man who can block shots and really pass it. But he's still raw, especially for a 23-year-old.

Kirilenko was terrific last season, and losing him to the Nets, especially given the huge pay cut he took to do so, was painful.

Overall, the Wolves have the pieces in place to compete for a seventh or eighth seed in the West if everyone stays healthy. But with this team still treading in the waters of mediocrity, Kevin Love's free-agent decision in the summer of 2015 begins to loom large.

NEW ORLEANS PELICANS | GRADE: B-
Additions: Jrue Holiday (trade), Tyreke Evans (S&T), Al-Farouq Aminu (re-sign), Anthony Morrow (FA), Greg Stiemsma (FA), Jeff Withey (trade)

Subtractions: Robin Lopez (Blazers), Greivis Vasquez (Kings), Lance Thomas, Terrel Harris (Blazers), Xavier Henry, Lou Amundson, Roger Mason Jr.

I'm not sure any team had a more controversial summer than the Pelicans. Whether you took issue with naming a NBA team after a goofy bird, questioned their decision to trade away a guy who probably should've been the No. 1 pick in the draft along with a potential lottery pick in next year's loaded draft or you wondered aloud why they'd pay so much money to player who peaked as a rookie and won't even start, the Pelicans have given us plenty to talk about.

Context, I believe, is in order. GM Dell Demps is under the same ownership edict that Bucks GM John Hammond is. His owner is old. He doesn't have time for a long rebuild. He wants to win now.

So Demps, given those constraints, gets a solid grade for the Holiday deal. His team needed a point guard, and Holiday made the All-Star team last season at the age of 22. While I can't find anyone who loves his game, New Orleans landed an above-average player at the cost of a young big man coming off ACL surgery, who does many of the things that Anthony Davis already does well and a pick that probably ends up in the late lottery to mid-first round. If the Pelicans were really trying to shore up their future, they stick with Noel, stay bad for another year and try to add another star. But if you're going to go for it, you can do a lot worse than Holiday.

The Evans decision is a little harder to wrap my arms around. The Pelicans needed a center and small forward. Evans is neither. But Demps saw talent that he thought he could steal. He believes that the culture they've built in New Orleans and a head coaching staff led by Monty Williams is far superior to what Evans was subjected to the past few seasons in Sacramento. Evans is just 23 years old, and if he can put it all together, they might still be able to turn Eric Gordon into a long-term solution at the 3 or 5.

For those that love true rebuilds, the Pelicans lost their patience and screwed this up. But on second glance, they are still young and still have assets and talent. While I'm not convinced the Pelicans crack the top eight in the West, they still have a strong foundation going forward.

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER | GRADE: C-
Additions: Derek Fisher (re-sign), Steven Adams (draft), Andre Roberson (draft), Grant Jerrett (draft)

Subtractions: Kevin Martin (Timberwolves)

Not sure there was a team with a quieter offseason than the Thunder. With a payroll dangerously close to the luxury-tax threshold, they had to let sixth man Kevin Martin walk and signed only a minor role player in Fisher and their draft picks.

Adams is a freak of nature -- a young, 19-year-old big man with an NBA body, strength, athleticism and motor. But he's relatively new to the game and has a lot of work to do to be ready for the pro game, especially on the offensive end. Despite being just 6-foot-7 and 206 pounds, Roberson was one of the best rebounders in college basketball last season. And they hit in the second round with Jerrett, a big stretch-4 who underachieved as a freshman at Arizona but who looked solid in summer league. All three have bright futures but will likely spend the season in the D-League.

The Thunder drafted well, but their window is now, and it's unclear whether Jeremy Lamb has the chops to replace Martin coming off the bench. So many teams have improved in the West, but the Thunder's lack of creative moves marks a second straight disappointing offseason.

PHOENIX SUNS | GRADE: B
Additions: Eric Bledsoe (trade), Alex Len (draft), Archie Goodwin (draft), Caron Butler (trade), Gerald Green (trade), Miles Plumlee (trade), Malcolm Lee (trade), Ryan McDonough (GM), Jeff Hornacek (coach), Pacers' 2014 1st Rd draft pick

Subtractions: Luis Scola (Pacers), Jared Dudley (Clippers), Wesley Johnson (Lakers), Jermaine O'Neal (Warriors), Hamed Haddadi, Lance Blanks (GM), Lindsey Hunter (coach)

I've been throwing haymakers at the Suns in this forum for the past few years. Given their rapid descent, I think the criticisms have been fair. But for the first time in a while, I see a ray of hope in the Valley of the Sun.

With new GM Ryan McDonough at the helm, the Suns officially acknowledged what they should've accepted three years ago: they're rebuilding. And as a result, they have been aggressive in acquiring draft picks, have been conservative in using their cap room and are stocking up on young players with serious upside.

Landing Bledsoe for the price of Dudley and a second-round pick may have been the steal of the summer. Reasonable minds can disagree about Bledsoe's future, but he's a 23-year-old young point guard who excelled while playing significant minutes on a playoff team. For a rebuilding one like the Suns, that's pure gold.

They also landed what they believe to be their center of the future in Len, who is huge, athletic and quite skilled for a player his age but is coming off surgery for a stress fracture in his ankle. I like Len, but the Suns should've taken Nerlens Noel ahead of him. Noel, to me, has more upside, and I worry a bit about Len's toughness.

Goodwin, the second youngest player in the draft, struggled in his freshman season at Kentucky. But he's blessed with great speed and athleticism, and if he ever develops a jump shot, he could be a lethal scorer. He looked quite impressive at summer league, and if the Suns are patient, they could have their backcourt of the future in Bledsoe and Goodwin.

The rest of the acquisitions the Suns made were really throw-ins. They swallowed Green's contract to get a hold of the Pacers' first-round pick next year. Butler was a throw-in to get Bledsoe. The team does like Plumlee a bit.

They may not be done yet. There remains significant interest in Marcin Gortat and Goran Dragic, who they could deal for valuable asset.

The Suns will likely be awful again next season, perhaps awful enough to be the worst team in the West. But they are finally beginning to acquire young players to build around. Another high draft pick next year, combined with a load of cap space, and the Suns could be well on their way back up the standings.

PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS | GRADE: A
Additions: C.J. McCollum (draft), Thomas Robinson (trade), Robin Lopez (trade), Dorell Wright (FA), Allen Crabbe (draft), Earl Watson (FA), Terrel Harris (trade)

Subtractions: J.J. Hickson (Nuggets), Eric Maynor (Wizards), Ronnie Price (Magic), Jared Jeffries, Sasha Pavlovic

GM Neil Olshey has been quietly rebuilding the Blazers while keeping up appearances that this might be a playoff team. With the addition of two more lottery picks in McCollum and Robinson, the Blazers have somehow managed to inject new blood into the franchise without giving up any of their key core players.

After hitting a home run with Damian Lillard last summer, the Blazers believe they may have done it again with McCollum. Like Lillard, McCollum is a super scorer who lit up opponents in a small conference. Like Lillard, he also possesses exceptional maturity and an unrelenting work ethic. Together, they could give the Blazers one of the most dynamic backcourts in the league.

Robinson was a top-five pick in the 2012 draft, but he struggled as a rookie in stints with the Kings and Rockets. He has the requisite strength and athletic ability to be a beast on the boards. It's his basketball IQ on the offensive end that's in serious question now. While he may not have been worthy of his lofty draft position -- he went one spot ahead of Lillard -- Robinson has upside and could be an important fixture off the bench.

The team also upgraded in the middle, getting Lopez from the Pelicans. While Lopez is probably better suited coming off the bench, he had a very strong 2012-13 in which he posted an impressive 18.9 PER. He should battle second-year big man Meyers Leonard for the starting center position.

Wright and Crabbe were also important additions. They came cheap, and both players can really shoot the basketball.

All in all, Olshey has proven to be quite adept at sniffing out bargains in the market and pouncing on them. Not only do the Blazers have intriguing young players at every position on the floor, they also look talented enough to make a real run at the eighth seed in the West. In a few years, they may be far more dangerous than simply a team that you don't want to play in the first round.

SACRAMENTO KINGS | GRADE: C+
Additions: Ben McLemore (draft), Carl Landry (FA), Greivis Vasquez (trade), Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (trade), Ray McCallum (draft), Vivek Randive (owner), Pete D'Alessandro (GM), Mike Malone (coach)

Subtractions: Tyreke Evans (Pelicans), Toney Douglas (Warriors), Joe and Gavin Maloof (Owners), Geoff Petrie (GM), Keith Smart (coach)

Whatever I write about the Kings will likely be irrelevant. Kings fans won in April when the NBA announced that the league would reject the Maloofs' proposal to sell the franchise to a Seattle-based ownership group.

Anything else that happens is gravy. Basketball lives in Sacramento.

To that end, the gravy has been pretty thin at the moment. New owner Vivek Ranadive looks a bit green already, panicking and hiring head coach Mike Malone before finding a GM and then letting Malone dictate who he hired to run the team. Ranadive has said publicly on several occasions that he wants an experienced hand guiding his new team, but instead hired a young assistant GM who happens to be tight with the new head coach. I think D'Alessandro is a smart, talented man, but I'm not sure he was ready for the job. When coaches, especially rookies, are calling the shots, it rarely goes well.

A case in point was the four-year, $26 million dollar deal they gave to Landry. He's a good player and a guy that coaches love, but he's not a terrific fit in the rebuilding curve of the Kings and seemed an odd choice to spend on. The same could be said for the decision to trade for Mbah a Moute. He was barely a solid rotation player on a quasi-playoff team like the Bucks, but his defensive reputation sold Malone on committing nearly $9 million of the Kings' money.

In the meantime, the Kings didn't really make much of an effort to get out and pursue younger players that could fit into the future. They didn't even explore moving DeMarcus Cousins, because the big man will help them win ball games next season. Not enough to be a playoff team, mind you, but enough to not be associated with the Suns or Sixers of the world.

Their best addition was McLemore. Based on talent alone, he was one of the two or three best players in the draft, but he slipped to the Kings because of questions about his maturity and his lack of aggression. He didn't quell any fears at summer league, where he looked awful. But his performance was mostly a result of not being in great shape and desperately trying to prove his willingness to shoot. Over his last few games in Las Vegas, he settled down, and the upside was evident. If Malone can give McLemore both structure and confidence, he will be a major building block for the Kings.

As for the rest of the team? Expect a finish somewhere between 12 and 14 in the West, a high draft pick next June and significant cap room next summer. The long-term future looks promising, but the short term is still going to be ugly.

SAN ANTONIO SPURS | GRADE: B
Additions: Manu Ginobili (re-sign), Tiago Splitter (re-sign), Marco Belinelli (FA), Jeff Pendergraph (FA), Deshaun Thomas (draft)

Subtractions: Gary Neal (Bucks), DeJuan Blair (Mavericks)

The Spurs came about as close as you can come to winning a NBA title without actually winning it. If a team ever deserved a trophy for coming in second place, it's them.

To that end, the team decided to bring back the same crew. They got the rapidly fading Manu to sign a reasonable, two-year, $14 million deal. Their offer to Splitter (four years, $36 million) was considerably larger, but it decreases each year, and there aren't 15 centers in the league better than he is.

Their other additions probably won't excite anyone, but maybe they should. Every year the Spurs pull a player of two from the proverbial NBA trash heap and turn them into valuable role players. This year, Belinelli and Pendergraph might be those guys. Belinelli can really shoot the basketball, and Pendergraph can rebound and score around the basket. Both have talent well-suited to the team's style of play and are better than the contracts they received -- a hallmark of Spurs summers.

And don't sleep on Thomas, the Spurs' second-round draft prospect. He was one of the two or three best scorers in the draft this year, but slid because people questioned his work ethic and defense. He couldn't have landed on a better team than San Antonio or with a better coach than Gregg Popovich. If he's willing to do what Pop says, in two years everyone will be asking why in the world Thomas wasn't a lottery pick.

UTAH JAZZ | GRADE: B
Additions: Trey Burke (draft), Rudy Gobert (draft), Andris Biedrins (trade), Richard Jefferson (trade), Brandon Rush (trade), John Lucas III (FA), Ian Clark (FA), Warriors' 2014 1st Rd draft pick

Subtractions: Paul Millsap (Hawks), Al Jefferson (Bobcats), Mo Williams, Randy Foye (Nuggets), DeMarre Carroll (Hawks), Earl Watson (Blazers), Kevin Murphy (Warriors)

As long as I've known him, Kevin O'Connor has never been a fan of tanking. The reason being that a culture of losing starts forming and that playing meaningful basketball is as important to a player's development as playing lots of minutes.

For years, the Jazz have embodied that philosophy. This year, that's all changing.

With Dennis Lindsey now leading the team and the NBA landscape changing, the Jazz have joined the teams "Riggin' for Wiggins." And somewhere, O'Connor's blood pressure is soaring.

The team is loaded with young talent already. Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter have been mentored for several seasons behind veterans, and both have the potential to be All-Stars someday. Ditto for Gordon Hayward. And lots of people on the team are high on Alec Burks as well. So deciding to let Milsap, Jefferson and Williams walk this summer was about more than just tanking -- it was about giving their young core a chance before difficult decisions have to be made in free agency.

The newest addition to that young core is Burke, who the Jazz traded up to get. While I was higher on a couple of other point guards in the draft, I understand that the Jazz need a leader for their young team and what Burke possesses in spades is moxy. His lack of size and elite athletic ability were exposed at summer league. But he's a tough player who plays with a chip on his shoulder and he should find a way to overcome his physical weaknesses.

The drafting of Gobert was also about upside. He's not ready to play in the NBA, but his 7-foot-9 wingspan and his work ethic were too much for the Jazz to pass on. Clark, the MVP of the championship game at the Las Vegas Summer League, also gives them a young player who can score from both positions in the backcourt.

Biedrins, Jefferson and Rush were all throws-in so that the Jazz could get a hold of the Warriors' 2014 and 2016 first-round picks. Biedrins and Rush both have upside and could end up getting minutes this season, and perhaps even another contract in Utah.

If the Jazz are going to be bad, they only want to be bad for one year -- and they picked the right year to do it. The competition in the West was likely too stiff to make the playoffs anyway. Next year's draft is loaded, and a year of leadership experience for Hayward, Favors, Kanter, Burks and Burke is a good thing.

Flush with cash next summer, the Jazz can re-sign who they want, add others via free agency and move right back into being contenders in 2014-15.


AmiableBaller34
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Thanks for the post, I wanted

Thanks for the post, I wanted to read that all day. As for the article itself, I thought it was very tasteless, and Chad Ford was extremely biased.

"I'm not sure any team had a more controversial summer than the Pelicans"

"The goal [of the Magic] is to be bad enough to grab a high draft pick in 2014, and to that end, they achieved their goal/The rest of the team is filled with young players with average to above-average potential "

"[the Sixers] traded away their young All-Star point guard, let their trade prize of last season (Bynum) walk and haven't really lifted a finger to field a more competitive team. They haven't even bothered to hire a coach. And I love it."

"Even [the Knicks] draft appeared to be more about show than substance. Hardaway is a solid wing player, but if his name wasn't Hardaway, I doubt he goes as high as he did on draft night."

All of these were really biased views, and a lot of them were just personal opinion with very little insight. Pretty much if you didn't go all in for Wiggins, or all in to win a 'ship, than he gave you a D or C. I also think his infatuation with losing is a little questionable, and as an ESPN beat writer I find it sad that he actually wants teams to bottom out and endorses tanking. The comment on Tim Hardaway wasn't all that fair as well, as I thought the Knicks actually picked up a solid player.

Pistol Pete. Th...
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As a Pelicans fan, I actually

As a Pelicans fan, I actually agree with what he said. We placed ourself in basketball purgatory. We're going to be either barely in or barely out of the playoffs every year unless we can turn Eric Gordon into something good. Tom Benson has been really impatient but he also said he wanted Eric Gordon traded immediately, yet we won't find a taker until he plays and shows health.

In today's NBA, I'd take a front court of Noel and Anthony Davis, with a top 15 pick in next years draft. Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson, and Austin Rivers, and we still could have signed Tyreke.

I think we should have gotten one or the other... Tyreke or Jrue, not both.

GottaBeTheShoes
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Sacramento a C+? should be higher

I expected someone to be asking for an insider article (which I would've checked to read it if someone replied with it), but you actually posted one without someone asking?! Props to you man.

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sixers : A ... I'm agree you

sixers : A ...

I'm agree you have to be very bad if you want to be... but... when your roster is not bad at all (with an all star pg, young promising players as hawes thad' young turner) and only need some little touches, you have cap space.... I don't buy what the sixers did.

So they traded a proven AND promising young player, all star, still very young, and not a head case at all who has just been extended for a very fair price (not to say team friendly salary) FOR a rookie who has not prove anything, coming back from injury and a soon to be 10 to 20 draft pick (see how the pelicans roster improve ?...). Not a top 3 or top 5 pick ... this is a bad trade.

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The Sixers probably weren't

The Sixers probably weren't really going anywhere with their roster, but I did think Hilday was the guy they were going to build with/around. I thought they'd try to trade away everyone but Holiday and maybe Thad Young and get a good pick in next year's draft.

Everything they did this year was basically a huge gamble - they took the biggest available boom or bust prospects in Carter-Williams and Noel and will now have two first round picks next year. If these two and the next two rookies all pan out and become very good - people will be talking about how the GM turned the franchise around.
It is however quite likely that the rookies won't pan out as expected and the Sixers will be stuck in the lottery for the next 4-5 years.

If you ask me - the Sixers had the most contoversial summer.

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Yes I though too they were

Yes I though too they were going to rebuild around holiday...
Their calcul is weird and very risky. NO should be 7 to 12 in the west with a better % of W than eastern teams. The draft pick they give back to PHila should be around 15.

What is the value of Holiday (23 years old, all star, 9.7M to 11.7M till 2017) ? a 15th pick in the next draft + Noel back from an ACL surgery... ?

it seems weak.

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The sixers

Would be a much better team down the road if they had kept Holiday. Even if the gamble pays off, Noel's ceiling is a borderline All-Star, as he's never going to be a serious offensive threat. So the Sixers dumped an All-Star (with a bit of potential still left as well) to gamble on a possible All-Star with serious ACL issues.

IF they really wanted a big man with ACL trouble, Greg Oden has been a free agent all summer.

machu46
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I would always take a

I would always take a borderline all-star C over a borderline all-star PG. Holiday can still improve some more, but he barely made it onto the all-star team this year and there's probably 5 PGs in the East that I would take over him right now and probably 5 or 6 in the West as well.

At the end of the day, they turned Holiday into a border-line all-star C and what's likely a lottery pick in a good 2014 draft. I think that's pretty fair value. Not to mention that they made their own 1st round pick more valuable as well since they definitely made their team worse for this year by trading Holiday.

BasketBalAllan
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His review of the Kings

His review of the Kings off-season is horribly biased. It is not even the grade that I feel reflects this, it is the reason he tries to support it with.

He first complains about the Kings hiring of a head coach before their GM, he states that this move makes Vivek Ranadive (new owner) look green and panicky. If he had paid any attention to who Ranadive is or how he made his fortune he would find that Vivek prides himself on being able to make quick and informed decisions so as not to miss an opportunity. No one complained about the hire as multiple teams were interested in him and he looks to be a great coach moving forward, though somehow hiring a good coach before a GM must be different than hiring one after a GM...

He then states Mike Malone was let dictate the hiring of the new GM, a statement that Malone has publicly and emphatically denied. (Way to do your research Chad...)

He claims that Vivek hired an inexperienced and young assistant GM (Pete) to run the team (I guess instead of recycling the same old tried and true GM's who are amazingly out of the job for some inexplicable reason). He repeats that this was because Malone wanted him to (for someone so rich and successful Vivek sure lets people push him around).

He then tries to illustrate Pete's inexperience by stating giving Landry $6.5 mil for 4 years was a bad move even though he is a good and high character player who coaches love and that getting Mbah a Moute for almost nothing was a bad decision even though the Kings are weakest at his position by far (again because he represent salary over the next two years). The only reasons he gives for these pickup being bad seem to be reasons of money, even though towards the end of the review he states the Kings will have "significant cap room next summer" (tell me again Chad why it matters they took on salary).

He then states the Kings should have looked into moving Cousins (that would have gone great for the Kings and his relationship...) and made an effort to add new young pieces that could help them in the future (I would think he might have forgot about the whole Greivis Vasquez and Ray McCallum acquisitions if he did not mention them in the "additions" section).

He then talks about how the best thing to happen was landing McLemore and how he will be a good young piece moving forward (how many young pieces do the Kings have to get before Ford thinks they made an effort?)

It seems like Chad Ford decided to give the Kings a C+ for the summer, and then tried to come up with reasons why this could be rather than letting reality dictate the actual grade.

NYK2010
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Some of these grades are

Some of these grades are awful

Philly an A for what losing Bynum for nothing and a star PG Holiday for Noels give me a break.

Blazers an A for acquiring Robin Lopez and Thomas Robinson come on. Hickson is better than Robinson and Wright won't play that much w/Batum there. McCollum is solid but not great they had a solid offseason but A is a stretch.

Clippers and A+ is a stretch they have the same team basically CP3, Griffin, Jordan, Crawford, Barnes, Hollins. Swapping Bledose for Collison I don't see much of an improvement. They lost some old players Hill, Odom, Billups that helps. Rivers is a solid coach but he's not Phil Jackson or Larry Brown he's won nothing w/out top talent and he won the Finals in 08 against the Lakers who didn't have Bynum or Ariza healthy. CP3 was never going to leave LA for all that money yeah they needed a new coach but it wasn't his fault they lost. I do like them getting Dudley and Reddick but lets not put them in the Finals so quickly.

Knicks an F really what did they lose old dead weight in Sheed, Camby, Kurt Thomas and even Kidd based on his horrible performance in the playoffs. 4 guys pushing 40 gone and they add Hardaway Jr, World Peace, Bargnani, Barron, and possible Delonte West, Pargo and/or Ivan Johnson. Team would be tough with Ivan, World Peace, Shumpert and Chandler out there. I like them moving Novak's contract he was too one dimensional and teams could exploit that. Bringing back Prigioni and Kmart was huge for the depth. Also early exit in the playoffs they lost in 6 on the road to a team that could've beaten Miami. Melo, Chandler were hurt and so was Amare, Novak and JR had a bad series.

Knicks will be fine Shumpert will around all season and the 2nd year back from ACL injury guys go off. Also his perimeter shot is improving. If Amare can give them 15-25 on the bench not sure which 2nd unit big men can stop him from scoring. JR Smith is on track to return when the season starts. They have 3 legit 7 footers now and with KMart that is more defense which you can never get enough of. Offensively Bargnani, JR, Felton, Shumpert, Melo can all shoot the 3. Amare, Melo can post up and score inside. Team won 16 of their last 18 in the regular season.

Losing Copeland hurts how much was he going to play with MWP, Melo and Bargnani plus Copeland's defense is weak.

Outside of Indiana and Miami I don't see any team clearly better than the Knicks. Bulls are always injured Rose has missed the last 2 playoffs and they lost Marco, Nate, Rip and they'll still struggle to score and are always hurt.

Miami is obviously the top team till anyone knocks them off. However, they should've lost to Indiana and San Antonio in the playoffs if opposing coaches left their best players in if Popovich fouls them up 3 twice late in Game 6. Wade, Allen, Battier, Haslem, Anderson are all up their in age now.

Nets had a great offseason but their age, chemistry and a rookie coach are huge questions. KG, Pierce, Terry will be close to 38, 36, 36 by the playoffs next year. Pierce always fades in the playoffs they couldn't beat Miami with a better PG, SG in 2011 doubtful they do 3 yrs later.

PurpleMonkeyDis...
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Chad Ford

I get dumber every time I read his crap. That's a lot of basketball writing for a guy that doesn't know much about basketball.

joecheck88
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Biased this may be(I don't

Biased this may be(I don't agree with a lot it either). ESPN asked him for his grades. This is strictly his opinion. Could some of us do better? More than likely but hey he went to school, got a degree and made NBA contacts. Lots of people respect his opinion and that's why he is getting paid to write this article. It is what it is fellas. Haha

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