Editor's note: This story was updated on July 23
The NBA free-agency signing period officially opened at 12:01 a.m. ET July 11, and we've had a plethora of free-agent signings and trades.
But unlike two years ago, when seismic changes happened across the league -- thanks in part to LeBron James -- things have been much quieter. Steve Nash is the only star to change teams. A few other potential key players, such as Ray Allen, Jason Kidd and Joe Johnson, are changing addresses, but overall, the landscape of the NBA hasn't changed that much.
How much have things stayed the same? Consider this line that I wrote in my December 2011 edition of offseason grades:
"Everyone is still holding their breath on Dwight Howard, but the Magic seem determined to wait until the trade deadline to make a decision on him."
OK, this season's trade deadline seems a little far-fetched, but given what Howard has put us through the past six months, anything is possible.
A solid NBA draft, led by Kentucky's Anthony Davis, also has played a role in reshaping rosters, as have a couple of coaching changes and front-office shake-ups.
There likely will be even more player movement in the coming weeks, but now that the dust is beginning to settle, it's time to give preliminary grades for what each team did this offseason.
I'm a college professor in my day job and understand that this exercise really is the equivalent of giving a student a final grade after the first week of class. There's so much we just don't know about how these changes will pan out. In truth, you cannot really grade an offseason until you get to the postseason or even the next offseason. (Case in point: We gave the Mavs an A for keeping their powder dry in December to make a run at Deron Williams and Howard in July. They got close on Williams, but it didn't work out for them).
The grades take into account how each team in the league has performed so far in remaking itself, 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 have improved and which teams haven't.
Key additions: Kyle Korver (trade), Lou Williams (FA), Devin Harris(trade), Anthony Morrow (trade), Johan Petro (trade), Jordan Williams(trade), DeShawn Stevenson (trade), John Jenkins (draft), Mike Scott(draft), Danny Ferry (GM).
New GM Danny Ferry had to do something. Atlanta was a solid playoff team that wasn't ever going to get out of the second round. If the Hawks were going to get better, they had to get a little worse first.
What Ferry has orchestrated -- with just two weeks on the job, mind you -- has been impressive. He found the only general manager in the league willing to give up expiring contracts for the remaining $89 million left on Johnson's contract, got another expiring contract for Marvin Williams, picked up a free-agent bargain in Lou Williams and suddenly has the team poised to be a serious player in the free-agent market of 2013.
Theoretically, the Hawks could add both Dwight Howard and Chris Paul with some maneuvering next year. They'll have just three players under contract. Even if they can't persuade either guy to come to Atlanta, they'll still have major room to attract other top-tier free agents.
As for this season, Atlanta may take a step or two back, with the loss of Johnson, Hinrich and Radmanovic, but it still should be in contention for a seventh or eighth seed in the East with a core of Harris, Morrow, Al Horford, Josh Smith and Zaza Pachulia.
Key additions: Kevin Garnett (re-sign), Jason Terry (FA), Jeff Green (re-sign), Brandon Bass (re-sign), Courtney Lee (sign-and-trade), Jared Sullinger (draft), Fab Melo (draft), Chris Wilcox (re-sign), Kris Joseph(draft), Jason Collins (free agent)
I guess it's time to stop writing about the Celtics' closing window. Garnett forced that window open with a stellar playoff performance, and team president Danny Ainge had little choice but to bring the gang back to try it again.
Re-signing KG was a no-brainer. His game has changed, but he is still one of the most dominant bigs in the league. Replacing Allen with Terry is probably an upgrade as well. Terry doesn't have Allen's shooting touch, but he is a much more versatile offensive player. If Green is healthy, he is a major upgrade. The team got Bass back on a reasonable deal. They also added another sweet shooting wing in Lee to replace Mickael Pietrus -- and it cost them just a handful of marginal prospects. To top it off, the Celtics landed a draft pick in Sullinger who can be a force in the post right away as long as his back holds up.
Here's what's impressive about Ainge's moves the past few years. He has maintained his veteran core while still putting in place a group of young players -- Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, Green, Lee, Sullinger and Melo -- that could become the core of the future.
Few teams have the opportunity and ability to eat their cake and have it too. Ainge has found a way.
Key additions: Deron Williams (re-sign), Joe Johnson (trade), Brook Lopez(re-sign), Gerald Wallace (re-sign), Kris Humphries (re-sign), Mirza Teletovic (FA), C.J. Watson (FA), Reggie Evans (FA), Keith Bogans (FA),Tyshawn Taylor (draft), Jerry Stackhouse (FA)
Nets GM Billy King's fingers have been in so many pots the past 18 months that it's hard to separate what the Nets have done from what they were rumored to be doing. On Wednesday, the first day players officially could be signed-and-traded, assistant GM Bobby Marks sorted out the logistics on a head-spinning 13 player contracts via free agency and trade worth a total of nearly $300 million.
When the dust settles, most will remember that the Nets didn't add Dwight Howard. Fair enough. But once Howard decided to opt into the last year of his deal with the Magic, the Nets' chances of landing him greatly diminished anyway.
If you take each deal separately, there's plenty to pick apart. Johnson is dramatically overpaid, with four years, $89 million left on his contract. The Nets never should have given a high lottery pick to the Blazers for the right to overpay Wallace to the tune of $40 million. Lopez's $60 million also seems steep. So does the $24 million for two more years of Humphries.
But in aggregate, King looks much smarter. His huge gamble to trade for Williams 18 months ago paid off. Williams was the single most important signing for any team this summer, and he has made it clear that he would not have re-signed with the Nets had they not pulled the trigger on the Johnson and Wallace trades. So how can you criticize either deal? Lopez? Roy Hibbert got the same deal. Heck, Omer Asik got huge money. And say what you will about Humphries, but the guy has been an A-list rebounder the past two years.
Add in a few smaller signings like Watson (who played well in Derrick Rose's absence last season) and Bogans, and the Nets have added some much needed depth off the bench.
All in all, the Nets have put together a team that is relevant. If they stay healthy -- a big if with a few of their older players -- they have a shot at winning somewhere between 44 and 50 games this season. They'll be a playoff team. Maybe they'll even get into the second round. Given where they've been the past few seasons, that's progress. Whether they can sustain momentum past the next two seasons? Well, that's the question.
For two years, our Future Power Rankings have had the Bobcats ranked dead last. Last year, they certainly played like it.
This year, I don't expect things to get much better.
The good thing about the NBA is that it rewards futility with high draft picks, and the Bobcats got a great one in Kidd-Gilchrist. He is not an immediate impact player the way Anthony Davis will be, but I believe he will be the second-best player in this draft and will add toughness, athleticism and a sense of urgency that this team lacked last season. Taylor is one of the best on-the-ball defenders in the draft, but he seems to duplicate much of what Kidd-Gilchrist brings to the table without the upside.
I'm not a huge fan of the Gordon-Maggette swap. Yes, the Bobcats needed shooting, but adding Gordon isn't going to move the needle much and he has a whopping $25.6 million left on his deal. While most rebuilding teams are clearing future cap space, the Bobcats have an annoying tendency toward adding to it. On the other hand, the Bobcats did pick up a protected first-round pick from Detroit that they'll likely see in the 2014 draft. That's a lot of money for a late lottery pick, but it is the type of asset the Bobcats need to keep acquiring.
The Bobcats also essentially swapped Augustin for Sessions, who is bigger and was superior in virtually every statistical category the past two seasons. Augustin may have been a slightly better passer, but that's about it. Overall, it was an upgrade for the Bobcats.
The team also won an amnesty claim on Haywood. I'm not sure what the Bobcats' infatuation is with the Mavericks' overpriced big men (they traded for both DeSagana Diop and Erick Dampier in previous years). Haywood, at $2 million a year, is probably a solid backup. But given his age, I'm not exactly sure how he fits into the Bobcats' bigger plan.
Even with the new additions, they still look like the overwhelming favorites to be the worst team in the league for a second straight year. Kidd-Gilchrist is a ray of sunlight and Sessions is an upgrade, but for the most part, the hole the Bobcats have dug is still very dark.
The Bulls' core of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and Luol Dengcontinues to make the Bulls one of the top two threats in the East. But with Rose out with what could be a season-long injury and the NBA tax man knocking at Jerry Reinsdorf's door, things aren't as rosy as they were a year ago in Chicago.
The Bulls' biggest decision is whether to match the Rockets' huge three-year, $25 million offer sheet for backup center Asik. With the Bulls headed for a deal with Mohammed on Sunday, ESPN is now reporting that the Bulls won't match.
If the Bulls were owned by James Dolan, this would be a no-brainer, but Reinsdorf loathes the luxury tax; the thought of paying Noah's backup $14.9 million in the third year of his contract has to make him dry heave. In other words, the Bulls just couldn't stomach the cost and went with a low-rent veteran instead. Financially it may have been the right move, but it's a blow nonetheless. The Bulls have also dumped Brewer and Korver and didn't re-sign Watson.
The addition of Vladimir Radmanovic and Nazr Mohammed hardly make up for what they've lost. It's expensive to be a contender, and the Bulls may not have the stomach for it -- especially when your best player is out with an ACL tear for most of the season
The one bright star this summer was the Bulls' good fortune of having Teague fall into their lap on draft night. Teague isn't ready for heavy NBA minutes yet, but he has the quickness and scoring acumen to be a good NBA player down the road. Had he stayed at Kentucky one more season, I think he would have been a lottery pick.
It turns out that owner Dan Gilbert isn't much of a prophet. His prediction that the Cavs would win a title before LeBron's Heat didn't turn out so well. The good news for Cavs fans is that Cleveland is well on its way toward being a championship contender.
Last year's addition of Kyrie Irving was huge. Irving played better than anyone expected and looks like a cornerstone of the franchise.
This year, the Cavs have remained disciplined and are resisting the temptation to blow all of their cap space in the free-agent market. Instead, the team added two interesting pieces in the draft. Taking Syracuse sixth man Waiters at No. 4 was a controversial choice -- much like their pick of Tristan Thompson last year -- but I like it. Waiters was the best scoring guard in the draft, and he has the ability to get to the rim at will.
Several veteran NBA scouts I trust think that next to Anthony Davis, Waiters has as much upside as anyone in the draft. The pick isn't without risk -- he had plenty of run-ins with coach Jim Boeheim at Syracuse and is a bit undersized for his position -- but he is tough and ready to play right away.
Zeller is more likely a career backup, but a competent one who runs the floor well. The Cavs likely will make another move or two that adds depth without sacrificing long-term cap space. They won't be a playoff team next season, but they'll be better. Within a few years, they might even be contenders again.
The Cavs are now in the middle of the Dwight Howard saga. They are trying to land Andrew Bynum as part of a three-way trade with the Lakers for Howard. If they can somehow pull that off (Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson and draft picks will be the cost), their grade will jump to an A.
If they don't make any more moves? They won't be a playoff team next season, especially with the loss of Jamison, but they'll be better. Within a few years, they might even be contenders again.
I thought Mark Cuban and GM Donnie Nelson were pretty brilliant in December when they decided to break up a championship team just in time to reload for another one. The prospect of landing both Deron Williams and Dwight Howard with their newfound cap space seemed like the perfect plan, worth the one-year hit in the win column.
Alas, Howard decided in March to opt into the final year of his contract, and a last-second acquisition of Joe Johnson by the Nets persuaded Williams to spurn his hometown and re-sign with Brooklyn.
When Kidd and Terry bolted soon after, it sure looked as if the once-proud Mavs were playing for pingpong balls this upcoming season.
I'll say this about the Mavs: They're resourceful. After hearing they were losing Williams, Kidd and Terry, the Mavs went quickly into Plan B. First, they landed Kaman on a very reasonable one-year, $8 million deal. Then they pulled off an inconceivable heist for Collison. Next, they won the bid for Brand off the amnesty waiver wire for a paltry $2.1 million. Finally, they signed Mayo to a very reasonable two-year deal. Suddenly, the team had a young starting point guard and 2-guard on reasonable deals, and a veteran center and power forward to go alongside Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion.
I don't think the moves will put them back in contention, but they should be back in the playoffs and will enter next summer as the odds-on favorites to get Howard if he doesn't get traded to the Lakers or Nets.
It's a one-year detour, but it might be a fairly scenic one for Mavs fans.
The Nuggets had another successful season and decided to keep rolling with what they have. The team re-signed McGee to a four-year, $44 million contract. That may seem a little rich for a player like McGee, but given the impact he had in the playoffs, he might turn out to be worth it. And the four years, instead of five, makes the deal a little less risky.
The Nuggets also signed Miller to a reasonable three-year, $15 million deal. The final year is partially guaranteed, meaning that the risk was pretty minimal.
And adding Randolph at just $2 million a year seems like a very reasonable gamble. He's an unusual player, but he's just 23 and his PER numbers all say he has an impact on the court.
Fournier felt like a bit of a stretch at pick No. 20, but he can score. I felt like Miller was a second-round steal. Once he is fully healthy, he has the chance to be a solid forward down the road.
Key subtractions: Ben Gordon
Drummond looks the part of an NBA superstar. He is huge and super athletic and looks like the perfect complement to Greg Monroe on the front line. He is also very raw, and the word out of Detroit already is patience. Long term, adding Drummond could be the move that puts the Pistons over the top. Or not. The talent is there, but there are legitimate questions about the heart.
The Pistons also found a taker for the remaining two years and $25 million of Gordon's contract. Trading for Maggette was more about salary-cap relief than basketball. That trade should guarantee the Pistons significant cap room next summer to make another addition.
Overall, the Pistons moves shouldn't have a major impact on the court this season, but the seeds are being sown for a robust harvest down the road.
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
Key subtractions: Dorell Wright
The Warriors badly want to start winning and took another step in that direction with a pretty strong draft. Barnes may have been overrated coming out of high school, but he was a value at No. 7 and should be able to step right in and grab the starting small forward spot.
I'm also a big fan of Green as a versatile role player on a good team. He has a high basketball IQ, is skilled and can come in and contribute right away. Jack, whom they acquired via trade, gives Golden State some support at the point guard position should Stephen Curry struggle with injuries again.
If everyone stays healthy and Andrew Bogut can get back to All-Star form, the Warriors could be a sleeper team in the West. Few teams in the NBA have such lethal shooters surrounding a solid low-post presence.
Key additions: Jeremy Lin (FA), Omer Asik (FA), Jeremy Lamb (draft),Royce White (draft), Terrence Jones (draft), Shaun Livingston (trade), Jon Brockman (trade), Toney Douglas (trade), Gary Forbes (trade), JaJuan Johnson (trade), E'Twaun Moore (trade), Sean Williams (trade)
Every summer, GM Daryl Morey goes all out in an attempt to lasso a star. And every summer, he falls just short.
Two years ago, he made a strong pitch to Chris Bosh. In December, Morey almost landed Pau Gasol, only to see commissioner David Stern crush his hopes. He then went to Plan B, Marc Gasol, only to have his efforts thwarted by the Grizzlies. This year, Morey is chasing Dwight Howard like a dog chases a squirrel. He might catch him eventually, but his huge collection of middling assets hasn't been enough to persuade the Magic to pull the trigger on a trade ... yet.
Like I said last year, someday Morey is going to get one of these deals. Unfortunately, that day still hasn't come for Rockets fans.
In the meantime, Houston has gutted its roster to have the cap space to do a Howard deal. Key players such as Lowry, Dragic, Camby, Dalembert and Budinger are all gone. The idea for the Rockets is to send the Magic a number of their young assets and draft picks while taking back some of Orlando's junk -- Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson, Glen Davis and/or Chris Duhon. That may be a hard offer for Orlando GM Rob Hennigan to reject.
If that doesn't work, the team did have some success this summer. Just about everyone was shocked when the Knicks decided not to match their offer for Lin. I think the Rockets overpaid and Dragic (the guy they let walk) may end up being better. But he's a young, starting-caliber point guard who will get the fan base excited again.
It looks like the Rockets will land Asik too. ESPN is reporting that with the Bulls-Nazr Mohammeddeal in place, and the Bulls won't match. If the Rockets keep Asik, they've added a young big who gets after it defensively. Again, they paid too much, but that's what teams have to do to land restricted free agents.
As for their young players, scouts raved about the play of Lamb, White and Jones, in the Las Vegas summer league. The summer league isn't the best indicator of future success, but the value of Lamb, White and Jones all went up the past week.
Overall, the Rockets' roster is still a major work in progress. I'm not sure how it will turn out, but I would be shocked if the Rockets go into opening day with Lin, Asik and a bunch of rookies and second-year players. Until we get a little more clarity, an incomplete will have to do.
Key additions: Roy Hibbert (re-sign), George Hill (re-sign), D.J. Augustin(FA), Gerald Green (FA), Ian Mahinmi (sign-and-trade), Miles Plumlee(draft), Orlando Johnson (draft), Donnie Walsh (team president), Kevin Pritchard (GM)
After experiencing a level of success that even they couldn't predict last season, the Pacers' goal this offseason was to bring back their starting five and strengthen their bench.
The Pacers achieved their first goal. The team was hit with a huge four-year, $58 million offer sheet from the Blazers for Hibbert on July 1. Hibbert has been a key part of the rebuilding effort, but virtually everyone agrees that $58 million is a lot for him. The Pacers wisely agreed to pay Hibbert, but it cost them. In the meantime, the team overreacted a bit and threw a whopping $40 million at Hill. I'm a Hill fan and think he has upside, but again, the contract seemed a tad excessive.
Whether they achieved the second goal is debatable. The decision to trade Collison, who led the team in playoff PER, for the right to give $16 million to Mahinmi is a head-scratcher. Considering the Pacers could have signed Mahinmi straight up as an unrestricted free agent for probably half the cost -- he wasn't getting two years, $8 million from anyone else -- it's completely unclear why they had to give away Collison to do it. Did they really need to get Jones' $2.9 million off the books that badly?
Mahinmi does give the Pacers a credible backup 5 when Hibbert is out of the game, but the cost, both in dollars and lost assets, was unusually high.
The Pacers quickly countered Collison's loss by signing Augustin to a one-year, $3.5 million deal. Collison was statistically superior to Augustin by virtually every metric but one -- pure point guard rating. Augustin is a better passer than Collison, which was a need for the Pacers. Hill isn't a pure point guard, and Augustin's specialty is getting everyone involved. But when you factor in that Augustin can't guard anyone and that they're paying him $1.3 million more than they were Collison, I'm not sure this is an upgrade.
Offensively, Green is an upgrade over Jones. He put up some big numbers for the fledgling Nets last season. However, he lacks the defensive toughness or maturity that Jones brought to the table.
Finally, the Pacers' draft night call on Plumlee felt a little off. Plumlee had wowed scouts (and apparently Bird) in workouts with his freakish athletic ability, but he rarely showed it during his four years at Duke. Workout wonders infiltrate the first round virtually every year. They rarely pan out.
None of these smaller moves should keep the Pacers from being a top-four team in the East, but the difference between good teams and great teams often is in the details. The Pacers, for the first time in a while, seemed to smudge them this summer.
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
The Clippers had the biggest offseason moment in franchise history in December when they landed Chris Paul. This summer, they added to the momentum by signing Griffin to a $95 million extension.
With Paul and Griffin in place, the team made moves to shore up an already dangerous team. If Odom is engaged -- a pretty big if right now -- he could really help them. Hill also can be a veteran defensive presence at the 3 and is another solid summer pickup. Ditto for Crawford and Billups. Losing Williams and Young hurt, but those additions probably make it a wash.
Some will argue that the Clippers won't make it to the next level until Vinny Del Negro is listed in the "Key subtractions" line, though.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS
Key subtractions: Ramon Sessions
It must be nice to be a Lakers fan. Every time the ship springs a leak, a superhero shows up to plug it.
This year, that help is coming from the most unexpected place. Nash shocked the world when he persuaded Suns owner Robert Sarver to trade him to L.A.
Reasonable minds can disagree over the impact Nash will have, but if coach Mike Brown andKobe Bryant let Nash be Nash, the Lakers are going to be a dangerous team. Bryant is getting too old for hero ball, and Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum are getting tired of it. Nash has the ability to make everyone happy and still finds a way to hit the big shots when his team needs it.
The addition of Jamison, at the veteran's minimum, was also a major steal for the Lakers. Jamison can really play and gives the team even more depth at the power forward position.
It's not a plan to shore up the Lakers for the next 10 years, but for the next two, the Lakers should be the biggest threat to the Thunder returning to the NBA Finals.
Key subtractions: O.J. Mayo
The Grizzlies made most of their big moves the past two summers and are on cruise control. They're good, and if they can get everyone healthy, they might be able to make some noise in the playoffs.
Adding a healthy Arthur to the mix should help. Before he went down last season with an injury, he looked like he could be a breakout big man. Bayless will do lots of the things Mayo did at a considerably smaller salary. Ditto for second-year guard Josh Selby if he plays anywhere near his summer league performance.
I think Wroten had top-five potential in this year's draft. He is a big point guard, is very athletic and can be a spectacular passer. However, his shot is broken, and he can play out of control at times. If the Grizzlies can rein that in, he could be the steal of the draft.
Key subtractions: None
The defending champs will be returning all of the key players, with the potential exception of an injured Mike Miller, and have added more firepower this offseason.
Allen and Lewis are well past their primes, but given the dominance of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, all Erik Spoelstra is going to ask them to do is spot up and shoot 3s, something both of them can do well.
When the 3s are raining down in Miami, the Heat are tough to beat. Allen and Lewis just made them that much tougher.
The Bucks had a second straight disappointing season in 2011-12. Injuries, once again, played a major factor.
This offseason, the Bucks tried to shore up several key weaknesses. Since shipping out Andrew Bogut in the Monta Ellis trade, the Bucks have had a pretty serious hole at the 5. Enter Dalembert. He is not the sexiest pickup of the offseason, but he blocks shots, rebounds and, given the ridiculous contracts for NBA centers, is a bargain.
The team ended up re-signing Ilyasova, who is coming off a breakout year. While the numbers say five years, $45 million, the deal is much closer to four years, $32 million in guaranteed money. Ilyasova wanted more, but the Bucks held their ground, the market dried up, and they got him for a reasonable number.
Henson is one in a recent line of long, athletic, painfully thin big men the Bucks seem to love. I'm not sure how he fits in next to Ekpe Udoh and Larry Sanders, but most scouts believe Henson is the most talented of the three. Lamb was a nice second-round get for the team. It needed perimeter shooting in the worst way, and Lamb is one of the two or three best shooters in the draft.
I expect we'll hear more from the Bucks in the coming weeks. Point guard Beno Udrih is on the market. Brandon Jennings and Ellis would like extensions. Overall, the Bucks may have improved enough to make a case for the eighth spot in the East, but I doubt they rise much higher than that.
Key subtractions: Darko Milicic, Martell Webster, Brad Miller
The Timberwolves had the right idea in pursuing Batum. He would be a nice fit at small forward. The $46.5 million price tag is a lot, but Rule 1 of Restricted Free Agency 101 says you have to dramatically overpay to convince a home team not to match. The Wolves didn't overpay enough, and the Blazers, as expected, quickly matched the offer.
Roy is by far the most interesting pickup; no one knows if his knees will hold up enough to make him worth the $10 million the Wolves are paying. If he's healthy enough to be a contributor, this was a good move. If not, the Wolves won't have much to show for their offseason other than adding Budinger and Shved -- two shooters who don't bring a lot more to the table.
The waiving of Milicic via the amnesty clause only highlights how silly their offer was to him two years ago. Ditto for the dumping of Webster. The Wolves gave up a mid-first round pick for him last year.
Overall, short of Roy having a miraculous recovery, the improvements this summer have been minimal. Somewhere, Kevin Love is pouting.
NEW ORLEANS HORNETS
Sometimes it takes a little luck to turn around your franchise. The Spurs had it in 1997 when they landed Tim Duncan in the lottery. The Bulls had it when they cashed in their 1.9 percent chance of winning the lottery in 2008 to get Derrick Rose.
Now the Hornets are the lucky ones. Despite having a 13.7 percent chance of winning the lottery, they got their hands on a potential superstar. Davis should be a force on the defensive end immediately and is a better offensive player than he showed at Kentucky. The 19-year-old No. 1 pick is the type of guy you build a franchise around, and GM Dell Demps didn't waste any time doing so.
He quickly traded Okafor and Ariza to clear more cap space. He used his space to match the Suns' offer for Gordon and to get Anderson, a sweet-shooting stretch 4, in a sign-and-trade. Add in their other lottery pick, Rivers, and a solid second-round selection in Miller and the Hornets are loaded with young talent and cap flexibility going forward.
It doesn't get much better than that. Pair this group with Monty Williams, one of the more underrated coaches in the league, and the future in New Orleans has never been brighter. The Hornets may not be a playoff team this season, but they are firmly on the same trajectory the Thunder were a couple of years ago.
NEW YORK KNICKS
Key additions: Marcus Camby (sign-and-trade), Jason Kidd (FA), Raymond Felton (sign-and-trade), Steve Novak (re-sign), J.R. Smith (re-sign), Kurt Thomas (sign-and-trade); Pablo Prigioni (FA), James White (FA)
The Knicks, for the first time in a while, weren't the center of the media offseason hype this year. With no cap space or assets to make a serious run at Deron Williams or Dwight Howard, they were reduced to making a so-so offer for Steve Nash.
When Nash opted for the Lakers, the Knicks found Kidd, the next-oldest point guard, and signed him. Then they found Camby, the oldest center they could get their hands on, and worked out a sign-and-trade for him.
Next, they paid $15 million to Novak, a guy who scored a total of 12 points in the playoffs this season.
If that isn't head scratching enough, the Knicks then turned around and dumped uber fan favorite Lin for Felton, one of the most despised players in Blazers history. Felton was cheaper, sure, but it's pretty hard to argue he can come close to having the same impact Lin did last season.
To top it off, the Knicks, in a rare moment of frugality, declined to match the Raptors offer for Fields.
The message? Your guess is as good as ours. Are they going for it? The Camby and Kidd signings suggest they are. Are they suddenly pulling back? The Lin, Felton and Fields decisions all point in that direction.
Overall, the Knicks appear to be treading water. Given the massive push by the Brooklyn Nets to become relevant again, that can't sit well with Knicks fans.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
Key subtractions: None
Every year, I write the same opening paragraph about the Thunder. Every year it proves to be true.
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 their money or the offseason is a failure. Oklahoma City GM Sam Presti waits and waits and waits for the right deal to come to him. When it does, he pounces.
Once again, there wasn't a lot for Presti to do this summer. He has a young team that is a serious championship contender for the next five years. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are locked up to long-term deals.
Their biggest question this summer will be what to do with James Harden and Serge Ibaka. If they give them market-value extensions, the Thunder will be forced to pay the luxury tax. No one is sure whether they'll swallow that pill or trade one of them to get cap relief.
Because of the impending salary hit, the Thunder kept their spending down. They made a great pickup in the draft with Jones, who slid from a potential lottery pick to the late first round because of questions about his left knee and his motor. He has looked solid in the summer league, and with Durant as his mentor, he could be the star of the draft.
Thabeet has been a bust, but he is young, blocks shots and is on a cheap two-year deal. Thompson was one of my undrafted sleepers. He shoots well and has good size and athletic ability at the 3. He is a nice, cheap pickup.
Key subtractions: Ryan Anderson, Stan Van Gundy (coach), Otis Smith (GM)
The good news, Magic fans? GM Otis Smith is gone.
The bad news? I'm not sure Jerry West, let alone rookie GM Rob Hennigan, can fix the mess Smith left.
The Dwight Howard situation is out of control. The Magic screwed up badly when they didn't trade him before the season began or at the trade deadline. Smith mistakenly thought that the longer the Magic waited, the better offers they would get. It has turned out to be the opposite.
Howard is largely to blame. His decision to give the Magic just one team to trade him to backfired. The Magic couldn't get enough assets from the Nets to make the deal worthwhile, and Brooklyn got so frustrated that the management finally threw its hands up in the air and went in a different direction.
Now, Howard and the Magic are at a bit of a standoff. Howard is threatening to bolt this summer for the Mavericks. The Mavs have virtually nothing of value to offer the Magic in return. The other interested teams -- the Lakers, Rockets and Hawks -- have decent offers but are reluctant to pull the trigger without Howard's commitment. (The Rockets may be an exception to this.)
The Magic's best hope may lie with the Rockets, who are amassing an enormous amount of assets and cap space, or the Lakers. Perhaps it's both.
The Rockets are hoping that the Magic will reconsider their offer if Houston is willing to take back some of Orlando's undesirable contracts -- Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson, Glen Davis and/or Chris Duhon -- as part of the deal. If nothing else, that offer would allow the Magic to start over from scratch.
The Lakers finally appear to be ready to offer up Andrew Bynum, and have engaged the Cavs as a third partner if the Magic prefer Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson and picks to Bynum.
However this ends -- and we're all praying it ends sometime before February -- it won't end well for either Howard or the Magic. In the meantime, the Magic are in limbo. They re-signed Nelson and added a few interesting draft prospects; I'm a fan of Nicholson and O'Quinn. But they lost Anderson, their second-best player last season, when his contract demands escalated, and they are still burdened by a few awful contracts.
The road back to relevance for the Magic has never been more obfuscated.
The Sixers are loaded with athletes and a coach, Doug Collins, who can get them to play hard. This year, they added some more of the same while filling a huge hole on their roster with a pair of good shooters.
First, the athletes. Harkless and Moultrie were two of the best athletes in the draft, and the Sixers tabbed both of them in the first round. Harkless is raw but showed major potential as aTrevor Ariza-type forward as a freshman at St. John's. Moultrie is a bouncy athlete who led the SEC in rebounding last season. Neither is probably ready to be a major contributor in Year 1, but the talent is there.
As for Brown, he's supposed to bring some of the veteran defensive prowess that Brand used to bring.
The question is, how much did the Sixers lose in the process? Brand is past his prime and is overpaid, but he was the team's second-best rebounder and best interior defender. Williams was the team's leading scorer and excelled at getting to the basket. The Sixers continue to shopAndre Iguodala, though it's unclear where he may land.
Overall, the Sixers did well in helping shore up their foundation for the long haul, but in the short term, their win-loss record may take a hit.
The sun has set on the Suns' franchise. Nash, the heart and soul of the club, was traded to the Lakers for a couple of first-round picks. Nash said his first preference was to stay in Phoenix, but the Suns decided to move in a different direction and ended up getting a few late first-round picks in return.
With Nash and Hill gone, the team is officially in the throes of rebuilding. Sort of.
The one bright spot this summer was the addition of Dragic. He's not Nash, but he is a good, young point guard who fits the Suns' system. If you ignore the fact that Phoenix traded Dragic away to the Rockets a year ago -- and gave the Rockets a first-round pick to take him -- he was a solid pickup.
The addition of Scola should also help though the Suns interest in him is a little puzzling. Scola can play, but he's 32 and can't be thrilled to be landing on a rebuilding team at this point in his career. Scola is better than the Suns' other options at the 4 -- Hakim Warrick, Markieff Morris and Channing Frye -- but he's not enough to put them back into the playoffs in the West.
The rest of the team is a work in progress.
The Suns did make a max offer for Eric Gordon, who would have been a terrific addition, but the Hornets quickly matched.
Phoenix's other big move was Beasley. The forward is talented, but his difficulty playing with others will be an issue. The fact that they'll likely have to play him out of position at the 3 isn't great either.
Marshall is a true point guard who sees the floor as well as anyone in the draft, but his lack of athleticism and defensive ability make me wonder if they reached a bit on him in the lottery.
At some point, the Suns will get around to realizing they should have traded Nash two years ago when he still had enormous value. What they're left with is a handful of pieces that will struggle as a late-lottery team for the next few years.
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
Key additions: Nicolas Batum (matched offer sheet), Damian Lillard(draft), Meyers Leonard (draft), J.J. Hickson (re-sign), Victor Claver (draft), Joel Freeland (draft), Will Barton (draft), Jared Jeffries (trade), Dan Gadzuric (trade), Neil Olshey (GM)
Three years ago, the Blazers could do no wrong. They've been in a downward spiral ever since. Is this the summer things start turning around in Portland?
Re-signing Batum was at the top of the Blazers' list. The cost was high, almost too high, but the cost of letting him walk to the Wolves for nothing was higher. I might have been tempted to take their offer of Derrick Williams and another first- round pick for him ... but probably agree that the Blazers made the right call on Batum.
I thought Lillard was the best point guard in the draft. He is in for a pretty big adjustment, going from the Big Sky Conference to the NBA, but if the Summer League is any indication at all, I think it will happen quicker than people think. Leonard, a project, was a little more of a reach, but he has the requisite size and athletic ability to be a starting NBA center someday. Barton was a bit of steal in the second round. He is a good scorer with a nice midrange game. Overall, they had a strong draft.
The Blazers also added two former first-round picks, Claver and Freeland. Claver, a 3 with a high basketball IQ, played well in Spain last season. Freeland is an athletic big from England. Neither player projects as a star or even a starter in the NBA, but they add depth and should finally give the Blazers some return on their picks.
Hickson was solid for the Blazers last season and is re-signing on a reasonable one-year, $4 million deal.
Key subtractions: Hassan Whiteside
The Kings had another nice draft by adding Robinson. He is tough, physical and athletic and plays with a passion. Most importantly, Robinson doesn't need the ball in his hands to make an impact. Between him and DeMarcus Cousins, they're going to grab a ton of rebounds.
The Kings' next move -- re-signing Thompson to a multiyear contract averaging $6 million a year -- was an odd deal for a player who won't be able to beat out Cousins or Robinson for the starting job in the long term. Thompson is a solid player, but after working so hard to clear all their bad contracts, I think the Kings overpaid.
The Kings then seemed to put a pretty abrupt end to the Jimmer Fredette experiment when they signed Brooks. Fredette struggled in the summer league and GM Geoff Petrie has always been a Brooks fan. What I don't understand is why the Kings didn't trade Jimmer before they made the move. His trade value plummeted when they signed that deal. I don't think adding Brooks was worth it.
Adding Johnson was a solid pickup given the cost, a second-round pick.
All of this raises the question: What did the Kings do to get better this summer? Robinson and Brooks will help some, but they are not adding 10 wins to this roster. The Kings are probably looking at another year in lottery purgatory. Are they ever getting out?
SAN ANTONIO SPURS
Key subtractions: None
We say it every year: The Spurs are old.
But it's hard to break up a team that still performs the way San Antonio does.
The Spurs finished tied with the Bulls for the best record in the NBA last season. While Duncan, in particular, showed a little wear and tear, San Antonio is still dangerous.
Because of that, the Spurs' moves this summer were modest. They are flirting with the luxury tax and are limited in what they can do. Their most important move was signing Duncan to another three-year deal. There was zero chance he was going anywhere else, so there was little drama. They also re-signed Green and Diaw, two important contributors to their run last season.
At some point, the Spurs' foundation will start to crack, and when it does, Kawhi Leonard looks like the only true young building block for the future. You'd love to see the Spurs doing some of the things the Celtics are doing to shore up their future, but it's hard to argue with the results.
GM Bryan Colangelo went all-in on Steve Nash this summer. He had the hometown hero angle working for him. He offered Nash the biggest contract. He gave Fields a ridiculous contract to cut the Knicks' sign-and-trade offer for Nash off at the knees. He even had Wayne Gretzky in his corner.
The one thing Colangelo didn't have? A team that was close to Nash's kids. In the end, Nash chose family over money or fame and, in doing so, inadvertently stuck another dagger into the hearts of Raptors fans everywhere.
While losing Nash was a blow, Raptors fans have things to look forward to this season. Getting Lowry for a future draft pick was a steal. He is a big upgrade at the point and gives them some toughness they desperately lacked.
Adding Valanciunas is also a pretty big deal. He may not be an impact player right out of the gate, but most general managers agree that he would have been the No. 2 pick in the draft behind Anthony Davis. Ross gives them a great shooter and athlete on the wing, and Acy is the type of player who will do all of the dirty work in the paint.
The only thing keeping the Raptors from getting an A is the fact that Fields' offer sheet was not matched by the Knicks. I don't care what the Raptors are saying, they would have never paid him that much money had they known Nash was heading to L.A. Now they're stuck with him. It's not the end of the world, but it's a pretty big blemish on what has otherwise been a pretty positive summer.
Key subtractions: Devin Harris
The Jazz continue to quietly rebuild. They shocked just about everyone when they made the playoffs last season and did a few things this summer to make sure they stayed in contention for a seventh or eighth seed in the West.
Once again, GM Kevin O'Connor deftly used his assets to add depth to his roster. He turnedMehmet Okur's trade exception into a starting point guard and turned Harris' expiring deal into Marvin Williams.
Williams should be a significant upgrade over Harris. He is a better shooter, he plays the pick-and-roll much better than Harris, and his shooting stroke and defensive abilities give Utah some much-needed depth at small forward.
I also liked their second-round draft choice. Murphy was one of the best scorers in college basketball last season, and he has deep range on his jumper. He is not the strongest or most athletic guy, but he could give the Jazz a nice scoring bump off the bench.
Utah has significant assets going forward, with expiring contracts in Paul Millsap and Al Jeffersonalong with, most likely, the Warriors' 2013 first-round pick. If the Jazz want to make another big deal, they have the tools to get it done.
But Utah's real progress will be determined by the growth of its young players. Derrick Favorsand Gordon Hayward both have a chance to be special. Enes Kanter and Alec Burks could end up being solid as well. If they continue to improve, the Jazz are going to be tough to beat in a few years.
The Wizards went all-in this summer with a mixture of moves that should propel them from the second-worst record in the NBA into the hunt for a playoff spot in the East.
Adding Nene at the trade deadline was the first major shift, but the addition of Okafor and Ariza solidifies their front line. They now have toughness, some athleticism and some real defensive punch. Throw in a little addition by subtraction via the Blatche's amnesty and the Wizards have quickly improved the culture of the team.
But the real story for the Wizards is Beal. Many scouts believed Beal was the second-best player in the draft -- a sweet-shooting 2 who resembles Eric Gordon. The Wizards desperately needed to pair John Wall with a shooter, and Beal looks like the perfect fit.
If Wall turns the corner this season in his development, the Wizards have put together a formidable starting five without dramatically sacrificing their young core. The moves they made take away any cap flexibility for the next two years, but by the time Okafor and Ariza come off the books, Wall and Beal should be in a position to lead this team.
"Shved -- [a] shooter who do[es]n't bring a lot more to the table"
I wanted to say that the author is not watching the Olympics, but the article was written before the tounament. Still, he basically said Shved is a pure shooter, proving he never saw him play. Do your homework Chad ;)
Yeah that Twolves rating was brutal
Ya he's been ballin for Russia.
Any know what the wizards grade was I didn't see it. But it should he at least a b+ seeing as how they dumped Lewis and blatche
The rating also doesn't include Andrei Kirilenko, so it's obviously a little lower than it should.
However, I still think Minnesota fans are overrating the summer this team had.
Brandon Roy has two degenerative knees with no meniscus remaining... I'm rooting for him, but the odds are stacked against him. Greg Stiemsma is an OK signing, if he's not struggling with foot issues. Alexey Shved looks good so far in the olympics, but who knows how he'll be in the NBA. Kirilenko is a good signing (I don't know about 2 years $20 million), but he's 31 and no longer the All-Star type defender he used to be.
This team made solid moves, but nothing to suggest they're a lock to make the playoffs. And then add in, arguably their most important player is coming off of reconstructive knee surgery and won't be ready to start the season.
I never said the Wolves deserved an A+, but they don't deserve a C- either. For Shved, of course you don't know how he will perform in the NBA but characterizing him as just a shooter is a joke. I don't like the espn insider thing, you know, paying for extra "quality" article/infos, and it's even worse when those article contains absurdities because the author is too lazy to watch actual games.
For the Wolves, remember it's a team that was in playoff hunt before Rubio's injury, with no quality wing play what so ever. Compared to Ridnour out of position at the 2, Wes "big smile" Johnson, Martell " I'm dunking instead of shooting an open three when we're down 3 with 5 seconds remaining" Webster and Wayne Ellington, the newcomers are clearly an upgrade.
Dion waiters is NOT the best shooting guard in the draft, he's undersized, overweight, a below average defender, below average quickness, and has a shaky jumper. Bad pick cleveland