EDITORIAL: NBA OFFSEASON: WINNERS AND LOSERS

EDITORIAL%3A+NBA+OFFSEASON%3A++WINNERS+AND+LOSERS

Basketball keeps going on even when the season comes to an end.

Robert Blaine, Reporter

This article is a summary of the NBA offseason including the draft, free agency, and trades.  Five teams have been categorized as winners and five as losers.  The “winners” took advantage of their resources to better their teams for the future, while the “losers” lost out on the potential to do so.

Winners:

Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavaliers landed the first overall pick for the third time in eleven years and used it to select UNLV tweener Anthony Bennett.  Bennett was by no means a unanimous top pick, but in a weak draft it would be hard to argue with almost any selection that they made.  Bennett provides good potential and should become part of a core that already has All-Star PG Kyrie Irving, SG Dion Waiters, and PF Tristan Thompson.

The Cavaliers also took a chance on center Andrew Bynum, who was forced to sit out all of last season due to a knee injury.  Bynum had been one of the league’s best big men in prior years despite being continually hampered by injuries.  The Cavs locked him up on a short two-year contract with only a small portion guaranteed, meaning that they have the flexibility to cut him with little penalty should he not return to his previous form.  Junior Shawn Hammerling believed that the Cavaliers are “definitely a playoff team, if they are healthy,” which is a big “if” considering the injury histories of Irving and Bynum.

Golden State Warriors

The Golden State Warriors might have struck out on superstar Dwight Howard, but they still managed to drastically improve their team.  By packaging some future first-round picks, the Warriors were able to entice the Utah Jazz into using their cap space to absorb some salary in the contracts of Andris Biedrins, Richard Jefferson, and Brandon Rush.  The freed-up cap space allowed the Warriors to make an offer to free agent wing, Andre Iguodala.  Iguodala should step in and help to take some weight from Stephen Curry’s shoulders as he is one of the league’s best defenders and a great distributor for his position.  The Warriors were forced to renounce the rights to quality bench players Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack to make it happen, but the additions of Marreese Speights and Toney Douglas along with Iguodala should more than nullify the losses.

Houston Rockets

The Houston Rockets netted the biggest name to change teams this offseason in center Dwight Howard.  Howard gives the Rockets an offensive threat in the low post as well as a quality rebounder and defensive anchor.  Adding Howard to a core that already has up-and-coming superstar two guard, James Harden, should make the Rockets a serious threat to take down the reigning Western Conference champion, the San Antonio Spurs. The Howard signing has put the Rockets at odds with last year’s starting center, Omer Asik.  Asik  has asked for a trade from the organization, but no such deal has come to fruition as the Rockets envision their two centers sharing the court. Junior Viraj Shah thought that the addition of “Dwight Howard is going to bring the Rockets to the championship.”

Los Angeles Clippers

The best move that the Los Angeles Clippers was not a draft pick or the swiping of a free agent from another team, but the resigning of perennial All-Star point guard, Chris Paul.  Junior Kate Thompson remarked that “keeping Chris Paul is big for them” as many teams, the Atlanta Hawks, Dallas Mavericks, and Houston Rockets among them, were awaiting this year’s free agent class in hopes of adding Chris Paul or Dwight Howard.  Paul immediately announced his intent to resign with the Clippers as soon as free agency opened on the morning of July 1st.

The Clippers had previously sent a first-round pick to the Boston Celtics in exchange for coach Doc Rivers with the hopes that his addition would sway Paul’s decision.  With Paul locked up, the Clippers finally decided to deal away young backup point guard Eric Bledsoe to the Phoenix Suns.  Bledsoe had provided a spark off the bench and proved to be a valuable asset as they acquired J.J. Redick from the Milwaukee Bucks in the deal.  Redick is one of the popular 3-and-D players who should thrive next to a distributor like Chris Paul.  One of the league’s better teams from a year ago found a way to improve.

Philadelphia 76ers

The 76ers had a good offseason in much a different way from the other teams listed.  They had, in prior years, been a middling team, barely making the playoffs or picking in the early teens.  The new management, led my GM Sam Hinkie chose to drastically shake up the team.  They traded away 23 year old All-Star point guard, Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for the rights to Center Nerlens Noel, the sixth pick, and a future first-round pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.  While trading away a young budding star is not always the greatest move for a franchise trying to win, it certainly is helpful for a team trying to tank their way to a good pick.

The additional pick in the 2014 NBA Draft should give them two high picks in what is considered to be one of the best drafts in recent memory, headlined by Kansas University star, Andrew Wiggins.  The addition of Noel should also help as he was touted by many as the top talent available in this year’s draft, yet slipped to the Pelicans at 6 due to injury concerns.  Hinkie and his staff managed to turn a middling team into a bad team with plenty of young talent (also picking up PG Michael Carter-Williams near the end of the lotto) that has the chance to land a franchise player or two in the next draft.

 

Losers:

Charlotte Bobcats

The Charlotte Bobcats have shown signs that they are tired of losing.  They have the worst mark in the league by a long stretch over the last two years.  NBA legend, Michael Jordan, now a partial owner of the team, has played an active role in trying to fix the mess.  However, it seems as if everything that the Bobcats are doing is counterproductive.

Despite next season’s draft class being one of the strongest in many years, the Bobcats decided it would be a good time to splurge in free agency to bring in former Utah Jazz center, Al Jefferson.  Jefferson is a force in the post on offense, but provides little on the defensive side.  This makes him a major liability on the defensive end, but still good enough on offense to provide some wins.  Those additional wins might be costly as the Bobcats will likely vault from a lower tier team to one just bad enough to barely miss the playoffs.   This would also effectively take them out of the race for almost unanimous number one pick, Andrew Wiggins, unless they have a lottery miracle.

Dallas Mavericks

The Dallas Mavericks were one of the heavy favorites in the Dwight Howard sweepstakes.  They already boasted a star power forward in German big man, Dirk Nowitzki along with a decent supporting cast.  Howard spurned their offer, choosing to sign with Houston instead, leaving the Mavericks desperate to do something with the cap space that they still held.  They already let young shooting guard, O.J. Mayo, sign with the Milwaukee Bucks.  Mayo was coming off the most efficient year of his career and was flashing some of the talent that made him the third overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft.

The Mavericks chose to pursue ex-Buck guard, Monta Ellis.  While Ellis is a gifted scorer, he is also a notorious chucker, who takes many contested shots and has a high points per game mark largely due to the volume of shots that he takes.  The Mavericks also chose to bring in 31 year old point guard, Jose Calderon, who while being an efficient scorer and passer, has almost no impact on the defensive end.  Stealing away Howard was a long shot, but choosing to overpay one dimensional players should leave the Mavericks near the bottom of a strong Western Conference, yet just not bad enough to be a heavy favorite in the pursuit of Andrew Wiggins.

Denver Nuggets

The Denver Nuggets were unable to bring back swingman, Andre Iguodala, which was the team’s biggest failing in free agency.  Iguodala was the team’s best defender and his presence on that side of the ball will surely be missed.  His contributions on offense should not be overlooked as he is a great passer for a 2 no less a 3.  In addition to losing Iguodala, the Nuggets also lost backup wing, Corey Brewer.  Brewer was another strong defender on the perimeter.

The Nuggets then added big man, J.J. Hickson, who does not offer much on offense, besides converting at a high clip, and is a good rebounder.  Losing two good perimeter defenders, especially one who had a strong offensive game, should make the Nuggets’ return to the playoffs that much tougher.  Shutdown perimeter defenders are rare in today’s NBA, and the likes of Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari will struggle to guard opponents’ top scorers.

Los Angeles Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers lost superstar center Dwight Howard in free agency.  It was not due to lack of effort to resign him, but either way losing a player of his caliber should hurt the team.  Howard did not display great chemistry with Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, or Pau Gasol, but many in the organization hoped that he would stick around to become the face of the franchise after Bryant and the next Laker legend.  He shunned their proposal and chose to instead bolt to Houston.  Senior David Gomez saw it as a potential positive for the team, remarking that “the team’s performance was being affected by his presence,” largely due to chemistry issues with Bryant.

The Lakers tried to recoup by signing some younger players that hadn’t worked out on their former teams, such as Nick Young and Wesley Johnson.  Their impact should be minimal, though.  The only bright spot is that with Kobe Bryant predicted to be out much of next year with an injury, the Lakers could be involved in the race for Andrew Wiggins.  They also have little salary on the books after this year, so they could make a potential run at Carmelo Anthony or LeBron James in free agency in 2014, should those two choose to opt out of their contracts.

Milwaukee Bucks

Milwaukee is a small market for a basketball team, which means that the Bucks don’t have the draw of a franchise located in Miami, New York, or Los Angeles.  This makes it far more difficult for the Bucks to bring in free agents, which is a notable handicap for the team.  The Bucks chose to cut ties with J.J. Redick, trading him to the Clippers for two second round picks.  While that may have been decent value, they had just given up young prospect Tobias Harris, who is blossoming in Orlando, in a trade for him, the year prior.  The Bucks also signed point guard Jeff Teague to an offer sheet, but the Atlanta Hawks chose to match, so he remains in Atlanta.   They also decided to let guard Monta Ellis walk, when they likely could have gotten at least some value out of him in a sign and trade.

The Bucks tried to recoup their losses by signing former Mavericks guard O.J. Mayo to a contract for more than many thought he was worth.  They also added 29 year old center, Zaza Pachulia, in a peculiar move, given that they already have a good young group of big men. Last year’s starting point guard, Brandon Jennings, was dealt to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for one of their young guards, Brandon Knight.  The Bucks look to have another mediocre season in store, except with more bad contracts.