It almost felt like 28 NBA teams were looking to the offseason all year, because everyone knew Cleveland and Golden State would be the final two teams standing.
But while the same two teams that we knew were going to play in the 2017 NBA Finals duked it out, 28 teams are preparing for the offseason. With the NBA Draft later this month and free agency less than a month away, teams are doing their due diligence on who to acquire and who to stay away from – ah, you’ve heard this all before.
But, how about the second part of that? Who to stay away from? Every year, we have those teams, the ones that make questionable decisions that range from overpaying someone to letting someone leave. Who will it be this year? Who will make those dumb mistakes? We’re here to go over that.
So before we start, let’s go over a couple quick things, with the first being that we’ll be looking at teams who did and did not make the postseason this year. For every Brooklyn Nets or Orlando Magic that are in the midst of rebuilding, there’s a Boston Celtics or Los Angeles Clippers that are potential NBA Finals contenders, but still need to work some things out. We don’t judge…and neither should you. The Nets are slowly figuring things out.
Second, this isn’t a prediction thread where we blindly guess. If you’re confused by that means, let’s start with the…
15. Boston Celtics: The Point Guard Logjam
We start our list off with one of the final four teams from this year’s NBA Playoffs: the Boston Celtics. Originally, the Celtics were set to hold the top overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, but a trade with the Philadelphia 76ers moved the green and white down to the third spot. As outlets have confirmed that the Sixers will take Washington’s Markelle Fultz, the Celtics could find themselves in an interesting spot if they hold onto the third pick and the Los Angeles Lakers pass up on Lonzo Ball. With their current and future assets, Boston could also explore a trade involving the third overall pick for Chicago’s Jimmy Butler.
The problem? Both Ball and Butler are guards, which would add to a guard logjam that already includes Isiah Tomas, Avery Bradley, Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart, and James Young.; and while Butler can play the three, he’d still be another guard in the mix – though a trade for Butler would likely involve one or two of those guards and Jae Crowder. Maybe Boston can work it out, but how many guards can they realistically have on the roster?
14. Houston Rockets: Breaking up the Core
Can the Houston Rockets run as one? That’s the goal for them going forward, but I’m worried that they’re going to try breaking up that core of James Harden, Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson, and Trevor Ariza this offseason in the hunt for a marquee free agent. While the goal of a championship this season ended in failure with a playoff loss to the San Antonio Spurs, the Rockets would probably enter next season as the third or fourth best team in the Western Conference…but is that enough to keep the front office calm?
13. Detroit Pistons: Not Doing Anything
At this point, I think that we can all agree that the Detroit Pistons are basketball’s version of the Colorado Rockies: we expect them to break out every year because of their young talent, but a hot start and a breakout performance from a newcomer or forgotten player always ends up in a disappointing finish. But while the Rockies are currently breaking out and leading the National League West, the Pistons are in the same shape they have been. Seriously, this past season was no different for the Pistons, who followed a 44-38 2015-16 season by going 37-45 and missing the postseason entirely.
So, what will the Pistons do to change things? Will they explore trading Andre Drummond or Reggie Jackson? Will they add a max free agent who can properly team up with those two All-Stars? Will they contemplate another rebuilding phase, maybe one that actually works this time? My prediction is none of those, which will leave the Pistons in even worse shape than they were last year…
12. Chicago Bulls: Really Not Doing Anything
And while the Detroit Pistons are basketball’s version of the Colorado Rockies, I’d argue that the Chicago Bulls are basketball’s version of the Cincinnati Bengals. They’ll struggle at times in the regular season before getting it together late and clinching a playoff berth, but will badly disappoint in the postseason and draw the ire of their fans. Then, they’ll make an offseason move or two that sounds intriguing – the Bulls added Pau Gasol, Dwyane Wade, and Rajon Rondo in recent years; the Bengals signed Ben-Jarvus Green-Ellis and Terence Newman among others – and the results will be the same.
Is it fair to compare two future Hall of Famers and a potential third one to a scheme running back and two-time Pro Bowler? Probably not, but the idea remains the same of wanting to add pieces to a team you already think is a championship contender without undergoing a complete overhaul in the necessary spots. Like with Detroit, Chicago will fail badly next year if they don’t make the necessary moves – or, are too afraid to in fear of ruining their current chances.
11. Brooklyn Nets: Still Embracing The Rebuild
Back in April, I actually had some fairly positive talk of the Brooklyn Nets and their chances of landing a solid free agent, writing, “Make your jokes about the Nets and their lack of a future, but they’ve actually resembled an NBA team after the All-Star Break and, as hard as this may be to believe, could be a year away from a postseason spot.” Afterwards, I suggested the Nets try to sign Serge Ibaka, a move I’m still in favor of.
However, I do worry that the Nets will think that they should continue the rebuilding process by adding cheap, lowkey options because Jeremy Lin battled injuries in his first season. Yes, the Nets are still rebuilding, but not adding a free agent or player through trade who can add something to that process would be a major mistake.
10. Los Angeles Clippers: Letting J.J. Redick Leave
This is a subject that has been beaten to death already, especially after Broderick Turner’s report last month for the Los Angeles Times that, “The Clippers probably won’t pay [between $18-20 million per season – Redick’s reported asking price], the officials said, but the team won’t rule out re-signing Redick for the right price.” If you’re the Los Angeles Clippers, that is not what you want to hear.
Yes, things can obviously change and the Clippers could promote Jamal Crawford to a starting role, but is that really what you want? Redick doesn’t get the national spotlight that Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, or DeAndre Jordan get, but he’s just as vital a piece. If the Clippers want to finally move past the second round of the playoffs, then they’re probably going to need to decide between Blake Griffin or J.J. Redick.
9. Toronto Raptors: Not Adding Another Option
Well first off, Toronto should not get rid of those jerseys anytime soon. Second, if the Raptors ever want to realistically contend against the Cleveland Cavaliers while LeBron James is still in Ohio, Toornto will need one more piece. Maybe Serge Ibaka is that guy – I’m not totally opposed to a big three of DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, and Ibaka – but Toronto needs to figure that out as soon as possible.
Even with LeBron James getting older, this is Cleveland’s conference unless a team comes up with the right assets to challenge him; this may sound obvious, but these playoffs have shown that the King can not and will not be stopped. Is it possible for the Toronto Raptors to be the one that takes them down? If they don’t land another key piece, then no.
8. Cleveland Cavaliers: Debating About LeBron’s Friends
Speaking of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, they have their own obstacle to overcome, as the Warriors seem to be here to stay. Anyway, LeBron has made every NBA Finals since the 2010-11 season with both the Miami Heat and the Cleveland Cavaliers, though the past year or so has been filled with rumors that he and some of his friends – namely Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Chris Paul, and/or Carmelo Anthony – will want to all team up somewhere.
Again, I’ve said in the past that I think Cleveland is the best option for Wade and I think Bosh could play well in a reserve role there if he’s healthy, but I don’t want the Cavaliers to focus too much this offseason on making it LeBron and his friends rather than LeBron, Kyrie, Kevin Love and friends.
7. Philadelphia 76ers: Taking Joel Embiid’s Rookie Year Seriously
So for some reason, I’ve seemed to upset some NBA fans with my takes on Joel Embiid, mainly that his 32 game stretch this season – where did play like an All-Star, don’t get me wrong – doesn’t erase the two seasons he didn’t play and doesn’t mean he’s all clear for the future. If you’re one of those people who thinks it’s a silly take or that I’m losing my mind, that’s fine, but I’m serious when I say that the Philadelphia 76ers should not take Embiid’s rookie season as a way of saying we’re ready to take the training wheels off.
If I’m the Sixers, I’m calling reliable big men – guys who may not be the best starters, but who can provide something off the bench – and offering them contracts as depth for when Embiid goes down. After all of his surgeries, I’m not sure that I can call it ‘if’ instead of when, and that is not a good thing. Now is not the time to take the training wheels off.
6. New Orleans Pelicans: Contemplate The DeMarcus/Davis Duo
Back in March, I somewhat joked that we shouldn’t be surprised if DeMarcus Cousins ‘requests’ a trade this summer, writing, “Then again, with how little the Kings got in return for Cousins with this year and next left on his contract, how much is another team really going to give the Pelicans for one guaranteed year of Cousins? Of all the players on this list, I think Cousins is one of the few who fits into that category of, yeah, we should expect it to happen.’”
So, about that. If Cousins doesn’t ask that after missing the playoffs yet again – and truthfully, even if he does – the New Orleans Pelicans should not contemplate splitting him and Anthony Davis up. For as bad as the deal seems, the Pelicans took a chance here and, for lack of a better phrase, have to deal with it…no pun intended. If you want to make a trade and try competing with the big boys, then you can’t give up after a couple months.
5. Miami Heat: Prioritizing Dion Waiters
Now don’t get me wrong here – I do think that the Miami Heat struck gold with Dion Waiters and I do want to see him succeed in the NBA, especially given the personal trauma that he’s been through. I also do think that Waiters has the potential to be the face of the Miami Heat alongside Hasaan Whiteside and Goran Dragic, but like with LeBron and his friends, I don’t want the Heat to put all of their priorities on signing Waiters.
We see this happen a lot where a team – like the Dallas Mavericks with DeAndre Jordan – will put all of their chips in one basket and panic when things don’t go their way. Though the Mavericks did at least get a solid season out of Zaza Pachuilla, there’s no denying that they were clearly expecting Jordan to sign and get badly burnt. Given how fun it was to watch the Heat finish the season 30-11, we’d certainly hate to see the same thing happen here.
4. Los Angeles Lakers: Not Finding Middle Ground With Magic
On one hand, I totally understand why Lakers fans are worried about how Magic Johnson will fare in a front office role on a team that is slowly working their way back into a winning culture. On the other hand, I get why there are plenty of Lakers fans who are optimistic about what Magic brings to the table – for starters, he’s not Mitch Kupchak or Jim Buss – and they’re excited about his own enthusiasm and energy.
But for this to work, the Lakers front office needs to establish a middle ground with Magic Johnson. I’m not saying that I don’t think Magic can succeed in this role, but I do think that wanting to do everything or only going your way without really consulting others will lead to the Lakers enduring more losing seasons. Part of why Michael Jordan and Larry Bird have turned into top NBA executives is because they’ve found some middle ground; let’s hope, for seeing the Purple and Gold in the postseason again, that Magic can do the same.
3. Orlando Magic: Maxing the Wrong Player
Why is Andre Iguodala the picture here, you ask? By this point, I’m sure that you’ve seen the leaked whiteboard picture that the Orlando Magic had which displayed players they’d like to target this offseason; their free agency section included options like Iguodala, Danilo Gallinari, Paul Millsap, Otto Porter, and Lance Stephenson. At least they didn’t have LeBron or Stephen Curry on there…
While we’ll give credit to the Magic for wanting to seriously explore giving a big-name free agent a max contract, I can’t be the only one who worries they’ll give it to the wrong player. Paul Millsap? That’s fine. Gallinari? Sure. But if they’re considering one for Iguolda, I think he’s a bit past that point. Are they going to contemplate one for Lance Stephenson based on how he finished the season with Indiana? Maybe we’re worrying too much, but this could lead to some absolutely awful mistakes.
2. Indiana Pacers: What’s Paul George’s Future?
Here, we have a fairly simple one: what are the Indiana Pacers going to do with Paul George? Are they going to try locking him up long-term, or will they enter the 2017-18 season with him potentially headed for free agency? What about looking into trade options with a team like the Los Angeles Lakers who has the assets – and who George, a lifelong Pacer, may want to join?
Whatever the Pacers do will have its own positives and negatives, but their best bet would be entering the offseason with a plan. If it’s letting George walk into the season without a new contract, that’s alright. If it’s trading him, that’s fine too. But they need to know what’s next and not go into the season without an idea. That’d be dumb, but not as dumb as….
1. New York Knicks: Emphasizing the Triangle
Come on, you and I both know that this is going to happen. So long as Phil Jackson is in charge and employing people who buy into the triangle, the Knicks are going to hone in on players who fit that scheme. Why sign Paul Millsap if he wants to come if he’s not going to do well in the triangle? What about reuniting with Danilo Gallinari? Would the Knicks pass him up if he’s not a fan of the triangle?
In the same way that Jackson went after former players of his for both playing and coaching roles, he’s going to keep going after guys who he thinks will work in the triangle. The Knicks don’t want to rid themselves of something that doesn’t work. Why? Why not?
Which team do you think will make the worst move this offseason? Make sure to let us know in he comment section below?
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