The offseason of the NBA is usually a time for players to rest up and get themselves ready to contribute to their respective rosters. With the dawn of the super team era however, the shuffling of talents from roster to roster has most players wondering just what city they’ll be representing and, more problematically, what role they will be playing.
While this offseason saw most of the famed “Banana Boat Crew” moved to new rosters, the biggest moves of all came from the 28 teams outside of Cleveland and Golden State: a series of Hail Mary’s attempting to compete for the Larry O’Brian trophy in June. Unfortunately for those squads, there is a huge chance that this “championship or bust” mindset will prove short-sighted and ill-conceived, because the bottom line is rock solid here: no roster move can truly compete with what Golden State has cooking right now.
Get ready to shake things up with twenty NBA roster moves that ALREADY look terrible!
20. Knicks’ Point Guard Troubles Looming
Look, it’s already a foregone conclusion that the Knicks make bonehead decisions, but passing on Dallas rookie Dennis Smith Jr. for a raw point guard French project in Frank Ntilikina is about as classic Knicks as a Knicks move gets. Dennis Smith Jr. looked like a young Russell Westbrook in camp and the combine, flashing enough hang time to do your taxes before slamming it home. Ntilikina meanwhile averaged 3 points for the French team last year. Did you feel that rumble? It’s the collective fist slamming of Knick fans as Smith Jr already is a favourite for Rookie of the Year honours. Ouch.
19. Cleveland Gets D Wade
Something about round two of the LeBron and Dwyane Wade reunion just doesn’t smell right… most can give you 35 reasons Wade won’t succeed, while only one of them will matter: father time. Unfortunately for Flash, there are only so many touches to go around in 36 minutes of regulation. While Wade averaged an old-man’s 22 minutes per night on the Chicago Bulls last season, we have to remember that those were often minutes that featured less of his ball-dominant then-teammates: Jimmy Butler and Rajon Rondo. With a stacked roster in Cleveland, LeBron will be left with the same ball-distribution problem as the old lady who lived in a shoe: too many mouths to feed! And unfortunately for Wade, either he will be left on the outside looking in, or he will get his buckets at the expense of important pieces like Jae Crowder, Isaiah Thomas or Kevin Love. Unfortunately, this is a classic paradox of mixing friendship with business.
18. Boogie And The Brow!
This was a beat up combination from the get-go! When Sacramento sent DeMarcus Cousins down to New Orleans in one of the most lop-sided trades of the modern era, Anthony Davis had to at least be intrigued. Putting the two best centers in the league together on one roster sure has a nice sound to it. But very quickly, a combination of injuries and chemistry proved last season to be a practice run at best. As the trade rumors this summer built up like a ton of bricks, the end game became clear: New Orleans needs to see this thing crash and burn before they blow it up. And it will! Take Cousins’ maturity, throw in a dash of non-leadership from Anthony Davis, a confused point guard outlook, and wings that look worse than all you can eat Buffalo wings at a college townie bar, and you’re looking at a piss poor chance of success at the helm of yet another sad rebuild in Nawlins.
17. Clippers Re-Sign Blake Griffin
We get it! It’s Los Angeles and you must fill seats, but resigning Blake Griffin after losing Chris Paul not only was a bad decision for now, but may badly limit the asset-poor Clippers in the future. Griffin and DeAndre Jordan are excellent pieces, but without receiving anything better than injury prone rotation players, going from three to two stars in a star-demanding league means the end of this Clipper era of relevancy. Griffin will put up monster numbers no doubt, but with a history of injuries and now a big contract to boot, nobody is going to want to give up lottery picks OR young stars for Griffin when this is all over, leaving Steve Balmer’s Clips looking as relevant as one of their owner’s Windows ’98 operating systems is to a Mac. Yikes.
16. Celtics Cough Up Their Identity
As their longest-tenured player as of this summer, Avery Bradley took the underdog Celtics from rock bottom rebuild to number one seed in the East, attracting the biggest name stars in a three year turn-around. Unfortunately for him, the lack of loyalty from Boston caused them to send him to Detroit for a more team friendly Marcus Morris contract when they signed star-wing Gordon Hayward this summer. Yea, it was ugly, But even worse, Bradley was one of the, if not the actual best wing defender in the league. He helped build the gritty defensive culture in Boston, and with his unceremonious exit, you gotta wonder if they will still have what it takes to compete like last season. With a retooled Cleveland Cavalier roster in the East, this is already looking like one of the most ill-fated roster moves of the offseason!
15. Dwight Howard’s Failure Tour! Next Stop: Charlotte
Once thought to be the best big man in the league, Dwight Howard has proven to be a sad disappointment in each of his three (soon to be four) stops since flashing brilliance as a member of the Orlando Magic. Once heralded as the second coming of Shaquille O’Neil, Howard simply can’t seem to get it right. Despite putting up decent stats in a Hawks uniform last season, he was ditched for a weak trade package and shipped to Charlotte. The Hornets do have some great pieces in place such as guards Nic Batum and Kemba Walker, but unless Howard completely reinvents his game this offseason, they will likely be a great disappointment to fans and owner Michael Jordan, as they are already projected to be between a five and eight seed in the weak Eastern Conference: just enough talent to be relevant, and just enough failure to never grow out of mediocrity. Bad move.
14. Carmelo To The Thunder
On paper, a lot of fans have to be thrilled at the sound of adding a seasoned franchise talent to the threat that is Russell Westbrook. But some things are too good to be true, and this is one of those things! Westbrook thrived last year as the lone true super star on his team, and his success was predicated on momentum. It’s how he averaged a triple double. He would grab the rebound and push the pace immediately up court, giving offences no choice but to either collapse on the freight train rendering free throws, or let him go one on one and beat any defender. THAT game plan got the Thunder limited success in the post season… and no part of that game plan welcomes an isolated slowdown for the ball dominant Carmelo Anthony. Despite his productive offence in the past few seasons, Melo has had a significant slow down on a bottom feeding Knick roster. With father time knocking at the door, Anthony will struggle to keep up with Westbrook as this confused scheme seems doomed for failure.
13. Zack Randolph In Sacramento
The concept of signing the production machine in the tail end of his career that is Z Bo to a young and developing Kings squad was contradictory to begin with, but when he got busted before even playing a game with pounds of marijuana in Sacramento, there is no offseason move that looks worse than this one. Even though there haven’t been any suspensions doled out yet, it’s hard to believe the veteran will now be very credible in the guidance role he was brought in to play.
12. The Centre Problem In Lala Land
The Lakers have a real centre issue. With their recent history of signing curious contracts and ill-fit players to run at centre for them, you have to start to wonder if maybe it’s something in the water? Last offseason the Lakers gave Tim Mozgov one of the most bloated and ridiculous contracts since the new CBA, only to trade that contract to Brooklyn this summer for the talented but certainly declining Brook Lopez, a guy whose age makes him stick out like a sore thumb on the current roster on which many are barely of legal age to buy a beer. How does LA rectify the problem? By signing the Australian big at the very tail end of his career, Andrew Bogut. Illogical would be an understatement here. Nonetheless, the Lakers trotting out the ball dominant young power forward Julius Randle will take away the relevancy of any of these centers, and create a sad commission of half effective bigs limiting the growth of the young Lakers squad.
11. Millsap Joining The Nuggets
When Paul Millsap hit the open market this summer, a lot of buzz was surrounding the proven All Star to join a contender and put them and himself in a position to finally win something of significance. Unfortunately, that buzz fell flat when he signed with the Nuggets. Perhaps the most boring and inconsequential destination for “Do it All Paul”, the truth is that the Nuggets have a youth movement in the works and Millsap at 32 years old simply doesn’t fit it. Also, he has thrived being a pass-first power forward next to a rebound-heavy center since he has joined the league, but by coupling him next to a younger more versatile version of himself in Nikola Jokic, the duo is simply redundant. The fact is, the Nuggets aren’t winning anything significant any time soon, and Millsap may have just kissed away the remainder of his prime years.
10. CP3 To The Rockets
A lot of casual fans got hyped for this deal early in the off-season. After all, who doesn’t want to see two of the league’s top talents in Chris Paul and James Harden team up? How could this possibly go wrong? Famous last words. Let’s not get it twisted: the Rockets success last year was largely due to a system predicated on maximizing James Harden’s skill set, allowing him to put up the second highest usage rate ever (only bested by Westbrook, also last season). So to put a ball dominant Chris Paul next to a ball dominant James Harden is a failing venture. In short, CP3 is getting ready for a steep decline in his career. This move will prove to be just another easily forgettable ring-chasing collaboration. Wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened in Houston either, just ask Charles Barkley!
9. Heat Pay The Big Bucks
…and get very little to show for it! Look: everyone was pleasantly surprised by the Heat’s impressive run in the second half of last season, winning nearly 75% of the games along the way. But when they broke out the check book in the offseason, a lot of people were left wondering what the plan was. Here’s the bottom line: Miami overpaid big time for a series of names too small for most to recognize all due to a Cinderella run last Spring. These guys are good like the Might Ducks or the Hoosiers were good: this is a recipe that only works in the magic of a vacuum sealed window of time. Guys like Josh Richardson, Kelly Olynyk, Dion Waiters, James Johnson, and Tyler Johnson will be laughing all the way to the bank while this summer of spending haunts Heat fans for many years to come!
8. Knicks Learn The Hardaway
Perhaps one of the biggest missteps of the offseason was that of the Knicks ridiculously high ball offer to the young and widely unproven wing Tim Hardaway Jr. Despite some brief success in Atlanta, the sharpshooter has yet to see any consistent success on a team that is actually winning games. Nonetheless, the Knicks are gonna Knicks. This unprecedented overpayment seems to defy all the laws of negotiation, as the Knicks threw seventy one million dollars at the boy over four years. A lot of his peers were really happy for him, as he had successfully eclipsed his legendary father’s career earnings with his largely unearned offer sheet. Bravo!
7. Guard Issues In New Orleans
Yes, the Pelicans have an obvious log jam at the centre position. But, they also have a terrible logjam at the point guard position? Does that help things along at all? No? Didn’t think so! The Pelly’s re-signed Jrue Holliday to a long term contract this summer while also retaining the services of point guard Rajon Rondo on a short term contract as well. Just to be clear: neither of these players have ever played anything but the traditional ball dominant starting point guard position. There literally couldn’t be a more textbook example of a logjam. What’s inevitably going to happen is one of the two will win the minutes battle and the other will grow upset with the situation and want out. If not, at the very least New Orleans will end up win a confused basketball identity. Either way this thing is going to crash and burn this season.
6. Pacers Cough Up PG13 For Mediocrity
As the Thunder has proved to the rest of the basketball world, small market team’s MUST show a clear commitment to winning or else they will be doomed to extended periods of mediocrity. And that’s exactly what will happen in Indiana in the post Paul George era. When the star wing publicly stated he wants out last year, the Pacers clock started ticking, and although it was a foregone conclusion they would lose him, the mediocrity of the returning package they accepted was overwhelming. Granted, Victor Oladipo is a talented young guard, but he lacks the multi-dimensional qualities of a league-leading marquee combo guard. Without getting anything of significance, the Pacers may have missed out badly on their chances of rebuilding quickly.
5. Spurs Letting Jonathan Simmons Walk
I know what you’re thinking? Who?! and who cares? Jon Simmons is one of these glue guys that the Spurs find and mold from the most obscure places into the likes of Kawhi Leonard and Manu Ginobili. True, for the once undrafted small forward, Simmons might have been hard pressed to be known behind the shadow of Kawhi Leonard, but when Leonard’s injuries kick in or the Spurs need a spark when Danny Green is in yet another slump, Simmons never let them down. So when they let him walk for a very modest price and join the Magic this summer, it may have proved to be the poison pill that ends the Spurs title chances this year (and yes, they still at least have a chance every year). It’s the little things that matter!
4. The Kyrie Blockbuster
Look: no one can deny that a prime Kyrie is highly valuable in today’s league. But the bottom line is that the Celtics had to gut their identity to get him. The loss of Isaiah Thomas, an undersized player who was passed on countless times by countless teams leaves a void that Kyrie alone could not fill (not to mention that hype aside, Isaiah could be arguably a more clutch and effective player). Finally, this deal stripped the Celtics of the hard nosed and intangible defensive presence of Jae Crowder. When Boston threw in the coveted Nets lottery pick, it became clear that this will be a deal the Boston Celtics regret for years to come.
3. Raptors Re-Upping On Their Core
It is a sad realization for near-contenders like the Toronto Raptors, but the truth is that these teams have little to no chance to changing their outlook of losing to the juggernauts that are the Warriors and LeBron’s Cavs. So when the Raptors decided to resign 31 year old Kyle Lowry to a three year 100 million dollar contract this summer, they not only sealed their fate this offseason, but threw themselves out of contention for the future, locking in a huge chuck of salary cap with a player on the wrong side of 30. Sadly, the Raptors have been the little engine that could these past few years, but even that element will not be enough to catapult them into true contention. At least they have the young and talented DeMar DeRozan to move forward with.
2. The Bulls Lose Butler
One of the most inspirational stories out of the NBA in recent times is that of Jimmy Butler: a kid who not long ago was an orphan on the streets, until a coach gave him a chance with playing time and a place to stay. Since then, Jimmy went on to become one of the elite players in the Association. For all of this narrative and more, the Bulls will be forever haunted by the lopsided trade they agreed to when they sent Butler out to Minnesota in exchange for the underwhelming guard Kris Dunn and a questionably injured Zack LaVine. This deal not only made the Bulls a bottom of the barrel team this year, but proved that they are unable to build around marquee talent. Tisk tisk.
1. 76ers Trading Up For Fultz
Now, the concept of trading up, and not down, could hardly be seen as a bad thing, especially when it’s for a sure thing like Markelle Fultz, right? Wrong! Fultz may be a “sure thing” by some standards, but like any other player, they can only be as good as they can fit the system they are in. For the 6ers, trading for a point guard when they have clearly stated that last year’s first overall pick Ben Simmons will be doing most of the ball handling for the team makes no sense. So the 76ers spent five years tanking and drafted a superfluous four big time centers, only to change gears and draft two big time guards (even if Simmons is seven feet tall!)… the irony doesn’t get much more pronounced, people!
Even though the season has just begun, the truth is that the faults of the super (duper) team era are becoming more and more clear. A lot of teams will struggle to compete and form their identity under the assumption that certain squads will knock them out of contention easily. In retrospect, a lot of these roster moves will be exposed for the fleeting attempts at relevancy that they are.
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