Whenever the offseason comes about, it’s guaranteed mayhem. And when you’re talking about the NBA, that sentiment is even furthered.
There isn't a sport that sees as many high profiled stars change places than the Association. Just last season, Dwyane Wade left South Beach for the Chicago Bulls, Kevin Durant said bye bye to Oklahoma City to chase a ring with the Golden State Warriors and Al Hortford went from the Atlanta Hawks to the Boston Celtics.
To no one's surprise, this offseason was no different.
Even bigger names switched addressed. Forcing their hand, Paul George left the Indiana Pacers and will play alongside the reigning MVP next season. Chris Paul decided playing with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan wasn't enough, so he’ll play next to James Harden next season. Gordan Hayward followed Hortford and signed a max contract with the Celtics. Rudy Gay, Jamal Crawford, Paul Millsap and Danilo Gallinari will be wearing different uniforms next season.
Unfortunately, not everyone will make the impact that’s expected. While some players fit their new teams like a glove, others stick out like a sore thumb. Let’s take a look at eight players who will succeed with their new teams and seven who won’t.
15 Succeed: C.J. Miles - Toronto Raptors
For teams that plan on competing with the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers, role players are equally as important as stars. The Toronto Raptors not only have two top-tier players in Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan but they also acquired C.J. Miles in a sign and trade with the Indiana Pacers for backup point guard Corey Joseph this offseason. Since the Raptors are playing in a weak Eastern Conference, they’ll be positioned to make noise come playoff time — and Miles will be a big part in that.
The 30-year-old small forward will be the perfect small forward for this roster, as he’ll give Norman Powell more time to develop his game while simultaneously being leaps and bounds better than the departed DeMarre Carroll. Miles is known for his three-point shooting ability (he shot 41% from beyond the arc in 2017), defensive toughness and attacking the rim. They’re still not comparable to the Cavs, but with Miles, they’re closer than they were last season.
14 Fail: Aron Baynes - Boston Celtics
It’s hard to deny that the Boston Celtics are knocking on the door or of the Eastern Conference. They did finish as the top seed last season, and adding Gordon Hayward will certainly help their cause. (more on that in a bit). But even though the Celtics were the top dog in the standings doesn’t mean they were on the court, as the Cleveland Cavaliers had no problem getting past them to reach the Finals.
One of their biggest issues was size and rebounding, and Danny Ainge is hoping that Aron Baynes will solve their issues. On the positive side, Baynes will provide toughness, rebounding and is selfless on the offensive end. But on the negative, he’s never averaged more than 16 minutes per game and he’s expected to play heavy minutes on one of the top teams in the NBA. The Celtics aren’t surrendering much in terms of dollars but it will be hard for Baynes to give the team what they’re looking for.
13 Succeed: Rudy Gay — San Antonio Spurs
At this time last season, Rudy Gay was seen as a player who was going to cash in one year. Unfortunately, however, an Achilles tear ended his season prematurely, as he played in just 30 games with the Sacramento Kings. Because of this, his services weren’t as widely sought-after as once believed, and the San Antonio Spurs were able to swoop in and sign Gay for a modest $17 million over two years.
So long as he can rebound from injury — which will be a tough task in and of itself — Gay will be the bargain of free agency. Throughout his 13-year career, he’s averaged 18 points and six rebounds and has proved he can score from anywhere on the floor. If rumors are true that Gregg Popovich is planning to move Kawhi Leonard to point guard, the Spurs offense may be one of the mist unique the game has seen.
12 Fail: Kelly Olynyk — Miami Heat
When Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals was in the books, it was obvious that Kelly Olynyk was about to get paid. The reserve big man of the Boston Celtics poured in a career-playoff-high of 26 points while providing the typical intangibles that he brought to the court on a nightly basis. As such, the Miami Heat awarded Olynyk with a four-year, $50 million pact.
There’s a lot to like about Olynyk. He can play with his back to the basket and also has range. He’s tough on the boards, he’s physical on defense, he’s a team player and is just 26 years old. But the newest resident of Miami’s biggest problem is that, while he’s good at a lot of things, he isn’t great at one thing. Will Pat Riley get the most out of Olynyk? Sure. But it’s hard to imagine him living up the contract he signed.
11 Succeed: Jamal Crawford - Minnesota Timberwolves
When the free agency period began, Jamal Crawford didn’t expect to be someone that would be available to sign anywhere. But once the Los Angeles Clippers decided to make Danilo Gallinari their next starting small forward (we’ll get to him in a bit, too), Doc Rivers needed to alleviate some cap space to officially bring him to the team. As such, the veteran guard was traded to the Atlanta Hawks, who waived him upon his request. Now free, Crawford set his sights on the Minnesota Timberwolves, the NBA’s newest hotbed.
He may be 37 years old, but there’s no denying that Crawford can still light up the scoreboard whenever he gets on the court. Known for his range and three-point shooting ability, he will be able to space the floor when sharing the court with both Andrew Wiggins and Jimmy Butler. Not to mention, Crawford is seen as one of the better leaders in the NBA and will provide the locker room with a veteran voice, something this young squad can use.
10 Fail: Jeff Green - Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cleveland Cavaliers are currently in an awkward place. Despite reaching the NBA Finals, a disconnect between front office and team has many speculating that LeBron James will be leaving town when his contract is up in a year from now. Couple that with rumors of Kyrie Irving jettisoning Cleveland if James exits, and only a championship may be the only way to keep this current team intact. One way they plan on bringing another title back to Cleveland is bringing Jeff Green to town.
Unfortunately, however, Green is far from the underrated player who was a quality hand in his prime. Last season, he averaged career-lows in points, rebounds, blocks, steals, field goal percentage and three-point percentage. At this stage of his career, he provides defense and can get to the basket but little else. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear as though he’ll bolster their chances against the Golden State Warriors.
9 Succeed: Jimmy Butler - Minnesota Timberwolves
The Minnesota Timberwolves made a huge splash on draft night when they traded for Jimmy Butler. They built a young core that is now built around Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins and now they have an established star to join them in forming a huge big three. Butler is now reunited with Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota, under whom he enjoyed a lot of success in Chicago. This reunion seems like it will provide the spark the T-Wolves need to finally get over the hump and reach the postseason. Butler also seems super motivated to show up Chicago. Butler playing with a chip on his shoulder is a good sign for the Wolves. It'd be very shocking if the Wolves still can't make the playoffs with Butler stepping in as a leader.
8 Fail: George Hill - Sacramento Kings
If you’re an NBA fan, you have to admire what the Sacramento Kings are doing. After years of frustration both on and off the court, team brass put together arguably the strongest draft class this season and has signed veterans to help get the best out of the newest NBA stars. The additions of George Hill, Zach Randolph and Vince Carter will all be valuable to the organization, but Hill may be the one the backfires in the near future.
It’s not to say that Hill is a bad player. He’s proven to be a serviceable point guard and can lead playoff teams. But the Kings drafted De’Aaron Fox with the fifth overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft, and he looks like he could be the best player out of this class. Where the problem lies is Hill’s contract. There’s no doubt he’ll be a great mentor to Fox, but it’ll be hard to justify the three-year, $57 million contract paid to a backup.
7 Succeed: J.J. Redick - Philadelphia 76ers
The Philadelphia 76ers trusted the process for years, but it appears as though 2017 will be the season where the dividends start to become visible. Joel Embiid played like a star on the rise last season. Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz are both first overall picks in the last two NBA Drafts. Dario Saric looks like the next best stretch four and there is youth all over the roster. They did have a hole, however. And JJ Redick looks to be the man for the job.
When he was signed to a one-year, $23 million pact, many eyeballs popped. But in reality, Redick is everything the Sixers need. With Embiid and Simmons playing around the paint, Redick will knock down threes and space the floor. More importantly, he’ll provide veteran leadership and playoff experience to a young team on the rise.
6 Fail: Dwight Howard — Charlotte Hornets
It seems like it was only a couple of years ago that Dwight Howard was the best center in basketball. He can defend and rebound like no other and was an alley-oop machine that had developing post moves. Unfortunately, back-to-the-basket centers are becoming more of a rarity. That, combined with an iffy attitude led to Howard playing for his fifth team in seven seasons.
There’s no doubt that Howard will bring value to the Charlotte Hornets, a team that desperately needs a capable center. After all, he did average 13 points, 13 rebounds and over one block per game last season. But there’s a reason why so many teams have given up on him over the last number of years. Don’t be surprised if Charlotte is yet another pit spot for Howard.
5 Succeed: Paul Millsap — Denver Nuggets
When thinking of the most underrated players in the NBA, the award would probably go to Paul Millsap. He’ll never be recognized as one of the top players in the game, but his consistency, leadership qualities, team first mentality and flexibility on the court are things he brings to the table on a nightly basis. Ever since he traded in his Atlanta zip code for Denver, many experts expect the Nuggets to make some noise next season.
Surrounded by Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Wilson Chandler and Gary Harris, Millsap has as good a starting lineup — maybe even better — than he did during his heyday with the Hawks. His 18 points and eight rebounds per game are his strong suits, but Millsap averaged nearly four assists per game as well — something that will go over well with his new teammates.
4 Fail: Tim Hardaway Jr. - New York Knicks
If there is one team that deserves to be called a dumpster fire, it is the New York Knicks. They’ve been in the headlines a lot this season, but for all the wrong reasons. Phil Jackson was an albatross as team president, but was fired after he drafted a player he believed fit into his offensive system. They’ve had drama with their two stars, Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis (although that involved Jackson). Their latest flub was signing Tim Hardaway Jr. to a four-year, $71 million offer sheet, one that the Atlanta Hawks refused to match.
Hardaway is a nice player. He grew with the Hawks as he became a more consistent scorer and improved on the defensive end. He’s also just 25, which means he’s yet to hit his physical prime. But the — who drafted Hardaway back in 2013 — have limited cap space, and by all accounts, they overpaid for his services. The move was smart, as the organization wants young talent to build around Porzingis. But it wouldn’t shock anyone if he fails to live up to his end of the deal.
3 Succeed: Gordan Hayward - Boston Celtics
The Utah Jazz had a great thing going for them. Opting to take the youth approach, they built around the draft and shrewd trades, making a valuable core of Gordan Hayward, Rudy Gobert, Derrick Favors, George Hill, Rodney Hood and Joe Johnson and were expected to be a top contender in the Western Conference for years to come. That all came crumbling down when Hayward — their best overall player — decided to head East in free agency and sign with the Boston Celtics.
The match between Hayward and Celtics seems perfect. The small forward has turned into one of the most well-rounded players in the game and upgrades the Celtics roster. He also gets a chance to play for his college coach, someone he holds in high regard. It’ll always be tough to get past the Cleveland Cavaliers as long as LeBron James is in town, but Hayward gives them a better shot at doing so.
2 Fail: Chris Paul - Houston Rockets
In what was arguably the biggest move in free agency, Chris Paul — who was expected to re-sign with the Los Angeles Clippers or strike a deal with the San Antonio Spurs — decided to take his talents to Houston and play alongside James Harden on the Rockets. On paper, the backcourt of Paul and Harden is not-so-arguably the best that the Association has to offer next season.
Unfortunately, however, that’s on paper. Last year, Harden was the runner-up for the MVP award, thanks in large part due to becoming the point guard in Mike D’Antoni’s uptempo system. But with Chris Paul now in town, the Rockets have one of the greatest point guards of this generation, and he, too, loves to play with the ball in his hands. The sky is truly the limit for the Rockets but it has a great chance to backfire.
1 Succeed: Paul George - Oklahoma City Thunder
When Paul George told the Indiana Pacers that he wouldn’t be re-signing with the team next season, he became the most sought-after player in the NBA. Because many believe he’ll head to the Los Angeles Lakers next offseason, both they and the Los Angeles Clippers were linked to George. The Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics and even the Golden State Warriors were open to taking a one-year flier on the superstar. That’s why it was all the more surprising when the Oklahoma City Thunder came in and pulled the trigger on a rental.
It’ll be fun to watch Chris Paul and James Harden play together, but there may be no greater duo than George and Russell Westbrook. George is recognized as one of the most well-rounded players in basketball and Westbrook — the reigning MVP — will benefit from his presence. With the two together in OKC, there’s a chance the Thunder go to heights that Westbrook and Kevin Durant couldn’t get to.
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