Much like most sports leagues, the NBA is always distorting and fluctuating. Usually the most prominent changes that alter the course of the seasons to come are those that are made during the offseason and this year it is very apparent that drastic changes are being made in the NBA, as a result of things such as trades, free agency signings, legends retiring, contracts ending, and other things of a similar nature. And with all of this in mind, we can be sure that after this offseason the NBA will definitely never be the same.
All-Star players are jumping to championship-winning super teams, more money is being put into contracts than ever before, some of the greatest players in the history of the sport are retiring, and basketball fans cannot help but wonder how the 2016-2017 season will unfold. So here we have provided you with a quick guide to eight teams that have improved in the NBA this 2016 offseason, as well as seven teams that have taken a turn for the worse.
15. Better: Golden State Warriors
Does it really surprise you to find Golden State on this list? Even though Golden State is a team that pretty much has it all, there’s no doubt that Kevin Durant is a huge improvement over Harrison Barnes and that the 27 year old lengthy scoring machine is going to be a beneficial asset to the team. Steph Curry may not be the greatest assisting player of his position in the league, but he has done his job at dishing the ball to Klay Thompson and Draymond Green when necessary in the past. Kevin Durant may very well provide Golden State with the one thing that no one wants to see them with: more scoring opportunities. Along with Kevin Durant, the Golden State Warriors also acquired Zaza Pachulia from Dallas, David West from San Antonio, Damian Jones who was the 30th overall drack pick in the 2016 draft, the draft rights to Patrick McCaw from the Milwaukee Bucks, and new assistant coach Mike Brown.
14. Worse: Brooklyn Nets
As the Nets continue to look for hope by making staffing arrangements, such as hiring new head coach Kenny Atkinson and general manager Sean Marks, they have not been making any moves during the offseason that have made any type of improvement to their roster and, if Brooklyn is not progressing, they are deteriorating in this league. After relieving Jarrett Jack and Thaddeus Young, Brooklyn is left with little to no strong talent. Their big signing was Jeremy Lin, who they hope will give them an offensive advantage, but that seems a little farfetched at this point. Willie Reed and Wayne Ellington also had contracts that expired this offseason and both signed with the Miami Heat after leaving Brooklyn. Expect a lot more mediocrity in Brooklyn season and for them to move even more of their pieces, like Brook Lopez, before the season ends.
13. Better: New York Knicks
Now we all know that Derrick Rose has a pretty solid record when it comes to ditching class and leaving behind nothing more than a doctor’s note and a warm place to sit on the bench, but the former MVP still has loads of potential, and a new setting and environment has done wondrous things to injury-prone athletes in the past. Along with Derrick Rose came the 6’6″ guard, Justin Holiday. On top of the trade agreements that were arranged with the Chicago Bulls, the newfound presence of Joaquim Noah will definitely fulfill a much-needed big man role, as well as some energy that could really help the team in tough situations. More free agents picked up by the New Yorks Knicks during this offseason include Courtney Lee, Brandon Jennings, Willy Hernangomez, and Mindaugas Kuzminskas. If Rose is somewhat healthy and Kristaps Porzingis continues to improve, the Knicks might actually be competitive in the East.
12. Worse: Chicago Bulls
Derrick Rose is out of the picture. Joaquim Noah is out of the picture. Pau Gasol is out of the picture. After these players left, less than a skeleton was what they left remaining. Included in Chicago’s losses were E’twaun Moore and Aaron Brooks, who signed with New Orleans and Indiana after their contracts expired this offseason. Much like the new Knicks roster, it is nearly impossible to decide if they can make this work or not, with a very interesting collection of diverse players. It seems as though the Chicago Bulls do not realize that they are in a rebuilding stage, as they continue to apply band-aids where there should most definitely be a cast. Only time will tell what kind of team can be made out of Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade, and Rajon Rondo, but I think most of us can agree that it will not be good.
11. Better: Indiana Pacers
After serving as head coach for the Pacers for more than five years, Frank Vogel was relieved from his position by president of the Indiana team, Larry Bird. Bird then placed former associate head coach Nate McMillan to take charge of the head coaching role. Bird has been very active in reorganizing and rearranging the coaching staff as well as attempting to construct a team around Paul George in order to allow George to optimize the Indiana Pacers’ overall game. Some of the great additions to the team include Jeff Teague from the Atlanta Hawks and Thaddeus Young from the Brooklyn Nets, both of whom were free agents signings. Lastly, center and power forward Al Jefferson was also signed with the Indiana Pacers for $30 million on a 3 year contract. Even though he somewhat slowed down last season, during the playoffs last season, Al Jefferson averaged a solid 13.3 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. Perhaps a change of scenery will invigorate the big man.
10. Worse: Los Angeles Clippers
The Los Angeles Clippers have a fairly decent collection of talent, and an expensive one at that. With mounds of money going to stars like Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford, the budget that the Clippers are dealing with may no longer work with what they need. During this offseason, a large amount of the Los Angeles Clippers bench saw their contracts expire and there is little to no depth left on the roster. With that being said, it may not have been worth it to resign Austin Rivers to a contract worth $35 million for three years. Thus far, Marreese Speights is the only decent addition to the team, although Speights is not exactly what the Clips were looking for, therefore Speights will likely make no improvement to the team’s performance at all.
9. Better: Utah Jazz
Miraculously, the Utah Jazz managed to pick up veteran PG George Hill and with less than $10 million on the contract. Most can come to an agreement that this was worth trading away for the 12th overall draft pick, which turned out to be Tauren Prince. Aside from Hill, Utah also attained seven-time NBA All-Star Joe Johnson and Boris Diaw during this offseason. In addition to the roster changes, Utah also agreed on a contract extension with coach Quin Snyder. The Utah Jazz also acquired Joel Bolomboy with the 52nd over draft pick, as well as the draft rights to rookie guard Marcus Paige from the Brooklyn Nets. Young talent like Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, Rodney Hood, and Rudy Gobert are capable of keeping this team on the rise and will allow the franchise to continue to push forward without slipping into a backwards momentum, and now the veterans will help ice the cake. Expect the Jazz to compete for a playoff spot this year.
8. Worse: Oklahoma City Thunder
It is no secret that the loss of Kevin Durant will definitely be a major detriment to the Oklahoma City collective. However, that wasn’t the only big hit to the OKC roster. Other big losses that took place in Oklahoma this offseason resulted in the, almost completely stripping the team. Forward Serge Ibaka was traded to Orlando in exchange for Victor Olapido, Ersan Ilyasova, and the rights to Domantas Sabonis whom the Magic picked up at the 11th pick of the first round in the 2016 draft. Randy Foye, who signed with Brooklyn, and Dion Waiters, who signed with Miami, both had expired contracts. Aside from that, the Thunder have not had a very active offseason. Russell Westbrook made the boldest of decisions when signing back with a team that will primarily consist of Steven Adams, Victor Olapido and, well, himself. Oklahoma City sort of got the short end of the stick and there is really no other way to put it. Better luck next year fellas.
7. Better: Los Angeles Lakers
This might be some what debatable, but the retirement of the late and great Kobe Bryant may possibly be one of the best things to happen to the Los Angeles Lakers ever since they drafted the very same player. This retirement will definitely allow for more funds and will provide the new young core in Los Angles to function as a fully-geared team. Also, let’s also not forget the fact that they drafted one of the most highly anticipated players for the next season, Brandon Ingram. Ingram filled a position on the team that was once intended for Kevin Durant, whom many compare Ingram to. Los Angeles also retained the increasingly evolving guard Jordan Clarkson for four years on a $50 million contract. This generous contract definitely helped further establish a relationship with Clarkson, who has not showed interest in leaving the Los Angeles Lakers anytime soon. While the Timofey Mozgov signing can’t be argued as prudent, everything else the Lakers have done is pointing to them being more competitive in the near future.
6. Worse: Dallas Mavericks
Dirk Nowitzki has agreed to sign back with the Dallas Mavericks once again, which will make it 18 years in Dallas for the German star, where he was traded immediately after being drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks in ’98. Now it’s not that I am not confident in Dirk, however. when this two year contract reaches its expiration, the 13-time NBA All-Star will be 40 years old. On top of this, Dallas has also agreed to spend $95 million on a four year contract with Harrison Barnes, who has never really proven he can be a top option on an NBA Team and Andrew Bogut, who has appeared to be slowing down over the last few years. Players whose contracts expired and sign on with other teams include Chandler Parsons who signed with the Memphis Grizzlies, Raymond Felton who signed with the Los Angeles Clippers, Zaza Pachulia who signed with the Golden State Warriors, and David Lee who signed with the San Antonio Spurs.
5. Better: San Antonio Spurs
Just as the retirement of Kobe Bryant will help the Los Angeles Lakers, the concept will translate to the retirement of Tim Duncan from the San Antonia Spurs. Although Tim Duncan may have had a few more years in him, this was a decision that will be best for both him, and the San Antonio team. Since he left, the Spurs were able to add a younger and more productive (at the moment) Pau Gasol. In adding Gasol to the team, a new dimension will be added to their game and Gasol’s hunger for a ring with the Spurs can certainly be an understandable aspiration for a great player who may also be considering retirement in the not-so-distant future. In addition to Gasol, San Antonia also was also able to grab a few good free agents and a decent draft pick. The free agents signed by the Spurs this offseason have been Dewayne Dedmon and Davis Bertrans; and at pick 29 during the draft, the Spurs acquired Dejounte Murray.
4. Worse: Houston Rockets
This is the perfect example of a team that is seemingly trying to appear cool, calm and collected. when they should most definitely be panicking and searching deep within their management staffing to find some answers. The biggest loss on this team this offseason was Dwight Howard, as he went to merge with the talents of Kent Bazemore, Kyle Korver, and Paul Millsap in Atlanta, though they’ll likely be happy to be rid of the headaches he brings. The contract of Terrence Jones also expired before he signed with the New Orleans Pelicans. Although Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon are decent players, they aren’t quite worth the money that they are consuming from the team’s budget. Ryan Anderson signed for $80 million over four years and they spent $53 million on Eric Gordon, who is recently coming off of an injury. This expensive, yet mediocre bench players will not bring much improvement.
3. Better: Minnesota Timberwolves
After a season that has proved the talents of both Andrew Wiggins and Anthony-Karl Towns to be very promising, the Minnesota Timberwolves have also had a rather favorable offseason. Not only did the fifth overall draft pick allow Minnesota to pick up point guard Kris Dunn in the first round, but the coaching staff has also been reassembled and coach Tim Thibodeau will now carry the honor of teaching the young talents on this team. Decent free agent selections that may benefit the Minnesota Timberwolves this season include Brandon Rush, Cole Aldrich, and Jordan Hill. These additions will provide some comforting depth for them to rely on. Although there is still no official word on the return of Kevin Garnett, things have been looking very good for the Wolves. It cannot be determined that Minnesota will have a fantastic season and, it is possible that they may even miss the playoffs once again this coming season, but this year will certainly be an improvement from the last.
2. Worse: Sacramento Kings
If it is not bad enough that Rajon Rondo went to play with Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler in Chicago with the rest of the Bulls, then you will be excited to hear that Rondo is not the only player that abandoned a team that has slowly been abating. The younger brother of Steph Curry, Seth Curry, had a decent season last year, scoring 6.8 points per game from the bench, but he’s since moved on to the Dallas Mavericks. But even more so than the roster, the new coaching staff will be the soft foundation that is ultimately restricting to the Sacramento team. After a series of hirings and rehirings, Sacramento now has all new assistant coaches, a new assistant general manager, and head coach George Karl has been replaced with Dave Joerger, who was recently fired by the Grizzlies. The only glue left that is still allowing Sacramento to be held together as a competing team would be DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay, although Gay will likely be traded before the season is up.
1. Better: New Orleans Pelicans
During the 2016 draft, New Orleans used the sixth overall pick to select shooting guard Buddy Hield from the University of Oklahoma. Along with the new draft pick and Anthony Davis, the Pelicans appear to have a decent start at building a strong competing Western Conference team. New Orleans also managed to acquire forward Solomon Hill for four years on a $48 million contract. The most recent addition to the New Orleans team is shooting guard E’twaun Moore, who spent his previous two years in Chicago. E’twaun Moore started 22 out of 59 games with the Chicago Bulls and scored an average 7.5 points per game throughout last season. Other new additions to the New Orleans roster include Terrence Jones, Langston Galloway, and the draft rights to draft pick number 33, Cheick Diallo.
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