The NBA truly has become a 12-month league.
Following an exciting, but somewhat disappointing NBA Finals rematch, the league did not slow down, as it launched into one of the wildest offseasons in recent memory.
This offseason saw big names like Paul George, Chris Paul, Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler, Gordon Hayward, Isaiah Thomas, and Paul Millsap change teams while other marquee players like Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade are expected to be on the move soon.
Following such a wild offseason, here’s our breakdown of who won and who lost the summer.
WINNER: Boston Celtics
Biggest additions: Gordon Hayward, Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum
Biggest losses: Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, 2018 Nets draft pick
One thing to know: After finishing first in the East and making the Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics made moves this offseason. That included signing Gordon Hayward, one of the best two-way wings in the NBA, then trading for Kyrie Irving. Losing Bradley and Crowder will hurt the Celtics’ defense, but they added star power that should help them truly challenge the Cavaliers for the best team in the East.
WINNER: Oklahoma City Thunder
Biggest additions: Paul George, Patrick Patterson, Raymond Felton
Biggest losses: Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis
One thing to know: The Thunder robbed the Pacers for Paul George to give Russell Westbrook a co-star just one year after losing Kevin Durant to the Warriors. There’s risk, of course, that George leaves next summer and that Westbrook doesn’t sign a long-term extension, but in the meantime, the Thunder should challenge for a top seed in the West once again.
LOSER: Indiana Pacers
Biggest additions: Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis
Biggest losses: Paul George
One thing to know: The exact offers the Pacers turned down for Paul George are unknown, but many suspect they could have gotten a better deal for the All-Star forward. Oladipo is a 25-year-old combo guard on a bloated deal, Sabonis has potential as a future stretch four, but shot just 32% from three last year, and they didn’t get a draft pick back. The return for George ranks low among what other teams have received for star players.
WINNER: Houston Rockets
Biggest additions: Chris Paul, P.J. Tucker, Luc Mbah a Moute
Biggest losses: Patrick Beverley, Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell, Lou Williams
One thing to know: The Rockets shocked the NBA world when they brought in Chris Paul to join James Harden and form perhaps the most dynamic back-court in the NBA. They continued to do solid work by adding big, versatile defenders in Tucker and Mbah a Moute to create an offensive juggernaut that should defend well, too. If there’s a team to challenge the Golden State Warriors, it’s these guys.
WINNER: James Harden
- Jonathan Bachman/Getty
One thing to know: Harden signed the NBA’s biggest deal yet, a six-year, $228 million extension that will pay him $47 million in the final season.
LOSER: Cleveland Cavaliers
Biggest additions: Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Derrick Rose, Jeff Green, Cedi Osman
Biggest losses: Kyrie Irving
One thing to know: It’s hard to deem any team with LeBron James a “loser,” but what, exactly, went right for the Cavaliers this offseason? They lost GM David Griffin, missed out on top replacement candidate Chauncey Billups after they low-balled him, underwhelmed in free agency, and lost Kyrie Irving, who seemed determined to escape Cleveland before LeBron has the chance to do so himself next summer. The return package for Irving is solid, but will be considerably weaker if Thomas is out for a long stretch with a hip injury.
WINNER: Stephen Curry
One thing to know: Harden may have signed the biggest extension in NBA history, but for a short time, Curry owned the NBA’s biggest contract, a five-year, $201 million deal. After being perhaps the most underpaid player in the league for years, Curry finally reaped the rewards of his hard work.
WINNER: Lonzo Ball
- Ethan Miller/Getty
One thing to know: With the help of his outspoken father and ludicrously priced shoes, Lonzo Ball had one of the most interesting lead-ups to the NBA draft in recent history. Despite rumors he might slip in the draft, he ended up with his hometown Los Angeles Lakers, and then dazzled during Summer League. Regardless of the outside noise around the Ball family, a 19-year-old kid’s dream came true this summer.
LOSER: Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks
One thing to know: Anthony and the Knicks have had all summer to finalize an inevitable breakup and still haven’t done so. Anthony’s list of teams he’ll accept a trade to is just one, and the Knicks don’t like what the Rockets have to offer. As of now, both sides are set for an awkward reunion for media day and training camp, knowing neither party wants to be involved with the other.
WINNER: Philadelphia 76ers
Biggest additions: Markelle Fultz, J.J. Redick, Amir Johnson
Biggest losses: Gerald Henderson
One thing to know: After years of rebuilding, the 76ers finally seem ready to take the next step. They own the league’s most intriguing core with Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Fultz, and added respected veterans like Redick and Johnson to help stabilize them. In a weak East, the 76ers may compete for a playoff spot.
WINNER: Minnesota Timberwolves
Biggest additions: Jimmy Butler, Jeff Teague, Taj Gibson, Jamal Crawford
Biggest losses: Zach Lavine, Kris Dunn
One thing to know: The Timberwolves stole Butler from the Bulls, then decided to go all-in on a playoff pursuit by signing Teague, Gibson, and Crawford to add solid veterans around a promising young core. There’s questions about fit and the expectations will be high, but the Wolves seem poised to make it into the postseason for the first time since 2004.
LOSER: Miami Heat
- Mike Ehrmann/Getty
Biggest additions: Kelly Olynyk
Biggest losses: none
One thing to know: The Heat were among the best teams in the second half of last season, but narrowly missed the playoffs because of a brutal start. They decided to gamble on their core by committing $204 million to the likes of Dion Waiters, James Johnson, Josh Richardson, and Olynyk. Statistically speaking, as ESPN’s Kevin Pelton notes, the Heat are likely to regress and they’ve eaten up future cap space and locked themselves into long-term deals that may be hard to trade down the line.
WINNER: Otto Porter Jr.
One thing to know: Restricted free agency was tough on many players, but not Otto Porter Jr. While most teams sat out of bidding on restricted free agents, the Nets offered him a four-year, $100 million contract that the Wizards ended up matching.
WINNER: Tim Hardaway Jr.
One thing to know: Hardaway Jr. was another winner of restricted free agency. Two years after trading him away, the Knicks were apparently impressed with Hardaway’s scoring knack and athleticism, and signed him to a four-year, $71 million deal.
LOSER: Nerlens Noel
One thing to know: Noel, however, was not a winner of restricted free agency. Arguably one of the better free agents this summer, the athletic, defensive-minded Noel reportedly turned down a four-year, $70 million deal form the Mavs, then saw the market dry up. He’s taking a one-year gamble on the $4 million qualifying option to become a free agent again next season.
WINNER: Dallas Mavericks
- Ethan Miller/Getty
Biggest additions: Dennis Smith Jr.
Biggest losses: none
One thing to know: The Mavericks are winners for landing Smith in the draft. Smith fell down draft boards because of his college team’s poor season last year. However, in Summer League, Smith showed off his freakish athleticism and looked like a star in the making. The Mavs have been loading up for a rebuild and may have found a centerpiece eight other teams passed on.
WINNER: Brooklyn Nets
- Josh Lefkowitz/Getty
Biggest additions: D’Angelo Russell, Allen Crabbe, Demarre Carroll, Timofey Mozgov
Biggest losses: Brook Lopez
One thing to know: The draft-pick-less Nets have done a solid job taking on contracts other teams don’t want in exchange for future picks and assets. They flipped Brook Lopez for Russell, a talented third-year guard who fell out of favor in LA, landed a future pick for Carroll, and snagged Crabbe, who has shown signs of becoming a solid offensive guard. The Nets won’t be good this year, but they won’t be awful, either, which is an improvement.
LOSER: Small-market teams
One thing to know: This summer saw Paul George leave the Indiana Pacers, Gordon Hayward leave the Utah Jazz, and Kyrie Irving leave the Cleveland Cavaliers amid rumors that LeBron James may do the same next summer. Additionally, the talk of lottery reform reportedly has some small-market teams worried that acquiring stars will become even harder for them. Add in the report that nine NBA teams lost money this season – in cities like Memphis, Cleveland, San Antonio, and Orlando, for example – and it has not been a good offseason for teams outside of major markets.
WINNER: Sacramento Kings
Biggest additions: George Hill, Zach Randolph, Vince Carter, De’Aaron Fox, Justin Jackson, Harry Giles
Biggest losses: Darren Collinson, Ty Lawson
One thing to know: The Kings, long the NBA’s most distraught franchise, not only landed three draft picks in the NBA’s deepest, most talented class in years, they then added respected veterans to help steer the ship. Much like the Nets, the Kings won’t be good, but they have direction and promise and that’s a start.
WINNER: Golden State Warriors
Biggest additions: Nick Young, Omri Cassipi
Biggest losses: Ian Clark
One thing to know: The 2016 defending champions not only brought back the entire cast from last year, they added a dynamic shooter and floor-spacer in Young and a do-it-all, versatile forward in Cassipi for extra depth. Lest anyone thought the Warriors weren’t good enough last year, they’ll be even better this year.
LOSER: Teams not named “Warriors”
One thing to know: If last year’s NBA season felt like a two-horse race, this year seems like a solo act. While there are several intriguing teams who could win lots of games this season, the Warriors are heads and shoulders above everyone else, even pseudo-contenders like the Cavs, Rockets, and Celtics. As Jeff Van Gundy said, the Warriors are going to win forever if nothing changes.
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