Offseason In Review

2015 Offseason In Review Series

Most of the NBA’s major offseason moves take place in July, but many significant transactions take place just as the season begins, as the Cavaliers and Tristan Thompson can attest. We at Hoops Rumors took a look at the full arc of the 2015 offseason, team by team, throughout November. The pieces linked below recapped and examined the offseason moves for each of the league’s 30 clubs, encompassing the June draft and going all the way up to the extensions and option decisions that took place in the season’s first week. If you missed any of our Offseason in Review posts, you can see them here, and this post will be linked on the sidebar under the “Featured Posts” menu.

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division

Central Division

Southeast Division

Western Conference

Northwest Division

Pacific Division

Southwest Division

Offseason In Review: Utah Jazz

Hoops Rumors is in the process of looking back at each team’s offseason, from the end of the playoffs in June right up until opening night. Trades, free agent signings, draft picks, contract extensions, option decisions, camp invitees, and more will be covered, as we examine the moves each franchise made over the last several months.

Signings


Extensions

  • None

Trades

  • Acquired $1.5MM from the Trail Blazers in exchange for the draft rights to Daniel Diez, the 2015 No. 54 overall pick.

Waiver Claims


Draft Picks

  • Trey Lyles (Round 1, 12th overall). Signed via rookie exception to rookie scale contract.
  • Tibor Pleiss (Round 2, 2010, 31st overall). Signed via cap room for three years, $9MM. Third year is partially guaranteed for $500K.
  • Olivier Hanlan (Round 2, 42nd overall). Signed overseas.
  • Raul Neto (Round 2, 2013, 47th overall). Signed via cap room for three years, $2.9MM. Third year is non-guaranteed.

Camp Invitees


Departing Players


Rookie Contract Option Decisions


The Jazz began to look like a real contender over the second half of last season and one strategy entering the 2015 offseason would have been to make a major acquisition to take the team to the next level. However, Utah wasn’t going to take any shortcuts. Senior Vice President of Basketball Operations Kevin O’Connor and GM Dennis Lindsey have built the team’s foundation over the past several years and this summer was about supplementing the young core that the executive tamdem had already assembled.

Nov 30, 2015; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) dunks the ball during the first half against the Golden State Warriors at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

 Russ Isabella/USA TODAY Sports

The seeds of this team’s success were planted nearly five years ago when Utah traded Deron Williams to the Nets. In retrospect, the trade was an outstanding sell-high moment for the franchise and it provided an important building block for the future. Derrick Favors was the prize of the trade and he has developed into a force on both ends of the floor. The other pieces in the trade didn’t produce any significant building blocks, although one piece indirectly shaped the franchise going forward.

Enes Kanter, whom the Jazz took with the Nets’ first round pick in 2011, showed some promise with Utah, but after three and a half seasons, the Jazz gave up on the Kanter-Favors pairing and shipped Kanter to Oklahoma City. In return, the Jazz netted a few picks and the rights to Tibor Pleiss, whom the team signed to a three year, $9MM deal this offseason. Pleiss wasn’t expected to soak up major minutes, but he gives the team frontcourt depth in case of injuries.

The real value of the Kanter trade came in the form of minutes for Rudy Gobert, whose sudden emergence, as Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune told Hoops Rumors, no one saw coming. Once coach Quin Snyder inserted Gobert into the starting lineup, the team’s defense really started to hum. The success carried over this season, as Utah ranks third in the league in points allowed per game. Gobert is sixth in the league in rebounds thus far in the season with 10.8 per contest and second in the league in blocks with 2.77 per game.

The Jazz added another athletic big man when they used the No. 12 overall pick on Trey Lyles. The 6’10” Lyles, a power forward, often played out of position as a small forward at Kentucky, but the experience allowed him to develop a perimeter game, as Arthur Hill of Hoops Rumors detailed in his Prospect Profile.  The 20-year-old has the length and frame to play both power forward and center and Snyder has given him run at the four and the five this season. He hasn’t seen many offensive opportunities thus far, scoring only 2.1 points in 8.5 minutes per game. The team isn’t really counting on him for production this season, as he’s viewed as more of a long-term project.

Utah was counting on Dante Exum to take the next step in his game, but the Australian tore the ACL in his left knee late in the summer and isn’t expected to play during the 2015/16 campaign. The Jazz didn’t respond to the Exum news with a major transaction, even though they had the cap room — nearly $7.27MM — to make a substantial offer to a free agent. Instead, they increased the roles of the players who were already in house. The Jazz inserted Raul Neto, who signed a three-year, $2.9MM deal with the team earlier in the offseason, into the starting lineup and he has impressed in 18.0 minutes per game this season. Neto is snatching 1.2 steals per game and the only point guard who ranks ahead of him in ESPN’s Real Defensive Plus/Minus is Kyle LowryTrey Burke is getting 21.5 minutes per game, but he’s improved since last season, shooting 44.9% from behind the arc while sporting a player efficiency rating of 15.8.

The play of Burke and Neto will be crucial this season, but the development of Alec Burks, who missed most of last season with a shoulder injury, will be key to the team’s success as well. Snyder has used Burks off the bench and at times as a de facto point guard this season and the Colorado product has meshed well with fellow wings Gordon Hayward, Joe Ingles and Rodney Hood. Burks is only dishing out 2.0 assists per game, but he’s scoring 15.1 points per game and shooting 39.5% from 3-point range, with a player efficiency rating of 16.2. If Burks can continue to progress on the defensive end and demonstrate that he can be proficient at both backcourt positions, his four-year, $42MM extension from the fall of 2014 will start to look like a bargain and the team will have serious sleeper potential.

The Jazz want to develop their core. They’re counting on Hayward, Hood, Burks, Favors and Gobert to take the next step together and form a contender in a loaded Western Conference. Development takes time. The franchise could have tried to accelerate the process this past summer by signing a few veterans or trading for an established talent. However, that’s not the front office’s current objective and a quiet offseason sounds like it was a solid plan for an up-and-coming team.

Eddie Scarito contributed to this post. The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of it.

Offseason In Review: Houston Rockets

Hoops Rumors is in the process of looking back at each team’s offseason, from the end of the playoffs in June right up until opening night. Trades, free agent signings, draft picks, contract extensions, option decisions, camp invitees, and more will be covered, as we examine the moves each franchise made over the last several months.

Signings


Extensions

  • None

Trades


Waiver Claims


Draft Picks

  • Sam Dekker (Round 1, 18th overall). Signed via rookie scale exception to rookie scale contract.
  • Montrezl Harrell (Round 2, 32nd overall). Signed via mid-level exception for three years, $3.135MM.

Camp Invitees


Departing Players


Rookie Contract Option Decisions


The Rockets were having a wonderful offseason until something went wrong — they started playing games.

"Nov

Thomas B. Shea/USA TODAY Sports Images

After landing two projected first-round talents in the draft, re-signing nearly everyone from last year’s Western Conference finalists and dealing four spare parts for Ty Lawson, there were championship dreams in Houston. But the early-season reality has been far different. The Rockets have been plagued by a combination of poor shooting, poor defense and poor effort as they stumbled to an embarrassing start that led to the firing of coach Kevin McHale after 11 games.

“We just weren’t playing with any juice, with any rhythm,” McHale told Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle after the move was announced. “We haven’t been able to get the problems solved. We probably had more meetings in the last six weeks than in my previous four years here. It wasn’t working.” 

But it was expected to work, especially after a summer that appeared to be successful in every phase. It started in late June with the draft, where the Rockets were pleasantly surprised with the two players who fell to them. Using the 18th overall pick, which they acquired from the Pelicans in the 2014 trade involving Omer Asik, Houston landed Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker, a 6’9″ sharpshooter out of Wisconsin who was ranked 20th by Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress and 16th by ESPN’s Chad Ford. With the second pick in the second round, acquired from the Knicks in a 2012 deal involving Marcus Camby, the Rockets selected Montrezl Harrell (ranked 24th by Givony, 17th by Ford), a bruising 6’8″ forward out of Louisville known for his tenacity and rebounding. Dekker is expected to be sidelined for about three months after undergoing back surgery November 20th, while Harrell has fallen out of the rotation lately but showed flashes of promise in early-season play.

“I’m very excited,” GM Daryl Morey said to Feigen after the draft. “We got two top-, top-, top-level winners in college on extremely good Wisconsin and Louisville teams.”

With their draft picks in hand, the Rockets set out to keep the core of last year’s Southwest Division champs. Point guard Patrick Beverley signed for $23MM over four years. Reserve swingman Corey Brewer received $23.4MM over three years. Reserve forward K.J. McDaniels, who saw little playing time after coming to Houston in a midseason trade with the Sixers, wound up with a three-year, $10MM deal in late July, and veteran guard Jason Terry, after considering an offer from the Pelicans, decided in late August to remain in Houston, agreeing to the veteran’s minimum of nearly $1.5MM for one year. The only rotation players from 2014/15 who didn’t return were Josh Smith, who accepted a veteran’s minimum contract with the Clippers, and Pablo Prigioni, who also joined the Clippers on a minimum deal after having been included in the Lawson trade and then having been waived by the Nuggets. The Rockets added one outside free agent in Marcus Thornton, who signed a one-year minimum-salary deal worth nearly $1.2MM in July.

Even with the success in other areas, the Lawson trade was supposed to be the centerpiece of the Rockets’ offseason. The seventh-year point guard averaged a career high in assists with 9.6 per game last season, and he was expected to be the second playmaker Houston needed to reduce the burden on James Harden. Not only did he seem like a perfect fit, but his price tag was low, brought down by off-court issues, like a pair of DUI arrests and skipping practice. In return, Houston sent Prigioni, Joey Dorsey, Kostas Papanikolaou, Nick Johnson, cash considerations and a protected draft pick to Denver. The Nuggets subsequently waived all four players.

In one of the conditions of the deal, the Rockets got Lawson to agree to make his $13.2MM salary for the 2016/17 season — the final year of his contract — non-guaranteed. It’s a decision that may limit his time in Houston to one season, or possibly less. The fit the Rockets envisioned hasn’t worked out, and Lawson’s early-season numbers are down in nearly every category. Through 16 games, he is averaging 7.0 points and 4.5 assists while shooting 36% from the floor and 25% from 3-point range. He was pulled from the starting lineup when the Rockets made their coaching change and may be in danger of falling out of the rotation altogether with Beverley returning from injury this week.

The Rockets are dealing with the disconnect between a seemingly successful offseason and a nightmarish November. They’re currently getting nothing from Dekker and Harrell, the players they re-signed over the summer are off to slow starts and the addition of Lawson has been a disaster. A roster shakeup may be necessary to give new coach J.B. Bickerstaff any chance at leading the team back to the playoffs, which means the work Morey did over the offseason may not be complete.

Eddie Scarito contributed to this post. The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of it.

Offseason In Review: Sacramento Kings

Hoops Rumors is in the process of looking back at each team’s offseason, from the end of the playoffs in June right up until opening night. Trades, free agent signings, draft picks, contract extensions, option decisions, camp invitees, and more will be covered, as we examine the moves each franchise made over the last several months.

Signings


Extensions

  • None

Trades


Waiver Claims

  • None

Draft Picks


Departing Players


Rookie Contract Option Decisions


Steve Mitchell/USA Today Sports Images

Steve Mitchell/USA Today Sports Images

The Kings are rapidly becoming known more for their behind-the-scenes drama than for what the team accomplishes on the court. Head coach George Karl has seemingly been on the hot seat since being hired late last season, and this front office soap opera has made it difficult for the franchise to make any forward progress whatsoever. The team’s power structure has been in a perpetual state of flux, and the bulk of Sacramento’s offseason moves have raised more questions about the team’s future than providing much-needed answers.

Nine of the 15 players that began this season with the Kings were not on the roster when the 2014/15 campaign came to a close, which is a level of turnover only matched by the Trail Blazers in the Western Conference and is unmatched in the East. New vice president of basketball operations Vlade Divac used the trade market, the draft and free agency to reconstitute 60% of his roster this summer, firmly placing his own stamp on the team, for better or for worse. It remains to be seen just how long Divac will be in power, with team owner Vivek Ranadive reportedly continuing to flirt with the idea of making a run at Kentucky head coach John Calipari. The Kings denied a report over the summer indicating that they reached out to Calipari, and Calipari has continually maintained that he isn’t interested in returning to the NBA, despite persistent rumors to the contrary.

Sacramento began reshaping its roster with a pair of trades that cleared salary cap room, but the team also raised some questions about its direction. Shipping young point guard Ray McCallum to the Spurs for a 2016 second-round pick isn’t a team-changing event, though it was a bit puzzling that the Kings would give up on such a young player who had little impact on their cap figure given that he makes the league minimum. McCallum can hit restricted free agency next summer, but he’s not likely to spark a bidding war, and in the event that he did, the team could have simply chosen not to match the offer and just let him walk.

The other trade that Divac engineered over the summer was even more troubling for me. The Kings dumped Jason Thompson, Carl Landry, and Nik Stauskas on the Sixers to clear the decks for a pursuit of point guard Rajon Rondo, swingman Wesley Matthews, and possibly Monta Ellis, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. The team whiffed on both Matthews and Ellis, and while the players shipped to Philly are far from irreplaceable, the draft assets Sacramento gave up may very well become an issue. I also question the team moving on from Stauskas after just one season. While I don’t believe that “Sauce Castillo” will amount to much more than a reserve in the league, if that, it’s troubling to see a franchise giving up on a former lottery pick so quickly.

Sacramento may have missed out on Ellis and Matthews, and I do think that’s a good thing for the long term considering the size of Matthews’ deal with Dallas, and Ellis’ penchant for being a stat sheet player and little more. The team did manage to land Rondo, who has been a triple-double machine thus far in 2015/16. While Rondo has always shown the ability to contribute in multiple ways, it’s his history of being a difficult player to coach that is the major concern. Karl’s situation is already volatile, and the addition of Rondo could be akin to pouring gasoline on a blazing fire if things between him and the embattled coach were to turn sour. The Kings signed Rondo to a one-year pact, which mitigates much of the risk, but it also could serve to throw out any continuity developed if the playmaker departs as an unrestricted free agent next summer.

The Kings made a number of interesting additions over the summer via the free agent market, including signing center Kosta Koufos, veteran swingman Caron Butler, combo forward Quincy Acy, and shooting guard Marco Belinelli. The additions of Belinelli and Koufos were solid moves, and both players bring talent and experience in much-needed areas for the team.

The only issues that I have with the Kings inking Koufos is that he may end up being a redundant piece if 2015 first-rounder Willie Cauley-Stein develops as expected, and I also think handing him a four-year pact is a bit of a risk based on his mediocre track record in the league thus far. But big men always seem to end up getting paid on the open market, and with the expected jump in the salary cap next season, giving Koufos approximately $8MM per season isn’t exorbitant, and that contract likely wouldn’t be a difficult one to move if the need arose. Speaking of Cauley-Stein, I love the selection of the former Kentucky big man, and his versatility and athleticism coupled with his defensive prowess make him an ideal running mate for DeMarcus Cousins.

But it still remains to be seen if Cousins will be with the organization for the long term. Cousins reportedly doesn’t trust Karl, and their relationship has been rumored to be beyond repair. The Kings haven’t admitted that they shopped the center, but Wojnarowski reported that they asked the Lakers for Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, the No. 2 pick that became D’Angelo Russell and other draft assets. Plus, Wojnarowski added that the Kings also wanted any team that would receive Cousins to also take on Landry, since traded to the Sixers. Such a high cost kept the Celtics from even asking about Cousins, as Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald reported.

The Kings’ offseason was one of mixed direction as they sacrificed a number of assets that could have helped them in the future for a shot at relevance this season. The problem is that the now doesn’t appear to be especially grand, and until the team’s power structure and coaching situation are solidified in some way, Sacramento will continue to flounder and fill up back page headlines with dysfunction. Turmoil seems to repeatedly stalk the Kings, and the moves they made this summer don’t bode well for the long-term future of the organization.

The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.

Offseason In Review: Oklahoma City Thunder

Hoops Rumors is in the process of looking back at each team’s offseason, from the end of the playoffs in June right up until opening night. Trades, free agent signings, draft picks, contract extensions, option decisions, camp invitees, and more will be covered, as we examine the moves each franchise made over the last several months.

Signings


Extensions

  • None

Trades

  • Acquired Charlotte’s 2016 second round pick (top-55 protected in 2016, unprotected in 2017) and Luke Ridnour from the Hornets in exchange for Jeremy Lamb.
  • Acquired the draft rights to Tomislav Zubcic from the Raptors in exchange for Ridnour and $250K.
  • Acquired Boston’s 2018 second round pick (top-55 protected) from the Celtics in exchange for Perry Jones III, Detroit’s 2019 second round pick, and $1.5MM.

Waiver Claims

  • None

Draft Picks


Camp Invitees


Departing Players


Rookie Contract Option Decisions


Mark D. Smith/USA Today Sports Images

Mark D. Smith/USA Today Sports Images

Unable to satisfy those in the organization who believed the Thunder should have at least one title by now, Oklahoma City replaced Scott Brooks with new coach Billy Donovan in a bold offseason move. The decision made sense to critics of Brooks because the team failed to make the playoffs and things seemed rather stagnant offensively. On the other hand, the timing of the coaching change was interesting because many supporters of Brooks pointed to the fact that health was a significant issue last season for the Thunder. Kevin Durant, most notably, missed 55 games and Russell Westbrook was out for 15.

The Thunder returned a talented nucleus and were without a glaring weakness on the roster heading into the offseason, so the coaching change was all about wanting a new leader with a new voice, in my opinion. Perhaps it will be what this team needs. It seemed inevitable for Donovan, who won two titles with Florida and is well-respected by players around the league, to land a job like this one, but his success will likely be measured by how well the Thunder perform in the postseason.

Assuming health doesn’t become a repeat issue for Oklahoma City, the Thunder seem poised for a deep run and should be in the championship mix. Durant and Westbrook still have several years left in their respective primes. Besides making a coaching splash, the Thunder didn’t do much in the offseason because they didn’t have to.

Of significance, however, the Thunder matched the Blazers’ $70MM, four-year offer sheet for then-restricted free agent Enes Kanter. Many fans and columnists asked if Kanter was worth the money and the common opinion was no. The deal nonetheless signaled the Thunder were all in. Kanter, a center who is adept at hitting elbow jumpers, is performing well and is currently averaging 12.2 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. The move was widely expected because Oklahoma City offered Kanter about $62MM, not much less than the max deal he ultimately wound up with, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports (on Twitter). While critics pointed out his inconsistent defense, Kanter, 23, excelled after Oklahoma City acquired him from the Jazz. He averaged 15.9 points and 8.9 rebounds per game last season with the Thunder and Jazz. The new deal for Kanter pushed the team far beyond the $84.74MM tax threshold at the time.

To help alleviate some of the financial hit, the Thunder traded Perry Jones III to the Celtics. They made the move with luxury tax savings in mind. It saved the Thunder about $7MM in combined salary and tax payments, according to Royce Young of ESPN.com. Oklahoma City did not acquire much in return (a protected 2018 second-round pick), but shedding Jones’ money was somewhat vital. Still, star power comes with a price and the Thunder currently have a payroll of $97,749,910, second-highest in the league. The Thunder also cut ties with Jeremy Lamb when they dealt him to the Hornets for Luke Ridnour and a conditional 2016 second round pick. The Thunder flipped Ridnour to the Raptors for the rights to draft-and-stash prospect Tomislav Zubcic. Oklahoma City also got to create a trade exception worth $2.75MM.

The Thunder didn’t quite stop at Kanter, though, as far as bringing guys back. Oklahoma City re-signed Kyle Singler to a deal worth nearly $25MM over five years. Singler, a reserve small forward, provides bench depth. Singler, 27, appeared in 26 games for the Thunder last season after being acquired by the Pistons at midseason, averaging 8.7 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 0.7 assists in 17.5 minutes per contest.

The good thing about not making the playoffs last season is that it enabled the Thunder to draft Cameron Payne as the No. 14 overall pick. Payne starred at mid-major Murray State, averaging 20.2 points and six assists per game. His rookie contract did little in terms of having an effect on the Thunder’s financial flexibility because the team was well over $70MM cap anyway. The Thunder make sense for Payne because he won’t be asked to do too much as a rookie, considering all the other talent on the team.

The Thunder had a mostly quiet offseason (aside from the hiring of Donovan and matching the offer for Kanter), but they could have benefited, in my opinion, from acquiring a defensive-minded shooting guard. Even with Donovan, a good defensive coach, guiding the team, the Thunder have still struggled to stop opponents, allowing 103.8 points per game (ninth-worst in the league).

Still, there is no doubt that the Thunder are a title contender if they remain healthy. They are gambling that their coaching change pays off in the postseason. After all, next summer should be far more interesting for an obvious reason: Durant is set to be a free agent. Playing with Westbrook and being on a title contender likely hold a lot of weight when it comes to Durant re-signing next summer, so it behooves the Thunder to have strong season.

Eddie Scarito contributed to this post. The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of it.

Offseason In Review: Los Angeles Clippers

Hoops Rumors is in the process of looking back at each team’s offseason, from the end of the playoffs in June right up until opening night. Trades, free agent signings, draft picks, contract extensions, option decisions, camp invitees, and more will be covered, as we examine the moves each franchise made over the last several months.

Signings


Extensions

  • None

Trades


Waiver Claims

  • None

Draft Picks

  • Branden Dawson (Round 2, 56th overall). Signed via minimum salary exception to a two-year, $1.4MM deal.

Camp Invitees


Departing Players


Rookie Contract Option Decisions


Kevin Jairaj/USA Today Sports Images

Kevin Jairaj/USA Today Sports Images

The Clippers’ offseason was an interesting one to say the least. The franchise seemingly lost one of its stars in DeAndre Jordan to the Mavericks only to have him make an eleventh hour about-face and return to Los Angeles. Shooting guard J.J. Redick had given the team a grade of “F” for its summer moves when all had seemed lost regarding Jordan. But once the ink was dry on the big man’s new four-year pact, Redick, like many of us, sang a different tune. “We had no cap space,” Redick said to Kenny Ducey of SI.com, “and we re-signed our best player that was a free agent, and we picked up Paul Pierce, Josh Smith, traded for Lance [Stephenson], Wes Johnson, Pablo Prigioni. We have 13 rotation players, so it’s definitely an A.” Well-said indeed, regardless of the team’s sluggish start to 2015/16.

Retaining Jordan was paramount if the franchise hoped to maintain its forward momentum as well as have a legitimate shot to contend in the Western Conference. With no first-round pick this year and a difficult salary cap situation to navigate, the Clippers would have had no means with which to adequately replace the 27-year-old for this season. While I could make the case against Jordan being worth a max salary deal, given the short window to contend in the NBA, the team absolutely had to hold onto him no matter what. Jordan’s contract will likely look better once the salary cap increases next summer, but regardless of whether this deal turns out to be an overpay or not, coach/executive Doc Rivers made the right call in retaining him.

Rivers had a number of difficult decisions to make this offseason, including a trade that could be a master stroke as easily as it could sink the team. That’s the acquisition of the mercurial Stephenson from the Hornets, who were all too happy to cut bait on their big free agent signing of a year ago. This deal was also a means for Rivers to erase one of his biggest mistakes from the summer of 2014, which was signing Spencer Hawes to a four-year, $23MM deal. The Hawes signing was a puzzler for me given the team’s far greater need at small forward as well as for backcourt depth, and Rivers was seemingly able to correct both errors with this trade.

Stephenson is a talented player whose versatility and toughness are certainly traits that the Clippers can use, but he also carries with him the reputation of being a disruptive force in the locker room and to overall team chemistry, which will be a concern going forward until Stephenson proves otherwise. The Clippers are not an especially hard-nosed team, and Stephenson’s physicality can certainly be a boon if the coaching staff can properly harness it. He’s not adept at moving without the ball, which could limit his effectiveness in the team’s offense. The swingman’s contract includes a team option for 2016/17, so Los Angeles could cut ties after the season without being on the hook for any funds, making a gamble on Stephenson a lower risk than it may have otherwise been.

The Clippers’ biggest weakness in the starting unit the last couple of seasons has been at the small forward spot. Matt Barnes manned the three for Los Angeles in 2014/15, averaging 10.4 points in 76 appearances, but his value was more as a defender than as a scorer, an imbalance that hurt the team on occasion. To address the offensive deficiency, Rivers went back to his past and brought in veteran Paul Pierce via a three-year free agent deal. Pierce is no longer the 18-20 points per game scorer that he was for Rivers’ Celtics teams, but he certainly knows how to perform in the clutch and his presence alone should improve the Clippers. The 38-year-old is definitely a liability on defense, and he’ll almost assuredly need to avoid back-to-back contests as the season wears on, but I still love what Pierce can bring to the club. Three years is far too long a contract for a player Pierce’s age, but the third season is partially guaranteed, which limits the team’s financial commitment somewhat.

Los Angeles suffered from a distinct lack of depth off its bench last season, a weakness that Rivers attacked via the free agent market with a series of low-cost signings of high-value reserve players. The team added Josh Smith, Pablo Prigioni, Wesley Johnson and Cole Aldrich via team-friendly contracts, and despite the trouble the Clippers have had finding rotations that work thus far this season, they are all moves I believe will pay off down the line.

One glaring weakness that the Clippers have is their lack of young talent, which also explains why the franchise is in a bind cap-wise. Success as an NBA club makes it difficult to add useful players via the draft. Blake Griffin is the only recent draftee of the team’s to find NBA success, and the Clippers selected him all the way back in 2009. Los Angeles did exercise its third-year rookie option on C.J. Wilcox, who was the 28th player taken in 2014. It wasn’t a given that Los Angeles would pick up the option, with the team having reportedly explored a deal that would have sent Wilcox and Jamal Crawford to Denver in exchange for Wilson Chandler in June. With Chandler suffering a season-ending hip injury, it would appear that the Clippers dodged a bullet not making such a swap.

The Clippers haven’t looked sharp to begin the season, which casts a pall over what I consider to have been a solid offseason for the team. Los Angeles isn’t the juggernaut that the front office hoped heading into the 2015/16 campaign, but it’s a long season, and Rivers’ summer moves still have plenty of time to pay off. While the results have been subpar thus far, I don’t fault what occurred over the offseason. But the franchise’s window to contend is dangerously close to being shut, so fans of the team had better hope things begin to turn around soon.

The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.

Offseason In Review: Portland Trail Blazers

Hoops Rumors is in the process of looking back at each team’s offseason, from the end of the playoffs in June right up until opening night. Trades, free agent signings, draft picks, contract extensions, option decisions, camp invitees, and more will be covered, as we examine the moves each franchise made over the last several months.

Signings


Extensions


Trades


Waiver Claims

  • None

Draft Picks


Camp Invitees


Departing Players


Rookie Contract Option Decisions


Craig Mitchelldyer/USA Today Sports Images

Craig Mitchelldyer/USA Today Sports Images

The Trail Blazers as a franchise have been snakebitten by injuries and bad luck over the years, and 2014/15 was no different. The team had begun 41-19 and was playing some of its best basketball when swingman Wesley Matthews went down with a devastating Achilles injury with just six weeks remaining in the regular season. Portland limped into the playoffs after going 10-12 the rest of the way. A first-round ouster at the hands of the Grizzlies sent the franchise into the offseason with far more questions than answers. Gone are all but one starter from a season ago, and the franchise has transformed from a possible contender to a lottery-bound team in the span of but a few months.

Unfortunately for Blazers fans, the offseason was defined more by whom they lost than by any positive strides they might have made. Power forward LaMarcus Aldridge departed as an unrestricted free agent for the Spurs, who offered him an opportunity to play in his home state as well as to contend for a title immediately. It doesn’t appear that the Blazers had a legitimate chance to retain Aldridge, whose top two choices were San Antonio and Phoenix, as Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reported. Players of Aldridge’s caliber are especially difficult to come by, so his departure truly stings. The franchise reportedly explored potential sign-and-trade deals for both Aldridge and Matthews, but found no takers, according to GM Neil Olshey.

Forty percent of the starting lineup Portland put on the floor for the final game of its series against Memphis headed east to New York. Shooting guard Arron Afflalo, who replaced the injured Matthews, signed with the Knicks for two years and $16MM. Robin Lopez is set to terrorize local mascots for the next four years to the tune of $54MM. Portland will certainly feel the departure of Afflalo and Lopez in the short term. But neither player figured to be a part of the team’s rebuild anyway, and maintaining cap flexibility as well as clearing slots for younger players to develop is far more important for the Blazers in the long run than trying to eke out a few more victories this season.

The same thinking applies to allowing Matthews to depart to Dallas for a maximum salary deal. Matthews’ production will be missed, but his Achilles injury puts his future reliability in doubt, and at 29 years of age, he doesn’t fit with Portland’s rebuilding motif. The subtraction of Matthews opens the door for third-year shooting guard C.J. McCollum, whose fourth year option was picked up by Portland, to slide into a starting role. McCollum has been fantastic thus far in 2015/16, averaging 20.1 points per game as of this writing. It certainly appears as though the Blazers have found a second star to pair alongside franchise player Damian Lillard.

Speaking of Lillard, there were reports that Aldridge was jealous of the attention he received, and while both players have publicly denied any rift, the Blazers gave the impression that Lillard was the face of the franchise, a move that couldn’t have sat well with Aldridge. Lillard is a fantastic player who has ice water running through his veins at crunch time, and he’s talented enough to anchor the franchise for years to come. That’s an assessment the team almost certainly agrees with judging by the five-year maximum salary extension the team signed him to this offseason.

Portland was quite active on the trade front this summer, swinging three deals of significance. The first shipped swingman Nicolas Batum to the Hornets in exchange for 2014 lottery pick Noah Vonleh and shooting guard Gerald Henderson. Batum’s versatility will be missed, but I love the team nabbing Vonleh, whom Charlotte surprisingly gave up on after he missed all but 25 games of his rookie campaign due to injury. The 20-year-old is still extremely raw, but Vonleh is certainly talented and could evolve into a solid replacement for Aldridge down the line.

While Vonleh represents the future for the team, acquiring Mason Plumlee from the Nets in exchange for the rights to No. 23 overall pick Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was a move for the present. Plumlee seemingly never earned the trust of Brooklyn coach Lionel Hollins and had regressed slightly during the 2014/15 season. Plumlee has the potential to be a breakout player for Portland, though his ceiling isn’t close to what Vonleh’s could be. While I like the addition of Plumlee, as well uber-athletic swingman Pat Connaughton, acquired in the same deal, Hollis-Jefferson would have been the perfect replacement for Matthews’ athleticism and defense. Portland picked up Vonleh’s third-year option and Plumlee’s fourth-year option, ensuring both will remain in the fold for at least one more season.

The franchise also swung a deal with Orlando that brought over 22-year-old small forward Maurice Harkless in exchange for a heavily protected 2020 second-rounder. Harkless has been a disappointment thus far in the league since being nabbed with the No. 15 overall pick back in 2012. A change of scenery could be just what the (shot) doctor ordered for Harkless, and if he doesn’t produce in Portland, the team could simply allow him to depart as a restricted free agent next summer without having given up much for taking a chance on him.

The Trail Blazers dipped their toes into the free agent pool and came away with Al-Farouq Aminu and Ed Davis for their efforts. Both players should help the team and contribute immediately, though four years for Aminu seems a bit risky given his career 6.6 PPG scoring average. Still, Aminu’s contract is front-loaded, and with the 6’9″ forward set to earn just $6.957MM in the final year, it’s hardly crippling or untradeable if things don’t work out.

Portland’s offseason was a mixture of disappointment and potential, though the franchise has clearly taken a step or two back talent-wise. The departures of Aldridge, Matthews and Batum certainly hurt, and while GM Neil Olshey made a number of savvy moves to try to plug the holes, the Blazers are no longer a Western Conference playoff contender. But there is hope for the future, and with Lillard and McCollum on the roster, the cupboard certainly isn’t bare. The organization is likely to have in excess of $40MM in cap space to play with next offseason, so a relatively quick turnaround to prominence is certainly within the realm of possibility.

The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.

Offseason In Review: Minnesota Timberwolves

Hoops Rumors is in the process of looking back at each team’s offseason, from the end of the playoffs in June right up until opening night. Trades, free agent signings, draft picks, contract extensions, option decisions, camp invitees, and more will be covered, as we examine the moves each franchise made over the last several months.

Signings


Extensions

  • None

Trades


Waiver Claims

  • None

Draft Picks


Camp Invitees


Departing Players


Rookie Contract Option Decisions


Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

Following a decade of futility, the Timberwolves finally have real hope of becoming a perennial playoff contender in the near future. Via trade and the lottery, they have the top picks in the last two drafts and both have shown a world of talent. There are also some talented pieces around the duo of small forward Andrew Wiggins and power forward Karl-Anthony Towns. Tragically, the architect of the rebuilding project will not get to see his vision of the franchise’s rebirth come to fruition.

The Timberwolves, as well as the entire league, suffered a shocking blow when coach and president of basketball operations Flip Saunders died at the age of 60 on Oct. 25th due to complications from Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Originally, Saunders and his doctors were highly optimistic he would beat the disease. When it announced his diagnosis in August, the team referred to his ailment as a “very treatable and curable form of cancer” and said that he could continue his dual role. Saunders took a leave of absence the following month and when owner Glen Taylor revealed late in training camp that Saunders would not return this season, it was clear that the situation was dire.

Former Raptors coach Sam Mitchell, one of Saunders’ ex-players, replaced him on the bench while GM Milt Newton added the duties of running the team’s basketball operations. Mitchell’s future as the team’s coach beyond this season is unresolved but as Patrick Reusse of the Minneapolis Star Tribune recently pointed out, his lineup decisions in the early going suggest that he’s focused on the franchise’s long-term success.

It certainly helps to have a large building block, literally, to solidify that foundation. Their options, once they won the lottery, boiled down to two big men — Towns and Jahlil Okafor. In the weeks leading up to the draft, Saunders became enamored with Towns and there was no drama on draft night concerning their selection. Saunders fell in love with Towns’ versatility, noting that he could not only score in the low post but also hit shots from the perimeter. Saunders was also impressed with Towns’ ball handling and shot blocking.

The early-season results have fortified the notion that the Timberwolves made the right choice, even though Okafor and Kristaps Porzingis have also made strong impressions. He recorded eight double-doubles in the team’s first 13 games while averaging 2.4 blocks.

Minnesota added another first-rounder when it traded three second-rounders to the Cavaliers for the 24th overall pick. The Timberwolves made the trade for the rights to Duke point guard Tyus Jones, who had the floor vision and leadership to develop into a quality NBA point guard, as Eddie Scarito of Hoops Rumors noted in his Prospect Profile. Thus far, Jones hasn’t gotten much of an opportunity to show those skills as he’s buried behind starter Ricky Rubio, Zach LaVine and Andre Miller. But he adds depth to that position and may gain a more prominent role if the team decides to trade Rubio down the road.

That was the only trade the Timberwolves made during the offseason, other than a minor swap with the Pacers of two small forwards. They acquired Euro veteran Damjan Rudez for Chase Budinger, a move that cleared some salary cap space. Rudez is making $1.15MM this season while Budinger exercised a $5MM option on his contract, but the teams were able to swing the deal because of prior trade exceptions that they exercised.

A move of greater consequence came in July when Minnesota agreed to a three-year deal with one of Europe’s top big men, Nemanja Bjelica. Minnesota had held the power forward’s draft rights for five years and the reigning Euroleague MVP decided it was time to give the NBA a try. He negotiated a buyout agreement with his Turkish team with some monetary assistance from the Timberwolves. Bjelica earned a rotation spot during training camp, though he has been slowed recently by a knee injury.

The other notable moves the club made involved the signings of longtime veterans to help nurture the young talent on the roster, as well as divorcing themselves from young power forward Anthony Bennett. The frontcourt upgrades that the Timberwolves made removed any meaningful role for Bennett, whom the team acquired in the 2014 blockbuster with the Cavs that delivered Wiggins while shipping disgruntled Kevin Love out of town. A buyout agreement allowed Bennett to join the Raptors once he cleared waivers.

There was little debate that Kevin Garnett would re-sign with the club that originally drafted him and end his storied career in Minnesota. Garnett inked a two-year contract and has not only contributed on the court but has also served as an ideal mentor for Towns. Towns recently told NBA.com’s David Aldridge that he learns something new every day from Garnett.

Another old Saunders favorite, Tayshaun Prince, signed a one-year contract. Prince was Saunders’ starting small forward during his three years as head coach of the Pistons. Prince has played regularly in the early going, though his stats have been modest. But his impact also goes beyond the court, as he serves as a role model for the team’s wing players, particularly Wiggins.

Miller has similar responsibilities as a backup point guard, though he still has enough left in the tank to play effectively when oft-injured Rubio is sidelined. He can offer sage advice to LaVine and Jones and assist in their development.

The Timberwolves were not interested in making a lot of big moves this offseason. They were mainly concerned with molding their young core into a winning unit, with the aid of trusted veterans that could impart their knowledge to the likes of Towns and Wiggins. The future certainly looks bright, even though it’s likely Minnesota is headed for its 11th consecutive losing season. Sadly, the man responsible for the rebuilding project won’t be around to see the improvement, but his impact will be felt for many years to come.

Eddie Scarito contributed to this post. The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of it.

Offseason In Review: Philadelphia 76ers

Hoops Rumors is in the process of looking back at each team’s offseason, from the end of the playoffs in June right up until opening night. Trades, free agent signings, draft picks, contract extensions, option decisions, camp invitees, and more will be covered, as we examine the moves each franchise made over the last several months.

Signings

  • Pierre Jackson: Four years, $3.727MM. Signed via cap room. First year is fully guaranteed, remaining three years are non-guaranteed. Includes a team option for the final year. Subsequently waived.
  • Kendall Marshall: Four years, $8MM. Signed via cap room. First year is fully guaranteed, remaining three years are non-guaranteed.
  • T.J. McConnell: Four years, $3.503MM. Signed via cap room. First year is partially guaranteed for $100K, remaining three years are non-guaranteed. Includes a team option for the final year.
  • Scottie Wilbekin: Four years, $3.503MM. Signed via cap room. First year is partially guaranteed for $200K, remaining three years are non-guaranteed. Includes a team option for the final year.
  • Christian Wood: Four years, $3.503MM. Signed via cap room. First year is partially guaranteed for $50K, remaining three years are non-guaranteed. Includes a team option for the final year.

Extensions

  • None

Trades

  • Acquired Nik Stauskas, Carl Landry, Jason Thompson, Sacramento’s 2018 first-round pick and the right to swap first-rounders in 2016 and 2017 from the Kings in exchange for the rights to Arturas Gudaitis and Luka Mitrovic, the 47th and 60th picks, respectively, in this year’s NBA draft.
  • Acquired Gerald Wallace, cash, and the right to swap the lesser of the 2016 first-round picks coming their way from the Heat and the Thunder for Golden State’s 2016 first-round pick from the Warriors in exchange for Thompson. Wallace was subsequently waived.
  • Acquired cash and New York’s second round picks in 2020 and 2021 from the Knicks in exchange for the draft rights to Guillermo Hernangomez, the No. 35 overall pick in this year’s draft.

Waiver Claims

  • None

Draft Picks

  • Jahlil Okafor (Round 1, 3rd overall). Signed via rookie scale exception to rookie scale contract.
  • Richaun Holmes (Round 2, 37th overall). Signed via cap room for four years, $4.203MM. Final two years are non-guaranteed. Final season is a team option.
  • Arturas Gudaitis (Round 2, 47th overall). Traded to Sacramento. Signed overseas.
  • J.P. Tokoto (Round 2, 58th overall). Signed via minimum-salary exception to a one-year, non-guaranteed, $525K deal. Waived.
  • Luka Mitrovic (Round 2, 60th overall). Traded to Sacramento. Extended overseas contract.
  • Jordan McRae (2014, Round 2, 58th overall). Signed via minimum-salary exception to a one-year, non-guaranteed, $525K deal. Waived.

Camp Invitees


Departing Players


Rookie Contract Option Decisions


Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

Bill Streicher/USA Today Sports Images

“Two years away from being two years away.” That was ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla’s infamous analysis of Brazilian prospect Bruno Caboclo during the 2014 draft. That’s also an accurate timeline of when the Sixers can reasonably expect to be contenders for the playoffs in the Eastern Conference again. The Sam Hinkie regime envisions putting a perennial championship contender on the floor, and while you can start to see some of the pieces coming together, it’s starting to look like the plan may take longer than initially expected.

The team suffered a major setback in its quest toward a championship when it found out that center Joel Embiid, who was taken No. 3 overall in that same 2014 draft, needed a second surgery on his right foot and would most likely miss the entire 2015/16 campaign. The news didn’t get any better from there. Embiid reportedly put off surgery this summer to party and play basketball in Las Vegas and rumors swirled that the team has been frustrated with his attitude and insubordination. Hinkie apparently expressed his desire for Embiid to be more focused on his rehab, and the center’s diet and conditioning have reportedly worried the team as well. Some of the club’s minority owners are reportedly losing patience with Hinkie, but despite this and the Embiid setback, majority owner Josh Harris remains firmly in Hinkie’s corner.

When you examine Philadelphia’s transactions this summer, you can see why. Hinkie fleeced the Kings for a first-round pick in 2018 and the rights to swap picks in 2016 and 2017 when he acquired Jason Thompson, Carl Landry and 2014 No. 8 overall pick Nik Stauskas. The team then dealt Thompson to the Warriors for Gerald Wallace, who was waived later on in the summer, and snagged a pick swap in the process.

After the trade, Jake Fischer of SI Now reported that the Sixers were looking to move Landry, who is set to make $13MM over the remaining two years of his deal, and that if the team couldn’t find a trade partner, they would look to reach a buyout or waive him outright. Hinkie has since indicated that the team intends to keep him, citing the importance of his veteran voice on the team. The 31-year-old is still recovering from his offseason surgery and is expected to be out until 2016, but when the veteran does return to the court, he’ll be the team’s most experienced player by far.

Stauskas, whose option for the 2016/17 campaign the team picked up last month, has seen court time and the results have varied. During his first two games in Philly, he shot 41.7% from behind the arc, but he has only made just over 26.0% of his 3-pointers since and his player efficiency rating for the year sits lowly at 8.6. Still, he has improved since his dreadful rookie campaign and the coaching staff intends to give him the minutes to allow him to develop. The backcourt mate of “Sauce Castillo” was supposed to be Kendall Marshall, whom the team signed to a four-year, $8MM deal, but the 24-year-old Marshall is still recovering from a knee injury and hasn’t been able to suit up yet. Marshall has shown glimpses of the ability to be a starting-caliber point guard and Hinkie deserves recognition for the move, as the team will be paying somebody who has proven he belongs in the league less than the No.17 overall pick in the 2015 draft is set to earn over the the next four years.

Once he returns, Marshall may not get as many minutes as expected due to the presence of T.J. McConnell. The undrafted point guard out of Arizona has been a pleasant surprise this season and his contract, which will pay him roughly $3.5MM over the next four seasons, looks like one of the best bargains in the league, as Chuck Myron noted in a recent edition of the Hoops Rumors Weekly Mailbag. McConnell has been ravenous on the defensive end, frustrating opposing guards and making the hustle plays that you’d like to see every professional athlete at least go for. He’s averaging 5.1 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 0.4 blocks per game. He’s also dishing out 6.4 assists per contest and making nearly every team second guess its decision not to draft him.

The Sixers had mixed results with their selections in the 2015 draft. Second-rounder Richaun Holmes, who told Zach Links of Hoops Rumors prior to the draft that he thought he had a chance to be a first-rounder, looks like an NBA player, and he has impressed in limited minutes thus far.  The team’s other second-round picks either had their rights traded away or have been waived.

The gem of the Sixers’ draft is Jahlil Okafor. Many of the team’s young players are projects, but this center came preassembled with the footwork of a seasoned veteran and an offensive game that allows him to contribute right away. He’s averaging 17.9 points and 7.7 rebounds per game and although he isn’t a great defender, he’s shown some nice defensive awareness, blocking 1.6 shots per contest. The 19-year-old has legitimate All-Star potential, but a peril with Okafor may be his ceiling. He doesn’t project to be the type of player who will dominate games and single-handedly elevate the team to real contender status, especially if he can’t transform himself into a tenacious rim protector.

The issue with drafting the center, as I discussed in the team’s offseason outlook, is the redundancies on the team, as the only other player who definitively belongs in a playoff contender’s rotation also plays the same position. Nerlens Noel is playing nearly two-thirds of his time this season at the four and he’s been excellent on the defensive end, masterfully denying passing lanes and smothering opposing power forwards inside the paint and on the perimeter. However, the experiment with Noel at the four will come to an end eventually, as he simply doesn’t possess the offensive skills to play the position. Concerns over the fit are prompting the team to ponder a change. Coach Brett Brown is thinking about playing Okafor at the four, but he’s obviously a center long-term, so playing him out of position carries the risk of stunting his growth.

Philadelphia doesn’t have all the answers right now and nearly all the pieces to the championship puzzle aren’t currently on the roster. The hope for the Sixers is that the bounty of draft picks they’ve acquired, along with team’s own lottery selections, will produce at least one true game-changer over the next few seasons. This offseason wasn’t about winning games; the team isn’t there yet. The Sixers still need to acquire that franchise player, and even if they get him, it’ll take a few years to start winning. Anthony Davis didn’t even make the playoffs until his third season. Same with Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Maybe the pingpong balls will land Philly’s way at the end of the season and the team lands a potential star like Ben Simmons. It’s still going to be a few years before the Sixers sniff the playoffs, let alone the finals, and by the time that happens, James’ reign over the Eastern Conference may be over, we will most likely have a new collective bargaining agreement, and the league’s landscape should look dramatically different. Hinkie, Harris and the rest of the club’s management know this and the team is simply remaining flexible with its roster until it’s time to strike.

Eddie Scarito contributed to this post. The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of it.

Offseason In Review: Atlanta Hawks

Hoops Rumors is in the process of looking back at each team’s offseason, from the end of the playoffs in June right up until opening night. Trades, free agent signings, draft picks, contract extensions, option decisions, camp invitees, and more will be covered, as we examine the moves each franchise made over the last several months.

Signings


Extensions

  • None

Trades

  • Acquired Washington’s 2015 first round pick (No. 19 overall) and Washington’s second round picks in 2016 and 2019 from the Wizards in exchange for the Hawks’ 2015 first round pick (No. 15 overall).
  • Acquired Tim Hardaway Jr. from the Knicks in exchange for Washington’s 2015 first round pick (No. 19 overall).
  • Acquired Tiago Splitter from the Spurs in exchange for the draft rights to Georgios Printezis and Atlanta’s 2017 second round pick (top 55 protected).

Waiver Claims

  • None

Draft Picks


Camp Invitees


Departing Players


Rookie Contract Option Decisions


Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

The Hawks won a franchise-best 60 games in 2014/15, but the campaign ended with disappointment when the Cavaliers eliminated them in the Eastern Conference Finals. Injuries certainly played a role in Atlanta’s ouster, including the loss of swingman Thabo Sefolosha, who missed the entire 2014/15 playoffs after suffering a broken leg at the hands of police outside a New York City nightclub back in April. The franchise began its offseason with the free agent departure of a significant piece when DeMarre Carroll left for the Raptors and their four-year, $58MM offer, making a repeat of last season’s success an even more daunting task.

Atlanta was in a bit of a financial bind entering the summer, with Carroll and Paul Millsap both unrestricted free agents, and the team possessing only their Early Bird Rights, meaning the Hawks couldn’t exceed the salary cap to re-sign them. Coach/executive Mike Budenholzer had said before the 2014/15 season that the team wanted to keep Millsap, whose previous two-year, $19MM deal from 2013 turned out to be one of the most team-friendly arrangements in recent memory. Budenholzer held true to his word and Millsap re-joined the team to the tune of three years and $60.216MM.

It will certainly be difficult to replace the defense, energy and outside shooting of Carroll, but I believe Atlanta chose wisely in deciding to retain Millsap over him. The 30-year-old Millsap has been a remarkably consistent performer in the NBA for the last five seasons, and a three-year commitment to him isn’t a tremendous risk, though he has almost certainly reached his plateau as a player and is more than likely going to begin regressing toward the end of this pact. But with the salary cap set to see a significant increase next summer, his deal won’t cripple the franchise if he underperforms.

While I certainly like what Carroll brings to the hardwood as a player, he has only averaged double-figure scoring twice in his six-year NBA career, topping out with the 12.6 points per game he contributed last season. Carroll’s value does stretch beyond the box score, but a four-year deal with an average annual value of close to $15MM seems a bit risky for a late-blooming player who is on the threshold of his 30s. The Hawks’ offer to the small forward reportedly topped out at $50MM on a four-year arrangement, as Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com reported. That still would have been a risk, but a much more palatable one for the franchise from my perspective.

Atlanta also made a number of low-risk, low-reward signings over the summer, adding Justin Holiday, Edy Tavares, Lamar Patterson and Jason Richardson, though Richardson subsequently retired, and the team waived him. Out of the group, Tavares is the most intriguing given his height (7’3″) and youth (23 years old). He’s most definitely a project, and it could be years before he produces in the NBA, if ever.

The Hawks made three trades over the summer, acquiring Tiago Splitter from San Antonio for virtually nothing, swapping first-round picks with the Wizards, and flipping Washington’s pick to the Knicks for swingman Tim Hardaway Jr.. Landing Splitter was a solid move, especially given how little Atlanta gave up to acquire him. Given the similarities between the Hawks’ and Spurs’ systems, Splitter should fit right in and become a solid rotation player for Budenholzer. The only negative is that he’s not on an expiring contract and will earn $8.55MM in 2016/17. That’s hardly a king’s ransom, but it’s a significant amount for a team that, with Splitter taken into account, has about $52.7MM in guaranteed salary committed for 2016/17. That amount doesn’t include center Al Horford, who is slated to become an unrestricted free agent after this season is done.

The most questionable move of the Hawks’ offseason was the acquisition of Hardaway, a one-dimensional player who regressed during his second season with the Knicks, and who doesn’t fit a clear need for the team. I firmly believe that Atlanta would have been better served to hold onto its original pick, which the Wizards used to select Kelly Oubre. Oubre has a much higher upside than Hardaway, and he also has the capability of developing into a legitimate two-way threat in the NBA. I would even go as far as to say that the team would have been better served to stand pat after its first pick swap and nab Jerian Grant at No. 19 instead of letting him go to the Knicks. Hardaway has yet to log a single regular season minute for the team as of this writing, making the trade even more of a head-scratcher from my perspective.

Drafting Grant would have also had an important secondary benefit for the club, as it would have provided the flexibility to explore potential trades for point guard Dennis Schröder. The team currently has no plans to part ways with the young German point guard, but he is stuck behind Jeff Teague on the depth chart, something that has reportedly displeased Schröder, with the player telling Sport Bild magazine in his native Germany that he would “explore other possibilities” if the Hawks don’t give him a chance to start. However, Schröder did make it clear that he likes playing in Atlanta. The 22-year-old is under contract through 2016/17, after which he is eligible to become a restricted free agent, so there is no pressure on the Hawks to deal him quite yet, though he is one of their most valuable trade assets, and he could bring back a significant return if they trade him. Atlanta exercised both his and Hardaway’s fourth-year rookie scale options prior to the deadline this month.

The franchise will have a major decision to make this coming offseason regarding Horford. He will almost assuredly command a maximum salary, or close to it. If Horford were to depart, the franchise would be hard-pressed to find a player who could replace him, though he is another player about to enter his 30s, and big men don’t tend to age well in the league.

Atlanta is unlikely to duplicate its magic from 2014/15, and the franchise was more than likely headed back toward the pack in the East prior to losing Carroll in free agency anyway. While a playoff berth is certainly attainable, it would be a surprise if the team reached the Eastern Conference Finals for a second straight campaign. The offseason was a mixed bag for the team, with retaining Millsap a success while the draft day trade for Hardaway tarnishes it somewhat. Regardless of anyone’s opinion of the trade, it’s difficult to argue that Atlanta didn’t regress from last season talent-wise. With numerous other Eastern Conference teams improving themselves over the summer, the Hawks and their fans may be left wondering what might have been during the 2014/15 postseason if the team had remained healthy.

The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.

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