Offseason In Review Rumors

2013 Offseason In Review Series

November 29 2013 at 8:50am CDT By Luke Adams

Over the last several weeks, Hoops Rumors has been looking back at the 2013 offseason, team by team. Chuck Myron, Zach Links, and I have recapped and examined the offseason moves for each of the league’s 30 clubs, starting with the June draft and going all the way up to October extensions and option decisions. If you missed any of our Offseason in Review posts, be sure to check them out below, where we’ve rounded them all up in one place:

Atlantic Division

Central Division

Southeast Division

Northwest Division

Pacific Division

Southwest Division

Offseason In Review: Los Angeles Clippers

November 28 2013 at 6:28pm CDT By Chuck Myron

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

Trades

  • Acquired the rights to head coach Doc Rivers from the Celtics in exchange for an unprotected 2015 first-round pick.
  • Acquired J.J. Redick from the Bucks and Jared Dudley from the Suns in exchange for Eric Bledsoe (to Suns), Caron Butler (to Suns), and a 2015 second-round pick (51-60 protected; to Bucks). Redick was signed-and-traded for four years, $27.76MM.

Draft Picks

  • Reggie Bullock (Round 1, 25th overall). Signed via rookie exception.

Camp Invitees

Departing Players

Rookie Contract Option Decisions

  • None

Those who believe NBA head coaches have little effect on the game and are largely interchangeable can’t point to what the Clippers did this offseason as evidence. The team engaged in a lengthy back-and-forth with the Celtics over coach Doc Rivers, with negotiations seemingly stalling at multiple points before Rivers finally settled on heading to L.A. and the Clippers and Celtics agreed on a second-round pick as compensation. Clippers owner Donald Sterling, notoriously thrifty with coaches and executives, no doubt swallowed much harder at the prospect of giving up $21MM over three years in salary for the new coach, who’ll also head up the front office.

Securing Rivers also cost the team any chance it had at acquiring trade targets Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, since the league has banned any further transactions between the clubs this season. Exchanging active players for coaches would be a violation of league rules, and the NBA doesn’t want to open itself to speculation that another swap was always in the works as further compensation for the Celtics’ decision to let Rivers go. Garnett and Pierce wound up with the Nets instead, and while it’s possible they could eventually end up in L.A. via Brooklyn, I wouldn’t be surprised if the league put the kibosh on that, too.

Of course, it was commissioner David Stern who famously blocked a trade that would have sent Chris Paul from New Orleans to the Lakers, giving the Clippers the opportunity to acquire the All-Star point guard for themselves after the 2011 lockout. The bill came due this summer when Paul hit unrestricted free agency, but he made it clear from the start of the 2012/13 season that he didn’t want it to be his last with the Clippers, who’d begun to give Paul some input on their front office decision-making.

There were some tense moments, as teams like the Hawks and Rockets dreamed of teaming Paul with Dwight Howard, the other prize on the free agent market. If there was any serious doubt about Paul re-signing, it happened when the club let go of coach Vinny Del Negro in the spring. The superstar was reportedly upset when owner Donald Sterling intimated that Paul was behind the coach’s ouster. That tempest didn’t last, and oddly enough, it was when the Clippers hired Rivers, a move Paul seemed to push for, that the point guard’s return to the team finally seemed 100% assured. The Clippers and the 28-year-old veteran of six All-Star games agreed to a max contract on the first day of free agency. It was the rare case of a nine-figure outlay that drew little criticism for being too lucrative, and Paul’s 12.2 assists per game to start the season, which would be a career-high, have done nothing to fuel any skeptics.

Not all of the team’s moves this summer were immune to second-guessing, and even Sterling quickly soured on the next most important transaction the team made this summer. The owner reportedly gave his approval to the three-team trade that netted J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley, but revoked it after executives from all three clubs and agent Arn Tellem, who represents Redick, had agreed to the package. That left Tellem, Redick and the executives outraged, and the trade only happened after Rivers pleaded with Sterling to once more change his mind.

The owner got over his fears of committing more than mid-level money to Redick, a player who’s never started more than 22 games in a single season. Sterling also consented to the departure of Bledsoe, whom he was fond of even though Paul’s presence at point guard assured the 23-year-old would never reach his full potential in a Clippers uniform. The owner wasn’t alone in having those misgivings, but Redick and Dudley, whose reasonably priced contract offsets the notion that the team is overpaying Redick, give the team a pair of desirable complementary offensive weapons to soup up an already potent attack. The aging Caron Butler‘s bloated expiring contract and Bledsoe, who’d be nailed to the bench in L.A., was a fair price.

Acquiring two starters for the price of one in that deal allowed the Clippers to use the mid-level exception on their bench. They gave the better part of it to Matt Barnes, whose limited Non-Bird rights wouldn’t have been enough to retain him after his valuable performance as a reserve last season. More than a half-dozen teams were after the gritty small forward, who wound up inking the most lucrative deal he’d ever signed. That’s not an achievement most 33-year-olds are able to pull off, but Barnes is becoming more efficient as he ages, notching career-high 15.5 PERs in each of the past two seasons. His toughness is an asset on a club so worried about being considered a finesse team that it called for an end to its “Lob City” nickname in training camp.

The rest of the mid-level went to Darren Collison, a point guard coming off a disastrous season with the Mavericks. Collison lost his starting job in Dallas to journeyman Mike James, and the Mavs decided against tendering a qualifying offer to the player who’d at one point looked like a steal as the 21st overall draft pick in 2009. The Southern California native returns to familiar surroundings with an old teammate in Paul, whose injury when Collison was a rookie paved the way for the former UCLA Bruin to have a breakout year in 2009/10. The Clippers are banking on Collison to right himself so they don’t feel too much of a squeeze from Bledsoe’s departure.

Another player who’s experienced flameout in Dallas was on the Clippers’ radar this summer, but the team elected not to re-sign Lamar Odom when his off-court troubles made it too risky a proposition. It sounds like he’ll join the team at some point this season, but L.A. brought on veteran Antawn Jamison instead of Odom this summer. Jamison seemed perhaps the best bargain of 2012 when he signed his minimum-salary contract with the Lakers, but the 37-year-old’s steep regression last season made the minimum-salary price tag a fit this time around.

The Clippers aren’t deep at center and there are questions about whether they can get defensive stops when necessary, but the 2013/14 team is as well-positioned for a title run as any in franchise history. Paul, perhaps the best point guard in the game, is surrounded with Blake Griffin and a strong starting five, with capable backups at nearly every position and a coach with championship pedigree. Any organization tied to a pair of max contracts that are guaranteed through 2016/17 will have concerns about its flexibility, but neither of them will turn 30 until 2015, so there’s no reason to expect a drop-off in their games anytime soon. Unless the Lakers can convince LeBron James to sign with them in the near future, the best basketball in Staples Center will be played on a red-and-blue court for years to come.

Luke Adams contributed to this post.

Offseason In Review: New Orleans Pelicans

November 28 2013 at 3:23pm CDT By Luke Adams

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

Trades

  • Acquired Jrue Holiday and the No. 42 pick in 2013 from the Sixers in exchange for the No. 6 pick in 2013 and a 2014 first-round pick (top-5 protected).
  • Acquired Tyreke Evans from the Kings and the rights to Jeff Withey from the Trail Blazers in exchange for Greivis Vasquez (to Kings), Robin Lopez (to Blazers), and Terrel Harris (to Blazers). Evans was signed-and-traded for four years, $44MM. Withey was signed for two years, $1.31MM via the minimum salary exception (second year is non-guaranteed).

Draft Picks

Camp Invitees

Departing Players

Rookie Contract Option Decisions

One of the most misunderstood aspects of Michael Lewis’ Moneyball was the belief that the Oakland Athletics’ strategy always involved targeting the same specific kind of player. In fact, the Moneyball approach outlined in Lewis’ book (and later on the big screen) revolved around targeting qualities that had been undervalued by the market. In other words, zigging when the rest of the league was zagging.

In that sense, the Pelicans’ first major move of the offseason could be viewed as a Moneyball-type deal. Even on the night of the 2013 draft, many fans and pundits were already looking ahead a year, salivating at the prospect of landing a top pick in what should be a loaded 2014 draft. But while the rest of the league may have been trying to find a way to trade into the 2014 first round, the Pelicans recognized that trading out of that first round gave them the opportunity to land a player who was already an NBA All-Star.

So New Orleans made perhaps the NBA’s biggest splash on draft night, essentially announcing that the club was moving away from its rebuilding stage and intended to become a playoff contender. That meant the Pelicans sent the sixth overall pick (Nerlens Noel) and a top-five protected 2014 pick, two assets that wouldn’t help the team for another year, to the Sixers in exchange for up-and-coming point guard Jrue Holiday. The move certainly doesn’t reduce New Orleans’ window for contention — after all, Holiday is just 23 years old. But it gave the club a 2013 All-Star in Holiday to pair with a player who could be a 2014 All-Star (Anthony Davis), which looks like the start of an excellent core.

To go along with Holiday and Davis, the Pelicans also entered July with Eric Gordon, Austin Rivers, and Ryan Anderson as key pieces. Question marks surrounded Gordon and Rivers, due to health concerns and a disappointing rookie year, respectively, but there was enough talent on board that New Orleans could use its assets and cap flexibility to add another piece; an impact small forward or a true center looked like the most likely targets.

Instead of addressing one of those positions though, the Pelicans aggressively pursued Tyreke Evans, a restricted free agent and a player whose best fit is in the backcourt. New Orleans liked Evans enough to offer him $44MM on a four-year deal, and to give up Greivis Vasquez and Robin Lopez in a sign-and-trade on top of that. The idea of a Holiday/Gordon backcourt with Evans as a dangerous sixth-man scorer off the bench is intriguing, but the team’s focus on the ex-King was a little perplexing, given the more pressing areas of need on the roster.

Having committed most of their available cap room to Evans, the Pelicans found more modest solutions at small forward and center, re-signing Al-Farouq Aminu and inking Greg Stiemsma to a one-year deal. Aminu, who has been in the starting lineup for the first few weeks of the season, will have a larger role in the rotation than Stiemsma, but neither player should have a big impact on whether or not the Pelicans earn a playoff spot.

Lucking into the first overall pick in 2012 and drafting Davis was a huge boon for New Orleans, and I don’t even mind the decision to acquire Holiday for what could be end up being two top-10 picks. He’s an above-average point guard signed to a fair contract, and the draft never offers any guarantees. However, the Pelicans’ other major decisions in the last two years have been questionable. Gordon has yet to show he can be healthy and productive for a full season in New Orleans, and the cost to Evans was greater than I would’ve liked. Both players are locked into expensive long-term deals, which will reduce the Pelicans’ flexibility to add complementary pieces around them — the lack of a 2014 draft pick will also hinder the team’s ability to acquire young talent.

The Pelicans will likely take until at least this season’s trade deadline to see how the current roster gels, but in my opinion, it makes sense to seriously consider shopping Gordon or Evans at some point. Based on the club’s aggressive offseason pursuit of Evans, I’m guessing he’s not going anywhere, so perhaps Gordon, who has been the subject of trade rumors before, will find himself on the block in February. His injury history remains a concern, but he’s started every game for the Pelicans so far, so if he stays healthy into the new year, that multiyear contract should start to look a little more palatable for potential trade partners.

I don’t think the Pelicans turned themselves into a playoff team with their offseason moves, but the team did add plenty of talent to a roster that already featured one of the most promising young players in the league, in Davis. Although it remains to be seen if the current core will stick together in New Orleans long-term, the next few months should provide plenty of evidence for whether or not more significant changes are required for a team that underwent some major offseason changes.

Offseason In Review: Memphis Grizzlies

November 26 2013 at 9:58pm CDT By Chuck Myron

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

  • Acquired Kosta Koufos from the Nuggets in exchange for Darrell Arthur and the No. 55 pick in 2013.
  • Acquired the rights to Nick Calathes from the Mavericks in exchange for a fully unprotected 2016 second-round pick. The Mavs had already acquired that 2016 second-rounder, but it had previously been top-55 protected. Calathes was subsequently signed for two years, $1.31MM via the minimum salary exception (second year is non-guaranteed).
  • Acquired Fab Melo and $1.66MM in cash from the Celtics in exchange for Donte Greene. Melo was subsequently waived.
  • Acquired a 2014 second-round pick (31-50 and 56-60 protected) from the Sixers in exchange for Tony Wroten.

Waiver Claims

Draft Picks

Camp Invitees

Departing Players

Rookie Contract Option Decisions

  • None

Rarely is there so much turmoil for a team that just had its best regular season and playoffs in franchise history. For the first time, the Grizzlies won 56 games and made the Western Conference Finals, but the front office chain of command isn’t clear. Chris Wallace has the title of GM, but his powers appear greatly reduced from what they had been under former owner Michael Heisley. CEO Jason Levien, vice president of basketball ops John Hollinger and even new owner Robert Pera all appear to have some say-so in the day-to-day decisions that shape the roster, along with Wallace. Whoever’s in charge clearly wasn’t a fan of Lionel Hollins, whom the team decided not to re-sign in spite of his success. Hollins clashed with the team’s new analytics-heavy approach, and the Grizzlies found one of his assistants, Dave Joerger, more willing to apply advanced statistics on the floor. Joerger’s installation as head coach is probably the most significant change to a veteran roster that has a shot at the championship, but still must exceed expectations to make it happen.

The key task the Grizzlies had to complete this summer to remain in the championship race was bringing back free agent Tony Allen, an All-NBA defender each of the past three seasons. At least a half-dozen other teams were after the 31-year-old, but it seemed his heart was in Memphis all along. The Grizzlies nonetheless wound up paying market price, if not a little more, for a swingman who excels on defense while creating spacing problems on offense with his lack of long-range shooting. He’ll be 35 by the time the fully guaranteed four-year deal is up, so it’s worth wondering if age will cause him to lose his ability to keep up with opponents by the back end of the contract. The move also used up most of the flexibility the team had beneath the luxury tax line, the space the team tried so hard to create with the Rudy Gay trade and other moves in 2012/13. Allen is nonetheless an elite defender, the likes of whom the team would struggle to replace, and a contract with an average annual salary of $5MM — slightly less than the full value of the non-taxpayer’s mid-level exception — isn’t too much to pay.

Memphis snagged another sought-after free agent when it picked up Mike Miller after he cleared amnesty waivers from the Heat. As with Allen, half-dozen other teams were also linked to Miller, but all it took was a guaranteed one-year deal for the minimum salary to bring the 33-year-old aboard. Concerns about his health likely prevented any team from making an offer for more than one guaranteed season, since his long list of ailments nearly provoked him to retire in 2012. A report suggested he was considering fusion surgery on his back this summer, though that might have been a ruse to dissuade the Cavaliers from claiming him off waivers and keeping him from free agency, as our Luke Adams suggested. Injuries nonetheless kept Miller off the court for most of his tenure with the Heat, though he surfaced at the most opportune moments. The Grizzlies have been giving him heavy minutes so far, hoping his three-point stroke will offset the spacing issues the Allen signing perpetuated. It’s unclear how long he’ll hold up, but if he can sustain his contribution, he’ll be a serious bargain.

Conversely, an injury to Marc Gasol has magnified the benefit of another of the Grizzlies’ offseason moves. While Gasol recovers, Memphis has Kosta Koufos to insert as the starting center, reprising the role he played for the Nuggets last year before Denver traded him for Darrell Arthur and a late second-round pick. The trade made financial sense for the Grizzlies as well, since Koufos is slightly cheaper than Arthur, and only $500K of his $3MM salary for 2014/15 is guaranteed. Arthur has a player option on his deal for next season. The trade seemed driven by Denver’s front office, which sought to clear the way for JaVale McGee to see starter’s minutes. Memphis has been the beneficiary, acquiring a 24-year-old seven-footer who’s averaged double-digit rebounds per 36 minutes in each of the past three seasons.

Memphis invested in another young player with its extension for Quincy Pondexter. The 25-year-old showed enough improvement last season to apparently convince the Grizzlies that he may be an eventual replacement for Tayshaun Prince at small forward, or at least a capable rotation-level player. His 39.5% three-point accuracy in 2012/13, a rate that jumped to 45.3% in the playoffs, might be the key metric. He’s off to a slow start from behind the arc this season, but if he can regain his form from last spring, he’ll be well-worth the sub-$4MM salaries he’ll see over the course of his new deal. Teams and former first-round picks don’t often agree to extensions for such small amounts, but Koufos is another example of a player who did, and his deal has proven team-friendly. Locking up promising non-stars for the long-term could emerge as a cost-effective strategy for the small-market Grizzlies.

The team made another move for its future with its acquisition of Nick Calathes, a 2009 second-round pick and former University of Florida standout who had been playing overseas. The cost was another late second-round pick, so the Grizzlies clearly believe Calathes will outperform most players taken long after many draft-watchers have lost interest. He’ll slot in as a third-string point guard behind Mike Conley and Jerryd Bayless, and his development will likely determine whether the team re-signs Bayless, its putative sixth man, next summer.

The Grizzlies poked around at the fringes of the market this summer, claiming Josh Akognon off waivers from the Mavs and waiving him before opening night. They also traded Donte Greene for Fab Melo in what amounted to a money-grab, waiving the former Syracuse center just two weeks after acquiring him. Memphis took on Melo’s slightly larger cap hit, which is guaranteed money that remains on the team’s books, but acquired enough cash to cover his salary and then some. The result was slightly less room underneath the tax line this season, but a little extra money for a skinflint franchise bent on making the most of its limited resources.

The team’s creativity surfaced again in its use of the mid-level exception, usually a tool for signing veterans. The Grizzlies instead committed a part of it to second-round pick Jamaal Franklin, allowing themselves to lock him up for three years and have full Bird rights when he’s eligible for restricted free agency. Most over-the-cap teams are limited to the minimum-salary exception for their second-rounders, leading to the sort of inflated offer sheet that former Bull Omer Asik signed with the Rockets via the Gilbert Arenas provision.

The new Grizzlies regime is carefully studying every move it makes, a hands-on approach that cost it a proven coach. The team’s strategy is not for everyone, but traditional methods can only take a small-market team so far. What’s happening in Memphis will probably have ripple effects across the league. If Joerger loses the locker room and the team’s careful penny-pinching doesn’t move it any closer to a title, the analytics movement will take a hit. If Memphis can take the next step despite not having a superstar, the NBA will be full of number-crunching copycats.

Luke Adams contributed to this post.

Offseason In Review: Dallas Mavericks

November 25 2013 at 8:37pm CDT By Zach Links

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

Trades

  • Acquired the No. 16 pick in 2013, the Nets’ 2014 second-round pick, and the Celtics’ own 2014 second-round pick from the Celtics in exchange for the No. 13 pick in 2013.
  • Acquired the No. 18 pick in 2013 from the Hawks in exchange for the No. 16 pick in 2013, the No. 44 pick in 2013, and Jared Cunningham.
  • Acquired the No. 43 pick in 2013 from the Sixers in exchange for the Nets’ 2014 second-round pick.
  • Acquired a fully unprotected 2016 second-round pick from the Grizzlies in exchange for the rights to Nick Calathes. The Mavs had already acquired that 2016 second-rounder, but it had previously been top-55 protected.

Draft Picks

Camp Invitees

Departing Players

Rookie Contract Option Decisions

  • None

Last summer, the Mavericks put their eggs in the Deron Williams basket and came away with very little.  This time around, the Mavericks missed out on their top two targets but had a much better backup plan.  Mavs star Dirk Nowitzki appreciates Mark Cuban & Co’s contingency plan.

I figured last year we signed nine one-year deals so we figured there’s going to be another big turnaround again,” Nowitzki told Bill Ingram of HoopsWorld. “This year, we didn’t go for nine one-year deals. We brought Monta [Ellis] in for [three] years, and [Jose] Calderon for four years, we signed some long-term deals, so that’s going to be our backcourt for a while. I like it. They’re smart, we can play, we got some playmakers, some passers, some shooters, and it’s been going pretty good, but we got to be better defensively if we really want to win big games in a row.

The Mavericks watched Dwight Howard go to the other Texas team in the running and had no shot at Chris Paul once Doc Rivers came aboard in L.A.  In theory, the Mavs could have pulled something similar to what they did in the summer of 2012 – load up on one-year deals.  That would have given them money to spend in the free agent frenzy of 2014, but that wouldn’t have made much sense for them.  Mavericks fans have gotten pretty used to winning and owner Mark Cuban isn’t known for his patience.  Star forward Dirk Nowitzki isn’t getting any younger and while he’s synonymous with the Mavs franchise, he might not have stuck around beyond this season with another trip to the lottery.  And good luck convincing Carmelo Anthony and the rest of the elite free agent crop to sign up for four years with a non-contending club.  The Mavs knew that their one and only option this summer was to be aggressive.

Ellis is thrilled to be with the Mavericks, but he might be even happier to be out of Milwaukee.  The athletic guard won’t be starving with his three-year, ~$25MM deal, but he turned down an $11MM player option from the Bucks to hit the open market and later turned down Milwaukee’s three-year, $36MM extension offer.  The deal includes a player option on year three and if his play early on in 2013/14 is indicative of what is to come, then he’ll likely turn the option down.  Through 14 games, Ellis is averaging a career-high 23.6 PPG with 5.4 APG off of 49.4% shooting from the floor.  The 28-year-old has been an NBA notable for years, but he’s never been this effective – Ellis’s PER of 20.46 is the very best of his career.

He’s joined in the backcourt by the almost equally thrilling Jose Calderon.  Unlike Ellis, Calderon was willing to stay in the NBA’s Central Division.  There was mutual interest between Calderon and the Pistons in a reunion, but agent Mark Bartelstein said that things didn’t come together because of timing.  It turns out that the Pistons were waiting on Josh Smith, but Calderon did alright for himself with his four-year, $29MM deal.  It’s possible that he could have held out for a higher average annual value, but a four-year pact for a 32-year-old is nothing to sneeze at.  With Calderon, the Mavericks locked down one of the league’s most creative distributors, something that they sorely needed.  Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo were both shoot-first guards and one could argue that they were both out to pad their own stat sheets as they looked ahead to free agency.  Cuban has said many times that players in their contract years will play harder than guys with security.  The playing style of Collison and Mayo last season pokes a sizable hole in that theory.

The Mavs watched several players go elsewhere this summer, but they retained athletic forward Brandan Wright with a two-year, $10MM pact.  Wright, 26, had the best year of his career in Dallas last season, averaging 8.5 PPG and 4.1 RPG in 18 minutes per contest.  The forward is still recovering from a fracture in his left shoulder suffered during training camp, but he’ll help bolster the Dallas frontline when he returns.

Wright’s ETA is still up in the air, but he’ll be back on the floor before Devin Harris.  Harris initially agreed to a three-year, $9MM deal to return to Dallas, the place where he began his career and looked to be on his way to becoming a first-tier point guard.  However, the deal was nixed shortly thereafter when it was learned that the guard had to undergo toe surgery.  Ultimately, the two sides restructured the deal to a one-year pact for the veteran’s minimum and Dallas hopes to see Harris back on the hardwood before Christmas.  After being traded to the Nets for Jason Kidd in 2007/08, it was all downhill.  Stints in Utah and Atlanta didn’t help him resurrect his value, but a strong, healthy year with the Mavs can net him a better deal next summer.  While Harris is on the mend, Dallas finally has rookie guard Shane Larkin in the fold and he’ll help support the club’s veteran backcourt off the bench.

GM Donnie Nelson and company have been high on Samuel Dalembert for years, believing him to be an ideal fit with power forward Dirk Nowitzki.  This summer, they made it a reality.  Dalembert came into this season averaging 2.6 blocks per 36 minutes for his career and he figures to see more burn in Dallas than he did in Milwaukee last season.

The Mavs’ pickups of Wayne Ellington and Israeli guard Gal Mekel got a decent amount of attention this offseason, but the club’s signing of former Spurs forward DeJuan Blair for the minimum might prove to be one of their smartest additions.  Blair was frustrated with his inconsistent playing time in San Antonio – he was virtually forgotten during the postseason – but he looks to have found a more comfortable home in another part of Texas.

While other clubs are trying desperately to position themselves for the best free agent class and draft class in recent memory, the Mavericks pounced this offseason and gave themselves a chance to do some damage in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.  This Dallas team won’t reach the same heights as the 2010/11 incarnation, but they’re on the right track.

Offseason In Review: Houston Rockets

November 24 2013 at 10:32am CDT By Chuck Myron

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

Trades

  • Acquired the rights to Kostas Papanikolaou, the rights to Marko Todorovic, the Timberwolves’ 2015 second-round pick, and the Trail Blazers’ own 2017 second-round pick from the Blazers in exchange for Thomas Robinson.
  • Acquired a 2014 second-round pick (31-55 protected) from the Sixers in exchange for Royce WhiteFurkan Aldemir and cash.

Draft Picks

  • Isaiah Canaan (Round 2, 34th overall). Signed via cap space for three years, $2.33MM. Third year is 80% guaranteed.

Camp Invitees

Departing Players

Rookie Contract Option Decisions

In the summer of 2012, the Rockets appeared adrift, ready to hit bottom after three straight ninth-place finishes in the Western Conference. GM Daryl Morey had to prove he was worthy of keeping his job, and he did so with a bang in October 2012, trading for James Harden, who blossomed into an All-NBA player. Snagging one superstar made Houston a more attractive destination for others, and the team aimed for the greatest prizes in this year’s free agent class, pursuing Dwight Howard and Chris Paul, and making a push to team Howard with former AAU teammate Josh Smith.

Luring Paul away from the Clippers was a long shot at best, and the task of either clearing enough cap space for both Howard and Smith or working a sign-and-trade with the Hawks proved too difficult. It was much easier to simply pry Howard from the Lakers, and the Rockets emerged as front runners for the center long before free agency began. Howard’s decision-making is notoriously difficult to predict, and in early July he met with the Hawks, Mavericks, Warriors and Lakers in addition to the Rockets. His choice to ultimately sign with the Rockets lifted Houston into title contention less than 12 months after the team possessed a roster that might have finished with the league’s worst record in 2012/13.

The signing prompted Morey to ask Mavs owner Mark Cuban if he’d be interested in trading Dirk Nowitzki, and while Cuban thinks Morey’s inquiry might have been more of a taunt than a serious request, it demonstrates a brazen attitude that helped the GM outfox his rivals. That daring approach extends throughout Morey’s roster-building techniques, as demonstrated by his decision to waive Aaron Brooks and decline the team option on Francisco Garcia as part of the effort to cap clear space for Howard. Brooks and Garcia were clearly players Morey still wanted, and he managed to re-sign them to minimum-salary deals, even after taking the additional step of renouncing Garcia’s Bird rights. It was a risk that paid dividends, as so many have for Morey over the past year.

Morey pulled off another escape when he appeared to have backed himself into a corner at the end of preseason. The Rockets had four rotation-caliber players without fully guaranteed deals, and just two roster spots to accommodate them. Marcus Camby‘s injury allowed the team to cut his fully guaranteed deal instead, and while it’s never ideal to pay someone a full season’s salary when he’s not on the roster, the move let the team keep three of those four capable players without full guarantees. Reggie Williams, a three-point shooter whose numbers were in decline, was the only casualty, while Patrick Beverley, Greg Smith and offseason signee Ronnie Brewer remained. Camby is hanging around the Rockets while he recovers, and the possibility remains for the veteran center to rejoin the team if a roster spot opens.

Perhaps the most dangerous move Morey made as he opened cap room for Howard was trading Thomas Robinson, the fifth overall pick from the 2012 draft. The Rockets snagged him at the trade deadline this past February, and though he didn’t make an outsized impact, Robinson was nonetheless impressive on the boards in limited minutes. He averaged 11.2 rebounds per 36 minutes during his half season with the Rockets, a tempting number for the Trail Blazers, who poached him from the Rockets for the pittance of two second-round picks and a pair of draft-and-stash players. Robinson could develop into a force at power forward, the very position where Houston looks weakest.

Morey also cut ties with another 2012 first-rounder, sending troubled Royce White to the Sixers for a late second-round pick. Morey thought of White as a top-five talent when he drafted him, gambling that his psychological challenges wouldn’t manifest as a roadblock. The Rockets had no such luck, as White failed to appear in any regular season games for Houston while he held out for special mental health stipulations in his standard rookie contract. Morey had to attach European prospect Furkan Aldemir and cash to entice former Rockets executive and new Sixers GM Sam Hinkie into taking his own chance on White. Hinkie’s presence in Philadelphia allowed Morey the opportunity to unload one of his mistakes, but Morey’s former assistant also drove a hard bargain, demonstrating how one cog in Houston’s operation is now working against the team.

Howard is the only one of Houston’s free agent signees from this past summer whom the team will pay more than the $1.266MM minimum salary it’s dishing out to Garcia this season. There are bargains, like a rejuvenated Omri Casspi, within that group, but it’s the low-cost, high-reward signings that Morey made in previous years that allow the team to be more than just the Harden-and-Howard show. Beverley and Chandler Parsons make up two-fifths of the starting lineup, and they’ll earn just slightly more than $1.7MM combined this season. Morey helped himself in signing unheralded players to three-year, mostly non-guaranteed deals that allow the team to cut ties with those who don’t pan out and gain full Bird rights for those who do. Still, it will be a challenge to keep the team’s supporting cast together once Parsons, Beverley and others hit finally free agency with Howard and Harden clogging the team’s books on their max contracts.

That conundrum awaits on the horizon, but a more pressing concern is what the Howard signing has done to the psyche of Omer Asik, who’s reportedly been making weekly trade requests since Howard arrived. Notwithstanding an ill-fated attempt to pair Howard and Asik in the starting lineup, the arrival of Howard displaced Asik and turned last year’s starting center into an overpaid backup with a sullen attitude. Morey is at work trying to trade Asik, but the Turkish center’s demands and nearly $15MM balloon payment next season will make it more difficult than it might otherwise be to find a home for the 7’0″ top-flight defensive stopper. The challenge is just one of many ripple effects of the Howard acquisition that make it as much of a risk as any transaction Morey has made. The contract itself prompts questions, too, since there’s no guarantee Howard will be worth the $87.6MM he’ll make over four seasons. Morey might not fit the stereotype of the classic Texas gambler from the Old West, but his moves suggest he plays the part well. The Rockets can only hope he doesn’t go bust.

Luke Adams contributed to this post. 

Offseason In Review: Sacramento Kings

November 23 2013 at 3:33pm CDT By Chuck Myron

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

  • Acquired Greivis Vasquez from the Pelicans, along with the Knicks’ 2016 second-round pick (31-37 protected) from the Blazers and the rights to swap 2018 second-round picks with the Blazers, in exchange for Tyreke Evans (signed-and-traded to the Pelicans).
  • Acquired Luc Mbah a Moute from the Bucks in exchange for a 2016 second-round pick (more favorable of Pelicans’ and Kings’ picks) and the right to swap 2019 second-round picks.

Draft Picks

  • Ben McLemore (Round 1, 7th overall). Signed via rookie exception.
  • Ray McCallum (Round 2, 36th overall). Signed via cap space for three years, $2.29MM. Third year is non-guaranteed.

Camp Invitees

Departing Players

Rookie Contract Option Decisions

There isn’t much the Kings could have done this summer to turn off their fans. All that mattered to many in Sacramento was that the Kings weren’t headed to Seattle. The battle to keep the team in town had drawn more headlines than the team’s uninspiring play, and just as it seemed the team was gone, a new ownership group emerged and won NBA approval over the Seattle investors who’d already struck a deal with the Maloof family. New principal owner Vivek Ranadive quickly made his mark, installing Michael Malone as the new coach even before he replaced longtime GM Geoff Petrie with then-Nuggets executive Pete D’Alessandro. It was odd to see the team hire a coach a couple of weeks before bringing a new GM aboard, but it spared D’Alessandro one task among the many he has as he reshapes the roster.

The first decision D’Alessandro made might have been the easiest, as one of the presumptive top six picks in the draft fell to the Kings at No. 7. Ben McLemore is truly a shooting guard, as witnessed by his 42% accuracy from behind the arc during his lone season at Kansas. Outside shooting wasn’t really a need for a team that finished 11th in both three-point accuracy and three-pointers made last season, but there was no reason for the Kings, who won just 28 games in 2012/13, to pass up the most capable player remaining on the board. He averaged 5.2 rebounds per game at Kansas in spite of his 6’5″ frame, and that will come in handy for the Kings, who were 25th in total rebounds last season.

McLemore’s arrival didn’t bode well for the return of incumbent shooting guard Tyreke Evans, and indeed the fourth pick from 2009 wasn’t long for Sacramento. D’Alessandro sent Evans to New Orleans as part of a three-way deal that netted point guard Greivis Vasquez. The Pelicans had extended an offer sheet to Evans while the Kings made a lucrative play for Andre Iguodala, who was hesitant to sign with a non-contender before D’Alessandro hastily withdrew the team’s offer to the ex-Nugget. That seemed at the time to be a signal that the Kings were preparing to match the Pelicans’ offer to Evans, but instead D’Alessandro used a small portion of the cap space that would have gone to Iguodala to absorb Vasquez’s rookie contract. That left plenty of money to go after other targets.

Ranadive and Malone were both involved with the Warriors last season, and the Kings took on an even stronger Golden State feel when they poached free agent Carl Landry from their Northern California rivals. The Kings exercised their superior financial flexibility to outbid the Clippers, who were also in pursuit, and give the power forward more than the Warriors could. I’m not sure any other teams would have spent quite as freely to land the 30-year-old even if they had the means. Landry will see a guaranteed $6.5MM each season through 2016/17, quite a commitment for a player who’s never been a full-time starter or a serious contender for Sixth Man of the Year.

By contrast, Luc Mbah a Moute spent most of the last five seasons as the starter at small forward for the Bucks. He’s on a contract that owes him slightly less than $9MM for this season and next, but Milwaukee was willing to give him up for just a pair of second-round picks. The five-year veteran isn’t seeing heavy minutes to start the season, but Mbah a Moute and his 7’1″ wingspan could provide the team with a relatively inexpensive way to improve its ability to stop opposing teams. The Kings gave up 108.6 points per 100 possessions last season, the 29th worst mark in the league.

The Kings were even worse when DeMarcus Cousins was on the floor, per NBA.com. That didn’t stop the team from going all-in with the hot-tempered former fifth overall pick, giving him a four-year, maximum-salary extension a month before the October 31st deadline to do so. D’Alessandro and company were willing to go even farther and give Cousins a fifth year on the deal, which would have made him the team’s designated player, but the 6’11″ center preferred the shorter arrangement. Cousins has plenty of talent, as his scoring (17.1) and rebounding (9.9) averages last season attest, but the Kings are gambling that he can improve defensively and achieve the sort of dominance at his position that would make him the centerpiece of any contender. He’s shown glimpses of his capability of attaining that status, and while that alone makes him a commodity, there are plenty of doubts about whether he has the focus and drive necessary to fulfill his promise. There’s at least one executive from a rival team who believes the Kings might look to trade Cousins if he doesn’t show progress this season, but the decision to give him a max contract will likely be the defining move for the Kings’ new regime for years to come.

The Cousins deal overshadowed extension talks with Vasquez, who finished third in the league in assists per game as part of a breakthrough performance last season. The Kings looked past the defensive shortcomings of Cousins, but Vasquez’s inability to stop opponents surely played a role in the team’s decision not to extend the point guard’s deal. The 26-year-old also turned the ball over plenty last season, and it seemed that the Kings weren’t convinced that he’s the sort of top-flight point guard that last year’s assist numbers suggest, since he had to battle Isaiah Thomas in preseason for a starting job. Still, the team reportedly plans to match any offers he gets in restricted free agency next summer, so perhaps D’Alessandro simply didn’t want to bid against himself.

The Kings, unlike every other team in the NBA except the Wizards, had a third player eligible for a rookie scale extension, and while there were talks with Patrick Patterson, D’Alessandro passed on a deal with him, too. Yet the most galvanizing choice the Kings front office made at the Halloween deadline was turning down Jimmer Fredette‘s 2014/15 option, which will make him an unrestricted free agent next summer. D’Alessandro called it an “agonizing” decision, but the former BYU sharpshooter has yet to give the NBA a taste of the scoring touch that made him a star in college and convinced Petrie to use the 10th overall pick on him in 2011. Fredette draws frequent mention as a trade candidate, and the ability to offer him to other teams as an expiring contract probably played into D’Alessandro’s decision not to pick up the option.

A trade of some sort appears to be on the horizon for Sacramento, whether it involves Fredette or someone else, since the team has reportedly advanced past preliminary talks with multiple other clubs. The Kings are aggressively seeking young prospects and draft picks in exchange for their veterans, and the front office wants to do a deal well in advance of the trade deadline in February. D’Alessandro knows he doesn’t have a finished product, and he probably won’t even after his next move. The jubilation over the team remaining in Sacramento won’t last forever, and the Kings face a long climb after years of losing and failed lottery picks. D’Alessandro has made Cousins the face of the franchise, proverbial warts and all, but fans might not recognize the rest of the team before too long.

Luke Adams contributed to this post.

Offseason In Review: Utah Jazz

November 23 2013 at 10:50am CDT By Zach Links

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

  • Acquired the No. 9 pick in 2013 from the Timberwolves in exchange for the No. 14 pick in 2013 and the No. 21 pick in 2013.
  • Acquired the No. 27 pick in 2013 from the Nuggets in exchange for the No. 46 pick in 2013 and cash.
  • Acquired the No. 47 pick in 2013 from the Hawks in exchange for the Nets’ 2015 second-round pick.
  • Acquired Andris BiedrinsRichard JeffersonBrandon Rush, a 2014 first-round pick, a 2017 first-round pick, a 2016 second-round pick, a 2017 second-round pick, and cash from the Warriors, as well as a 2018 second-round pick from the Nuggets, in exchange for Randy Foye (signed-and-traded to Nuggets) and Kevin Murphy (to Warriors).

Draft Picks

Camp Invitees

Departing Players

Rookie Contract Option Decisions

Sometimes, you gotta take a step back to move forward.  At least, the Jazz hope that’s true.  After finishing with a .500 record last season, the Jazz realized that they were in the NBA’s dreaded middle ground.  They had enough talent to be in the mix for one of the final playoff spots in the West but their upside was somewhat limited.  This summer, the Jazz decided to build around their youth and position themselves for the future.  It’s a plan that we could praise in next year’s Offseason In Review, but it’s not going to be pretty in the interim.

All season long, fans wondered which big man the Jazz would re-sign: Al Jefferson or Paul Millsap.  The correct answer: neither.  Utah allowed Jefferson to sign a hefty three-year, $40.5MM deal with the Bobcats while watching Millsap sign a two-year, $19MM pact with the Hawks.  Re-signing one (or both) players would have put Utah in the pre-season Mavericks/Pelicans/Blazers/Lakers group of teams fighting for one of the final seeds.  Instead, the Jazz decided to let both walk and give those minutes to Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter in order to help them develop.

The Jazz made their intentions for the 2013/14 season perfectly clear in July when they agreed to take on Andris Biedrins, Richard Jefferson, and Brandon Rush from the Warriors for a boatload of draft picks.  That haul of two first-round picks (2014 and 2017 from Warriors), three second-round picks (2016 and 2017 from Warriors, 2018 from Nuggets) makes the $24MM in additional salary worthwhile for the rebuilding Jazz.  The key, of course, is that all three deals have just one year remaining.  Utah will go into the free agent frenzy of 2014 with just ~$27MM in commitments, a number that should give them more breathing room than just about anyone.

In the meantime, the Jazz are left with floor plans on a four-story mansion hanging in the living room of their small one-bedroom apartment.  Jefferson, once a key cog on the Nets’ back-to-back Finals teams, is a shell of his former self and hasn’t averaged double digit points since the 2010/11 season he spent with San Antonio.  Biedrins has regressed even further with averages of 2.9 PPG and 5.3 RPG across the last four (injury riddled) seasons.  Rush should prove to be an improvement at the starting small forward position over Marvin Williams, but he’ll have to get back on the court first.  Since playing ten minutes against the Nets on November 5th, Rush has yet to appear in another game.  He says that he has more-or-less recovered from his torn ACL, but at this stage, he has a mental block that is keeping him from playing with comfort and confidence.

But enough about this tiny one bedroom with those horrible, noisy neighbors upstairs.  Let’s talk mansion.  The Jazz used their No. 14 and No. 21 picks in the June draft to trade up and grab Michigan guard Trey Burke.  In a draft that could prove to be chock full of duds (just ask Cavs fans how they feel about top pick Anthony Bennett right now), Burke looks like he could be a rather solid point guard.  The 20-year-old boasts tremendous passing ability and has a knack for finding the open man in traffic.  He also knows how to keep command of the basketball with his high-level ball handling and he vaulted up the draft board in part because he was able to cut down on turnovers from his freshman to sophomore year.  Burke completes the triple threat profile with his shooting ability and has solid range from outside.  Even though eight players were taken ahead of him in the 2013 draft, it wouldn’t be surprise at all for him to stand as one of the three best talents in the class five years from now.  In addition to Burke, the Jazz also picked up French center Rudy Gobert towards the end of the first round.  Gobert is raw, but he has the size and defensive aptitude to develop into a solid rotation piece.

After moving on from Millsap/Jefferson, the Jazz locked up Derrick Favors, whom they hope will be a key part of their future.  Utah’s four-year, $49MM deal may seem like a lot on the surface, but at the time of the signing, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports spoke with league execs who said that they would be willing to give him something in the range of $13MM per season.  Frankly, the deal could turn out to be quite a bargain if Favors progresses as they hope he will.  The Jazz were also hoping to hammer something out with Gordon Hayward before the Halloween deadline but it wasn’t meant to be.  Hayward is now set to hit restricted free agency in the summer, but the Jazz might also be open to moving him before the All-Star break.

In the Riggin’ For Wiggins chase, the Jazz might have a leg up on everyone.  It might not be easy to watch, but Utah has decided to have something of a growing pain year to see what they have in Burke, Hayward, Favors, Kanter, and Alec Burks.  This time next year, the Jazz could look like the smartest team in the league.  For now, they’ll have to make do in their cramped bachelor pad.

Offseason In Review: San Antonio Spurs

November 22 2013 at 3:15pm CDT By Luke Adams

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

Trades

  • None

Draft Picks

Camp Invitees

Departing Players

Rookie Contract Option Decisions

Coming off a season in which they came within a miracle Ray Allen three-pointer of a title, the Spurs had the opportunity to go in a couple different directions this summer. The direction San Antonio ultimately chose was likely the safer of its two potential courses, and was certainly the less exciting option. But given the flexibility afforded to the Spurs heading into the offseason, that decision must not have come easy.

With Manu Ginobili‘s and Tiago Splitter‘s contracts set to expire and Matt Bonner‘s 2013/14 salary only partially guaranteed, the Spurs had less than $40MM in guaranteed salary committed to the roster for this season. If the club had let Ginobili, Splitter, and Bonner walk, it would have created nearly enough cap space to make a maximum offer to Dwight Howard — that’s why we heard a little offseason speculation that San Antonio could get involved in those sweepstakes.

Even if they chose not to pursue Howard, the Spurs could have used that chunk of potential cap room to sign an impact player. Al Jefferson, for instance, has long been considered a possible target for the Spurs. Signing him to an annual salary of $12-13MM would still have left the team some money to add another complementary player or two. The same could be said for Josh Smith, another player who signed for about that amount and may have been a fit with the Spurs.

For a team whose window is perpetually thought to be closing, the opportunity to replace a declining veteran like Ginobili with a younger star must have been tempting. Losing Splitter would have been a tough pill to swallow, but at age 28, the Brazilian big man is unlikely to continue improving much, and isn’t exactly a future Hall-of-Famer.

Still, while pundits may be ready to dub the Spurs “too old” every October, last year’s Finals are proof that the veteran team isn’t over the hill quite yet. Ginobili is slowing down, but Tony Parker remains one of the league’s best point guards, and Tim Duncan was as productive as ever in 2012/13. Throw in the fact that Kawhi Leonard emerged in the postseason as one of the NBA’s rising stars, and it’s easy to see why the Spurs decided to stay the course for another year or two.

Staying the course meant bringing back Ginobili, Splitter, and Bonner rather than claiming that potential cap space. Ginobili, who never seemed likely to sign anywhere else, inked a two-year deal worth $14.5MM. Splitter drew more interest from rival teams, reportedly receiving a four-year, $36MM offer from the Trail Blazers, which the Spurs were willing to match. I’d expected Ginobili to receive a salary in the neighborhood of the mid-level, so that extra $1-2MM annually is easy enough to swallow. As for Splitter, even if we’ve seen his best, an annual salary of $9MM is a reasonable rate for a productive big man — it’s a tradable contract and compares favorably to recent deals for players like JaVale McGee and DeAndre Jordan.

By the time those three Spurs were back on the books, San Antonio’s cap room had vanished, but the club still had its mid-level exception available, which it used to add a pair of players. Jeff Pendergraph, who became Jeff Ayres after signing with the team, will add some depth to the frontcourt, but Marco Belinelli was the more notable signee. It’s still very early in the year, so we can’t necessarily expect Belinelli to maintain his career-high shooting percentages and PER all season, but he looks like a great fit in San Antonio. He should make for a great option when Ginobili is struggling, or when the team needs a shooter besides Danny Green.

At some point, the Spurs will move on from the Duncan/Parker/Ginobili era and get younger, but it looks like we’re still a couple years away from that reality. The four-year deal signed by Splitter ensures that he’s the only Spur on the books long-term, with every other player’s deal set to expire by 2015. As such, I expect we’ll see the current core take two more runs at a title – this season and next – before the team once again finds itself at the crossroads it faced this summer. In 2013, it made sense to bring the whole gang back. By 2015, San Antonio may finally be headed in another direction.

Offseason In Review: Golden State Warriors

November 20 2013 at 9:00am CDT By Luke Adams

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

  • Acquired Malcolm Lee and the No. 26 pick in 2013 from the Timberwolves in exchange for a 2014 second-round pick and $1.6MM in cash.
  • Acquired the No. 29 pick in 2013 and $1MM in cash from the Thunder in exchange for the No. 26 pick in 2013.
  • Acquired the No. 30 pick in 2013 from the Suns in exchange for Malcolm Lee and the No. 29 pick in 2013.
  • Acquired Andre Iguodala from the Nuggets and Kevin Murphy from the Jazz in exchange for a 2018 second-round pick (to Nuggets), along with Andris Biedrins, Richard Jefferson, Brandon Rush, a 2014 first-round pick, a 2017 first-round pick, a 2016 second-round pick, a 2017 second-round pick, and cash (all to Jazz). Iguodala was signed-and-traded for four years, $48MM. Murphy was subsequently waived.

Draft Picks

Camp Invitees

Departing Players

Rookie Contract Option Decisions

Two Western teams saw their 2012/13 seasons come to an end in the second round of the postseason this past spring. For the Thunder, whose offseason we covered yesterday, the end result was viewed as a disappointment, though perhaps an inevitable one following Russell Westbrook‘s season-ending injury. The Warriors, on the other hand, exceeded virtually everyone’s expectations by giving the eventual Western champs (the Spurs) a run for their money. While the club fell well short of a title, it’s hard to consider ’12/13 anything but a success for Golden State.

There are a number of ways the Warriors’ front office could have handled that unexpected success. Many teams would have been content to bring back virtually the same roster, tweaking the edges here and there in hopes that minor upgrades would be enough to take the next step. But GM Bob Myers and the Warriors certainly didn’t play it safe this summer, opting instead to pursue a pair of the top free agents on the market.

Of course, heading into July, the Warriors’ ability to go after marquee free agents was limited by the team’s cap situation. There was already about $70MM in salary on the Warriors’ books for 2013/14, meaning that they wouldn’t even be able to retain players like Jarrett Jack or Carl Landry without going well into luxury tax territory. In order to make a run at anyone significant, the team needed to clear at least two of its four major contracts: The expiring deals for Andrew Bogut, Andris Biedrins, and Richard Jefferson, and David Lee‘s long-term contract.

While I wasn’t privy to the thinking of the Warriors’ front office, I have to imagine that the moves the club made on draft night influenced the subsequent decision to trade away multiple first-round picks. In a series of three draft-day deals, Golden State managed to essentially buy the 30th overall pick for the modest price of $600K. It may not always be that simple for the Warriors to trade their way into the draft, but it still likely helped convince Myers and Co. that giving up future first-rounders expected to fall in the 20s wasn’t the end of the world.

So the Warriors did just that, striking an agreement with the Jazz that saw Golden State offload more than $24MM in expiring contracts (Jefferson, Biedrins, and Brandon Rush), along with four draft picks — two first-rounders and two second-rounders. The move didn’t give the team the necessary cap space to sign guys like Dwight Howard and/or Andre Iguodala outright, but it created the flexibility to negotiate sign-and-trades for both players.

Golden State’s pursuit of Howard ultimately fell short, though owner Joe Lacob revealed in October that the club came “a lot closer than people realize” to landing D12. Iguodala, meanwhile, agreed to sign with the Warriors, and the team eventually managed to work him into the previously negotiated swap with the Jazz, turning it into a three-way trade with the Nuggets.

The addition of Iguodala made perfect sense for the Warriors, who were resigned to losing Jack and Landry by that point. Iguodala doesn’t technically share a position with either departed free agent, but like Jack, he can bring the ball up the floor, and his ability to play the three could allow Harrison Barnes to play more significant minutes at the four, helping to replace Landry’s production. The former Sixer and Nugget looks like an ideal fit in Golden State, where he’ll be surrounded with so many scorers that he’ll only be expected to help facilitate, rebound, and defend. Any offense he provides will just be a bonus.

With Jack and Landry on the way out, the Warriors attempted to further shore up the point guard position and the frontcourt by using their mid-level and bi-annual exceptions to the fullest. Golden State used its MLE to land Marreese Speights and Toney Douglas, and its BAE to sign Jermaine O’Neal. None of those players will contend for Sixth Man of the Year like Jack did, but they should all be productive contributors off the bench. Given the injury histories of starters like Stephen Curry and Bogut, those bench players could ultimately play very important roles before the season is over.

Speaking of Bogut, the Warriors’ most questionable move of the offseason came right at the end, when the team locked its starting center up to a three-year extension worth $36MM (plus incentives). If the Australian stays healthy all season and plays like his old self, the extension will look prudent, as Curry’s did a year ago. But it’s been a long time since Bogut played a full season, and if he’s not past his prime yet, he certainly will be by the end of his new contract. The Warriors may not have had many other options at center next summer, but the deal still looks a little too risky for my liking.

Nonetheless, the riskiness of Bogut’s extension seems to fall in line with Golden State’s overall offseason approach. This is an aggressive and creative front office, one that wasn’t content to stand pat and only make minor adjustments to the roster. Armed with a mix of expensive and inexpensive contracts, along with multiple trade exceptions, the club could still have a trick or two up its sleeve. But for now it’s up to the current core to make the team’s bold offseason look good by building on the promise shown by last year’s squad.