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Offseason In Review

2016 NBA Offseason In Review Series

Over the last month and a half, Hoops Rumors has been examining the 2016 offseason moves for all 30 NBA teams, revisiting the summer’s free agent signings, trades, draft picks, departures, and other key news and transactions. Our Offseason in Review pieces for each of the league’s 30 teams are linked below, sorted by conference and division.


EASTERN CONFERENCE

Atlantic Division

Central Division

Southeast Division


WESTERN CONFERENCE

Northwest Division

Pacific Division

Southwest Division

Offseason In Review: Golden State Warriors

Hoops Rumors is breaking down the 2016 offseason for all 30 NBA teams, revisiting the summer’s free agent signings, trades, draft picks, departures, and more. We’ll evaluate each team’s moves from the last several months and look ahead to what the 2016/17 season holds for all 30 franchises. Today, we’re focusing on the Golden State Warriors.

Free agent signings:

Camp invitees:

Trades:

  • Acquired the draft rights to Patrick McCaw (No. 38 pick) from the Bucks in exchange for cash ($2.4MM).
  • Acquired the Mavericks’ own 2019 second-round pick (protected 31-55) in exchange for Andrew Bogut and the Warriors’ own 2019 second-round pick.

Draft picks:

  • 1-30: Damian Jones. Signed to rookie contract.
  • 2-38: Patrick McCaw. Signed for two years, minimum salary. Fully guaranteed.

Departing players:

Other offseason news:


Check out our salary cap snapshot for the Golden State Warriors right here.


For the first 103 games of their 2015/16 season, just about everything played out in storybook fashion for the Warriors. They set a new regular-season record by finishing with 73 wins, breezed past the Rockets and Trail Blazers in the postseason, recovered from a 3-1 deficit to knock off the Thunder in the Western Conference Finals, and then built a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals against LeBron James and the Cavaliers.Kevin Durant vertical

Of course, everyone knows what happened next, if only based on the ensuing memes. The Warriors’ 3-1 lead evaporated, with the Cavs completing an improbable comeback to prevent Golden State from winning its second consecutive title.

It would be easy to assume that the Warriors’ offseason approach, which saw the team relentlessly pursue – and land – the summer’s best available free agent was heavily motivated by those last three games. After all, if the Dubs had won another championship after establishing a new record for wins in a regular season, there would seemingly be little incentive to make major changes to their roster.

However, Golden State’s pursuit of Kevin Durant actually began well before July 1, and well before the team’s Finals loss to the Cavaliers. According to reports, Draymond Green and other members of the Warriors were in contact with Durant throughout the 2015/16 season, engaged in recruitment efforts and urging him to consider the possibility of playing the club.

For Durant, that Finals loss may have provided the extra push he needed – it’s hard to imagine him leaving Oklahoma City for the Bay Area if the Warriors were coming off two straight titles – but from Golden State’s perspective, it was the plan all along. The franchise ultimately executed that plan to perfection, signing Durant to a two-year, maximum-salary deal that includes an opt-out after the first year to allow him to re-up for a larger salary.

Although the signing may have dealt a blow to competitive balance in the NBA, it’s hard to criticize the Warriors for pushing to add as much talent as their roster as possible, and the team deserves credit for making a strong pitch to Durant, who also considered the Celtics, Heat, Clippers, Spurs, and – of course – the Thunder. The front office’s desire to continue getting better even in the midst of a record-setting season is admirable.

If there’s any downside to the approach, it probably relates to the team’s handling of its complementary players. With Durant entering the mix, that meant that just about anyone else unwilling to sign for the minimum salary was expendable, including young role players like Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli. Guys like Barnes and Ezeli were surely aware of the recruitment efforts for Durant last season, and while that probably wasn’t the reason for their underwhelming Finals performances, they played that series knowing that the team was ready to cut them loose a couple weeks later. Unless you’re a star-level player like Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, or Green, your roster spot in Golden State isn’t safe.

Of course, given the nature of free agency (particularly after this year’s salary cap increase), some of those complementary players like Barnes are getting star-level contracts as well, so it’s in the Warriors’ best interests to use that money on the players who deserve it most. And when your roster starts with Curry, Thompson, Green, and Durant, it gets a little easier to bring aboard role players at a discount, making the loss of mid-level players easier to stomach.

Among the veterans willing to sign at a reduced rate this summer? Zaza Pachulia, whose signing reportedly irritated rival executives as much as – or more than – the Durant deal, since the Warriors got him at such a below-market price. It was an interesting decision for Pachulia, who was coming off a strong year in Dallas and looked well-positioned to land one last big contract at age 32. It’s also an interesting move for the Warriors, who will essentially be replacing Andrew Bogut with Pachulia, having dumped Bogut in a cost-cutting trade to make room for Durant.

Pachulia is a very good rebounder, screener, and rebounder, all traits that will come in handy in Golden State. But he lacks the rim-protecting abilities of Bogut and Ezeli, as does David West, another veteran big man who was willing to join the Warriors on a minimum-salary deal as he seeks a ring. The club did well to add productive veterans like Pachulia and West without having much financial flexibility, and both players look like excellent values on the surface. But with Bogut, Ezeli, and Marreese Speights gone, the only rim protectors on the roster are Green and JaVale McGee, who isn’t expected to play much.

The Warriors’ most effective lineup features Green at center anyway, so the team should be able to mask its defensive deficiencies around the rim most of the time. But it’s an area to watch as the season goes on — it’s possible Golden State will be targeting a shot-blocking center at the trade deadline or on waivers late in the season.

One player who could significantly help the Warriors fill the void created by the departures of their former centers is Damian Jones, the team’s first-round pick back in June. The former Vanderbilt center is still recovering from a pectoral injury, and the team likely doesn’t expect a ton out of him in his rookie season, but general manager Bob Myers acknowledged in September that athletic bigs like Jones are “always at a premium.” With Curry and Durant on track to sign massive new contracts next July, having an inexpensive center like Jones under contract through 2020 could be a boon for the franchise in future seasons, so it’s encouraging that his injury isn’t a foot or knee issue that would have a greater risk of becoming chronic.

The Warriors are also high on their other 2016 draftee, second-round pick Patrick McCaw, who just turned 21 last month. With a veteran-heavy roster, Golden State likely won’t count on McCaw to play a major role right away, but the team should be involved in enough blowouts that he’ll get some fourth-quarter run in the coming weeks and months.

When NBA.com ran its annual survey of NBA general managers, 83.3% of the survey’s respondents said that the Warriors had the best offseason of any team in 2016. The addition of Durant makes me inclined to agree. However, if we want to nitpick a team that features a pair of former MVPs and two more All-NBA stars, it’s worth noting that the Durant signing cost the club a little depth. Pachulia and West were nice value signings, and the Warriors added a pair of promising rookies, but overall, the supporting cast looks a little thinner this year than it did in 2015/16, and the team has fewer movable assets to accommodate a potential in-season trade.

Nonetheless, the Warriors shouldn’t need a wealth of depth to win 60+ games, given their star talent, and they may not need much depth to make another extended playoff run either. By locking up the best available free agent on this year’s market, the Dubs ensured that they’re a huge favorite to return to the NBA Finals, and they’ll remain a perennial title contender for as long as their new “Big Four” stays intact.

Salary information from Basketball Insiders used in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Offseason In Review: Phoenix Suns

Hoops Rumors is breaking down the 2016 offseason for all 30 NBA teams, revisiting the summer’s free agent signings, trades, draft picks, departures, and more. We’ll evaluate each team’s moves from the last several months and look ahead to what the 2016/17 season holds for all 30 franchises. Today, we’re focusing on the Phoenix Suns.

Free agent signings:

Camp invitees:

Trades:

Draft picks:

Departing players:

Other offseason news:


Check out our salary cap snapshot for the Phoenix Suns right here.


NBA: Sacramento Kings at Phoenix SunsThe most important moves made by the Suns this offseason came before the free agency period began on July 1.

Phoenix’s first order of business was to decide what coach would guide a young roster through its rebuilding process. The second was to accumulate more difference-makers in the draft lottery through its abundance of picks.

The Suns didn’t take long on the first of those offseason decisions. They gave interim head coach Earl Watson the job full-time, making him the second youngest head man in the league this season behind only the Lakers’ new coach, Luke Walton.

Watson joined Jeff Hornacek’s staff prior to last season and got promoted when Hornacek was fired in early February. Though the Suns only went 9-24 the rest of the way, the front office liked the way the players responded to him.

“Earl did a very good job with our team last season after taking over as interim head coach during a challenging time for the organization,” Suns GM Ryan McDonough said at the time. “Earl’s natural leadership qualities and his ability to connect with and motivate our players have stood out throughout his time here in Phoenix.”

Former Raptors coach Jay Triano was soon hired as Watson’s right-hand man to lend guidance and an experienced voice.

With that out of the way, the front office’s attention turned to player personnel. The next few seasons for the Suns will be shaped by what they did on June 23rd. They walked into the draft with four first-rounders, including two lottery selections, and a high second-rounder.

They held onto the fourth overall pick and chose Euro big man Dragan Bender, giving them a stretch four with length and versatility. What they did with their other picks was both curious and intriguing. They packaged them up and shipped them to the Kings for another power forward, Marquese Chriss, a one-and-done prospect whom the Kings selected at No. 8.

How the Suns plan to use tandem of teenage power forwards in the long run remains as a question mark. The 7’1” Bender would have to fill out physically to handle the banging required to play center, and it’s doubtful two players of their size could man both forward positions because of obvious concerns guarding quicker small forwards.

So unless the Suns plan to have them split the minutes at power forward in the near future, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense unless they eventually make one of them a trade chip.

McDonough offered an explanation shortly after the draft.

“We knew Sacramento would consider dropping down from 8 to 13 if we made it worth their while. But both teams wanted to get on the clock in the draft to see who was still available on the board,” he said. “We took Dragan and said, let’s see what we can do to get No. 8 and get both of them. We think those two guys are perfect for the modern NBA, where athleticism and shooting and defensive versatility is at a premium, and they were the two best guys in the draft at those things.”

Phoenix went much smaller with its second-rounder, selecting diminutive point man Tyler Ulis out of Kentucky. Ulis provides a change of pace option to starter Eric Bledsoe, and the Suns were impressed enough to give him a four-year, partially-guaranteed contract.

In the early going, all three rookies have seen action, with Chriss getting rotation minutes.

Small forward P.J. Tucker had his $5.3MM guaranteed just before the start of free agency, but the Suns renounced their rights to four other players heading into the market. One member of that quartet, Jon Leuer, landed a lucrative four-year deal with the Pistons.

The Suns knew they weren’t going to attract any top-level free agents, so they went shopping for a couple of high-character players who could contribute in the short term. The biggest fish they landed was power forward Jared Dudley, who received a three-year deal to hold the fort until either Chriss or Bender is ready to move into the starting lineup.

Dudley’s contract was structured to give him slightly more at the front end, allowing a little more cap flexibility for the next two seasons.

The other top free agent addition, guard Leandro Barbosa, has a championship pedigree after playing for the Warriors during their trips to the Finals the last two seasons. The second year of Barbosa’s deal is non-guaranteed, but at $4MM per is cost effective if he shows he still has something in the tank this season.

Once those free agents were signed, the only other order of business was to decide whether to pursue a rookie-scale extension with Alex Len. There was never any indication the Suns were willing to get serious in that regard with their backup center, and no agreement was reached.

It’s obvious the Suns’ roster is still a work in progress. They have an aging center in Tyson Chandler, a backup guard in Brandon Knight with four years and nearly $57MM left on his deal, and uncertainty at small forward. T.J. Warren’s fast start could alleviate concerns with the latter issue.

Phoenix seemingly struck gold by selecting Devin Booker late in the 2015 lottery, and the 20-year-old shooting guard could develop into one of the league’s top scorers.

Ultimately, the success of the Suns’ 2016 offseason will be determined by whether Bender or Chriss develops into an All-Star level talent. Essentially, the Suns opted to give themselves two chances to find one top-notch power forward.

Salary information from Basketball Insiders used in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Offseason In Review: Sacramento Kings

Hoops Rumors is breaking down the 2016 offseason for all 30 NBA teams, revisiting the summer’s free agent signings, trades, draft picks, departures, and more. We’ll evaluate each team’s moves from the last several months and look ahead to what the 2016/17 season holds for all 30 franchises. Today, we’re focusing on the Sacramento Kings.

Free agent signings:

Camp invitees:

Trades:

Draft picks:

Waiver claims:

  • Claimed Lamar Patterson off waivers from Hawks. Later waived and re-signed him for D-League rights purposes.

Departing players:

Other offseason news:


Check out our salary cap snapshot for the Sacramento Kings right here.


It’s not a good sign when the defining moment of your offseason involves your franchise player tweeting, “Lord give me the strength.”Oct 27, 2016; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings guard Arron Afflalo (40) during the game against the San Antonio Spurs at Golden 1 Center. The Spurs won the game 102-94. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

That was the reaction of All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins after the Kings used their No. 13 pick on Greek center Georgios Papagiannis. Cousins later explained away his tweet, saying he was talking about yoga and it was bad timing that the comment hit social media right after Sacramento made its selection.

Whether that’s true or not, Cousins has a history of being critical of the organization, and the Kings have given him plenty of material during his seven years in the NBA. They haven’t made the playoffs since 2005/06 and their 33 wins last season were the most since Cousins arrived in Sacramento.

But there is some optimism bubbling around the franchise, stemming from a group of veteran additions and a coaching change that brought in former Grizzlies boss Dave Joerger. The Kings gave Joerger a four-year, $16MM deal to try and change the culture of the organization and erase the memories of George Karl, who had an ongoing battle with Cousins from the time he was hired.

Joerger won five championships as a minor league coach and was a respected assistant before taking over as head coach in Memphis in 2013/14. He had a 147-99 record and three playoff appearances in three seasons with the Grizzlies, but was fired in May at the end of an injury-plagued campaign. He was only out of work for two days before the Kings scooped him up.

Sacramento was aggressive in free agency for the second straight offseason, trying to assemble a group of veteran players to complement Cousins and small forward Rudy Gay. The Kings bolstered the backcourt with the signings of Arron Afflalo (two years at $25MM) and Garrett Temple (three years at $24MM). They also added toughness by inking veteran small forward Matt Barnes for two seasons at $12.26MM. In addition, well-traveled combo forward Anthony Tolliver was brought in at $16MM over two years.

The Kings had to rebuild their backcourt after losing league assists leader Rajon Rondo to the Bulls in free agency. They decided to give the point guard job to holdover Darren Collison, who is missing the first eight games of the season with a suspension relating to a domestic violence case, and signed Ty Lawson to a non-guaranteed one-year, minimum salary deal to be his backup. Lawson has a lot to prove after being traded out of Denver, waived by Houston and then not re-signed by Indiana, all in the space of a year.

One of Sacramento’s 2015 signees, veteran swingman Marco Belinelli, was traded to Charlotte for the draft rights to Syracuse shooting guard Malachi Richardson, the No. 22 selection this year. Belinelli was a productive reserve for the Kings in 2015/16, averaging 10.2 points per night in 68 games, but his 3-point shooting percentage plunged to a career-low .306.

Of course, that wasn’t Sacramento’s most controversial trade of the summer. That deal, which may or may not have prompted Cousins’ tweet, came on draft night when the Kings sent the rights to No. 8 pick Marquese Chriss, an athletic power forward out of Washington, to the Suns in exchange for Papagiannis at No. 13, Kentucky center Skal Labissiere at No. 28, the draft rights to Serbian guard Bogdan Bogdanovic and a 2020 second-rounder that originally belonged to the Pistons.

It was a curious move from a franchise that drafted 7-footer Willie Cauley-Stein in the first round the year before and already had Cousins and Kosta Koufos manning the middle. The Kings used the 59th pick of the draft on Oklahoma guard Isaiah Cousins, who was later waived.

Sacramento is entering another season with Cousins and Gay as its foundation, but it’s anybody’s guess how long they’ll be around. Gay, who averaged 17.2 points and 6.5 rebounds in 70 games last season, has already announced that he plans to opt out of his current deal next summer and won’t re-sign with the Kings. The 12th-year small forward is making $13,333,333 this season and figures to get a nice-sized raise in free agency. Gay seems like a good bet to be dealt during the season so the Kings don’t wind up with nothing, and Miami has already emerged as a rumored trading partner.

Cousins is signed through the 2017/18 season, but the clock may be ticking on his time in Sacramento as well. For all his on-court success, the 26-year-old has clashed with coaches and management throughout his stay with the team and may have the same attitude as Gay once he begins to see his freedom. Cousins will make nearly $17MM this season, more than $18MM next season and seems like a lock for a max contract after that. Sacramento may have to start seriously considering offers soon, as Cousins’ trade value will only decline as he gets closer to free agency.

There are plenty of mixed feelings surrounding the Kings as they embark on a new season. The hiring of Joerger, the addition of the veteran free agents and the opening of an impressive new arena called Golden 1 Center are all signs that the franchise is looking up. However, the impending loss of Gay and the possible exit of Cousins after that could devastate the franchise. If the front office loses both players without acquiring some new stars, they will be the ones who will need divine intervention.

Salary information from Basketball Insiders used in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Offseason In Review: Los Angeles Lakers

Hoops Rumors is breaking down the 2016 offseason for all 30 NBA teams, revisiting the summer’s free agent signings, trades, draft picks, departures, and more. We’ll evaluate each team’s moves from the last several months and look ahead to what the 2016/17 season holds for all 30 franchises. Today, we’re focusing on the Los Angeles Lakers.

Free agent signings:

Camp invitees:

Trades:

  • Acquired Jose Calderon, the Nuggets’ 2018 second-round pick, and the Bulls’ own 2019 second-round pick from the Bulls in exchange for the draft rights to Ater Majok.

Draft picks:

  • 1-2: Brandon Ingram. Signed to rookie contract.
  • 2-32: Ivica Zubac. Signed for three years, $3.245MM. Third year non-guaranteed.

Departing players:

Other offseason news:


Check out our salary cap snapshot for the Los Angeles Lakers right here.


NBA: Los Angeles Lakers-Media DayThe Lakers’ 2015/16 campaign was more about Kobe Bryant‘s farewell tour than it was about trying to move forward as a franchise. As the Mamba wrapped up his Hall-of-Fame career, the team sputtered to a record of 17-65, four less wins than the previous season, and missed out on the playoffs for the third straight year. Entering the offseason Los Angeles had the opportunity to make a fresh start, but rather than committing to rebuilding through its young talent or chasing veteran stars for a quicker fix, the organization dipped its toe into both wells, resulting in an end product that raised more questions than it answered.

L.A.’s best offseason was move was changing head coaches. Gone is Byron Scott, who was fired after compiling a record of 38-126 in his two seasons with the team, and in comes Luke Walton, who did a phenomenal job in guiding the Warriors last season while Steve Kerr was recovering from multiple back surgeries. Scott was the wrong coach for the Lakers and he had alienated a number of the younger players that the franchise is counting on to lead its resurgence. That wasn’t a healthy situation for any of the parties involved, and Walton’s presence has been a breath of fresh air in Los Angeles. It remains to be seen how well he’ll fare without having a ready made contender dropped into his lap, but I credit the franchise for taking a chance on an up-and-comer rather than recycling another coach who has already made the NBA rounds. Walton’s player-friendly demeanor and high basketball IQ should benefit both he and the team over the next few seasons.

Despite being situated in a prime location, warm weather, high-profile city like Los Angeles, the Lakers haven’t been an upper-tier free agent destination the past few years. The domineering presence of Bryant was often blamed for the lack of big name players willing to sign with the team, but his retirement didn’t suddenly open the floodgates for A-List players who wanted to play their home games in the Staples Center. Instead, GM Mitch Kupchak made a number of questionable signings given the team’s current state.

I like the idea behind inking veteran forward Luol Deng, whose professionalism and leadership will certainly be a boon to Walton and the franchise as he tries to teach his young roster how to win. But signing the 31-year-old to a four-year, $72MM pact may not turn out well in the long run. First off, Deng has a lot of mileage on his legs after playing in 825 regular season games over the course of his 12 years in the league. His offensive output has been steadily declining the past few years and that isn’t likely going to turn around as he approaches his mid-30s. Leadership is a valuable commodity, but I don’t feel it’s worth an average of $18MM over the next four years for the Lakers. Plus, his presence could hamper the playing time and growth of a number of the team’s young frontcourt players. I’d be a bigger fan of his addition if it was on a short-term pact, but I suppose that L.A. had to overpay in order to get Deng in the fold.

Despite my reservations regarding Deng’s signing, his addition is much easier to accept and quantify than the Lakers throwing center Timofey Mozgov a contract worth $64MM over four years. This is a deal that will almost assuredly haunt the team over the life of the arrangement. With the league moving further and further away from using traditional big men, committing an average of $16MM to a player with an extremely limited offensive game who is already in his 30s makes little sense to me. The Lakers almost certainly could have signed a player or players who could provide the same amount of production for much less and not be hamstrung with a long-term deal of this dollar value on their balance sheet.

It’s not that Mozgov doesn’t have value as a player, but he is an ill-fitting part on this particular roster. He offers up solid defense, but as was illustrated in the 2016 NBA Finals, he is virtually unplayable when teams shift to smaller lineups. With Los Angeles moving toward an up-tempo attack that favors perimeter shooting, it is difficult to see where and how Mozgov fits into that equation moving forward. He very well may become Roy Hibbert 2.0, being relegated to spot duty when the match-ups allow for him to remain on the court. If this indeed becomes the case, adding Mozgov will garner significant buyer’s remorse in the near future.

L.A. did more shuffling of its frontcourt during the offseason, signing Yi Jianlian to a team-friendly deal, with just $250K of his $8MM salary guaranteed. The Lakers took a chance that the player could produce off the bench, but Yi ultimately requested his release when it became apparent he didn’t factor into the team’s plans, and was likely viewed as more of a trade piece thanks to his contract than a rotation player. Instead, Los Angeles settled on keeping veteran Metta World Peace and Thomas Robinson, who is a reclamation project of Walton’s after a solid preseason showing. There were rumblings that the franchise wanted World Peace to transition into a coaching role, but the player wasn’t ready to hang up his high-tops just yet, and the team parted ways with former second round pick Anthony Brown and his fully guaranteed pact instead.

Kupchak continued to add veterans to the mix, filling out the backcourt by re-signing Marcelo Huertas and acquiring Jose Calderon and a pair of second round picks from the Bulls in exchange for the draft rights to Ater Majok. Both moves were low-risk for the team, and while neither point guard is a high-impact player, they can provide a spark in limited minutes and help tutor young guards D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson. Calderon is in the final year of his current deal and Huertas’ salary is non-guaranteed for 2017/18, so L.A. can easily move on from them after the season.

The Lakers’ biggest move regarding their backcourt was re-signing Clarkson, who was a restricted free agent, to a four-year, $50MM deal. Given the exorbitant contracts handed out this offseason to players who had inferior stats to the 24-year-old, an average annual value of $12.5MM should be considered a steal for Los Angeles. While I think Clarkson’s best role moving forward is as a sixth man, his salary shouldn’t hamper the team the way Mozgov’s and Deng’s will. Plus, if the team ever decides to flip Clarkson as part of a package for a star player, his contract will be an easy one to move.

While the logic of a number of the team’s free agent signings can be questioned, there are no such issues regarding the Lakers’ 2016 NBA Draft. No. 2 overall pick Brandon Ingram has the potential to become a two-way star in the league with his length, athleticism, ridiculous wingspan and shooting range. He’ll need to put on some pounds in order to survive in the NBA, but that can be said for most underclassmen who enter the league. The player should benefit from Deng as a mentor, but the length of Deng’s deal also means that one of the players’ minutes will suffer over the next few seasons. Deng could possibly slide over and play the four spot alongside Ingram, but that would subsequently impact the playing time of Julius Randle and/or Larry Nance Jr., both of whom are still works in progress and in need of minutes to realize their potential, or to show the Lakers that they shouldn’t be part of their long-term plans.

I’m also a big fan of L.A. snagging Ivica Zubac with the No. 32 overall pick. The 7’1″ center has a wealth of potential, with the player having a surprisingly fluid post game at such a young age (19). It will likely take him a season or two to establish himself as a regular rotation player for the team, but his solid summer league play, where he averaged 10.6 points and 7.2 rebounds while shooting 64.7% from the field, certainly bodes well for the future. But here is another instance where the team’s free agent signings could hamper its long-term player growth. I’ve already noted why I wasn’t a fan of the addition of Mozgov, and Zubac’s presence on the roster is another reason. If the young big man turns out to be a solid player, then either he or Mozgov will need to ride the pine. If it’s Mozgov, that’s quite a bit of salary to have parked off the court, and if it’s Zubac, it could hamper the development of a player who could end up being far more integral to the Lakers’ next playoff team.

The Lakers are in a developmental year this campaign, with the team highly unlikely to snag a postseason spot. That assessment shouldn’t come as a surprise given the lack of star talent and copious amount of young, still-developing players on the team’s roster. However, it will be much easier to accept another 20-25 win season without Kobe on the roster, provided players such as Russell, Clarkson and Randle can continue to progress and Ingram shows flashes of what made him the No. 2 overall pick. The team does have an odd blend of veterans on long-term deals to go along with these young players, a number of who may hamper Los Angeles’ chances of landing a significant free agent haul over the next few summers — provided the franchise is able to once again attract upper-tier talent to the Staples Center.

Salary information from Basketball Insiders used in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Offseason In Review: Los Angeles Clippers

Hoops Rumors is breaking down the 2016 offseason for all 30 NBA teams, revisiting the summer’s free agent signings, trades, draft picks, departures, and more. We’ll evaluate each team’s moves from the last several months and look ahead to what the 2016/17 season holds for all 30 franchises. Today, we’re focusing on the Los Angeles Clippers.

Free agent signings:

Camp invitees:

Trades:

Draft picks:

Departing players:

Other offseason news:


Check out our salary cap snapshot for the Los Angeles Clippers right here.


Oct 18, 2016; Sacramento, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) during the first quarter against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY SportsLast season ended in familiar fashion for a franchise that has often seemed jinxed. The core of that Clippers team has returned for another run at the title, but this could be their last one together.

L.A.’s playoff hopes went down in flames in April when Blake Griffin and Chris Paul were lost to injuries on the same day. Griffin re-aggravated a partially torn quad muscle and Paul suffered a fracture in his right hand that required surgery. In their absence, the Trail Blazers rallied to win the series and set up a summer of uncertainty in Los Angeles.

Clippers management extended a vote of confidence to this current group by not making any major deals during the offseason and re-signing four significant free agents. A few veterans were brought in to strengthen the bench and put the team in a better position to contend for the title.

There’s definitely a sense of urgency to the new season as Griffin and Paul both have opt-out clauses in their contracts, which could give L.A. two very pricey free agents to re-sign next summer. In addition, shooting guard J.J. Redick will definitely be a free agent and figures to be highly in demand in a league that is placing an increased emphasis on outside shooting. Veteran Paul Pierce, who considered retirement over the summer, decided to return but let the organization know this will be his final season.

The Clippers were one of the suitors to get a meeting with Kevin Durant in July, but when he chose the Warriors, L.A. launched into Plan B, which was to keep its team together. Free agent guard Austin Rivers re-signed for $35.475MM over three years. Small forward Wesley Johnson received $17.644MM over three years and Luc Mbah a Moute got $4.505MM for two years. All three have player options for the final year of their deals.

Also brought back was reigning Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford. At least five teams made pitches to the 36-year-old, who was unhappy with L.A.’s initial offer of $12MM for one season. The Clippers responded with a number more to Crawford’s liking and he re-signed for three years at $42MM. Crawford was the team’s top offensive threat off the bench once again last season, averaging 14.2 points per game and shooting 34% from 3-point range.

The Clippers enjoyed what they consider to be a free agent coup when they landed Golden State big man Marreese Speights, who was looking for a larger role than he had with the Warriors. Speights agreed to a two-year, minimum-salary deal with a player option, and coach Doc Rivers was elated to add him to the team.

“I don’t think anyone has a guy like that on their bench, for that matter,” Rivers said. “Golden State had one last year, and now he’s on our team.”

L.A. brought in three other veteran free agents to fortify its bench: power forward Brandon Bass, who averaged 7.2 points and 4.3 rebounds per game with the Lakers in 2015/16, point guard Raymond Felton, who put up 9.5 points and 3.6 assists per night in Dallas and swingman Alan Anderson, who was coming off a season with the Wizards in which he averaged 5.0 points and 2.0 rebounds.

Depth has been an ongoing problem during the Griffin-Paul era, along with small forward. L.A. hasn’t been able to find the right complement to an otherwise stellar starting lineup of Griffin, Paul, Redick and DeAndre Jordan. Several candidates have passed through the organization in recent years, but none has been able to hold the job. Pierce, Johnson and ex-Clipper Lance Stephenson all held the starting role at times last year before defensive specialist Mbah a Moute won the job. He enters this season in the starting three spot, but it remains a position of need for Los Angeles if a midseason trade opportunity comes along.

After having no picks in 2015, the Clippers landed two promising young big men and a draft-and-stash point guard this year. At No. 25, they drafted North Carolina power forward Brice Johnson, a first-team AP all-American who averaged a double-double in his senior year with the Tar Heels and set the school’s single-season rebounding record. The Clippers hope he can develop into an effective backup for Griffin, but he suffered a preseason setback with a herniated disc in his back that has him out indefinitely.

The Clippers owned the Nets’ second-round pick at No. 33, but traded Kansas center Cheick Diallo to the Pelicans for two later picks. They used the No. 39 choice on point guard David Michineau, who will spend at least one season in France, and the No. 40 selection on Maryland center Diamond Stone, who made the 15-man roster.

After years of misery, the Clippers have become one of the league’s most successful and entertaining teams over the past four seasons, with at least 53 wins each year. But each of those seasons has ended in playoff disappointment, and gaudy regular season win totals may not be enough to keep this team together.

The front office is looking at some difficult decisions next summer. If this year’s free agency is any guide, tons of cash will be thrown around again, and Griffin, Paul and Redick will all have huge offers to sort through. If the Clippers’ current core wants to remain together for the rest of the decade, this is the year they will have to prove themselves in the playoffs.

Salary information from Basketball Insiders used in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Offseason In Review: Atlanta Hawks

Over the next several weeks, Hoops Rumors is breaking down the 2016 offseason for all 30 NBA teams, revisiting the summer’s free agent signings, trades, draft picks, departures, and more. We’ll evaluate each team’s moves from the last several months and look ahead to what the 2016/17 season holds for all 30 franchises. Today, we’re focusing on the Atlanta Hawks.

Free agent signings:

Camp invitees:

Contract extensions:

  • Dennis Schroder: Four years, $62MM. Rookie scale extension. Goes into effect in 2017/18. Includes $2MM annually in unlikely incentives for a max value of $70MM.

Trades:

Draft picks:

Departing players:

Other offseason news:


Check out our salary cap snapshot for the Atlanta Hawks right here.


NBA: Washington Wizards at Atlanta HawksIt was a mere two seasons ago that the Hawks won a franchise-best 60 games and advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals. Atlanta regressed to 48 wins in 2015/16 and a second-round playoff ouster at the hands of the eventual NBA Champs, the Cavaliers. While there’s certainly no shame in losing to Cleveland, it marked the last ride of Atlanta’s core players of recent years.

The Hawks enter 2016/17 a markedly different team, and while they should remain competitive in the East, it would be extremely difficult to argue that they are a better club than has taken the court the past few campaigns. The outcome of the 2016/17 season will rest on how coach/executive Mike Budenholzer will adjust to the departures of two key players.

The most significant change in Atlanta was the departure of Al Horford, who had manned the paint for the team the past nine years. The 30-year-old signed a maximum salary deal with the Celtics after the Hawks had reportedly balked at offering up that amount to retain him. While it would have maintained continuity and better PR if the team had re-signed Horford, I can understand the Hawks being hesitant to offer a long-term max deal to a big man on the wrong side of 30. Teams often end up paying big money for past performance rather than current output, which likely would have been the case if Atlanta re-signed Horford.

The franchise had a solid backup plan to mitigate the loss of Horford, signing unrestricted free agent and Atlanta native, Dwight Howard, to a three-year, $70.5MM pact. The addition of Howard doesn’t come without risk given his injury issues the past few seasons, at times questionable locker room presence and will to win. But landing Howard on just a three-year deal for less than the max should be considered a win for the Hawks. Howard should be motivated to prove he wasn’t the problem in Houston, where the pairing of he and James Harden failed to work on any level. His offense output won’t measure up to Horford’s, but he is an upgrade defensively and on the boards. If Howard can remain healthy, and that’s in no way a given, this is a move that could pay off handsomely for Budenholzer and company.

The other significant player change, and one that I think will have a more adverse effect on the Hawks than the loss of Horford, was the trade of Jeff Teague to the Pacers for the rights to Taurean Prince, who was selected No. 12 overall in this year’s NBA Draft. Jettisoning Teague signaled a changing of the guard, with the team turning over the reigns to Dennis Schroder, who had openly expressed his desire to become an NBA starter. I would be more comfortable with the switch if the Hawks had more depth at the one, but as it currently stands, 27-year-old rookie Malcolm Delaney is the only other point guard on the roster. If Schroder is injured or falters, things could get ugly in Atlanta pretty quickly. It still remains to be seen if Schroder can be effective as a starter in leading the offense as well as make up for the loss of Teague’s scoring. I like Schroder’s potential, but he’ll need to become a far more consistent outside shooter if Atlanta is to be successful as a team. The Hawks are banking their future on the German after signing him to a four-year, $62MM rookie-scale extension.

While a lottery pick was a fair return for Teague, who can hit unrestricted free agency at season’s end, I’m not sure it was worth the risk for the Hawks. This is a team built to win now, so parting with a proven commodity such as Teague for Prince doesn’t make as much sense to me as retaining the veteran point guard — even if he could have departed next summer with the team not receiving anything in return. Prince has the potential to become a solid two-way player, but he’s not someone who will improve the Hawks in 2016/17. This trade could come back to haunt Budenholzer if Schroder under-performs or misses any significant stretch of time.

The third major decision the Hawks made this offseason was to re-sign Kent Bazemore to a four-year, $70MM pact. The 27-year-old enjoyed a breakout season in 2015/16 for Atlanta, averaging 11.6 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists, with a slash line of .441/.357/.815 over 75 appearances. While it’s difficult not to root for a player like Bazemore, whose energy and enthusiasm is infectious, signing him to a deal with an average annual salary of $17.5MM is a major risk. If he doesn’t live up to the contract, it will severely hamper Atlanta’s ability to add to its roster the next few seasons.

One other offseason development that could have an impact on the team’s future was the Hawks’ reported attempts to trade Paul Millsap. The team feeling out the market for Millsap was more about trying to carve out cap space when there still was a chance to re-sign Horford, than any dissatisfaction with the player, but it could still affect his willingness to re-sign with Atlanta should he opt out of his deal next summer. The 31-year-old has a player option worth $21,472,407 for 2017/18, and opting out may be his best shot at securing one last big money long-term pact in his career. Millsap has gone on record saying he hasn’t made a decision yet regarding the option, telling Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “I think the plan is to see how this season goes and go from there. I can’t predict what is going to happen. For me, it’s focus on basketball. Get through this year, try to get a championship for this team first of all. We’ll deal with all that during the summer time when we have all our options on the table.”

The Hawks will likely take a small step back this campaign after losing two key starters from a season ago. With a number of teams in the East improving themselves, it’s difficult to make the case that Atlanta will be able to contend for an NBA title, much less win the Conference this season. The franchise still has more than enough talent to make the playoffs, as long as Schroder can remain healthy and continue to improve his game. If he or Howard sustain a significant injury, things could become dicey rather quickly. Thankfully, the franchise has one of the better coaches in the league in Budenholzer, who should be able to squeeze enough out of this roster to make the team competitive on a nightly basis.

Salary information from Basketball Insiders used in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Offseason In Review: Charlotte Hornets

Over the next several weeks, Hoops Rumors is breaking down the 2016 offseason for all 30 NBA teams, revisiting the summer’s free agent signings, trades, draft picks, departures, and more. We’ll evaluate each team’s moves from the last several months and look ahead to what the 2016/17 season holds for all 30 franchises. Today, we’re focusing on the Charlotte Hornets.

Free agent signings:

Camp invitees:

Trades:

Draft picks:

  • None

Departing players:

Other offseason news:


Check out our salary cap snapshot for the Charlotte Hornets right here.


With a regular-season record of 48-34, the 2015/16 Charlotte Hornets had the most successful year of any squad in the current iteration of the franchise. The last Charlotte team to win that many games was led by players like Eddie Jones, David Wesley, Anthony Mason, and Derrick Coleman, way back in 1999/2000, just a couple years before the previous version of the franchise moved to New Orleans.Nicolas Batum vertical

The Hornets still weren’t able to get over the hump in the postseason, falling in seven games to the Heat in a tough first round series. Charlotte hasn’t made it past the first round of the playoffs since re-entering the NBA as the Bobcats in 2004, but this past spring represented the first time the team avoided a sweep. The season as a whole was a clear sign the Hornets were headed in the right direction, which made it unfortunate that so many of the club’s key players were on expiring contracts.

Heading into the offseason, Nicolas Batum, Courtney Lee, Marvin Williams, Jeremy Lin, and Al Jefferson were on track for unrestricted free agency. Those five players were all among Charlotte’s top eight in minutes per game in 2015/16, and one of those eight players was Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who only appeared in seven contests due to shoulder injuries. The other two — Kemba Walker and Cody Zeller — remain under contract, along with Kidd-Gilchrist and Frank Kaminsky, but when the summer began, it appeared the Hornets would look a lot different in 2016/17 than they did last year.

Recognizing as they entered the summer that they couldn’t afford to keep all of their free agents, the Hornets prioritized the players they wanted to re-sign and explored less expensive ways to replace the others. That meant honing in on Batum and Williams, two three-and-D wings who were major contributors last season. Neither player is a volume scorer, but they’re both capable of making a couple three-pointers per game, chipping in a few rebounds, and playing tough defense.

Batum, the more dynamic player of the two, and the one with the longer track record, got the bigger payday, inking a five-year, $120MM pact to remain in Charlotte. Williams’ four-year, $54.5MM deal was more modest, but it still represented an impressive number for a player who was long known as the guy the Hawks drafted instead of Chris Paul.

With Batum and Williams locked up on the wing, Walker manning the point, and big men like Zeller and Kaminsky ready to take on larger roles, the Hornets looked to replace players like Lin, Lee, and Jefferson on the cheap.

While Lin inked a three-year, $36MM contract with the Nets, Charlotte landed Ramon Sessions on a more affordable two-year, $12MM+ pact that features a team option in year two. Sessions is certainly no star, but he’s a perfectly capable backup who played behind John Wall in 2015/16, averaging 9.9 PPG and 2.9 APG. He was a more efficient scorer last season than Lin, and should be capable of holding his own as a possible short-term starter if Walker misses any time with injuries.

Like Lin, Lee landed a $12MM annual salary from a rival suitor in July, inking a four-year, $48MM deal with the Knicks. By the time things get serious between Lee and the Knicks, the Hornets had already addressed that hole in their lineup, sending their first-round pick to the Kings in exchange for Marco Belinelli. The deal earned more praise from NBA observers for Sacramento than Charlotte, which was fair — Belinelli’s calling card is his three-point shot, but he struggled with his accuracy last season, making a career-low 30.6% of his shots from the outside.

Still, the deal made some sense from the Hornets’ perspective. The 22nd overall pick almost never turns into more than a solid role player, so giving it up for Belinelli presented little risk and gave Charlotte a rotation-ready veteran. The 30-year-old will make just under $13MM over the next two years, a very fair price given what many free agent shooters signed for this summer. Additionally, before last season, Belinelli had a career three-point percentage of 39.2%, having never made less than 35.7% in a season, meaning he’s a solid candidate for a bounce-back campaign.

Having found a backup point guard and a shooter off the bench for about half the price of what Lin and Lee were making, the Hornets managed to do the same thing at center — rather than re-signing Jefferson to a three-year, $30MM deal like the one he received from the Pacers, Charlotte got a bargain on Roy Hibbert, who will make $5MM on his new one-year contract with the Hornets.

Hibbert looks pretty far removed from his days as an All-Star center in Indiana, but his situation last season in Los Angeles, where he was practically a spectator for Kobe Bryant‘s farewell tour, didn’t give him a chance to show his strengths. Unlike Jefferson, who is a talented scorer but doesn’t contribute much on the other end of the floor, Hibbert gives the Hornets a capable defender and rim protector. He’s the sort of shot blocker the team didn’t have on its roster last season, and his presence will give head coach Steve Clifford a little more flexibility to try different things on defense this year.

After winning 48 games last season, the Hornets were given an over/under of 42.5 wins for this season by offshore oddsmakers, and when we conducted our preseason polls, more than 62% of our respondents voted that Charlotte would end up under 42.5 wins. That’s not a surprising assessment. Outside of perhaps Walker, the team has little star power, and the deals signed by Lin, Lee, and Jefferson total more than $100MM — that’s a lot of talent to lose.

Still, I disagree with the notion that the Hornets will take a noticeable step backward this season. Charlotte’s summer moves seemed designed to keep the team in contention in the short term, rather than to significantly retool with an eye toward the future. The Hornets did well to supplement their core pieces with inexpensive approximations of the complementary players they lost, but guys like Sessions, Belinelli, and Hibbert almost certainly won’t become building blocks in Charlotte, and the team gave up its first-round pick. Those moves suggest a win-now approach, and I think the roster is strong enough – and Clifford is a talented enough head coach – that such an approach is viable. I expect to see the Hornets back in the playoffs in the East next spring.

In order to continue improving though, the Hornets will have to count on a strong bounce-back performance from Kidd-Gilchrist, along with major positive development for Kaminsky. Most importantly, they’ll need Batum and Williams to deliver on the huge investments the team made in them. As savvy as some of Charlotte’s minor offseason additions were, those moves would be overshadowed by a larger-scale misfire if either the Batum or Williams signing goes south.

Salary information from Basketball Insiders used in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Offseason In Review: Orlando Magic

Over the next several weeks, Hoops Rumors is breaking down the 2016 offseason for all 30 NBA teams, revisiting the summer’s free agent signings, trades, draft picks, departures, and more. We’ll evaluate each team’s moves from the last several months and look ahead to what the 2016/17 season holds for all 30 franchises. Today, we’re focusing on the Orlando Magic.

Free agent signings:

Camp invitees:

Trades:

Draft picks:

  • 2-41: Stephen Zimmerman: Signed for three years, $2.993MM. Second and third years non-guaranteed.

Departing players:

Other offseason news:


Check out our salary cap snapshot for the Orlando Magic right here.


NBA: Preseason-Atlanta Hawks at Orlando MagicThe Magic’s 2015/16 season was a disappointing one, with the team finishing with a record of 35-47 and missing the playoffs for the fourth straight year. Their head coach, Scott Skiles, resigned over differences in philosophy with the front office and the team entered the summer still searching for an identity and lacking a star player to build around. What followed was an active and somewhat puzzling offseason, with the franchise making a number of changes that arguably made the team better, but raised quite a few questions about how the pieces will fit together cohesively this year.

Orlando’s first move of the offseason was to replace Skiles, who never seemed like the right fit with the franchise anyway. Skiles has always been a taskmaster who has quickly worn out his welcome at past coaching stops, and whose old-school style wasn’t the right blend with the plethora of young players on the team’s roster. GM Rob Hennigan made a solid move in hiring Frank Vogel, who was let go by the Pacers despite his years of solid work with the franchise. Vogel is a much better fit for this group of players and he should quickly be able to turn around the culture of the team.

With a new head coach in place, Hennigan then turned toward reworking the team’s roster. The GM’s biggest and riskiest move of the summer was the draft night trade with the Thunder that shipped out Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova and the rights to Domantas Sabonis, the 11th overall pick, in exchange for versatile and athletic forward, Serge Ibaka.

This is a swap that I have extremely conflicted feelings about. Ibaka has the potential to emerge as a star in Orlando now that he is out of the shadows of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City. The 27-year-old is a solid all-around defender whose outside shooting and athleticism will give Vogel some interesting and exciting possibilities on offense. However…there are a number of negatives to his acquisition that I find difficult to overlook.

First off, the team gave up quite a bit to acquire him. Oladipo has been somewhat of a disappointment since being selected in the draft lottery, with his offensive game not quite evolving the way the franchise had hoped. But he is a solid three-and-D player who still has a lot of upside. Skiles was definitely the wrong coach to bring out Oladipo’s best, and I would have loved to have seen what Vogel could have gotten out of the player. While Ilyasova is nowhere near the defender and rebounder that Ibaka is, when all things are said and done, his scoring output won’t be that far removed from what Ibaka’s numbers have been throughout his career. Plus, Sabonis is one of the more polished players in this year’s draft class, and he could end up being a solid rotation player for years to come.

There is also a question of fit for Ibaka, especially when coupled with a number of the team’s other moves this offseason. The addition of Ibaka will either force former lottery pick Aaron Gordon to shift to small forward, a position his shaky outside shooting may not be best suited for, or to the bench, will will stunt his growth as a player. Then there’s Jeff Green, who was signed to a one-year, $15MM deal by Orlando. This is an addition that I fail to see the logic in for the Magic. Green is a versatile player who can man either forward spot, but he’s not a great defender and his offensive game has been steadily on the decline. The money that went to Green could have been better spent to plug other holes on the roster, and the minutes he’ll soak up would be better allocated to developing the younger players on the team who’ll now be forced to sit as Green plays out his one-year deal. Plus, if you were going to pay a forward that much, it would have made far more sense to simply hold onto Tobias Harris, whose skillset would have been tailor-made for Vogel’s system.

Another signing that was somewhat odd for the Magic, given their roster makeup, was the addition of rebounding monster, Bismack Biyombo. I have no issues with Biyombo as a player. He’s a hard-worker who will fight for every rebound like it was his last and play solid defense every second he’s on the court. But with Nikola Vucevic already on the roster, unless the Magic intend to find a taker for the 25-year-old in the trade market, it creates another playing time logjam for the team. Either Vucivic, who is earning $11,750,000 this year and under contract for two more season beyond this one, or Biyombo, who is set to earn $17MM each of the next four seasons, will be coming off the bench. That’s an expensive luxury for a non-contender to have.

There were two other questionable acquisitions made by Orlando this offseason. First up, the trade with Detroit to acquire Jodie Meeks and his expiring contract. In 63 total games over the last two years, including just three in 2015/16 due to injury, Meeks averaged 10.9 points and 0.9 steals per game while shooting 35.3% from three-point range. If healthy, which he currently is not, Meeks can provide a spark off the bench. But…why did the Magic feel the need to add him to the mix when it potentially takes away playing time from 2015 lottery pick Mario Hezonja? The second-year player has a wealth of potential, despite what he showed during his rough rookie campaign. Meeks doesn’t move the dial enough in my book for him to be worth acquiring, and this is an area where the money spent on Green could have been better allocated and used to sign a higher impact player on the wing.

The other addition I alluded to in the previous paragraph was the signing of point guard D.J. Augustin to a four-year, $29MM deal. I understand the team’s concerns regarding Elfrid Payton, whose outside shooting doesn’t strike fear into the hearts of defenders. But I question the move to give Augustin, who has dealt with nagging injuries the past few seasons, a four-year commitment. While he has a clear fit in the team’s rotation, unlike a number of the team’s other offseason additions, his $7,250,000 salary, coupled with Biyombo’s and Green’s makes for a rather expensive bench. It feels to me like Hennigan overreacted this offseason to the Magic’s deficiencies and threw too much money at the problem, rather than waiting to see what Vogel would be able to correct through coaching and rapport.

One move made by Hennigan that I can find no fault in, is re-signing restricted free agent Evan Fournier to a five-year, $85MM pact. The 23-year-old enjoyed a breakout season for Orlando in 2015/16, starting a career-high 71 of 79 games for the team and notching career-best marks in several other categories, including PPG (15.4), APG (2.7), RPG (2.8), and 3PT shots made per contest (2.0). He also had a very respectable shooting line of .462/.400/.836. Given the current economics of the game thanks to the new TV contract and salary cap bump that comes along with it, keeping the talented young wing in the fold for approximately $10MM below the max should be considered a win. With Oladipo now gone, this clears the way for Fournier to continue to evolve as a player, and hopefully, become a star in the East. Granted, that size contract always carries with it some risk, but this is one that should pay off for the team over the life of the deal.

I’d wager that if the Magic can remain healthy as a team in 2016/17, finishing with 40-45 wins is within the realm of possibility. The presence of Vogel alone should be good for a five win improvement over last season. However, there are far too many rotation questions thanks to the seemingly ill-fitting parts the team added over the summer. Orlando needs to be active prior to the trade deadline and attempt to make a big trade to land another star to place alongside Ibaka, consolidating its roster depth in the process. Hopefully the team will do well enough to convince Ibaka that Orlando is his best option for a long-term home when he hits free agency this coming offseason. If the forward were to depart next July, it would be disastrous for the franchise and set it back years as a result.

Salary information from Basketball Insiders used in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Offseason In Review: Miami Heat

Over the next several weeks, Hoops Rumors is breaking down the 2016 offseason for all 30 NBA teams, revisiting the summer’s free agent signings, trades, draft picks, departures, and more. We’ll evaluate each team’s moves from the last several months and look ahead to what the 2016/17 season holds for all 30 franchises. Today, we’re focusing on the Miami Heat.

Free agent signings:

Camp invitees:

Trades:

  • Acquired Luke Babbitt from the Pelicans in exchange for the Pelicans’ own 2018 second-round pick (previously traded to Miami) and cash.

Draft picks:

  • None

Departing players:

Other offseason news:


Check out our salary cap snapshot for the Miami Heat right here.


Jan 25, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Miami Heat guard Tyler Johnson (8) passes around Chicago Bulls guard Aaron Brooks (0) during the second quarter at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY SportsWhen LeBron James returned home to Cleveland two summers ago, the Heat moved on to Plan B, which was to rebuild a title contender around Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

Now it’s time for Plan C.

Wade, the cornerstone of the franchise for the past 13 years, signed with the Bulls in July after a contract dispute. Bosh faces an uncertain future after failing his training camp physical because of a lingering problem with blood clots. The Heat underwent a massive roster overhaul during the summer and now seem like fringe playoff contenders in the Eastern Conference.

Free agency got off to a great start for Miami, as center Hassan Whiteside opted in the early-morning hours of July 1st to remain with the Heat. Miami didn’t have Bird rights on Whiteside, who met with Dallas and had a session scheduled with Portland before making his decision. After being out of the NBA for two seasons, Whiteside signed with Miami in November of 2014 and quickly developed into a defensive force. He led the league in blocked shots by a wide margin last season with 3.68 per game, along with 14.2 points and 11.8 rebounds.

Whiteside’s new maximum-salary deal paved the way for Wade’s decision to leave Miami. Wade was angry that the Heat weren’t willing to give him a max offer as well, considering that he accepted less than his market value for years to give the franchise enough cap room to bring in James and Bosh. As negotiations with Miami deteriorated in early July, Wade accepted a two-year, $47MM offer from Chicago. His departure not only created a hole in the lineup at shooting guard, it left the psychological scar of losing the most accomplished player in franchise history.

That feeling was compounded last month when Bosh, the only remaining member of the Big Three, was unable to pass a physical administered before the start of training camp. Bosh, who has seen his past two seasons cut short by blood clots, had worked throughout the offseason to prepare for camp and had proposed taking a new medication that would be out of his system by game time. However, the Heat’s reluctance to accept that plan combined with his lack of medical clearance probably means that Bosh has played his last game for the franchise.

The other defining event of Miami’s offseason was a four-year, $50MM offer sheet the Nets extended to backup guard Tyler Johnson. The contract was backloaded to make it difficult for the Heat to match, with annual salaries of $5.628MM, $5,881,260, $18,858,765 and $19,631,975. Miami decided to match anyway and made a slew of moves beforehand. In one day, the Heat added free agents Wayne Ellington, James Johnson and Willie Reed, swung a trade with the Pelicans for Luke Babbitt, re-signed veteran big man Udonis Haslem and then matched Johnson. It’s up to the third-year guard to prove he can earn that big-money deal after playing just 36 games at the NBA level last season and averaging 8.7 points and 2.2 assists per night.

But the Heat weren’t done adding free agents. They also signed Knicks forward Derrick Williams for one season at $4.598MM and Thunder shooting guard Dion Waiters for two years at $5.926MM with a player option on the second season. In addition, Miami re-signed veteran point guard Beno Udrih, who accepted a controversial buyout last season that helped the Heat escape luxury tax penalties. Udrih was waived Saturday, but still received a guaranteed veteran’s minimum deal of $1.5MM, which was a nice reward for giving up $90K in the buyout. He has since been claimed off waivers by Detroit, which absolves the team of any cap hit.

After a summer of turnover, the Heat may not be done with roster moves. They were rumored to be discussing a deal with the Kings that would send Goran Dragic to Sacramento in exchange for Rudy Gay and Darren Collison. Gay has made it known that he plans to opt out of his contract next summer and end his relationship with the Kings, but he might be interested in a long-term future in South Florida.

Draft night was quiet in Miami as the Heat didn’t have a pick in either round. Their first-rounder was shipped to Philadelphia, which used it to take Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot at No. 24, and their second-rounder went to Boston, which selected Ben Bentil at No. 51.

After a seven-game loss to Toronto in the conference semifinals, the Heat entered the offseason hoping they could re-sign Whiteside to combine with Wade, Bosh and Dragic as the core of one of the East’s best teams. But keeping their star center was about the only predictable thing that happened since last season ended. The roster overhaul saw veteran free agents Luol Deng, Joe Johnson, Amar’e Stoudemire and Gerald Green all leave town, forcing the Heat to start rebuilding around their young talent.

Now that the Big Three era is over in Miami, fans can expect change to continue. None of the five outside free agents the Heat brought in has a commitment beyond this season. That gives the team lots of flexibility for deals during the year and a chance to chase elite free agents next summer if Bosh’s salary is cleared off the books. Regardless of this year’s win-loss record, fans shouldn’t get too comfortable with the current Heat roster. Chances are strong that it will look much different by next October.

Salary information from Basketball Insiders used in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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