After an entertaining NBA season, there may have been a more entertaining off-season. With big names changing teams throughout the league, we’ve gathered five of our beat writers to discuss some of the best and worst changes of the off-season.
1) Which NBA team had the best off-season?
David Hilts, Philadelphia 76ers: Any time you can land both Steve Nash and Dwight Howard in one summer, you are doing something right. Unfortunately, the team boasting these transactions is located in Los Angeles and already holds the rights to Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant.
Eli Friedman, Oklahoma City Thunder: We can all say the Lakers had the best off-season, but my true winner is the Boston Celtics. After back-to-back losses to the Heat in the playoffs, you think Danny Ainge would start to rebuild, but he did the exact opposite.
Robert Lunder, Boston Celtics: This was actually a close call with Brooklyn, but everything changed once the Los Angeles Lakers acquired Dwight Howard. This would have been a nice off season just with the Steve Nash trade alone, but getting Howard makes this team as formidable as any other in the league.
Gary Reid, Atlanta Hawks: The Lakers did very well for themselves though they need a run and jump athlete. I expected Josh Smith for Gasol to happen. But, they did even better by going to get Howard for Andrew Bynum. They added Nash to take the ball out of Kobe’s hands, Antwan Jamison to score off the bench and Jodie Meeks hit threes. Not bad. They did great.
Austin Christensen, Utah Jazz: Even though their depth could be a major issue, how can you go against the Lakers? Adding Nash and Howard makes their starting five lethal. I also think the Jazz quietly had a very good offseason.
2) Which NBA team had the worst off-season?
Hilts: The Orlando Magic lost their coach, general manager, Howard and their potential spot in the upcoming season’s playoffs for Maurice Harkless, Arron Afflalo, and Al Harrington. Yikes! Fans of Orlando (if there are any left) are praying those draft picks pan out–unfortunately, those draft picks belonged to the 76ers Denver Nuggets and Lakers.
Friedman: I would have to say the Houston Rockets lost in free agency. After barley missing the playoffs last year, the Rockets took another step backwards this offseason. Houston put themselves in a re-building mode, basically just to try to go out and get Howard, which obviously didn’t happen.
Lunder: Orlando Magic. What is the direction of this team? After holding out for months on a Howard trade, they finally traded him to the Lakers. What they got was a bag of potato chips and a fountain drink in return. If Afflalo is the centerpiece of a deal for a top ten player, then you know there are issues.
Reid: The Orlando Magic. Here is why. Atlanta, Houston and Brooklyn were willing to give up everything for Howard in Al Horford, Kevin Martin and Brook Lopez. Those are three guys with enough skill to keep you competitive. You end up getting a bunch of picks that will end up in the 20’s because they are all protected. It’s a big setback for the team and the fans really have no reason to show up.
Christensen: I’ve got to say Orlando. They fired their head coach because their star player didn’t like him. Their new coach has never been a head coach and they got nothing in return for Howard.
3) Who was the best free agent signing of the summer?
Hilts: The Brooklyn Nets’ ability to keep Deron Williams in town easily tops this list, especially after losing out on Howard (for the time being). Williams is the best point guard in the league and grouped with Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez and Gerald Wallace certainly marks a return to the playoffs.
Friedman: The best free agent signing was the addition of Ray Allen to the Miami Heat. After winning it all last year, the Heat went out and brought in more marquee talent in Allen. Now when Lebron James or Dwyane Wade get double teamed, Allen will be wide open for an easy three. However, now the question becomes: What kind of a role will he play?
Lunder: Andrei Kirilenko to the Minnesota Timberwolves. I absolutely love this signing for the Wolves. Did anyone watch Kirilenko in the Olympics? He was dominant for a surprising Russian team. What is great about Kirilenko is that he doesn’t need the ball in his hands to be effective. He rebounds the basketball and plays great defense.
Reid: Dallas Mavericks signing O.J. Mayo. I think this was huge. He gives them a perimeter scorer, defender and shooter. Juice looked like he lost some of his swagger in Memphis. I look for him to return to his rookie form this season. Mayo at the two seals up their perimeter gap with Jason Kidd and Jason Terry gone.
Christensen: Jason Terry to the Celtics. Terry is a great shooter, younger than Allen and lives for the clutch. This was a big pick up for the Shamrocks.
4) What was the worst contract given out this summer?
Hilts: Jeremy Lin had been paid around a million dollars combined in two years in the league and is now currently sitting on a three year deal worth $8 million per–way too much if you do not believe the hype. Meanwhile, the New York Knicks are back in New York enjoying life with Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd.
Friedman: The worst contract had to go to Gerald Wallace in Brooklyn. While in pursuit of Howard, the Nets gave a decent player in Wallace a four-year $40 million deal. That basically ate up most of the Nets’ cap room to go out and sign Howard. That’s a stupid decision in my mind on the Nets part.
Lunder: Ian Mahinmi. Four years and $16 million for this guy? Please raise your hand if you have ever heard of him. No worries if you haven’t, because most people probably haven’t. This guy is a stiff in every sense of the word and re-signing Louis Amundson to a veteran’s minimum deal would have been much more cost effective. I like what they are doing in Indiana, but this signing made no sense to me.
Reid: Lin’s contract is bad. He played against a defender who wanted him shut down and that defender, Mario Chalmers, took him completely out of the game. It was frightening how badly Chalmers manhandled Lin. He is a good combo guard to have coming in off your bench for spark but $25 million is a big stretch.
Christensen: Nicolas Batum‘s contract with the Portland Trailblazers for four years, $46 million is way too much. I didn’t feel like he was much of a game changer last season, nor do I feel like he is worth what he got.
5) Which free agent signing shocked you the most?
Hilts: Allen’s decision to leave Boston for Miami certainly surprised me. A smart move personally, as Jesus Shuttlesworth is going to have prime territory spotting up from deep while James and Wade play basketball, but I just never thought Allen would leave Boston.
Friedman: The signing that shocked me the most was Steve Nash to the Lakers. I thought for sure Nash would end up with the Knicks, Heat or Toronto Raptors, but instead he went to his rival in Los Angeles. I would have never thought Bryant and Nash would end up playing together.
Lunder: Allen. I don’t know if I was necessarily shocked by this move, but I think most Bostonians felt deep down that Allen would return to the Celtics. He took less money to sign with the rival Heat. Allen was part of the “Big Three” in Boston and it seemed shocking that he would break that up.
Reid: Lou Williams to Atlanta was shocking to me because it put Atlanta in a tricky situation. They have Devin Harris, Jeff Teague and now Williams, all of whom are 6’3 and smaller competing to fill backcourt spots. Lou is the best player of the three but could very well be asked to recreate his role in Philly of coming off the bench to lead the team in scoring.
Christensen: Allen taking a pay cut to go to the Heat. He’s a guy who could still make top dollar if he wanted. He felt like he had the best chance to win if he took a pay cut and become more of a role player. When I heard the news, my jaw literally dropped.