The decision about when to finally grade teams on their offseason moves is a tricky one. How do you know when teams are finished? How long can you hold out for that last big-name guy to sign? What if there’s a trade? Or an injury? Or a setback?
Eventually, though, you just have to go for it. Pull off the Band-Aid, figure out the grades, dish out an Incomplete or two for those teams still doing the free agent dance with their respective stars. So when I went on vacation for a week, returned, and noticed that over said week there was absolutely no impactful free agency news, I knew I had to write.
So here they are, this summer’s offseason grades, and with them, a few caveats: Remember, I’m not grading these teams on how they’ll perform next season; I’m grading their offseason moves. A team who earned a C this summer – for instance, the Thunder – could easily win a title next June. Also, the list is ordered by projected wins next year, from least to most. My projections are based on nothing more than my (informed) opinion, so I suppose how much you trust it depends on how smart you think I am.
Oklahoma City Thunder Biggest additions:Re-signed Derek Fisher, drafted Steven Adams Key losses: None, really Wins last season: 60 Projected wins in 2013-14: 59 Grade: C – Remember, guys, a C means average, and that’s what the Thunder were this offseason. Sure, they could have amnestied Kendrick Perkins or gone out to get a bigger piece, but no one thought they’d do either of these things. They weren’t going to be paying big luxury tax fees, and were it not for Russell Westbrook’s injury, they might have won it all. The Thunder did essentially nothing, and that’s just fine.
Los Angeles Clippers Biggest additions: Hired Doc Rivers, re-signed Chris Paul (five years, $107 million), sign-and-traded for J.J. Redick (four years, $28 million), traded for Jared Dudley (three years, $12.75 million remaining) Key losses: Grant Hill to retirement, traded Caron Butler and Eric Bledsoe, did not renew contract of Vinny Del Negro Wins last season: 56 Projected wins in 2013-14: 57 Grade: A- – I’ve written this time and time again: The Clippers aced this offseason. It remains to be see whether they’re championship contenders, but honestly, there was very little more they could have done to get themselves positioned as such. There are still questions – Blake Griffin’s and DeAndre Jordan’s development, defense, the speed at which a complete culture change can come about – but the Clippers’ future looks bright.
Houston Rockets Biggest additions: Signed Dwight Howard (four years, $88 million) Key losses: None, really Wins last season: 45 Projected wins in 2013-14: 55 Grade: A – I can’t quite give them an A+, simply because so much of what they’re doing is riding on Howard, who’s proven to be a (how do I say this nicely?) temperamental teammate in recent seasons. That said, the Rockets also have James Harden and a boatload of young talent, and I can’t help but think that if problems pop up, Daryl Morey will somehow fix them.
San Antonio Spurs Biggest additions: Re-signed Manu Ginobili (two years, $14 million) and Tiago Splitter (four years, $36 million), signed Marco Belinelli (two years, $6 million) Key losses: Gary Neal to free agency Wins last season: 58 Projected wins in 2013-14: 54 Grade: A-/B+ – If this weren’t the Spurs, these moves would earn them a B+, but because everything they do seems to always work out, I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and move it on up to an A- mark. Frankly, I’d have preferred them keeping Neal over acquiring Belinelli, but maybe someone knows something I don’t. (And by maybe, I mean certainly.) Keeping Splitter, though pricey, was necessary – big men simply make more than you ever think they should – as was retaining Ginobili, even if he’s being paid more for past contributions that what he’ll do in the future.
Golden State Warriors Biggest additions: Signed Andre Iguodala (four years, $48 million) Key losses: Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry to free agency Wins last season: 47 Projected wins in 2013-14: 50 Grade: A- – They finished last season on the most fun, bandwagon-inducing playoff run of anyone but the Spurs, and a team that looked young and exciting during the regular season somehow appeared even more so during the playoffs. Add in Iguodala, and it can seem like an embarrassment of riches in the Warriors locker room right now. The only worry will be that they may not be able to compensate for the losses of Landry and Jack, but even that seems like a secondary concern.
Memphis Grizzlies Biggest additions: Re-signed Tony Allen (four years, $20 million), traded for Kosta Koufos (two years, $6 million remaining), hired Dave Joerger Key losses: Did not renew the contract of Lionel Hollins, traded Darrell Arthur Wins last season: 56 Projected wins in 2013-14: 50 Grade: C – It’s hard to predict how this summer’s coaching change will play out, but it’s hard to imagine that next season will mark much of an improvement on last. Granted, the gang is, for the most part, back, but even that ability to retain the entire starting five from last season’s run came at a cost: an overpriced deal for Allen.
Minnesota Timberwolves Biggest additions: Signed Kevin Martin (three years, $28 million) and Corey Brewer (three years, $15 million), re-signed Chase Budinger (three years, $16 million), drafted Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng, hired Flip Saunders Key losses: Andrei Kirilenko to free agency, traded Luke Ridnour, fired David Kahn Wins last season: 31 Projected wins in 2013-14: 46 (with Pekovic) Grade: Incomplete – Minnesota went out and addressed its biggest deficiency last season – perimeter shooting – but it did so at the expense of its defense. That said, for the first time since the beginning of the 2011-12 season, the Timberwolves will have Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love both healthy, and they look to pose a threat in the West. The incomplete grade, of course, stems from the fact that they haven’t yet re-signed Nikola Pekovic, and though he is likely to return, it’s hard to judge the team without his dominating presence inside.
Denver Nuggets Biggest additions: Signed J.J. Hickson (three years, $15 million), hired Brian Shaw, hired Tim Connelly, traded for Darrell Arthur (two years, $6.7 million remaining) and Randy Foye (three years, $9 million), re-signed Timofey Mozgov (three years, $14 million) Key losses: Andre Iguodala to free agency, Kosta Koufos via trade, general manager Masai Ujiri to Toronto, fired George Karl Wins last season: 57 Projected wins in 2013-14: 43 Grade: D- – The Nuggets were so fun last year. So fun. They finished the season with the best record in franchise history and an unconventional but successful roster, and then they blew it up. Firing Karl was a risk, and you can’t blame the team for Ujiri’s departure, but from there, things went to pieces. They won’t be bad this season, but they certainly won’t be what they were.
Portland Trail Blazers Biggest additions: Signed Dorrell Wright (two years, $6 million), traded for Thomas Robinson and Robin Lopez, drafted C.J. McCollum and Allen Crabbe Key losses: J.J. Hickson to free agency Wins last season: 33 Projected wins in 2013-14: 40 Grade: B – The Blazers acquired a bench, and that in and of itself was a major victory. They already had a solid core, and that core remains, so if this offseason’s moves don’t look flashy, it’s because they didn’t need to be.
Los Angeles Lakers Biggest additions: Signed Nick Young (one year, $1.1 million), Jordan Farmar (one year, $1.1 million), Chris Kaman (one year, $3.2 million), Wes Johnson (one year, $0.9 million) Key losses: Failed to re-sign Dwight Howard Wins last season: 45 Projected wins in 2013-14: 39 Grade: C+ – I’m not going to go so far as to give the Lakers a failing grade for two reasons: (1) re-signing Howard could very well have been an unmitigated disaster and (2) they are, however agonizingly, positioning themselves to execute a specific plan a year from now. There might have been some more creative ways to go about their business this summer, by taking chances rather than relying on known entities, but no matter what, the Lakers are ready to take another big swing or two next summer.
New Orleans Pelicans Biggest additions: Sign-and-traded for Tyreke Evans (four years, $44 million), traded for Jrue Holiday Key losses: None, really Wins last season: 27 Projected wins in 2013-14: 38 Grade: B – The Pelicans have a good young core with Holiday, Eric Gordon, Anthony Davis, Tyreke Evans and Austin Rivers. It’ll just be a matter of fitting those players together into a cohesive system, which will likely entail dealing one of them, since there’s almost of surplus of talented youth. They’re still rebuilding, but for once it finally seems like it’s going in the right direction.
Dallas Mavericks Biggest additions: Signed Jose Calderon (four years, $29 million) and Monta Ellis (three years, $30 million), drafted Ricky Ledo and Shane Larkin Key losses: O.J. Mayo to free agency, lost out on Dwight Howard Wins last season: 41 Projected wins in 2013-14: 36 Grade: D – They Mavericks drafted well, at least, but other than that, they struck out big. They wanted Howard and didn’t get him, and after readying the roster for a big-name addition this summer, they were left with Calderon and Ellis, hardly the caliber of players they were hoping for.
Sacramento Kings Biggest additions: Were sold to a new ownership group, hired Mike Malone, signed Carl Landry (four years, $27 million), acquired Greivis Vasquez, drafted Ben McLemore Key losses: Fired Keith Smart, lost Tyreke Evans to free agency Wins last season: 28 Projected wins in 2013-14: 32 Grade: B- – The new ownership would have been enough to earn the Kings this grade, and really, it’s the most impactful development of this offseason. Of course Landry was a solid addition, and McLemore could be a quality NBA player. Add in Vasquez, who had a quietly solid season last year, and these are improvements – just not the kind that will boost the Kings into the playoffs just yet.
Utah Jazz Biggest additions: Took on contracts of Richard Jefferson (one year, $11 million remaining), Andris Biedrins (one year, $9 million remaining) and Brandon Rush (one year, $4 million remaining), acquired future draft picks, drafted Trey Burke Key losses: Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap to free agency (albeit intentionally) Wins last season: 43 Projected wins in 2013-14: 27 Grade: C+ – Utah is rebuilding, and everyone knows it. They’ll have a ton of flexibility going forward, both financially and with draft picks, with that flexibility comes both opportunity and the chance to squander it. For now, it’ll be an ugly season in Utah, but it seems like that was at least in part the goal; at least Burke may be a bright spot in it all.
Phoenix Suns Biggest additions: Traded for Eric Bledsoe, drafted Alex Len and Archie Goodwin, hired Jeff Hornacek Key losses: none, really Wins last season: 25 Projected wins in 2013-14: 24 Grade: B+ – The Suns were smart and conservative this offseason. They got a piece they very much needed in Eric Bledsoe, drafted well by picking Alex Len and Archie Goodwin, and here they stand. There was no point in spending money in free agency during a rebuild, and a year from now, they’ll find themselves with significantly more options.