The NBA preseason is already underway as the season gets set to start Dec. 22, with five games set for Christmas Day. The first half of the league’s slate is set, and the rest will be announced at a later date. As the coronavirus continues to ravage the country, the league constructed a schedule to reduce travel and will have strict health and safety protocols.
Despite the unusual circumstances and a 72-game season ahead, the NBA’s offseason was not a quiet one. In fact, some of its biggest news crept into the start of games with Giannis Antetokounmpo reaching a five-year, $228 million supermax extension with the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday.
Here is how USA TODAY's NBA staff has graded teach team's offseason:
ATLANTIC DIVISION: Celtics | Knicks | Nets | Raptors | 76ers
CENTRAL DIVISION: Cavaliers | Bucks | Bulls | Pacers | Pistons
SOUTHEAST DIVISION: Hawks | Heat | Hornets | Magic | Wizards
NORTHWEST DIVISION: Jazz | Nuggets | Thunder | Timberwolves | Trail Blazers
PACIFIC DIVISION: Clippers | Kings | Lakers | Suns | Warriors
SOUTHWEST DIVISION: Grizzlies | Mavericks | Pelicans | Rockets | Spurs
Atlanta Hawks: B
The Hawks were one of the few teams with money to spend in free agency, and they shelled out big bucks to add veterans to supplement a promising young roster. Rajon Rondo (two years, $15 million), Danilo Gallinari (three years, $61.5 million) and Bogdan Bogdanovic (four years, $72 million) bring experience, positional versatility and plenty of offensive firepower. Add Kris Dunn (two years, $10 million), an elite perimeter defender, and the Hawks have built a deep and talented roster.
The biggest question will be how those veteran additions mesh with Trae Young and the rest of the young core. Gallinari and Bogdanovic could limit opportunities for developing wing players like De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish. Rondo and Dunn could make it tougher for Kevin Huerter to find minutes in the backcourt. And after acquiring center Clint Capela in February and drafting Onyeka Okongwu with the No. 6 pick, what is John Collins’ role in the frontcourt?
Ownership desperately wants to make the playoffs this season. While it’s fair to question the wisdom of accelerating the timeline for such a young team, the Hawks made bold moves that should put them in position to contend for a spot in the Eastern Conference play-in. — Matt Eppers
Boston Celtics: B-
Yes, the Celtics lost Gordon Hayward in free agency, and regardless of Hayward’s difficult time in Boston due to injuries, it’s still difficult to replace a player who averaged 17.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists and shot 50% from the field.
Boston mitigated the loss of Hayward in two ways. The Celtics signed All-Star forward Jayson Tatum to a max rookie contract extension that keeps him in Boston through at least the 2024-25 season. That’s great news for the Celtics, who have an MVP-caliber talent in Tatum.
Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum averaged 23.4 points and 7.0 rebounds last season. (Photo: Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports)
The Hayward deal actually ended up being a sign-and-trade with Charlotte for Hayward, so the Celtics acquired a traded player exception (TPE) worth $28.5 million, meaning they absorb up to that amount in salary in trades. If the Celtics can land a quality player with that TPE, their grade could improve. Had Boston not done a sign-and-trade and not acquired a TPE, their grade would’ve been worse.
In free agency, they added frontcourt and backcourt depth, signing Tristan Thompson and Jeff Teague, and in the draft, they had three-round picks, taking Aaron Nesmith at No. 14, Payton Pritchard at No. 26 and trading the 30th pick (Desmond Bane) to Memphis. — Jeff Zillgitt
Brooklyn Nets: B+
The Nets made a bold move, hiring Steve Nash, who had no prior coaching experience, as their head coach. It’s a tough assignment for Nash, who undoubtedly had the support of Kevin Durant. Nash also brought veteran head coach Mike D’Antoni aboard as an assistant. The two formed a great player-coach combo in Phoenix.
The Nets didn’t make any big, splashy moves in free agency, mostly because it wasn’t necessary. Durant didn’t play last season as he recovered from an Achilles injury, and Kyrie Irving played in just 20 games because of injuries. Getting those two back on the court together are, in effect, Brooklyn’s big moves.
The Nets were not active in the draft and traded their first-round pick to Detroit. As part of that three-team deal, the Nets acquired Landry Shamet. In free agency, they re-signed shooter Joe Harris, brought Tyler Johnson and landed Jeff Green.
Brooklyn has talent beyond Durant and Irving with Harris, Shamet, Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen among others. It’s on Nash, Durant and Irving to make it work – and make it work quickly. — Jeff Zillgitt
Charlotte Hornets: B-
It’s the Gordon Hayward show in Charlotte. Michael Jordan and company made the most surprising move of the offseason, acquiring Hayward in a sign-and-trade and giving the 30-year-old a four-year, $120 million contract. Coupled with the maneuvering required to complete the deal (Charlotte used the waive-and-stretch provision to spread Nicolas Batum’s $27 million salary over the next three seasons), it’s a gamble after Hayward was snakebit by injuries during three years in Boston. However, a small-market team like the Hornets knows it has to pay a premium to attract top free agents, and Hayward gets a good opportunity to jumpstart his career in Charlotte.
There also aren’t any questions about Hayward’s role with the Hornets. He is their clear-cut No. 1 scoring option. He’ll also share some ball-handling and playmaking duties with Charlotte’s other major acquisition, No. 3 overall draft pick LaMelo Ball, a 6-7 point guard with excellent vision and court savvy for a 19-year-old. As a rookie, Ball can bring immediate excitement to a middling Hornets team. Long-term, he has the potential to be a dynamic passer and playmaker with the star power to be the face of the franchise. — Matt Eppers
Chicago Bulls: C
The Bulls made their biggest offseason moves off the floor, hiring Arturas Karnisovas as executive vice president of basketball operations and first-time general manager Marc Eversley. Karnisovas’ first major move was firing Jim Boylen as head coach and replacing him with Billy Donovan, who was let go by Oklahoma City.
On the court, the Bulls had one of the league’s quietest offseasons. Their only notable additions were signing journeyman guard Garrett Temple to a one-year deal and drafting Florida State forward Patrick Williams with the No. 4 pick. Temple is a solid defender and capable shooter with a reputation as a great teammate. His biggest contribution will be his leadership and professionalism around a young core of Zach LaVine, Coby White, Lauri Markkenen and Wendell Carter Jr. that has expectations of competing for an Eastern Conference playoff spot.
Williams is the newest member of that core. He’s a raw talent. He didn’t start a single game or average double figures in scoring during his one season in college and just turned 19 in August. But Williams’ combination of size, athleticism and potential defensive versatility made him an attractive wing prospect for the modern NBA. — Matt Eppers
Cleveland Cavaliers: C
Cleveland made a couple moves to shore up a defense that had one of the league’s worst ratings last season. The Cavaliers remain in rebuilding mode, though, and did little else to boost their chances of competing for a playoff spot, while adding another promising talent to their young core.
Fifth overall pick Isaac Okoro was one of the best perimeter defenders in the draft and should be able to make an impact without scoring. His offensive game needs work, but he won’t be asked to do much in that regard as a rookie. Okoro will get the leeway to improve next to the young backcourt of Collin Sexton and Darius Garland.
Letting Tristan Thompson leave in free agency was sensible, especially since the Cavs acquired rim protector JaVale McGee from the Lakers to join a frontcourt that still includes Kevin Love, Andre Drummond and Larry Nance Jr. Love ($31.2 million) and Drummond ($28.7 million) have huge salaries Cleveland would be thrilled to move. If they find a taker for either or both, the Cavs could acquire young talent and draft picks to really jump-start the rebuilding effort. — Matt Eppers
Dallas Mavericks: B+
A team that needed size and defense on the wing added plenty of both. The Mavericks acquired Josh Richardson (6-5) and James Johnson (6-7) in trades, signed Wesley Iwundu (6-6) and drafted Arizona product Josh Green (6-6), all of whom are big, versatile defenders with long wingspans who can guard multiple positions.
The improvements on defense won’t take away from an offense that had the league’s best rating last season with burgeoning MVP candidate Luka Doncic at the helm. All the Mavs’ additions are capable shooters, and Doncic is the type of superstar playmaker who can make everyone around him better. Dallas re-signed Trey Burke, who played key crunch-time minutes in the playoffs. Second-round pick Tyrell Terry is an excellent 3-point shooter and can help mitigate the loss of Seth Curry, who was traded to Philadelphia in the deal to acquire Richardson.
The Mavs remain a bit thin in the frontcourt. They re-signed backup center Willie Cauley-Stein, but they’ll be without Kristaps Porzingis (meniscus) and Dwight Powell (Achilles) to start the season as they recover from injuries. However, Doncic’s continued ascent and their added versatility will help the Mavs weather the absences. — Matt Eppers
Denver Nuggets: D+
After a breakout run in the bubble to the conference finals, the Nuggets took a small step backwards this offseason but should remain a contender for a top-four seed in the West.
Denver lost an important piece when Jerami Grant stunningly signed with Detroit. The Nuggets reportedly offered the same three-year, $60 million deal that Grant got from the Pistons, but Grant wanted the larger offensive role Detroit could offer. Denver will sorely miss Grant’s defensive prowess, which was key in helping overcome two 3-1 series deficits in the playoffs. They re-signed Paul Millsap and brought in JaMychal Green to help mitigate Grant’s departure.
Michael Porter Jr. will be key to the Nuggets’ fortunes this season. By not including Porter in a deal to potentially add a third star next to Nikola Jokia and Jamal Murray, the Nuggets signaled their confidence that Porter can develop into that third star. After he showed flashes of brilliance in the bubble, Denver is banking on Porter truly breaking out this season. The Nuggets made another savvy draft move, using the No. 24 pick on R.J. Hampton, who like Porter was one-time top prospect whose stock fell. — Matt Eppers
Detroit Pistons: D+
The Pistons started the offseason with a good draft. The selected French point guard Killian Hayes at No. 7, then traded back into the first round to get Washington big man Isaiah Stewart at No. 16 and Villanova wing Saddiq Bey at No. 19. However, they followed that up with some perplexing moves in free agency that leave plenty of questions about the direction of the franchise.
Detroit’s biggest splash was signing forward Jerami Grant to a three-year, $60 million deal. While the contract number isn’t necessarily egregious for a good, young 3-and-D wing in a weak free-agent market, the Pistons are paying Grant to take on a much larger role than his previous stops in Denver and Oklahoma City. It remains to be seen if Grant can shoulder an increased offensive workload.
Even more confusing were the signings of big men Mason Plumlee and Jahlil Okafor. Plumlee’s three-year, $25 million deal is a particularly strange overpay for a player who tops out as a serviceable backup center when Detroit could have re-signed Christian Wood, who’s only 25 and coming off a breakout second half of last season. — Matt Eppers
Golden State Warriors: B-
The Golden State Warriors are no longer light years ahead of everyone. Instead, they have to be graded on a curve. That is what happens when you lose Klay Thompson because of a season-ending injury for a second consecutive year. The Warriors are not exactly in the position to become a title contender again even with a healthy Stephen Curry and Draymond Green as well as a developing Andrew Wiggins. Still, the Warriors played the hand they were dealt as well as anyone could.
They used their No. 2 pick on Memphis center James Wiseman, who will immediately bolster the team’s frontcourt with rim protection, athleticism and an eager mind. The Warriors used part of their $17.2 million trade exception on Kelly Oubre Jr., who will provide positional versatility and physicality as both a capable wing defender and perimeter shooter. The Warriors also added a dependable backup point guard (Brad Wanamaker) and an energetic wing that remained close friends with Curry (Kent Bazemore).
Does this mitigate Thompson’s absence? Of course not, but no one can. Could the Warriors have landed bigger targets? Sure, but they are not in a position to attract free agents on minimal contracts given Thompson’s injury. — Mark Medina
Houston Rockets: C
Another eventful offseason brought shakeups throughout the franchise. Rafael Stone replaced Daryl Morey as general manager. Stephen Silas replaced Mike D’Antoni as head coach. John Wall replaced Russell Westbrook as James Harden’s superstar running mate. And with Harden also reportedly looking for a trade out of town, the biggest move may be yet to come.
All of it leaves the Rockets in a precarious spot with their future potentially in question.
Stone, a first-time GM, made his mark early, trading Westbrook after one up-and-down season in Houston. Westbrook was never a great fit next to Harden, but Wall is an even bigger question mark. The former Wizards star and No. 1 overall pick hasn’t played in an NBA game in nearly two years due to injuries, including a ruptured Achilles. His contract is just as big as Westbrook’s, and he’s never shown great interest in playing off the ball next to another playmaker like Harden.
Houston’s other moves came on the fringes. Free agent center Christian Wood, 25, was a promising signing. He could give the Rockets a new dynamic as a stretch big. Anything from DeMarcus Cousins on a non-guaranteed deal is a bonus. They’ll lose some defensive versatility after trading Robert Covington, though they acquired draft capital in three protected first-round picks in various deals. — Matt Eppers
Indiana Pacers: C+
The Pacers’ offseason was marked primarily by the moves they didn’t make. They were considered the frontrunner to acquire Indianapolis native Gordon Hayward but couldn’t come to a deal on a sign-and-trade with the Celtics. The Pacers also held on to Victor Oladipo despite rumors the former All-Star was unhappy in Indiana.
Instead, the Pacers brought back a solid-if-unspectacular, playoff-ready roster largely intact. Re-signing wing Justin Holiday was a top priority even before Hayward became available, and Indiana quickly agreed on a three-year, $18 million deal to retain the 31-year-old Holiday. They re-signed backup forward JaKarr Sampson to a one-year deal for the veteran’s minimum and added more depth on the wing in second-round draft pick Cassius Stanley.
Trading for Hayward could have raised Indiana’s ceiling in the Eastern Conference. With first-time head coach Nate Bjorkgren taking over for Nate McMillan, the Pacers opted for continuity and improved health to compete. If Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis can return to All-Star form after overcoming injuries, Indiana has the existing talent and depth to contend for a top-six spot to avoid the play-in and potentially push for a top-four seed. — Matt Eppers
Los Angeles Clippers: B
The Clippers did not need to make wholesale changes to their roster, even if they squandered a 3-1 series playoff lead to the Denver Nuggets. But just like in last season, the Clippers spent the offseason taking one step forward while taking two steps back. Technically, the Clippers upgraded their frontcourt by acquiring Serge Ibaka over Montrezl Harrell, who accepted a deal with the Lakers partly because the Clippers gave the vibe that they did not want him. Understandable given Ibaka’s superior defense. Still, couldn’t have the Clippers worked with Harrell on a sign-and-trade so they at least got assets in return? Couldn’t the Clippers have at least ensured Harrell would not go to their intra-city rival?
Surely the Clippers explored those avenues. And in fairness to them, the Clippers still fared well. They retained Marcus Morris. They also acquired Luke Kennard and the No. 19 pick for Landry Shamet in a three-team trade with Brooklyn and Denver. But the Clippers also unexpectedly lost JaMychal Green (to Denver) and missed on potential targets to bolster their wing depth, including Kent Bazemore (Golden State) and Torrey Craig (Milwaukee). This does not mean the Clippers’ championship hopes are dashed. But they are tougher, most notably because the Lakers upgraded their roster partly at the Clippers’ expense. — Mark Medina
Los Angeles Lakers: A
The Lakers are already better than last season’s championship team.
They added a mix of young players (Dennis Schroder, Montrezl Harrell) and veterans (Wesley Matthews, Marc Gasol) that all combine to offer more consistent secondary scoring and better health. Each move also offsets each roster change. No need to worry about Rajon Rondo’s absence. Schroder offers point-guard reinforcements. No need to fret about Danny Green’s departure. Matthews offers more consistent shooting and defense. No need to become concerned about losing rim protection from Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee. Gasol offers plenty of that. No need to stress about the Lakers giving up the No. 28 pick to Oklahoma City to land Schroder. They make such little impact that 27 of those past No. 28 picks have played fewer than five years, and five never played in an NBA game.
These moves will give the Lakers more flexibility with easing the workload for LeBron James and Anthony Davis, who are only two months removed from finishing last season with an NBA title. Though the Lakers’ fortunes still will hinge on their play, they are in a better position to ease their burden so that they are most healthy and effective come playoff time. — Mark Medina
Memphis Grizzlies: B-
Memphis was relatively quiet in terms of roster moves, but that was by design. The Grizzlies didn’t need to make big moves to maintain their upward trajectory; they already had one of the best young cores in the league. This offseason was all about adding complementary pieces around rising stars Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr.
The Grizzlies re-signed De’Anthony Melton to a four-year, $35 million deal after he proved to be a steady defender off the bench. TCU guard Desmond Bane, the 30th pick in the draft, was one of the best shooters in the class and has the size (6-6) and defensive potential to be a solid 3-and-D wing. Dillon Brooks and Brandon Clarke are back, and the Grizzlies hope Justise Winslow can return from injury to bolster their wing depth.
After nearly reaching the playoffs in the bubble, the Grizzlies expect to compete for a spot again this season – and not just the play-in tournament. The Western Conference is loaded again, so competition will be fierce. Even if Memphis needs another year for its core to develop together before making the playoffs, it shouldn’t be long until the Grizzlies are a regular presence in the postseason. — Matt Eppers
Miami Heat: A
Miami was one of the big winners of the offseason, bolstering a strong roster coming off an NBA Finals appearance while leaving itself the room to potentially get even better.
The Heat retained key pieces in Goran Dragic (two years, $37.4 million) and Meyers Leonard (two years, $20 million) and secured rising star Bam Adebayo on a long-term extension (five years, up to $195 million). They added defensive depth in Avery Bradly (two years, $11.6 million) and Moe Harkless (one year, $3.6 million). And they brought back the ultimate locker room chemistry guy in 40-year-old Udonis Haslem (one year, minimum deal), all while maintaining most of their salary cap flexibility to make a move at the trade deadline or next summer.
Miami Heat forward Bam Adebayo averaged 15.9 points, 10.2 rebounds and 5.1 assists last season. (Photo: Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports)
They didn’t need any more help, but the Heat also landed one of the steals of the draft in Memphis forward Precious Achiuwa with the No. 20 pick. Achiuwa is an explosive athlete with ideal defensive versatility at 6-9 to guard in the frontcourt and on the wing. His offensive game needs to be refined, but he’ll have the space to improve next to Jimmy Butler, Dragic, Adebayo and Haslem inside the vaunted #HeatCulture. — Matt Eppers
Milwaukee Bucks: A
Any time a team secures a two-time MVP to a long-term deal, it receives top marks for the offseason. The Bucks had one goal: sign Giannis Antetokounmpo to a contract extension. After months of uncertainty, they finally achieved the goal, agreeing on a five-year, $228 million deal. Every other move made in service to reaching that deal can now be considered a win.
Giving up three first-round picks and two players to acquire Jrue Holiday was worth it now that Antetokounmpo is signed. Holiday is an excellent two-way player, and those picks are going to be in the late first round where finding an impact player is far less likely. Bogdan Bogdanovic would have been another great addition, but failing to land him in the botched signed-and-trade now doesn’t sting nearly as much.
With Antetokounmpo, Holiday and Khris Middleton set as their top three, the Bucks still have enough talent on the rest of the roster to be considered a favorite in the Eastern Conference. D.J. Augustin and Bryn Forbes were signed to add depth to the backcourt. Torrey Craig and Bobby Portis bring more defense and versatility to the wing. — Matt Eppers
Minnesota Timberwolves: B-
The Timberwolves will be hard-pressed to compete for a playoff spot in the loaded Western Conference, but they appear headed in the right direction after adding another top draft pick and a couple savvy veterans to help nurture the young core.
Anthony Edwards might not go down as the best player in the 2020 draft, but he made the most sense for Minnesota with the No. 1 pick. An explosive two-guard with top-end potential as a scorer, Edwards can play on or off the ball in the backcourt next to D’Angelo Russell. He has upside as a potential lockdown defender. Minnesota also doesn’t need Edwards to be an immediate star. He can ease into his role beside Karl-Anthony Towns and Russell.
Minnesota acquired fan-favorite point guard Ricky Rubio, 30, who spent his first six seasons with the Wolves, and forward Ed Davis, 31, to bolster the youngsters with experience. They re-signed Malik Beasley to add defense on the wing.
The Wolves will likely take some more lumps this season, but if Edwards can begin to reach his potential, they might not have to wait long to get back to the postseason. — Matt Eppers
New York Knicks: B
New Knicks general manager Leon Rose is another long-time agent who now runs an NBA team. Bob Myers did with the Golden State Warriors, and Rob Pelinka did it with the Los Angeles Lakers, helping those teams win championships. Can Rose bring success to the Knicks? He has a long way to go and is not working with the same talent as Myers and Pelinka. The Knicks haven’t made the playoff since 2013 and haven’t won more than 37 games in a season in the past seven years.
In his first major move, Rose hired Tom Thibodeau as coach, and they filled out a strong coaching staff. That’s a decent start. New York got a break in the draft as Obi Toppin fell to No. 8, giving the Knicks a rookie with top-five talent. The Knicks also acquired Immanuel Quickley at No. 25.
In free agency, the Knicks filled holes, adding Austin Rivers, Alec Burks, Nerlens Noel and Elfrid Payton. But it’s not so much what happens in year one of the Rose era, it’s what happens in years two, three and four and whether Rose’s reputation as a one-time agent for high-powered CAA can bring elite players to the Knicks. — Jeff Zillgitt
New Orleans Pelicans: B
The Pelicans are the only team trying to accumulate as many future draft picks as the Thunder, and they landed three more first-rounders and two pick swaps from the Bucks in a trade for Jrue Holiday. But while New Orleans continued to set itself up for the future, the playoffs might still be out of reach this season in a Western Conference that remains as competitive as ever.
New Orleans acquired veterans Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams in the deal involving Holiday. Bledsoe should replace most of Holiday’s production in the backcourt next to Lonzo Ball. Adams is a solid interior defender but has little versatility, making for a questionable fit next to Zion Williamson in the frontcourt. On paper, the Adams acquisition is fine, but subsequently giving him a two-year, $35 million extension is puzzling when his expiring deal could have been an asset on the trade market.
Securing Brandon Ingram to a long-term extension was a top priority, and the Pelicans quickly agreed on a five-year max deal with last season’s Most Improved Player. This season is all about further development for the Pelicans’ young players. If Ingram makes another leap and Williamson starts to reach his potential, New Orleans could push for the playoffs sooner rather than later. — Matt Eppers
Oklahoma City Thunder: B
Sam Presti’s quest to obtain all the draft picks continued apace, with the Thunder general manager as busy as ever making more deals to add to his mountain of draft assets. Prominent veterans Chris Paul, Steven Adams and Dennis Schroder were traded. Al Horford, George Hill and Trevor Ariza were acquired, along with four first-round draft picks to give the Thunder up to 17 first-round picks through 2026.
As much as they did to further stockpile picks for the future, they did little to improve their outlook for 2020-21. After outperforming expectations last season, the Thunder won’t be very good this year, but that’s largely by design. Third-year point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander should now be the unquestioned centerpiece of the team, and young players like Darius Bazley, Lu Dort and Aleksej Pokusevski, the No. 17 pick in this year’s draft, will get plenty of opportunities to play through growing pains. Horford, Hill and Ariza give Oklahoma City experience around the young pieces.
A true grade of the Thunder’s offseason won’t really be known until some of the draft picks come to pass, or they package any number of them together in a deal to acquire a star. Until then, the Thunder have put themselves in as good a position as possible to sow big rewards in the next half-decade. — Matt Eppers
Orlando Magic: D
Orlando is one of the most inert franchises in the NBA. After two consecutive years of unspectacular low playoff seeds, the Magic did little to improve their prospects this season and may be in worse position given the moves some of their competitors made.
Short of trading one of their top players like Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon or Evan Fournier, there isn’t a clear avenue for the Magic to get drastically better, and their offseason bore that out. They signed Dwayne Bacon to a two-year deal, and while he shot 43.7% from 3-point range two seasons ago, he hardly moves the needle. Michael Carter-Williams and Gary Clark re-signed, but they top out as decent second unit rotation pieces. With D.J. Augustin’s departure, No. 15 pick Cole Anthony will get minutes at backup point guard. Anthony could be undervalued after missing time with a knee injury last season at North Carolina.
With such a stagnant roster, the Magic’s path to getting the No. 7 or No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference is no longer guaranteed, even with the new play-in tournament. Atlanta, Charlotte and Washington are all better than last season, making things even tougher for Orlando. — Matt Eppers
Philadelphia 76ers: A-
Daryl Morey didn’t waste time getting to work in his new job with Philadelphia. He wanted to reshape the roster and did just that, trading Al Horford (and his large contract), who didn’t fit with the 76ers’ personnel. Philadelphia needed more shooting, and in trades, Morey landed Danny Green and Seth Curry and drafted Tyrese Maxey at No. 21.
The Sixers had changes at all levels on the basketball side. The team moved on from Brett Brown and hired Doc Rivers as coach. Rivers’ role is to find a way to get the most from Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons and excel with those two talented All-Stars, plus Tobias Harris and a supporting cast. The added 3-point shooting should help.
It’s been disappointing finishes the past three seasons, failing to get beyond the second round even though the franchise has championship aspirations.
Given Morey’s penchant for deal-making, he’ll continue to search for improvements to the roster. But in a short time, it was a solid offseason for the Sixers, who won’t have it easy in a tough division this season. — Jeff Zillgitt
Phoenix Suns: A-
Just like during their time in the NBA bubble, the Phoenix Suns had a perfect record with their offseason. After winning all eight of their games in the NBA’s season restart, the Suns look like a legitimate playoff contender because of their various moves.
First, the Suns acquired All-Star point guard Chris Paul from the Thunder for Ricky Rubio, Kelly Oubre, Ty Jerome, Jalen Lecque and a future first-round pick. Then the Suns used their No. 10 pick on Maryland sophomore forward Jalen Smith, who became one of college basketball’s best defenders and 3-point shooters. In free agency, the Suns then added more depth to their frontcourt (Jae Crowder, Damian Jones) and backcourt (E’Twaun Moore, Langston Galloway).
After toiling in dysfunction with various ownership, coaching and personnel changes, the Suns finally appear to be heading in the right direction. It already looked that way as they barely missed the playoffs after going undefeated in the bubble because of Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton’s emergence. And now, the Suns put together a roster that will accelerate their growth and ease their burden. — Mark Medina
Portland Trail Blazers: A
Portland quietly put together one of the league’s best offseasons, with president of basketball operations Neil Olshey putting on a clinic in bolstering a playoff roster without making splashy moves. Olshey added smart-fitting pieces around star guards Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum that should help Portland get back into the top half of the Western Conference playoff picture.
Acquiring Robert Covington from the Rockets was an excellent move that adds much-needed defensive prowess and should unlock some versatility for the Blazers. Covington can play anywhere in the frontcourt and switch on to smaller opponents on the wing, while shooting 35% from 3-point range on the other end. Derrick Jones Jr. also brings his uber-athleticism to the wing rotation.
Forward Robert Covington gives the Portland Trail Blazers added versatility. (Photo: Steve Dykes, USA TODAY Sports)
The Blazers brought back secondary scoring in Carmelo Anthony and Rodney Hood. They made a couple of low-risk additions in Enes Kanter and Harry Giles III to play behind starting center Jusuf Nurkic, who will start the season at full health after returning in the bubble from a broken leg suffered in March 2019. — Matt Eppers
Sacramento Kings: C+
The Sacramento Kings took care of their long-term future by securing guard De’Aaron Fox to a five-year, $163 million deal. They also collected a draft steal by plucking away Tyrese Haliburton when he was somehow still available at No. 12.
Yet, the Kings ran into a murky situation with Bogdan Bogdanovic. It remains difficult to know how to divide the blame after a possible sign-and-trade between the Milwaukee Bucks the Kings fell apart. The Kings maintained they never agreed to a deal. The NBA also has been investigating the situation.
But when the Atlanta Hawks gave Bogdanovic a four-year, $72 million shot, the Kings passed on the chance of matching the offer. It is understandable that the Kings need to clear the path for Fox and Haliburton to flourish. They also want to find a viable trade market for Buddy Hield, whose production would have decreased this season had Bogdanovic stayed on the roster. Even if a sign-and-trade with Atlanta was not possible, the Kings should have matched to retain Bogdanovic’s rights with the intention of trading him later in the season. — Mark Medina
San Antonio Spurs: C
After their 22-year streak of playoff appearances ended, the Spurs had little flexibility to make moves in free agency when DeMar DeRozan exercised his $27.7 million option to return. DeRozan is one of several veterans with large salaries in the final year of their contracts — in addition to LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gay and Patty Mills — who have San Antonio treading water as a fringe playoff contender while doing what it can to develop young talent.
Drafting Devin Vassell out of Florida State with the No. 11 pick was the type of shrewd move the Spurs are known for. Vassell projects as a prototypical 3-and-D wing with the kind of high-character reputation that San Antonio prizes as a franchise. Second-year player Keldon Johnson should also see increased minutes on the wing after appearing in just 17 games as a rookie.
The backcourt is packed, with minutes tight between veterans DeRozan and Mills and youngsters Dejounte Murray, Derrick White and Lonny Walker IV. Trading DeRozan, Mills or both (or any other veteran on an expiring deal) could loosen the logjam and free up more minutes for young players to develop. — Matt Eppers
Toronto Raptors: B
Keeping Fred VanVleet was priority A, B and C for Toronto, and the Raptors accomplished that by re-signing him to a four-year, $85 million contract. Both sides wanted to get a deal done, and it happened.
The Raptors, who were a game away from the conference finals in 2020 and won the title in 2019, lost Serge Ibaka (Los Angeles Clippers) and Marc Gasol (Los Angeles Lakers, and regained some frontcourt strength by signing Aron Baynes and Alex Len. They also retained Chris Boucher in free agency.
In the draft, the Raptors selected Malachi Flynn at No. 29.
Toronto was intent, for the most part, on running it back with Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby and VanVleet while adding on the edges. The Raptors will see how the season starts and then determine what moves are necessary — try to make another deep run in the playoffs or look to trade assets such as Lowry, who is entering the final season of his three-year deal. — Jeff Zillgitt
Utah Jazz: B
Utah experienced little turnover and largely brought back the roster intact. After a disappointing exit from the bubble playoffs, the Jazz are banking on continuity and another year together to lift them from the middle of the playoff pack to true NBA Finals contender.
The biggest move of the offseason was agreeing with Donovan Mitchell on a five-year max extension that could be worth up to $195 million. It’s a mutually beneficial deal, giving Mitchell long-term security and ensuring the Jazz will remain competitive. If there was any question before, Mitchell now undoubtedly has the keys to the franchise.
Not as clear is the future of Rudy Gobert, the two-time Defensive Player of the Year who is also eligible for a max extension. The sides remain in negotiations, but there hasn’t been much movement on a deal. If they can’t come to agreement before the season, Gobert will become a free agent next summer. The Jazz appear to have hedged against that possibility by bringing back Derrick Favors and drafting Udoka Azubuike.
Their only other notable move was re-signing Jordan Clarkson to a four-year, $52 million. Clarkson should continue to add scoring punch off the bench. — Matt Eppers
Washington Wizards: C
The Wizards’ offseason took a stunning turn when they traded John Wall to the Rockets for Russell Westbrook after insisting they had no intention of dealing the former No. 1 pick. Wall has not played in almost two years because of injuries and is coming back from a ruptured Achilles. The Wizards deemed that injury history risky enough to trade a player who was beloved in the D.C. community.
Despite his own injury history and questions about the fit next to Bradley Beal, Westbrook is more of a sure thing for this season. The former MVP also reunites with former coach Scott Brooks.
Washington will have the talent around Beal and Westbrook to be one of the best offenses in the league. They re-signed 3-point sharpshooter Davis Bertans to a four-year, $80 million deal, and No. 9 pick Deni Avdija has size (6-9), range and playmaking potential on the wing. The defense won’t be great, but the Wizards will score with anyone.
Westbrook certainly raises the Wizards’ floor in the Eastern Conference. They’re firmly in line to contend for seventh or eighth, the top spots in the new play-in tournament. If Westbrook meshes well with Beal, the ceiling might be higher too, and Washington could make a push to finish above the play-in. — Matt Eppers
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