Western Conference Offseason Grades: Pacific Division

Day 5 of the offseason grades and we arrive in the sunny Pacific Division. In this division we see an already scary team become terrifying, a perennial playoff disappointment, and three teams that are building from the bottom. SPOILER ALERT, the Golden State Warriors are going to tear this division (and the rest of the league) apart.

 

Golden State Warriors

Key Additions: Kevin Durant, Zaza Pachulia, David West, Patrick McCaw (Rookie)

Key Losses: Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut, Festus Ezeli, Leandro Barbosa, Marreese Speights

You’d think by looking at those losses that the Warriors wouldn’t be as great as they were last season, no chance they could come close to their record-breaking 73 wins without as much depth. But then it happened. The best free agent, not named LeBron James, joined the best regular season team of all time. Subbing Harrison Barnes out of the “Death Lineup” for Kevin Durant makes this the “Massacre Lineup”. The 3-point threat that this team boasts creates defensive nightmares for the other 29 teams in the league. Doubling off any of the other four players will almost always lead to easy baskets for this squad; their ball movement is too pristine. Good luck everyone.

 

Grade: A+

 

L.A. Clippers

Key Additions: Marreese Speights, Jamal Crawford (re-signed), Brice Johnson (Rookie)

Key Losses: Jeff Green, Cole Aldrich

Another year, another boring offseason for Doc Rivers and the Clippers. Re-signing Crawford doesn’t change much, Speights is a nice addition to the bench, but once again they did not find the 3-and-D wing they so desperately need. Jeff Green didn’t work out, and instead of trying to find a young solution in the draft, Doc selected Brice Johnson out of UNC. The college senior never showed much, and he doesn’t provide a ton of upside. So, expect a top-5 finish out West, and another disappointing playoff run.

 

Grade: C

 

L.A. Lakers

Key Additions: Brandon Ingram (Rookie), Luol Deng, Timofey Mozgov, Jose Calderon, Luke Walton (Coach)

Key Losses: Kobe Bryant, Roy Hibbert, Metta World Peace

With Kobe Bryant and his horrible contract finally off the books, it’s time for the Lakers to fully accept the rebuild. Selecting Brandon Ingram was an easy decision once they were given the 2nd overall selection in the draft, and getting Luke Walton on as coach after his success in Golden State was a great move. However, then they overpaid Timofey Mozgov and brought in Luol Deng; a starting-caliber veteran who plays the same position as potential franchise player Ingram. Oh, and they got Jose Calderon who hasn’t been relevant in this league for years. I guess they are still the same Lakers we’ve known for awhile.

 

Grade: C+

 

Phoenix Suns

Key Additions: Jared Dudley, Dragan Bender (Rookie), Marquese Chriss (Rookie), Leandro Barbosa, Tyler Ulis (Rookie)

Key Losses: Mirza Teletovic, Jon Leuer

I still can’t believe how quickly this situation turned sour. Only three short seasons ago, this Suns team, that was expected to be the worst in the league, almost reached the postseason. Three years later, after some point guard difficulties and a falling out with twin brothers, the Suns are rebuilding once again. They got three very interesting prospects in the draft, even though two of which play the same position, Bender and Chriss should be solid contributors in the years to come. Ulis is worth the risk, he may be small but he has incredible ball-handling and playmaking abilities. Jared Dudley is well respected throughout the league and was strongly pursued by many teams before returning to his old stomping ground in Phoenix. Barbosa’s return will also bring back fond memories for Suns fans.

 

Grade: B

 

Sacramento Kings

Key Additions: Arron Afflalo, Matt Barnes, Anthony Tolliver, Georgios Papagiannis (Rookie), Malachi Richardson (Rookie), Skal Labissiere (Rookie), Dave Joerger (Coach)

Key Losses: Rajon Rondo, Seth Curry, Marco Belinelli, Caron Butler

The Kings got a new coach, who would’ve thought? Maybe Joerger will be the one to finally end the coaching turnstile, but with Vivek Ranidive and Vlade Divac running the show, who really knows. Three draft picks, two of which are centers, and their best player is also a center. Take notes other organizations, Sacramento clearly knows what they’re doing. Afflalo doesn’t move the needle, Barnes adds another temperamental player to a bad situation, and they lost Seth Curry, one of the only promising young pieces they had. Just give up already and trade Cousins, stop wasting his career.

 

Grade: C-

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Western Conference Offseason Grades: Northwest Division

Day 4 of the offseason grades and we are now into the Western Conference. In this division we see a couple young teams make some nice additions to their core, and we see a marquee player leave the only team he’s ever known (can you taste the salt in that sentence, I’m still slightly bitter). We also have a new coach to the Western Conference, and a couple of these teams will be trying to prove themselves; both now and for the future.

Denver Nuggets

Key Additions: Darrell Arthur (re-signed), Jamal Murray (Rookie)

Key Losses: None

The Nugget’s are building a very nice young core, and while they failed to sign Dwyane Wade it was probably for the best. They didn’t lose anyone, drafted a great young guard in Jamal Murray (plus he’s Canadian!), and have tons of trade assets to build for the future. Not signing any bad deals and staying young makes this a positive offseason for Denver.

 

Grade: B+

 

Minnesota Timberwolves

Key Additions: Kris Dunn (Rookie), Cole Aldrich, Brandon Rush, Jordan Hill, Tom Thibodeau (Coach)

Key Losses: Kevin Martin, Tayshaun Prince

Following Denver’s young core, we come to the best young core in the entire league; the Minnesota Timberwolves. Their only losses were two fossils in Kevin Martin and Tayshaun Prince, so if they hadn’t made any other moves this would’ve been a positive offseason. But then they signed solid bench players in Aldrich, Rush, and Hill, drafted an absolute stud in Kris Dunn, oh, and they signed the best free agent coach in Tom Thibodeau. Thibs is well known for his defensive coaching prowess and I can’t wait to see how he molds Wiggins and Towns. Finding their coach of the future and getting younger by ridding themselves of the old boys makes this an amazing offseason.

 

Grade: A

 

Oklahoma City Thunder

Key Additions: Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova, Domantas Sabonis (Rookie)

Key Losses: Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, Dion Waiters (maybe)

Let me just take a minute to cry, as a Thunder fan this was a tough summer. First off, before Durant abandoned ship, the Thunder were winning the offseason. They absolutely ripped off Orlando when they traded Serge Ibaka for Oladipo, Ilyasova, and the draft rights to Sabonis from Gonzaga. There was a good chance that Ibaka was going to walk next summer after becoming tired of his role, so to get that big of a return was absolutely amazing. Oladipo is a beast, and is still very young, Ilyasova is slightly over the hill, but he can still hit from outside, and Sabonis looked NBA-ready during his time in college. If their offseason ended here, it would be an A, maybe even A+ summer. Except, we all know what happened next. Losing the best player the franchise has ever had takes Oklahoma City out of playoff contention. I can’t wait to see what Westbrook does running the show alone, but they are worse. They had great additions, but the worst departure in the entire league.

 

Grade: F+ (at least they swindled the Magic…)

 

Portland Trail Blazers

Key Additions: Evan Turner, Festus Ezeli, Allen Crabbe (re-signed), Myers Leonard (re-signed)

Key Losses: Gerald Henderson

Getting Festus Ezeli was a nice pickup for this young Blazers team, but I still don’t understand giving Evan Turner 70 million over 4 years when you have Lillard, McCollum, Crabbe, and Harkless. If they had gotten him cheaper than okay, but while he was solid in Boston it’s not like he’s the guy to push them into championship contention. Re-signing Crabbe was key, he has a lot of potential to be a great 3-and-D player, and Myers Leonard stretches the floor really well. Losing Henderson doesn’t change anything; this was an average offseason for Portland.

 

Grade: C

 

Utah Jazz

Key Additions: Joe Johnson, George Hill, Boris Diaw

Key Losses: Trevor Booker

Now it’s time for the Utah Jazz to push into the upper tier out West. With the Thunder taking a step back, the Jazz should be able to step up and potentially snag home court in the playoffs if everything breaks right. I do like Trevor Booker, and losing him is tough, but bringing in three solid veterans with Johnson, Hill, and Diaw adds a lot of depth to this roster; especially with their injury history. George Hill especially will take the pressure off of Dante Exum who will be returning from an ACL injury, Hill will give him time to be fully ready to go. Look for this Jazz squad to make a big jump up the Western Conference standings.

 

Grade: B+

Eastern Conference Offseason Grades: Southeast Division

 

Day 3, (technically a day late because I completely forgot to post this yesterday) and we finish off the Eastern Conference with the Southeast Division. This division saw quite a few big name players either come or go, along with a couple new coaching hires. As the East is pretty open, all of these teams will be vying for playoff contention, we’ll have to see if their offseason moves swing them one way or another.

Atlanta Hawks

Key Additions: Dwight Howard, Kent Bazemore (re-signed), Jarrett Jack, Kris Humphries, Taurean Prince (Rookie)

Key Losses: Al Horford, Jeff Teague

This is a tough one to grade. Losing Al Horford is huge, and their season will depend on which Dwight Howard shows up. Hopefully with him coming home he’ll come out strong and dominate; as he should. But if comes in with back issues, and isn’t happy with the role he is given, they will miss Horford’s underrated rim protection drastically. Bringing back Kent Bazemore is nice, he’s a solid, two-way wing player. Also getting veteran Jarrett Jack to back up Dennis Schröder was a great move, he provides insurance in case Schröder can’t always get it done. I like Schröder in a way that I liked young Rondo during his time in Boston, but not sure if he can handle carrying an NBA offence full time. Taurean Prince should be molded within this great organization to become a DeMarre Carroll-type player.

 

Grade: C+ (if Dwight is happy)

D- (if Dwight plays like he has the past 3 or 4 years)

 

Charlotte Hornets

Key Additions: Nicolas Batum (re-signed), Marvin Williams (re-signed), Marco Bellinelli

Key Losses: Jeremy Lin, Courtney Lee, Al Jefferson

Retaining both Batum and Williams makes this a positive offseason for Charlotte. Batum was amazing in the Hornet’s system last year, and Williams fits the stretch-4 position very well. Losing Lin as their third guard hurts, along with Courtney Lee, but bringing sharp-shooter Belinelli helps to balance those losses. Al Jefferson can’t run, and his departure opens up more playing time for their white big men; Frank Kaminsky, Spencer Hawes, and Tyler Hansborough (not saying that this is a great thing, but it’s funny how many white big men they have). Charlotte are still primed to be a mid tier playoff team out East.

 

Grade: B

 

Miami Heat

Key Additions: Hassan Whiteside (re-signed), Tyler Johson (re-signed), Derrick Williams, Wayne Ellington

Key Losses: Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Joe Johnson

Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, these are players who when thought of are considered loyal because they played the entirety of their career for one franchise. Dwyane Wade was always considered to be part of that crew, however that all changed this summer when Pat Riley cut communication with him, and let the best player the Heat organization ever had walk away for nothing. Bringing back Whiteside was key, but with Bosh’s future still cloudy, and Dragic’s lingering health issues, this team could struggle to make the postseason. Deng and Johnson were major contributors, and now they will be replaced by… Derrick Williams and Wayne Ellington? Oh boy, this could be a tough season down in South Beach. At least the weather there is nice. The only reason I’m not giving them an F is because they managed to convince Whiteside to come back.

 

Grade: D-

 

Orlando Magic

Key Additions: Serge Ibaka, Bismack Biyombo, Jeff Green, Evan Fournier (re-signed), D.J. Augustin, Frank Vogel (Coach)

Key Losses: Victor Oladipo, Brandon Jennings, Ersan Ilyasova, Andrew Nicholson, Jason Smith

The biggest trade of the summer was a major loss for Orlando. Trading Oladipo, Ilyasova, and the draft rights to Sabonis for one year of Serge Ibaka? The Thunder absolutely fleeced them. Serge is a solid player, don’t get me wrong. But there is almost no chance that he re-signs next offseason. Just giving up a young stud in Oladipo is bad enough, but also a solid draft pick is absolutely horrible. Biyombo is a solid pickup, and he may even usurp Vucevic for the starting job. Fournier showed a lot of growth last year, and now Mario Hezonja should garner more minutes. Jeff Green just keeps bouncing around, for his sake hopefully this one works out. Their best move this summer was clearly snatching up Frank Vogel, who was surprisingly fired in Indiana. Vogel has consistently been a top tier coach in this league, and I’m looking forward to see what he can do with this young core, but this was a bad offseason for Magic fans.

 

Grade: C-

 

Washington Wizards

Key Additions: Bradley Beal (re-signed), Ian Mahinmi, Andrew Nicholson, Jason Smith, Scott Brooks (Coach)

Key Losses: Jared Dudley, Nene, Garrett Temple

Even with Beal’s injury history, re-signing him long-term had to happen. His potential is still so high, and with him being the perfect running mate to John Wall they couldn’t afford to let him go. Losing Dudley is tough, he is a great, veteran stretch-4 that works well in a pick and pop with Wall. Ridding themselves of Nene is huge; their spacing will improve drastically. Scott Brooks should be an interesting coach to watch, he was never known for his play-calling abilities in Oklahoma City. Nicholson and Jason Smith are decent for how cheap their contracts are, but nothing that will move the needle for this team.

 

Grade: C

Eastern Conference Offseason Grades: Central Division

Day 2 of the offseason grades bring us arguably the strongest division in the East. On paper, there is a chance that all of these teams could be in Playoff contention, with the Cavs leading the way. This Division also looks a lot different than it did last year, with the Bulls and Pacers making major changes to their squads. Seeing Dwyane Wade play in a Bulls jersey for the first time is going to be a weird sight, but at least now we can see him battle his banana boat pal LeBron a couple more times per year.

 

Chicago Bulls

Key Additions: Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo, Robin Lopez, Jerian Grant, Denzel Valentine (Rookie)

Key Losses: Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol, Justin Holiday, Mike Dunleavy, Aaron Brooks

Rondo, Wade, and Butler, this team is going to be interesting on the offensive end. The Bulls haven’t been an exceptionally gifted offensive team in recent years, but at least they had three point threats in the past. Coming into this season, their best (and only) outside shooters are Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott. With Thibs as coach the Bulls were a guaranteed top-10 defense, but now this team’s point differential could be really bad. One positive, which earned them a D+ rather than a flat D, Denzel Valentine is legit. While Summer League doesn’t really mean much, his performance in the final two games and the big shots that lead to their championship were a great sign. I would’ve liked him to start if Wade hadn’t decided to come home, but let’s hope he can prove himself with less minutes.

 

Grade: D+

 

Cleveland Cavaliers

Key Additions: Mike Dunleavy, Kay Felder (Rookie)

Key Losses: Matthew Dellavedova, Timofey Mozgov

The Cavaliers didn’t need to make any changes after bringing Cleveland its first sports title since 1964, and not losing any super key pieces makes it a successful offseason. They couldn’t afford to retain Dellavedova which does hurt, but they did bring in Dunleavy to be an actual backup small forward. Timofey Mozgov was out of the rotation for the majority of the postseason, so losing him isn’t a huge deal. Kay Felder is a quick, young point guard who could break into the rotation, and if not Mo Williams will hold the backup point guard position. If there are any bought out point guards near the end of the season, expect the Cavs to pick them up for playoff run.

 

Grade: A

 

Detroit Pistons

Key Additions: Boban Marjanovic, Ish Smith, Jon Leuer, Henry Ellenson (Rookie)

Key Losses: Jodie Meeks, Anthony Tolliver

Stan Van Gundy made small moves with the little space he had, and those moves have made the Pistons incredibly deep. Jon Leuer is a better backup stretch-4 than Tolliver, Jodie Meeks never played up to his contract, Ish Smith made the hilariously bad 76er’s quite a bit better. And they got Boban Marjanovic! Detroit’s real offseason move occurred during last season when they acquired Tobias Harris, and that helped push them into the 8th spot in the Eastern Conference. Now that they’re deeper, I expect them to be further up the Eastern Conference standings.

 

Grade: B+

 

Indiana Pacers

Key Additions: Jeff Teague, Thaddeus Young, Al Jefferson, Georges Niang (Rookie), Nate McMillan (Coach)

Key Losses: George Hill, Ian Mahinmi, Solomon Hill, Ty Lawson

A starting lineup of Jeff Teague, Monta Ellis, Paul George, Thaddeus Young, and Miles Turner? Yes please. The spacing this team will be able to operate in will make them an exciting, up-tempo squad. Al Jefferson is an odd fit; off bench he’s a solid post scorer, but there’s no way he’ll be running up and down the floor. Not sure if Teague is a major upgrade at the point, but he was an All Star. Solomon Hill was a great, flexible piece, but they still have plenty of wing depth. If Miles Turner takes a major step in his sophomore season, especially as a rim protector, this Pacer’s team could join the upper echelon of the East. Nate McMillan never got out of the first round with a great, Brandon Roy-led Blazers team so we’ll see what he can do with Paul George and Co.

 

Grade: B

 

Milwaukee Bucks

Key Additions: Matthew Dellavedova, Mirza Teletovic, Thon Maker (Rookie)

Key Losses: Jerryd Bayless, Greivis Vasquez

If only the Bucks hadn’t signed Greg Monroe last season, could you imagine if they could have somehow signed Hassan Whiteside? Or even on a lower level, Ian Mahinmi or Bismack Biyombo? This Milwaukee team looked like they could grow into being the best defensive team in the league with their absurd length, and now they potentially have their future big man in Thon Maker. He could be 19, he could be 25, nobody knows, but his length and “young age” fits in perfectly with this Milwaukee Bucks organization. Dellavedova will bring some much-needed toughness, and is an upgrade over Bayless and Vasquez. Losing Vasquez after giving Toronto a 1st round pick for him does bring their grade down though. Teletovic is a nice backup power forward for them, adds a bit of shooting.

 

Grade: B

Eastern Conference Offseason Grades: Atlantic Division

After over a month of not writing, it’s time for me to get back into it. The NBA season is coming up soon and this will be the first full season that I plan on covering and creating content on. I’ve had many people reach out and tell me that they enjoy it, and I thank you for that. Hopefully this season can create multiple storylines for me to give my opinion on, and I hope it can be just as exciting as last year.

As the summer comes to a close, so does the NBA offseason. The Olympics have ended, almost every free agent has found a team, and with the release of the schedule the hype for this upcoming season is growing. Now that the majority of moves have been completed, (barring a blockbuster trade before the season begins, think James Harden to Houston back in 2012), it’s time for me to give my thoughts on what every team did during this offseason; this includes all free agency moves, draft picks, and personnel hires. I will be posting one Division’s grades per day for the next six days, and after that I will move on to some season predictions and other content.

Eastern Conference Offseason Grades: Atlantic Division

Boston Celtics

Key Additions: Al Horford, Amir Johnson (re-signed), Jaylen Brown (Rookie)

Key Losses: Jared Sullinger, Evan Turner

The narrative that the Celtics need a superstar player may still be alive in some minds, there are those that don’t view Al Horford as a star player. However I think this is one of the best moves of the summer, Horford coming from a Spurs-ian organization in Atlanta will fit perfectly into Brad Stevens system. Jaylen Brown should develop into a solid two-way player under Jae Crowder, Amir Johnson is much more solid than Sullinger, Turner will be missed but there are plenty of other ball-handlers on this roster.

 

Grade: A

 

Brooklyn Nets

Key Additions: Jeremy Lin, Trevor Booker, Anthony Bennett, Randy Foye, Caris Levert (Rookie), Kenny Atkinson (Coach)

Key Losses: Wayne Ellington, Thaddeus Young, Jarrett Jack

Congratulations to the Brooklyn Nets for finally realizing they need to get younger and re-gain some future draft picks. Also, they were smart enough to bring Jeremy Lin back to the Big Apple in an effort to renew “Linsanity”. Not only that, but they hired Kenny Atkinson, the coach that grew Lin under his tutelage in New York. Caris Levert was groomed as a lottery pick before some tough injuries, but he can grow into a solid shooter on the wing. Booker is solid, Foye is a vet, Bennett looked decent for Team Canada in Olympic Qualifiers, but I don’t hold out much hope. I added a plus to their grade simply for figuring it out, (cough, cough, SACRAMENTO).

 

Grade: B+

 

New York Knicks

Key Additions: Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Courtney Lee, Brandon Jennings, Willy Hernangomez (Rookie), Jeff Hornacek (Coach)

Key Losses: Arron Afflalo, Jose Calderon, Langston Galloway, Jerian Grant, Robin Lopez

If these moves happened at any point between 2011 and 2013 I would probably pick the Knicks to be the best team in the league. Unfortunately it’s 2016, and after Rose’s multiple injuries, Noah’s maladies, Brandon Jennings becoming a bench player, I don’t have much hope for the Knicks. Even at age 30, Courtney Lee is a good starting 2-guard, but I liked Langston Galloway’s effort, and Jerian Grant really didn’t get a chance. New York is a major market, therefore Phil Jackson had to go out and secure some big names eventually, so I guess these moves fit that idea. Derrick Rose has come out and said there are two “super-teams” in the league; the Warriors and the Knicks. Except when I look at those two teams I see one dominant, title-contender, and a team that will fight for a playoff seed. I’ll let you determine which is which.

 

Grade: C

 

Philadelphia 76’ers

Key Additions: Ben Simmons (Rookie), Jerryd Bayless, Gerald Henderson, Dario Saric (Rookie), Joel Embiid (Rookie)

Key Losses: Ish Smith

This is the season where we finally get a look at what the 76’ers future will look like. They will have three lottery picks starting their NBA careers with Ben Simmons, Dario Saric finally coming over, and Joel Embiid’s injury woes apparently behind him. With these three joining other big men Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor, Philly’s front office will need to make some decisions. Even if Ben Simmons ends up running the point, with Saric, Embiid, Noel, and Okafor, there will not be enough minutes to go around. I expect a midseason move involving either Noel or Okafor, as Embiid when healthy can be a monster in the post., and Saric has the outside shooting to break into the rotation. Bayless and Henderson are decent veterans to bring in to fill up some minutes at the guard positions, losing Ish Smith is tough because of how much he meant last season, but he clearly wasn’t going to be a long-term solution. Expect Colangelo and Co. to deal one of their big men for a young guard to help complete their rebuild. I added a plus to this rating for finally getting the first overall pick in the draft, and for the long awaited debut of Joel Embiid, (***SPOILER ALERT***, I might be picking a player who wasn’t drafted this year as my Rookie of the Year pick…).

 

Grade: B+

 

Toronto Raptors

Key Additions: DeMar DeRozan (re-signed), Jared Sullinger, Jakob Poeltl (Rookie)

Key Losses: Bismack Biyombo, James Johnson, Luis Scola

Bringing DeMar DeRozan back was a major key to the Raptors offseason, have to keep the All-Star friends duo of Lowry and DeRozan together. Losing Biyombo hurts the big man rotation a bit, but it was clear that they wouldn’t be able to afford him. Getting Sullinger instead of Scola I do like, even though they’re both liabilities on the defensive end, I would take Sullinger’s mid-range jumpers over Scola’s 3-point bricks every day. Poeltl will take some time to adjust to the speed of the game, but he could develop into a capable backup center to Valanciunas. And James Johnson became fat, so losing him makes no difference.

 

Grade: C+

 

*All off-season moves procured from CBS Sports

Link to CBS Sports Article on all Offseason moves

Kevin Durant to Golden State: The Day that League Parity Officially Ended

I can’t imagine what the other 29 teams are thinking right now. This is a historic day in NBA history; the day that brought what little parity the NBA still had to an end. Lets start with the Warriors, a 73-win team that boasts the back-to-back league MVP and the best offense in the league. Now, while they will lose quite a few key pieces, there’s no argument against them being the best team in the league next year. Their best lineup has always been the “Death Lineup”, with Draymond Green at center, except now switch Harrison Barnes for Durant. All those wide open three’s Barnes bricked during the Final’s, replace those with open Durant three’s. Defensively you can’t double any of those five players, Igoudala is the worst perimeter shooter of the bunch, but he still hit at 35% this past season. Adding on to this, with Durant showing elite defensive abilities this past postseason, this Warriors team will be able to dominate both sides of the ball. How can you attack Stephen Curry in pick and rolls when either Green or Durant will be switching out? The length, quickness, and IQ this team possesses is going to give other teams nightmares all season long.

 

Now comes the tough part, considering what options the Oklahoma City Thunder have. First off, as a franchise they must say thank you to the Portland Trail Blazers. If they had made the right choice and selected Durant over Greg Oden (and his terrible knees), they would still be in the cellar of the league. Jokes aside, Durant put Oklahoma City on the map. It is because of him that they have been able to compete for years, because of him that the city has been so electric. This fan base is one of the greatest in the league, and in all major sports. Losing the multi-scoring champ, MVP, and face of the organization is a devastating blow, but I expect the team and its fans to still show up hungry this coming season. All eyes will be on triple-double machine Russell Westbrook. With his free agency now looming Sam Presti will have to make a decision. Do you believe that Westbrook will want to stick around as the face of the franchise, or will things get a lot worse next summer when he scorns them as well? No matter how well this team fares at the start of the next season, Westbrook’s name will be floated around in trade rumors. The Thunder organization has shown they are prepared to trade their key players, James Harden and Serge Ibaka, and if it appears that Westbrook is planning to move on they can’t simply lose him for nothing.

 

Taking a look at the league, both for this year and the years to come, it’s hard to see a team not named Golden State making it to the Final. The same goes for the East, Cleveland just appears to be head and shoulders above the rest of its competition. Since 1999, at least one of the following players have been in the Finals; Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, Dwayne Wade, and LeBron James. It’s safe to say that what little parity the league had left has been completely diminished. Next summer both Curry and Durant will be free agents, and both will command super-max deals. The Warriors hold Bird rights to Curry and will be able to exceed the cap to re-sign both, however this will cause them to rival the Cavaliers in tax payments. If I am correct in saying that the Cavs-Warriors matchup will occur in the Final’s for the next couple of years then the league will need to find a way to change the CBA. While that Final would create a ludicrous amount of revenue for the NBA, it could also draw a lot of attention away earlier in the postseason and throughout the season. If that Final becomes a regular occurrence it could cause other star players to create their own “super teams” to combat the two powerhouses. And with a further influx of broadcasting money to come, it will become easier for major markets to form these squads. Another key to this is that it’s tough to see the league add expansion teams. In a league without equality, adding teams that will have very little talent seems like a horrible idea, and that will be a tough pill to swallow for Seattle, Las Vegas, and possibly even Vancouver sports fans. As I said to start, today, July 4th 2016, is a historic day. Years from now, the NBA as we know it could be a completely different league, and pundits will look back to today as the first domino to fall.

Predicting Landing Spots for Top 50 Free Agents

*Top 50 procured from Adam Fromal at Bleacher Report

This summer’s free agency period is only a mere few hours away, so we have to make predictions right? The storyline for this free agency is that it is headlined by Kevin Durant, and is seen as the warmup for next year’s star studded offseason. However there are still many valuable pieces to be had, and with the salary cap escalating to new heights, almost all teams will be buyers in the market. Most of the major names will probably stay with their current clubs, while lower-level free agents will be looking to cash in on huge contracts, which could make for some very interest signings. From what rumours I have read, along with my own opinion on what would be the best fit, I’ll make a prediction/case on where I think each of the top 50 free agents will end up.

1) LeBron James (SF) – Player Option

  • Finals MVP and Champion, will opt out and sign another 1 + 1 to remain the King of Cleveland.

2) Kevin Durant (SF) – Unrestricted

  • Had the Thunder flamed out earlier in the playoffs, there could be a real chance of him leaving. But after their great showing, (even with the collapse to the Warriors), he too will sign a 1 + 1 to maximize potential earnings next summer. This will give the Thunder one more year to prove that they are the contenders we saw during this past postseason.

3) Andre Drummond (C) – Restricted

  • Other teams will give him max-offer sheets, but they will be futile attempts. Drummond is the franchise piece on a rising Pistons squad. Expect to see him sign a 5-year deal very early.

4) Al Horford (C) – Unrestricted

  • Horford is an interesting case. The Hawks are a well-coached team, a team that made the Eastern Conference Finals a year ago. However, now that they’ve traded Teague I don’t think they have enough talent to challenge the Cavs. I think Horford would be a great fit for Boston, they could finally have a number one option, one that would fit seamlessly into their system on both sides of the ball. Max deals will come at Horford from many teams, but a 4-year max from the Celtics would be his best option.

5) Hassan Whiteside (C) – Unrestricted

  • Rumour is that Whiteside doesn’t want to wait around to see where other players end up, he wants to sign on July 1st; the first day of the free agency period. Because of this, I think he will leave South Beach. Pat Riley will want him to wait so he can make other moves, but with Whiteside finally getting an opportunity for major money it’s fair to see why he wants to sign fast. Expect the Mavs and the Hornets to be the frontrunners, and for Mark Cuban to finally get an athletic, defensive center on a 4-year max deal.

6)Mike Conley (PG) – Unrestricted

  • The only high-tier point guard this offseason, Conley will be able to field many offers. It’ll be interesting to see if his supposed “promise”with Marc Gasol will be kept, or if he’ll consider greener pastures; possibly a team that can actually shoot 3’s. I think he’ll stay in Memphis and sign a max deal, but if he chooses to leave Dallas has to be the only option.

7) Dwayne Wade (SG) – Unrestricted

  • Oh wouldn’t it be fun to see Wade team up with any of his banana boat buddies. Dream over, it won’t happen. Wade will take his sweet time, and then eventually return to Miami, probably on a short deal so he can get paid next summer if Riley can’t upgrade the roster.

8) DeMar DeRozan (SG) – Player Option

  • Going into the season, I thought DeRozan was already gone to the Lakers. But after reaching the Conference Finals and further showing his bromance with Kyle Lowry to the media, I think he’ll sign a 5-year max with We The North.

9) Nicolas Batum (SG) – Unrestricted

  • Batum is a very interesting player in this free agency period. Almost all teams would love to have his services after his strong showing in Charlotte as a top option, along with what he showed in Portland as a role player. Oddly enough, I think it would be great if he went back to Portland, but I see him getting maxed out by Michael Jordan and the Hornets.

10)Bradley Beal (SG) – Restricted

  • Injury concerns continue to plague Beal, but he still has the talent to be a fringe All Star player and will command offers. I expect him to stick around in Washington though, he is the perfect backcourt mate for John Wall, and the Wizards have been loyal to him through these many injuries.

11) Dirk Nowitzki (PF) – Player Option

  • The Warriors have been reported to be looking at Dirk. Yeah, not going to happen. Dirk is a Mav for life, expect him to take a pay cut once again so Mark Cuban can upgrade the roster. Could you imagine if Dirk did leave though? And not just leave, but went to Golden State? Watching Mark Cuban explode would be really entertaining.

12) Dwight Howard (C) – Player Option

  • Oh Dwight. It’s starting to get difficult to remember the monster he was in Orlando, but luckily for him there’s so much money to go around this offseason that some team will offer him the max. And that team should be the Atlanta Hawks. If Al Horford leaves, (as I expect him to) bringing Howard into his hometown franchise would be a pretty good fit. Newly starting point guard Dennis Shröder is a pass first point who would excel in a pick-and-roll with Dwight. Not since the Orlando days has Howard played with a stretch-4, and pairing him up with Millsap would be a dream. Keeping Horford is option 1, but if that fails offering Dwight a max must be option 2.

13) Pau Gasol (C) – Player Option

  • At age 35, Gasol will be looking to win another championship. And with the Bulls nowhere near contention, I see a Texas move coming. Can you think of a more Spurs-ian player than Pau Gasol? Whether Tim Duncan retires or not, Gasol teaming up with Aldridge will make for one of the best frontcourts in the league.

14) Chandler Parsons (SF) – Player Option

  • Reports have said that Parsons wants nothing to do with Dallas, which is unfortunate because we won’t get to see any photos of him signing a contract in a nightclub. Philly will throw him a max offer, along with almost every other swingman type player like Parsons. If he wants to be “the man”, this will be the place to go. If not, Boston or Orlando would be good spots for him.

15) Evan Fournier (SG) – Restricted

  • After trading Oladipo to OKC, Fournier will be brought back to Orlando. With Hezonja as the only other shooting guard option on the roster, Fournier will be looked to contribute significantly on offense.

16) Kent Bazemore (SG) – Unrestricted

  • Bazemore may end up commanding more on the open market than the Hawks can afford, teams like Brooklyn, Utah, Philadelphia, Phoenix, and others who may not be able to attract the bigger names could offer him a large contract in order to hit the salary floor. My best fit for Bazemore would be Phoenix, one of their two point guards will probably be traded soon enough, Devin Booker is their young stud, but he is quite young, and P.J. Tucker may be slightly over the hill.

17) Harrison Barnes (SF) – Restricted

  • Even after such a horrible Playoffs and Finals performance, Barnes will still receive max contract offers, plural. I think Minnesota would be a very interesting fit, dependant on if he would accept playing the 4 nearly full time. A fully spaced out system centered around Towns would be unbelievable within a few years. Philadelphia will almost certainly offer him a max deal, however if Golden State fails to coerce Durant into joining them, they won’t let Barnes walk away.

18) Jordan Clarkson (PG) – Restricted

  • Teams needing a point guard will reach out with offers, such as Brooklyn, Detroit, and Sacramento, but expect the Lakers to match any offers. After the D’Angelo Russell snapchat debacle, Clarkson is a solid option for the future.

19) J.R. Smith (SG) – Player Option

  • J.R. will opt out in the search of more money, teams will pursue other players before him, and he will eventually return back to Cleveland. I mean, after a summer of not wearing a shirt, won’t he want to experience that again?

20) Bismack Biyombo (C) – Player Option

  • After Whiteside is gone, and with most seeing Howard as being over-the-hill, Biyombo will be the best available defensive anchor on the market. The Lakers, Trail Blazers, and Hornets will pursue him with near max, if not full max offers. If I were him, I would go to Portland, but the Lakers may offer him a shorter term max contract that could entice him more. He could get back into the market faster and earn even more.

21) Ryan Anderson (PF) – Unrestricted

  • Sacramento, Houston, and Toronto are a few of the teams that will be looking for an upgrade at power forward, and on offense the spacing Anderson provides comes at a premium. The Raptors don’t have a ton of space, but if Anderson is looking to compete a move to Canada would be the best fit for him. If he’s looking to shoot at will and provide zero defense, going to Houston to team up with James Harden and Mike D’Antoni will be his choice.

22) Tim Duncan (PF) – Player Option

  • Only two options here; take an incredibly cheap contract to return to San Antonio, or retire. I think the world would explode if he changed teams.

23) Marvin Williams (PF) – Unrestricted

  • While he doesn’t offer the premier shooting and scoring that Ryan Anderson does, Williams can provide more on the defensive end. Expect the Raptors to pursue him hard if Anderson doesn’t work out, along with teams like Portland, Utah, Washington, and Sacramento. In Washington would be the best fit other than Toronto, he would fill the Jared Dudley stretch-4 position incredibly well. Charlotte will try to retain him, but the price tag may become too high.

24) Allen Crabbe (SG) – Restricted

  • Crabbe will have plenty suitors, it will just depend on what kind of role he is looking for. If he wants to start, I think the Knicks could do much worse in finding a starting 2 guard. If he’s still willing to come off the bench, Utah or Washington would be good fits as well.

25) Jared Sullinger (PF) – Restricted

  • The Celtics, like always, will try to swing for the fences for a major name in free agency. If they are successful, Sullinger will not be matched, however if they fail they will definitely consider bringing him back to bolster their frontline. Teams that could have interest would be the Lakers, Nets, or Mavericks, dependent on their other pursuits.

26) Evan Turner (SG) – Unrestricted

  • Turner never lived up to expectations when selected 2nd overall by the 76ers, but playing for Boston has been the best situation for him. Reports are saying that he really wants to stick around and that would be the best option for him. The Celtics are a rising franchise, led by a great front office and head coach.

27) Ian Mahinmi (C) – Unrestricted

  • If the Lakers haven’t snagged Whiteside or Biyombo, Mahinmi will be their man. The Wizards should give him a look as well with Gortat getting up there in age, the Bucks would also love to add a long defensive anchor to their lengthy squad.

28) Luol Deng (SF) – Unrestricted

  • Deng is getting older but his corner 3 and strength at the power forward position is still worth quite a lot. His veteran presence would be great in situations like Toronto and Minnesota, both places where he could start at the 4 and play clutch minutes.

29) Jeremy Lin (PG) – Player Option

  • Brooklyn and Sacramento will be looking for a point guard, and with Rondo being the only other one available I expect the Kings and their horrible organization to throw the kitchen sink at Lin. Sorry pal, the money will be great but get used to disfunction.

30) Festus Ezeli (C) – Restricted

  • The Lakers are being linked to every center on the market not named Dwight Howard, so Festus very much so could end up there, who knows what the Lakers organization is thinking. But recent news says the Warriors are considering keeping Ezeli over Bogut, and it does make sense to do so. He’s much younger and still brimming with potential, so after the failed Durant sweepstakes they will have money to spend on matching any offer sheets.

31) Meyers Leonard (PF) – Restricted

  • Had an off-season last year, plagued with injuries, but still has a sweet stroke for a big man. I like him staying in Portland as a part of their young nucleus, but could fit well on a team like Memphis who desperately needs shooting off the bench.

32) Dion Waiters (SG) – Restricted

  • Before acquiring Oladipo, I would’ve expected to see Dion back in OKC after a strong playoff showing. But now, the outcome appears to be a bit murky. The two have a lot of comparable skills, and I can’t see them playing together off the bench. I see Dion’s hometown Philadelphia 76ers offering him a huge contract to come and start for them.

33) Mirza Teletovic (PF) – Unrestricted

  • There should be many power forwards pursued first, but Teletovic does offer a lot of spacing off the bench. The Pelicans could look to him as a cheaper Ryan Anderson, or teams that need spacing such as Memphis or Sacramento.

34)  Al Jefferson (C) – Unrestricted

  • Tough to find a spot for Big Al, his skills don’t translate to the modern NBA but he would make for a great scoring big off the bench.

35) Jared Dudley (PF) – Unrestricted

  • A do-it-all forward, Jared Dudley will be paid handsomely, both for his play and his locker room presence. I’d love to see him end up on the Pistons, a young up-and-coming team that needs backup help badly.

36) Rajon Rondo (PG) – Unrestricted

  • Brooklyn Nets, 100%. I have no idea who will score in order for him to get 10+ assists a night, but Rondo will find a way. There is no better situation for him to improve his value, he will play as much as he wants and will control the ball.

37) Eric Gordon (SG) – Unrestricted

  • He’s not the same player he was coming into the league, but if he stays healthy he is a great scoring option on the wing. Teams like Chicago and New York could use him, Memphis can always use 3-point shooting as well.

38) Joe Johnson (SG) – Unrestricted

  • Go and chase rings Iso Joe. Many expected him to end up on Cleveland last year before spurning them for Miami. Take the veterans minimum and play with LeBron and co.

39) Tyler Johnson (PG) – Restricted

  • Could command decent offers from teams that struck out earlier on better options, the Heat would love to keep him though as long as the price doesn’t get exponentially high.

40) Trevor Booker (PF) – Unrestricted

  • Great energy guy off the bench, teams weak on the bench like Houston, Detroit, and New Orleans should take a look at him.

41) Boban Marjanovic (C) – Restricted

  • First off, everybody loves Boban. He’s a bit old to command major money, but with the ridiculous amount of cap space the league has to offer, someone will swing for the fences by offering him a big contract. Atlanta could be a suitor, with Budenholzer coming from the Spurs system, Boban could fit in well as a bench contributor.

42) Deron Williams (PG) – Player Option

  • Definitely not a starting calibre point guard in this league anymore, but more than capable as a backup point guard. Could get looks from Detroit if they strike out on other options, but would be interesting if Philadelphia was willing to pay him an excessive amount.

43) Aaron Afflalo (SG) – Restricted

  • Not sure if he can find a starting job on a good team, but if he was willing to take a bench role the Clippers would be a great option for him. He could play the 2 or 3 off the pine, and possibly play in crunch time in small-ball lineups.

44) Matthew Dellavedova (PG) – Restricted

  • Dellavedova is one of the dirtiest players in the league, and that was confirmed by the players vote. He should accept this role and join Detroit, start the Bad Boy Pistons version 2.

45) Maurice Harkless (SF) – Restricted

  • Teams requiring wing depth; New Orleans, Memphis, L.A. Clippers, these would make for great fits for a young Harkless, a player who hasn’t been fully uncaged in this league yet.

46) Manu Ginobli (SG) – Player Option

  • Same options as Tim Duncan; either take a minimum salary, or retire. I think Manu retiring is more likely than Tim.

47) Donatas Motiejunas (PF) – Restricted

  • Wouldn’t it be funny if Stan Van Gundy lied about Motiejunas’s back problems in order to chase him in free agency without losing anything? Pistons make sense for him, he could allow them to play small and could play alongside Drummond when necessary.

48) Brandon Jennings (PG) – Unrestricted

  • Should not be looked to start for any team, but would provide a solid 15-20 minutes off the bench for an upper class team. Indiana and Atlanta could look for bench scoring and playmaking.

49) Matt Barnes (SF) – Unrestricted

  • Barnes is a veteran that hasn’t won anything in this league. However, with the cap spike, he could chase a long contract and financial security. It’ll be up to him, join a contender like San Antonio for cheap and a shot at a ring. Or go to Washington or another small-forward hungry team for a larger payday.

50) Joakim Noah (C) – Unrestricted

  • A reunion with Derrick Rose seems inevitable at this point. Signing with New York would be the best option for Noah, and if he somehow can rewind the clock back a couple of years the partnership with him and Porzingis up front could be amazing.