We’ve reached August, and the offseason has slowed to a stop. Most of the major moves have been made, with just a few stragglers of note hanging out in free agency. While Nikola Pekovic and Mo Williams wait for their contract, we at Beale Street Bears decided to gather our offseason thoughts.
1) What was your favorite move of the offseason?
John Tucker: No surprise here. I loved the Grizzlies decision to bring back sharpshooter Mike Miller. With the Grizzlies’ reacquisition of Miller, they have effectively addressed possibly their biggest weakness. The San Antonio Spurs made this shortcoming painfully obvious for the Grizzlies in last year’s Western Conference Finals. Pondexter was the Grizzlies’ only reliable three-point threat in the series, shooting 48%. Thus, the Spurs were able to double team Gasol and Randolph and essentially make life miserable for them down low. However, adding quality three-point threats such as Mike Miller and Josh Akognon to their strong force in the post should open up the floor, resulting in more open looks.
Hal Brown: Funnily enough, I seriously think I have to say Philly’s Jrue Holiday-Nerlens Noel draft day swap. Philly got a lottery protected pick for next season in the INTENSE 2014 draft, and Nerlens will be out almost all season so there’s no hope that he might play up and make them good. Really, that trade was a masterpiece in tanking. Lots of teams are tanking next season, but none have shown the virtuosic control of “bad” that Sam Hinkie seems to have. The 76ers still don’t even have a COACH. There’s something to be said for that!
Kevin Yeung: There were a number of flashy moves (Dwight to Houston, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Brooklyn, etc.), but my favorite move was the Phoenix Suns turning Jared Dudley and a 2014 second round pick into Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler’s expiring contract. I like Dudley and I think he’s a solid piece that will help the Clippers nicely, but the Suns got incredible value out of him. Bledsoe, just 23, has a bright future ahead of him in the NBA and will help the Suns immensely as they rebuild. The Suns already have Goran Dragic at point, but as a rebuilding team, they’re simply looking for assets regardless of position. They got a great one in Bledsoe, and even Butler’s $8 million expiring contract is nice.
2) What was your least favorite move of the offseason?
John: No question my least favorite move of the offseason was the Detroit Pistons trading their point guard Brandon Knight for Milwaukee Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings. I simply can’t imagine what the Pistons’ management thought they were accomplishing with this move. Jennings is widely known as a less-than-stellar decision maker; furthermore, he averaged 16 shots per game last year while shooting 40% from the field. To put this in perspective, among point guards, Jennings was 6th in field goal attempts last year, but he was 31st in field goal percentage. Personally, I loved the Piston’s young core of Knight, center Greg Monroe, and forward Andre Drummond and thought they had an incredibly bright future. Unfortunately, the team will most likely regret their “win now” course of action with teams like the Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers still in control of the Eastern Conference.
Hal: That one’s hard for me, because I really think that most of the signings this offseason have been at least reasonable. I don’t think anyone who didn’t want to has gotten too much worse or anything. Denver re-signing their previous bench warmer, Timofey Mozgov to ten million per year was pretty mind boggling, though. I don’t think anyone knows what they’re up to there. It might just be to spend up to the salary floor while still tanking, but I dunno. It just seems really bad, no matter how you look at it.
Kevin: I really disliked the Josh Smith signing, and I think he’s a terrible fit with their current frontline. If he plays small forward alongside Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, that lineup has terrible spacing. If he plays power forward with Monroe at center and Drummond on the bench, that lineup is oversized. Then, the Pistons brought in Brandon Jennings for the ultimate pairing of high-volume chuckers with terrible shot selection. Sure, that’s a better, more talented team than last year and it may make the playoffs in the gong show we call the Eastern Conference. In the big picture, though, this team might be destined to mediocrity rather than a title run.
3) Which team do you think was the biggest winner of the offseason?
John: I would say the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers did what they had to do this summer by re-signing Chris Paul. Without their All-Star point guard, it’s hard to imagine the Clippers even contending for a playoff spot in a much stronger Western Conference. To complement Paul, the Clips acquired sharpshooters J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley, signed guard Darren Collison, and re-signed forward Matt Barnes. On top of all that, they managed to bring in a championship-level coach in Doc Rivers. I don’t know if they have what it takes to win it all this year, but expectations seem to be higher than ever.
Hal: Actually, and I’m not saying this out of bias, I think probably the Grizzlies. They had one major hole and two minor ones heading into this offseason, and they’ve fixed all of them, presuming Miller can stay healthy. They went from underdog in the west to a top-tier contender, especially if they get Mo Williams. The Pacers, too, more or less did the same. Their bench was ABSURDLY bad last season, but they’ve added CJ Watson, Luis Scola, and Lance Stephenson (since Granger will probably be healthy) to the pine, so they, too, have become the guys to beat.
I’m not gonna discount Philly though. Like I said before, the 76ers have put on a master class in tanking, it really has been stunning. Next season, they’ll have two lottery picks in a draft with as many as ten obvious potential all-stars, and the projected first round pick from this season will be returning from injury, AND they’ll have max cap space. That’s amazing.
Kevin: I have to say Houston. They got their man in Dwight, and I think this immediately thrusts them into the lower fringes of contention. Dwight, James Harden, and Chandler Parsons is a very scary trio, and they still have Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik. Power forward seems like a weak position for them right now, but they still have the assets to make a trade for one and I’d be surprised if they left it as is. At any rate, Houston looks like a very scary team in that Western Conference after their stellar offseason.
What is your grade for the Memphis Grizzlies’ offseason, and why?
John: I would give the Grizzlies an A-. I think they improved in many ways including defensively by adding center Kosta Koufos, and in bench scoring and three- point shooting with the acquisitions of Mike Miller and Josh Akognon. Other possible factors are rookie Jamaal Franklin and recently-acquired guard Nick Calathes who currently plays in Russia. I wouldn’t say it was perfect. For instance, If Calathes remains in Russia next season, I think they still need a reliable backup point guard; but, overall, I believe they had an excellent offseason.
Hal: Even without Mo Williams confirmed, I’m gonna give the Grizzlies an A- here. They came into this offseason with so little obvious potential for improvement without blowing up the core: no cap space, no interesting draft picks. Nonetheless, they’ve managed a huge upgrade to their struggling big-man bench with the Koufos trade (who’s the best Pick and Roll defender in the league, per Synergy Sports, by the way). They picked up the three-point flexibility that they were DESPERATE for. And they may have even managed the backup point guard problem with Calathes. Add Williams to that list, and that’s an incredible offseason for a team who wasn’t counted on to do much.
Kevin: I’ll give it a B. Dumping Darrell Arthur for Kosta Koufos and picking up Jamaal Franklin in the draft were quietly nice moves, and Tony Allen being resigned was huge. That said, I felt like the Grizzlies were a little slow-footed at the outset of free agency. They missed on some three-point shooters that would’ve been very nice to add (Kyle Korver, Dorell Wright, etc.), and had to settle for bringing back the injury prone Mike Miller. It’s just not an ideal situation at all to me. If we can get Mo Williams as rumored, however, you can bump that grade right up to an B+/A-.