NBA Offseason: Winners and Losers

The 2020 NBA offseason wasn’t expected to be as exciting as other off-seasons. Not a stud studded draft, not many big name free agents, but what makes the NBA offseason so interesting is the storylines that formulate and the way how teams are always itching to make a move, especially in the trade market. Let’s take a look at some of the notable winners and losers of the offseason. There are certainly other worthy candidates so if your team isn’t included on this list, it doesn’t mean they had a neutral offseason

Winner: Atlanta Hawks

The Atlanta Hawks were one of the very few teams this offseason that had legitimate cap space and they took advantage. First of all, they were able to bring in Danilo Gallinari on a 3 yr $64.7M deal, which is a bit expensive, but he’s someone that’s going to provide veteran leadership and an elite scoring punch off the bench. Because he’s coming off the bench, I expect him to be in the 6th Man of the Year discussion.

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The other big free agent the Hawks were able to acquire was Bogdan Bogdonivic. Bogdonivic was supposed to end up in Milwaukee but the proposed sign and trade which would send Bogdonivic to Milwaukee and Donte DiVincenzo, DJ Wilson and Ersan Illyasova to Sacramento never worked out, leading him to free agency. He signed a 4 yr $72M deal with the Hawks and the Kings decides to not match the offer. Bogdonivic will provide Atlanta a secondary ball handler capable of getting his own shot, spreading the floor, and allowing Trae to function off the ball, which can unlock another dynamic to his game.

The Hawks wrapped up free agency by also landing Rajon Rondo on a 2 year $15M deal and Kris Dunn on a 2 year $10M deal. Adding Dunn and Rondo provides Atlanta with much needed defensive depht in the backcourt to help out Trae Young, who’s one of the worst defensive players in the game. They lastly brought back Salomon Hill on a minimum deal, another defender that can help lead the younger players.

In the draft, they landed Onyeka Okongwu with the sixth pick. To me, Okongwu was a top five prospect in the draft so getting him at six was strong value. Okongwu is a defensive menace that can protect the paint and switch on the perimeter at a high level. He also has tools offensively as a polished post scorer that can eventually stretch the floor. Yes, they have Capela, but for a team that greatly struggled defensively last year… being deep with bigs capable defensively shouldn’t be an issue. Okongwu also won’t have the pressure to contribute right away, which could help his development. They also took Skylar Mays with the 50th pick. Many believed he was an early second round talent so getting him at 50 is strong value, he might be a G-League player early on but gives Atlanta a strong 3 and D presence.

Overall, fantastic offseason for Atlanta, they went from a bottom feeder in the East into one of the deepest teams in the league, one that should expect to make the postseason.

Loser: Toronto Raptors

The reason why the Raptors are on this list is due to the loss of Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol. The Raptors’ big man depth was important for their success and losing two elite defensive bigs with offensive versatility could hurt them much more than people anticipate. Aron Baynes was a strong addition as a solid defender that can space the floor, but he’s not good enough to completely replace the production of those two.

Even though losing Ibaka and Gasol was huge, they still executed some good deals as they were able to bring back Fred Vanvleet on a 4 year $85M deal as well as Chris Boucher on a 2 year $13.5M deal. I expect Fred to continue to get better and perhaps assert himself as the primary playmaker in Toronto as Kyle Lowry ages and Boucher brings a productive defensive body that Toronto desperately needs in their shallow front court.

The Raptors didn’t have a good offseason, but it wasn’t absolutely awful. It still puts them in the loser category because I don’t view them as a top four team in the East anymore. If they land Giannis Antetokounmpo, the sacrifices they made will be worth it.

Winner: Minnesota Timberwolves

The Timberwolves did everything they needed to. To start with the draft, they took Anthony Edwards with the top pick. Anthony Edwards is one of the most physically impressive wings coming in the league has ever seen. His athleticism, 3-level scoring ability, and 2-way potential is a great fit next to D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns. I would’ve taken Lamelo Ball with the first pick but nobody can deny Edwards’ upside. They then traded their 17th pick and James Johnson for Ricky Rubio, picks 25, and 28. Ricky Rubio provides elite playmaking that fits Minnesota’s space and pace offensive amazingly, his defense and veteran leadership are also big additions to that core.

The Timberwolves then dealt picks 25 and 33 to move up to 23, they then selected Bolmaro with that selection. Bolmaro is a 6’8” guard that provides great defense and playmaking. He plays with a joy to the game that’s contagious. Bolmaro will be a draft and stash guy but he’s truly one of my favorite players in the draft. At 28, the Wolves took Jaden McDaniels, McDaniels has all the talent in the world as a fluid 6’9” wing that has the potential to score from everywhere and defend multiple positions. There are temperament questions with him and he’s raw but at 28, good swing by the Wolves.

In free agency, the key was to bring back key young players they got in the Robert Covington trade. They first brought back Malik Beasley, who averaged nearly 21 points on 42% from three in his 14 games with the Wolves, the Wolves had no choice to bring him back on a 4 year $60M deal. There are off the court questions with Beasley but all we can do is let it play out. They also brought Juancho Hernagomez on a 3 year $21M deal. He brings spacing and front court depth to the Wolves’ core. The Wolves lastly signed Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, a young versatile defender that can finish in transition, makes a ton of sense next to Towns.

Another move they executed is they traded for Ed Davis, a great defender, rebounder, and leader. He will be great as a mentor for the young players on the team.

The Timberwolves needed to do four things this summer, re-sign Beasley and Hernagomez, add veterans, defenders, and young upside. The Timberwolves executed all of that. If healthy, they could be in the mix for a playoff birth.

Loser: Houston Rockets

Yes, I understand they signed Christian Wood and Demarcus Cousins, while also trading for John Wall. But when your best player tends to want out, it almost always happens and that drama alone gives a team an L. John Wall could definitely make a difference, if healthy, but that’s a MAJOR if. If John Wall isn’t the same, Harden is absolutely gone and the Rockets have another bad contract in their books. To be fair, Houston didn’t really have any choice but to trade Westbrook after he demanded a trade and getting a former All-Star with potential plus a pick is a good return.

I thought the Cousins and Wood signing were smart, if they were trying to win now. What doesn’t make sense to me is… why did you trade Covington then for what eventually was a future Pistons pick? If you’re trying to win right now, wouldn’t you keep Covington?

The Rockets have had an eventful offseason , losing Daryl Morey in the front office and moving on from Mike D’Antoni. Assuming Harden and Westbrook indeed do get dealt, seems like a new era is on the horizon in Houston, considering they don’t have a lot of their picks, could be a very dark era.

Winner: Dallas Mavericks

The Mavericks had two major needs: defense and dawgs and they added exactly those. They essentially traded Seth Curry for Josh Richardson, Seth is an asset but what Richardson provides, defense, shot creation and intensity, were bigger needs next to Luka so it’s worth it. Dallas even potentially replaced Seth Curry with a younger version in Tyrell Terry, one of the best shooters coming from the 2020 draft.

Dallas also made a deal James Johnson, a kickboxer and black belt. Johnson provides intensity, defense, leadership, and versatility on the offensive end that makes sense off the bench. When you’re talking about dawgs, James Johnson is as good as they good.

With their first draft pick at #18, they also took Josh Green. Josh Green is an above average athlete that brings defense, scoring in transition, and reliable shooting… he can play as a rotational player off the bench immediately, Wesley Matthews type.

In free agency, Dallas was pretty quiet. They brought back Willie Caulie-Stein, who they traded for last season. Stein will be another versatile rotational defender that brings depth to the front court. With Porzingis and Boban not consistently able to deliver availability for long durations, that depth is necessary. JJ Barea also came back on on a one year minimum deal, a familiar locker room face that can help mentor Luka and Porzingis.

The Dallas Mavericks weren’t only able to fill major needs in the trade market while having a strong draft, they saved money for potentially Giannis Antetokounmpo. Unlike the Raptors, who gave up key bigs to save for Giannis, Dallas was able to improve their supporting cast around an MVP talent in Luka Doncic to compete while keeping the Giannis window open. Killer offseason.

Loser: Denver Nuggets

For the last couple years, Denver Nuggets have taken pride in their depth… especially in the front court. This offseason, they ended up losing a Jerami Grant, someone they envisioned being a long-term piece, to the Pistons. The Pistons didn’t only lure Grant away from Denver, but they also stole Mason Plumlee on a three year contract. The Nuggets also made the decision to waive Torrey Craig, someone who’s an elite defender in this league.

By losing Jerami Grant, Torrey Craig, and Mason Plumlee, the Nuggets lose legitimize defensive depth and offensive versatility. Grant was key in transition as a spot up shooter and Plumlee is arguably the best passing backup big in the league.

Denver was only 18th in the league in defensive efficiency next year, by losing three of their better defenders, I’m not expecting their defense to impress, which can have them fall down the rankings in the West.

In the draft, they took Zeke Nnaji 22nd overall, someone that plays with great energy on the defensive end and could become an alright shooter at the next level. Taking Nnaji 22nd overall was higher than expected, but as a long-term piece, I had understand the pick. Denver then trade back to #24 to grab RJ Hampton, another project who has all the upside in the world but isn’t ready to compete right now.

With the moves Denver made, it seems like they have taken a step back, especially on the defensive end. If they want to get back to where they were last year, they’ll need their young players to take leaps, especially Michael Porter Jr. and Bol Bol.

Winner: Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers were the biggest winners of the offseason. For teams that win the NBA championship the previous season, it’s so rare for those teams to upgrade.

The questions with the Lakers last season was evidently not the talent at the top, Lebron James and Anthony Davis are first-ballot Hall of Farmers, depth was the true question about this team and they addressed better than anyone could ever expect.

The first move they made was dealing Danny Green and #28 for Dennis Schroader. Dennis Schroader is a guard that will be able to take weight off of Lebron’s shoulder as someone who can create his own shot from all three levels and get someone involved… he is the third option they needed. Getting Schroader only by trading Danny Green and #28 was a massive steal for the Lakers, whoever would’ve been the 28th pick wasn’t projected to have major roles and Danny Green was replaceable so it was worth dealing those assets.

In free agency They were able to lure Montrez Harrell, the 6th Man of the Year, away from the local rival Clippers by signing him to a 1+1 deal worth up to $19M. Harrell will provide a sense of intensity and scoring off the bench the Lakers definitely could use. Many people expected Harrell to get paid by a team like the Hornets but he was willing to sign a bargain deal to compete with the Lakers, the Lebron effect.

The main key free agent the Lakers needed to bring back was Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and they did that on a 3 year $39.1M deal. Caldwell-Pope was huge in the postseason for the Lakers and his defensive plus scoring ability on the wing was a piece worth bringing back.

The Lakers did needed to replace the valuable 3 and D production Green gave them and they did exactly that in Weseley Matthews. Matthews is going to provide the Lakers someone who can hit open shots, defend, and who knows how to play alongside stars, Matthews will be a valuable rotational piece for the Lakers.

The cherry on top of free agency the Lakers made that made the Lakers offseason especially substantial was bringing in Marc Gasol. The former Defensive Player of the Year might not be the star caliber player he once was, bad as a defender, playmaker, and floor spacer, Marc Gasol is still fully capable of contributing to a championship and fits the Lakers roster perfectly. Because of Gasol’s defense and floor spacing, my bet is Gasol ends up starting next to Davis since his playmaking and floor spacing next to Davis makes sense, relative to a Montrez Harrell who looks to finish in the paint and have the ball in his hands.

The phrase “the rich get richer” perfectly qualifies for the Lakers. The hole of the NBA champions was depth, they didn’t only fix that problem, they made that weakness a strength. The Lakers are officially back in the mix to win the 2021 titles, perhaps as the favorites

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