With many new faces and players coming back to the league for the shortened 2020-21 National Basketball Association (NBA) season, many teams see an opportunity to claim the Larry O’Brien trophy. Even though the Los Angeles Lakers look like clear favorites to repeat, there are always uncertainties in the NBA, as injuries and unforeseen circumstances derail a team’s chances to win. Furthermore, the NBA is about to have some of its star talents back as Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and John Wall will be back on TV screens for this new season. Not only will these stars be back, but players such as Paul George, Russell Westbrook, Joel Embiid, and Kemba Walker will also try to redeem themselves after subpar performances in the playoffs. The 2020-21 season brings with it immense pressure for the players, but the fans are all in for a season for the ages — please injuries and COVID-19, don’t ruin this, seriously. With the offseason almost coming to an end and training camps beginning on Dec. 4, let’s recap all the moves that teams have made during the busiest time of the NBA season.
Atlanta Hawks Acquisitions:
- Signed F Danilo Gallinari to a 3-year deal worth $61.5 million.
- Signed G/F Bogdan Bogdanovic to a 4-year deal worth $72 million.
- Signed G Rajon Rondo to a 2-year deal worth $15 million.
- Signed G Kris Dunn to a 2-year deal worth $10 million.
- Drafted F Onyeka Okongwu out of the University of Southern California with the 6th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.
- Drafted G Skylar Mays out of Louisiana State University with the 50th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.
Evaluation: It feels right to start the grading process with an A. The Atlanta Hawks are not a team that can lure big free agents to come to play for them, which means that they must do everything in their power to keep Trae Young happy. And they did just that. Signing veteran pieces like Rondo and Gallinari will provide the Hawks with leadership and stability in the guard and forward positions. Dunn and Mays provide backup depth, and Dunn can be a great defender to pair with Young (who really needs help in that end). The biggest steal in free agency, however, was Bogdanovic. A player who is about to enter his physical peak with great playmaking and scoring abilities who fits perfectly with Young: great move Hawks! Bogdanovic checks off a lot of boxes for this young team and will play the perfect second fiddle to Young for the next four years. The only thing that kept the Hawks from getting an A+ was the selection of Okongwu. With a crowded rotation consisting of solid players like John Collins, Clint Capela and newly acquired Danilo Gallinari, Okongwu feels like a very redundant choice. But strictly by the philosophy of going with the best player available, the Hawks made a good choice and rumors are that Collins may not be in Atlanta in the near future.
Boston Celtics Acquisitions:
- Extended F Jayson Tatum to a 5-year max deal worth $195 million.
- Signed F/C Tristan Thompson to a 2-year deal worth $19 million.
- Signed G Jeff Teague to a 1-year deal worth the veteran’s minimum.
- Drafted F Aaron Nesmith out of Vanderbilt University with the 14th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.
- Drafted G Payton Pritchard out of the University of Oregon with the 26th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.
- Drafted G Yam Madar out of Tel Aviv with the 47th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.
Evaluation: The two moves that the Celtics made this offseason that stand out are the Tatum and Thompson signing. Locking up Tatum, who can be a possible MVP, is a must-do for the Celtics. Thompson immediately addresses the size problems that the Celtics have had since Al Horford left and they get a very solid big man who can get offensive rebounds next to a defensive center in Daniel Theis. The Teague signing gives them some nice backup depth while Nesmith and Pritchard are players who can make an immediate impact on the roster. Not only that, but Nesmith shot 52% from three at Vanderbilt last season, which is 7% better than the highest career 3-point percentage for an NBA player: Steve Kerr at 45.4%. However, the Celtics didn’t do anything big and that is why they got a C. For years, we have been commending Danny Ainge’s ability to accumulate assets but it is time to cash in. With two young stars in Tatum and Jaylen Brown and a great point guard in Kemba Walker, this summer is the time to strike a deal and go after a major star who can push the Celtics to the finals. Another issue was how Ainge handled Gordon Hayward’s departure. Trying to get too much from the Pacers made the deal fall through and let Hayward sign a deal with the Hornets from which the Celtics got nothing.
Brooklyn Nets Acquisitions:
- Resigned G/F Joe Harris to a 4-year deal worth $75 million.
- Signed F Jeff Green to a 1-year deal worth the veteran’s minimum.
- Resigned G Tyler Johnson.
- Traded for Landry Shamet from the Los Angeles Clippers.
- Traded for rookie Reggie Perry, drafted with the 57th pick in the second round.
- Traded for Bruce Brown Jr. from the Detroit Pistons.
Evaluation: Amid all the James Harden and Jrue Holiday rumors, the Brooklyn Nets did something that would help their core in the long run: maintain a deep team deserving of an A. With Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving coming from injuries, the Nets are ready to contend and win a title. But having these star players doesn’t mean that they sacrifice what made their team special two years ago. The depth around Durant and Irving is what will propel this team to the Eastern Conferences’ elite teams. Signing Harris and Shamet, who are great shooters and above-average defenders, is the perfect move and solidifies a rotation that is comparable to last year’s Clippers (with better compliments). With a top 8 that consists of Durant, Irving, Caris Levert, Harris, Shamet, Jarrett Allen, DeAndre Jordan and Spencer Dinwiddie, this team already has a solidified rotation for the playoffs. Add to that experienced veterans like Tyler Johnson, Jeff Green, Taurean Prince and Bruce Brown, the Nets boast the deepest team in the NBA, and they should use that to the fullest next season — letting Durant and Irving slowly get back to their groove and ready for the playoffs.
Charlotte Hornets Acquisitions:
- Drafted G LaMelo Ball with the 2nd pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.
- Signed F Gordon Hayward to a 4-year deal worth $120 million.
Evaluation: Charlotte Hornets and mediocrity go hand in hand. This is why the two moves that they made this offseason could be a start to something new. Drafting Ball, a guard who possesses raw talent and potential that is as close to a young Anfernee Hardaway as we’ve seen is a great pick for a team that rarely gets a superstar. Betting that LaMelo can blossom into a superstar and fit next to the young core of Devonte Graham, Miles Bridges and PJ Washington is the perfect move made by Michael Jordan and the Hornets. However, signing Hayward is a slightly puzzling move. For a team that gets no superstars from free agency, it makes sense why the Hornets threw the bag at Hayward. But an aging player who is coming off injuries and is probably at the end of his prime is a move that only the Hornets make. But then again, what if he performs and gives them 20-plus points per night with decent playmaking and defense? Maybe that is a good thing for a team that would like to get into the playoffs. Now you see why it’s confusing. Hayward is a confusing pick and his contract and new team fit the vibe. That’s why a B- is the most fitting grade for the most confusing team. I would consider bumping this up to a B because of those fabulous city edition jerseys that they unveiled, I mean damn!
- Drafted Patrick Williams with the 4th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.
- Signed Devon Dotson to a two-way deal with the Windy City Bulls.
- Resigned Denzel Valentine to the qualifying offer.
- Signed Noah Vonleh to a 1-year deal.
- Signed Garrett Temple to a 1-year deal.
Evaluation: Not a lot of notable names, however, still a pretty high grade for the Bulls. Well, the Bulls need to be bad like really, really bad. Next year’s draft has some potential gems like Cade Cunningham and Jalen Green, players who can be superstars. Not only do they want to get a good player, but they should also be focused on giving their young guys all the minutes. A lineup of Coby White, Zach Lavine, Otto Porter Jr, Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter sounds young and promising. With veterans like Temple, Porter and Vonleh, the young guys can learn how to play in the NBA and have long careers. Williams is a project but he fits a positional need for the Bulls. At small forward, he is a perfect fit alongside Lavine, who is a below-average defender. Offensively, his game wasn’t polished but so neither was Jimmy Butler’s. Let’s hope Chicago can find its future small forward in Williams. A perfect floor for Williams is OG Anunoby, a defensive anchor who can give you a couple of 3-pointers and dunks each game.
Cleveland Cavaliers Acquisitions:
- Drafted Isaac Okoro with the 5th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.
- Signed Damyean Dotson to a 1-year deal.
- Resigned Matthew Dellavedova to a 1-year deal worth the veteran’s minimum.
- Traded for JaVale McGee from the Los Angeles Lakers.
Evaluation: The Cleveland Centers, I mean, the Cleveland Cavaliers were one of the worst teams last year and have been since LeBron James left. However, the team has finally realized that overpaying role players is not the way to get into the playoffs and have embraced the tank. With one of the worst owners in the NBA, Dan Gilbert, it was surprising that the Cavaliers actually had a good draft. Okoro out of the University of Auburn is a solid player that fits perfectly next to the core of Collin Sexton, Kevin Porter Jr. and Darius Garland. Furthermore, players like Larry Nance Jr. and Andre Drummond can benefit from playing next to Okoro, who is a tenacious defender. But his offensive game does need some more work. Trading Kevin Love would have been a big deal but the Cavaliers were unable to find any suitors, which was surprising because of Love’s skill set, but not surprising because of his massive contract. It looks as if a young player needs to be attached for the deal to work out, and, as of now, Cleveland would probably want to give up Garland since Sexton, Porter and Okoro seem to have more potential and fit better together as the future point guard, shooting guard and small forward for the Cavs. Signing and trading for veterans like Dellavedova and McGee is a great move and will help the locker room. This was a surprisingly good offseason for the Cavaliers but a Love trade would have made it even better.
Dallas Mavericks Acquisitions:
- Drafted Josh Green with the 18th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.
- Traded for Josh Richardson from the Philadelphia 76ers.
- Traded for James Johnson from the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Evaluation: After last year’s playoffs, it is clear that Luka Doncic can be a one-man superstar. He was close to eliminating a loaded Los Angeles Clippers team and his talent is undeniable. The Mavericks have a future MVP on their team and the best way to keep him around for his whole career is to give him pieces that fit his play style. Doncic, a scorer who can pass and rebound the ball like a LeBron James, needs solid 3-D guys next to him. Porzingis is the perfect center alongside Doncic and can be the 2nd star that the Mavericks pair with Doncic. Thus, trading for Richardson and Johnson are the perfect moves to make for the Mavericks. Both solid 3 and D players who don’t need the ball in their hands fit perfectly next to Doncic. Drafting Green provides another 3 and D piece that has a high ceiling if he can work on his offensive games. But given his physical tools and defensive versatility, there is a great fit next to Doncic. Losing Seth Curry hurts, but Tim Hardaway Jr. can be the third scorer on the team. With a starting lineup of Doncic, Hardaway, Richardson, Maxi Kleber and Porzingis with Trey Burke, Jalen Brunson, Johnson, Green, Dorian Finney-Smith and Dwight Powell off the bench, this Dallas team is deep and talented. A better tertiary scorer like Victor Oladipo or Buddy Hield would have helped but with the salary cap room left for next year, a Giannis Antetokounmpo signing could be in the works.
Denver Nuggets Acquisitions:
- Drafted RJ Hampton with the 24th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.
- Signed Jamychal Green from the Los Angeles Clippers.
- Resigned Paul Millsap to a 1-year deal worth $10 million .
- Resigned Bol Bol.
Evaluation: A surprising visit to the conference finals had many people believing in the Nuggets, but their offseason was not the most convincing. A team with Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic needs some good defensive pieces, and the loss of Jerami Grant and Mason Plumlee hurts them big time. However, young guys like Michael Porter Jr.and Bol could see an increased role on the roster as the Nuggets were always criticized for having too much depth. Millsap comes back on a team-friendly deal but he isn’t a piece that would push them over the top. The Nuggets could have traded for a star like Jrue Holiday or Victor Oladipo but their faith in Porter Jr. prevented them from doing so. Hopefully, Porter Jr. becomes a star or the Nuggets would be in a troubling position for the next couple of years. One bright spot for the offseason was Hampton as the Nuggets continue to grab guys off the board whose stock takes a big fall, such as Porter Jr. and Nikola Jokic, etc. With Hampton, the Nuggets could have found a future shooting guard and Hampton in high school looked like a player that would go in the lottery.
Detroit Pistons Acquisitions:
- Drafted Killian Hayes with the 7th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.
- Traded for Dzanan Musa from the Brooklyn Nets.
- Traded for Rodney McGruder from the Los Angeles Clippers.
- Traded for Tony Bradley from the Utah Jazz.
- Signed Jerami Grant.
- Signed Mason Plumlee.
- Traded for Delon Wright from the Dallas Mavericks.
Evaluation: At the beginning of free agency, no one had any clue as to what the Pistons were doing. Signing Grant and Plumlee while trading for Dewayne Dedmon and Bradley filled the team with a bunch of centers. Even after waiving Dedmon, the team is in a weird spot for the next year. Blake Griffin’s contract is still looming on the team as the Pistons are looking to move it. However, as it stands, the Pistons look like a 10th seed at best in the east with a lot of veterans and some promising young players. Losing Christian Wood was rough since they signed Plumlee who got nearly the same yearly salary as Wood, but it didn’t seem likely that Wood would stay. With Hayes and Sekou Doumbouya on the roster, the team is looking to build on the younger prospects and get ready for the future. Griffin, Rose, Grant and Plumlee could be the perfect mentors for the younger players. Wright was a decent pick up as he can play some valuable minutes at guard and help develop Hayes for the future.
Golden State Warriors Acquisitions:
- Drafted James Wiseman with the 2nd pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.
- Drafted Nico Mannion with the 48th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.
- Traded for Kelly Oubre Jr. from the Oklahoma City Thunder.
- Signed Kent Bazemore to a 1-year deal worth the veteran’s minimum.
- Signed Brad Wanamaker to a 1-year deal worth $2.25 million.
Evaluation: After the devastating news that All-Star guard Klay Thompson would be out for the entire season with an Achilles tear, the Warriors were put in a panic mode. Thompson, who had already missed last season with an ACL injury was about to miss his second straight season. With Steph Curry and Draymond Green on the team, the Warriors couldn’t go back to the tank, and decided to take the player that they liked the most, Wiseman. With Mannion slipping to them at 48th, the Warriors were set on free agency to build their team. Using the Andre Iguodala trade exception, the Warriors traded for Oubre Jr., whose game will fit perfectly with Curry’s. Wanamaker and Bazemore provide bench depth and allow the Warriors to rest their stars for the playoffs. Make no mistake, this team is going to make the playoffs and challenge for a top 4 seed. With Curry on the team, anything is possible. This is the first time since the 2016 season that the Warriors have 10-11 above-average NBA players on their roster as they can march out a starting five of Curry, Andrew Wiggins, Oubre, Green and Wiseman with a bench mob that has players such as Wanamaker, Bazemore, Eric Paschall, Kevon Looney, Marquese Chriss, David Lee and Jordan Poole. This Warriors team is deep and motivated, and given their circumstances, their offseason moves were perfect. They were also granted a disabled player exception (DPE) for Thompson’s injury and it looks as if they will wait until at least mid-way through the season to use it to get another quality player who could help the Warriors in the playoffs, which could potentially change their grade.