In truth, you cannot really grade offseason acquisitions until the actual postseason or the next offseason. Nonetheless, it's time to give preliminary grades to those organizations making moves this summer. The grades reflect how each team has performed in remaking itself and are used as a device to track which teams have improved and which teams haven’t.
Atlanta Hawks: A-
The Hawks began their summer changing front office dynamics. They parted ways with ex-GM Rick Lund and acquired the highly coveted Danny Ferry—the man previously in charge of crafting a nearly immaculate San Antonio Spurs roster. And what Ferry has orchestrated over the past two weeks has been nothing short of impressive.
Despite turning Atlanta into a proven Eastern Conference playoff team, Lund had created an NBA owner’s worst nightmare: a team unable to ever make it past the first round headed by a wildly overpaid underachieving superstar in Joe Johnson. In realizing what Atlanta had become, Ferry understood that in order for his Hawks to eventually improve, they were going to have to get a little worse first.
So, what has Danny Boy done? He first found the leagues only GM willing to give up a number of expiring contracts for the remaining $89 million left on Joe Johnson’s contract. Then he shipped a disappointing Marvin Williams for another expiring contract in point guard Devin Harris and acquired a free agent bargain in guard Lou Williams. So where does that leave the Hawks now? A team poised to be a serious player in the 2013 free agent market while simultaneously remaining in the East playoff picture—they retain a competitive starting line up featuring an underrated “Big 3” in Al Horford, Josh Smith and Jeff Teague, while adding depth with the acquisitions of Anthony Morrow, Kyle Korver, Johan Petro, Deshawn Stevenson and sharp shooting rookie John Jenkins.
With just three players under contract after the 2012 season, the Hawks could theoretically add both Dwight Howard and Chris Paul. And even if Atlanta were to strike out in 2013, much like the Mavericks did this summer, they still have more than enough room to attract a number of other top tier free agents. All in all, I say a job well done by the ex-Blue Devil and the Atlanta Hawks.
Brooklyn Nets: B+
Like my man Funk Master Flex once eloquently stated, “IS BROOKLYN IN HERE, TONIGHT?!”
For now, Nets GM Billy King can feel relieved, as his huge gamble to trade for guard Deron Williams 18 months ago has finally paid off. And although New Jersey has to settle with the $89 million tab owed to Johnson over the next four years, the Nets have created one of the most skilled backcourts in the league. In now playing along side a superstar caliber point guard in Williams, Johnson will no longer feel either obligated or forced to consistently create scoring opportunities off the bounce—something that hurt Johnson’s productivity in Atlanta. Instead, Johnson will finally be able to enjoy what I call a two-guards dream: lurk around the perimeter, score off drive and kick situations, and have defenders at his mercy off closeouts.
And while Johnson highlights Brooklyn’s list of off season acquisitions, it is has been King’s ability to compliment the Nets’ new star duo with one of the more underrated defensive/rebounding front lines in Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries and Brooke Lopez. In addition to the signing of these three other complimentary starters, King has managed to steal three of the more underrated veteran free agents on the market in scoring point guard CJ Watson, ex-Chicago Bull defensive stopper Keith Bogans, and the boogie man himself, Reggie Evans.
In aggregate, the Nets have put together a team that is relevant, something that can't be said since '07. They’ll undoubtedly win between 44 to 50 games and makes the playoffs—heck they may even make it out the first round. Given where they have been the last two seasons, thats progress. Only reason why they didn’t receive an A? Because the Nets never should have given a high lottery pick to the Blazers for the right to overpay Wallace to the tune of $40 million. Lopez's $60 million also seems steep.
Dallas Mavericks B:
Prior to this past season, I thought Mark Cuban and owner Donnie Nelson displayed both guts and brilliance by breaking up their championship core for chance to do it again in 2013. Unfortunately, that plan fell through mightily as the Mavs were unable to woo either Dwight Howard or Deron Williams to Dallas.
After striking out on “Plan A” and losing Jason Kidd and Jason Terry to free agency, the Mavs appeared rudderless as they became a team playing for ping pong balls as opposed to rings. But within the past five days, the Mavs have somehow gone from failing to passing in my grade book
Two Wednesdays ago, Chris Kaman confirmed that he would be joining forces with his German National Team compatriot, Dirk Nowitzki, to bolster the front line. Despite playing for a woeful Hornets club that had no interest in having the big man on their roster, Kaman managed to average 13.1 and 7.7 rebounds in 47 appearances. With the opportunity to start for a team that truly appreciates his skill set, Chris now has the potential to produce at an all-star caliber—much like he did in his Clipper days.
But Dallas didn’t stop there. That same Wednesday, Donnie Nelson pulled off an inconceivable heist in a sign and trade that sent back up center Ian Mahimi to the Pacers in exchange for Darren Collison and Dahntay Jones. Two days later, Dallas won the bid for Elton Brand via the amnesty waiver wire for a paltry 2.1 million. Just like that, the team had a young starting point guard on a reasonable deal and a veteran center and power forward to go alongside Nowitzki and Shawn Marion, the only two remaining players from their 2011 championship run.
The team’s biggest acquisition however didn't come until last Monday night, when OJ Mayo announced via twitter that he would be signing with the Mavericks. Mayo will slide into the starting shooting guard position after coming off the bench the past year for the Memphis Grizzlies. Despite showing a flair for his supporting act off the pine and averaging nearly 15 ppg throughout his young career, the former 3rd overall draft pick never exactly felt comfortable with assuming such a role. As a Maverick, Mayo has the opportunity to blossom into the prospect he was once made out to be.
While these offseason acquisitions obviously do not put the Mavs back into championship contention, they certainly help Dallas’ chances at both making the playoffs and remaining a serious player in 2013’s free agency period.
Minnesota Timberwolves: D+
At the beginning of July, Minnesota all-star forward Kevin Love expressed his impatience with the organization, stating that he wants “to win and win now.” And although Love could have applied pressure to the Timberwolves in private, the rest of the league has now been put on alert -- things in the Twin Cities are bumpy. But in the face of such pressures, David Kahn has failed to take advantage of this year’s class of free agents and the team’s playoff chances once again appear nearly impossible.
Simply put, the Wolves have done absolutely NOTHING this offseason. Former all-star Brandon Roy is by far the most interesting pickup; no one knows if his knees will hold up enough though to make him worth the $10 million the Wolves are paying. If he's healthy enough to be a contributor, this was a good move. If not, the Wolves won't have much to show for their offseason other than adding Chase Budinger and Alexey Shved -- two shooters who don't bring a lot more to the table. They do add Greg Stiemsma, a highly productive shot blocker with, in my opinion, some of the best hands in the NBA. But Greg in no way, shape or form alleviates Minnesota from their losing tendencies. And to make things even worse, the Blazers decided to match the 46 million dollar offer to Nicholas Batum, making the subtraction of Michael Beasley that much more agonizing.
I’m sure David Kahn is repeatedly punching himself in the face right now, as he realizes that franchise player Kevin Love’s future with Minnesota is hanging in the balance.