Monday, August 15, 2022

2022 NBA offseason grades for all 30 teams: Celtics put on masterclass; Lakers underwhelm; 76ers earn ‘A’

The 2022 NBA offseason has been like a furious game of “Red Light, Green Light,” with only slightly less dire consequences than “Squid Game” (hey, remember Squid Game?). It began with a flurry of moves in the first couple days of free agency, then a long cool-off period during which we were promised a holding pattern while the Brooklyn Nets contemplated what to do about Kevin Durant’s trade request.

Then, boom, suddenly the Utah Jazz and New York Knicks are reportedly discussing a Donovan Mitchell trade. After that, Deandre Ayton signs a max offer sheet with the Indiana Pacers only to have it matched within minutes by the Phoenix Suns. Man, time for a deep breath.

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A good way to take a step back is to look at every team’s offseason in its entirety. Including the draft, trades and free agency, who’s in and who’s out on all 30 NBA teams? It’s not easy to keep straight, but thanks to the folks over at NBA.com for their handy list. It also took some extra research to add all the deals that have reportedly been agreed upon but aren’t yet official.

And just because we can, we decided to throw in some offseason grades — with the obvious caveat that no evaluation is set in stone with so many free agent signings and potentially gargantuan trades still on the horizon. Hopefully this gets published before the light turns green again.

Atlanta Hawks

Who’s in:

Who’s out:

Just a year after a surprising run to the conference finals that catapulted the Hawks into young contender status, they mortgaged their future by trading three first-round picks and a swap for Murray, who — on paper at least — is a near-perfect companion to Trae Young in the backcourt. They lost shooting with the Huerter trade, but that could be made up by some combination of first-rounder Griffin and Justin Holiday. Atlanta was missing a big, defensive guard and a secondary playmaker to Young, and it got both with Murray, albeit at a very steep cost. Grade: B+

Boston Celtics

Who’s in:

Who’s out:

The Celtics’ run to the Finals exposed their lack of depth and ball-handling, and they potentially fixed both problems this offseason by adding Brogdon and Gallinari without giving up any key rotation pieces. Brogdon can run point and is a tremendous off-ball shooter, whether starting or coming off the bench. Gallinari may not be able to hang defensively in deeper playoff rounds, but he’ll be able to spell Al Horford and Robert Williams III during the regular season, giving the Celtics a floor-spacer and bucket-getter. Overall, it’s hard to say that the defending Eastern Conference champions didn’t get significantly better this offseason, so that’s a home run. Grade: A+

Brooklyn Nets

Who’s in:

Who’s out:

It would be easy to give the Nets an “incomplete” while we wait for the other shoe to drop with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, but instead let’s grade the moves they’ve actually made. Losing Bruce Brown hurts, but O’Neale fills that gap as a more traditional defensive wing who shot 38 percent from 3-point range last season. Bringing back Claxton, Edwards and Mills gives them a solid rotation, while taking fliers on Warren and Sumner, who are both coming off injuries but capable of being productive as they regain their legs. Obviously more to come, but for now it’s been a solid offseason for Brooklyn. Grade: B

Charlotte Hornets

Who’s in:

Who’s out:

  • N/A

Charlotte has been conspicuously quiet this offseason, which may portend some moves down the road. The Hornets briefly had Jalen Duren as their center of the future, but quickly traded him and snagged Williams, a shot-blocking, rim-running athlete who should fit in wonderfully with LaMelo Ball. Martin was a key part of their team last season, and they brought him back on a reasonable deal, while McGowens is an intriguing prospect at No. 40, if not somewhat duplicative of James Bouknight. It’s hard to grade the Hornets because we don’t know which direction they’re headed — trying to get into the playoffs or being content playing the youngsters in an effort to gain lottery balls — but Williams is a good pick for them and that’s all we really have to go on. Grade: B

Chicago Bulls

Who’s in:

Who’s out:

Bringing back LaVine was priority A-though-Z for the Bulls, and they did that with minimal drama. Drummond gives them a true backup center and Terry is a talented-but-raw prospect who could eventually crack the wing rotation. The problem is that a few other teams in the East have loaded up (Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta), while Chicago brings back essentially the same roster that finished sixth in the conference last season. The hope is that a healthy Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso will make the difference, but as for offseason additions, the Bulls didn’t really make any legitimate waves. Grade: C+

Cleveland Cavaliers

Who’s in:

Who’s out:

  • N/A

The Garland extension was inevitable, and the Cavs wisely brought back Rubio, who played so well for them last season before tearing his ACL. At 22, Agbaji gives Cleveland a 3-and-D wing who can contribute right away and potentially develop his on-ball skills to be a secondary creator. The front office also gets major props for drafting Evan Mobley’s brother, Isaiah, to help keep their franchise cornerstone happy. Not an overwhelming offseason for the Cavs, but they’re clearly being patient and letting their young talent cook. Things could change depending what they do with restricted free agent Collin Sexton, but for now, not bad. Grade: B+

Dallas Mavericks

Who’s in:

Who’s out:

The Wood trade seemed to solve a lot of problems for the Mavericks, but then Brunson fled for the Knicks and created a whole different set of issues. They’re now stuck in a position with Spencer Dinwiddie — who’s shown flashes but is much less reliable than Brunson — as the secondary ball-handler next to Luka Doncic. Head coach Jason Kidd has indicated that McGee will be the new starting center, which … OK. But either way Wood should be able to provide a different element as a floor-spacing big who can also finish around the rim. Hardy has looked good in Summer League, but it’s hard to imagine he’ll have much of an impact this early in his career. Grade: C+

Denver Nuggets

Who’s in:

Who’s out:

The Nuggets were already poised to be a legitimate title contender next season with the reigning MVP (now the owner of the most lucrative contract in NBA history) alongside a healthy Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., and their offseason additions make them even more intimidating. Losing a steady backup point guard in Morris hurts, but he was overqualified for the position and set for a large payday. They swapped him and Barton for Caldwell-Pope, a perfect fit who will provide the shooting and defense that Barton, at times, could not. They also picked up Brown in the free agent market to do the weird things that made him so successful in Brooklyn. Denver is better now than it was when the offseason began, which means high marks. Grade: A

Detroit Pistons

Who’s in:

Who’s out:

This Pistons offseason is all about Ivey, who landed in their lap after the Kings elected to go with Keegan Murray at No. 4. Ivey has the potential to be an All-NBA level guard, and appears to perfectly complement Cade Cunningham. Detroit also finally cashed in the Jerami Grant chip for a modest haul, but used the pick they got to move up and draft Duren, perhaps the best true center prospect in the draft. Troy Weaver also decided to become a dumping ground for bloated Knicks contracts, picking up draft assets in return. The Pistons won’t win a title any time soon, but they’re clearly taking steps in the right direction. Grade: A

Golden State Warriors

Who’s in:

Who’s out:

Warriors owner Joe Lacob drew a line with the salaries of Gary Payton II and Otto Porter Jr., allowing them to go elsewhere to avoid even heftier luxury tax bills. Golden State was able to snag DiVincenzo, who seems like the type of player who could flourish as an off-ball shooter and cutter in the team’s unique offensive system. They were also able to retain Looney (of course they were), to bring back the entire starting lineup for next season. Baldwin and Rollins are talented prospects, and we’ve seen that Steve Kerr has no fear putting rookies into pressure situations. The champs lost two key pieces, but they’ll hope that impact can be replaced or exceeded by the development of Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody and James Wiseman. Grade: B

Houston Rockets

Who’s in:

  • Jabari Smith Jr. (drafted No. 3)
  • Tari Eason (drafted No. 17)
  • TyTy Washington Jr. (drafted No. 29)
  • Jae’Sean Tate (re-signed)
  • Sterling Brown (traded from Mavericks)
  • Trey Burke (traded from Mavericks)
  • Marquese Chriss (traded from Mavericks)
  • Boban Marjanovic (traded from Mavericks)

Who’s out:

That’s back-to-back very strong drafts for the Rockets, who added shooting, defense and playmaking with their three first-rounders — led by Smith, who was the consensus No. 1 overall pick until hours before the draft. They traded Wood for the pick that turned into Washington, another highly rated prospect who dropped further than expected. Eason looked great in Summer League and will add a much-needed defensive presence to the young Rockets. Grade: A

Indiana Pacers

Who’s in:

  • Bennedict Mathurin (drafted No. 6)
  • Andrew Nembhard (drafted No. 31)
  • Kendall Brown (drafted No. 48)
  • Hugo Besson (drafted No. 58)
  • Jalen Smith (re-signed)
  • Daniel Theis (traded from Celtics)
  • Aaron Nesmith (traded from Celtics)
  • Malik Fitts (traded from Celtics)
  • Juwan Morgan (traded from Celtics)
  • Nik Stauskas (traded from Celtics)

Who’s out:

  • Malcolm Brogdon (traded to Celtics)
  • Ricky Rubio (signed with Cavaliers)
  • TJ Warren (signed with Nets)

Welp, the dream of Deandre Ayton in Indiana lasted about as long as Carmelo Anthony’s stint in Atlanta. Despite missing out on the big man, the Pacers had a strong offseason with the addition of Mathurin and the Brogdon trade, which netted them a first-rounder in next year’s draft. Mathurin looked fantastic in Summer League and should provide a wing/guard scoring option with playmaking and defensive upside. There are still deals to be made involving Myles Turner and Buddy Hield, so the assessment could change as the summer progresses. Grade: B

Los Angeles Clippers

Who’s in:

Who’s out:

The Clippers had basically zero financial flexibility, so it was important to bring back Batum, Zubac and Coffey to complement their potent roster. Taking a flier on Wall makes sense for a team that has lacked a true point guard to take some of the playmaking burden off Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Losing Hartenstein hurts, but the Clippers appear content trying to piece together the backup center position with smaller players like Robert Covington and Marcus Morris. They did what they needed to do, and come into next season as one of the championship favorites. Grade: A-

Los Angeles Lakers

Who’s in:

Who’s out:

Everything changes if the Lakers end up with Kyrie Irving, but nobody on Earth can predict how that will play out, including Irving himself. As it stands, the Lakers had a clear intention of getting younger this offseason, which they certainly did with their free agent additions. The problem is there still isn’t much shooting around LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook, which was one of their key issues last season — and now they don’t have Monk, whose price was too high for ownership to justify. The defense is slightly better on paper, but none of the acquisitions are stoppers by any means. Christie is a nice player, but is probably too far away to help a team with championship aspirations. Irving would solve a lot, but as of now things don’t look great for L.A. Grade: C

Memphis Grizzlies

Who’s in:

Who’s out:

The Grizz locked up their franchise player, which was obviously priority No. 1, and then relied on the draft to replenish their depth after losing Anderson to free agency and trading Melton to Philadelphia. The departure of those two should help solidify roles on what was a very deep roster last season, and LaRavia should be able to help on both sides right away. Memphis didn’t do anything drastic this offseason, but they continue to build one of the best young groups of talent in the league. Grade: B

Miami Heat

Who’s in:

Who’s out:

The loss of Tucker is difficult, especially since the Heat failed to replace him and now look ready to enter the season without a power forward on the roster. Jovic is too far away to help right away, and bringing back Oladipo, Martin and Dedmon doesn’t exactly move the needle. Of course the Heat are very much a contender in the Kevin Durant sweepstakes, which would take them from a team that seemingly took a step back to perhaps the top title contender in the league. Stay tuned. Grade: C-

Milwaukee Bucks

Who’s in:

Who’s out:

  • N/A

The Bucks might have won a second straight title if Khris Middleton were healthy, so it makes sense that they didn’t do anything desperate this offseason. They brought back Portis, Connaughton and Matthews — three key rotation players — and also re-signed Carter and Ibaka for added depth. The wild card is Ingles, who could be an incredibly productive player for them with his shooting and passing ability if he can come back healthy and get his legs under him before the playoffs. Beauchamp is an older prospect who looks physically ready to at least get a shot at contributing. Basically the Bucks ran it back with the addition of Ingles, which puts them in a pretty good spot. Grade: B+

Minnesota Timberwolves

Who’s in:

Who’s out:

Well OK then. We saw lots of teams stand pat and build around the fringes, but the Wolves jumped into the deep end with no life vest, trading a billion picks and players to pair Gobert with the newly extended Towns. It’s a unique lineup combination that could yield positive results in the regular season. The questions surround Gobert’s playoff impact and how he will age until his monster contract expires in the summer of 2026. Anderson is a key addition who allows the Wolves to go small if necessary, while Prince, Forbes and potentially Moore will add shooting. Overall it was a huge gamble and a huge price (too high of a price in the humble opinion of this reporter), but it will all be worth it if it translates to playoff wins. Grade: C

New Orleans Pelicans

Who’s in:

  • Zion Williamson (contract extension)
  • Dyson Daniels (drafted No. 8)
  • EJ Liddell (drafted No. 41)
  • Karlo Matkovic (drafted No. 52)

Who’s out:

  • N/A

Pelicans fans breathed a sigh of relief when Williamson actually inked his extension after much anxiety-inducing speculation. Adding him to Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum forms one of the most potent Big Threes in the entire league. Liddell looked like a steal at No. 41, but will miss significant time after tearing his ACL in Summer League. Daniels may be eased into action, but he profiles as a big, defensive, pass-first guard who could slot right into the starting lineup. New Orleans ended last season on a high note, and things only got more promising this offseason. Grade: A

New York Knicks

Who’s in:

Who’s out:

  • Kemba Walker (traded to Pistons)
  • Alec Burks (traded to Pistons)
  • Nerlens Noel (traded to Pistons)

I wrote how the Knicks’ offseason moves have all been … OK. Brunson’s a solid player and they made some shrewd moves to acquire a few first-rounders. What they did, however, is set themselves up to be in the mix for a player like Donovan Mitchell, who would obviously change the team’s long-term and short-term prospects. As it stands now, the Knicks’ ceiling appears to be the bottom half of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. That could all change with one big swing, though. Grade: B

Oklahoma City Thunder

Who’s in:

Who’s out:

OKC is quickly developing into a League Pass favorite — quite a feat for a team that likely has no aspirations of winning next season. Holmgren could be the best player in the draft and has already showcased a diverse and unique set of skills. The Thunder traded up for No. 11 to get Dieng, who may be slightly further away but has alluring potential, and the Williamses should both be ready to contribute immediately. As usual, OKC’s offseason can’t truly be judged for several years, but on paper they picked up a lot of young talent to put around Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey. Grade: B+

Orlando Magic

Who’s in:

Who’s out:

  • Robin Lopez (signed with Cavaliers)

The Magic provided one of the most impressive rope-a-dopes in NBA Draft history, convincing all of us that they were taking Jabari Smith Jr. with the top pick, but ended up going with Banchero, who looked every bit of a franchise player in limited time during Summer League. None of the moves outside of that really matter, though seeing what they have in Bamba and Bol isn’t a terrible idea for a rebuilding franchise. Basically this is a grade for taking Banchero over Holmgren and Smith, which is really hard to evaluate right now. Grade: B

Philadelphia 76ers

Who’s in:

  • P.J. Tucker (free agent)
  • De’Anthony Melton (traded from Grizzlies)
  • Danuel House Jr. (free agent)
  • Trevelin Queen (free agent)

Who’s out:

  • Danny Green (traded to Grizzlies)
  • DeAndre Jordan (signed with Nuggets)

Assuming James Harden follows through on the reporting and signs for a significantly lower salary than he could have opted into, this was a banner offseason for Philadelphia. The Tucker pickup adds the same defense and toughness we’ve seen for playoff contender after playoff contender for the past several seasons. Melton brings defense from the guard position and has shot 39 percent from 3-point range over the last two seasons. House is familiar with Harden and Tucker from his days in Houston, providing a 3-and-D option off the bench. Given the way things ended in the postseason, the Sixers must be thrilled with where they are right now. Grade: A

Phoenix Suns

Who’s in:

  • Devin Booker (contract extension)
  • Deandre Ayton (re-signed)
  • Bismack Biyombo (re-signed)
  • Damion Lee (free agent)
  • Josh Okogie (free agent)
  • Jock Landale (traded from Hawks)

Who’s out:

  • JaVale McGee (signed with Mavericks)
  • Aaron Holiday (signed with Hawks)
  • Frank Kaminsky (signed with Hawks)

For all the reported discord between Ayton and the Suns organization and questions about how he was valued, they certainly wasted no time matching the Pacers’ max offer sheet to retain the 23-year-old former No. 1 pick. Now he can’t be traded until January, which eliminates him as a piece in a potential Kevin Durant deal if it takes place this offseason. Booker’s extension means that Phoenix is going to get the band back together at least for next season, which makes sense given that they had the best record in the NBA following a Finals appearance. Perhaps they handled things poorly by not just maxing out Ayton last summer, but in basketball terms they should be just as potent next season. Grade: B+

Portland Trail Blazers

Who’s in:

Who’s out:

Are the Blazers going to win the title this season? Probably not. Did they grant Lillard’s request and at least position themselves to be a playoff team next season? Sure? We have to see how the pieces fit, but Grant and Payton are solid additions to both sides of the floor, while Simons has shown incredible potential to replace CJ McCollum’s offensive output next to Lillard. Sharpe is a mystery box who could end up being the best player in the class or the answer to a bleak trivia question, but either way he’ll likely take some time to develop. The Blazers had some flexibility this offseason and did what they could to get back into contention. We’ll see how it works. Grade: B

Sacramento Kings

Who’s in:

  • Keegan Murray (drafted No. 4)
  • Kevin Huerter (traded from Kings)
  • Malik Monk (free agent)
  • KZ Okpala (free agent) 

Who’s out:

  • Donte DiVincenzo (signed with Warriors)
  • Maurice Harkless (traded to Hawks)
  • Justin Holiday (traded to Hawks)
  • Damian Jones (signed with Lakers)

It’s hard not to be persuaded by Murray’s phenomenal Summer League (haven’t we all made that mistake before), but taking him over Jaden Ivey could turn out to be a considerable miscalculation despite Murray’s superior fit to this Kings roster. They added shooting with Huerter and Monk, solid pieces to put around De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis. If the goal is to make the playoffs next season, the Kings look like they got closer over the past couple of months. It could have cost them some potential greatness down the road, but it sounds like Kings ownership (and the fans) are sick of hearing about potential. Grade: B-

San Antonio Spurs

Who’s in:

Who’s out:

  • Dejounte Murray (traded to Hawks)
  • Danilo Gallinari (waived)
  • Lonnie Walker IV (signed with Lakers)
  • Jock Landale (traded to Hawks)

The Spurs finally hit “execute” on a full rebuild landing quite a haul in the Murray trade to fill their asset cupboard. On top of that they had a great draft, picking up defensive ace Sochan, bucket-getter Branham and human blur Wesley, all of whom will be 19 when their rookie season begins. San Antonio also has the cap room to be a dumping ground for bad contracts in the future, which would net them additional assets in return. They could be one of the worst teams in the league this season, but it appears ownership, management and Gregg Popovich are (finally) content with that. Grade: A-

Toronto Raptors

Who’s in:

Who’s out:

  • N/A

The Raptors continue to lurk as a potential Kevin Durant destination, but they should be competitive again next season even with their roster as currently constructed. Prying Porter away from the Warriors was huge, as he provides much-needed shooting while fitting seamlessly into the Raptors’ positionless philosophy. Boucher and Young are both solid pieces to bring back, while Koloko could help fill some center minutes during the grueling regular season. Toronto didn’t exactly blow the doors off the NBA, but it didn’t need to given its young, exciting core. Grade: B

Utah Jazz

Who’s in:

  • Malik Beasley (traded from Timberwolves)
  • Patrick Beverley (traded from Timberwolves)
  • Jarred Vanderbilt (traded from Timberwolves)
  • Leandro Bolmaro (traded from Timberwolves)
  • Walker Kessler (drafted No. 22, via Timberwolves)

Who’s out:

  • Rudy Gobert (traded to Timberwolves)
  • Royce O’Neale (traded to Nets)
  • Danuel House Jr. (signed with 76ers)
  • Juancho Hernangomez (waived)

There’s still one big domino left to fall for the Jazz, but they were unquestioned winners in the Gobert trade, netting a king’s ransom previously designated for top-five players in the league. They are in a tremendous position to tank if they send Mitchell packing, with players like Beverley, Beasley and potentially Vanderbilt ready to be re-routed elsewhere as well. Assuming Danny Ainge and the front office felt their title contending days with that roster had come to an end, they couldn’t have asked for a better start to the rebuild/re-tool. Grade: A

Washington Wizards

Who’s in:

  • Bradley Beal (re-signed)
  • Will Barton (traded from Nuggets)
  • Monte Morris (traded from Nuggets)
  • Johnny Davis (drafted No. 10)
  • Delon Wright (free agent)
  • Yannick Nzosa (drafted No. 54)
  • Anthony Gill (re-signed)

Who’s out:

  • Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (traded to Nuggets)
  • Thomas Bryant (signed with Lakers)
  • Raul Neto (signed with Cavs)
  • Ish Smith (traded to Nuggets)

Beal’s $251 million could look real bad in a few years, but the Wizards did what they needed to do to lock up their only All-NBA-level talent to place next to new running mate Kristaps Porzingis. They also acquired a steady point guard in Morris and a wing scorer in Barton, though it cost them a very solid piece in KCP. We’ll see how the Davis draft pick works out (I think there were better players on the board at No. 10), but really this season is about Beal and Porzingis staying healthy while the coaching staff figures out the best combinations around them. Grade: C+

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