With the 2020-21 NBA season fast approaching, it's the perfect time to assess the changing hoops landscape and uncover the various offseason wins and losses.
Unless, of course, you're like me, in which case your glass isn't half-empty, it's been knocked off the counter and shattered to pieces on the floor.
You're in no mood to discuss winners, and luckily, that's not what's taking place here.
This is all about losses—the biggest each team suffered in this abbreviated offseason. From overinflated contracts to draft debacles to unfilled roster voids, let's examine what each franchise got wrong over the past few weeks.
The Atlanta Hawks made enough smart moves that securing anything lower than the No. 8 seed would be a disappointment.
They arguably added as much talent as anyone, though it's unclear how some of it will fit.
In a vacuum, they were probably right to keep John Collins and found good value in Clint Capela at the trade deadline and Onyeka Okongwu on draft night. But if all three players are rim-running 5s in the modern NBA, then how will this setup ever work? Atlanta can steal minutes at the 4 for Collins and perhaps Okongwu, but Danilo Gallinari, Cam Reddish and De'Andre Hunter can also fill that position.
The Hawks seemingly grabbed as much talent as they could find, which isn't the worst way for a rebuilder to operate. But expectations are high in Atlanta, and the goal sure seems to be a 2021 playoff berth. That's easier to pursue with a properly aligned frontcourt, meaning a trade might become necessary sooner than later.
The Boston Celtics almost got away with never properly replacing Al Horford, until Bam Adebayo physically overpowered this frontcourt while booting Boston from the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Shamrocks clearly needed an upgrade, so they targeted...Tristan Thompson? He's better than the outgoing Enes Kanter, sure, but is he any better than (or even as good as) Daniel Theis? Thompson has slightly more heft at 254 pounds, so he's a pinch more capable of banging with bigger players on the interior, but he's less versatile than Theis at both ends.
As well-managed (or maybe well-hidden) as Boston's interior woes were during the regular season, they eventually emerged as a fatal flaw. Playoff scouting and preparation magnify shortcomings, and Adebayo's Miami Heat aren't the only ones who can take advantage. Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Domantas Sabonis are among the matchup problems Thompson can't help the Celtics solve.
Losing Gordon Hayward for only a massive trade exception (roughly $28.5 million) stings, but at least that was beyond Boston's control. If the Celtics needed to match the four-year, $120 million deal he inked with the Charlotte Hornets, they were right to walk away. That's a bad break. Treating Thompson as the missing frontcourt piece is a bad miscalculation.
Some might put the Brooklyn Nets' gamble on new head coach Steve Nash here, since he has no coaching experience. But he has a bond with Kevin Durant, a loaded assistant staff and a willingness to delegate, so there's a chance the hiring will work out exactly as Brooklyn hoped.
What's harder to envision, though, is this overloaded roster becoming greater than the sum of its parts. Maybe depth will prove essential in this non-bubble-based season, but for now, Brooklyn has more players than roles available to them.
"It's simple math: The Nets have 240 minutes to go around, and most nights Durant and [Kyrie] Irving will account for 60," Kristian Winfield wrote for the New York Daily News. "That means 180 minutes left over—to feed 13 more players. Nine guards, six forwards and two big men who believe they can start."
Nash and Co. can't position all those players for success, which calls into question why they all reside in Brooklyn. This roster is begging for consolidation—Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen and Spencer Dinwiddie for a third star?—and it's deep enough to still have a functional supporting cast after swinging for the fences.
Remember how wild it seemed when Hayward willingly walked away from his $34.2 million player option with the Celtics? Well, the Charlotte Hornets brought the whole "hold my beer" thing to life.
Charlotte, perhaps looking to relive the glory days of getting Hayward's signature on a 2014 offer sheet, threw caution and a metric ton of Michael Jordan's money to the wind by giving Hayward a four-year, $120 million deal. Even when accounting for the inflation of overpaying to attract talent to a smaller market, Charlotte overshot its mark.
Saying that, it's probably not fair to entirely pooh-pooh the Hornets' landing a free agent of substance.
"I did not think we would be in a position to pursue a free agent of Gordon's caliber," Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak told reporters. "There were times when we didn't think we had a shot at him. We feel really excited that he chose Charlotte."
Once that $120 million offer came across the table, Hayward probably didn't have a choice. That's a massive chunk of change for a 30-year-old with one All-Star selection and some scary injury issues in his not-so-distant past. Best of luck, Buzz City!
It's too early to tell what the Chicago Bulls' new brass values, but dominant wing defense apparently doesn't top the list.
The Windy City played host to one of the league's most ferocious perimeter stoppers last season. Kris Dunn, the fifth pick in 2016 and a key piece of Chicago's return package in the 2017 Jimmy Butler trade, ranked 14th overall and third among guards who played 20-plus games in ESPN's defensive real plus-minus.
The Bulls could've controlled Dunn's future by making him a restricted free agent, but they opted against extending him a qualifying offer. Instead, Chicago watched Dunn ink a two-year, $10 million pact with the Atlanta Hawks.
Now, Dunn has his faults—all of which exist on the offensive end. But he did convert a career-best 64.7 percent of his shots within three feet this past season while also nearly tripling his 1.3 turnovers with 3.4 assists per game. That sounds like a player worth keeping, but Chicago's decision-makers thought otherwise for some reason.
Kevin Love might be feeling some major Kevin McCallister vibes right about now.
That's the name of Macaulay Culkin's character in Home Alone, and Love might feel similarly discarded. He's watched the Cleveland Cavaliers dismantle a championship core and grown visibly frustrated.
If there was ever a time for Cleveland to find Love some overdue new digs, this offseason was it. With questions at the top of this draft class and a thin free-agent pool, the trade market shifted heavily in favor of sellers. The New Orleans Pelicans netted three first-round picks and two pick swaps for Jrue Holiday. The Houston Rockets turned role player Robert Covington into a pair of first-rounders.
When the market even allowed for trades of Russell Westbrook and John Wall—albeit for each other—it's easy to assume some scoring-starved squad would've given up something for Love, a five-time All-Star with a career scoring average north of 18.
Instead, he's still residing in Northeast Ohio, and the Cavs are left hoping the situation is somehow more tenable this time around.
"The Cavs are crossing their fingers that Love will remain bought in after a temperamental season that led to on-court outbursts and a desire to be traded," Cleveland.com's Chris Fedor wrote.
The Dallas Mavericks had a relatively productive offseason. They made smart investments on draft night (how did Tyrell Terry make it to the second round?), snagged a perimeter stopper in Josh Richardson and maintained their depth by bringing back Trey Burke, Willie Cauley-Stein and J.J. Barea.
But there are no earth-shattering, landscape-shifting additions to be found. That's a bummer, since the Mavs seemed one needle-mover away from making major noise in the West.
They recognized as much, too. They were "determined" to snag a third star, per Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News, and then settled for seeing-eye singles when home run options didn't materialize.
For Dallas, the allure of a third impact piece was bigger than winning the NBA's race to assemble the next Big Three. It was about pouncing on the unique buying opportunity afforded by having an MVP candidate who only costs rookie-scale money (Luka Doncic). Moreover, it was protection in case the injury bug struck Kristaps Porzingis again, which unfortunately has already happened via knee surgery.
The Denver Nuggets didn't field a top-half defense this past season. Can everyone please raise your hand if you think the Nuggets can improve on the less glamorous end after losing both Jerami Grant and Torrey Craig via free agency?
For everyone with their hands raised, I'm looking to unload some oceanfront property in the Rocky Mountains.
Denver's roster is built around offense, starting with the trio of Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. There isn't a big-wing defender in the rotation, and there's no telling how much resistance Paul Millsap can provide, with his 36th birthday looming in February.
The Nuggets are so explosive they'll be a handful even if they encounter the occasional defensive leak. But if those leaks become more serious over time, they could prevent Denver's planned ascension or even knock the team down a peg.
The appeal of Jerami Grant isn't hard to find—especially when his three-balls are hitting their mark. He's as bouncy as they come and versatile on defense.
He's a solid complementary piece. So, why are the Detroit Pistons paying him like a star?
Few contracts signed this offseason popped more eyeballs than Grant's three-year, $60 million pact with the Pistons. He wasn't a regular starter last season and only has 169 starts out of his 454 career appearances. He has six seasons under his belt and per-game averages of just 9.3 points and 3.9 rebounds. How does any of that equate to a $20 million annual salary?
"There's more there," Pistons general manager Troy Weaver said, per MLive.com's Ansar Khan. "... I expect him to continue to grow."
Paying for potential can make sense for a rebuilder. But how much potential does a 26-year-old, six-year veteran really offer? Grant seems pretty established—as something dramatically different than a $20-million-per-year player.
Technically, the Golden State Warriors' biggest offseason loss came via Klay Thompson's Achilles tear. That effectively removed them from championship contention—this season for sure and maybe for good with this nucleus.
But we won't penalize them for another round of injury misfortune. Instead, we'll focus on the bad luck of landing high up the draft board in a talent grab in which teams weren't paying a premium to move up. Look, maybe No. 2 pick James Wiseman will pan out, but his skills and feel need a lot of work, and he plays the NBA's least valuable position.
The Dubs surely knew Wiseman had a good chance to be theirs for the taking, since the Minnesota Timberwolves have Karl-Anthony Towns manning the middle, and Golden State still worked the phones to find an interesting trade offer. Wiseman is a Warrior, in part because that offer never materialized.
"We liked James enough to not just move the pick for nothing," Warriors president of basketball operations Bob Myers told reporters.
Not exactly the most glowing review, right? If Wiseman was as good as it could get for the Warriors, that's a brutal blow for a team hoping to reignite a fading dynasty.
Wow, where do you even start with all that's gone wrong in Space City?
The Houston Rockets changed coaches (from Mike D'Antoni to Stephen Silas) and lead executives (Daryl Morey to Rafael Stone). They turned Covington into a first-round pick, or really replaced the one they gave up to get him at this past trade deadline. They also flipped a healthy Russell Westbrook for John Wall, who hasn't played in nearly two full calendar years, and a future first-round pick.
But nothing looms as problematically significant as the erosion of James Harden's trust. He's been chasing a title since first landing in Houston, and now he can't see the Larry O'Brien Trophy at the end of the rainbow.
"Harden believes his window to chase championships in Houston has ended," ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported.
Harden is so down on his current digs that he declined an extension offer that would have made him the Association's first $50 million per year player, per Wojnarowski. It takes a litany of losses to equal the enormous "L" of souring a superstar to the point that even a $50 million salary can't repair the relationship.
Hey, Indiana Pacers: The NBA of yesteryear called. It'd like its oversized frontcourt back.
Either this front office is really big on antiquing, or the Pacers are somehow convinced their zig away from the league-wide zag toward small ball will finally pay off despite several years of first-round exits loudly suggesting otherwise.
Domantas Sabonis has risen to face-of-the-franchise status due both to his All-Star ascension and Victor Oladipo's wandering eye. That's fine. But why, then, is Myles Turner still on this roster and not the Boston Celtics? Or Golden State Warriors? Or New Orleans Pelicans? Or Charlotte Hornets?
Turner is a rim protector and stretch 5. That combination fits with almost any kind of 4—but Sabonis is miscast in that role and should be at the 5. Oh, and bubble breakout performer T.J. Warren is most certainly a better 4 than 3. These numbers don't add up and won't as long as Turner and Sabonis are forced to coexist in this ill-fitting tandem.
The Los Angeles Clippers are aware Kawhi Leonard can bolt in free agency next summer, aren't they? I mean, you'd certainly assume so, but their offseason activity (or, more accurately, inactivity) doesn't exactly make that crystal clear.
Anyone who watched last season's Clippers could tell they were problematically light on playmakers. They were 28th in passes made, 22nd in assists and 20th in points off assists. Leonard, who was second on the team with 4.9 assists, had seen enough. This situation needed attention.
"They clearly need a point guard. Everybody knows it. And Kawhi Leonard privately has clamored for one," ESPN's Stephen A. Smith reported. "... They need a point guard that can run a team and can shoot."
Guess what the Clippers didn't get this offseason—a point guard that can run a team and shoot. (Sorry, Reggie Jackson.) They'll still navigate the regular season just fine, but if this offense malfunctions in the playoffs again, they'll only have themselves to blame for not honoring Leonard's request.
LeBron James is a 6'9" floor general who can morph into an unguardable power forward at any time. Anthony Davis is an elite big man with perimeter roots. These are two of the easiest players to build around in today's game. (And the Lakers locked up both on new deals this offseason; Rob Pelinka should keep his mantle clear for that incoming Executive of the Year hardware.)
But for the myriad play styles that mesh with the Lakers' stars, an inside-the-arc, isolation specialist is among the few that just doesn't fit. That surely explains why Kyle Kuzma's numbers were slashed nearly across the board this past season.
Building them back up could be impossible as long as he's in L.A. It's not like his game is any less of an imperfect fit with Hollywood's finest now. If anything, he could be looking at another role reduction with Montrezl Harrell around to soak up a big chunk of the second-team scoring.
Whatever trade value Kuzma had this offseason, it's hard to picture it rising. If the sliding stats weren't damaging enough, he also needs a new deal between now and next summer. The Lakers should've taken whatever the market had to bear for Kuzma.
Never a major draw for free agents, the Memphis Grizzlies smartly invested their cap space early with the trade deadline deal for Justise Winslow and contract extension for Dillon Brooks. That kept the Beale Street ballers from doing anything too significant, for better or worse.
Memphis made the sensible move to re-sign De'Anthony Melton, though the analytics darling rocketed out of the bargain bin with a four-year, $35 million deal. Another go-round with Josh Jackson could've been interesting, but he left cheap-flier territory when the Pistons handed him a two-year, $9.8 million deal.
With no major wins or losses on the transaction front, we're left lamenting the fact that Winslow still can't get his injury issues behind him. The hip problem that flared up during a July practice is still a thing, and it will keep him out through the start of the season.
That's not a major blow in the Grizzlies' grand scheme, but it'd be nice to start collecting data on whether he can carve out a long-term role with the club. The Miami Heat never quite figured out where he fit, and the Grizzlies already have Melton in the defending-and-distributing role that suits Winslow best.
Jae Crowder was everything the Miami Heat could've wanted and more. Always a versatile defender, he also morphed into becoming a 44.5 percent three-point shooter after a deadline deal to Miami and bagged 55 triples at a 34.2 percent clip across 21 postseason contests.
If the Heat had a check list for Crowder, he marked every box. But he probably became too good for Miami, since he could command the kind of multiyear offer the Heat were unwilling to extend.
"Miami was unwilling to offer more than one guaranteed season because of its desire to retain substantial cap space in the 2021 offseason," Anthony Chiang and Barry Jackson reported for the Miami Herald. "Heat officials made it known they wanted Crowder back, but they also made it clear there was a master plan in place for the 2021-22 season and they're sticking to it."
Crowder's departure leaves a big void at the 4 spot, and there's no guarantee the Heat's forward-thinking approach will pay off. For starters, it weakens the club for what will be Jimmy Butler's age-31 season. Plus, it assumes a whale will be available next summer, which may not be the case if Giannis Antetokounmpo puts pen to paper on a supermax extension.
The Heat, who just made a Finals appearance, may have outsmarted themselves in search of the next big thing.
The Milwaukee Bucks were this close to being the clear offseason winners.
After back-to-back best-in-the-NBA seasons ended with playoff flops due in part to a lack of shot-creators, the Bucks plucked a pair of intriguing ones ahead of free agency's opening. They first landed Jrue Holiday (and paid a heavy price) and then ironed out a sign-and-trade for Bogdan Bogdanovic (at a good price).
But while Holiday now resides in the Badger State, Bogdanovic wound up in Atlanta instead. For several reasons, which The Athletic's Sam Amick detailed (h/t NBC Sports' Dan Feldman), Bogdanovic's deal with the Bucks broke down after the initial report:
"When the Holiday move happened, that ripple effect was this: Bogdanovic then became, for all intents and purposes, a fourth option, which my reporting had beared out that he wasn't necessarily feeling that. And then secondly, the money – I don't know the specific numbers – but the money was impacted potentially in terms of once they got Holiday what they could offer Bogdan. And it seems as if whatever agreement was in place before – and Bogdan's camp certainly, all the way through, said there was never an agreement from him. But he was talking to Giannis on a fairly routine basis. Giannis pushed very hard, wanted Bogdan on that team. As an aside – and I mentioned George Hill a second ago – I was told that George Hill had been recruiting Bogdan before the Holiday trade. And there was a little bit of a sense of, 'Wait a minute, man. I thought I was coming to play with you. What happened here?'"
It's a brutal look from every angle, especially when thinking about how much Bogdanovic could have boosted this offense in late-game situations. It becomes water under the bridge if Giannis Antetokounmpo signs the supermax anyway, but it's a true-crime horror story if it's the reason the two-time MVP departs.
Did the Minnesota Timberwolves bother to read the market before giving Malik Beasley a four-year, $60 million deal?
He was a restricted free agent, which alone could've scared off suitors. He was also a four-year veteran with 33 starts in 220 career appearances, during which he logged just 17.4 minutes per night. And while he popped for the Wolves following a deadline move to the Gopher State (20.7 points, 42.6 three-point percentage), his entire run in Minnesota was condensed to just 14 contests.
Nothing pointed to a major contract offer coming his way, and his earnings potential seemingly took a big hit when he received two felony charges stemming from a September arrest.
How did Minnesota take all of the above and surmise he warranted a $15 million annual salary? Why didn't the Wolves wait to see what, if any, offer sheets he received? Even if they like Beasley as a player, they clearly overshot the market here.
Pro tip for all the NBA executives out there who are surely reading this: Don't let past infatuations influence present negotiations.
New Orleans Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin admitted he'd been intrigued by Steven Adams since the 2013 predraft process. Griffin was a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers front office back then, and that club could've used some muscle in the middle as it struggled to form a LeBron-less identity.
But Griffin isn't in Cleveland anymore. He's calling shots in the Crescent City, where every effort should be made to maximize 2019's No. 1 pick, Zion Williamson. Griffin went the opposite direction with Adams, who doesn't space or switch the way Williamson's ideal frontcourt partner would.
Adams is solid, but solid interior bigs aren't tough to acquire in the modern NBA. That makes it all the more mind-boggling that the Pels parted with a first and two seconds to get him and then upped their commitment by giving him a two-year, $35 million extension.
The New York Knicks transformation into Kentucky North continued on draft night when they traded up to acquire Immanuel Quickley at No. 25.
If he's the answer to their years-long (decades-long?) search for a point guard, then it's a stroke of genius for Leon Rose and the overhauled front office. But draft experts aren't holding their breath.
B/R's Jonathan Wasserman had Quickley ranked 40th on his final big board. More concerning, Wasserman said Quickley had a chance to contribute if he could latch on "as a catch-and-shoot specialist."
How many teams would've traded up for a 6'3" shooter with athletic and off-the-dribble limitations? Would the Knicks have made that move if Quickley wasn't a former Wildcat?
Saying all that, New York had a mountain of cap space this offseason and didn't tie it up in any ill-advised contracts. For the damage that could've been done, prematurely pouncing on a late first-round pick barely qualifies as a misstep.
Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti is smartly turning the Sooner State into a dumping ground for undesirable contracts. It's one of the best ways for rebuilders to utilize their cap space, so long as they're properly compensated in the process.
That's where the Al Horford trade fails to pass the smell test.
From almost the moment the ink dried on his four-year, $109 million deal with the Philadelphia 76ers last summer, it immediately ranked among the league's worst arrangements. He couldn't find a comfortable role, his stat sheet paid the price and his trade value torpedoed.
His contract was the biggest obstacle for Philly to create a workable roster, so OKC was smart to discuss a deal. But how did it ever determine that Horford, 34 years old and owed $81 million over the next three seasons, could be offset by only a second-rounder and a protected future first? Maybe Presti owed Daryl Morey a favor or something.
Given its unique setup, this offseason had a real expect-the-unexpected feel to it.
Unless, of course, you were discussing anything related to the Orlando Magic. In that case, you knew they were basically running it back, because they always basically run it back.
Their perpetual push for the No. 8 seed is alive and well. Almost all of the principal contributors to last season's 33-40 team that finished—wait for it—eighth in the conference are back. Oh, and Orlando looks even less fun than that sounds since Jonathan Isaac is expected to miss the season with a torn ACL.
But hey, Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier are still around to chase another .500 record. Hooray?
New president of basketball operations Daryl Morey is already paying massive dividends to the Philadelphia 76ers.
The cap situation was such that you wondered whether the roster could be repaired without the sacrifice of Ben Simmons or Joel Embiid. Then, Morey waved his magic wand and nearly had the thing fixed by draft night. A horde of new shooters arrived (Danny Green, Seth Curry, Tyrese Maxey) along with a reasonably priced and reliable backup for Embiid (Dwight Howard).
The improved spacing could do wonders for the Sixers' stars, who have enough room to operate even though they'll occasionally step on each other's toes. Supporting those two has always been the biggest need for the franchise, and they've seldom (if ever) had this much help on offense.
Saying that, the Sixers did lose some defensive versatility when Josh Richardson was traded away. Maybe a team with Simmons, Embiid and Matisse Thybulle can afford that, but they don't have much of a safety net with a dearth of defenders around them. Defense is almost always where the Simmons-Embiid partnership has worked best, so the Sixers have to hope they didn't harm their greatest strength too much in addressing their primary weakness.
For the second straight year, Phoenix Suns general manager James Jones had draftniks scratching their heads. Last time around, it was taking Cameron Johnson at No. 11. This year, Jones surprised everyone by spending the No. 10 pick on Jalen Smith.
"Any time you can use a lottery pick to get a backup-caliber player at the league's least valuable position, you have to go ahead and do it," The Athletic's John Hollinger wrote.
Had Smith gone later and to a different team, he had sneaky steal potential. He can block shots and splash triples. That's almost always interesting.
But how is he supposed to fit alongside Deandre Ayton? Or did the Suns just talk themselves into selecting a backup center 10th overall?
The Suns got so many things right this offseason, starting with the transformational trade for Chris Paul. But the selection of Smith remains a puzzler at best and a gross miscalculation of value and fit at worst.
Let's be clear: The Portland Trail Blazers have needed a Robert Covington type for years.
They've had annual searches for two-way forwards who fully complement Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. First, it was the defensively dominant duo of Al-Farouq Aminu and Maurice Harkless, who would inevitably go bitterly cold from three whenever the playoffs came around. Then, the Blazers leaned into the offensive end with the likes of Carmelo Anthony and Rodney Hood. To no one's surprise, the defense immediately cliff-dived down to 27th in efficiency.
Covington can make shots and defend his position (though he's most effective causing off-ball chaos). Gary Trent Jr., a breakout performer at the bubble, also checks the shooting and stopping boxes. The Blazers might finally have their wing spots in the right position, just in time for Lillard's age-30 campaign.
The end result is worth it—if Portland didn't make its move now, the move probably wasn't coming in time for Lillard—but let's still acknowledge that the Blazers gave up two first-round picks for a role player. That seems like less than optimal business, even if said role player should fit like a tailored suit.
The Sacramento Kings had control of Bogdan Bogdanovic's situation. Twice.
If they were the slightest bit unsure about a future with him, they could have traded him at the deadline for what should have been a robust return. If they worried at all about having the funds to cover his next contract, they could've shipped out a similarly pricey player (Buddy Hield? Harrison Barnes?) instead. They opted for none of the above.
Surely that meant they were ready to keep Bogdanovic, right? Wrong. He exited Sacramento twice, first in the sign-and-swap with Milwaukee that didn't go down and finally on the offer sheet from Atlanta that the Kings declined to match.
Sacramento could've kept Bogdanovic, turned him into Donte DiVincenzo, Ersan Ilyasova and D.J. Wilson or brokered a different deal. The Kings just let him walk instead and lost a coveted contributor for nothing.
San Antonio Spurs fans, if you were anything like me, you spent a big chunk of the bubble run fawning over the Alamo City's future.
It'd be even more fun to label that core as the Alamo City's present, but that's factually inaccurate.
The Spurs haven't turned the roster over to their youth just yet. DeMar DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gay and Patty Mills are all still around, albeit each on the final season of his contract.
With so many clubs scouring the trade market, it's surprising the Spurs couldn't sniff out a way to turn at least one of these established hoopers into a long-term asset. Then again, maybe they never bothered looking. The Spurs are almost always aiming at the playoffs with Gregg Popovich running the show, and that remains the case for 2020-21.
Decision time came and went for the Toronto Raptors.
All season, it seemed as if the Raptors would be forced to choose between Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka. If they had to carve out space for a new Fred VanVleet contract (they did), then they probably couldn't afford both Gasol and Ibaka without spoiling 2021 flexibility (a no-no as long as Giannis Antetokounmpo hasn't signed the supermax).
But free agency didn't just rob the Raptors of one starting-caliber center; it took both. Each headed to Hollywood, with Gasol joining the Lakers and Ibaka opting for the Clippers.
Toronto did retain Chris Boucher and found Aron Baynes and Alex Len in free agency, but the position group took a step back this offseason—maybe a big one.
Either the Utah Jazz have access to a time machine, or they have a different view than most about the interior center's role in the modern game.
The Jazz entered this offseason with one of the best in two-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert. And yet, they did some of their heaviest offseason lifting with non-stretch bigs.
It started on draft night when they reached and spent the 27th pick on Udoka Azubuike, who can't score outside of the restricted area or defend away from the basket. It continued in free agency when the Jazz inked a three-year, $27 million pact with Derrick Favors, who has 36 threes in 683 career games and exclusively played the 5 this past season (by far his best in net differential).
Is this all an early contingency plan in case Gobert goes elsewhere in 2021 free agency? That seems overly cautious, or perhaps entirely unnecessary if they're ready to pay him major money. Or was reuniting with Favors simply a depth move? Because there are certainly better ways to spend nearly $10 million annually than an oft-injured reserve big who won't close out playoff games.
The end game for the Washington Wizards is what, exactly?
Clearly, the idea is to surround Bradley Beal with enough talent to get him to commit to the organization past 2022. But then what happens? He's 27 years old, so it's not like he figures to get much better (if at all). While the Wizards have a few intriguing young players in the pipeline, none projects as a potential star (or maybe not even anything close to it).
So, why did the Wizards bother flipping John Wall for Russell Westbrook? More importantly, why did they sacrifice a first-round pick to do it? The best-case scenarios for Wall and Westbrook are mirror images of one another. The worst outcomes are similar, too, though Wall offers more injury risk.
Washington seems stuck. Maybe a motivated Westbrook joins Beal to help the Wizards claim a playoff spot, but can they jump into the top six? That's hard to envision, and it's virtually impossible to identify the potential first-round opponent they'd have a realistic chance to defeat.
The Wizards seem like they're fighting against an inevitable rebuild. They're also deflating Beal's trade value while doing it. Either this organization has a wildly more optimistic outlook for the 2020-21 roster, or it should try to aim higher than a one-and-done playoff cameo.
Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @ZachBuckleyNBA.