The heavily compressed 2020 NBA offseason is not exactly over, as evidenced by Wednesday’s point guard swap. Most teams have made the last of their major transactions, though, and since the preseason starts next Friday, it hardly feels premature to evaluate what’s happened. What follows is a team-by-team review of the significant moves.
A disclaimer: These rankings are not scientific, and they are not meant to signify simply which teams have set themselves up to win a higher percentage of their games or have a better 2021 championship odds. Contenders and rebuilding teams must be judged by entirely different criteria, and splashy signings typically come with real trade-offs.
In other words, it’s not particularly useful to compare the Lakers’ offseason to the Thunder’s or even the Hawks’, but this exercise demands that one of them must be deemed superior to the others.
Los Angeles Lakers
Last season: 52-19, 10th (T) in offense, 3rd in defense
In: Marc Gasol (two years, $5.2 million), Montrezl Harrell (two years, $19 million), Dennis Schroder (trade), Wesley Matthews (one year, $3.6 million)
Out: Danny Green (trade), Rajon Rondo (FA), Avery Bradley (FA), Dwight Howard (FA), JaVale McGee (trade), Quinn Cook (waived)
Sticking around: Anthony Davis (five years, $190 million), LeBron James (two-year, $85 million extension), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (three years, $39 million, partially guaranteed final season), Markieff Morris (one year, $2.3 million, Jared Dudley (one year, $2.6 million)
SportsLine projection: 49.3 wins
The champs gave up the No. 28 pick for an upgrade at point guard, knowing they could use the biannual exception to replace the 3-and-D guy it traded. They got discounts on two free-agent centers who are much more talented than the bigs they had last season. They re-signed a starter and a reserve who played key roles in their title run. All of this adds up to a team that has a higher ceiling on offense, is less reliant on its superstars and can throw lots of different looks at opponents in the playoffs.
And on Wednesday, Los Angeles extended the reigning, four-time Finals MVP. Not bad. It should probably retain that other free agent, though.
Last season: 43-30, 14th in offense, 8th in defense
In: Danny Green (trade), Seth Curry (trade), Tyrese Maxey (drafted No. 21), Dwight Howard (one year, $2.6 million), Tony Bradley (trade), Terrance Ferguson (trade)
Out: Al Horford (trade), Josh Richardson (trade), Raul Neto (FA), Zhaire Smith (trade), rights to Vastlije Micic (trade), 2025 first-round pick (top-six protected)
Coaching change: Hello, Doc Rivers; goodbye, Brett Brown
SportsLine projection: 44.0 wins
It’s unclear that Philadelphia got the best player in either of its two major trades, and yet it appears much improved as a team. New general manager Daryl Morey quickly simplified things for the new coach and the returning All-Stars, and might have set the Sixers up to be among the elite on both ends. He also gave his front office much more financial flexibility in the coming years.
Philly picked up a solid backup center at the right price, too, and it might have found a steal with the No. 21 pick: a 19-year-old guard who defends like crazy and, in time, could be a dynamic offensive player on and off the ball.
Portland Trail Blazers
Last season: 35-39, 3rd in offense, 27th in defense
In: Robert Covington (trade), Derrick Jones Jr. (two years, $19 million, player option), Harry Giles (one year, $1.6 million), Enes Kanter (trade)
Out: Trevor Ariza (trade), Hassan Whiteside (FA), Mario Hezonja (trade)
Sticking around: Rodney Hood (two years, $19 million), Carmelo Anthony (one year, $2.6 million)
SportsLine projection: 38.7 wins
It cost Portland a first-round pick to upgrade from a 35-year-old 3-and-D guy to a 29-year-old 3-and-D guy, an absolute bargain because the younger one is precisely what it needed: a high-level team defender, high-volume 3-point shooter and, as he showed in his last stint, a legitimate shot blocker.
This is a team that could have done nothing and improved simply by virtue of avoiding devastating injuries. It has positioned itself to compete for home-court advantage in the playoffs, though, because it is so much deeper and more balanced than it has been in recent seasons, including the one in which it went to the conference finals.
Last season: 20-47, 25th in offense, 28th in defense
In: Bogdan Bogdadnovic (four years, $72 million), Danilo Gallinari (three years, $61.5 million, final year partially guaranteed), Kris Dunn (two years, $9.8 million), Rajon Rondo (two years, $15 million), Onyeka Okongwu (drafted No. 6), Tony Snell (trade)
Out: Jeff Teague (FA), De’Andre Bembry (FA), Dewayne Dedmon (trade), Vince Carter (retired)
SportsLine projection: 34.2 wins
Atlanta was the NBA’s busiest team in free agency, and it is coming for a playoff spot. Its All-Star point guard now has all sorts of help: a backcourt partner who can both shoot and create, a crafty veteran forward overqualified for his sixth-man role, a 34-year-old backup who can keep things organized and a 26-year-old combo guard who reinvented himself as one of the best ballhawks in the game. The front office might have also nabbed the best big man in the draft.
This team acquired two of the best players available in free agency, and it unequivocally did what it set out to do. It might, however, have done too much. Maybe the 26-year-old ballhawk could have played point with the second unit, rendering the two-year deal for the 34-year-old Rondo unnecessary. Maybe the presence of the crafty veteran forward will hamper the development of the two forwards that the Hawks drafted in the top 10 a year ago. Such an aggressive series of signings signals that development is no longer the top priority.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Last season: 44-28, 17th in offense, 7th in defense
In: Aleksej Pokuseveski (drafted No. 17), Theo Maledon (drafted No. 34), Al Horford (trade), George Hill (trade), Trevor Ariza (trade), Kenrich Williams (trade), Ty Jerome (trade), T.J. Leaf (trade), a ton of picks
Out: Chris Paul (trade), Danilo Gallinari (sign-and-trade), Steven Adams (trade), Dennis Schroder (trade), Nerlens Noel (FA), Terrance Ferguson (trade)
Coaching change: Hello, Mark Daigneault; goodbye, Billy Donovan
SportsLine projection: 27.2 wins
There might not be a team in NBA history that has had an offseason quite like this. Even if you are repulsed by the idea of tanking, you must acknowledge the Thunder’s total commitment to taking the long view. They traded up in the draft to get an 18-year-old out of the Greek second division who stands 7 feet tall, weighs about 200 pounds and has point guard skills. They have made it clear they are willing to move any veteran who has any trade value for draft picks. There is some serious short-term pain ahead, but the payoff at the end of this path can be monumental.
Last season: 34-39, 12th in offense, 17th in defense
In: Chris Paul (trade), Jae Crowder (three years, $29.2 million), Langston Galloway (one year, $3.6 million), E’Twaun Moore (two years, $2.3 million), Jaylen Smith (drafted No. 10)
Out: Kelly Oubre (trade), Ricky Rubio (trade), Aron Baynes (FA), Ty Jerome (trade), 2022 first-round pick (top-12 protected), Frank Kaminsky (FA), Cheick Diallo (FA),
Sticking around: Dario Saric (three years, $27 million), Jevon Carter (three years, $11.5 million)
SportsLine projection: 38.2 wins
A future Hall of Famer saw enough in the bubble to want to go to Phoenix, and the front office saw enough in the bubble to trade for a 35-year-old point guard and go all-in. The Suns then used its midlevel exception on a two-way stretch 4, used its biannual exception on a combo guard coming off a career year, added another rotation-caliber guard for the minimum and re-signed two of its own free agents to reasonable contracts. As a result, a postseason berth is likely, as long as the former No. 1 pick in the middle continues to grow.
All in all, an undeniably successful offseason, even if you’re skeptical that their draft-night reach will work out as well as last year’s did.
Los Angeles Clippers
Last season: 49-23, 2nd in offense, 5th in defense
In: Serge Ibaka (two years, $19 million), Luke Kennard (trade)
Out: Montrezl Harrell (FA), JaMychal Green (FA), Landry Shamet (trade), Joakim Noah (retired)
Sticking around: Marcus Morris (four years, $64 million), Reggie Jackson (one year, $1.6 million), Patrick Patterson (one year, $3 million)
Coaching change: Hello, Tyronn Lue; goodbye, Doc Rivers
SportsLine projection: 48.5 wins
The Clippers used their mid-level exception on a center who is not a star himself, but makes their stars harder to guard. They have more spacing and defensive versatility now, and, while they haven’t acquired another lead ball-handler, they picked up a 24-year-old shooting guard who can make plays, hit 3s and give the offense a bit more juice.
Detroit reportedly had to send them four second-round picks to compensate for his history of knee issues, though. And while they re-signed the free agent they needed to re-sign, the price was pretty steep. This is an elite team as it stands, but doesn’t it seem like it has more moves to make?
Last season: 35-37, 21st (T) in offense, 10th (T) in defense
In: Landry Shamet (trade), Bruce Brown (trade), Jeff Green (FA)
Out: Garrett Temple (FA)
Sticking around: Joe Harris (four years, $72 million), Chris Chiozza (one year, $1.6 million, non-guaranteed), Tyler Johnson (one year, $2 million)
Coaching change: Hello, Steve Nash; sort of goodbye, Jacque Vaughn (Vaughn will stay as an assistant coach)
SportsLine projection: 44.8 wins
Unlike the offseason that preceded this one, Brooklyn didn’t make any of the franchise-changing moves that were rumored. Instead, it made several small moves that should benefit its franchise players. The Nets paid an eye-catching but not exorbitant price to retain one of the league’s best role players, and they traded the No. 19 pick for a 23-year-old sharpshooter, stole a 24-year-old stopper and (finally) signed a stretch big. This roster is dangerous, provided that the aforementioned franchise players can stay healthy.
There’s still an abundance of playmaking and an unusual center situation, though. Brooklyn’s rookie coach never used to have much trouble threading the needle, but managing the rotation will require a different kind of touch.
Last season: 34-39, 21st (T) in offense, 14th in defense
In: Desmond Bane (drafted No. 30), Xavier Tillman (drafted No. 35) Out: Josh Jackson (FA)
Sticking around: De’Anthony Melton (four years, $34.6 million, partially guaranteed final year), John Konchar (four years, $9 million, partially guaranteed third year, non-guaranteed final year), Jontay Porter (three years, $6 million, partially guaranteed third year, non-guaranteed fourth year)
SportsLine projection: 38.8 wins
If you judge Memphis’ offseason by how much talent it added, it will not look particularly impressive, since Justise Winslow, acquired back in February, will essentially act as its marquee addition. If you judge it by how many more games it wins this coming season, it might not fare any better, since so many other Western Conference teams have improved. But there aren’t many teams who made more sensible decisions.
Ask your nerdiest friends about the incredibly smart and strong dudes the Grizzlies drafted and the per-minute production of the dudes they re-signed.
Last season: 43-32, 1st in offense, 18th in defense
In: Josh Richardson (trade), James Johnson (trade), Wes Iwundu (two years, $3.4 million) (Josh Green (drafted No. 18), Tyrell Terry (drafted No. 31)
Out: Seth Curry (trade), Delon Wright (trade)
Sticking around: Trey Burke (three years, $10 million), Willie Cauley-Stein (two years, $8 million, team option), J.J. Barea (one year, $2.6 million)
SportsLine projection: 40.9 wins
If Dallas’ draft-night trade with Philadelphia had happened more recently, its offseason would have felt more eventful. It sacrificed some shooting with that transaction, but improved in terms of defense and versatility. This was the overall theme of the Mavericks’ moves, and they also managed to clear some cap space next summer.
SportsLine forecasts a slight dip in win percentage, but that’s more about the Western Conference competition (and, to a lesser extent, the injury to its second-best player) than anything the front office did.
Last season: 44-29, 7th (T) in offense, 12th (T) in defense
In: Moe Harkless (one year, $3.6 million), Avery Bradley (two years, $11.6 million, team option), Precious Achiuwa (drafted No. 20)
Out: Jae Crowder (FA), Derrick Jones Jr. (FA)
Sticking around: Bam Adebayo (five-year, $163 million-plus extension), Goran Dragic (two years, $37.4 million, team option), Meyers Leonard (two years, $20 million, team option), Udonis Haslem (one year, $2.6 million)
SportsLine projection: 41.8 wins
Miami extended one of its cornerstones and signed a bunch of creative deals that could help the front office go star-hunting. In the short term, it is a bit less stretchy at the 4 spot, but it is much more capable of containing star point guards on the perimeter. And the core parts of last year’s team are all coming back.
It’s too early to know whether the Heat’s decision to save their money for later — not the normal strategy for a Finals team — was the best call they could have made. They deserve credit, though, for doing that without getting demonstrably worse.
Last season: 53-19, 13th in offense, 2nd in defense
In: Aron Baynes (two years, $13.4 million, second year non-guaranteed), Alex Len (one year, $2.3 million), Malachi Flynn (drafted No. 29), DeAndre’ Bembry (two years, $3.7 million, second year non-guaranteed)
Out: Marc Gasol (FA), Serge Ibaka (FA), Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (FA)
Sticking around: Fred VanVleet (four years, $85 million), Chris Boucher (two years, $13.5 million, second year non-guaranteed)
SportsLine projection: 44.2 wins
Toronto accomplished its main objective when it re-signed a 26-year-old guard who had to earn a roster spot in training camp four years ago, one of the top free agents on the market. It couldn’t re-sign either of its veteran centers, though, but pivoted as well as it could have hoped when they both joined teams based in Los Angeles.
The Raptors will be based in Tampa Bay for the time being, which, along with the center situation, explains SportsLine projecting a bit of a dip. No team will have a normal home-court advantage at the start of the season, but Toronto the only one that has been temporarily relocated. This team will need more of its trademark resilience.
Last season: 44-28, 6th in offense, 15th in defense
In: Christian Wood (three years, $41 million), Sterling Brown (one year, $1.7 million), DeMarcus Cousins (one year, $2.3 million, non-guaranteed)
Out: Robert Covington (trade), Austin Rivers (FA), Jeff Green (FA)
Sticking around: Bruno Caboclo (one year, $2 million, partially guaranteed)
Coaching change: Hello, Stephen Silas; goodbye, Mike D’Antoni
SportsLine projection: 33.7 wins
Houston got a first-round pick to swap one unhappy point guard for another, and it got another one to move another central figure of its short-lived revolution. These moves could be seen as the start of a teardown, but for now the Rockets insist they want to stay beardy and competitive.
Regardless of where they go from here, they made one of the offseason’s best moves, acquiring a 25-year-old big man who can do a little bit of everything. I have no idea what to expect from the improbable Kentucky reunion, given the massive health questions, but, for as much has changed within the organization, the front office is still taking some big swings.
Last season: 44-28, 9th in offense, 12th (T) in defense
In: Derrick Favors (three years, $27 million), Udoka Azubuike (drafted No. 27)
Out: Ed Davis (trade)
Sticking around: Donovan Mitchell (five-year, $163 million-plus extension, player option), Jordan Clarkson (four years, $52 million)
SportsLine projection: 39.9 wins
The Jazz extended their star guard, but lost the negotiation. They retained their sixth man, but lost that negotiation, too. They brought back the big man they’d let go a year earlier, drafted a mountain of a man and are basically betting that they can be a more consistent, more balanced version of the team they were last season.
It is fair to question whether or not they allocated their resources wisely. Their defense shouldn’t fall apart when their two-time DPOY goes to the bench, though, and that’s a big deal. They should be healthier than they were the last time you saw them, too.
San Antonio Spurs
Last season: 32-39, 10th (T) in offense, 24th in defense
In: Devin Vassell (drafted No. 11)
Out: Bryn Forbes (FA), Marco Belinelli (FA)
Sticking around: Jakob Poeltl (three years, $27 million), Drew Eubanks (three years, $5.3 million, second year partially guaranteed, final year non-guaranteed)
SportsLine projection: 31.4 wins
A Spurs-y 3-and-D wing fell to them in the draft, and they retained two young bigs on team-friendly deals. This is enough to make it a good offseason, but fundamentally they’re still occupying the weird middle ground where they’ve lived for the past few seasons.
Sometimes, the most important offseason moves are the ones that aren’t made. In San Antonio’s case, its four medium-to-high-priced vets on expiring contracts are all returning. This organization almost never makes in-season trades, but that could change this year.
New Orleans Pelicans
Last season: 30-42, 15th in offense, 21st in defense
In: Steven Adams (trade, with two-year, $35 million extension), Eric Bledsoe (trade), Kira Lewis (drafted No. 13), a bunch of first-round picks and pick swaps
Out: Jrue Holiday (trade), Kenrich Williams (trade), Derrick Favors (FA), E’Twaun Moore (FA), Jahlil Okafor (FA)
Sticking around: Brandon Ingram (five-year, $158 million contract extension)
Coaching change: Hello, Stan Van Gundy; goodbye, Alvin Gentry
SportsLine projection: 37.6 wins
If you’re not a contender, then trading a 30-year-old guard for three first-round picks and two swaps is a massive victory. New Orleans also managed to extend its 23-year-old All-Star without surrendering a player option. Good stuff all around.
The decision to trade for a 27-year-old center and extend his contract for two seasons, however, is worth examining. He will fortify the Pelicans’ defense, to the delight of their new coach, who has said this will be their focus. Their lead executive has already raved about his competitiveness, a quality they lacked in the bubble. It is a hefty price to pay for a non-star center, though, and they’ve sacrificed flexibility so they can fight for a playoff spot that is far from guaranteed.
Last season: 56-17, 7th (T) in offense, 1st in defense
In: Jrue Holiday (trade), D.J. Augustin (three years, $21 million, non-guaranteed final season), Torrey Craig (one year, $1.7 million), Bryn Forbes (two years, $4.8 million, player option), Bobby Portis (two years, $7.4 million, player option)
Out: Eric Bledsoe (trade), George Hill (trade), Wesley Matthews (FA), three first-round picks and two pick swaps, Sterling Brown (FA), Marvin Williams (retired), Ersan Ilyasova (FA), Kyle Korver (FA), Robin Lopez (FA)
Sticking around: Pat Connaughton (three years, $16 million)
SportsLine projection: 49.1 wins
Milwaukee paid a premium to upgrade its backcourt, and it seemed like everything was coming together for a moment. Then one of its two reported deals fell apart, and the front office stumbled into a deal that paid a backup shooting guard way more than last year’s starter got from the Lakers.
This team has added some guys who can run a pick-and-roll, plus a versatile defensive wing on a minimum contract. It will be a while before we know how much better they are in a playoff setting, but we’ll find out soon if this is enough to convince the back-to-back MVP to extend his contract.
Last season: 48-24, 4th in offense, 4th in defense
In: Tristan Thompson (two years, $19 million), Jeff Teague (one year), Aaron Nesmith (drafted No. 14), Payton Pritchard (drafted No. 26)
Out: Gordon Hayward (sign-and-trade), Brad Wanamaker (FA), Enes Kanter (trade)
Sticking around: Jayson Tatum (five-year, $163 million-plus extension, player option)
SportsLine projection: 48.5 wins
Nothing about this went perfectly. Boston agreed to the most player-friendly rookie extension possible, and it had to give up a couple of second-round picks to turn a free-agent departure into a massive trade exception. It added a tough center with its mid-level exception, and it signed a good backup point guard who can start in a pinch if the All-Star at his position isn’t healthy, but it will be relying on internal improvement to make up for what it lost.
Don’t forget that trade exception, though. If the front office uses that to add a difference-maker, then this offseason will look drastically different.
Last season: 46-27, 5th in offense, 16th in defense
In: JaMychal Green (two years, $15 million), Facundo Campazzo (two years, $6 million), Isaiah Hartenstein (two years, $3.4 million, player option), Zeke Nnaji (drafted No. 22), R.J. Hampton (drafted No. 24)
Out: Jerami Grant (FA), Mason Plumlee (FA), Torrey Craig (FA)
Sticking around: Paul Millsap (one year, $10 million), Bol Bol (two years, $4.2 million)
SportsLine projection: 42.8 wins
The Nuggets knew they couldn’t bring back all three of their frontcourt free agents, but they didn’t think the offseason would play out like this. They’ll enter the season a less versatile team defensively than they were in the bubble, and they might need to make a midseason trade to avoid paying for that in the playoffs.
The news isn’t all bad, though. There’s a captivating new guard from Argentina in the picture, plus a backup big who will allow Denver to play five-out with the second unit. And there is an opportunity for a talented 22-year-old to break out.
Last season: 22-43
In: Patrick Williams (drafted No. 4), Noah Vonleh (one-year, $1.6 million, non-guaranteed)
Out: Kris Dunn (FA), Shaq Harrison (FA)
Sticking around: Denzel Valentine (signed $4.7 million qualifying offer)
Coaching change: Hello, Billy Donovan; goodbye, Jim Boylen
SportsLine projection: 32.0 wins
Chicago’s new front office elected to stay quiet. It used the No. 4 pick on a 6-foot-8 forward with huge hands and a world of upside, signed a pro’s pro who will be a stabilizing force and … that’s about it. Two defensive-minded guards from last year’s roster are gone, and a versatile big man who played 21 games for the Bulls in 2018 is back on a non-guaranteed deal. And this seems fine.
SportsLine projects Chicago to take a step forward, mostly because it assumes the team won’t be as injury-ravaged as it was last season. There is also the potential for a coaching bump — if the new staff fixes the offense, then the Bulls’ 2019 signings will look much better this time around.
Last season: 19-46, 26th in offense, 30th in defense
In: Isaac Okoro (drafted No. 5), JaVale McGee (trade), Damyean Dotson (two years, $4 million, non-guaranteed second year)
Out: Tristan Thompson (FA)
Sticking around: Matthew Dellavedova (one year, $2.2 million)
SportsLine projection: 18.3 wins
Cleveland drafted a wing defender who could eventually be much, much more than that. It signed a 26-year-old shooter on the cheap and grabbed a second-round pick to help the defending champions clear salary. Sensible!
The roster remains a bit of a mishmash, and the defense will likely remain dreadful, but this situation is a result of prior moves, not the ones made this offseason.
Last season: 45-28, 18th (T) in offense, 6th in defense
In: Jalen Lecque (trade)
Out: T.J. Leaf (trade)
Sticking around: Justin Holiday (three years, $18 million), JaKarr Sampson (one year, $1.9 million)
Coaching change: Hello, Nate Bjorkgren; goodbye, Nate McMillan
SportsLine projection: 39.3 wins
Indiana did a nice bit of business to keep two Holiday brothers together, but, beyond firing and hiring coaches named Nate, there isn’t much to talk about. The Pacers still have their two centers, and they still have the former All-Star who is sort of denying that he wants out.
As boring as this may seem, I’m genuinely curious to see how this group looks in a new system and at full health.
New York Knicks
Last season: 21-45, 27th (T) in offense, 23rd in defense
In: Obi Toppin (drafted No. 8), Alec Burks (one year, $6 million), Nerlens Noel (one year, $5 million), Austin Rivers (three years, $10 million, non-guaranteed second and third seasons), four second-round picks, Immanuel Quickley (drafted No. 25), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (one year, $1.6 million, non-guaranteed)
Out: Moe Harkless (FA), Wayne Ellington (FA), Bobby Portis (FA), Taj Gibson (FA), Damyaen Dotson (FA), Allonzo Trier (FA)
Sticking around: Elfrid Payton (one year, $5 million)
Coaching change: Hello, Tom Thibodeau; goodbye, Mike Miller
SportsLine projection: 19.3 wins
Acquiring and then trading Ed Davis netted the Knicks three second-round picks. There was some smart maneuvering on draft night, too, and a notable absence of any reckless deals in free agency. Their collection of short-term contracts was reminiscent of the previous offseason, but this one was better: New York can likely move some of these guys for more stuff, and some analysts believe it drafted a potential star.
Most of the on-court problems from last season, however, haven’t gone anywhere. If you were hoping the ball-dominant, poor-shooting wing the Knicks picked No. 3 in 2019 would be surrounded by teammates who can space the floor and don’t need the ball, then you did not get your wish.
Last season: 19-45, 24th in offense, 20th in defense
In: Ricky Rubio (trade), Anthony Edwards (drafted No. 1), Leandro Bolmaro (drafted No. 23, stashed with FC Barcelona this season), Jaden McDaniels (drafted No. 28), Ed Davis (trade), Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (one year, $1.9 million, non-guaranteed)
Out: James Johnson (trade), Omari Spellman (trade), Jacob Evans (trade)
Sticking around: Malik Beasley (four years, $60 million), Juancho Hernangomez (three years, $21 million)
SportsLine projection: 23.1 wins
Minnesota wasn’t exactly bereft of score-first young players, but it added another one with the top pick in the draft. He’s a positional fit, though, and if the coaching staff can coax a more efficient approach out of him, this team could be tough to stop. This is particularly because it retained the two guys it acquired from Denver in February.
There was an effort to address the roster’s defensive deficiencies: the reunion with a beloved point guard, and the addition of two hard-nosed role players that teamed with D’Angelo Russell a couple of years ago. But the front office is making a huge bet that this rookie can team with Russell and its 25-year-old franchise player to form a viable Big 3.
Golden State Warriors
Last season: 15-50, 30th in offense, 26th in defense
In: Kelly Oubre (trade), James Wiseman (drafted No. 2), Brad Wanamaker (one year, $2.3 million), Kent Bazemore (one year, $2.3 million)
Out: 2021 first-round pick (top-20 protected)
SportsLine projection: 33.4 wins
No team is projected to improve more, according to SportsLine, but that’s mostly because they were terrible last season. This offseason was supposed to be about putting three stars in their early 30s in a position to compete for their fourth championship together, but that became impossible when one of them — Klay Thompson — tore his Achilles the same day as the 2020 NBA Draft. Hours later, Golden State used the No. 2 pick on an enormous 19-year-old center with tantalizing upside and a lot to learn. Some helpful rotation pieces followed, most notably a versatile 24-year-old forward who cost them a first-round pick and is on an expiring contract.
If the two-time MVP and the former Defensive Player of the Year on the roster stay healthy and perform at an elite level, maybe this team can outperform preseason projections. Ultimately, though, the front office will be judged on what becomes of the rookie who will likely begin his career playing behind Kevon Looney.
Last season: 31-41, 18th (T) in offense, 19th in defense
In: Tyrese Hailburton (drafted No. 12), Glenn Robinson III (one year, $1.6 million), Hassan Whiteside (one year, $1.6 million), Frank Kaminsky (one year, $1.6 million)
Out: Bogdan Bogdanovic (FA), Kent Bazemore (FA), Harry Giles (FA), Alex Len (FA)
SportsLine projection: 33.3 wins
The Kings might have hit a home run in the draft, and that might turn out to be the only thing that really matters about this offseason. They can’t be amped about one of their best players walking for nothing, though, and it’s hard to discern what their offseason goals were. The fact that their reportedly disgruntled shooting guard and their 32-year-old stretch big are both still on the roster is somewhat surprising.
Last season: 25-47, 16th in offense, 29th in defense
In: Russell Westbrook (trade), Deni Avidja (drafted No. 9), Robin Lopez (one year, $7.3 million), Raul Neto (one year, $1.6 million)
Out: John Wall (trade), Ian Mahinmi (FA)
Sticking around: Davis Bertans (four years, $80 million)
SportsLine projection: 30.9 wins
Wednesday night marked the end of an era. Washington traded the bloated contract of its former franchise player for another bloated contract, surrendering a protected first-round pick in the process. The hope is that the new guy, who plays the same position, will mesh well with its other star guard and show the world that he’s much better than he appeared to be when he was trying to play through an injury. The other team involved in the transaction is hoping for the exact same thing from its new guy.
It’s a risky move because the Wizards’ current franchise player might not want to spend the rest of his prime with them. There’s some real scoring punch on this team, but the veteran rim protector they signed can’t fix this defense by himself.
Last season: 23-42, 27th (T) in offense, 25th in defense
In: Gordon Hayward (four years, $120 million), LaMelo Ball (drafted No. 3)
Out: Nicolas Batum (waived), Dwayne Bacon (FA)
Sticking around: Bismack Biyombo (one year, $3.5 million)
SportsLine projection: 24.5 wins
There is a logic to the most stunning contract of free agency: The Hornets have put together a respectable starting five, giving the No. 3 pick some real structure as he adjusts from the NBL to the NBA. Most rebuilding teams, however, would not pay $120 million for that.
Charlotte has some stuff to figure out with its guard rotation, and its chances of competing for a playoff spot largely depend on its 19-year-old lead playmaker. If he and everybody’s least favorite free-agent acquisition bring the best out of the young forwards on the roster, this team could turn out to be pretty competitive — and a League Pass favorite. The cost of this, though, is more than that dollar figure: Pretty competitive is another way of saying just good enough to not get a high pick in next year’s draft.
Last season: 33-40, 23rd in offense, 10th (T) in defense
In: Cole Anthony (drafted No. 15), Chuma Okeke (drafted No. 16 in 2019, missed season with torn ACL), Dwayne Bacon (two years, $3.5 million, non-guaranteed second year)
Out: D.J. Augustin (FA)
Sticking around: Michael Carter Williams (two years, $6.6 million), James Ennis (one year, $3.3 million) Gary Clark (two years, $4.1 million)
SportsLine projection: 32.0 wins
Orlando’s most promising player tore his ACL in the bubble, and some organizations would have taken this opportunity to have a gap year: Move all the vets, bottom out and add another core player in a stacked draft.
This is not what the Magic did. They’ll probably be a bit worse offensively with a 20-year-old rookie in the spot that was previously occupied by a 33-year-old floor general, but they’ll be disciplined, get stops and, health permitting, be in the mix for a lower-rung playoff spot. Excited?
Last season: 20-46, 20th in offense, 22nd in defense
In: Jerami Grant (three years, $60 million), Killian Hayes (drafted No. 7), Isaiah Stewart (drafted No. 16), Saddiq Bey (drafted No. 19), Delon Wright (trade), Mason Plumlee (three years, $25 million), Josh Jackson (three years, TK), Jahlil Okafor (two years, $3.2 million) Wayne Ellington (one year, $1.6 million), Rodney McGruder (trade), Dzanan Musa (trade)
Out: Christian Wood (sign-and-trade), Luke Kennard (trade), Bruce Brown (trade), Tony Snell (traded)
SportsLine projection: 19.8 wins
A thoroughly confusing offseason, from the $60 million man to the Dewayne Dedmon waive-and-stretch and the second-round picks sent to the Clippers. The three best young players from last season’s roster are gone, and in the short term Detroit’s roster is a hodgepodge of vets, rookies and a few notable players in their mid-20s.
This rebuild is clearly a work in progress, and the roster will likely look different by the trade deadline. It is difficult, however, to justify the price the Pistons paid for the two free agents who came off the bench in Denver last season.