With only a handful of free agents left on the market and with summer league over, we thought we'd take a look at how various teams did over the summer in negotiating their moves.
Atlanta HawksAdded: Joe Johnson (re-signed for eleventy billion dollars) Jordan Crawford (draft)
Lost: Josh Childress (didn't really have him anyway, but technically, they lost the rights to him in trade)
Philosophy: "Self-delusion is all the rage this summer!"
What are you going to do if you're Atlanta in six years? When Joe Johnson's crossover is no longer deadly and you're paying him $20 million? The goal, apparently, is to try and contend for a title in the next three years, hoping Al Horford and Josh Smith keep developing, Jeff Teague turns into a starter-caliber point guard, and maybe figure out some big name free agent you can sign on the cheap, like Shaq, that will put you over the top. It's not that the Hawks are a bad team. Far from it. While everyone was mocking them in the mid-00's for stockpiling forwards, they've either developed them into quality starters or raised their trade value enough to move them for pieces or cap relief. But this summer, they have only made one signature move, and that was spending way too much for Joe Johnson.
The vast number of ways in which the Johnson signing was poorly conceived is staggering. The full max, all six years? That much money? The roster had potential to really contend, but instead, the Hawks simply avoided the great collapse of losing a high usage player with low efficiency. Johnson can take over a game like few in the league. But he also simply isn't worth the money, and it's hamstrung their franchise for the future.
Charlotte BobcatsAdded: Shaun Livingston (free agency), Dominic Maguire (free agency), Matt Carroll (trade), Erick Dampier (trade), Eduardo Najera (trade)
Lost: Raymond Felton (free agency), Alexis Ajinca (trade), Tyson Chandler (trade)
Philosophy: "Slight derivatives"
Did the Bobcats get better? Did they get worse? Did they stay the same? No, those aren't rhetorical. I'm asking. Because looking at that list above, I really can't be sure. They lost an underrated point guard who worked hard but never could stick with Larry Brown. They added a recovering injury-plagued point guard who can't seem to stick with any coach. They lost a veteran seven foot center with wear and tear on him and a large contract. They brought in an aging behemoth with wear and tear issues and a big contract. And they got Dominic Maguire, so they've got that going for them.
Larry Brown and Rod Higgins have built a program of improvement through trade and have kept up with this offseason. Adding Livingston provides a high-upside, low-risk replacement for Felton and they managed to trim some long-term money off the books. But you can't look at the roster and say they've improved dramatically. Status quo for the Cats. Underrated moves that still don't move them up dramatically in the NBA world.
Added: J.J. Redick (re-signed), Chris Duhon (free agency), Quentin Richardson (free agency), Daniel Orton (draft), Stanley Robinson (draft)
Lost: Matt Barnes (free agency)
Philosophy: "The fear of losing out."
Marcin Gortat wants a bigger role. Benched. Brandon Bass wants a bigger role. Benched. J.J. Redick wanted a bigger role and more money. Offer from the Bulls matched and benched. The Magic seem to really believe in this roster, and it shows in them re-signing Redick and only addint marginal adjustments at other positions. Their draft essentially yielded them a raw, underdeveloped player who has little to no chance of getting playing time (Orton) and another wing to be buried deep. They didn't lose anyone, which means the luxury tax and the Magic are best of friends, especially after matching the $20 million offer for Redick from the Bulls.
Without any adjustments, and with how much better the East has gotten, it's hard to argue that the Magic have improved by not subtracting. Chris Duhon might be considered an upgrade over Jason Williams, but we're talking inches, not miles, and Quentin Richardson brings better three point shooting than Matt Barnes . That may be the best addition the Magic made, adding another shooter that provides an alternative reason not to play Vince Carter when he goes in a hole. But all in all, for a franchise that has spent the money to contend, they simply haven't done enough to get there.
Added: LeBron James (free agency sign-and-trade), Chris Bosh (free agency sign-and-trade), Dwyane Wade (re-signed), Mike Miller (free agency), Udonis Haslem (re-signed), Zydrunas Ilgauskas (re-signed), James Jones (re-signed), Joel Anthony (re-signed), Jamaal Magloire (re-signed), Juwan Howard (free-agency), Dexter Pittman (draft), Jarvis Varnado (draft), Da'Sean Butler (draft),
Lost: Jermaine O'Neal (free agency), Quentin Richardson (free agency), Michael Beasley (trade), Daequan Cook (trade)
Philosophy: "So, that went pretty well."
That's how you build a title contender. Any questions? The Heat managed to add all three of the top free agents this summer, fill out the roster with veteran talent that knows how to win and supports their Big 3, and did it all in a little less than fourteen days. Think about that. The Heat remade their team into a title contender in less time than it takes for your milk to go bad. It was a sweeping coup, one that has to lead people to believe it probably took much longer to orchestrate (cough*tampering*cough). What could the Heat have done better? Well, not allowing for the act to paint them as the most obnoxious triumverate in modern sports would have been nice. Other than that, it's hard to argue Pat Riley's anything but a genius. Getting Quentin Richardson would have been nice, but adding Mike Miller more than makes up for it. Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Joel Anthony gives the team some size to go along with the incredible talent they have. From when once mortals stood, now there be gods. Geez, Riley, save some for the rest of the class.
Added: John Wall (draft), Kirk Hinrich (trade), Trevor Booker (draft), Yi Jianlian (trade), Hamady N'Diaye (draft), Hilton Armstrong (free agency), Kevin Seraphin (draft)
Lost: Randy Foye (free agency), Mike Miller (free agency), Shaun Livingston (free agency)
Philosophy: "Let's see how this goes."
One thing is absolutely certain. John Wall is the future. Everything is built around Wall as the future. He is the singular sure thing. Other than that, sussing out a pattern that goes beyond "keep it flexible, stupid" is tough. The team acquired Kirk Hinrich in one of the more baffling moves we've seen. Hinrich brings a veteran defensive guard that can play on or off ball, back up Wall, and anchor the defense. But he's also an underwhelming shooter (oh, where, oh, where have you gone, 2005 shooting average?) and doesn't seem like an ideal fit next to Wall. Neither does the incumbent shooting guard, Gilbert Arenas , who you may remember from such films as "The Single Worst Offseason Meltdown in the History of the League" and "Little Blogger, Get Your Gun, Then Bring It To The Arena."
Arenas' ability to play next to Wall will decide his future in Washington. No longer is the team willing to build around him. If he can slide into an off-ball shooter that complements Wall? Terrific. Redemption abounds. Provided he stays out of trouble, of course. If he can't, he's trade bait. He may be already. The addition of Yi Jianlian seems like a "let's see what this does" kind of tinkering. The team still needs a long-term solution at small-forward, and with Andray Blatche recovering from injury, there are questions all over in the frontcourt. When you realize that JaVale McGee seems like the player best adapted to mix with John Wall, you know you've got a ways to go in the rebuilding process.
To evaluate? They failed to make any signings or trades that wow you, but they also managed to not screw up the #1 overall pick and cleaned some salary off the books for the future. Not a bad day at the office. And that's better than last year.