NBA Offseason Grades

Kevin Love and LeBron James

Kevin Love and LeBron James

Now that Kevin Love finally completed his move to Cleveland, I can focus on writing basketball now. Apologies for the lack of articles this summer, but it’s time to take a step back and look at which teams seriously improved their titles chances for next year, which teams are stuck in neutral, and which teams just don’t have a chance. Each team is given a Grade, summary of player Additions and Departures, and a short Insight into the future season. The insight portion is limited to a few talking points because a more thorough preview of teams will be coming out once the season is closer.  Without further ado, your 2014 NBA Offseason grades. The Eastern Conference will be done in Part 1; with Part 2 coming soon featuring the Western Conference.

Atlantic Division

Toronto Raptors

-Grade: B+

-Additions: F Bruno Caboclo (Draft), F James Johnson (2-Yr Deal), G Lou Williams (from Atlanta), C Lucas Nogiera (Atlanta)

-Departures: G John Salmons (traded to Atlanta), F Steve Novak (traded to Utah), G Nando de Colo (joined Russian league), C Joey Dorsey (signed with Houston)

-Insight: There is a lot of hype around the Toronto area. Especially after this amazingly, awesome video came out with Masai Ujiri getting fans ready for their first round playoff series against Brooklyn last spring. They have a great young core comprised of DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, Patrick Patterson, and Terrence Ross. Look out for this team sliding into the East’s top four seeds this upcoming season.

Brooklyn Nets

-Grade: C

-Additions: Coach Lionel Hollins (ex-Memphis Grizzlies coach), G Jarrett Jack (from Cleveland), G Sergey Karasev (from Cleveland), NO DRAFT PICKS

-Departures: Coach Jason Kidd (to Milwaukee), G Marcus Thornton (to Boston), F Paul Pierce (to Washington), G Shaun Livingston (to Golden State)

-Insight: I think we all knew after Jason Kidd “dropped a cup of water on the court” to buy an extra timeout, that things weren’t right in Brooklyn. Kidd is out and Hollins is in. Not a bad replacement at all considering the work Hollins did to put Memphis back on the map. The core team is still there; Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez, and Kevin Garnett, but what hurts this team every year is injuries. If they stay healthy, they can pose a serious threat to top-tier Eastern Conference teams. Even if they limp into the playoffs at say a 6 or 7 seed, if you’re Chicago or Cleveland (The clear top 2 teams in the East), do you want to play a team full of experienced veterans in the first round? No thank you.

New York Knicks

-Grade: B+

-Additions: Coach Derek Fisher, G Jose Caulderon (from Dallas), C Samuel Dalembert (from Dallas), G Shane Larkin (from Dallas), F Cleanthony Early (Draft), G Thanasis Antetohounmpo (Draft), C Jason Smith (1-Yr Deal).

-Departures: No one.

-Insight: Phil Jackson has been busy in his first offseason in New York. Carmelo Anthony was inked to a new five-year, $124 million deal and suddenly the Knicks are back in business…or not. As of right now, Amare Stoudemire, Andrea Bargnani, Dalembert, Smith, Travis Outlaw, Metta World Peace, and Cole Adrich all have contracts expiring after the upcoming season. New York only has $39 million in salary coming into the 2015/16 season, which means the Knicks are priming themselves for a run at the big free agents a year from now with all that cap flexibility. Fun fact: Amare Stoudemire’s contract ($23,410,988) is worth more than Iman Shumpert, Jose Caulderon, J.R. Smith, and Samuel Delembert’s contracts combined ($19,700,000)…he’s making more than Carmelo Anthony ($22,458,401) this season for god’s sake! As Jalen Rose puts it, “Keep gettin’ them checks, Amare”.

Boston Celtics

-Grade: B+

-Additions: G Marcus Smart (Draft), G James Young (Draft), F Evan Turner (2-Yr Deal), G Marcus Thornton (from Brooklyn), and C Tyler Zeller (from Cleveland)

-Departures: F Kris Humphries (sign/trade with Washington), G Jerryd Bayless (to Milwaukee)

-Insight: Not mentioned here is also the new 4-year, $32 million deal given to Avery Bradley. One thing is for sure, the Celtics have a lot of guards. Between Rajon Rondo, Smart, Young, and Bradley, Brad Stevens is going to have an extremely athletic group of players to find minutes for.

Philadelphia Sixers

-Grade: B

-Additions: G Alexey Shved (from the Love trade), F Luc Mbah a Moute (from the Love trade), C Hasheem Thabeet (from Oklahoma City), C Joel Embiid (Draft), F KJ McDaniels (Draft), F Jerami Grant (Draft), Vasilije Micic (Draft)

-Departures: F Thaddeus Young (to Minnesota)

-Insight: Like the Celtics, this is another team that is young and promising. Nerlens Noel will finally get his debut and drafting Embiid showed Philly’s patience with bigs and injuries. Unfortunately also like the Celtics, they shouldn’t have their aspirations set too high, it’s going to be another long season in Philly.

Central Division:

Indiana Pacers

­-Grade: C-

-Additions: G C.J. Miles (from Cleveland), G Rodney Stuckey (from Detroit), F Damjan Rudez (from Spanish International League)

-Departures: G Lance Stephenson (to Charlotte), F Evan Turner (to Boston), G Paul George (to Injury)

-Insight: This team took a hit when it failed to resign Lance Stephenson. This team took an even bigger hit with the loss of Paul George. It’s hard to put my finger on this team because they just don’t have the guards to compete night in and night out. Although I do think that having David West and Roy Hibbert will provide some stability during the season. Regardless, this team can’t get through this season fast enough.

Chicago Bulls:

-Grade: A-

-Additions: F Pau Gasol (from LA Lakers), F Nikola Mirotic (from Spanish International League), F Doug McBuckets (Draft), C Cameron Bairstow (Draft), G Aaron Brooks (from Denver)

-Departures: F Carlos Boozer (amnestied to LA Lakers)

-Insight: If you were to ask me right now who my pick is to come out of the East, it’s the Bulls. If Derrick Rose stays healthy, you’re looking at an extremely dangerous team and quite frankly, they are Cleveland’s biggest problem. How will the Cavs matchup against the Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah AND newly acquired Pau Gasol? Then you throw in Jimmy Butler, Kirk Hinrich, Doug McBuckets, Taj Gibson, and Mike Dunleavy, on top of having one of the best coaches in the league (Tom Thibodeau), and suddenly Cleveland has something to worry about. I can’t wait to see these two teams play each other. Mark your calendar for October 31st at 7:00 PM on ESPN.

Cleveland Cavaliers

-Grade: A+

-Additions: F LeBron James (from Miami), F Kevin Love (from Minnesota), F Mike Miller (from Memphis), F James Jones (from Miami), C Brendan Haywood (from Charlotte), F Derrick Powell (from Charlotte), G John Lucas III (from Utah)

-Departures: G Andrew Wiggins (Drafted and traded in Love trade), F Sergey Karasev (to Brooklyn), C Tyler Zeller (to Boston), G Jarrett Jack (to Brooklyn), G Carrick Felix (to Utah), F Alonso Gee (to Charlotte), C Spencer Hawes (to LA Clippers)

-Insight: Make sure you re-read the first two additions for Cleveland. You get the idea. More on this team to come in later pieces.

Detroit Pistons

-Grade: C+

-Additions: Coach Stan Van Gundy, G Jodie Meeks (from LA Lakers), G DJ Augustin (from Chicago), F Caron Butler (from Oklahoma City), C Aaron Gray (from Sacramento), G Spencer Dinwiddie (Draft)

-Departures: G Rodney Stuckey (to Indiana), G Chauncey Billups (not re-signed)

-Insight: This team was one of the biggest disappointments this past season, but the signing of head coach Stan Van Gundy will give them some structure and direction moving forward. Andre Drummond is coming off a 13.5 PPG and 13.2 RPG season, but what hurt this team was the play of Josh Smith (14.1 PER – his lowest of his career) and Brandon Jennings (15.6 PER – worst since his rookie season).

Milwaukee Bucks

-Grade: B

-Additions: Coach Jason Kidd (from Brooklyn), F Jabari Parker (Draft), F Damien Inglis (Draft), F Johnny O’Bryant (Draft), G Jerryd Bayless (from Boston), G Kendall Marshall (from LA Lakers)

-Departures: None

-Insight: Parker is the key to this team, which is a lot to ask of a first-year rookie. During the summer league he showed flashes of pure brilliance though. Check out this video. My favorite part is at the 39 second mark.

Southeast Division

Miami Heat

-Grade: A-

-Additions: F Luol Deng (from Cleveland), F Josh McRoberts (from Charlotte), F Danny Granger (from LA Clippers, G Shbazz Napier (Draft)

-Departures: F LeBron James (to Cleveland), F James Jones (to Cleveland), F Shane Battier (retired)

-Insight: Look. Anytime you lose the league’s best player, you’re going to lose a couple more games than the previous season. I do like how Miami responded to his departure. Wade is aging and will become the Manu Ginobili of this team, but the addition of Luol Deng will help the newly maxed out Chris Bosh whether the storm in Miami. Miami may not be in the top 1 or 2 in the East, but I do like this team to make a run in the playoffs. Again, more in depth previews to come.

Washington Wizards

-Grade: B

-Additions: F Paul Pierce (from Brooklyn), F Kris Humphries (from Boston), F DeJuan Blair (from Dallas)

-Departures: F Trevor Ariza (to Houston), F Trevor Booker (to Utah)

-Insight: The biggest move this team made was the new deal they gave to Marcin Gortat. He’s locked up for five years to the tune of $60 million. The downside to this is that they failed to resign Trevor Ariza; a vital component of their core players. Having a veteran presence in Paul Pierce will definitely help the locker room and the guard play of John Wall and Bradley Beal will have this team contending in the Eastern Conference.

Charlotte Hornets

-Grade: A-

-Additions: G Lance Stephenson (from Indiana), G Brian Roberts (from New Orleans), F Marvin Williams (From Utah), C Noah Vonleh (Draft), G PJ Hairston (Draft)

-Departures: F Josh McRoberts (to Miami), G Ben Gordon (to Orlando), F Anthony Tolliver (to Phoenix), G Luke Ridnour (to Orlando), C Brendan Haywood (to Cleveland), F Derrick Powell (to Cleveland)

-Insight: Chandler Parsons signed with the Dallas Mavericks for close to $47 million this offseason. That is how much Charlotte spent on Stephenson, Roberts, and Williams combined (a little under $46 million). The arrival of Lance Stephenson will automatically make him one of the go-to players on offense. With the guard play of Stephenson and Kemba Walker leading this team, combined with Al Jefferson’s down-low presence, this team can make a splash in the Eastern Conference. This is an extremely young team with Cody Zeller, Noah Vonleh, Walker, Stephenson, PJ Hairston, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist all either 24 years-old or younger.

Atlanta Hawks

-Grade: F

-Additions: F Adreian Payne (Draft), C Walter Tavares (Draft), Lamar Patterson (Draft), F Thabo Sefolosha (from Oklahoma City), G Kent Bazemore (from LA Lakers)

-Departures: G Lou Williams (to Toronto), G/F John Salmons (traded from Toronto, immediately waived)

-Insight: If you haven’t heard about the recent front office issues regarding the Hawks, it’s probably a good thing you haven’t. It’s the reason why they are the only team to get an “F” grade. Soon to be ex-owner, Bruce Levenson, sent an e-mail to other members of the staff regarding the diversity of the Hawks attendance and fans. Stating, “My theory is that the black crowd scared away the whites…” For more on the story, go here. Let’s just say I don’t see many new free agents looking to punch a ticket to Atlanta anytime soon. Racial discrimination simply doesn’t have a place in today’s society. Period.

Orlando Magic

-Grade: B+

-Additions: F Aaron Gordon (Draft), G Elfrid Payton (Draft), F Roy Devyn Marble (Draft), G Evan Fournier (from Denver), F Channing Frye (from Phoenix), G Ben Gordon (from Charlotte), G Luke Ridnour (from Charlotte), G Willie Green (from LA Clippers)

-Departures: G Jameer Nelson (to Dallas), G Arron Afflalo (to Denver), G Doron Lamb (waived)

-Insight: Orlando has struggled to find its image in the Post-Dwight Howard era; going 43-121 over the past two seasons. What’s promising with this team is the young talent they now have and the cap flexibility. They’re highest paid player (Channing Frye) is getting paid $8.5 million this upcoming season. I love their young core or Victor Oladipo (All-Rookie First team and Rookie of the Year runner-up), Tobias Harris (if his ankles don’t keep nagging him), Nikola Vucevic (absolute stud on the boards), and newcomer Aaron Gordon.

That’s it for the Eastern Conference. Check back for the Western Conference next week and as always, continue to enjoy.

-Twitter: @brosephmeola

-E-Mail: senseimeola@gmail.com

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