Believe it or not, NBA training camps and preseason games begin this week. This off-season has been a particularly active one for many teams and players. So with all moves taken into account through the date of this post, here are your off-season grades.
Atlanta Hawks: Grade B -
The key move for the Hawks this summer was re-signing star Joe Johnson. While the team overpaid for Johnson (6 years $123 million), it kept the nucleus in tact of a team in tact that has made it to the conference semis each of the last two years. Atlanta drafted Damion James in the first round this June but traded his rights to the Nets in exchange for guard Jordan Crawford whose claim to fame is this dunk on Lebron James. The team also added Josh Powell who is a decent rebounder and solid mid range shooter, but his main asset may be the championship experience he gained during the last two seasons with the Lakers. First time head coach Larry Drew will have to find a way for his new team to improve on the road in the playoffs, as they are just 2-8 away from Philips Arena the last two post-seasons.
Boston Celtics: Grade B +
The Celtics were 12 minutes away from their second title in three years before the Lakers swooped in for the victory at Staples Center. This summer they managed to bring back Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Nate Robinson, and Head Coach Doc Rivers, and add the brothers O’Neal (yes, I realize J.O. and Shaq are not related), along with the talented yet troubled Delonte West. The added depth up front should help make up for the absence of Kendrick Perkins who will likely miss significant time while recovering from a torn ACL. If Perkins does come back healthy and round into form in the second half of the season, it will be interesting to see how Rivers will juggle the lineup with Perkins being his best option and neither O’Neal likely wanting to sit on the bench. All told, if the aging Celtics can stay healthy and harmonious, another title run may be coming.
Charlotte Bobcats: Grade D
The Bobcats traded away Tyson Chandler, then waived Erick Dampier whom they received back in the deal. They lost starting point guard Raymond Felton to free agency (Knicks), and had no picks in the NBA draft. They did re-sign Tyrus Thomas whom they acquired just before last season’s trade deadline, and they brought in oft-injured point guard Shaun Livingston. The upside: Stephen Jackson was fantastic after arriving from Golden State, and he and Gerald Wallace look to form a formidable 1-2 punch again this year. Still, Larry Brown will have his work cut out for him in trying to get this team back to the playoffs for the second straight season.
Chicago Bulls: Grade A -
The Bulls were really hoping to get Lebron and/or Wade and/or Bosh this summer. They came up empty on that front but got a pretty good consolation prize in Carlos Boozer. Boozer provides the post presence that Chicago has long needed and he should be a good compliment to Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, and Luol Deng. The team also added sharpshooter Kyle Korver and versatile swingman Ronnie Brewer via free agency, but they traded away Kirk Hinrick for cap space, and they lost veterans Brad Miller and Hakim Warrick on the free agent market. New head coach Tom Thibodeau brings a defensive mindset and championship experience to a team that looks to go to the next level.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Grade F -
Not much needs to be said about the Cavaliers. They lost Lebron James and got nothing more than future draft picks from the Heat, which will likely be late picks anyway. The additions of Ramon Sessions, Ryan Hollins, and Joey Graham might be enough to offset the losses of Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Shaquille O’Neal, and Delonte West. Cleveland was without a pick in this year’s draft so new head coach Byron Scott will be left with just Mo Williams, Antawn Jamison, and J.J. Hickson as his cornerstones.
Dallas Mavericks: Grade B +
As expected, the Mavs re-signed Dirk Nowitzki to a four year deal. They also bring back veteran center Brendan Haywood, and add depth up front in the form of Tyson Chandler via a trade with the Bobcats. The Mavs traded away their only pick in this year’s draft, but then went and bought the draft rights to shooting guard Dominique Jones from the Memphis Grizzlies. Dallas won 55 games last season and should be one of the prime contenders to dethrone the Lakers in the West this year with their new found frontcourt depth.
Denver Nuggets: Grade Incomplete
The key move for this year’s Denver team may have not yet happened. Carmelo Anthony appears to be on his way out (although he said at the team’s media day that he never requested a trade), and that would clearly change the outlook for this season and for the foreseeable future. Veteran forward Al Harrington arrives via free agency and adds another versatile scoring option. The health of big men Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen is in question, as is that of head coach George Karl who missed the end of last season while dealing with throat cancer. With so much up in the air for Denver at the moment, their grade can only be incomplete.
Detroit Pistons: Grade C
The Pistons didn’t do much this summer, but they did sign Tracy McGrady to a low-risk 1 year $1.35 million dollar deal. McGrady has had health issues for years, but if right he could really help a team that averaged just 94 points per game last year. Detroit nabbed big man Greg Monroe out of Georgetown with the 7th overall pick in the draft. Monroe has the size and raw talent to play at this level but will likely take a few years to be a difference maker. Second round pick Terrico White has very good athleticsm and decent overall offensive skill, but may have a hard time cracking the rotation in a crowded backcourt. Second year head coach John Kuester could feel his seat getting a bit hot if he can’t improve upon last season’s 27 wins.
Golden State Warriors: Grade B
The biggest move for GSW this off-season was the sign and trade for former Knicks All-Star David Lee. Lee is a great rebounder and doesn’t need the ball in his hands to score which should mesh well on a team with multiple scoring guards. That move, along with the free agent additions of high-energy Louis Amundson and veteran forward Dorrell Wright add depth to the frontcourt. Meanwhile, Charlie Bell is a solid backcourt addition. The team took Ekpe Udoh with the sixth overall pick in the draft. Udoh is a great shot blocker and a solid rebounder but his offensive game needs some polish and he is already 23 years old. Head coach Don Nelson is stepping down from the position and his spot filled by long time assistant Keith Smart.
Houston Rockets: Grade B -
The Rockets received Courtney Lee from the Nets in a four team trade sending Trevor Ariza to the New Orleans Hornets. Houston also signed veteran center Brad Miller who could be invaluable given the limitations being placed on Yao Ming’s minutes. Patrick Patterson joins the team out of Kentucky via pick #14 in the draft. Patterson has good athleticism and improved his jump shot in his junior season which should help him transition to the pros.