Honorable Mention: Detroit Pistons
Acquired: Avery Bradley, Luke Kennard, Langston Galloway, Anthony Tolliver, Eric Moreland
Lost: Marcus Morris, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Aron Baynes, Michael Gbinije, Darrun Hilliard
Detroit just missed the bottom five, but they still have had one of the worse off-seasons in recent history. Ever since Stan Van Gundy stepped in as Head Coach and President of Basketball Operations, Detroit had been able to clean itself of Joe Dumars’ failed Josh Smith, Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond front court experiment, and create a playoff team with some upside in 2015-16. Due to some unfortunate regression from Andre Drummond (-0.7 win share change, year to year) and Reggie Jackson (-5.0,) the team was unable to build on its preceding success for this season, but the team had a great young core of Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Tobias Harris, Marcus Morris, and Drummond.
Caldwell-Pope and Morris are gone now, however, so too is key back-up center Aron Baynes, and the team lost Darrun Hilliard and Michael Gbinije as well. While getting Avery Bradley from Boston for Morris straight up was a trade that favors Detroit, they let Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, a debatably max-salary player, walk in free agency for nothing in return. Baynes and Udrih left for nothing as well. Langston Galloway and Tolliver were solid signings and will make good players in limited roles, but they can’t replace the impact Caldwell-Pope and Baynes had in Detroit’s rotation. Luke Kennard had a good summer league, but he won’t be able to replicate his performance against NBA veterans this season in any consistent or for an extended period.
5. Indiana Pacers
Acquired: Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis, T.J. Leaf, Ike Anigbogu, Cory Joseph, Darren Collison, Bojan Bogdanovic, Edmond Sumner
Lost: Paul George, Jeff Teague, Monta Ellis, Aaron Brooks, Lavoy Allen, Rodney Stuckey, C.J. Miles, Georges Niang
Indiana managed to give up Paul George and not get a single draft pick back. When a team loses a fringe-superstar like George, it should know that it is entering rebuilding mode unless it gets a star player in return. Instead it got Victor Oladipo who might be the most overpaid two guard in the NBA after shooting 34.4% in the playoffs last season, and Domantas Sabonis, who averaged 5.9 points per game on under 40% shooting last season. In addition to George, the team also let go of starting point guard Jeff Teague (8.1 win shares,) former star Monta Ellis (17.8 career points per game,) back-up point guard Aaron Brooks, rotation big-man Lavoy Allen, starting wing C.J. Miles, and prospect Georges Niang. Now that’s a rebuild.
Rebuilding is okay, but Indiana did not embrace their rebuild. They didn’t acquire any draft picks for their players, and they added NBA veterans geared towards a run for mediocrity. Cory Joseph, Darren Collison, and Bojan Bogdanovic are solid pieces on a contending team, but all they will do is allow Indiana to win 30-35 games so they miss the playoffs and a legitimate shot at winning the draft lottery – the worst of both worlds. None of them fit with the new time-line for this team in the Myles Turner era. The jury is out on whether Leaf, Anigbogu, and Sumner pan out.
4. Memphis Grizzlies
Acquired: Ben McLemore, Tyreke Evans, Rade Zagorac, Ivan Rabb, Dillon Brooks
Lost: JaMychal Green, Tony Allen, Zach Randolph, Vince Carter
Memphis was a loser in last year’s free agency for way overpaying Mike Conley and Chandler Parsons. Now they find themselves in a similarly losing position for not having the money for four key contributors from last season. JaMychal Green (5.8 win shares) was a two-way glue guy. He could switch on the pick and roll with the best bigs in the league, and he shot 37.9% from three on offense. Tony Allen, Zach Randolph, and Vince Carter combined for 10.3 win shares last season.
In comparison, the players they acquired combined for 1.1. Given, Zagorac, Rabb, and Brooks are rookies selected in the 2nd round, but none of them figure to contribute immediately. Memphis is going to struggle this season without a clear identity. Assuming reasonable health from this Grizzlies team, which they have not had in years, I have this team winning 35 games. It wasn’t so long ago that Conley, Allen, Randolph, and Gasol were winning 50 games per season consistently with a top league defense.
3. Chicago Bulls
Acquired: Zach LaVine, Lauri Markannen, Kris Dunn, Justin Holiday, David Nwaba, Antonio Blakely
Lost: Jimmy Butler, Joffrey Lauvergne, Justin Patton, Isaiah Canaan, Nikola Mirotic, Anthony Morrow, Michael Carter-Williams, Rajon Rondo
There was a way to start a rebuild, and the Bulls did not choose that path. They trade Jimmy Butler, a top ten NBA player, and got no new draft picks. They move up 7 spots in this past draft, and got Kris Dunn, a player who averaged just 3.8 points on 37.7% shooting, and Zach LaVine, a player who’s deceivingly efficient offensive shooting percentages can’t even justify his presence on the basketball court because of his awful defense. LaVine finished last season with a -0.3 box plus/minus, and that would have been more extreme in the wrong direction if he didnt miss nearly half the season because of injury. To top it off, Chicago gave up promising mid-first round pick Justin Patton.
It doesn’t just stop there, however. In the trade that sent Doug McDermott and Taj Gibson to Oklahoma City, two of the three pieces they got back, Joffrey Lauvergne and Anthony Morrow, are gone – Lauvergne to San Antonio and Morrow in unrestricted free agency. The other piece that Chicago got back, Cameron Payne, has yet to show Chicago any sort of reason to keep him, and now he figures to play behind a crowded guard rotation featuring LaVine, Dunn, Justin Holiday, Jerian Grant, and David Nwaba. Chicago also let former rookie of the year Michael Carter-Williams walk for nothing, Isaiah Canaan, Nikola Mirotic, and Rajon Rondo are also off the roster with no indication of returning. For a rebuilding team that doesnt even have all of its own picks in 2018, there is a lot of cause for concern
2. Atlanta Hawks
Aquired: Dewayne Dedmon, Miles Plumlee, Marco Bellineli, Diamond Stone, John Collins, Tyler Dorsey, Alpha Kaba
Lost: Jose Calderon, Tim Hardaway Jr., Paul Millsap, Thabo Sefolosha, Dwight Howard, Ryan Kelly, Mike Dunleavy, Frank Jackson, Kris Humphries
Atlanta did what Chicago did, but worse. Theoretically, Dwight Howard (8.3 win shares) and Paul Millsap (6.8) were to Atlanta what Jimmy Butler (13.8) was to Chicago, and the Hawks got squat for both players. For Howard, they got two sparingly used reserves Marco Belinelli (3.2) and Miles Plumlee (0.5,) while moving backwards in the draft from 31st to 40th. For Millsap, Atlanta received Jamal Crawford before waiving him, and Diamond Stone, a prospect.
The jury is now out on the draft picks themselves, admittedly, John Collins at 17th is a great value pick, as is the signing of Dewayne Dedmon for two years and 14 million dollars, but they got rid of good players without getting many players or assets back. Tim Hardaway Jr. (4.8) fits this team’s time-line, and they let him walk for nothing to the New York Knicks. Sefolosha (3.3) was one of the best defenders in the league last season, and he joined Utah for nothing. Another player they should have flipped for assets, Kent Bazemore, is still on the roster. Atlanta’s long-term outlook is very cloudy these days.
1. Los Angeles Clippers
Acquired: Patrick Beverley, Danilo Gallinari, Lou Williams, Milos Teodosic, Willie Reed, Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell, DeAndre Liggins, Jawun Evans, Sindarius Thornwell
Lost: Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, Luc Mbah a Moute, Jamal Crawford, Diamond Stone, Paul Pierce, Raymond Felton, Darrun Hilliard, Kyle Wiltjer, Alan Anderson, Brandon Bass, Marreese Speights
Los Angeles tried. There is no denying that, but the Clippers lost three starters, their 6th man, and more role key players. Nearly all of their replacements are downgrades. Patrick Beverley (5.3,) no matter how easy it is to appreciate his defensive aggressiveness, is objectively a lot worse than Chris Paul (10.6,) Lou Williams (.148 per 48 minutes) is worse than J.J. Redick in terms of ability to play off the ball, Danilo Gallinari’s defensive woes will hinder the Clippers as compared to Luc Mbah a Moute’s ideal three-and-D style of play.
Admittedly, the other acquisitions have been solid. Milos Teodosic was the best international player not in the NBA before joining L.A., Willie Reed is one of the best value signings in 2017, Dekker, Harrell, and Liggins played roles on successful Rockets and Cavaliers teams last season. The problem is that the same can be said about nine of the twelve players they’ve lost so far this summer. The problem is that the Clippers are still good enough to get the 9th seed, but not good enough to get anything more than a 7th seed. Until they embrace a rebuild that is inevitable without Chris Paul, they are doomed to remain in NBA purgatory.