Ranking 10 best NBA offseasons: Clippers, Lakers hit home runs; 76ers, Warriors secure title contention
The Pelicans and Jazz also made out extremely well, particularly the former despite losing superstar Anthony Davis
As we've mostly come out the backside of what has arguably been the wildest offseason in NBA history, the intrigue for the season ahead couldn't be any higher. As many as 10 teams, if not a few more, can walk into the first day of training camp and reasonably believe they're a title contender -- almost all thanks to the moves they made this summer.
Factoring in the draft, free agency and trades, here are the top 10 offseasons ranked.
|You end up with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, you win the offseason. Leonard surprised some people when he opted for a two-year deal with a player option for a third, which means he and George could both be free agents in 2021. For now, though, the Clippers took themselves from the No. 8 seed to the rightful title favorite with an elite offense, elite defense and elite depth.|
|Brooklyn lands Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, but the huge qualifier is that Durant is likely out for all of next season. As far as next season is concerned, the Nets essentially swap D'Angelo Russell for Irving -- an upgrade, but perhaps not a significant one. Kyrie hasn't proven himself as a lone star, but his talent and production is undeniable and paired with Durant a year from now, the Nets have put themselves in line for a championship run over the next three years at least.|
|The Lakers waited on Kawhi and it cost them at least a shot at some upper-tier role-players/shooters that went off the board early in the offseason. However, in the end, they have successfully paired LeBron James with Anthony Davis, and even at the back end of free agency they were able to land some quality pieces in Danny Green, Avery Bradley, DeMarcus Cousins and Quinn Cook. With Rajon Rondo and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope back, this is a no-doubt championship roster. From a 37-win team a year ago, that's a heck of an offseason. If you're wondering why the Lakers are behind the Nets, it's simple: The Lakers had to trade pretty much their whole future to get their star to pair with LeBron. The Nets brought two of them in without giving up the core of an already-proven playoff team. At the same time, the Lakers are ready to compete for a title now while Brooklyn is a year off with the Durant absence. Dealer's choice between the Lakers and Nets, really.|
|Very close call between Philly and Utah (which you see one spot below), but I'll give the edge to the Sixers because I believe they are title contenders while the Jazz are still just outside that elite tier. Philly loses Jimmy Butler and JJ Redick, but the additions of Al Horford and Josh Richardson more than offset those losses and give the 76ers a lot more lineup versatility. The Horford signing, in particular, takes this team to another level, notably defensively. Last year the Sixers' defense went in the tank without Joel Embiid; this coming season Brett Brown should be able to have an elite big-man defender on the floor for most of every game. Philly also locked up two of its core incumbents -- Ben Simmons on a five-year max extension and Tobias Harris on a five-year, $180 million deal. Zhaire Smith, acquired in a draft-night trade with the Suns last June, looks ready to contribute as a two-way player and extraordinary athlete after sitting out last season with a Jones fracture in his left foot. Philly also selected Matisse Thybulle with the 20th overall pick, and he has the potential to be an elite defender, adding to what could be the most daunting defense in the league. This team is title-ready.|
|The Jazz had an elite defense but couldn't score easily enough to compete with the elite teams in the playoffs -- so they added Mike Conley and one of the best shooters on the planet in Bojan Bogdanovic. Conley will allow Donovan Mitchell to stop worrying about running the offense and just attack as a scorer. Bogdanovic becomes the best shooter on a team that can now put four really good shooters around Rudy Gobert for optimal floor spacing. Utah also quietly added Jeff Green and Ed Davis, both of whom add depth and defense. The Jazz are now a probable top-five defensive team and top-10 offensive team. That's a championship contender on paper, even if I think they still fall just short of that status.|
|David Griffin and Trajan Langdon put on a front-office clinic beginning with the trade of Anthony Davis, which brought back Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and a slew of future draft picks. One of those picks, this year's No. 4 overall selection, New Orleans traded to the Hawks in exchange for the Nos. 8 and 17 picks, where they took Jaxson Hayes and Nickeil Alexander-Walker, who were both summer league head-turners and should be able to contribute right away. Oh, and by they way, they also got some guy named Zion Williamson with the No. 1 overall pick and added veterans Derrick Favors and JJ Redick. To lose a star like Davis, in a small market, and come out immediately with an arguably better team RIGHT NOW to go with a trove of assets that give you one of the brightest futures in the league ... that is incredible.|
|The Thunder fall out of "contender" status by trading Paul George and Russell Westbrook, but they probably weren't really contenders anyway -- they were owned in the first round in the two previous seasons with those two leading the way. OKC switches gears to a rebuilding team, and currently owns 15 first-round picks over the next seven drafts to make that happen. The Thunder also brought back Shae Gilgeous-Alexander from the Clippers, and plenty of people think he's a future All-Star. OKC could still get even more by trading Danilo Gallinari and/or Chris Paul, though the latter will probably cost the franchise a pick to unload. The Thunder have a team that can compete for a playoff spot this year, should they choose to go that route, while also having the ammo to reload with whatever stars become available around trade time with all their future assets.|
|For a team that was facing the prospect of losing Kevin Durant for nothing with no real money to even bolster the roster with role players, the Warriors did pretty darn well to come out with D'Angelo Russell, Willie Cauley-Stein, Alec Burks and Omari Spellman while also keeping star Klay Thompson around. Moreover, re-signing Kevon Looney for three years and $15 million is one of the summer's biggest steals. First-round pick Jordan Poole should be able to contribute as a shooter/playmaker in Thompson's absence, and second-round pick Eric Paschall feels like a mini-Draymond Green -- not that he's going to be anywhere near that good, but in the sense that he's a gritty, big-program guy with four years of NCAA experience who has winning in his DNA. Golden State will start next year with three All-Stars in its starting lineup, including arguably the best offensive and defensive player in the league in Steph Curry and Green, and this is before Klay even gets back. Oh, and they added a $17.2 million trade exception by dealing Andre Iguodala to Memphis, which can be used next summer. It's tough to see Iguodala and Shaun Livingston go, but the Warriors got ahead of the curve, and they're now positioned with a young, max asset in Russell if they want to star hunt. That's how you reload with no cap room after losing a superstar.|
|Miami gets Jimmy Butler, a big upgrade from Josh Richardson, and it officially turns over its awkward center situation to Bam Adebayo after shipping Hassan Whiteside to Portland. Also, sometimes the deals you don't do are the best ones, and by not getting too anxious on a deal for Russell Westbrook, the Heat hang onto the slice of cap flexibility they have coming to them starting next summer as some big-money deals finally start coming off the books. Also, first-round pick Tyler Herro looks really nice. At worst, this is a knockout shooter, but I think he's more than that. I think he shows playmaking instincts, a good handle, and a natural feel for leveraging his shot to attack off the dribble and create. The Heat, if everything goes right, could compete for a top-four seed in the East, but more realistically project somewhere from No. 5 down next season. But after that, they now have a lure in Butler for other big names and enough flexibility to realistically get in the game for them without too much finagling.|
|A couple teams could've landed this last spot. Atlanta added some nice draft picks in De'Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish and has a ton of cap space coming open soon, while Portland got what could be a draft steal in Nassir Little at No. 25 and reshaped its team around the edges with some low-risk, high-reward additions, notably Hassan Whiteside. But Boston gets the nod here because Kemba Walker is a flat-out stud, and the Celtics got him. Walker is going to be close to everything Kyrie Irving was on the court, and he'll be the opposite of Kyrie off the court, which is an upgrade in itself. Losing Al Horford hurts, and acquiring Enes Kanter doesn't make up for it. Still, Kanter can produce as a scorer and a monster offensive rebounder. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown should be more assertive without Irving's domineering presence; even if Walker plays much the same way, he has a more teammate-friendly feel that he should be able to utilize more than he could in Charlotte, where he didn't have the talent around him to let loose of the reins for even a second. Boston also added two first-round picks in Romeo Langford and Grant Williams, who both look ready to contribute right away, and Carsen Edwards might end up being a second-round steal as a pint-sized microwave scorer off the bench. Boston will be in the mix for a top-three seed. To be able to say that after losing Kyrie Irving and Al Horford, that's a pretty good recovery summer.|
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