After a historically bad season, the NBA took some time off from their summer to start fresh. The league has been red hot since returning with players like Kawhi Leonard and Kemba Walker leading the way in new uniforms. They have also made smart decisions in free agency that have paid dividends so far this season for both teams.
The NBA offseason has been one of the most exciting and impactful in recent history, with a series of trades changing up how teams will look this season. The Philadelphia 76ers (led by Markelle Fultz) have made major improvements to their team after trading for Jimmy Butler. Meanwhile, James Harden’s acquisition makes him an MVP candidate–and that was just last night! Let’s take a closer look at three underrated moves from this year’s free-agency period:The NBA offseason has seen a lot of big moves and changes already. The team’s new coach, players, and front office have made some surprising decisions that have impacted the rest of the season so far. Let’s see what we can learn from these under-the-radar moves to help us predict how teams will fare in November and December as well as next year.The “nba standings” is a blog that discusses the NBA offseason moves that have made a big impact so far this season. The blog highlights some underrated moves in the league, such as the trade for DeAndre Jordan and signing of Rajon Rondo.
The NBA season is just a month old, but we’re already witnessing the effects of the offseason’s major transactions. Chris Paul re-signed in Phoenix after a run to the NBA Finals, and the Suns are once again towards the top of the Western Conference. Kyle Lowry was sent from Toronto to Miami as part of a sign-and-trade deal, and he has guided the Heat to the greatest point differential in the Eastern Conference so far.
While those two deals, which included 35 trades, grabbed the news in the early days of August, there have been numerous other moves — some huge, some tiny — that have paid off so far this season.
Here are the executives and players that have had the most influence thus far in the 2021-22 season, beginning with Washington, D.C., where a revamped Washington Wizards squad has been one of the season’s greatest shocks.
MORE: Five up-and-coming sophomores to keep an eye on
Tommy Sheppard is a member of the Washington Wizards.
It would have been simple for Sheppard, the Wizards’ general manager, to run it back after Washington’s late-season run to the play-in round and then win its way into the first round of the playoffs. He had a different strategy in mind.
“It wasn’t going to come from inside,” he added, “the way I believed we needed to grow better.” “We’d have to bring in additional players, as well as a new appearance, set of expectations, and focus. As a result, they are difficult choices.”
Sheppard’s most important move was trading Russell Westbrook, who had led Washington’s playoff drive with 23.6 points, 13.6 rebounds, and 13.9 assists during the last 20 games of the season.
Friday, Nov. 19: 7:30 p.m. Lakers at Celtics; Mavericks at Suns; 10 p.m.
Wednesday, Nov. 24: 7:30 p.m., Nets vs. Celtics; 10 p.m., 76ers vs. Warriors
All timings are in Eastern Standard Time.
In exchange for Westbrook, the Wizards received three starters in Spencer Dinwiddie, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Kyle Kuzma, as well as a contender for Sixth Man of the Year in Montrezl Harrell and backup point guard Aaron Holiday (they also acquired second-round pick Isaiah Todd as part of the trade).
The goal of the trade, which began as a one-team deal with the Los Angeles Lakers but eventually expanded to a five-team deal with the Brooklyn Nets, Indiana Pacers, and San Antonio Spurs, was to help balance the roster, add depth, and allow young players Corey Kispert and Deni Avdija to develop on their own timetable.
Before the start of training camp, Sheppard said, “I believe we were able to add depth at every position, add some veterans who have been around the game — a couple of individuals with championship rings.” “I believe that adding depth to our squad offers you a lot more flexibility.”
On a night when Bradley Beal hit 11-for-26 from the field in a victory against the Atlanta Hawks, such was the case. Caldwell-Pope, Harrell, and Kuzma scored 67 points and pulled down 29 rebounds between them. If Westbrook is still on the roster, that sort of victory is unlikely.
On the court, Washington has a more complete product than it had a year ago, as well as controlled contracts that can help the club develop in the near and long term.
On the Lowe Post Podcast, Jeff Van Gundy remarked, “I believe Tommy Sheppard and the Wizards should be honored.” “It’s okay to appreciate being excellent every now and then. It’s difficult to be good.”
After the season, Karnisovas, Chicago’s chief of basketball operations, said that change was on the way.
“We’re not going to accept mediocrity here,” Karnisovas remarked. Despite dealing several first-round selections for All-Star Nikola Vucevic in March, the team finished 31-41 and failed to even make the play-in round.
The Bulls have spent up to $30 million in cap space to renegotiate All-Star Zach LaVine’s present deal or to generate as much budget room as possible in order to sign free agents outright.
Instead, Karnisovas got inventive, remaking the squad via intricate sign-and-trade transactions, one of which is currently under investigation by the league. Lonzo Ball was acquired from the Pelicans, while Tomas Satoransky and Garrett Temple were sent to New Orleans. Because Ball was a restricted free agent, there was no assurance that if he signed an offer sheet with Chicago, the Pelicans would not match.
Later, the Bulls acquired DeMar DeRozan by sending Thaddeus Young, Al-Farouq Aminu, and three draft selections (a future first and two seconds) to San Antonio in a trade that was widely panned at the time.
When restricted free agent Lauri Markkanen was transferred to Cleveland as part of a three-team deal, the Bulls refilled their draft assets (a 2022 first round pick from Portland and a 2023 second round pick from Denver) and fortified their bench (Derrick Jones Jr.).
The Bulls were able to sign Alex Caruso and former second-round pick Marko Simonovic with their full $9.5 million midlevel exception because they worked the trade market creatively and stayed over the cap the entire time, which they wouldn’t have been able to do if they’d just gone the route of creating cap space to sign DeRozan and Ball outright.
The Bulls are rated in the top ten in both offensive and defensive efficiency, and are off to their greatest start since Derrick Rose’s MVP season in 2011-12, thanks to the roster revamp (only LaVine and Coby White remain from when Karnisovas took over in 2020).
The Bulls are now atop the Eastern Conference rankings and, at least for the time being, are far from ordinary.
Cleveland was touched by two key deals on the night of the draft. The first, and most noticeable, was when they took Evan Mobley with the third overall choice.
The second was the acquisition of point guard Ricky Rubio from Minnesota in exchange for Taurean Prince and a future second-round pick, which put an end to the Cavaliers’ revolving door of backup point guards and gave Cleveland insurance in the event of an injury to one of their starting guards, which has already happened this season with Collin Sexton’s knee injury.
Rubio had a career-high 37 points and a season-high 10 assists in the game when Sexton was injured in New York. Despite shooting 1-for-14 from the field, Rubio leads all backup point guards in assists per game (6.5), and the Cavs outscored their opponents by 34 points with Rubio on the court in victories over Portland and Charlotte.
J.B. Bickerstaff, the Cavs’ coach, said of Rubio, “That’s why we pushed to bring him here.” “We know what he can do and how excellent a player he is. He’s capable of what he accomplished today once it gets rolling and goes on. He just put up a show. And he wished us success.”
On the night of the draft, the Kings got a reprieve when Charlotte traded for Mason Plumlee.
Do you want to guess where your favorite NBA players will end up? With ESPN’s Trade Machine, you can make your own transactions.
The deal removed a potential destination for Holmes off the table and began a pattern in which his market shrank. With the Kings, he finally signed a four-year, $46.5 million deal. Because Holmes did not have full Bird rights, the $10.8 million salary (16th among starting centers) was the most Sacramento could give this season.
Holmes is averaging a career-high 14.4 points and 10.6 rebounds this season, and he just had his first 20-point, 20-rebound game in a victory against Charlotte.
After the game, Kings coach Luke Walton said of Holmes, “His stability, he adds energy, and his communication continues to improve.” “I like our chances every time you can give us a 20-20 game.”
Last season, the Hornets were among the offseason winners by signing Gordon Hayward, and it looks that the arrival of Oubre will do the same this season.
Ironically, it was Hayward’s season-ending injury in March that highlighted Charlotte’s urgent need to improve its bench depth at the wing position. Charlotte was 25-23 at the time of the injury. They went 9-16 in the regular season and were blasted out by the Indiana Pacers in the play-in game.
Charlotte was lucky to be the lone club left with substantial salary room, since Oubre was the last of the big-name free agents left on the market. He agreed to a two-year, $24 million deal, although just $5 million is guaranteed for the next season.
Oubre has smoothly integrated into the team, accepting the position of coming off the bench or starting when necessary.
After Oubre Jr. scored 26 points off the bench in a victory against the Trail Blazers, James Borrego observed, “He’s been terrific.” “We brought him here for this reason. We have faith in him. We feel he has a significant role to play on this squad, and today was a terrific illustration of that.”
While there are sometimes nights when Oubre Jr. struggles to find the hoop (he went 2-for-19 in three recent defeats), the forward has scored in double digits in ten games and is shooting a career-high 39 percent from three-point range.
Minimum contracts for veterans
The Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Lakers, and Golden State Warriors are all regarded Western Conference contenders, but because to the luxury tax, all three clubs started the summer with restricted resources to recruit players. Each club would have to find veterans who were prepared to work for less money in exchange for a chance to win a title.
Bob Myers, the general manager of the Golden State Warriors, was quite clear about the team’s summer objectives.
“I know we need veterans,” he continued, “and the one thing I can say without equivocation is that we need to add some veterans in free agency.” “We just must. That is something we are fully aware of.”
From Monday through Friday, presenter Pablo Torre gives you an inside peek at ESPN’s most compelling stories, as recounted by the best reporters and insiders on the world. Listen
A Warriors bench that included Mychal Mulder, Juan Toscano-Anderson, and Jordan Poole was outscored 40-25 in the play-in defeat to Memphis.
Myers bolstered his bench, which finished 16th in points per game last season, by signing veterans Andre Iguodala, Otto Porter Jr., and Nemanja Bjelica for the veteran’s minimum.
The Warriors’ bench is averaging 16.7 points per game, putting them in the top five in the league. Golden State’s reserves are scoring 11.3 points per game more than their opponents’ second unit.
When Klay Thompson and James Wiseman return and Jordan Poole, who is scoring a career-high 17.1 points per game, goes to a sixth-man position, the Warriors’ bench will be even better.
The Jazz used the money saved from trading Derrick Favors to Oklahoma City to address two major needs: forward depth with Rudy Gay (taxpayer midlevel) and backup center with Hassan Whiteside (veteran minimum).
The addition of Whiteside has been crucial because it provides Utah with the ideal complement when Rudy Gobert is benched. Whiteside is averaging 6.7 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks in 16.3 minutes per game in 13 games. Among players who play at least 16 minutes each game, Whiteside has the No. 7 net rating (plus-16.3) and the No. 23 defensive efficiency (98.1).
Carmelo Anthony, a potential Hall of Famer, is making a strong early case for Sixth Man of the Year honors in Los Angeles.
After a recent victory against the Rockets, Anthony commented, “I believe people don’t truly understand me.” “I believe there is a misperception about myself and my ability to adjust to different settings. But, dude, I’m really flexible to any environment.”
Anthony is hitting a career high 42.9 percent from 3-point range and averaging 15.2 points per game in 29 minutes a game, the second-lowest of his career.
Extensions that did not take place
On the surface, James Harden’s decision to forego a three-year, $161 million deal seems to be one of the offseason’s greatest financial errors.
In the early going, Harden seems to be a shell of the player who was a six-time first-team All-NBA member and earned MVP honors in 2018.
Harden scored 16.3 points per game and shot under 36% from the field and from 3-point range during Brooklyn’s 0-3 start. He had a team-worst net rating of minus-8.4, led the team in turnovers (4.6), and only attempted three free throws per game.
After a defeat to Miami, Harden claimed, “I had no opportunity to play pickup or nothing this summer.” “From a Grade 2 injury that occurred three times in one season, everything was rehab for three months. So this is my sixth game of attempting to play in a competitive environment versus another player. And, as much as I’d want to speed things up and go back to hooping and murdering, you have to take your time.”
Harden did just score a season-high 39 points in a victory against the Pelicans, and he’s shot better than 42 percent from three since then, but he’s still averaging only 20.3 points per game, which is his lowest since his days as a Thunder reserve.
Despite his early-season troubles, Harden still has a lot of power over the Nets when it comes to his future. The Nets have given up all of their draft assets (three unprotected first-round picks plus pick swaps over the next three seasons) and cannot afford to lose him, particularly with Kyrie Irving’s future unknown.
“You may as well look at trade suitors for Kevin Durant if you aren’t going to give Harden a new deal in the summer,” one Western Conference GM told ESPN.
Miles Bridges, who is this year’s Julius Randle, is on the other end of the spectrum. Not only is the Hornets forward a solid contender for Most Improved Player, but he’s also a strong contender for his first All-Star participation and All-NBA consideration.
Bridges is averaging 21.5 points per game, 7.3 rebounds per game, 3.5 assists per game, and a net rating of 3.5. (plus-5.7). Brian Windhorst noted on a recent episode of the Hoop Collective that Bridges smartly declined a four-year, $60 million deal this summer. Bridges’ deal next season could be worth more than $100 million over four seasons if he continues to play at this level.
“I’m not concerned about the money,” Bridges told The Undefeated following a 114-92 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Nov. 3. Bridges had 32 points, nine rebounds, and five 3-pointers in the loss. “I’m just concerned about playing the game correctly and winning. I’ll delegate all of that to my agent, and I’ll focus only on the game.”
Other prominent 2018 first-round choices who did not sign a rookie-scale contract extension this summer include:
After missing six games due to a bone bruise in his right knee, Deandre Ayton returned with 22 points and 10 rebounds in a victory against Minnesota. He’s met his contract’s starting standards (an average of 38.5 starts over the last two seasons), making him eligible for a one-year, $16.8 million qualifying offer this summer, which would make him a restricted free agent. Signing the qualifying offer and then becoming an unrestricted free agent a year later may be an insurance policy for Ayton if talks with the Phoenix Suns on a long-term contract fail this summer. Despite just 11.5 field goal attempts per game, the 2018 No. 1 selection is sixth in the league in rebounding (11.6) and averaging 15.8 points per game.
Collin Sexton tore his meniscus in his left knee in a victory against the Knicks and will be out indefinitely. Despite his career lows in points (16.0) and 3-point shooting (24.4%), Sexton was a key part of the Cavaliers’ early season success.
Marvin Bagley III made news after the deadline passed, not because he and the Kings couldn’t come to a deal, but because he was already out of the rotation before the season began. The Kings organization, according to agent Jeff Schwartz, is a case study in mismanagement. The former No. 2 pick has only been in three games this season after averaging 14.7 points and 7.1 rebounds last season. Bagley is unlikely to meet the criterion of starting 41 games or playing 2000 minutes this season since he has gone from starter to non-playing. As a consequence, his qualifying offer will be reduced from $14.8 million to $7.3 million next offseason.
Anfernee Simons made it clear to rookie head coach Chauncey Billups how he wanted to be tutored before the season began. Simons told the team’s website, “You can be brutal on me because that’s all I know.” “Because my father was harsh on me as a child, the only way I can improve is if someone is continually nagging me about specific things.” So far, the Trail Blazers’ tough-love attitude has been one of the season’s bright spots. Simons has almost doubled his scoring (7.8 to 11.6 points) and is shooting a career-high 45.5 percent from the field and 36.9% from three-point range. “The most important thing I teach Ant is to be aggressive,” Billups stated. “I simply believe he’s so talented and wonderful.”
The “Golden State Warriors” are currently on a historic tear. They have one of the best records in NBA history, and they’ve done it without making any big offseason moves. Reference: golden state warriors.
- stephen curry