The State of the Association - Part I
It’s been a long summer in the NBA, and in this time of the year.
It hasn’t been a summer without storylines however, and many teams have made concerted attempts to upgrade or downgrade their rosters through the draft, free agency, and trades.
Some teams even made concerted attempts to improve but in reality did nothing; we’ll get to that later. With all this in mind, let’s take a look at the moves made, hand out grades, and make some predictions for the year to come.
The summer’s biggest storyline revolved around when the Dwightmare would end so we could all go back to our daily lives. While there’s no denying that Dwight’s ultimate destination should have been a major storyline of the summer, it garnered far too much attention for a player that is, for my money, the third best center in the NBA.
After a nice, cozy stay in Aspen, Dwight decided that playing in Houston was the best decision for him, and I actually agree. Despite Dwight’s indecision and immaturity, he is, deep down, a nice guy who just wants to be liked. While I’m sure Dwight would absolutely love to win an NBA title, I don’t think he’s the type of player who’s willing to put himself through misery to do so.
Playing with Kobe can be miserable. In Dwight’s meeting with the Lakers., Kobe reportedly challenged Dwight, saying "You need to learn how it's done first, and I can teach you here."
Way to swallow your ego, Kobe.
Although, in Kobe's defense, his ego is so large that Paris Hilton wouldn't even be able swallow it. In this case, Dwight’s best chance for happiness and for winning titles were both located in a city not named Los Angeles. And while he left some money on the table in Lakerland, he will recoup most of that due to Texas’ lack of state income tax.
As for the actual fit in Houston, it’s a pretty good one.
When he’s healthy, Dwight might be the most athletic player in the NBA not named Lebron James, and he plays well out of the pick-and-roll. This is convenient because the pick-and-roll is the bread and butter of new teammate James Harden. It’s also the meat and potatoes of the Houston offense, although that offense will certainly see some changes with the addition of Dwight.
Add in the vegetables and fruit that are the do-it-all/dirty work guys of Chandler Parsons and Omar Asik, and you have yourself a full course meal (and one pretty lame analogy). Houston will be much better and has likely vaulted themselves to the top tier of the West, possibly as the second-best team behind OKC.
The Rockets also drafted Isaiah Canaan in the second round, who should be able to provide some scoring from the bench. Overall, I rate Houston’s offseason moves as Grade A stuff.
Possibly the second-biggest free agent domino to fall was André Iguodala signing with Golden State.
Now, I have a well-documented love affair with the Warriors, and particularly Stephen Curry, as some of my other articles have indicated. On the surface, this seems like a great move. Iggy is an absolute hound on defense and he’s no slouch on offense, either. While he doesn’t have a great perimeter shot, the Warriors have that area completely covered with the Splash Brothers.
However, in signing Iguodala, Golden State wasn’t able to retain Jarret Jack or Carl Landry, who were both integral to the team's playoff success.
Jack was especially important because his game allowed Curry to play off the ball as a two guard, and Jack’s ability to penetrate kept defenses honest. Now, Curry is a full-time point guard, theoretically meaning he should be taking fewer shots.
Curry has shown excellent ability to pass the ball, but for a guy who had the single best season from the 3-point line in NBA history last year, I’m not sure fewer shots is a great thing. However, putting Curry at point slots Klay Thompson to start in the two spot, which is actually a more natural position for him.
They also are officially handing over the keys of the second team to Harrison Barnes, which isn’t a terrible idea, since he showed significant promise in his rookie campaign, especially in the playoffs. With David Lee back from his post-season injury, this will be a potent offense with enough defensive grinders to cover up the holes created by other players. I expect them to build on last year’s success and potentially be the third-best team in the West.
Overall, I award the Warriors a B grade.
Next up in big name player movement has to be the massive Nets-Celtics trade, which saw the Nets taking on so much salary that even the Yankees were confused.
I’ve read articles of people hailing the Nets and Russian billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov -- who once paid for an extremely expensive video of himself doing jet-ski stunts -- saying that the additions of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry makes the Nets a contender as the best team in the East.
I could not disagree more.
They still aren’t better than the Heat. They still aren’t better than the Bulls. They still aren’t better than the Pacers.
For all the money and talent they added, they are the fourth-best team in the East, which is … oh … exactly what they were last year.
Now, it’s possible I could be eating my words come playoff time, but I just don’t see it. This may be harsh, but considering the salary they are paying and the luxury tax penalties they will pay on top of that, I grade the Nets offseason moves as a D-.
Check back over the next few days for the next installments of this three-part series.
Tomorrow we’ll discuss the Cavs, Clippers, and Pelicans. Thursday, we’ll hit the Pistons, Blazers and make playoff predictions.