Although you will see most sites posting their winners and losers of the 2015 NBA offseason the week after it all begins, we wanted to let everything set in, and let all the minor moves happen before we decided to say who was a winner or loser in free agency. Hamed Qashmar takes a deep look into who he believed won and lost free agency, and provides a few new teams, who were not mentioned by the mainstream media sites.
Winners: San Antonio Spurs
The clear winner of this summer’s free agent fiasco were the San Antonio Spurs. Usually praised for their keen ability to find diamonds in the rough, this year they uncharacteristically went out and signed a big fish in Lamarcus Aldridge. He should fit fine under Pop’s system. I have heard writers and analysts call him a ball-stopper. However, in Portland the offense heavily depended on him and Lillard. He will easily translate to the Spurs; he is an extremely underrated passer. The Spurs run a lot “HORNS” offense, which runs a lot of pick-n-roll, kick outs to spot-up shooters, and post ups.
The Spurs also managed to steal David West with a 2-year vet’s minimum with a player option. West brings toughness and a steady offense presence to them. Although they lost Thiago Splitter, Corey Joseph, Aron Baynes, and Jeff Ayres, the additions of Aldridge West, and Ray McCallum (acquired via trade) should more than make up for the losses. It’s also important to note that Patty Mills, who missed 31games due to injury, will also be back at full health. The Spurs have solidified themselves as title contenders, A+ for them.
Loser: Dallas Mavericks
Unlike their Texas counter parts, the Mavs offseason did not go as planned. DeAndre Jordan infamously committed to the Mavs but changed his mind but for actually inking a deal. However, the Mavs rebounded with several moves, including the Wes Mathews signing, the Zaza trade, and the Deron Williams signing. But if you look at the losses, their recent moves don’t put them over the top. Losing Tyson Chandler was the biggest blow. Wes Mathews and Chandler Parson are both coming off injuries and Dirk isn’t getting any younger. I learned to never doubt Rick Carlisle coached teams, they might be contending for the 8th seed, but that was not their plan. The Mavs get a C-.
Winner: Indiana Pacers
The Indiana Pacers have quietly had one of the better off-seasons out East. They drafted Myles Turner, who has tremendous upside and can play the 4 and 5. They are also getting a healthier Paul George back and they added a complimentary scorer in Monta Ellis. Monta should fit well alongside PG13 and George Hill. Although Ellis is not a great floor spacer, Hill and PG13 make up for his deficiencies. It also helps to have a big like Turner who can knock down threes, post-up, and spread the floor. Reports suggest that PG13 will get a lot of minutes at the 4, this small-ball offense is starting to trend after the Warriors successfully implemented it this past season. they also unloaded Hibbert and replaced him with high motor guy in Jordan Hill. The Pacers will be one of the more interesting teams to watch in the East; they get a B+.
Loser: Portland Trailblazers
The Portland Trailblazers went from a 4th seed to a mid-tier lottery team this offseason. It started with the Batum trade, which netted them Gerald Henderson and Noah Vonleh in return, Henderson is a nice role player that can put up 14 points a night, and Vonleh is in his second year and he is still 19. He was injured for a big part of last season and by the time he got back it was too hard for the rookie to get assimilated and the Steve Clifford didn’t find much time for him. Once free agency started, things continued to head south. They lost LMA, then Mathews left, and even Robin Lopez left. Four of the five starters from last year left, leaving only Lillard who signed a massive 5-year extension. However, I think the Blazers are on a fast track rebuild because they added young guys with potential. In fact, the first deal to get done was the Aminu singing for 4 years and $30 million. They made several underrated moves including the Ed Davis signing, Mason Plumlee trade, Maurice Harkless trade, and signing undrafted rookie Cliff Alexander. All are young with plenty of potential. A season or two in the lottery and the Blazers could be good again. However, they took one of the biggest step backs for next season so I say they get a D+, but I give them a B in terms of their start to a rebuilding process.
Winner: Miami Heat
Pat Riley works in mysterious ways. Somehow Justise Winslow fell to his lap at the 10th pick, and most consider Winslow to be the steal of the draft. He has the potential to become a Jimmy Butler or Kawhi Leonard type of player if he does indeed reach his potential. They retained their core of Dragic-Wade-Deng-Bosh-Whiteside. Bosh will be back and healthy next year and they added two veterans –Amar’e Stoudemire and Gerald Green- on minimum deals. Having Amar’e and Green off the bench gives them incredible depth; Amare will give them 11 points and 6 rebounds, while Green is an explosive scorer who gave phoenix 16 points per game in 2014 and he brings solid 3 point shooting. The Heat are one of the deepest teams in the NBA and could possibly challenge Cleveland come playoff time. If they stay healthy, that’s a big if considering Wade and Deng’s history, the Heat can be a top-3 team in the East. B+ for Miami.
Winner: Milwaukee Bucks
Milwaukee is finally becoming a threat once again. Most pegged them with retaining Khris Middleton, but not many expected them to lure Greg Monroe from the likes of New York or Los Angeles. Milwaukee was also able to unload Ersan Ilyasova’s contract onto Detroit, who to their credit did need to surround Andre Drummond with more shooters. Milwaukee did not stop the trading there, as they also traded Jared Dudley to Washington, and traded for Greivis Vásquez to secure much needed scoring depth at the point guard position. Along with that, Vásquez has the ability to start if Williams gets hurt for a prolonged period of time. Now back to their free agent signings. I wrote an article around early March saying how I thought Middleton was worth around $9-$10 million a year, but also said with the recent signings of perimeter players of his skill set, Middleton could get as much as $16-$17 million. In the end, Middleton got $14 million a season, which with the rising cap, and his rising overall game will end up being a steal. Now to the Greg Monroe signing. Monroe brings to Milwaukee what they desperately needed, low-post scoring. Monroe’s game is more old school, as he lacks the ability to stretch the floor, but with Milwaukee getting a healthy Jabari Parker back to play the power forward position, Parker can stretch the floor, and create more room for Monroe to operate down-low. With their current core, Milwaukee has the potential to be a championship contender in a year or two. Milwaukee is not making the same old peddling moves that had them tread water at the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference anymore, and with the unlimited potential this team has, they just may surprise us all again this next season. Milwaukee gets a B+ for the offseason, as they addressed their biggest need, but many other teams in the conference did this as well, and the main key for Milwaukee will be having to see if their young roster can continue to develop into a championship threat, or if they are over hyped.
By: Hamed Qashmar and Mac Crowe(Milwaukee Bucks contribution)