East's best, worst offseason moves
Brandon Jennings is off to Detroit, according to sources, taking one of the last few big-name players off the 2013 free-agent board. Who made the right deals? Who made the wrong ones? Chad Ford gave out his grades for all 15 Eastern Conference teams. Now our panel chimes in.
1. What was the best move in the East this offseason?
Henry Abbott, ESPN.com: The Cavaliers deciding it was time to stop tanking! Jarrett Jack, Andrew Bynum, Earl Clark, Anthony Bennett ... even Sergey Karasev might help right away. Kyrie Irving was among the league's most dangerous weapons even before he got all this help. No East team did better, and, if Bynum can play real minutes, this is a home run.
Jim Cavan, KnickerBlogger: Philly hitting reset. With Sam Hinkie at the helm, the Sixers finally look like a team with a plan, albeit a temporarily painful one. From acquiring Nerlens Noel, Michael Carter-Williams, and oodles of picks to wisely letting the leaky Bynum ship sail, Hinkie has done well to set Philly up not only for the '14 draft bonanza but for the foreseeable future, as well.
Bo Churney, HawksHoop: Brooklyn trading for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Yes, the two are getting on in years and the Nets' salary hit is high enough to make the Yankees proud, but their performances this past season -- both posted a PER over 19 -- indicated that they still have more than enough left to contribute.
Jeremy Gordon, Brooklyn's Finest: I respect that Boston saw the writing on the wall and hollowed out its team while still retaining some rebuilding assets -- the Celtics have a whiz-kid coach in Brad Stevens and a decent look at a top pick in a loaded draft, and word is that Rajon Rondo has the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 reserved to distract him from coming back any time soon.
Jeremy Schmidt, Bucksketball: Acquiring Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry makes the Nets legitimate contenders next season. The long-term outlook isn't great and the whole thing is going to cost Brooklyn a ton of money, but no team made a larger leap forward than Brooklyn this offseason.
2. What was the worst move in the East this offseason?
Abbott: The Nets made the big trade, and it'll make them a little better for a little while, but it also virtually guarantees they won't win a title any time soon. Isiah Thomas' Knicks wrote the book on this: Once your roster is full of overpaid dudes, the CBA is effective in making sure you can't get better. I love that they went all-in, moneywise, but hate that they did so for the East's third-best roster.
Cavan: "Don't be the Bucks" has become something of a cautionary refrain -- a euphemism for the no man's land between vague contention and lottery hope. Zaza Pachulia for $15 million, O.J. Mayo for $24 million; these are the hallmarks of an ownership so bent on "competing" that things like "the future" are forsaken completely. That the Bucks could actually snag the eighth seed isn't promising; it's depressing.
Churney: New York acquiring Andrea Bargnani from the Raptors. The Knicks needed to make moves that would allow them to feature Carmelo more at the 4 and would help them defensively. Not only does this move fulfill neither of those but it will cost them almost $24 million over the next two seasons.
Gordon: Bargnani to New York. The Knicks gave up a few players and a first-round pick to acquire a so-called shooter who can't shoot, defend or style his own hair without looking silly. Every reasonable Knicks fan on my Twitter timeline was howling with inchoate rage, which seems a good measure of judgment.
Schmidt: The Knicks didn't give up much to get Bargnani, but his presence on the roster is a problem. If he's playing, it almost has to be with Tyson Chandler because of New York's defensive deficiencies. The Knicks had so much success with Carmelo Anthony at the 4 last season, but this move sends Melo back to the wing regularly.
3. What was the most surprising move in the East this offseason?
Abbott: Jason Kidd transitioning from high-tops to loafers. Coach Kidd is the most interesting part of the Nets' offseason -- he's talking an open-minded, inventive, team-oriented game. That's music to any fan of the beautiful game.
Cavan: Pierce and Garnett to Brooklyn. Just when we thought the Knicks had slain their twin-headed Grendel, Prokhorov goes and doubles down on the already-boiling interborough spite. But the genius of this gambit lies less in the move itself than in the ancillary dominoes: Do Andrei Kirilenko, Andray Blatche and Shaun Livingston all sign on the cheap if the Nets don't land two surefire HOFers? Maybe. But probably not.
Churney: Josh Smith signing with Detroit. I have no problems with his contract (four years, $54 million), but I don't quite get the fit with Detroit. Smith can't shoot and is going to be pigeonholed into a frontcourt with Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. Smoove and Drummond might wreak havoc on defense, but their spacing on offense is going to be less than ideal.
Gordon: Has to be the Nets. The Pierce-Garnett blockbuster came out of nowhere, taking them from first-round plateau to fringe-contender League Pass mainstays, because who doesn't want to see how the two former Celtics ride out the end of their careers? Also, watching PP in anything but green will remain a novelty for at least half the season.
Schmidt: The Sixers entered the offseason in disarray, caught between competitive and cruddy, without a coach or much of a front office. The move to trade 23-year-old All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday was as surprising as it was bold. If nothing else, it finally gave Philadelphia some direction.
4. What was the biggest steal in the East this offseason?
Abbott: The Hawks got Paul Millsap at a bargain price (two years, $19 million), just as the Pacers reeled in one of the Knicks' best value players -- Chris Copeland, who has size and can shoot -- on a reasonable contract (two years, $6 million).
Cavan: The Nets nabbing AK47 for peanuts. Kirilenko (32) is at the point where contention trumps a big payday, and there was scarcely a top-tier team better suited for his unique skill set. Make all the jokes you want about sweetheart backroom deals involving esoteric mining interests. Anyone willing to foot the kind of tax bill Prokhorov faces is probably laughing harder than you.
Churney: Millsap signing with Atlanta for two years, $19 million. The Jazz were a point better with Millsap on the floor than with him on the bench last season and were almost 10 points worse when Al Jefferson was on the floor rather than on the bench (via Basketball-Reference). Jefferson's contract with the Bobcats, though? Three years, $40.5 million.
Gordon: Kirilenko. The Nets signed him for as much over three years as he would've made next season altogether -- he's still a defensive dynamo, and now they have a real multipurpose bench anchor who can spend some time in the starting lineup when Pierce or KG needs a moment to rest his bones.
Schmidt: In Mike Dunleavy, the Bulls acquired a 40 percent 3-point shooter who rebounds well for his position, rarely makes bad decisions, can reliably defend within a team structure, doesn't make waves in the locker room and can play 25-30 minutes nightly with consistent results, and they did so for about half of what the market dictated.
5. Who's the most intriguing new addition on an East team?
Abbott: Nerlens Noel. Did the Sixers overpay for an injured guy with no offensive skill, or did one of the best defensive big men in years slide to the sixth pick unfairly? I doubt the tanking Sixers will push the recovering Noel to play much, but watching him take on NBA competition will be enlightening.
Cavan: Brandon Jennings to the Pistons. Jokes abound about Detroit coupling another southpaw gunner with Smith and Monroe, and the floor-spacing apocalypse that may well result. But Pistons fans need look no further than another recent signee (Chauncey Billups) to see how a point guard gambit rooted in upside can eventually work out.
Churney: The KG and Pierce trade, purely for the money side of it. A year ago, Oklahoma City traded James Harden to get under the tax line, possibly costing itself a shot at a championship. If Brooklyn manages to win a title by paying nearly $200 million in salary and luxury taxes, would that not go against everything the new CBA was supposed to prevent?
Gordon: Andrew Bynum. I want to see whether he has anything left in his knees for a Cavaliers team that could secure a legitimate playoff spot. I want to see whether the Philly fans boo him so loudly he pops an eardrum. I want to see whether his haircut goes in an even more dumbly awesome direction.
Schmidt: The crazy hair and knee injuries make it easy to forget that Bynum is legitimately the second- or third-best center in the NBA. It's a big if, but, if Bynum and Kyrie Irving can stay on the court, the Cavs could do some really fun things next season.