As the 2023-2024 NBA season is rapidly approaching, here is a look back at which teams “won” the offseason.
The Five Biggest NBA Offseason Winners
#1 The Phoenix Suns
The Suns made one of the biggest splashes this offseason when they traded for Bradley Beal. While Beal might not be an outright “superstar,” he is still a considerable improvement from a 38-year-old Chris Paul, who consistently fell short come playoffs. In adding Beal, the Suns have one of the best big threes in the NBA with Kevin Durant and Devin Booker.
While Beal doesn’t quite have the same playmaking abilities and pass-first mentality as Paul, Beal will still be a fantastic third option on the team. As the season progresses, his playmaking ability will improve, and when you have two outstanding offensive players like Durant and Booker, it should happen quickly.
One of the biggest questions about adding Beal was the salary cap, as Durant, Booker, Beal, and center Deandre Ayton will earn a combined $162,866,661. Despite the large salaries owed to those four players, the Suns were able to sign several players to minimum salary agreements to pad out the rest of the roster.
Most notably, Eric Gordon will add a defensive spark and solid shooting ability from deep when needed. Forwards Yuta Watanabe and Keita Bates-Diop bring length and elite corner shooting. While centers Drew Eubanks and Bol Bol add athleticism and rim protection.
A team that felt stagnant and could never quite get over the hump now boasts a fresh appearance and a new hope for this upcoming season. And with a star-studded cast, the Phenix Suns will be an exciting team to watch this upcoming season.
#2 The Dallas Mavericks
The Mavericks knew that superstar Luka Dončić needed another superstar to play alongside if Dallas wanted to be competitive, so during the regular season last year, they made a blockbuster trade to acquire Kyrie Irving.
While you might be saying to yourself that “pairing two ball-dominant guards doesn’t make sense” or “trading a whole bunch of stuff to acquire Irving in the first place was a bad idea,” what the Mavericks have done in the offseason has almost made up for it.
Firstly, they resigned Irving to a three-year $120 million contract, cementing this offensive-minded duo of Dončić and Irving for the foreseeable future. But Dallas also traded back in the draft to acquire two first-round selections, Duke center Dereck Lively II and Marquette forward Olivier-Maxence Prosper, two big men who can both defend and score.
Then Dallas went on a spending spree, acquiring Richaun Holmes, Grant Williams, Seth Curry, and Dante Exum. With these additions, the Mavericks roster has gone from essentially just Dončić and Irving to an impressive haul of draft picks and free agent signings that will make solid role players. These moves did not make the Mavericks the title favorites, and they will likely still be a lower seed, but they did get considerably better this offseason and should be very fun to watch.
#3 The Los Angeles Lakers
Since the LeBron James era in Los Angeles, the Lakers have been known to spend money and make a lot of moves, and this offseason was no different. The Lakers started by resigning three key role players that helped them turn around their season late last year: Austin Reaves, Rui Hachimura, and D’Angelo Russell. Most Notably Reaves who has been torching the competition in the FIBA World Cup and looks like he is bound for a breakout year.
Next was the free agent pool, and Los Angeles got tons of help to come off the bench. Mainly, Gabe Vincent, who was lighting it up in the playoffs with the Miami Heat last season. Other notable names include Cam Reddish, Jaxson Hayes, and Taurean Prince. The Lakers also have two young stars who showed promise in this year’s Summer League, Max Christie and Jalen Hood-Schifino.
The Lakers have bought into the mentality that to win, your team has to be very deep. That recipe brought home a championship in 2020 and two conference finals appearances since LeBron joined the Lakers. With these signings, it seems Los Angeles is back on track to have a very deep roster.
#4 The Houston Rockets
The Rockets finished with the third-worst record in the league last year, so just about anything they did would have made Houston better. But the additions they made are pretty solid if you don’t take the contracts into account. The Rockets gave Fred VanVleet a $128 million maximum contract and signed Dillon Brooks to an $86 million contract.
VanVleet’s contract is a bit easier to swallow as he has shown promise with tremendous offensive capabilities. The 2022 All-Star is a veteran in this league, which will help provide some maturity to this otherwise very young team.
But Brook’s contract is a bit harder to explain. In the 2022 season, Brooks had terrible on-the-court antics, resulting in the Grizzlies franchise telling him, “He will not be brought back under any circumstances.” He shot his lowest field goal percentage of his career last year and made questionable decisions that always backfired on him. Despite all of this, he was rewarded with a huge contract. The Rockets are giving him a fresh start and are hoping that the addition of Brooks will take their defense from bottom-of-the-barrel to middle-of-the-pack at the very least.
The Rockets had the No. 4 overall draft pick and selected Amen Thompson, who will also help tremendously on defense. Houston also added journeyman and recent NBA champion Jeff Green, who will provide a much-needed veteran presence.
Rising stars like Summer League MVP Cam Whitmore, Jalen Green, Jabari Smith Jr., and Alperen Şengün give the Rockets one of the best young cores across the league. This season will be a test for this young core to not only see if they are worth building around but also if the expensive free agent signings will help bring veteran guidance to this young core.
#5 Indiana Pacers
The Pacers began their offseason by rewarding their star player, Tyrese Haliburton, with a five-year $260 million maximum contract extension. Last season, Haliburton emerged as one of the league’s best point guards, averaging 20.7 points per game and 10.4 assists per game on 49% shooting from the field. He’s one of the NBA’s best young stars to build a team around, and this offseason the Pacers did exactly that.
With the No. 8 overall pick, the Pacers selected Houston power forward Jarace Walker, who brings defensive versatility with offensive upside. Next, the Pacers traded for former Knicks No.7 overall pick Obi Toppin who averaged 21 points per game on 58% shooting last season. Indiana also enticed Bruce Brown away from the reigning champion Denver Nuggets, which will bring size, length, and athleticism to this young roster.
With Haliburton leading a team of 2022 All-Rookie First Teamer Bennedict Mathurin, three-point sniper Buddy Hield, and rim protector and shot blocker Myles Turner, the Pacers look like they will make the playoffs this season.
The Boston Celtics
Trading for Kristaps Porzingis, who is coming off one of his best seasons, now gives Boston an offensive-minded big three that can space the floor. The move makes sense as Porzingis can add to the elite three-point shooting ability of the Celtics roster while providing solid rim protection and shot-blocking ability. A frontcourt of Porzingis and Robert Williams III is a lethal combo as Porzingis averaged 1.5 blocks per game and Williams averaged 1.4.
Adding Porzingis is a fantastic move on paper, but in the offseason, the Celtics lost Marcus Smart and Grant Williams. Derrick White’s elite defense may make up for the loss of Smart, but White pales in comparison to the 2022 Defensive Player of the Year. Malcolm Brogdon, the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, should compensate for some of Smart and Grant Williams’ scoring ability. And in the Smart trade, the Celtics got the draft pick that turned into Summer League phenom Jordan Walsh, which should help with Boston’s injury-prone big men.
But moving on from two of your best defensive players and two of the most energetic guys on the team that teammates rally around could be disastrous for the Celtics. Not to mention, Porzingis, Horford, Williams, and Brogdon are all injury-prone players, two of which (Porzingis and Brogdon) are nursing injuries right now. This team has a lot of potential but also question marks, so we will find out how this offseason went for the Celtics during the regular season.
The San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs shocked most of the NBA world when they were selected to get the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, finally ending the drama surrounding where Victor Wembanyama will play next season. San Antonio also selected Sidy Cissoko in the second round of the draft, who showed flashes in the Summer League.
On top of the draft, the Spurs added Reggie Bullock and Cedi Osman, which should provide solid bench minutes in the rotation of Cameron Payne and the newly resigned Tre Jones. But this isn’t enough to suddenly make the Spurs a contender; their real offseason victory was the draft picks they acquired. San Antonio took a page out of Oklahoma City Thunder GM Sam Presti’s book by accumulating ten first-round draft picks and 19 second-round draft picks through 2027.
The picks, alongside the potential generational talent that is Wembanyama and head coach Gregg Popovich sticking around for the foreseeable future, mean that the Spurs could be one of the league’s best teams in a few years.
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