With the start of a new NBA season in the near future, here is a look back at which teams “lost” the 2022-2023 offseason and in what ways they got worse.
READ MORE: The WINNERS of the NBA offseason
The Five Biggest Losers of the NBA Offseason
#1 The Washington Wizards
This offseason, the Wizards went from a promising young team with a solid big three of Bradley Beal, Kristaps Porzingis, and Kyle Kuzma to a team that will be rebuilding for years. Their first move was trading Beal to the Phoenix Suns for Chris Paul, Landry Shamet, four first-round pick swaps, and six second-round pick swaps. Then, they immediately moved Paul to the Golden State Warriors for Jordan Poole. And next on the list was trading Porzingis to the Boston Celtics for a second-round draft pick and Tyus Jones.
Suddenly, their big three were spread out across the league, and Kuzma was no longer under contract; the Wizards did end up resigning Kuzma to a four-year contract. But the Wizards shipped out their two best players for less than most people would expect for high-profile names like Beal and Porzingis. It’s not like the Wizards were contending for a title with Beal and Porzingis, but they were better off with them than without them.
For the foreseeable future, a team led by Poole, Kuzma, Jones, Daniel Gafford, Shamet, and a surrounding cast of players on rookie contracts will likely lose a lot of games. If the Wizards can draft well in the coming years, then this offseason will likely seem more favorable when looking back at it, but right now, the Wizards look like a bottom-of-the-barrel team.
#2 The Toronto Raptors
The Raptors had a chance to trade Fred VanVleet during the season last year but instead chose to let him leave in free agency without receiving anything in exchange. To replace VanVleet, Toronto got Dennis Schröder, and Jalen McDaniels, resigned Jakob Poeltl to an $80 million contract, and drafted Kansas sharpshooter Gradey Dick.
But after a 41-41 season where the Raptors got bounced out of the first round of the Play-In Tournament, losing your biggest star is not what they needed. On top of this, Pascal Siakam didn’t extend his contract before the end of the season in the hopes of getting a bigger contract. He has now been bombarded with trade rumors even though he said he won’t sign an extension anywhere other than Toronto.
The Raptors still have Scottie Barnes, who should see a significant uptick in usage this season, and OG Anunoby, who will also see a larger role due to the departure of VanVleet. However, this offseason did not go as planned, as the Raptors lost their best player and didn’t make any significant signings. This team’s future is uncertain, and Toronto has some decisions about whether committing to their young core is worth it or if a rebuild is in order.
#3 The Denver Nuggets
They might not have lost Nikola Jokić or Jamal Murray, but the reigning champs did lose their sixth and seventh men, Bruce Brown and Jeff Green. Two players who were integral to the success of the Nuggets last season, and Denver didn’t replace them either. The only addition the Nuggets made was signing Justin Holiday and bringing back Reggie Jackson and DeAndre Jordan.
The Nuggets have promising young talent like Zeke Nnaji, Collin Gillespie, and 2023 rookies Julian Strawther, Jalen Pickett, and All-Summer League First Teamer Hunter Tyson. But giving that many young players significant minutes when you’re in the midst of repeating a championship might not work out in the Nuggets’ favor.
As long as Jokić and Murray are on the team, Denver will have championship potential. However, losing two key players who helped you win a championship with no significant improvements is not a good look for the Denver Nuggets’ title repeat run this season.
#4 The Portland Trail Blazers
The Portland Trail Blazers did just about everything wrong when it came to this offseason. Firstly, they signed Jerami Grant to an astonishing five-year, $160 million contract to show superstar point guard Damian Lillard that the team was serious about putting talent around him. Lillard then asked the organization to trade the No. 3 overall pick for another high-quality player, but the Blazers decided to use the pick on Scoot Henderson instead. Then, a few days later, Lillard requested a trade with only one team in sight, the Miami Heat.
While Lillard hasn’t been moved yet, he has made it clear that he is no longer interested in playing for Portland. A deal hasn’t been made yet because the organization feels the Heat aren’t offering enough to receive a player of Lillard’s caliber. The Trail Blazers could do as Lillard asks and trade him to the Heat for a less-than-stellar return, or they could pursue a trade elsewhere and get a better return, but the team that receives Lillard will get a disgruntled player so other teams have been hesitant.
It’s possible that Henderson will become a superstar in a few years, and Grant may play well enough early in the season to trade him away and rebuild around Henderson. But it will be hard to replace one of Portland’s best players in the franchise’s history who has entirely written off the team in hopes of joining a Miami Heat team that just made it to the NBA Finals.
#5 The Miami Heat
The Miami Heat are coming off an incredible playoff run that saw them become just the second-ever eighth-seeded team to make the NBA Finals. But this offseason has been rough for Miami, losing young stars Max Strus and Gabe Vincent, who were vital in their playoff run. They also lost Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller, who provided vital minutes off the bench.
The only additions the Heat have made are resigning a 34-year-old Kevin Love and picking up Thomas Bryant and Josh Richardson from free agency. Miami has been holding out to make the Lillard trade work, but negotiations haven’t gotten them far yet. Portland does not feel that the trade offers are impressive enough to get a deal done, and if they somehow do work out a trade, then the Miami Heat will be losing a lot of depth, as Portland primarily wants young players and draft compensation.
The Philadelphia 76ers
The 76ers parted ways with Jalen McDaniels, Georges Niang, and Shake Milton, and opted not to extend Tyrese Maxey. The additions of Patrick Beverley, Montrezl Harrell, and Mo Bamba to their roster are why the 76ers find themselves in the honorable mentions category, as all of those players bring tenacity and bench depth to the roster.
But the biggest question of the offseason for Philadelphia has been surrounding James Harden. Last offseason, Harden took a $15 million pay cut to help fill out the roster. Harden hoped that after taking the pay cut, he would be rewarded this offseason with an extension, but that never happened. Instead, the 76ers did not give Harden the deal he was looking for, leading him to exercise his $36.5 million player option and subsequently make a trade request.
The Sixers organization can’t just give Harden away for a bag of chips because the talent isn’t quite there to build a championship-contending roster around the reigning MVP, Joel Embiid. But teams are hesitant to trade for an aging, expensive, and disgruntled star like Harden. If a deal can’t get done, then Harden will likely suit up for Philadelphia again this season. In the past, Harden tanked his way out of situations like Houston and Brooklyn, but if he wants to sign a lucrative contract next year, that isn’t an option for him to get out of Philadelphia.