Much like the NBA season itself, the NBA offseason is usually filled with fireworks. This years offseason proved to be no different, as super teams were seemingly formed, once dominant franchises looked to have gasped their final breath before rebuilding, and potential stars were finally put into a position to shine. None of that is set in stone however, as one mans championship team is another mans overpaid mistake. It’s tough to gauge how exactly these moves will pan out, but speculation and predictions are part of my job as a writer, so here are my grades of the biggest moves so far in the 2013 NBA offseason.
1. Dwight Howard signs a four-year, $88 million dollar contract with the Houston Rockets
The list starts off with the most polarizing and noteworthy pick up of the 2013 free agency period. Not only did this signing crush the fading Lakers chances of contending this year, it also thrust an up and coming Rockets squad into the limelight and towards the top of the NBA food chain.
On paper, Howard turns the Rockets into a legitimate threat for the NBA title, and gives them yet another dynamic big man to center (pun intended) their team around. However, the details of the contract show that Dwight was handed the keys to his career with the Rockets, and that has been proven with both of his former teams to lead to bad things. If the Rockets struggle in his first two seasons, we could have another Dwightmare on our hands, and I think we’ve all had enough of that.
On the other hand, if the Rockets succeed and Dwight decides he wants more money, the Rockets again would be at the mercy of Howard. Letting the indecisive big man make the decisions is a very risky move, but this league is all about championships and you can’t win a championship without taking risks. The Rockets have a good chance to contend next season due to this signing, and you have to admire their commitment to winning. Still, Dwight’s questionable decision making and the fact that he is in control keep this signing from being a sure-thing slam dunk.
2. The Brooklyn Nets receive Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry, and D.J. White; the Boston Celtics receive Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace, Keith Bogans, MarShon Brooks, Kris Joseph, three future first round picks.
For the Brooklyn Nets, this is either going to end really well or very, very badly. They basically sold their future for an NBA championship within the next two years, and if that goal is not reached this will be considered a failure on their end. Pierce and Garnett now join a ridiculously talented roster that includes Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez, and Deron Williams. Some would say that is the most talented starting five in the league, while others may rebuttal that it is instead a roster that is centered around egos and fading stars. Personally, I am leaning more towards the latter statement. While I do believe they will be one of the best teams in the league, only a championship will prove this move successful for the Nets.
Meanwhile, the Celtics get a couple of good but not great players and a couple of draft picks for guys who couldn’t and wouldn’t stick around for a rebuild, and that can’t hurt as they try to rebuild the team to its former glory.
Nets grade: D+
Celtics grade: B
3. The Los Angeles Clippers re-sign Chris Paul to a five-year, $107 million dollar contract.
After a huge build up over Chris Paul’s impending free agency and rumors of him and Howard banding together to form a super team, Chris Paul quickly and quietly re-signed with the Los Angeles Clippers. This move coupled with the acquisition of former Celtics coach Doc Rivers cements the Clippers status as the top team in Los Angeles for the first time in, well, ever.
Although this move didn’t generate the press and hype that Paul leaving for another team would have, it is a huge step for the Clippers as an organization that proves it is committed to winning. Paul raises no red flags; no character issues, no extensive injury concerns, just the chance to continue chasing a championship. This move was a slam dunk.
4. The Cleveland Cavaliers sign Andrew Bynum to a two-year, $24 million dollar contract.
Ah, the curious case of Andrew Bynum. When healthy and with his head on straight, he is the most dominant center this side of Dwight Howard. More often than not though, he is either hurt or is causing headaches for the front office of whatever team he is playing on.
Normally I’d deem any signing of Bynum or players like Bynum an automatic bust, but the Cavs played it extremely smart here. They are only on the hook for one year and $6 million of Bynum’s contract. He has to legitimately help his team out to earn the rest of this contract, and that may be a way to unleash the best inside Bynum. With an on-his-game Bynum, the Cavs would be one of the better teams in the league on paper. A useful Bynum could propel them to relevancy they haven’t experienced since Lebron James took his talents to South Beach three seasons ago.
However, if Bynum leaves them hanging the way he left the Sixers hanging a season ago, it wouldn’t completely destroy them like those poor souls in Philly. I still don’t consider this a great move due to the fact that I don’t believe Bynum will ever mature enough to be a consistently great player, but the Cavs get kudos in my book for being smart about their investment.
5. The Detroit Pistons sign Josh Smith to a four-year, $56 million dollar contract.
Can someone explain to me what the Pistons were thinking when they signed Josh Smith? Don’t get me wrong, Smith is an extremely talented player capable of propelling a fringe team to a full blown contender. The problem is they weren’t a fringe team before they signed Smith and probably still aren’t with Smith on the roster. On paper, Smith is one of the most talented players in the NBA. He is an elite defender, and is basically unguardable in the post with a rare combination of size, speed, strength, and finesse.
On the court however, Josh Smith believes himself to be a marksman capable of draining threes on command. For a team that has had as much woes beyond the arc as the Pistons, the last thing they needed was a big money power forward coming in and throwing up long distance bricks. At best, Smith and company will accidentally stumble their way to an 8th seed once or twice and get shown the door in four games, but what will likely happen is Smith will waste a few years of his career in Detroit and Detroit will waste a few millions on Smith. Bad move for both sides.