Best Offseason Moves For The 2014-15 NBA Season
The NBA offseason could still be impacted by some names that remain in free agency (Ray Allen, Andray Blatche…), but we pretty much have our rosters set for the 2014-15 NBA campaign, and it’s time for my third annual best NBA offseason moves list. I make this ranking based on the order of my liking to the roster changes made by teams this offseason, which can also include additions in or around the NBA Draft, and how those moves might contribute towards advancing the team from where they finished last season. The no. 1 curse of my list is coming close to official as the Brooklyn Nets came in first last year and the Los Angeles Lakers the year prior, just for context.
Here are my best offseason moves for the 2014-2015 NBA season.
12. Orlando Magic
Orlando is one of my sleeper campaigns in the East and it starts with what they did in the draft. I wasn’t expecting an Aaron Gordon pick at no. 4 but it does make for a healthy, young, athletic balance with Victor Oladipo on the perimeter. The draft also brought point guard Elfrid Payton to Orlando in a trade with the 76ers – a lengthy, gritty combo guard and heady defender. There’s also the additions of Channing Frye, a veteran stretch-4 option and Luke Ridnour, a viable veteran presence for your back court. Who knows, maybe even Ben Gordon can help as a veteran who can find his offense. The Magic may not have upgraded to a top-8 projection just yet, but these complementary pieces around your nucleus of Victor Oladipo, Tobias Harris, and Nikola Vucevic seems like a visible progression to me.
11. Houston Rockets
Even though the Houston Rockets might easily be considered the losers of this off season, I still think they found a way to improve. While signing Trevor Ariza doesn’t bring the impact that a Carmelo Anthony or Chris Bosh would have, I think what Ariza brings in perimeter defense and athleticism is an added bonus since losing Chandler Parsons to Dallas. I think the Rockets might need what Ariza brings more than they needed Parsons. It’s also a plus adding Jason Terry to a roster that doesn’t provide much bench scoring or back court depth for James Harden. Dwight Howard, James Harden, Trevor Ariza, and Jason Terry all have NBA Finals experience. That has to count for something.
10. Phoenix Suns
Since the Suns finally reached an agreement with Eric Bledsoe, we can start anticipating how scary this guard core can be. Signing Isaiah Thomas this summer was arguably the steal of free agency. Thomas will undoubtedly be in the running for Sixth Man of the Year, and head coach Jeff Hornacek has more depth and now even more ways to attack with his guard-oriented offense. Phoenix did seem to go a little point-guard-crazy by also drafting Syracuse’s Tyler Ennis and recently signing Zoran Dragic, but Thomas is a good enough acquisition on his own to help the Suns earn a playoff standing this season.
9. Golden State Warriors
New head coach Steve Kerr made one of my favorite moves in free agency when the Warriors signed Shaun Livingston to a three-year deal in July. Livingston had toe surgery in August which will presumably keep him out of training camp, but he should be good to play a much needed role for Kerr’s squad when he’s ready to lace up this season. His outing for the Brooklyn Nets last year showed that Livingston is capable of being a resourceful, two-way versatility guard. I think his length and defensive presence off the bench can be huge for Golden State’s need to get over the 6/7-seed hump in the conference.
8. Toronto Raptors
Toronto made a notable splash in the Eastern Conference last season and finished as a 3-seed going into the playoffs, but losing to the Brooklyn Nets with home court advantage in the first round was a result of inexperience and lack of depth. I like the idea to trade for Lou Williams as a scoring spark to supplement Kyle Lowry off the bench. I also like the Raptors bringing in Jordan Hamilton, a young capable shooter and scorer, and solid big man Greg Stiemsma. I think Toronto gave themselves a little more depth, offense, and a better chance to hold their ground in the postseason.
7. Washington Wizards
The “Wiz Kids” grew up a bit this summer by adding some veterans to the fold. Paul Pierce was one of the surprise signings of the summer, but it came after the Wizards lost Trevor Ariza to Houston in free agency. As Ariza’s replacement, Pierce brings more of a leadership quality to this group. They won’t be as fast and athletic at the 1-2-3, but Pierce can be a crutch as a veteran who has more experience making big plays at big times than Ariza. The Wizards also added needed depth to their Nene and Marcin Gortat front court by signing DeJuan Blair and Kris Humphries, beefing up their interior. Small, subtle moves could be the difference for this team’s progression this season.
6. Miami Heat
The word for the Miami Heat this summer was compensation when LeBron James left South Beach to return home to Cleveland. Suddenly the free agency market became vital for Miami, and they capitalized in productive ways. They signed Luol Deng, a swing forward who falls right in line with their style of defensive and offensive execution. It helps that Deng can score within the offense and also create his own shot. The Heat also signed Josh McRoberts, another guy who can play in the system and a skilled passing big man, along with Danny Granger, who brings contributions to both sides of the ball when healthy. Even signing an athlete like Shannon Brown might work to Erik Spolestra’s benefit, as I see him now looking to utilize the entirety of his roster assets in order to compensate and compete throughout the season.
5. Charlotte Bobcats
For me, Charlotte was one of a few simply incapable teams that benefited from an abysmal, top-heavy conference last season. Even with the brilliant season that Al Jefferson had and Kemba Walker continuing to put fans on notice at point guard, the holes for the Bobcats were gaping. Signing Lance Stephenson in free agency alleviates Charlotte’s hole at shooting guard. This is a major upgrade, particularly for a team that desperately needs what Lance brings – a scoring presence on the wing. Your no. 9 overall draft pick Noah Vonleh fills in nicely to develop next to Big Al at the four. Kemba now has a back court mate who is anything but afraid of the moment and an offense creator, and now I see a lot more capable in this team as a legitimate sleeper in the conference.
4. Dallas Mavericks
The Mavericks are another team that seems to just keep losing out on big time free agent targets (see Deron Williams, Dwight Howard, etc.) but Mark Cuban effectively filled out his roster this offseason. Adding Chandler Parsons helps from losing Vince Carter (Memphis) and Shawn Marion (Cavaliers), but Parsons comes as a younger, more versatile scoring threat for Dallas than Carter or Marion as veterans. The Mavs also signed veteran Richard Jefferson. Along with Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis, Dallas now has a healthy scoring balance, plus they brought back Tyson Chandler, their 2011 championship anchor. I think they’ll find a way to make it work at point guard between Raymond Felton and Jameer Nelson, and suddenly this becomes one of the more balanced teams in the NBA.
3. Los Angeles Clippers
The biggest free agent signing of the summer (aside from the obvious) to me was Spencer Hawes for the Los Angeles Clippers. This is a move that pertains directly to what I’ve felt is one of the gaping weaknesses of the Clippers roster – front court depth. Hawes has just the right skill set to contribute in Doc Rivers’ system and help sustain their offensive attack when you can’t have Blake Griffin and/or DeAndre Jordan on the floor. Bringing in ex-Laker Jordan Farmar will help that cause at point guard as well. I think adding Chris Douglas-Roberts might be an interesting experiment for their other weakness in defending wings and Ekpe Udoh may even find defensive minutes. From a personnel perspective, I see this team with a lot more to work with than last year (I talked more about this on our latest podcast).
2. Chicago Bulls
What a substantial and deserved upgrade for the Chicago Bulls by signing Pau Gasol in free agency this summer. With Derrick Rose healthy heading into the season, the Bulls seem to have a full deck again. Manufacturing consistent offense became Chicago’s top challenge without Rose, but their offensive identity takes a different form with Gasol next to Joakim Noah. Offensively, Pau is a better version of the Bulls last power forward Carlos Boozer, and the Bulls now have arguably the best passing front court in basketball. Trading for the coveted Doug McDermott in the NBA Draft brings more offensive ability to Chicago, in addition to signing stretch-four Nikola Mirotic. The Bulls now have more offense on hand and depth at each position, possibly making them the most complete team in the NBA.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers
For the third consecutive year, no. 1 on this list is a no-brainer. The Cleveland Cavaliers accomplished the impossible by luring LeBron James back to his hometown, which rippled into bringing Kevin Love along from the Minnesota Timberwolves. Added bonuses include signing veteran Shawn Marion and bringing shooters James Jones and Mike Miller along. Cleveland has it’s best team in franchise history, and now the best Big 3 in basketball in Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, and Kevin Love. “The Land” is the NBA’s top attraction and the championship expectations are instantly embedded. The Cleveland Cavaliers made themselves the best team in the NBA on paper this offseason.