A lot happened during the shortest, strangest offseason in NBA history. We saw a number of impactful players change teams, a number of teams hire new head coaches and a number of teams select intriguing draft prospects. As with every offseason, some of the moves have worked out marvelously and others have left us wondering what the heck teams were thinking. Let's take a look at how the biggest offseason acquisitions are faring so far in the 2020-21 NBA season.
Note: The James Harden-to-Brooklyn deal is being included as it happened so early in the season...and because let's be honest, Harden had mentally checked out of Houston well before the season ever began.
When the 2020-21 season began, the Nets had an elite offense led by the likes of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Instead of trying to surround those two with elite defensive players, the Nets went the complete opposite direction and traded for Harden, arguably the best offensive player of this generation. Harden has taken over the point guard duties and run the Nets' offense to perfection, averaging 24.2 PPG, 8.2 RPG, and 11.7 APG himself, while guiding Brooklyn to literally the best offensive rating (118.6 points per 100 possessions) in NBA history. With such a high ceiling on that end of the court, the Nets hope that it's enough to compensate for their shaky defense (26th in the NBA).
LaMelo Ball plays with a Magic Johnson-like joy that is so infectious that it's revitalized the most aimless franchise in the NBA, the Charlotte Hornets. Since taking over as a starter, Ball has averaged 19.3 PPG, 6.4 RPG, and 6.3 APG on 44-42-90 shooting over nine games. Like many great passers, Ball's vision and desire to make the extra pass seems to be contagious as the Hornets are third in the NBA in assists (27.3). The other main reason for Charlotte's emergence has been Gordon Hayward's return to stardom. Hayward has been an All-Star-caliber player this year, averaging 21.9 PPG, 5.5 RPG, and 3.7 APG on 49-43-86 shooting. These two additions were scoffed at by many pundits this offseason but have turned the Hornets into a playoff contender (14-15, 7th in the East) and possibly the most enjoyable League Pass team in the NBA.
When you account for all of the moves they made within their organization, the 76ers could not have had a better offseason. At the front office level, they brought in arguably the best basketball decision-maker in the league in Daryl Morey. At the coaching level, they replaced an underwhelming Brett Brown with an excellent motivator and highly-respected coach in Doc Rivers. In separate trades, they acquired a deadeye shooter in Seth Curry (46.5 percent from three) and a championship-caliber three-and-D wing in Danny Green. And finally, in the draft, they selected a guard with a ton of upside in Tyrese Maxey (he had a 39-point, seven-rebound, six-assist game earlier this season when the roster was depleted by injuries and coronavirus-related absences). All this has resulted in the Sixers having the best record in the Eastern Conference (20-10).
For all the love he got from the media after the Anthony Davis trade, David Griffin has sure been making some questionable front office moves recently. The hiring of Stan Van Gundy looked good on paper and was applauded by the media (which definitely, 100 percent had nothing to do with SVG being awesome as a color commentator, media-friendly, and a social justice advocate on Twitter), but was it really the right move for this young Pelicans team? Are we sure a hard-driving, throwback coach who enjoyed the most success in the late-2000s was the best hire for a team with three players with such distinctive offensive skill sets (Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, and Lonzo Ball)? So far, the answer has been "probably not" as the Pelicans are 13-17 and sport the second-worst defense in the NBA. Also, why did Griffin sign Steven Adams again? All that Adams does is clog up the paint for Zion and Ingram on offense. And any defensive impact he's making clearly isn't translating to stops on that end of the court. Where are you steering this ship, David?
As the offseason got underway, the Bucks were tasked with improving their roster enough to get Giannis Antetokounmpo to sign his super-max extension. By acquiring Jrue Holiday, Milwaukee accomplished that task, and Giannis inked his five-year extension. The goal with the Holiday signing was to increase the Bucks' playoff ceiling as they'd suffered consecutive playoff failures stemming from a lack of offensive production around Giannis and Khris Middleton. While Holiday certainly increased the team's ceiling with his two-way abilities, he came at a steep price (leaving them with little in draft capital) and the team's once-strong bench unit became depleted. The Bucks seem to be testing things out this season and haven't been the dynamo they were the past two regular seasons (17-13, 3rd in the East). Perhaps these struggles are merely a byproduct of a team refocusing its energy towards the postseason; perhaps it's a byproduct of a poorly constructed roster that will again fail to make the Finals. We won't know for sure until the playoffs.
Let's transition to a team that clearly knows what it's doing, the Golden State Warriors. Instead of panic-trading the no. 2 overall pick when they heard that Klay Thompson tore his Achilles tendon, the Dubs sat tight and drafted the player with probably the most potential in the 2020 NBA Draft, James Wiseman. And while this big-picture move may cause Golden State to struggle in the short-term (16-15, 8th in the West), it should pay major dividends in the future as Wiseman has shown some superstar flashes thus far. In 20 games, Wiseman is averaging 12.2 PPG, 6.1 RPG and is shooting a respectable 50.3 percent from the field and an impressive 40.9 percent from three. He's also blocking 2.2 shots per-36 minutes and has a 15.1 PER (pretty decent for a rookie big man). If Wiseman can make a leap to become a Jarrett Allen-type defender and rim-runner in the next year, it could vault the Warriors back into the contender tier in the West.
Placed in a "no-win" situation by their franchise player, the Rockets opted to deal James Harden to the Nets for a bazillion draft picks and Victor Oladipo (via Indiana) instead of taking on Ben Simmons. Whether they made the right move acquiring the picks over Simmons remains to be seen, but the Oladipo acquisition has a pretty bad move thus far as he's on the last year of his contract and is putting up a highly-inefficient stat line (18.4 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 4.9 APG on 39-30-75 shooting). Houston also signed Christian Wood this offseason, dealt Russell Westbrook for John Wall, signed DeMarcus Cousins, and undrafted rookie Jae'Sean Tate. Those reclamation projects have yielded nice returns overall: Wood was probably an All-Star lock before he hurt his ankle (22.0 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 1.5 BPG); Wall has been nicer than expected (20.4 PPG, 6.3 APG, 44-35-75 shooting) coming off multiple Achilles injuries; Tate has been an excellent defender and solid offensive contributor, and Cousins made some solid contributions, but the Rockets are waiving him before his contract becomes guaranteed. The Rockets will probably still miss the playoffs, but they're at least a respectable team with a good, young coach ( Stephen Silas) and draft picks aplenty in the future.
Although they're sputtering a bit right now with Anthony Davis injured and Dennis Schröder out due to contact-tracing, the Lakers should be pretty pleased with their 22-9 record after the shortest offseason in NBA history. Instead of running things back, Rob Pelinka traded for Schröder, signed Montrezl Harrell, Wes Matthews, and Marc Gasol. Schröder (14.2 PPG, 4.3 APG) has done a decent job taking some of the scoring and playmaking burden off of LeBron thus far and Harrell has continued to be one of the most effective sixth men on the NBA (13.4 PPG, 6.4 RPG on 64.2 percent shooting and a 21.7 PER). Matthews and Gasol have been unspectacular, but their best contributions to the team are expected to come as veterans in the playoffs and in the locker room. Assuming Davis returns to full strength, these Lakers should be considered the favorites to win the title come this summer.
The Clippers surprised some folks this offseason by moving on from long-time coach Doc Rivers (replaced by Ty Lue) and by pretty much running it back as their only major moves were acquiring Luke Kennard for Landry Shamet and signing Nic Batum. They're still missing a true playmaker at point guard, but Kawhi Leonard and Paul George have been excellent this season and have more than made up for it, leading the Clips to the second-best offensive rating in the league as well as the second-best record in the league (22-9). Lue was known for his ability to make adjustments during his time in Cleveland, so perhaps that's all this team needs to make good on their championship aspirations.
First off, please take a moment to watch this poster dunk Anthony Edwards had the other night against the Raptors. That's one of the best in-game dunks you will ever see. After struggling through the first quarter of the season, it's all starting to come together for Edwards lately, as he's averaging 16.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG, and 3.4 APG in his past 14 games. Seemingly every game, he does a handful of things athletically that will leave your jaw on the floor as well. This is all great news for the T'Wolves. Unfortunately, that's about all that's going right for Minnesota right now as they've had to deal with Karl-Anthony Towns missing an extended period of time from contracting Covid-19 and will be without D'Angelo Russell for the next four to six weeks...oh, and they owe the Warriors their 2021 first-round draft pick (unless it's in the top-three, in which case it becomes unprotected in 2022). Wolves fans better hope Edwards continues to improve at a rapid rate because there isn't a ton of room for improvement elsewhere on this roster.
It doesn't matter how old he is or how little cartilage remains in his knees, Chris Paul is the ultimate floor-raiser for franchises. If CP3 is wearing your favorite team's jersey, you can rest assured that your team will not only make the playoffs but possibly advance to the second round. Look at the OKC team he took to the brink of the second round last season. Look at this Phoenix Suns team (19-10, 4th in the West). It doesn't matter how young and inexperienced a team is, CP3 is going to come in, play elite point guard, dominate the fourth quarter, and help guide said team to the playoffs. On the season, Paul is averaging 17.1 PPG, 8.5 APG, 4.6 RPG, and has 50-40-97 shooting splits. The Suns aced the offseason by landing the Point God.
The Hawks made a number of "win now" moves this offseason by signing the likes of Danilo Gallinari, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and Rajon Rondo. Unfortunately, Gallinari has missed 12 games and has started to look a little washed as he's only scoring 10.6 PPG (the least since his rookie year) and only getting the to line 3.3 times per game (he's had four seasons where he averaged over six FTAs a game). Bogdanovic has also missed much of the season with an injury, only appearing in nine games thus far. And Rondo has been pretty dreadful in the 14 games he's played in, averaging a career-low in PPG (3.4) and career-low in APG since his rookie season (3.9). The Hawks' no. 6 overall draft pick, Onyeka Okongwu, has played nine games as well and hasn't shown much either. There may be some new faces in Atlanta, but this team's success or failure still depends almost exclusively on how Trae Young is playing that night.
The Knicks have been one of the surprise stories of the NBA this season, exceeding their lowly expectations to compete for a playoff spot (currently 14-16, 8th in the East). Sure, the Knicks made a couple of savvy signings this offseason (Austin Rivers, Alec Burkes), but this mini resurgence basically boils down to the hiring of Tom Thibodeau and the selection of Immanuel Quickley. Thibodeau has put together a strong defensive front (3rd in the NBA in defensive rating) and helped unleash Julius Randle on offense. Assisting Coach Thibs in this turnaround has been the steal of the draft, Immanuel Quickley. Quickley, who was selected at no. 25, has been a revelation off the bench, is averaging 12.4 PPG to go along with an 18.4 PER (it's basically unheard of for rookie point guards to be above the league-average 15.0 PER), and already has arguably the best floater game in the league. Another offseason like this and the Knicks could be back in the realm of contenders before you know it.
Although they've won their past four games, the Wizards have been pretty awful this season, currently sitting at 13th in the East with a 10-17 record. And while it's unfair to place the blame squarely on Westbrook's back since the Wizards have been hampered by coronavirus-related absences and Thomas Bryant's season-ending injury, it's difficult to ignore the drop-off in his production (only 19.3 PPG) and continued inefficiency (42-29-63 shooting splits). Hopefully, for Wizards fans' sake, Westbrook's struggles are a product of him recovering from injuries and getting back into shape but color me skeptical that we'll ever see Westbrook be an effective star player ever again.
After taking the Clippers to six games last postseason, the Mavericks tried to get tougher this offseason - trading a deadeye shooter (Seth Curry) for an athletic defender (Josh Richardson), acquiring a blackbelt in karate and the scariest player in the league (James Johnson) and drafting a young three-and-D wing (Josh Green). These moves made sense on paper, especially if you watched Luka Doncic get cheap-shotted by Marcus Morris again and again in the first round of the playoffs. Unfortunately, Richardson has missed close to a third of the season with coronavirus-related absences and injuries, Johnson (34) is pretty washed, and Green (20) simply isn't ready to be a productive rotation player yet. This, combined with Kristaps Porzingis' injury issues, has actually caused Dallas to regress on defense (27th in defensive rating) while zapping Dallas' historically great offense from last season and rendering it mediocre (9th best offensive rating in the NBA). Now that the injury issues to Porzingis and Richardson seem to be in the rearview, perhaps the Mavs can get rolling and get back into the playoff picture (13-15, 10th in the West).
The Heat (13-17, 10th in the East) have been crushed by injuries and coronavirus-related absences this season, but appear be finally be course-correcting now that Jimmy Butler is back. That said, their offseason decisions - letting go of Jae Crowder and Derrick Jones Jr. and bringing in Avery Bradley and Mo Harkless - are net negatives thus far as both have appeared in only 10 games and made marginal contributions in those games at best. Miami did make up for those moves a bit by drafting Precious Achiuwa, a big out of Memphis who has given them solid contributions off the bench to spare Bam Adebayo. Overall, the Heat took a small step backward this offseason and will probably need to make a couple of savvy trades like they did last season in order to make a run at a championship.
If not for Payton Pritchard, the Celtics offseason would have been a complete bust. On draft night, they selected Aaron Nesmith at no. 14 in the draft over the likes of Saddiq Bey and others who could have helped this season. Nesmith has more DNPs than games played thus far this year and has struggled to do the one thing that made him a first-round prospect: make three-pointers (he's only shooting 31.7 percent after shooting 52.2 percent last year in college). Fortunately, they landed Pritchard at no. 26, who has been better than anyone could have expected as the team's backup point guard (7.7 PPG, 2.3 APG, 45-39-92 shooting splits). Then, in a series of puzzling moves, they turned down a Gordon Hayward-for-Myles Turner sign-and-trade from Indiana, which led to Hayward leaving for Charlotte in free agency. Then, they signed Tristan Thompson and Jeff Teague to help solidify their rotation. Thompson has been underwhelming with his defensive impact, and Teague appears to be completely washed. If the Celtics don't make a mid-season deal, they will waste a year where Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum were ready to contend - that's something a franchise should never do when it has a young superstar tandem.
After making a franchise-altering draft mistake in the 2018 Draft (selecting Marvin Bagley over Luka Doncic, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Trae Young), the Kings started to right the ship a little bit by snagging Tyrese Haliburton up at no. 12 after a number of teams perplexingly passed on him. Haliburton, an advanced stats marvel in college, has looked like a top-three pick this season, averaging 12.4 PPG, 5.2 APG, 3.4 RPG with highly efficient 49-44-84 shooting splits. His ability to slide between point guard and shooting guard also gives Sacramento the flexibility to play him with De'Aaron Fox and as a backup lead guard for when Fox is on the bench. If he continues to play this way, he and Fox will eventually get this franchise back into playoffs.
The Pistons' front office had a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde offseason. Detroit began its offseason by making a questionable selection at no. 8 (Killian Hayes over Tyrese Haliburton), then selected a human rhinoceros at no. 16 (Isaiah Stewart) that may or may not be good, and then made an excellent selection at no. 19 (Saddiq Bey). In free agency, they let one Most Improved Player candidate (Christian Wood) walk, but then made up for it by signing another Most Improved Player candidate (Jerami Grant). They also inked Wayne Ellington, Delon Wright, and Josh Jackson - all solid veterans, the latter two with some upside. And made it rain for Mason Plumlee (3-years, $25M...WHY???) and snagged Jahlil Okafor to ride their bench for the next two years. Some of these moves were good moves (Grant, Bey, Wright, Jackson) and some were awful moves (letting Wood walk, Hayes over Haliburton, Plumlee, Okafor). It's all worked out though because Detroit is in the driver's seat (8-21, second-worst record in the NBA) for a top-3 pick in the 2021 Draft - which is exactly where they need to be after this season.
If the Blazers didn't have bad injury luck, they'd have no luck at all. Seemingly every season, Portland suffers multiple injuries to key rotation players, and Damian Lillard is left with the Sisyphean task of trying to carry the Blazers to a title. This offseason, Portland finally addressed their lackluster wing rotation by adding Robert Covington and Derrick Jones Jr. And while those guys are playing alright, CJ McCollum suffered a major injury and has already missed 15 games and Jusuf Nurkic has missed 16 games, leaving Lillard to carry an insane offensive burden yet again. He's carrying that burden pretty well right now (30.0 PPG, 7.5 APG with 45-39-94 shooting splits), but it seems like the same old, same old in Portland.