NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.
The Hawks put two players on All-Rookie teams then had two top-10 picks in the following draft.
What a way to get a rebuild rolling.
But like last year, Atlanta’s high-draft maneuvering leaves plenty of room for second-guessing.
Last year, the Hawks traded No. 3 pick Luka Doncic to the Mavericks for No. 5 pick Trae Young and a future first-rounder. That deal and another losing season gave Atlanta the Nos. 8 and 10 picks in this year’s draft.
The Hawks wanted De'Andre Hunter, who probably wasn’t falling that far. So, they paid a premium to get him. Atlanta traded the Nos. 8, 17 and 35 picks and a potential future first-rounder and took Solomon Hill‘s burdensome contract for the No. 4 pick (Hunter) and a late second-rounder or two.
That’s generally too much to trade up from No. 8 to No. 4. Hunter doesn’t impress me enough for that to be an exception. That said, his defense and complementary offense should fit well between reigning All-Rookie teamers Young and Kevin Huerter and 2018 All-Rookie second-teamer John Collins.
At No. 10, the Hawks took Cameron Reddish. That’s fine value there, and he’s another wing who should fit well if he develops.
The only other team in the modern-draft era (since 1966) with two All-Rookie selections and two top-10 picks in the same year was the 2000 Bulls. They had Rookie of the Year Elton Brand and All-Rookie second-teamer Ron Artest (now Metta World Peace). Then, Chicago got No. 4 pick Marcus Fizer and No. 8 pick Jamal Crawford in the draft.
But the Bulls languished for several more years. There are no guarantees in rebuilds.
Part of Chicago’s problem: The 2000 draft was historically weak. Fizer was a bust, and Crawford has had a fine sub-star career. But there were no great options available.
Atlanta might face the same issue. This draft looks poor after the first couple picks. It might have been the wrong year to have two high selections. However, we’re often terrible at assessing overall draft quality in the present. Time will tell on this draft.
Another Bulls problem: They lacked direction. Just a year later, they traded Brand for an even younger Tyson Chandler, the No. 2 pick in the 2001 draft out of high school. Later that season, they traded Artest in a package for veteran Jalen Rose.
It seems the Hawks won’t have that problem. They appear fully committed to their vision.
General manager Travis Schlenk took over in 2017. Atlanta was coming off 10 straight postseason appearances, only one year removed from a playoff-series victory and just two years removed from a 60-win season.
Now, only DeAndre’ Bembry remains from the roster Schlenk inherited just two years ago. The last two players to go, Taurean Prince and Kent Bazemore, got moved this summer.
The Hawks traded Prince and took Allen Crabbe‘s undesirable $18.5 million expiring contract to get the Nets’ No. 17 pick and a lottery-protected future first-rounder. That’s solid value for Atlanta. The Hawks clearly didn’t want to make a decision on Prince, whom Schlenk never selected and who’s up for a rookie-scale contract extension.
In a more curious decision, Atlanta traded Bazemore to the Trail Blazers for Evan Turner. Bazemore is better than Turner. Both players are similarly aged and paid on expiring contracts. The Hawks will seemingly use Turner as their backup point guard, a position he can handle better than Bazemore. But there were real backup point guards available in free agency. Unless this was just a favor to get Bazemore to a better team, I don’t get it.
At least the trade probably won’t affect Atlanta long-term.
Signing Vince Carter to a minimum deal also probably won’t matter.
Getting Jabari Parker on a two-year, $13 million deal with a player option might mean a little more. But I’m not convinced it’ll mean much. Parker just hasn’t found traction since two ACL tears. He has shown flashes and is just 24. There’s at least a small chance this works out.
Another likely low-consequence move: Trading Omari Spellman to the Warriors for Damian Jones and a future second-rounder. Teams rarely give up on a first-rounder as quickly as the Hawks did Spellman, the No. 30 pick last year. Jones is entering the final year of his rookie-scale contract and hasn’t gotten healthy yet in his career. The distant second-rounder is probably the prize. I somewhat trust the team that had a chance to evaluate Spellman’s approach first-hand all of season. Atlanta also got a replacement developmental center in No. 34 pick Bruno Fernando.
Fernando might even play behind Alex Len and John Collins, who will get minutes at power forward. Center is thin after the Hawks lost Dewayne Dedmon to the Kings.
It’s too soon for the Hawks to concern themselves with that, though. They’re still assembling a young core. It’s OK if every piece is not yet placed.
Meandering around the edges was fine and forgettable. Reddish and Hunter were the important pickups. The big bet this summer was on Hunter, and I just found the cost too steep.
Offseason grade: C-
Seven best free agents still available, players who could help a team
The dust has settled. What was the wildest free agency summer in NBA history is winding down, and while there are a few questions still out there — what uniform will Chris Paul be in at the end of next season? — for the most part teams are picking up the 14th and 15th guys on the bench, plus handing out two-way contracts. The rosters are basically set.
Yet there are still some veteran free agents of note available out there. Guys who could help teams. These players may have to wait into training camp or even the start of the season to find a spot, once roster holes become glaring or injuries send a team scrambling. Others may choose to play overseas. But here are seven veterans still on the market who could help a team.
It’s been an emotional offseason for Lin, one where he has gone from the high of being on a championship team to not finding a home for next season. While he fell out of Toronto’s playoff rotation last May and June — and that seems to be what front offices remember — he played solidly as a backup point guard for the Raptors and Hawks and averaged 9.6 points and 3.1 assists per game overall last season. Lin knows how to run a team, can get to the rim, can hit the three enough you have to respect it, and is a better defender now than his reputation. Lin has interest from CSKA Moscow but it’s unclear what direction he will go.
Wing defense is in demand around the NBA, and while Shumpert is not near the defender he once was he can still provide some solid defense at a position of need. Shumpert also shot 34.8 percent last season overall from three (that time was split between Sacramento and Houston). He played in eight of the Rockets’ playoff games last season and was respectable in those. If a team is looking for a respectable role player on the wing, Shumpert can be that guy.
Need buckets off the bench? Crawford, at age 39, can still get them. The three-time Sixth Man of the Year has slowed in recent years, but he still averaged 7.9 points per game off the bench and lit it up for the depleted Suns at the very tail end of last season. He’s also improved the playmaking aspect of his game. For a team that needs bench scoring, look no further.
Vince Carter’s role has evolved from high-flying wing to stretch four — he played 56 percent of his minutes as a power forward last season, shooting 38.9 percent from three. He’s also a respected leader in the locker room. Fans and fellow players love him, and a few times a season he can jump in the hot tub time machine and remind everybody why he is one of the all-time great dunkers the league has seen. Carter could help several teams off the bench.
5) J.R. Smith
Cleveland waived Smith not because they couldn’t use his basketball skills, but to save a lot of money. Smith will turn 34 before next season starts and his skills are in decline, he shot just 30.8 percent from three last season. In the right situation (on a likely contender) Smith could play a role off the bench. Teams will have to live with the occasional mental vacation during games (and teams may not want to play him clutch minutes in a Finals game).
Jerebko struggled for the Warriors in the playoffs, when injuries forced him into an outsized role, but during the regular season he was a solid reserve for Golden State. Jerebko averaged more than 16 minutes a game for the Warriors last season (73 games), shot 36.7 percent from three, and averaged 6.3 points per game. Jerebko could help a team looking for a stretch four off the bench.
He has evolved into more of a switchable, defensive-minded forward who can play the three or the four off the bench for teams and give them solid minutes. He shot 46.3 percent from three last season in Utah, and while that is probably not sustainable he is a good floor spacer on offense (who does not do much else). There are certainly teams Sofolosha could help off the bench.
Three Things to Know: Lakers find way to upstage even NBA’s biggest nights
There is a lot to unpack heading into the final day of the NBA regular season, but here’s what you need to know, including playoff scenarios.
1) Lakers find a way to upstage even NBA’s biggest nights: Magic Johnson unexpectedly steps down as Lakers’ president. Nobody saw this coming. Not Laker owner Jeanie Buss — Magic didn’t even face her and tell her before stepping in front of the cameras at Staples Center. Not LeBron James, who had met with Magic Johnson and Laker GM Rob Pelinka days before and got not even a hint. Not Luke Walton, the Lakers’ coach who expected to be out of a job within 24 hours.
Magic Johnson stepped in front of the cameras at Staples Center Tuesday night and resigned as the Lakers’ president of basketball operations in what was a 40-minute, impromptu, rambling, emotional press conference.
“I think that with (Jeanie) and I, I want to always preserve our relationship with her. And I think I had more fun when I was able to the be big brother and ambassador.”
It leaves the Lakers with oh-so-many questions. What is the fate of Luke Walton? GM Rob Pelinka? Who do the Lakers get to take over next? Will this impact free agents’ decisions this summer?
This can be a good thing for the Lakers because Magic Johnson wasn’t good at this job.
Sources told me last summer he was the kind of boss who had a lot of different things going on — time with family, a $700 million business empire, HIV activism, much more — so he would parachute in a few days a month, throw around edicts, then leave and let everyone else deal with the fallout. Pelinka (who is more likely than Walton to soon be out of a job now, Pelinka is not loved by other league executives) stumbled learning the GM job on the fly. Magic and Pelinka together came up with the plan to surround LeBron James with playmakers, not shooters, and the guys they could get on one-year contracts. That failed spectacularly.
Now the pressure falls on Jeanie Buss. The Lakers’ lead owner has to reach beyond her comfort zone and bring in someone who can turn the assets the Lakers still have — LeBron, max cap space, some nice young players, being in Los Angeles — into a winning team and culture again.
When Buss forced out her brother Jim and Laker loyalist Mitch Kupchak, she turned to a trusted friend in Magic, even if he didn’t have experience in the job. The Lakers have acted for a while now like their powerful brand is an organizational culture, that if they just do things “the Lakers way” everything will work out. But a brand is not a culture. Buss needs to go out and get a new basketball president from outside the organization with a track record of success, pay him well, give him complete power over the basketball side of the building, then get out of the way.
Oh, and she needs to do it fast because this upcoming draft and free agency will be huge for the Lakers and their chance to win a ring in LeBron’s window.
2) Dwyane Wade, Dirk Nowitzki each receive touching tributes in their final home games — then each of them drops 30. Dwyane Wade and Dirk Nowitzki both are more than just future Hall of Famers who had great careers. Both became the face of a franchise and led their respective teams to titles.
Both are retiring next season and both received an emotional sendoff from their hometown fans Tuesday night.
Then both went out and dropped 30 points.
Wade’s family was with him on the court in Miami, watching touching — if a bit too sponsor driven — tributes. However, the Heat were still playing for something, the game mattered, and Wade was not going to leave on a loss — he had 30 points to help the Heat past the 76ers. (Miami was still eliminated from the playoffs because both Detroit and Charlotte won.)
Nowitzki went into the night never having officially said he was retiring, even though everyone knew it was coming and his final season had basically been a farewell tour. Tuesday, in front of the Dallas fans, he said this was it, he was walking away.
Then Nowitzki dropped 30 points and had 8 rebounds to lead a Mavericks win against Phoenix (despite 51 from the ageless Jamal Crawford for the Suns).
3) One playoff spot and seven playoff matchups still to be decided on the final night of the NBA season. This weekend, the Indiana Pacers will travel to Boston to open the first-round playoff series between those teams.
That’s all we know. Not one other matchup. We don’t know all the playoff teams in the East yet — Detroit and Charlotte are still fighting for the final slot — and the other three series in that conference hang on the outcome of games on Wednesday night.
In the West, we know the eight playoff teams but not one matchup is yet official.
Here is a quick bullet-point rundown of what to watch for Wednesday night.
• If Detroit beats New York, the Pistons are in the playoffs. The Pistons control their own destiny for the final playoff spot in the East.
• If the Pistons lose and the Hornets beat the Magic on Wednesday, then the Hornets are in. (Charlotte has to win or they can book flights to Cabo.)
• There are still eight different scenarios for the 6/7/8 seeds in the East depending on what happens in three games: Miami at Brooklyn, Orlando at Charlotte, Detroit at New York. Brooklyn and Orlando have clinched playoff spots but their seeding is up in the air still.
• The top five seeds in the East are locked in: Milwaukee, Toronto, Philadelphia, Boston, Indiana.
• Denver will finish with the No. 2 seed with a win at home against the Timberwolves. A Nuggets loss and a Rockets means Houston is the two seed, Denver the three seed.
• Denver tried to manipulate the playoff standings over the weekend, and it may work. Denver rested key players against Portland and lost to them in a not-so-subtle attempt to give Portland a boost to the three seed. If Portland can win at home Wednesday against Sacramento it ties Houston for the season, and the Trail Blazers have the tiebreaker, meaning Portland is the three seed (and the team Denver would see in the second round). Houston would then fall to the four seed and the Warriors side of the bracket.
• There are eight different scenarios of how the 6/7/8 seeds can still play out in the West.
• If Oklahoma City can beat Milwaukee Wednesday it will be the six seed in the West. Lose and they can fall to 7/8.
• San Antonio can be the six seed with a win Wednesday and an OKC loss. However, if the Spurs lose while the Thunder and Clippers both win, then San Antonio drops to 8. Nobody wants the eight seed and the Warriors in the first round.
Mike Conley, Khris Middleton, Steven Adams among 12 nominees for NBA’s Teammate of the Year
The 12 nominees for the 2018-19 Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year Award.
The award recognizes the player deemed the best teammate based on selfless play, on- and off-court leadership as a mentor and role model to other NBA players, and commitment and dedication to team. pic.twitter.com/56BEl0n3VH
Garrett Temple is a bit of a surprising inclusion considering he got into a fight with Grizzlies teammate Omri Casspi earlier this season. But Temple, who was since traded to the Clippers, is renowned for his professionalism.
Thaddeus Young keeps becoming an even more complete player for his team. With Victor Oladipo sidelined, more of a leadership role has fallen on Young.